[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 3 – The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Director: Dwight H. Little

Cast: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy, Terence Harvey

Screenplay: Duke Sandefur

93 mins. Rated R.

 

I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally get a copy of The Phantom of the Opera in my hands. This film is widely available, but I’ve never brought myself to actually watch it for some reason until my colleague Marc lent it to me. I was so excited to finally see Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightworld) portray the Phantom. Boy, was I wrong.

Christine Day (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather, When a Stranger Calls Back) is an opera singer living in Manhattan who has just found a rather unique piece of music to sing at her upcoming audition. She discovers that the writer of the piece, Erik Destler (Englund), was likely responsible for numerous slayings a hundred years earlier, but she decides to sing the piece anyway. At the audition, she is accidentally knocked unconscious by a falling sandbag and awakens to find herself in London in 1885. Now, Christine is stuck in 1885 being followed by a mysterious admirer, and the body count is growing.

I wanted to love this movie, and I was so disappointed. First of all, you cannot call your film a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera if almost the entire film takes place in the 1800s. I wanted a Phantom set in the 1980s. This film seemed very promising at the beginning only to veer off into a direction we’ve kind of seen before.

Robert Englund performs well at Erik even if he isn’t given nearly as much to do. I think the work he had done playing Freddy Krueger prepared him to be under layers of makeup and still show off his chops. I wasn’t all that impressed with the rest of the cast and I didn’t feel like any of them were given the ability to shine due to the fluff that fills the film.

Another thing too that kind of takes us into potential spoilery territory: there’s a sequence after the climax of the film that doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t do anything to push the narrative forward, it left a bad taste in my mouth (even after a disappointing 90 minutes), and overall just ended the film on a sour note.

The Phantom of the Opera is a rather large disappointment. This film just could have been so much more and I really pined for it, but as soon as the audience is introduced to this time-travel element, the film goes absolutely nowhere. It’s truly frustrating especially after the inspired decision to use Englund in the lead. This is one adaptation that will not earn any love.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, click here.

 

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[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 2 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Director: Chuck Russell

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, John Saxon, Dick Cavette, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Englund

Screenplay: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell

96 mins. Rated R.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street was a huge hit, and while its sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, was financially successful, New Line Cinema realized that the second installment of this popular franchise missed the mark in more ways than one. So, they went back to the creator, Wes Craven , for help. He reluctantly answered. The next installment would have to be one that honored the roots of the series while adding a fresh spin. It’s something more franchises should hope to achieve.

Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood, TV’s CSI: Cyber) is experiencing horrible nightmares at the hands of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, The Funhouse Massacre). When her mother fears for her safety, she is admitted to Westin Hospital, a psychiatric ward run by Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson, Body Double, Akeelah and the Bee). There, she meets several other teens being tormented by Krueger. They soon learn from Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Hellraiser: Judgment, TV’s Just the Ten of Us), a survivor of Freddy’s slayings, that Kristen and the others are the last of the Elm Street children, and Krueger has plans to rid them once and for all. But Nancy has a plan using an untested sleep disorder drug and bit of practice, she plans to turn the tables on Krueger using his very dream power against him. But can they stop him?

Dream Warriors takes the high-concept premise of the original Nightmare on Elm Street and stretches it into new directions. There’s a more fantastical element in this sequel that would permeate through the rest of the series, especially seeing the “Dream” version of our core characters. Director Chuck Russell (The Blob, I Am Wrath) expertly flitters between horror and fantasy in a really special way.

It’s great to see Langenkamp return in the role of Nancy. It adds a feeling of returning to this installment that the previous film was lacking, and when you include John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, From Dusk Till Dawn) reprising his role as Nancy’s father, it feels like wrapping up loose ends. I get the sensation that this was intended to be the final film of a trilogy, and it works in that way while continuing on.

Newcomer Patricia Arquette shines as Kristen. I just loved watching her perform (it isn’t hard to believe, everyone on set was in love with her). She has an innocence that she adds to the role and a nice character arc as she struggles with finding the strength to defend herself from the horrific Krueger.

What’s really kind of amazing are the cameos from Dick Cavett (Beetlejuice, River of Fundament) and Zsa Zsa Gabor (Queen of Outer Space, Moulin Rouge). These kinds of cameos don’t ever really seem to work, but perhaps it is the sheer absurdity of it all (Cavett said he wanted Gabor to appear with him as he found her so annoying and would never actually interview her in real life) that seems to work. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of magic.

Dream Warriors was also a product of the 80s with its very own song performed by rock group Dokken. It’s a forgotten piece of marketing that I wish would come back. Lines like “Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch!” (Robert Englund famously improvised the dialogue) and the song “Dream Warriors” firmly plant this film in its time period.

