Kyle’s Most Anticipated Films of 2021

2020 has come to an end, thankfully. Now, we must reckon with the rubble of 2020’s unreleased films and the evolving film landscape that we will be living in through at least the end of the year. Now, we don’t really know what movies are officially coming out this year. Many of the films on this list were supposed to come out last year, and they simply…didn’t. No matter. We will still get excited for what is on the way and celebrate the (possible) films of 2021 that I am clamoring to see. It’s the next best thing to actually seeing them.

Just a couple notes:

-This is my most anticipated, not what I think will be the best films of the year by any stretch. Most of the films that end up on my Top Ten at the end of the year are ones I might not even have heard of at this time.

-There are always a lot of blockbusters on these lists, because these are the films that are most often discussed in the months and sometimes years leading to their release. That’s just the way it works.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT A COUNTDOWN. IT’S JUST A LIST AND THE FILMS ARE LISTED BY THEIR (TENTATIVE) RELEASE DATE.

Well, we’ve waited a year to see some of these. Let’s not wait any further…

Godzilla vs. Kong

-Ugh, I’m so sad that this is coming out before I’ll be vaccinated. I would really rather see this thing on the big screen, but I’ll have to settle for HBO Max. The wacky release off this and other WB films have taken a bit of the wind out of my sails, but these movies will need releases and the studios need to start making money to survive at this point. All the same, I’ve enjoyed all three entries in the MonsterVerse to varying degrees, and the choice to bring in Adam Wingard to direct this cinematic beatdown is a rather interesting one. There is so much setup, specifically from Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters that I can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Here’s hoping that Wingard and WB can pull this off as the MonsterVerse has seen diminishing returns on their cinematic universe and they need a win to keep this thing going.

No Time to Die

-I’m not entirely convinced that this will make the release date, but that doesn’t change my excitement. I don’t think many film fans are really remembering the caliber of talent to this next installment of the James Bond franchise. It’s expected to be the final outing of Daniel Craig, an actor considered in the upper echelon of Bond performers, and it also happens to have the stamp of a director like Cary Fukunaga, director of the entire first season of True Detective. This installment further builds on Spectre (a film I liked while acknowledging its faults) and where this Craig storyline has been building, and that trailer was excellent. I see nothing about this film that makes me nervous, and seeing that the studio has pushed it enough times for a stronger release window tells me that they think it’s pretty special too.

A Quiet Place Part II

-It’s frustrating that there are reviewers and general audience film-goers that have already seen A Quiet Place Part II. I believe I was even invited to a screening of it last March alongside Mulan, and I elected not to go because I was tired and it would be out in a week or to anyway. I have regrets. Still, I’m very excited to eventually see this movie, and this is another that I would rather see on the big screen because I still remember the experience of seeing the original film in a packed theater opening weekend. That extremely quiet theatrical experience was so strange and intense that I want that feeling back, and the idea that the sequel will address events both before and after the original, like a sci-fi/horror Godfather II, is very interesting.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

-This is where I show my serious bias for horror. The Saw franchise has been incredibly near and dear to my heart since the first film came out, and I’m overjoyed that the franchise is getting started again with Spiral: From the Book of Saw, releasing (as of now) in May. The ninth film in this franchise shouldn’t be getting me as hyped as it is, but with the return of director Darren Lynn Bousman (who helmed 3 of the franchise’s sequels) and Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson leading the cast, how could I not be excited? Rock even helped to develop the story for the new film, being a big Saw fan, and the trailer was very interesting and unusual. There’s just so much mystery for me, a die-hard Saw fan, that I cannot wait to get back in a theater to see this one.

F9: The Fast Saga

-Justice for Han! This is another franchise that’s so stupid, and yet, I’m always looking to see what they do next. Each sequel seems to heighten the silliness while maintaining that cheesy emotional beat: FAMILY. Here’s the thing: what these films do, they do well. The entire franchise has become Grindhouse B-movies with a budget, and I continue to consume. The trailer for F9 did exactly what I wanted, psyching me up for a return to this weird group of characters, and this being one of the first pushes of 2020 means that I’ve been waiting extra long for the next installment. Bring it to me!

