Sunday, December 9, 2012

Silent Night

Description from Netflix:
When two cops investigate a horrific mass homicide at a motel on Christmas Eve, they realize there's a psycho killer disguised as Santa on the loose.  Problem is, tonight's the annual Santa costume contest, and nearly every guy in town has dressed up.

Notable actors: Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, Ellen Wong, Lisa Marie

My thoughts:
As this blog has shown time and time again, I love horror movies.  I love bad horror movies.  I also love seasonal (say, Christmas) movies.  I have also seen the original film (1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night), and somewhat recently at that.  All that being said, I should've been the target audience for this movie.
And, sadly, I didn't love it.

I really wanted to.  It's a killer Santa Claus.  He murders with axes, scythes, flamethrowers, and whatever sharp object happens to be close at the time.  He kills those who are "naughty".  Luckily for him, this small town in Wisconsin (Cryer, I believe) is full of terrible people.  A pervy priest.  Slutty teenagers.  A softcore pornographer.  Countless drug dealers and murders.  And so on.

So why didn't I love it?  Perhaps it was precisely because I watched the original fairly recently.  The original was enjoyable mostly because of its campy nature, but partially due to the killer himself.  We saw why he became a murdering psychopath.  Now, I'm not one who needs an explanation for why these killers become killers (one of my all-time favorite horror movies is Halloween, which gives very little explanation as to why Michael Myers kills), but the original handled it pretty well and it made sense.  You don't really get any of that here.  There's a part at the end that explains it, but even that isn't great.  I felt a bit of empathy for the killer in the original.  Even after finding out why he kills, I felt absolutely no empathy for this killer.  The reasons were completely different.

There were a few nods to the original (the crazy, thought-to-be-catatonic grandfather saying, "You see Santa tonight, you better run.  Run for your life!"), but, for the most part, this can be considered a remake only because Santa kills people.  There aren't many other similarities.  Where the original followed Billy (the murderer), this movie followed Aubrey (the cop).  In fact, in this movie, Santa barely talks.  I think he says 1 word the entire movie.
Again, that's not saying that a silent killer is a boring killer.  Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees both managed to be interesting without saying much.  But this Santa just felt dull.  I didn't care about him.  I didn't even care about most of the characters (although I did want to see Aubrey survive, so that's something).

I was also rooting for Knives Chau.  Because I love her.

It just felt like a lazy movie.  Like the director said, "Hey, I should make a movie where Santa kills lots of terrible people," without putting a lot of thought into it.  No real characters to speak of.  A character who's sole purpose seemed to be putting our final girl into terrible situations (this was the Sheriff, and he was played by Malcolm McDowell).  Characters like that are the laziest way to build suspense and drama.  I always resent these characters, regardless of who plays them.

Sorry, Malcolm

All in all, it was not a great movie.  There were some enjoyable scenes, but, overall, it just wasn't great.  If you really want to see Santa killing people in terrible ways, then you may be interested in this.  But, even then, I would tell you to go back and watch the original.  There are more laughs in that one, at the very least.

Of course, this movie has Jaime King...

Rating: 2/5

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lovely Molly

Description from Netflix:
After moving into her deceased father's country house, Molly and her new husband Tim face eerie disturbances -- and things get worse as Molly faces them alone while Tim's away.  Soon the evil presence threatens both her sanity and her life.

Notable actors: Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden

My thoughts:
Going in, the only thing I knew about this was that it was written & directed by Eduardo Sanchez of The Blair Witch Project fame.  It looks like he hasn't completely given up on the found footage genre.  He didn't use it for this entire movie, but he used it quite a bit.  It felt pretty clumsy most of the time.  When Molly found herself being scared in the house, she would flick on the camera.  Because, of course, that's the natural reaction for all of us.

This movie started off pretty well.  There were a number of creepy parts that had me on edge.  The main actress - Gretchen Lodge - did a great job at slowly descending deeper and deeper into madness.  When the movie starts, she's a carefree bride.  But, as the movie progresses, she becomes more and more unstable.
We find out that she used to be a heroin addict, but has been clean for quite a while (I don't think they ever really say how long, but it's implied that she has been clean for several years).  As she slowly loses her mind, we're left wondering if she is possessed, or if it's just a relapse.  Either way, she's insane.
If I learned nothing else from this movie, I learned this: whether it's a possession or an addiction to heroin, you never kiss that kind of crazy.  Ever.