I also have to credit the film for its incredibly unnerving special effects. There’s a sequence involving puppetry that, though it hasn’t aged perfectly, still works just as well. I have to mention the Freddy snake as well, phallic though it may be. This is an effects film done very well on a tight budget.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors forges a new path for its mythology and franchise trajectory, and it is one of the better installments in the series. Rooted in myth, horror, and fantasy, Chuck Russell’s film tortures its youthful cast of characters while developing each of them, even if some fall back to archetype as opposed to dynamism. It boils down to a film that is more fun the more you watch it, and it doesn’t lose its thrills for the sake of its more mystical elements. It’s a hell of a ride over 30 years later.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Jack Sholder’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, click here.

For my review of Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 13 – [Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th (2009)

Director: Marcus Nispel

Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis van Winkle, Derek Mears

Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

97 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material.

 

Hey all, I figured that we could talk about the 2009 iteration of Friday the 13th today in honor of this holiday. I watched the entire Friday the 13th franchise several times this year and felt that I haven’t visited this reboot in some time, and no time better than the present.

Now, describing the film may be a spoiler in some ways, so I’m going to keep this thing real tight. A bunch of youths visit Camp Crystal Lake, the sight of a horrific killing spree that took place back in the 80s involving the mother of a boy who drowned in the lake. The youths are interested in drinking, drugs, and fornicating, as they should be. Then, Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) shows up and starts picking them off one by one as vengeance for the death of his mother. Who will survive, who will get laid, and who will get slayed?

I actually really like this reboot. I say reboot because this is, in the truest sense of the word, a restart to the franchise as it takes elements from the first four films and then forges a new path. I think Jared Padalecki (Phantom Boy, TV’s Supernatural) is a great lead with a motive and a likeable personality. I think Travis van Winkle (Bound & Babysitting, TV’s The Last Ship) is a monster-asshole and I prayed that he get his.

I think what Friday the 13th gets right is that it is a reboot of a franchise that pays homage to the entire series rather than just a carbon copy of replica of the original. This is something A Nightmare on Elm Street just couldn’t crack. Director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Exeter) and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Baywatch) melded together a brand new layer or two to the mythology while respecting what came before. Fans were pissed at some of the decisions regarding this reboot to which I always point out that Godzilla has been rebooted numerous times, not always the same way, and fans rejoice at every opportunity for more.

The film faults when it takes its humor further than its frights, and it has some hiccups because of it. I would say 90% of Kyle Davis’s scenes should have been cut as well as some of the more disgusting humor that took me out of the experience as it just wasn’t funny.

I would tell you to give this film a try again. I think Friday the 13th is a pretty solid reboot to the franchise that we all know and love, and it saddens me that we are about to pass the longest waiting period for a new installment. Sadness. Please, Jason. Please.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 2 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Robert Englund

Screenplay: David Chaskin

87 mins. Rated R.

 

The first sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the more interesting tales out of Hollywood. The sequel that saved New Line Cinema.

Five years after the events of the first film, the Walsh family has moved into Springwood. Jesse (Mark Patton, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Family Possessions) has not been sleeping well since the move. The air conditioner is broken, the heat upstairs is unruly, and the nightmares have been unyielding. But things are looking up. He has the hots for Lisa (Kim Myers, Hellraiser: Bloodline, 10,000 Days) and a new best friend in Grady (Robert Rusler, Weird Science, Blood Feast), but he still can’t shake the feeling that there is something dangerous within him. In his dreams, that danger takes the form of a burned man named Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Kantamir, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda).

So let’s talk about the magic that is Robert Englund. This franchise would be nothing without him, and he seems to find himself in a different way with each installment. The magic in this series mostly rests on him, as we’ve seen in the remake that did not feature the iconic actor in role. Just think, though, that there was a time when Robert Englund had not been hired for this sequel. Instead, New Line thought it best to get an extra or stuntman. Thankfully, that mistake was rectified a few weeks into production and we now have the franchise and character we know and love.

I want to shift focus now to the screenplay and David Chaskin. For those of you that have watched the brilliant Never Sleep Again documentary that chronicles the making of this franchise, you will already know that in its time since release, Freddy’s Revenge has been discussed heavily for its homoerotic themes. Director Jack Sholder (The Hidden, 12 Days of Terror) has vehemently denied any knowledge of it, and screenwriter David Chaskin (Midnight Child, I, Madman) has only recently taken credit for the themes in his screenplay. Couple that with Mark Patton’s performance (Patton himself claimed he was the first male screen queen) and you can see the layers of sexual repression and how Jesse just wants to bottle up all the anger and hatred and fear that one would experience after coming out and you can see where this is all coming from. It’s an interesting theory but I have to call bullshit on David Chaskin. I don’t believe for a second that Chaskin chose to put this in the screenplay. Chaskin, in interviews, comes across as a smarmy liar who wants credit for everything good in the film but takes no blame on any of its faults.

