Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Description from Netflix:
Resurrected from the depths of hell, Freddy returns to kill the remaining teens on Elm Street.  But even after he murders the last kid, Freddy still isn't satisfied and looks for other ways to continue his sinister murdering spree.  He soon discovers the perfect person for him to victimize: Alice, a girl gifted with the special power of bringing other people into her dreams.

Notable actors: Robert Englund

My thoughts:
In the last film, they didn't really talk about how he came back.  They actually show how he was resurrected in this one, although perhaps they should've left it out.  A dog urinates fire onto his grave, and that uncovers him and allows him to continue his murdering ways.  First up are the last of the three Elm Street kids: Kristen, Kincaid and Joey.  Kristen's best friend (Alice) is pulled into Kristen's dream and sees her being killed.  This somehow allows Freddy access to the dreams of Alice and her friends, even though their families had nothing to do with his death.  (I told you the link was a bit more tenuous in this film.)

This is also the movie where the series turns into Freddy's show.  Sure, we still cheer for the victims to survive, but Freddy is absolutely the star of the show.  He has more lines.  More jokes.  More personality.  It gets pretty cheesy, but it's still enjoyable.

At this point in the series, even when Freddy is defeated, we don't really believe he is defeated.  As he says at the end of this movie: "I am eternal."

Rating: 4/5

Final question: the guy in the middle.  He's definitely what the creators of Buffy were going for when they were trying to find a look for Angel, right?

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

Description from Netflix:
It's been many years since Freddy Kruger's first victim, Nancy, came face-to-face with Freddy and his sadistic, evil ways.  Now, Nancy's all grown up; she's put her frightening nightmares behind her and is helping teens cope with their dreams.  Too bad Freddy's decided to herald his return by invading the kids' dreams and scaring them into committing suicide.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon

My thoughts:
This is where is starts to get cheesy.  Not full-fledged.  Not yet.  It goes full-fledged in the next film.  This isn't necessarily scary, but there are some good scenes in here.  The first dream sequence, in particular, is one of the better scenes in the series.

I also really like the idea that the kids can be whatever they want in their dreams.  Super powers, so to speak.  Sure, they're not great, but this is the first time where the kids realize they also have power in dreams, and try to use that against Freddy.
Of course, he also uses his powers against them.  And he knows what he's doing a little more than they do.

We also find out a little more about Freddy's backstory from a mysterious nun.

They don't really explain how he came back in this movie.  It seemed like they had finally put him to rest for good at the end of the second movie, and they make no attempt to explain how he's back in the world of dreams.  Part 2 came out in 1985, and this one came out in 1987.  Maybe they thought the audience wouldn't remember (or wouldn't care) how the last one ended.

The link between movies works fairly well: all the kids in this movie are "the last of the Elm Street kids".  That connection grows a bit more tenuous in the next movie, but there's still a strong connection here.

Overall, I really like this one.  The series is starting to go in a different direction, but that's okay.  The skeleton fight-scene at the end was a bit dated (to say the least), but it's still an enjoyable movie.

Rating: 4/5

A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge

Description from Netflix:
It's been five years since Freddy Krueger tormented those hapless Elm Street teens with his razor glove and maniacal sense of humor.  But he's back for revenge, with his sights set on another innocent victim he can torture and possess.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Lyman Ward

My thoughts:
A little different from the first one.  Where that one found Freddy killing a bunch of kids in their dreams, this one finds him trying to "get back into the game", as it were.  A family moves into Nancy's old house, and Freddy immediately begins to take over the body of the boy (Jesse).  He needs a host to bring him back.  Or, in the words of Freddy, "You've got the body, and I've got the brains."

While it's a different movie, it has the same kind of feel as the first one.  There's something weird going on, and no one will believe him.  He's dating the girl next door (Lisa), and she begins to believe him after reading Nancy's diary.
Jesse begins to find himself in strange places, witnessing Freddy murdering people.  But he slowly discovers that Freddy is using him as a vessel to kill these people.  For Freddy, the eventual goal is to take over the body of Jesse.  I'm unclear as to whether he would still be able to terrorize dreams, or if he would just exist in the real world.

I like this movie.  It's not quite as good as the first, but it has a lot of great moments.  Jesse's screams are legendary.  Check this one out (the good stuff comes in around the :50 mark):

I was a big fan of Grady, Jesse's enemy/best friend/overall jackass.  Their relationship was confusing, but he had the best lines of the movie.

And, of course, I need to give a shout out to Jesse's girlfriend, Lisa Webber.  She goes above and beyond the call of duty to help Jesse.  Would you make out with a serial killer for your significant other?  You wouldn't?  Then you're not as good as Lisa.