Okay.  Now the bad.  Somewhere in the middle, it pretty much lost me.  It reached a point where Molly's actions became so ridiculous I couldn't really take the movie seriously anymore.  It seemed like they were pushing it over-the-top because they wanted to be shocking.  There's a right way to do that.  This was not it.  They hit the crazy button too early, and they couldn't sustain it to the end.  It was no longer creepy.  And, when it lost me, it lost me for good.  There was nothing to drew me back in.
Sure, I still wanted to see how it ended (possession or drugs?), but it ceased being scary.  And, as it turns out, the ending wasn't even that good.  In fact, the big reveal made me laugh really hard.

I'm going to venture into some SPOILER territory here (complete with a picture), so, if you don't really want to know how it ends, you should probably skip it.  (Although I don't think it really spoils too much.  For me, this part was still open for interpretation.)


Towards the end, after Molly has exacted her bloody vengeance, she walks outside - stark naked - and encounters the demon who has been possessing her.  (I said earlier that I think this is still open for interpretation.  Even though we see the demon, I still get the feeling that it was in her head.  That it was all the heroin making her see things and act how she had been acting.)
And the demon looks preposterous.  It's like Sweetums from The Muppets lost weight and decided to start possessing hot blondes.  I laughed for a good 5 minutes.  (If you click on the picture, you should be able to see it a little larger.  Since he's in shadows, you don't really get a great look at him, but you can see enough of him to realize how stupid he looks.)


As you can probably tell, I didn't love this movie.  But there are some pretty creepy moments in here.  I'd say it's worth a watch, but you can probably fast-forward through the last half of the movie and not really miss much.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wrong Turn: Bloodlines

Description from Netflix:
The local authorities already have their hands full with the legendary Mountain Man festival on Halloween, but they're in for some real trouble when a family of inbred cannibals feats on a group of college students.

Notable actors: Doug Bradley

My thoughts:
As near as I can tell, this movie took place after the events of part 4, but before the events of part 1.  The events at the hospital from part 4 are referenced (albeit clumsily).  We find the family of cannibals being taught in the art of killing by a calm psychopath by the name of Maynard (played by Doug Bradley, aka "Pinhead".  It should be noted that this makes the second movie with "Bloodline" in the title, the first being 1996's Hellraiser: Bloodline).

Bradley was terrible in this.  He didn't so much chew through his lines as much as he grabbed the lines, gnawed on them for a long time, spit them out, gnawed on them some more, then left their bloody remains strewn across the floor.  In a movie full of terrible acting, it takes a remarkable effort to stand head-and-shoulders against the rest.  And yet, that's what Bradley did here.  I realize that he didn't have much to work with, and playing it over the top was his best option.  But it just didn't work.  It was awful.  He was a one-note character who did absolutely nothing with that note.

Moving on from my Doug Bradley hate-fest.
The movie pretty much follows the same formula, with some slight changes.  Teenagers are terrorized/tortured/murdered by a family of inbred cannibals in the hills of West Virginia.  They try to get away.  Most of them don't, and they die in gruesome ways.

None of the teenagers were overly obnoxious, which was nice.  There wasn't much to them (this wasn't exactly Cold Prey) and I didn't love any of them, but I didn't really hate any of them either, and that's always a welcome change of pace.

There was some strange subplot with a newswoman who was sent to cover this Mountain Man festival (a music festival where everyone dressed up like inbreds.  They reference Burning Man, Coachella & Lollapalooza, which seems fairly close.  Except with lots of people dressed like deformed rednecks).  She went full Phil Connors, left, changed into an outfit eerily reminiscent of April O'Neal, and went running in the woods.

She is shocked by the lack of turtles in this movie

She doesn't return (obviously), and the sound operator has to step in.  It's a big moment for her career.  But who cares?  This story only takes up about 5 minutes of the movie (if that).  It doesn't set anything up, except for the fact that there are some inbred cannibals on the loose.  And it also gives us the title screen.  But that's it.