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

-This sequel has a lot to live up to. The first two Conjuring films are almost certified classics of the horror genre at this point, and while James Wan is no longer directing the third installment (this one is helmed by Michael Chaves of The Curse of La Llorona), I’m still excited to see Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson returning as Lorraine and Ed Warren. Beyond the changes behind the camera, we’re also seeing a very different story in front of it. The first time demonic possession was used as a criminal defense in a court of law. To me, I’m feeling Exorcism of Emily Rose vibes from this one, and I’m hoping for a unique blend of courtroom drama and horror film, something that could prove to be difficult to pull off. I’m praying for this one, and I’m hoping to be able to catch it in a theater.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

-The world deserves more Ghostbusters films. I grew up terrified of the ghosts and completely bought into the mythology and the fun characters that brought this franchise to life. I even enjoyed the most recent reboot, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, with the exception that the film completely mishandled its marketing and misused these really stupid cameos from the original stars instead of just being a follow-up sequel. Well, that’s what we are getting with Afterlife. The film is being helmed by Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, and the trailer has its own unique tone while seemingly paying homage to what came before. I like the serious take on the action and I like the Stand by Me/Goonies take that is seemingly being placed on our new characters. I think it could be incredible, and I’m very excited to see what we have in store for us here.

Dune

Dune has always been the tough nut to crack for Hollywood. The Jodorowsky version never came to fruition, the Lynch version is strongly considered poor and difficult to access for casual viewers, and the miniseries just hasn’t aged well enough to see now. Here’s the difference between all those previous attempts and the current iteration: Denis Villeneuve has seemingly cracked a few tough nuts in his limited time in Hollywood. He’s successfully directed a sci-fi film that was nominated for Best Picture (Arrival) and he’s crafted a long-gestating sequel to success with a film that rivals the original (Blade Runner 2049). So far, he has a track record for difficult projects, and I have faith that he has crafted yet another interesting new vision. This is, yet again, another film I’m so excited to see but I really don’t want to watch this one at home. Dune, more than any other film this year, feels like a theatrical experience. I know, broken record here, but that’s how I feel and it hasn’t changed since I started writing this. Looking at this whole list, Dune is probably the most exciting film of the year.

Halloween Kills

-Rounding out this list is the sequel to the reboot of the original 1978 film Halloween. As much as I loathe the naming scheme of this new iteration of the Halloween franchise, I cannot deny that I am very excited to see where David Gordon Green and Danny McBride are taking the story in this two-part finale to the franchise (it’ll be back, but I feel like their notion is true to sticking to a finale). Now that the 2018 film has been done (basically a greatest hits of the various sequels with a much better handle behind the camera), we can move into uncharted territory, and that’s an exciting thing for a horror fan like myself who is unsure of the next time I’ll be seeing Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger on the big screen. Halloween has had so many timelines and permutations, but the original film is still my favorite horror movie of all time, so I’m in this to the end, and then long after.

The Matrix 4

-Wait, there’s one more, and I’m probably more excited for this one than you are! Back in 1999, I was not initially big on The Matrix. In fact, it wasn’t until I revisited the film in 2003 in preparation for the two sequels coming that year that I realized how terrific that original film is. Then, I saw the sequels, and I kid you not, I loved them both more than the original! From there, I became a huge fan of the Wachowskis. Speed Racer is one of my all-time favorite movies. Cloud Atlas is an astoundingly ambitious film that topped my “Best of” list for 2013 films. I even liked Jupiter Ascending (though I will admit that one is a bit of a mess). For me, the Wachowskis are some of my favorite filmmakers currently working, and I’m so excited to see this return to a familiar world that will hopefully have some more surprises in store.

So there you have it. 2021 is a long year, and we can only hope that we see half of these released, but maybe we’ll get more. For now, stay safe, sit back, and enjoy the year in film (in whatever form that takes).

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 13 – Scream (1996)

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson
111 mins. Rated R for strong graphic horror violence and gore, and for language.

As a horror fan, I vividly remember the year that Scream came out. I was pretty young, but the Ghostface killer was everywhere in late 1996 and early 1997 (the film was released during the holiday season as counter-programming to the heartwarming family fare that December usually brings). It permeated the world of pop culture, something that horror hadn’t done as successfully since probably Freddy Krueger a decade prior. There was just something new and fresh with this take on the slasher and it compelled audiences to be a part of it. It’s been over twenty years since the Scream franchise began, and now, with a fifth film entering production, there’s no better time to revisit this first installment and try to pull apart what made it so damn popular.

