[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 6 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter

Screenplay: Leslie Bohem

89 mins. Rated R.

 

I remember trying to convince my mother to buy me a VHS of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 at the Kmart. She must’ve eventually caved (she didn’t mind any horror in the house as long as there was no nudity) because I ended up watching 20-30 minutes of the film each morning before school that week, and it was my first involvement with the franchise. I became enamored with the VHS tape, watching almost on repeat for days, and I started looking anywhere for a copy of the first film (eventually succeeding at a local garage sale). Does that mean it holds a special place in my heart? Yes. Does it mean that I cannot see any problems? No.

Dream Master Alice (Lisa Wilcox, The Church, TV’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is graduating from high school, and her life seems to be falling together finally, but she keeps on having nightmares. How can this be? She defeated Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Nightworld: Door of Hell, The Midnight Man) a year ago, locked him away for good, but he is still getting through. When Alice learns that she’s pregnant, she begins to put the pieces together, but now she has to protect her friends and her baby as Krueger sets his sights on a new generation.

My wife had seen the first four Nightmare films, and I was so excited to show her this fifth film given my history with it. She did not care for it, and the more I watched it, the more its flaws showed. I started to see things that didn’t work as well this time around. The film is clearly coming down from peak-80s Freddy, but director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, Race) infused that tone with more gothic horror elements. The gothic stuff works way better than the 80s stuff, which has now become quite comedic-looking and goofy.

The writing of the film leaves quite a bit to be desired. Some of the characters outside of Alice aren’t as well-developed. Her friend Greta is one-note (she’s a model who just wants to eat normal!). Other friend Mark feels like he’s being set-up nicely but the route his story takes is rather anticlimactic. The one area that the script truly excels is how they bring Freddy back. Coming off the dog-piss-lights-afire return of Nightmare 4, this is a truly inventive return that gives Freddy a purpose and new plan. All in all, the screenplay is a bit all over the place. I’m placing the blame on the studio as opposed to screenwriter Leslie Bohem (Taken, TV’s Shut Eye), as there was a revolving-door of screenwriters both before and after Bohem even though there was only one credited writer.

The performances are hit-or-miss for me outside of the returning players in Alice, Krueger, and Dan. The way Lisa Wilcox continues to develop the character of Alice works really well. In this installment, Alice grows out of the Alice in Wonderland allusions of the previous film and completely becomes the Dream Master.

The Dream Child is a wildly-inventive addition to the mythology that finds itself with mixed results. It’s more in tone with the fourth film than anything that came before, so if you enjoyed The Dream Master, I think you’ll find a lot to love with this one, but it’s probably not going to win you back. Robert Englund and Lisa Wilcox play well in this sequel, but it’s really hit-or-miss.

 

3/5

-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 Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

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

For my review of Renny Harlin’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, click here.

For my review of John Carl Buechler’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, click here.

For my review of Stephen Hopkins’s Race, click here.

[Freddy Krueger Day] A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Cast: Robert Englund

Screenplay: Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

93 mins. Rated R.

 

1988 was when the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise hit peak Cool Freddy status. That’s why there’s only one name on the poster. At this point, he was like James Bond, spouting off killer one-liners while maliciously murdering teams. It’s no wonder the fourth film feels like a music video.

It’s been a year since Kristen, Kincaid, and Joey did battle with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Nightworld: Door of Hell, The Midnight Man) at Westin Hills, and the three teens are enjoying life outside of the hospital, now as functioning members of society. Kristen has a problem, though; she’s still afraid that Freddy’s going to come back, and she keeps pulling Kincaid and Joey into her dream world while they’re trying to move past it. Kristen’s trying to live her life. She has a boyfriend, Rick, and she’s very close to his sister, Alice. One night, though, Kincaid falls asleep and ends up in a dream-version of the junkyard where Krueger’s remains were put to rest, and thanks to some dog urine, Freddy is now back and ready to finish off the Elm Street kids once and for all.

The Dream Master is probably the least-grounded entry in the main series, especially up to that point. There are some strengths in that way, as the film is able to expand the limits of the dream world and how Freddy is able to manipulate it. The film leans into its Alice in Wonderland homage, and all that works pretty well. At the same time, how is Freddy brought back? Dog urine that lights on fire or something like that? It’s very stupid. I don’t even understand the idea behind it.

There’s also the focus on its characters. There are so many characters in this film, and so many of them are not developed well outside of tropes and clichés. Patricia Arquette has been replaced by Tuesday Knight, who just doesn’t have chemistry with Rodney Eastman or Ken Sagoes, and she doesn’t really embody the character in any way that feels like the Kristen we know from Dream Warriors. Eastman and Sagoes, as Joey and Kincaid, aren’t given anything really cool to do. The only reason for all these new characters is as fresh meat for Freddy.