There were moments in this movie that felt really dirty & mean-spirited.  I have watched all of these movies (for better or worse), and none of them gave me the feeling that this one did.  I would go so far as to label it misogynistic, and I rarely do that with horror movies.  It just felt like they had too many scenes in this movie where the sole purpose of the filmmakers seemed to be, "Let's see how bad we can hurt these women.  Punch her harder in the face.  More violent."
Don't get me wrong, I've watched my share of movies with violence against women (as evidenced by this blog), but this is the first time I've really been uncomfortable watching them.  The women had no chance of escape.  They weren't really setting us up to cheer for any of the girls.  It seemed like they were just torturing these women because they wanted to.
There were also two sex scenes with nudity, and the second one didn't really have any bearing on the movie or the characters.  It was just, "Hey.  Boobs.  Right here."  Not for any reason, and not to set up the character as some kind of harlot who had violated the rules of slasher movies (she was a no-name character who was not killed).  Just to show a girl getting naked and blowing a fat guy.  If the rest of the movie didn't have such a negative vibe about women, I wouldn't have thought twice about this scene.  But it did, so it left me feeling dirty.
Maybe I'm off.  Maybe I'm reading this all wrong.  But that's the feeling I got from this movie, and, by the end, I just couldn't really handle any more.

Needless to say, I did not like this movie.

Rating: 1/5

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nightmare on Elm Street Wrap-Up

As you all have seen, I recently watched all 8 of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies: 1-6, New Nightmare, and Freddy vs. Jason.  I really wanted to do for this series what I did for the first four Friday the 13th movies (much more in-depth, details on every kill, etc.), but I didn't.  I blame my laziness.  And the fact that I watched the first four of these movies on the same day (a day when I was really sick, no less), and the thought of putting that much work into each post exhausted me.
What I'm saying is, "I was too lazy to do a big write-up on each of these movies, so you got shorter, crappier reviews instead."  (Sorry Ben, Patricia, and the other 2 people who may actually read this blog.)

Anyway, as I was watching these, I came across a handful of thoughts that didn't really fit into a single post, but were more observations on the series as a whole.  I tried to write them down as I thought of them, but that didn't always work out.  Again, I'm a lazy person.
So, without further adieu, a handful of borderline incoherent ramblings on the Nightmare on Elm Street series (along with a handful of pictures that I have used in previous posts).

- It's hard to watch this series and not compare it to the Friday the 13th series.  Both have iconic killers.  Both started around the same time.  Through the 80s, it was impossible to escape these movies.  I wasn't allowed to watch horror movies as a kid and even I knew who Freddy and Jason were.  They had become larger than the movies.
I understand why Freddy was so big.  He had personality.  He told jokes.  Jason just walked around slashing people.  He never spoke.
Honestly, I never really understood why Jason always seemed to be more popular than Michael Myers.  Halloween predates Friday the 13th by 2 years.  They were both silent, lumbering killers.  Was it the hockey mask?  Did that hold more appeal than the bleached Shatner mask?

I'm getting off track here.  The point is, it's hard for me to watch Nightmare without thinking about Friday, and vice versa.  But I like the Nightmare series so much better.  Even its weaker films are enjoyable, and I can't necessarily say the same thing for Friday the 13th.  There's some variety in the Nightmare movies.  A little something different in pretty much every movie.  Friday the 13th isn't like that.  After a certain point, all the Friday movies are pretty much the same.  And there's no reinvention of the series that makes it interesting again.  Sure, I enjoyed Jason X (how can you not?), but all they did was stick Jason in space.  Nightmare was able to make a completely original and terrifying movie 7 films into the series [New Nightmare].  Friday the 13th just didn't have the creativity to pull off something like that.

