Monday, October 20, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (USA, 1988) - Color, Director(s): Renny Harlin
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 93 min.

Z-rating: 4 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 5 stars out of 5

The movie opens with some random new girl who's supposed to be Kristen. As cool as her name is (Tuesday Knight), it's weird when you watch parts 3 and 4 back to back and Kristen is a completely different girl. I loved Patricia Arquette too, she was so awesome in the role as Kristen. So anyway Kristen drags Joey, the previously mute kid, and Kincaid, the tough guy, into her nightmare cause she thinks Freddy might be coming back. Seems that Kristen, Joey, and Kincaid have all been released from Westin Hills psychiatric hospital and are living normal lives in high school now. Kristen has even made some new friends.

Freddy is revived when Kincaid's dog digs up Freddy's grave and pisses fire on it. Freddy gets a pretty sweet regeneration scene, his skeleton reconstructs and his melted flesh reforms, then he kills Kincaid and finishes off the last of the survivors from the previous film. Right before she dies, Kristen passes her powers onto a girl named Alice. Since the last of the Elm Street kids are dead, Freddy uses Alice's newfound powers to bring the new batch of kids into his dreamworld. As her friends are killed one by one, Alice gains the powers of each friend that dies. Lisa Wilcox does a great job as Alice, she's awkward and aloof at the beginning of the movie but appears much more confident after she's collected her friends' powers. I think it's the way she slouches or the grandma clothes she wears that made her appear meek. I can't quite put my finger on it but by the end, she's doing all kinds of flips and karate kicking Freddy. You know, thanks to her brother's obvious martial art prowess.

Karate Kid status!

Nudity: In one scene, Joey is laying on his waterbed and staring up at a poster with a beer babe on it. When he pulls back the covers on his bed, he sees the babe from the poster swimming around topless inside his water bed. The always beautiful Linnea Quigley is one of the people pressing her bare chest against Freddy's flesh at the end of the movie.

Gore: There's not much blood in this movie, which is surprising. Despite the lack of blood, there are some memorable scenes like the girl doing bench presses who gets her elbows broken by Freddy. Also, Freddy's death is pretty disgusting and disturbing too. The faces of tortured souls trapped in Freddy's body is always some hellish imagery. A slightly funnier version is the pizza with sausage meatballs with faces. I have a friend that still cannot eat pizza with those round meatball sausages to this day because of that scene.

Awesome: This was an interesting entry into the franchise that passed the torch from Kristen to Alice. I still liked Dream Warriors better because the script was much tighter. There were a lot of parts in this film that felt like they were just random events happening. Perfect example: after Kristen and her boyfriend walk past a locker, we see four slashes across the lockers to indicate Freddy's presence. But no one was dreaming during that scene, was it really there? Why didn't Kristen or anyone else notice it? If you think about it, Kristen got everyone killed because she passed on her power to Alice. Freddy wouldn't have a way to reach a new group of kids if it wasn't for her. Kind of a dick move. The movie was supposedly inspired by A Chinese Ghost Story, which is apparent because Freddy is afraid of his own reflection like Chinese ghosts and hopping vampires... as described in my Guide to Surviving Chinese Hopping Vampires!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (USA, 1987) - Color, Director(s): Chuck Russell
MPAA Rating: X
[UK: 18]
Approx. 96 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 4 stars out of 5

Now this is how you make a sequel! This movie begins with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe, "Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them." Followed by Kristen (played by Patricia Arquette in her very first film) getting attacked by Freddy in her bathroom. The attack is made to look like an attempted suicide and Kristen is checked into Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital where Morpheus works as an orderly. She's put into therapy with a group of troubled teens including: an ex-junkie, an aspiring actress, a kid that makes puppets, a mute kid, a tough guy prone to violent outbursts, and a kid in a wheelchair obsessed with a D&D-style board game called Wizard Master. The whole group has been haunted by nightmares of the same guy but no one believes them.  

So this is where he gets all those blue and red pills...