The Dream Master is a super clunky but mostly enjoyable horror entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street saga. It isn’t the worst film in this franchise but it’s a significant drop in quality from the third film. Having a strong introduction for new Freddy foe Alice worked pretty well, but it betrays a lot of the characters carried over from the predecessor. It’s damn fun and enjoyable to watch, but there’s a lot of problems. Thank goodness that the film’s cheese factor works.

 

3/5

-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 Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, click here.

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

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 4 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

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Director: Joseph Zito

Cast: Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Laurence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Camila More, Carey More

Screenplay: Barney Cohen

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Ah, The Final Chapter. Never what it truly means. Hell, Jason Voorhees had two film touted as the Final Something. You just can’t keep a slasher down.

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In Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the bloodbath from the previous installment has ended, and as Jason Voorhees’ body is dropped off at the morgue, the staff quickly discovers that the killer has not yet died. Now, Jason is up and going, determined to seek further vengeance over the death of his mother. His reign of terror has been going on for days (technically this movie takes place from Sunday the 15th to Tuesday the 17th, but hey, who’s counting), and the body count continues to rise as Jason makes his way back home to Camp Crystal Lake.

This fourth entry is the Friday the 13th franchise is where the series hits its comfortable stride. The producers know the formula, and they aren’t ready to change it. Friday the 13th Part III was supposed to end the franchise, but fans clamored for more and so Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was created to be a true finale. Tom Savini was even brought in to kill the franchise he helped create. Paramount also wanted a finale as they felt the series tarnished their good name. Director Joseph Zito (Missing in Action, The Prowler) was brought in to helm the Final Chapter.

This is also the film that started to really show the insanity behind the scenes. Actress Judie Aronson (Weird Science, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was supposed to have a long scene in the cold water, and as Zito kept demanding takes, it was clear she was developing hypothermia. Ted White, who played Jason, actually had to threaten to quit before Zito came to his senses. Then there’s Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland). Damn, this dude is insane. He hadn’t quite gone off the rails at this point in his career but legends from the set arose about his unhinged mental state. That being said, his portrayal of Jimmy is one of the more interesting characters from a Friday the 13th entry. Laurence Monoson (The Last American Virgin, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation), who plays Jimmy’s asshole friend Ted, had a scene smoking pot, but as Monoson had never done so, he thought the night of his big scene would be the perfect time to partake. Lots of insanity from the Friday the 13th set helped to mold an interesting if messy entry.

But about the film itself, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is indeed messy. It doesn’t have the same kind of tone that the previous entries had, which would be fine if the film actually had a tone to begin with. It feels like Zito is collecting a check because that’s all he’s doing here. This film just feels like a whole lot of ideas crammed into a movie. For one thing, the character Rob (Erich Anderson, Unfaithful, I Married Who?) is supposed to have been Sandra’s brother from Friday the 13th Part 2. You may remember her as the girl who gets kabob-ed by Jason while with her boyfriend Jeff. Well, Rob is there to exact revenge or find his sister, I’m not entirely sure of his full motivation. But Part 2 took place two days prior. He’s made a lot of ground and learned a lot in two days. Rob shouldn’t be as capable as he is. This is just one of the many problems with the film. I feel like there were good intentions all around, but The Final Chapter is just really weird.

The best thing to come out of this film, though: Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman, Stand By Me, Lost Boys: The Thirst). Tommy Jarvis is an accidentally successful character played nicely by Feldman. The fact that he kept coming back to face Jason is one of the most enjoyable elements of the franchise.

This screenshot was taken from http://www.tepg.se owned by Krister Nielsen (info@wonderworks.se)

As I said before, I really enjoy watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It’s a lot of fun. The formula works and there’s no reason to change it. It just isn’t anything new. Even slapping the tag The Final Chapter on it doesn’t really do anything, and the franchise wouldn’t even skip a beat in order to drop the next film, Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning, the next year. If your a fan of Jason, you’ll find a lot to love here. If not, this probably won’t convince you.

 

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.

[Happy 30th Birthday!] [Top 250 Friday] #51: Back to the Future (1985)

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

116 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “The Power of Love”

iMDB Top 250: #44 (as of 03/04/2016)

 

Director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) is one of my all-time favorite directors. Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite films. I could watch it as well as both sequels over and over again until the end of time, but when I was really young, it was just the third film that I was addicted to. I must’ve watched our old VHS tape a thousand times. I ruined that tape. It wasn’t until my teen years that I understood and fell in love with the original film.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, TV’s Family Ties, Annie) is a slacker, a young man addicted to a dream of musical stardom. Those around him attribute his failings on his strange friendship with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), an equally floundering individual who has potential but hasn’t invented anything of significance. But when Doc invited Marty to see his ultimate new experiment, a time machine in the body of a DeLorean, Marty ends up on an adventure through time as he tries to avoid creating a paradox while also trying to get back to the future!

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Zemeckis turned an incredible screenplay with Bob Gale into an incredibly crafted film about more than just time travel. The true path of the film centers on Marty’s inability to connect to his parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson, TV’s Caroline in the City, Left Behind) and George (Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland, Open Season 3), until he meets them as teenagers in 1955. His completed film is perfect in every way, but it took some time to actually get there.