There's a large homosexual subtext that runs throughout this movie that is impossible to miss.  But I won't delve into that here.  I'm fairly sick at the moment, and it's all I can do to throw up these slap-dash reviews.  If I were to get into that, it wouldn't end well.

Rating: 4/5

Last but not least, look at what Jesse's sister is eating for breakfast.  Fu Man Chews!

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Description from Netflix:
Years after being burned alive by a mob of angry parents, child murderer Freddy Krueger returns to haunt the dreams and waking hours of small-town teens in this spine-chilling slasher classic from director Wes Craven.

Notable actors: Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Lin Shaye, John Saxon

My thoughts:
Whenever I watch the sequels, then go back and watch this one, I'm always surprised by how much different this is.  In the later movies (starting with part 3, really), Freddy is a likable, wise-cracking killer.  You're not exactly rooting for him, but you are drawn to him.

Not so with this movie.  He doesn't have many lines, and he certainly isn't cracking any jokes. He's a menacing, stalking child-killer.  It's a dark movie, with no room for jokes or laughs.
It feels a bit dated at times (the scene with the long arms looks especially cheesy), but, overall, this movie still holds up remarkably well.

I never saw this series as a child, so I know it's not nostalgia that keeps drawing me back to these movies.  While I can't say that this ranks as high as the original Halloween on my list of horror movies, it certainly isn't too far off.

Rating: 5/5

Trick R Treat

Description from Netflix:
In writer-director Michael Dougherty's fright fest, Halloween's usually boisterous traditions turn deadly, and everyone in a small town tries to survive one night in pure hell, but who will still be alive in the morning?  Several stories weave together, including a loner fending off a demented trick-of-treater's attacks; kids uncovering a freaky secret; a school principal -- who moonlights as a serial killer - poisoning his candy; and more.

Notable actors: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Tahmoh Penikett, Leslie Bibb

My thoughts:
I've written about this movie in the past (here and here), so I won't waste many words here.  I love this movie.  It has a great atmosphere to it.  I make sure to watch this at least once every year in the week leading up to Halloween.  It's not a scary movie by any means, but it has a spooky feel throughout.  If you haven't seen this yet, you definitely need to.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Amityville Horror

Description from Netflix:
This hair-raising remake of the 1979 horror hit depicts the ordeal of the Lutz family, whose new home has a gory past and a legacy of demons.  Before long, dad George is being haunted by nightmares and daughter Chelsea is seeing phantoms.

Notable actors: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall, Chloe Grace Moretz

My thoughts:
I love this movie.  It's one of my favorite modern horror movies.  Ryan Reynolds gives a great performance as George Lutz; a man who is slowly being taken over by the demons in the house.  He alternates between threatening and annoyed.  One minute he's making his step-son hold up wood while he chops ("We're friends, aren't we?  We're having fun.").  The next minute he's sneering at a touching moment between mother and father.  ("What's wrong with this family?")  The next minute he's trying to kill his entire family.  I can understand.  I've had bad days, too.

It's creepy.  It's funny.  It moves at a good pace.  After the first viewing, the jump-scares aren't scary, but they still work well within the movie.  Nothing really feels cheap or cheesy.  (Okay, maybe the very last scene does, but that's it.)

It's a good haunted house movie.  If you haven't seen it yet, definitely check it out.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dr. Giggles

Description from Netflix:
Psychotic doctor Evan Rendell -- aka Dr. Giggles -- escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown to exact revenge on the locals who killed his father.  The doctor commits a string of gory murders with the surgical tools he has at his disposal.  But the fun really begins when Rendell comes across a girl who's waiting for a heart transplant and decides to take the surgery into his own hands.

Notable actors: Larry Drake, Doug E. Doug

My thoughts:
I remember seeing this movie at the local video store.  I was always curious about it, but never actually got around to watching it.
For better or worse, that changed last night.

"He should've kept his hands to himself" - Dr. Giggles, stand-up comedian

This movie is exactly what I thought it would be.  It takes itself completely seriously, even though it's absolutely ridiculous and terrible.  In other words, your standard early-90s slasher.

He goes through town, killing people with his comically oversized medical supplies.  A massive blood-pressure cuff around a man's head.  A huge thermometer (with a spike on the end) into a girls' mouth.  A reflex hammer to beat a man to death.  And so on.

And, of course, every kill is followed (or preceded) by a punny one-liner.  
On top of those, there are a ton of absolutely horrible lines in here.  A couple of my favorites that I wrote down:

"Ahead of his time, but out of his mind."  (This could've been a quote in a Back to the Future movie, as well.)
"I don't have to promise you doodely squat."