Well, no one except an intern at the hospital specializing in dream therapy. In a stroke of pure genius, they bring back Nancy from the first film. Nancy (played by a returning Heather Langenkamp) is the only one who understands what these kids are going through and tries her best to help them through it. After surviving the events of the first film, Nancy's been taking an experimental drug called Hypnocil that suppresses dreams. When Freddy goes after Kristen, she pulls Nancy into the dream to help her. Kristen had the power to pull other people into her dreams ever since she was a child but hasn't used it since her parents divorced when she was young. Nancy tells the kids that they all have hidden abilities in the dream world and that Kristen can bring all of them together to fight Freddy. For the first time in the series, the kids actually have the power to fight back against him. The mute kid, Joey, is left in a coma following an encounter with Freddy and now he's being held hostage. The rest of the kids have to go back in to save him.

A nun dressed in white gives Neil, the doctor in charge of the group's therapy sessions, the backstory on Freddy. A wing of the psychiatric ward was devoted to housing the worst of the criminally insane before it was shut down in the 1940's. A young girl on the staff, Amanda Krueger, was accidentally locked in over the holidays and the inmates kept her hidden for days. They raped her hundreds of times and when she was finally found, she was pregnant with the bastard son of 100 maniacs. Freddy was eventually killed by the parents of Elm Street but no body was ever found. Now they must find his remains and bury him in hallowed ground to finally lay his spirit at rest.

The tortured souls of children that Freddy's collected

Nudity: A hot nurse shows her boobs while trying to seduce Joey, the mute kid. Turns out that she's Freddy in disguise and that's how he's captured.

Gore: The first person that Freddy kills is the kid who makes puppets. As he's sleeping, one of his puppets turns into Freddy in a scene animated with some AWESOME looking stop motion. Freddy cuts into him and controls him like a puppet using his muscles and nerves as strings. The whole sequence makes me cringe every time I think about how much that must hurt. In fact, all the practical effects just make this movie look so amazing.

Awesome: For casual viewers, this is the point in the series where things may start getting a little silly but for die hard fans, it's where Freddy really develops a personality and his trademark sense of humor. Spouting his signature one liners like, "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" while killing people with heroine needle fingers and deadly wheelchairs. Doesn't make him any less terrifying though! Patricia Arquette really steals the show, in my opinion. She is so awesome and believable in the role of Kristen, she comes off so sweet and innocent. I think she was just amazing for someone in their break out role. There's a nosy bitch of a doctor who interferes with all of Nancy's attempts to help the kids. I don't understand why Kristen didn't drag her into one of the dreams, so she can see what's really going on for herself. If she happens to die in the dream, at least she'd be out of the way when they fight Freddy. Also, John Saxon returns as Nancy's father who's drowning his sorrows in a bar. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (USA, 1985) - Color, Director(s): Jack Sholder
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 87 min.

Z-rating: 1 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5

So THAT'S where they got the idea for the NES title screen

What the hell happened with this sequel? They follow up Wes Craven's masterpiece with the slowest and most boring movie in the world. For a long time, the homosexual undertones of the movie had been debated. The filmmakers denied it for the longest time but in an interview with the writer, David Chaskin, he finally admitted that the homosexual themes were written into the movie as "subtext." (The gym teacher is dragged into the shower, stripped naked, and his bare ass is snapped by towels before he's killed... how subtle!)

We've all run into our gym teacher at a S&M bar and then went with him to run laps at school after hours, right?

The homosexual undertones aren't even what's bothering me. So Jesse's dealing with his repressed homosexuality, big whoop, it's how slow and boring the movie is that drives me crazy. Freddy went from someone who killed people in their dreams to killing people in the waking world. He's supposedly manipulating Jesse into doing his dirty work for him but this is just as much of a cop out as Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning! At least that one pretended to be a typical Friday the 13th movie until the end. This one just goes off on a completely different tangent. The movie is more about Jesse trying to deal with being the new kid on the block than it is about Freddy Krueger. A bunch of random crap happens like parakeets fight in the bird cage then start attacking people before suddenly exploding for no reason. Did that have anything to do with Freddy? Was he haunting their little birdie dreams? Hot dogs explode like firecrackers, a pool is set on fire, there are dogs with human faces. Nothing in this movie makes any sense! What the hell is going on?! This whole movie is like a bad dream... well, they got me there.