- I think that's what I love most about this series: the creativity.  The concept alone is enough to scare you.  He's a killer who kills while you sleep.  You can't escape sleep.  And, while some of his victims found a way to make the dreams work in their favor, that wasn't enough to turn the tide completely.  After all, they only visited that world for a few hours at a time: Freddy lived there, and had years to master it.  That's what made this scary for me.  Everyone sleeps.  In every film, the final girl tries her hardest to stay awake.  In the first film, Nancy tells Glen that she has been awake for 7 days (she also tells him that the world record is 11 days).  So, even with prolonging sleep as long as anyone ever has, you're only buying yourself another week-and-a-half of life (and not much of a life...I can barely go a day without sleep without being a completely worthless human being.  Picturing myself for 11 days without sleep is an ugly, ugly thought).  And even then, by the time you fall asleep, you'll probably be even harder to wake up, thus making you easy prey for Freddy.
New Nightmare takes this a step further, as we find out that extreme sleep deprivation in children can cause schizophrenic symptoms.  So, even when avoiding Freddy by staying awake, you can still do terrible harm to yourself.
And it bears repeating: you will always fall asleep at some point.  You can stay awake for 11 days, chug coffee like a champ, and try to power through the emerging schizophrenia.  But you will still fall asleep, and that's when he kills.  You can't hide forever.

This series also has a lot of great dream imagery.  It's not just the normal nightmare stuff of falling off a cliff.  They have a recurring scene of stairs turning into quicksand.  There's also the horror of running away from your attacker, just to always find that you're back at the place you started.  There is the now iconic house at 1428 Elm Street that we get to know very well throughout the course of the series.  Hallways of blood.  Dead girls in body bags being dragged across the floor by an unseen entity.  Not all of it works, but a lot of it does.  It's not always flashy or obvious, but there are a ton of great nightmare sequences throughout the series, and I love how they use it.

- A thought ran through my mind while watching New Nightmare.  The concept of that film is that these stories help to keep the real monsters/demons at bay.  When the stories stop, the monsters come back out (I cannot express enough how much I love this concept).  So we follow Heather Langenkamp - playing herself - as her and her family are terrorized by Freddy (or, rather, an ancient demon who has taken the form of Freddy).  According to Craven (also playing himself in the movie), it had been too long since a film was made, thus the demon was emerging.
Freddy's Dead was released in 1991.  New Nightmare was released in 1994.  So, according to this timeline, it takes roughly 3 years for the demon to emerge.  In other words, if a new Nightmare movie is not made every 3 years, this demon will emerge and begin killing.
New Nightmare was released in 1994.  Freddy vs. Jason was released in 2003.  That's 9 years.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't check to see if Heather Langenkamp was still alive.  I needed to make sure that this demon did not emerge in 1997 and kill her.  Thankfully, she is still alive.
Of course, I did not check to see if a bunch of kids mysteriously died in their sleep around that time.  It could be that he came back and just decided he didn't want to brawl with Nancy anymore.

Those are my thoughts.  For now, at least.  I reserve the right to write a post at any given moment with more.

I thoroughly enjoyed rewatching this series.  There are a lot of great moments here.  I hope it's not too long before I decide to revisit them.  This was a lot of fun.  If you haven't seen them yet, you really need to.

Finally, here's my rankings of all the final girls in the series:
1. Nancy [A Nightmare on Elm Street] / Heather Langenkamp [New Nightmare]
2. Lisa [Part 2: Freddy's Revenge]
3. Alice [Part 4: The Dream Master & Part 5: The Dream Child]
4. Kristen [Part 3: The Dream Warriors]
5. Maggie [Part 6: Freddy's Dead]
6. Lori [Freddy vs. Jason]

This is no knock on Lori.  I really like Lori.  But she just doesn't quite measure up to the rest.  I almost ranked her above Maggie, but Maggie went to hell to defeat Freddy, and Lori didn't.  In the end, I think it was the right choice.