My favorite moments:
- The fact that the main girl had a heart condition.  I don't know why, but that absolutely killed me.  It played into the plot, but it was still ridiculous.  The doctor (her real doctor, not Dr. Giggles) told her that she needed to avoid all strenuous activities, and also to avoid drinking.  So, in her moment of rebellion, she drinks a couple glasses of wine.  She also runs around town for a while, but that doesn't seem to kill her heart.

- Dr. Giggles returns to his childhood home.  It's a horribly broken-down house in the middle of a rich neighborhood.  There also appears to be a doctor's office in the house.  Let me say this again: it was a in a VERY rich neighborhood.  And his house looked like this:

I find it hard to believe that the house wouldn't have been torn down by now.

- There's a scene in a house of mirrors that is so spectacular, I can't even begin to describe it.  It's simply amazing.

- In a flashback scene, we see a young Dr. Giggles crawl out of a corpse.  And it looks like this:

- A scene that was a direct rip-off of the iconic scene from The Exorcist.

- The fact that there were a number of false endings.  I swear this movie ended at least 3 different times.

There were more, but those were my favorites.

This was a ridiculous movie.  And it was absolutely terrible...but in all the right ways.  It's not a good movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, October 22, 2012


Description from Netflix:
AnnaLynne McCord stars in this odd horror flick as Pauline, a disturbed teenager who aspires to work in medicine likes to dissect roadkill.  The one person who understands Pauline is her little sister, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

Notable actors: AnnaLynne McCord, Ariel Winter, Traci Lords, Roger Bart, Malcom McDowell, Ray Wise, John Waters

My thoughts:
This was a bizarre and disturbing movie.  For starters, this is how the movie opened:

What you have is two AnnaLynne McCords in the same room.  One of them is vomiting blood.  The other one is aroused.
Maybe "bizarre" doesn't quite cover it.

This movie takes place in two worlds: the real world, and the crazed world of depraved fantasies inside the head of Pauline.  Each of these fantasies revolves around blood.  Lots and lots of blood.

In the real world, Pauline is an outcast at school and at home.  Her mother desperately wants her to be normal.  Or, at the very least, to not act like a sociopath.  Her father seems distant, but he at least seems to feel some sort of affection for her.  Her sister (Grace) loves her, but doesn't seem to fully understand what is going on inside of her head.
Pauline talks very matter-of-fact about everything.  She tells Grace, "I think I am ready to lose my virginity," as if were something that her 14-year-old sister has been wondering about.

This film alternates between being profoundly disturbing, deeply uncomfortable, and darkly hilarious.  Against my better judgement, I found myself laughing a number of times, normally in response to something Pauline or her father said.  Here are a couple of my favorite quotes that I wrote down:

"Can you contract an STD by having sex with a dead person?" - asked in class
"Please sterilize that.  It's my favorite thermometer."
"I thought she was a retard.  I was just trying to be nice." - said by a guy who asked Pauline to dance
"I'm not one to advocate violence, but something people like Natalie need to be punched in the face."

Those lines are good, but the delivery was perfect.

The comedic stylings of Pauline

This was a visually disturbing - yet still kind of beautiful - film.  It's hard to classify it as a horror movie (it wasn't really scary, nor was it trying to be), but it can't possibly be classified as anything else.  It was not easy to watch, and I doubt I'll ever watch it again.  But it was a very well-done film with some great performances.  I'm glad I watched it.
For me, the movie boiled down to this central question: If you felt like an outcast - even in your own family - how far would you go to try to fit in?

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Faculty

Description from Netflix:
Many teens think their teachers hail from another planet -- but what if it's true?  Herrington High students notice that faculty member aren't quite themselves, and discover an alien infection they might not be able to stop.

Notable actors: Josh Harnett, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart, Usher Raymond, Christopher McDonald, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Danny Masterson

I had no idea this was directed by Robert Rodriguez.

My thoughts:
Scream famously helped to usher in an era of self-aware horror movies.  The Faculty came out a couple years later, and it obviously took that theme and ran with it, with a slight difference.  Where Scream had Randy - a movie nerd who made the majority of the references/listed the rules - The Faculty had references coming from a number of the characters.  Here is a list of movies that were referenced:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Independence Day
Men in Black

I'm sure there were more, but I can't remember them all.