That's uh... that's something coming out of his mouth, not um... not going in.

Nudity: Male nudity. There's a bunch of man ass all through the movie.

Gore: There are some decent effects in this movie, despite how infrequently they occur. Freddy cuts his way out of Jesse's body, that looked pretty cool. There's a melting effect when they defeat Freddy with the power love at the end but I've definitely seen better.

Awesome: Not at all. Jesse screams like a little bitch every time something happens to him. I think he's supposed to be an athlete but the guy can't do push ups worth a crap. The most awesome thing to come out of this movie is the box of fake cereal they're eating for breakfast at the beginning of the movie. Fu Man Chews, that's actually pretty awesome! Other than that, this movie was garbage. This is the black sheep of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Aside from a couple clips of Freddy, they almost never reference this movie again.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (USA, 1984) - Color, Director(s): Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 91 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

We now know Freddy as that wisecracking maniac that kills you in hilarious ways inside your dreams but Freddy wasn't always played for laughs. In the first movie, he's played mostly in a serious manner as the film was supposed to be a straight horror. Wes Craven originally got the idea from news articles that the L.A. Times ran in the 70's about Asian refugees who were dying in their sleep after staying up for a couple days on end. They refused to sleep because of they would get horrible nightmares and eventually died in the middle of the night when they finally went to sleep. So Craven came up with a character that could kill you in real life if he got you in your dreams.

So in the movie, a group of teenagers are having the same nightmares but they don't know it yet. A girl named Tina (Amanda Wyss) is the one who's most freaked out by them, so she asks her friends to stay with her through the night. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp in his film debut), and Tina's boyfriend (Jsu Garcia) keep her company through the night. Tina is attacked in the middle of the night with her boyfriend in the bed right next to her. This is one of the best scenes in the entire movie because Tina crawls up the wall and onto the ceiling as she's being attacked. Nowadays, that would just be accomplished with CGI or some kind of camera trick but they actually built a rotating set to achieve this effect. They eventually figure out a guy named Fred Krueger is the one haunting their dreams. Krueger was a child murderer who got off on a technicality but the parents of the murdered children took the law into their own hands and burned him alive. Now he's back for revenge, killing the children of the people who killed him. Nancy is the one who figures out you can pull him out of the dreams. The most frustrating thing is that none of the adults believe her. Even after she pulls Freddy into the real world and is calling for help (she's screaming out the window that there's someone in the house with her) none of the police do anything to help her.

Freddy quickly became one of the most popular slasher movie villains of the 80's. Freddy is a total smart ass unlike Jason Voorhees or any of the other voiceless, lumbering slashers. There were a couple funny scenes in this movie but Freddy really starts developing his personality and a sense of humor in the later sequels. Freddy himself has become a horror icon alongside Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and the rest. There's a documentary dedicated to the franchise, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Freddy's glove has become almost as iconic as Jason's hockey mask, you can always find one in stores around Halloween. There are comics, toys, pillow cases, 900 number hotlines, even a Bollywood knock off. There was even a Nightmare on Elm Street video game in the late 80's on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Why do the knives come out of his fingers like that?

Nudity: Almost none at all. Some of the scenes are sexually suggestive but not much explicit nudity shown. There's a scene where Freddy drags Nancy under the water in the bathtub and we see her breasts momentarily.

Gore: There are some great scenes with plenty of blood in it. In the scene where Tina is killed, we see four slashes across her belly appear because she's being attacked by Freddy's gloved hand. The most famous scene of all though is Johnny Depp's bed scene. They used hundreds of gallons of fake blood for that scene and it really has to be seen to be believed.