I'm sorry, Lori.  I still love you

Last but not least: this is the 100th post on this blog.  I know it's not widely read or anything, but I've had a lot of fun doing this, and plan on doing it for many more years.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Freddy vs. Jason

Description from Netflix:
Fusing slasher franchises, this hybrid of horror pits nightmarish Freddy Krueger against serial killer Jason Voorhees in the ultimate showdown after Freddy - stuck in hell - revives Jason as part of a plan to revisit the dreams of Elm Street teens.  But Freddy's demonic scheme spins out of control when the maniacal Jason begins his own campaign of terror.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Katherine Isabelle, Lochlyn Munro, Zach Ward, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher
Also, apparently there was an uncredited appearance by a young Evangeline Lilly in this movie.  She played "School Student - Next to Locker".  Not sure how I missed her.

My thoughts:
It's quite a jolt going from New Nightmare to this.  Where New Nightmare was a fantastic, well-written addition to the series, Freddy vs. Jason is exactly what you think it will be: more action-horror than anything.  It was made as a fun movie, not necessarily to be a good one.
But there's nothing wrong with that.  It's not an amazing movie, but it's enjoyable.  I had fun watching it.

I enjoyed what they did with this.  They were able to successfully blend elements of the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the Friday the 13th series.  There were the creepy dream scenes from Nightmare, and the brutal slash-and-kill scenes from the Friday the 13th series.  This is especially obvious early in the movie, before Freddy is involved with the killing, and it feels like a Friday the 13th movie that just happens to be taking place on Elm Street.

Then Freddy shows up, gets mad when Jason keeps killing (taking the victims he worked so hard for), and it's on.  They fight in Freddy's dream world.  They fight at Camp Crystal Lake.  They fight, they fight, they fight.

Contrary to the title, there are more people involved than just Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees.  A group of high school students (and a cop) are terrorized by Freddy and Jason (imagine that) and try to find a way to defeat them.  As central as that is to the plot, the real draw here is the final event: Freddy vs. Jason.  A battle of two heavyweights of 80s horror.  And it doesn't disappoint.

Of course, I had particular interest in a couple of the characters.  The main girl - Lori Campbell - was played by Monica Keena.  I have a soft spot in my heart for her from watching Undeclared.  Also, she apparently knows her way around a machete, which is tremendous.

The cop who ends up helping the teens - Officer Stubbs - was played by Lochlyn Munro.  He has been in quite a few things at this point, but, to me, he'll always be Cliff, brother of Joe.  He had him some crack.  He wants him some hoes.  Say yeah.

Again, this was not a great movie.  But it was an extremely fun movie.  I enjoyed it.  As with New Nightmare, you don't have to watch the entire Nightmare (or Friday the 13th) series to enjoy this, but I'm glad I did.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Description from Netflix:
Freddy's back and he's badder than ever!  Nancy, the historical nemesis of the man with the satanic snarl and pitchfork fingers, discovers that a new monstrous demon has taken on Freddy's persona.  Can Nancy stop this new threat in time to save her son?  Nightmare director Wes Craven and [Heather] Langenkamp also play themselves in this final installment of a horror classic.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Wes Craven,
There are also a handful of small cameos from some former Nightmare folks, including Lin Shaye, Tuesday Knight, Jsu Garcia/Nick Corri, Amanda Wyss, and some I'm sure I missed.

My thoughts:
A quick note to clear up the Netflix description: this is not really Nancy.  This is Heather Langenkamp playing herself, not Nancy returning to take on Freddy.

With that out of the way...
The concept of this movie is terrific.  Wes Craven always said that his horror movies came from his nightmares.  It has been 3 years since Freddy's Dead came out, and both he and Heather Langenkamp start having nightmares.  (As we find out later, Robert Englund has been having these nightmares, too.)  Heather finds herself pitted against Freddy.  But this Freddy is different.  This Freddy is meaner.  Darker.  And he's trying to invade the real world, through her son Dylan.

According to Craven, there's an old theory that some ancient evils are kept at bay by storytellers.  If people are telling their story, they remain trapped.  But, once those stories stop, the evil awakens.
And that is what is going on here.  There is an ancient demon who has taken the form of Freddy Krueger, and he has become familiar with our world.  It has been long enough since the last Nightmare movie that he has begun to awaken, and has decided to invade our world.  The only way to defeat him is to make another movie.  But, to do that, Heather has to live it, and has to defeat the evil in order to finish the movie.
Got that?