I think what angered a lot of people about the way Freddy’s Revenge conducted itself was that it seemingly threw the rule book out and took the mythology in a completely wrong direction. In certain circumstances this could work, but for Freddy’s Revenge, it took all the magic out of a film and turned Freddy Krueger into a traditional slasher. He loses all his power. There’s some cool new pieces to the mythology but overall it’s a disappointing installment.

That being said, this installment happens to be my fiance’s favorite and I have a special place in my heart for it being that a sequence in the film was so frightening that I had nightmares for years as a child. Can you imagine if I had been deranged?

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, click here.

For my review of Danny Steinmann’s Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 15 – Drive-Thru (2007)

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Director: Brendan Cowles, Shane Kuhn

Cast: Leighton Meester, Nicholas D’Agosto, Melora Hardin, Larry Joe Campbell, Lola Glaudini

Screenplay: Brendan Cowles, Shane Kuhn

83 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, drug use, language and some sexual content.

 

Well, after the last couple of days, I thought it might be time for a disappointment. Okay, not really, but it still happened.

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Drive-Thru is the story of A Nightmare on Elm Street…oh wait, I better start again. Drive-Thru is the story of Mackenzie Carpenter (Leighton Meester, TV’s Gossip Girl, The Judge), a young woman who is losing her friends, one by one, to a sadistic murderous clown named Horny, who takes his garb from the fast food restaurant Hella Burger. Horny is picking off teens with poor insults, bad puns, and also a big meat cleaver. As the bodies pile up, Mackenzie and her boyfriend Fisher (Nicholas D’Agosto, TV’s Gotham, Final Destination 5) learn that her mother Marcia (Melora Hardin, TV’s The Office, Self/less) and the other parents have a horrible secret that links Horny the Clown and Hella Burger directly to Mackenzie.

Wow, I really hate this movie. I hate it so much. The characters are cruel and annoying, the screenplay is overly cliché and riddled with poor dialogue, and the directing by Brendan Cowles and Shane Kuhn is downright dreadful. Now, I do have some defenders among my colleagues who claim that the film is self-aware enough to satire itself. “It’s so bad it’s good!” No, no it isn’t. It’s terrible.

The film is a disappointing remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street in a lot of ways (you might use the term rip-off even), and it can’t even muster to get an accessible and relatable story because Horny the Clown can’t stop making bad puns. Hell, the Leprechaun movies have better puns, and that’s really saying something.

In fact, the only scene in the film that I enjoyed at all is the Morgan Spurlock cameo. I won’t spoil the scene, but suffice it to say that the scene is mildly amusing in an otherwise underwhelming film.

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Drive-Thru is awful. I’m thankful I can review it now so that I never have to watch it again. Every part of it is terrible, and the one element that works can’t even save this film’s score.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Freddy Krueger Day] A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia

Screenplay: Wes Craven

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Dammit all, if I’m going to celebrate Freddy Krueger Day, then I’m going to celebrate it with you.

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Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, Star Trek Into Darkness, Shocker) isn’t sleeping well. Neither is her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) or her best friend Tina (Amanda Wyss, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Shakma), and when a horrific event causes Nancy to realize that she and her friends are in danger from a man who can kill them in their dreams, Nancy must act quickly to stay awake and discover the horrific past of the burned man called Fred Krueger (Robert Englund, Fear Clinic, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda).

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a perfect way to showcase how real life events transform into incredible storytelling. Director Wes Craven (Scream, My Soul to Take) took true stories of Khmer refugees who had dreams so terrifying that they died in their sleep. He splashed together elements from the song “Dream Weaver”, a man Craven saw on his street as a child, and his childhood bully experiences to create Fred Krueger, one of the most iconic villains in film history.

Here in the film, Krueger is played perfectly by Robert Englund, a trained actor who proved in his audition that the character of Freddy needed more than just a stuntman. He is joined by young talent in Langenkamp, a notable first film performance by Johnny Depp, and the seasoned work from John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, From Dusk Till Dawn) and Ronee Blakley (Nashville, Murder by Numbers)  as Nancy’s parents.

But it is Craven’s approach, high on mood and tone and noticeably restrained on the villain himself (Krueger scores about seven minutes of screen time across the film) that gives the film that lasting punch. It puts emphasis on the big horrific set pieces and lets the actors embrace their performances. That’s why many scenes, like the notable blood geyser sequence, are just as well-remembered as the man committing the atrocities.