There’s a killer in Woodsboro. Students at the high school have been getting calls from a mysterious voice, quizzing them on scary movies and offering death for wrong answers. The killer seems focused on Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, The Craft, Skyscraper), a young woman whose mother was killed just one year earlier, but who can she trust when the killer knows so much about her? Could it be best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan, Grindhouse, Jawbreakers), bumbling Deputy Dewey (David Arquette, Bone Tomahawk, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl), or perhaps even her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich, As Good as it Gets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)? Everybody’s a suspect!

Scream is a horror movie for horror movie fans. Its screenplay, from the meta mind of Kevin Williamson (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty), is packed with references and popular horror tropes as well as subversions of those tropes that kept me guessing. Director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes) slipped in some solid and notable cameos, and he was willing to poke fun at himself and the genre that made his career, appearing himself a janitor dressed in red and green as well as keeping a line from Tatum about them being in a Wes Carpenter film. What I particularly love about Craven’s direction here is the way he understands Williamson’s script and the way they work so well together in making a film that is equal parts a horror film and a satire on horror films. I’m often critical of Craven’s writing (I find that, with a few exceptions, his best work as a director is working with someone else’s material), and this film alone proves it. His directing style was completely liberated by the strong screenplay and it looks like Craven had fun crafting his narrative. For a whodunnit, there are so many clues and misdirections all across the film that it would be nearly impossible to figure out the killer until the big reveal, and there is a big reveal.

There’s something special about the cast of Scream. It seems like big names and character actors alike are all on board here. This was relatively new for the horror genre, but everyone bought into it. That’s what you get with an interesting concept with a director capable of executing it. I loved Drew Barrymore (Donnie Darko, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) and Neve Campbell as our leading ladies. They play to the tropes and also have moments of subversion that feel believable. It’s David Arquette and Courteney Cox (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bedtime Stories) who are the most surprising turns in the film, and I’ll tell you why. Arquette has to believably be a bit of a dolt with a level of charm. He also needs to believably be a deputy for a relatively small town, and it, in some way, actually works. Cox as well plays Gale Weathers completely against type, especially for someone on one of the hottest sitcoms at the time with Friends. She had to fight like hell to get the role, and she plays smarmy and slimy better than I would have given her credit for. In fact, she makes Gale Weathers so different than Monica Geller that, even without extensive makeup, they don’t feel like they could be played by the same person.

Scream is a bloody, entertaining, and (most importantly) fun movie that is just so slick, thanks to the stellar casting work, the hot screenplay, and the skills of a veteran horror director who accomplishes a tough tone early on and keeps it running the whole way through. When you realize that the horror/comedy tone of Craven’s previous film Vampire in Brooklyn was much more muddled and rough, you have to commend him in mastering it here. I loved this movie, and it still holds up quite well, even knowing the ending. If you haven’t caught it, now is the time.

5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

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

[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 2 – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Director: Rachel Talalay

Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto

Screenplay: Michael De Luca

89 mins. Rated R for horror violence, and for language and drug content.

 

If you have ever seen Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a lengthy documentary on the making of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, or its sister Crystal Lake Memories (the making of the Friday the 13th franchise), you will know how much work has gone into each of these films, even though the criticism by many of the uninitiated is that they are all the same. They believe that each installment is the exact same as the previous ones, a story repeated over and over until the box office receipts are too small to be worth the risk of doing it all again. In this assumption, they would be wrong. The sixth Nightmare on Elm Street film went through several drafts from several screenwriters, each trying to nail down a unique new direction to take the film. Today, let’s talk about the finished product and try to wrap our heads around how it all failed so spectacularly.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare opens ten years in the future, presumably in the year 1999 or 2001. In the years since Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, Nightworld: Door of Hell, The Midnight Man) began his otherworldly murder spree, he has claimed almost all of the children of Springwood, and the town itself has become a ghost, a shell of its former self. Now, he sets his sights on a young man with no memory of who he is. This John Doe (Shon Greenblatt, Newsies, Luster), as he is lovingly referred to, finds himself at a shelter for troubled teens and, with the help of Dr. Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane, The Nurse, Game Day), he follows a trail of clues leading back to Springwood, Fred Krueger, and a revelation that neither is prepared for.