It is carried out much better than I just explained it.  After watching the series slowly turn into Freddy saying countless punchlines, they brought back a dark edge with this movie.  It feels a little darker.  A little more real.  We see Heather fight for her son, and eventually end up at her old house on Elm Street, playing the role of Nancy one last time.

There are some great homages to the series.  On top of the iconic house, we see John Saxon again, playing a sort of father figure to Heather as she deals with this.  We also get some deaths that are made to look like some of the memorable deaths from the series.

It's a fantastic new take on a series that seemed to have run out of ideas at this point.  This is my second favorite movie in the series (just barely losing to the first installment).  I love this movie.  It can be watched as a standalone movie, but it's a lot more fun if you watch the rest of the series first.

Rating: 5/5

I'll finish up my Nightmare watching with Freddy vs. Jason, then I plan on doing a little wrap-up on the series as a whole.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Description from Netflix:
Just when you thought it was safe to sleep, Freddy Krueger returns in this sixth installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, as psychologist Maggie Burroughs, tormented by recurring nightmares, meets a patient with the same horrific dreams.  Their quest for answers leads to a certain house on Elm Street -- where the nightmares become reality.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Breckin Meyer, Tom Arnold, Rosanne Barr, Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp (in a very small cameo)

My thoughts:
Once again, they find a way to have Freddy haunt the dreams of children once more.  This one comes in the form of revealing that Freddy had a kid that no one knew about.  How this went undiscovered for 30+ years is completely beyond me.  But it has been revealed here, so I guess that's all that matters.
The gags are cheesier than ever.

That's Freddy, in the middle of the phrase, "I'll get you my pretty, and your little soul too."

That's Freddy referencing Nintendo's Power Glove.

They also use 3D in this movie.  And, in typical 80s/early-90s fashion, it's terrible.

All this sounds like I hate this movie.  I don't hate it.  I like it quite a bit.  I'd say it's on par with Part 5, which is to say it was good, but not nearly as good as the earlier movies in the series.  Still, it was quite enjoyable.  And we get to see Breckin Meyer stomped to death by a video game Freddy.

It's awesome.

I absolutely loved the credits for this.  It's a montage of a bunch of the deaths from the series.  It's like taking a walk down (a murderous) memory lane.

Rating: 3/5

I'm pretty excited about re-watching Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  I've only seen it once, and I remember really loving it.  I guess we'll find out this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Description from Netflix:
In the final chapter of this popular 1980s horror franchise, Freddy returns to target his old nemesis, Alice, in hopes of entering her unborn child's soul and being "born again" when the child enters the world.  Alice must stop Freddy -- stronger than ever and once again ready to terrorize the teens of Elm Street -- by freeing his dead mother's spirit so she can rise up and defeat Freddy for good.

Notable actors: Robert Englund

My thoughts:
First of all, I love that the Netflix description references this as "the final chapter".  They can't update that?  At this point, we know it's not the final chapter, because they made movies after this.

Once again, Freddy finds some way to haunt the dreams of teenagers.  Alice - our heroine from the last movie - is now pregnant, which somehow gives Freddy an entrance back to the world of dreams.  Even worse, he can now harm people through the dreams of Alice's unborn child.  Since a fetus sleeps 75% of the time (I'm not sure if that's accurate, but that's what the baby-doctor said in this movie), that means Freddy can strike pretty much any time.

It's not a bad movie, but it's definitely the weakest of the series so far.  The cheese factor gets taken up another notch, complete with us seeing the birth of Freddy, then seeing a Freddy-fetus run across the floor like a slimy burned rat.

As far as I know, this movie marks the only time in the series that teenager survives through 2 movies.  A handful of them make it to another movie (Nancy, Kristen, Joey, Kincaid, etc.), but they never survive that second movie.  Alice is able to pull off that rare feat.  Because she's awesome.  And a Dream Master.
(It should be noted that I don't count Nancy from 1 & 3 and Heather Langenkamp playing herself in New Nightmare as the same character.)

It's enjoyable, but not great.  Like I said, definitely the weakest of the series so far.  But, if you enjoyed 1-4, you'll enjoy this one.

Rating: 3/5