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With A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven created a franchise without trying or wanting to, one that came with it an incredibly terrifying villain, a beautifully dreamlike score, and some genuinely shocking moments throughout. It is through the staying power of this classic as well as the man behind the makeup that carry the film forward and make it a film series that fanatics go back to again and again. The flaws are few, only in places where the film feels aged, and of those moments, there are few. The universal appeal of the nightmare more than makes up for them as the relatable characters search for answers and fight to stay awake.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn, click here.

The Birth of a Nation Teaser Trailer Drops, Can You Hear the Oscar Bells?

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Wow, I just saw the teaser trailer for The Birth of a Nation, from director Nate Parker. The film is the story of Nat Turner, who led a liberation movement in Virginia. I always found stories like this to be inspirational and interesting, as long as they are made well, and I’ve been hearing tons of praise coming out of the festival circuits, particularly from Sundance.

The trailer gives us the tone and scope of the film without dropping too much, and it definitely got me excited for the film, which releases later this year. We also get a look at Armie Hammer (The Social Network, The Lone Ranger) and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street), who both only elevate the film for me. I cannot wait.

So what did you think? Will you be seeing The Birth of a Nation when it releases? Let me know.

The Birth of a Nation releases October 7th.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 27 – Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

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Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison, John Witherspoon, Zakes Mokae, Joanna Cassidy

Screenplay: Charlie Murphy, Michael Lucker, Chris Parker

100 mins. Rated R.

 

Many horror directors attempt to cross with comedy at some point, and for me, there are two infamous examples of note: John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn. I actually really enjoyed Carpenter’s film, and when I originally saw Vampire in Brooklyn several years back, I liked it too. Sadly, on my most recent viewing, my opinion has shifted drastically.

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Maximillian (Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop, A Thousand Words) is the last of a line of vampires from the Caribbean. In order to save his bloodline, he needs to find a female born from a native vampire he knew. Detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett, TV’s American Horror Story, Meet the Robinsons) is that woman, working for the NYPD in Brooklyn. After siring Julius Jones (Kadeem Hardison, White Men Can’t Jump, Made of Honor) to be his personal servant, Maximillian sets out to find his destined love in the urban jungle.

Wes Craven (Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Eddie Murphy famously fought on set about the tone of the film, and it is the paramount reason why this movie failed so much. Craven wanted a horror film with comedic elements, and Murphy wanted a comedy with horror elements. The clash was the downfall of the film.

Murphy’s Maximillian didn’t have great voicework, and the choice to do his signature multiple roles thing by playing a few other characters that Maximillian disguises himself as didn’t work nearly as well on second viewing.

Craven’s abilities as a director were really called into question during the making of this film, and his work suffered tremendously from studio interference and the uneasy set. It’s sad, because the overall idea seems like a lot of fun. I really like Kadeem Hardison’s portrayal of the decrepit Julius Jones.

I also don’t think the casting of Bassett works in the film. She has the ability to act, but this just isn’t the movie for her.

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I’m happy to see that Craven was able to recover from a film like Vampire in Brooklyn with solid works like Scream and Red Eye, but Eddie Murphy, who blamed everyone else for making a film he knowingly wrote and acted in disappoints me. He claimed that he only did the film was so that he could finish his contract with the studio and focus on other works. I call bullshit, Eddie. You failed but you couldn’t just accept it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Horror Maestro Wes Craven Dead at 76

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In sad news for horror fans, Sunday revealed the shocking news of true legend writer/director Wes Craven’s passing after battling brain cancer. Craven, the man behind such iconic horror characters like Freddy Krueger and Ghostface (from Scream), recently celebrated his 76th birthday this month.

One need only look around at the major news websites to see the many fans mourning the passing of the macabre master filmmaker, and while I didn’t always agree with his image, I always had tremendous respect for his versatility as an artist.

Craven’s Freddy Krueger is so much an iconic piece of our collective culture that I have no memory of being introduced to the character (I was that young) in film, but almost knowing of his existence from birth.

I do remember seeing Last House on the Left only just a few years back, and I recall the stomach-churning and shocking film still resides in the recesses of my mind.

Of course Craven’s name became household with the release of Scream (written by regular collaborator Kevin Williamson). Craven also directed the three sequels and was an executive producer of the new MTV television incarnation.

Rest in Peace, Wes. Thanks for the nightmares.

 

Selected Filmography:

  • The Last House on the Left (1972)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Deadly Blessing (1981)
  • Swamp Thing (1982)
  • The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1985)
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
  • Shocker (1989)
  • The People Under the Stairs (1991)
  • New Nightmare (1994)
  • Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
  • Scream (1996)
  • Scream 2 (1997)
  • Music of the Heart (1999)
  • Scream 3 (2000)
  • Red Eye (2005)
  • Cursed (2005)
  • Pulse (2006)
  • Paris, je t’aime (2006)
  • The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)
  • My Soul to Take (2010)
  • Scream 4 (2011)

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

@almightygoatman

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