Of the many varied attempts to nail down the story for a sixth film, director Peter Jackson had a take where kids were purposely drugging themselves in order to enter the dreamworld and beat up a weakened and aged Freddy Krueger, and there was also an idea to bring back Jacob Johnson (Alice’s son from the previous film) as a teenager, so it both shocked and disappointed me that we got a “finale” that feels so uninspired, cheap, and forgettable. There are flashes of a genius take on Freddy Krueger here, but they are lost under the weight of all the meaningless goofiness. The tone here suggests the director, Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl, On the Farm), believed that Freddy Krueger was at his best when he is comical, silly, almost chummy with the audience. The failure here (this failure is similar to what happened with Chucky as well) is misunderstanding that Freddy’s wit should be used only to lull the audience into a sense of fun before ratcheting up the horror elements again. A well-placed piece of dialogue can convince the viewers that it’s okay, we’re having a good time, and it calms the audience after a big scare before introducing another one. Here, the horror is almost used to remind the audience that it’s okay, we’re still watching a scary movie, even if you aren’t scared.

As I’ve said, there are elements to Freddy’s Dead that could have really worked in a better movie. One of those elements is the mythology building. Other horror franchises have taken a stab at building in supernatural mythology late in the franchise with films like Jason Goes to Hell or Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, but for Freddy’s Dead, being so heavily laced with supernatural elements from the get-go really helps it here. In the case of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, those franchises started out rather simple, with stories of serial killers that, however unlikely, “could have happened.” With the original Nightmare on Elm Street, we knew that Freddy was a monster, a demon, or something unholy from the very beginning, so the way that Springwood has been turned into a ghost town with people slowly going mad after the loss of all the children could really work. I’m also referring to the Dream Demons, a concept that seems to have some value to it in establishing Freddy’s supernatural powers without downright spoiling the mystery. Even the backstory of Freddy’s childhood, all things that could have worked in the proper context.

So what does work in the film? Well, as I said above, the origin story is an element that could have been better, but I felt it was still executed nicely in the finished product. There’s something to seeing the evil of this “Son of a Hundred Maniacs” at play from a very early period, and the sequence featuring a cameo by Alice Cooper as a foster father to Freddy is deliciously wicked and disturbing. I enjoyed the idea that Fred, as an adult, tried to suppress his darker deeds and eventually tried to hide them behind a traditional suburban façade, and I also really like his later monologue in the film where he expresses no remorse and takes no responsibility for his deeds.

There’s a standout sequence in this film featuring Carlos, one of the teenagers from the shelter who ends up in Springwood with Maggie and the John Doe, that is exemplary and stands out among the wreckage of the movie. I won’t get into specifics but the use of sound and sleight-of-hand calls back to more traditional Nightmare, with Freddy playing a supernatural cat-and-mouse game with his prey.

Bringing a real conclusion to Freddy Krueger’s tale had to be a daunting task for production, but sadly, the screenplay and plotting from Michael De Luca (In the Mouth of Madness) was seeming buried under a collection of poor ingredients. Most of the cameos in the film (besides Cooper’s) do not work. The inclusion of Roseanne and Tom Arnold as grieving parents doesn’t work as comedic or sad in a scene that should have been tragic (grieving parents going mad over their pain), and Johnny Depp appears in a dream, perhaps as himself or the still-suffering Glen from the original film, and being wasted as much as the original Ghostbusters actors who appeared in the reboot. The entire video-game/power-glove/Breckin Meyer-fights-his-father sequence is laughably Looney Tunes and out of place (this was his first role, and I can’t blame him for taking it).  The 3D finale almost seems like high-art compared to the previous hour, but again, it’s a gimmick that took precedence over the conclusion to one of the most iconic franchises in horror history.