Awesome: to the MAX! Wes Craven does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between the dream world and reality. The movie moves seamlessly between the two, so it's really shocking when something crazy happens and it turns out someone fell asleep. Also, Freddy doesn't just kill you, he likes to play with his victims first. He relishes in causing as much fear and terror in his victims before he finishes them off because the character is sadistic in nature. Robert Englund does an amazing job as Freddy and returns in all of the sequels, except for remake. Englund has become synonymous with the role. Apparently, Krueger is based on a hobo that scared Wes Craven when he was a kid and the name comes from a kid who used to bully Wes Craven. Nancy doesn't fuck around either, she learns to build booby traps with explosives after realizing she can pull Freddy out her dreams. Despite moving into horror/comedy territory later in the franchise, Freddy still managed to give tons of people nightmares. That's the beauty of the story, everyone can relate to it because we've all had bad dreams before. The story really stays with you long after the movie is over. Keep an eye out for Lin Shaye (Elise from Insidious) as Nancy's teacher.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th (USA, 2009) - Color, Director(s): Marcus Nispel
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 97 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 2 stars out of 5

Jason's pretty much done it all. He haunted Crystal Lake for decades, ran amok in Manhattan, he's been to Hell and back, and he's even gone into space. There really wasn't much left to do with his character but retell his story. Director Marcus Nispel also directed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake a few years earlier, so he's got a bit of experience rebooting horror franchises. Surprisingly, Michael Bay also produces.

The movie begins with a flashback to 1980 where a counselor from Camp Crystal Lake is being chased by Jason's mother. With a young Jason looking on, the counselor decapitates his mother with a machete. Flash forward to present day Crystal Lake and a group of teenagers are hiking through the woods. The camping trip is just a cover for two guys who are looking for marijuana that grows wild out there. Jason shows up with the classic burlap sack over his head and wreaks havoc on the group. This new Jason is a lot faster and more agile than the lumbering powerhouse the character had become in the series up until now. This Jason also sets traps whereas the old Jason was more into theatrics like posing dead bodies to scare people.

A few weeks go by and another group of teens are headed up to a rich kid's cabin at Crystal Lake. (Fun fact: They're headed to up to Trent's cabin, who is played by Travis Van Winkle. He plays the same character, Trent DeMarco, in Michael Bay's Transformers) While stopped at a gas station, they run into a guy who's looking for his missing sister, Whitney, who came with the first group. What bothers me is how generic all the characters come off. There's the snobby rich kid, the slutty blonde chick, the responsible girl, the disposable couple, the good looking stranger, the Asian guy, and the token black character. There's a moment where one of the girls assumes the black guy, Lawrence, is working out a music deal in the rap genre but he says that it's racist she would just assume "because he's black, he can't listen to Green Day." She corrects herself and asks when genre of music he's working in and he says rap. I thought that was kinda funny at first but then later he's getting ready to go outside to get his buddy even though everyone knows that Jason is out there killing people. Lawrence seems really confident that Jason won't be able to lay a hand on him. He even says that he'll "surprise you every time" but ends up getting killed anyway. I like that they addressed the stereotypes in these kinds of movies but the characters play right into them.

Like most Asian men, this guy has a foot fetish

Nudity: There's a good amount of nudity in this one, two different couples are shown having sex and one girl is skinny dipping. Some of these girls have REALLY nice boobs.


Gore: In the wake of hyper-violent remakes like The Hills Have Eyes and Marcus Nispel's own Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the violence and gore isn't overly graphic but it's cringeworthy at times. One of my favorite kills is when Jason jams the fireplace poker through a cop's eye and the front door of the house. There's some fantastic camerawork at play here as it pans sideways through a wall to show the poker coming out the other side.

Awesome: This is actually a pretty good retelling of Parts 1-3. The movie starts with the end of the first movie where Jason's mother gets decapitated, then we follow Jason through his burlap sack phase all the way through when he finds the hockey mask. One of the girls even pretends to be Jason's mother to distract him, a move that Ginny pulls in Part II. In this retelling, they really downplay the supernatural aspect of the story and make Jason's character more believable. He didn't drown as a child and then come back 20 years later, still a child, then become a full grown adult in 5 years. This isn't some twisted version of Captain America. Overall, this is a pretty good re-imagining, I would recommend it for fans of the franchise. This is better than the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. As I write this, there's already another reboot in the works for a new Friday the 13th movie.

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