There is also a conversation where they pose the idea that all fiction is rooted in reality.  That perhaps Steven Spielberg was actually an alien, which is how he came up with the ideas for E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
None of these references seemed forced, and I never felt like there were too many of them.  Too often I see movies where the characters don't seem to live in the same world that we do.  Or they don't have access to the same movies.  Or something.  (I have this problem with the majority of zombie movies, but that's a much longer post for another time.)  As long as it's not cheesy, I like the references to other movies.  And I think this one did a good job with them.

To me, this had elements of a lot of movies, all mashed into one.  The most obvious ones were:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (naturally)
The Thing (the scene when they make everyone snort Zeke's caffeine concoction to see if they're infected or not felt exactly like the scene where they test everyone's blood in The Thing.)
The Breakfast Club (it was impossible to see the ragtag group of survivors and not think about The Breakfast Club.  Zeke was Bender, Stokes was Allison, Casey was Brian, Marybeth was Claire, etc.  I don't know if this was intentional, but it seemed like it was impossible to miss.)

I hadn't seen this movie since shortly after its release.  I remember enjoying it fairly well, but I didn't remember too much about it.  After watching it this time around, I really enjoyed it.  It felt a little dated at times, but it was a really fun movie.

Rating: 4/5

The Mummy

Description from Netflix:
When British archaeologists uncover the ancient sarcophagus of a mummified Egyptian priest, they foolishly ignore its warning not to open the box.  Now brought back to life, the mummy tries to resurrect the soul of his long-dead love.

Notable actors: Boris Karloff

My thoughts:
Sad to say, but I had never seen this movie before.  I've seen the 90s remake dozens of times, but never this one.
I was struck by the similarities between this movie and the remake.  I assumed they just took the idea of The Mummy and built a new story around it, but that was not the case.  The remake took the same basic plot - as well as a some of the names (Imhotep, Anck Su Namun) - and just tweaked it a little.

I really liked this.  It had a great feel to it.  I was immediately drawn in to this world.
And you really can't go wrong with Karloff.  Given the choice of iconic actors from the Universal monsters (Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, etc.), I would choose Karloff every single time.  I love that guy.

Rating: 5/5

The Invisible Man

Description from Netflix:
Scientist Jack Griffin terrorizes the British village of Ipping in this classic horror film.  After a drug experiment gone awry, griffin becomes invisible and must hide out in the local inn, his face completely bandaged.  By the time Griffin confides in friends Dr. Kemp & Flora, it's too late -- the drug has turned him into a homicidal maniac who must be hunted down.

Notable actors: Henry Travers, Gloria Stuart, Claude Rains

My thoughts:
Honestly, I didn't read the description before I watched it, so I was unprepared for what happened in this movie.  I assumed it would start with an experiment gone wrong, but I thought the rest of the movie would be him dealing with the consequences.
That wasn't the case at all.
He started the movie as an invisible man, and he was pretty happy about it.  He basically acted like an ass for the entire movie.  Throwing things around the room.  Dancing around without a head.  Strangling people willy-nilly.  And so on.

He wanted to sell his formula to the highest bidder, allowing a country to build an army of invisible soldiers.  He was, in a word, crazy.

This was a strange, campy movie.  And I loved it.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nosferatu the Vampyre

Description from Netflix:
This stylistic 1979 retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula follows the bloodthirsty, undead count as he takes over the German village of Virna and then tries to spread his bloodsucking ways throughout the world.  All that stands in his path is the lovely, selfless Lucy Harker.  Iconoclastic German director Werner Herzog blends dreamlike imagery and a languid pace to give the film an ethereal milieu.

Notable actors: Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani

My thoughts:
First of all, let's state two facts about this.
1. Klaus Kinski is terrifying as Nosferatu.  Even worse than his face are his hands.  Those hands freak me out.

2. Isabelle Adjani is gorgeous.  Pictures don't do her justice.  She carried herself so well in this film.  She really was the embodyment of all things beautiful and pure, which is exactly what Herzog was going for.  He could not have cast two better leads for this film.

This was very much a 70s film.  By that I mean, it was slow paced.  It was also very deliberate with each shot, and very deliberate in its setting and surroundings.  It made for a beautiful film, but also one that I kind of zoned out of a handful of times.

Technically speaking, it's a masterpiece.  Between the acting and the directing and the setting, it really is amazing to look at.  But it wasn't the easiest film to watch.  It was late and I was a little tired.  This is a film that demands your full attention, and I wasn't in a place to give that last night.  I plan on watching it again when I am better prepared for it.

If you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth a watch.  But it's not one that you can watch passively and still expect to get full enjoyment out of it.

Rating: 3/5
(I'm sure that rating will increase if I watch it under different circumstances)

One final note: after watching this, it's easy to see where the influence for The Master in Buffy the Vampire Slayer came from.