Michael J. Fox so well embodies a 1980s teenage like Marty McFly that it’s almost impossible to see the character played by anyone. His performance is perfect casting, but his hiring didn’t happen smoothly. Fox had to pass on the role due to his heightened role on Family Ties, so Zemeckis hired actor Eric Stoltz. Stoltz was a method actor and did his best with the role, but he just wasn’t working out actor several weeks of trying. By that time, Fox’s commitment to Family Ties had been able to free him up, so he replaced Stoltz and the rest is history. Apparently, other future big names like Johnny Depp also tested for the role, but he wasn’t very memorable.

There were other problems with the cast. Crispin Glover hadn’t been as infamous a performer as he was later known for. The actor, who famously went…how do I put it…batshit as his career derailed into minutiae, got so nervous while performing some lines that he had to mouth the lines and fix them in post-production. His performance as George McFly, a loser who doesn’t think himself worthy of his future wife’s love.

The rest of the cast worked perfectly. Christopher Lloyd gives the best performance of his career as Doc, Lea Thompson as Marty’s mother who unknowingly has the hots for him in 1955, and of course Thomas F. Wilson as the legendary bully Biff, who improvised many of his most famous lines like “make like a tree and get out of here.”

Perhaps the most well-known character in the film is the time machine itself. It is so wonderfully 80s that it helped define an entire generation of moviegoers. They used three DeLoreans in production (ironically more DeLoreans than were actually sold).

The set design in the film is very important. The production needed to find dual sets that displayed how things change between 1955 and 1985, yet also how things stay the same. In fact, they used actual set pieces from the 1959 original pilot for The Twilight Zone to emulate 1955 Hill Valley.

The score from Alan Silvestri is so grandiose and well-complementing with Huey Lewis and the News’ Oscar-nominated songs that it turns what could be construed as a relatively simple coming-of-age story into a cosmic cool tale of sci-fi that raises the stakes of the adventure. Huey Lewis himself cameos early in the film as the judge of Marty’s band. In fact, music plays such a big part in placing scenes within a particular time period as well as the characters. In fact, when Marty is performing “Johnny B. Goode” later in the film, he emulates the best current musicians like The Who (kicking over the speaker), AC/DC (playing on his back on the floor), Chuck Berry (hopping on one leg across the stage), and Jimi Hendrix/Eddie Van Halen (with the emphasized guitar solo).

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Back to the Future is a classic film that has ages so perfectly. The film is virtually flawless and each time I watch it, I discover something new (it took me so long to catch the Twin Pines Mall reference that Marty butterfly-effects after traveling to 1955). It helped launch one of the most recognizable and beloved franchises in film history and remains a film that other filmmakers only aspire to reach. I recommend it to teens today who haven’t seen it as a part of popular culture. Hell, I recommend it to everyone.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] Maleficent (2014)

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Director: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville

Screenplay: Linda Woolverton

97 mins. Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

Disney has taken on the recent trend of flipping their fairy tales into live-action extravaganzas. The most recent inclusion here is Maleficent.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, Changeling, Kung Fu Panda 2) has only ever been seen as a villain. Now, she is represented as a supernatural being of good who resides in The Moors. She fell for a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley, District 9, Oldboy), who ends up betraying her to become king. In retaliation, Maleficent brings forth a curse upon Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Boxtrolls) that she will fall into a deep sleep when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and you know the rest. Or do you?

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My major problem with this film it is supposed to humanize Maleficent, but not only does it get the character wrong, it also makes a villain into a hero by passing the buck and making another character the villain. So in 55 years, they will make a film about that villain being a hero and creating another villain. You see what I’m getting at here?

The actual character herself is very flat. Angelina Jolie plays her like a prankster and very much a non-villain with very little villaining going on. She is a menace in the sense that Dennis was a Menace.

Sharlto Copley is pretty good as Stefan, but his motives are written to fit the script but not to fit the character.

Elle Fanning is given virtually nothing to do.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland) is rather bland and presents us with a rudimentary retelling of the story from Maleficent’s point of view that only seeks to demonize the original film. So either the two films exist in separate continuities or they contradict each other. Not sure which theory is worse.

First time director Robert Stromberg gives us a visually stunning vision of Sleeping Beauty’s world, but not much more than that. I like the fact that this is mildly entertaining if completely flawed, and I think parents will find some enjoyment with their kids, more so than most other “family” films. The film just isn’t all that good.

What wins the film has are visual: the costume design and the visual effects. These costumes stand a good chance to take the Oscar this year, and the effects work is rather stunningly beautiful and dark.

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I get the feeling that Maleficent will not be a remembered film, except for all the copies that people nabbed on Black Friday (seriously, it was pretty cheap) collecting dust on movie shelves. I get the feeling.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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