[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

[Happy 5th Birthday!] A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

Screenplay: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.

 

Earlier this month, I discussed Platinum Dunes and their remake of The Amityville Horror. In that review, I mentioned that I believe a remake was an unsuitable idea for that franchise and, indeed, the entire horror genre. Most horror fans understand that the endless barrage of sequels boils down to mostly remake material, but we love the thrill of an unstoppable horror that keeps coming back. By hitting the remake switch, we get stuck with a new thread that may not be strong enough to carry a film. I happen to think that, if you want to bring back a franchise, do it like Star Trek did, where the new film could constitute a beginning of a series while being honest to the fans. Easy? No, but did we ever want easy? No. Even Friday the 13th’s remake was a better choice than just the same movie over again. Friday the 13th took the route of rebooting the series by the taking the best parts of remaking the franchise rather than just the inciting film. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, we get a straight remake, so we don’t get scared, because we’ve seen it all before.

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The teenagers in town are dying when they fall asleep, and there’s not much that can be done about it. Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner, American Sniper, Dear White People) and Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) are willing to try anything to stay awake as they attempt to uncover the dark secret about their town, their parents, and the man who haunts their dreams, Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, RoboCop).

I really enjoy Jackie Earle Haley’s work here. I’ve often found him to be an interesting character actor who specializes in the darkness within humanity. As Freddy Krueger, he found a menacing voice and strong physical performance that adds something new to the character. He even improvised some truly disturbing dialogue to keep the actors unhinged during shooting. I particularly like the unsettling line about the how the brain still functions seven minutes after death. The problem with his character is that his face is half-CGI’d and that lead to a more wooden character than we should have had. The irritating part was that the reason for the CGI (from the same group involved with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight) was meant to be true to actual burn victims. Then, at the last minute, they scaled it back, hindering Haley’s work without a reason, and effectively crushing the intensity of the film.

As for the teenagers of Springwood, I can’t be as happy about. Gallner and Mara tune in flat work, bolstered by some pretty good (if not completely cheesy) acting from Katie Cassidy (TV’s Arrow, Monte Carlo) and Kellan Lutz (TV’s The Comeback, Twilight).

The new addition of micro-dreaming is cool, but it boils down to jumping the shark here. Where does the story go if they can’t even stay awake.

New director Samuel Bayer takes his touch for music videos and applies it well to the cinematography of this film. He absolutely can’t handle using practical effects which result from the over-shiny quality of the picture. Where’s the brooding darkness? Good question.

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There is a lot of good that A Nightmare on Elm Street did (I don’t agree with Rooney Mara speaking out against the film once she “made it” as an actress). There, unfortunately, is too much that this remake did wrong. The entire film comes off as a flimsy reminder that we had better 30 years ago. It can’t carry the weight of a franchise, and now fanboys like me are waiting around to see if we will ever get another tour of Elm Street.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 30th Birthday!] Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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Director: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

Cast: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley

Screenplay: Michael Hickey

79 mins. Rated R.

 

Today, the horror community celebrates two major 30th Anniversary milestones. One has been heralded as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The other is Silent Night, Deadly Night. Yes, A Nightmare on Elm Street came out on this day in 1984, but today we are going to examine Silent Night, Deadly Night instead. I’d never seen this movie before today, so I needed to explore it for the first time.

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Silent Night, Deadly Night is just bad. It exists in that realm of so bad it’s good, and that’s something. Right? Right? Please? Okay, not so much. I can see the cult status of it. There’s a lot of moments here when I giggled. There’s a lot of raunchy partial violence and partial nudity and partial oddity. Yes, Silent Night, Deadly Night exists in a vacuum of awful, and I can live with that.

It is the story of a tragic Christmas Eve many years ago, when Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a psycho killer dressed as Santa. Instead of becoming Batman, he chose to go insane. Through a series of devastating series of very unfortunate and detrimental events, Billy goes batshit crazy and on Christmas Eve years later, an eighteen-year-old Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) goes on a killing spree leading towards the woman who helped make him the monster he became, the Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin, Catch Me If You Can, The Man Who Wasn’t There) of the nunnery he grew up in.

That is literally the plot. Somewhere, Linnea Quigley shows up too. She gets naked and murdered. Standard Linnea Quigley performance (not hating).

None of these actors are really actor. The screenplay isn’t good enough to ask anything of them. In fact, most of the elements of this film are too underwhelming to enjoy. Even the director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. couldn’t handle the gore aspects, so editor Michael Spence stepped in.

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Bad movies can breed fun movie times, and Silent Night, Deadly Night does, at least for some. I can’t guarantee you’ll have a good time, but it is pretty stupidly Grindhouse-y. Worth a viewing, but not worth much.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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