I’m not mad that Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is easily the weakest entry in the franchise by a mile. I’m just disappointed, and maybe that hurts more than anything else, really. Here we have an example of filmmakers and crew doing what they think is best but ultimately creating a film that doesn’t honor what the fans want. I’m a big defender of the filmmaker making their vision and screw trying to make the fans happy, but I’m not entirely sure who the team behind Freddy’s Dead is trying to please, because it certainly wasn’t me. There are some elements that work at play here, but they are far and few between. It pains me to say it, but I’m guessing Freddy’s hell is probably just rewatching this finale.

 

2/5

-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’ A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, click here.

For my review of Rob Hedden’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 27 – [Happy 30th Birthday!] Shocker (1989)

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Cami Cooper, Mitch Pileggi

Screenplay: Wes Craven

109 mins. Rated R.

 

From 1987 to 1989, four horror films were released featuring killers who come back after dying in the electric chair. This was the last.

Brutal serial killer Horace Pinker (Basic Instinct, TV’s The X-Files) has been apprehended and is sentenced to death via electrocution, but on the fateful day, electrical issues and strange rituals combine to produce a hell of an accident, though Pinker still fries. Now, Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg, Very Bad Things, Mile 22), a young man who was able to assist in the capture of Pinker, discovers the murderer to be very much still active, living on as an electrical current able to inhabit other humans and use their bodies for vengeance. The only skill Jonathan has is in the form of strange visions accompanied by the ghostly visage of his dead girlfriend. Now, Jonathan will have to man up and stop Pinker from continuing his murderous rampage, or it’s lights out for him…

I’ve spoken about this before, but I firmly believe that Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) was a great director. That’s not exactly a hot take or anything, so here’s one: I don’t think he was a very good writer. Sure, he wrote some amazing work. He was great with ideas in the same way that George Lucas is. I just don’t think he really was able to get those ideas to work on the page. That’s not a slight or anything, but look at a film like Shocker, which has some really cool ideas but the story is a bit of a mess. There’s all these random things happening in the screenplay that are never followed up on. Why does Jonathan have visions of Horace? How exactly do they work? Why do all of his friends and his coach immediately believe his batshit theory? Why does his dead girlfriend keep coming back to help him? What exactly did Horace do to come back from the dead? He’s seen performing some sort of ritual, but we never hear about it afterward.

Beyond all that, the film is far too similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are elements of dreaming and nightmares and dreamscapes in the film that feel a little too familiar. For the most part, these elements just made me wish I was watching Nightmare instead. Both Nightmare and Shocker have similar opening titles, disbelieving fathers, and power through dreams.

Mitch Pileggi is batshit as Horace Pinker. He’s all the parts of Freddy Krueger that became more prominent in the later sequels, especially the attempts at humor. I like how visceral he is, how brutish, but he just didn’t work in the way I hoped he would.

Speaking of batshit crazy, let’s talk about the television scene. It’s near to the end of the film, where Jonathan and Horace end up in a television set and are fighting across the different channels. It sounds cooler than the finished product, but it kind of fails where the fight sequence in They Live succeeds.

So there you have it. There are better Wes Craven films, but I have the feeling that some people will love how terrible this movie is. It just didn’t work for me. There’s too much all-over-the-place in this movie and I couldn’t connect with any of it. Just didn’t work for me, dog.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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

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

[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.

[Stephen King Day] The Mangler (1995)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor

Screenplay: Tobe Hooper, Stephen David Brooks, Harry Alan Towers

106 mins. Rated R for gory horror violence and language.

 

I always had a fondness for the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mangler, a strange film about a possessed laundry-folding machine, so I took a chance to revisit the film this year in honor of Stephen King’s birthday. In hindsight, I wish I had kept this one buried in my memory.

The laundry press at Gartley’s Blue Ribbon Laundry service has been acting funky. First of all, a woman named Sherry, niece to owner Bill Gartley (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightworld: Door of Hell), cuts her finger on a lever, and later that same day, the machine goes haywire and traps Mrs. Frawley, an older worker, in its safety shield, dragging her through the machine, crushing her body in the process. John Hunton (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and his brother-in-law Mark (Daniel Matmor, Hit It, A Dark Truth) are on the case, investigating the accident, but what they discover is more horrifying than any normal work-related problem. The laundry press is possessed by a demon, and it’s out for more blood.

The Mangler is not a good movie, and at 106 minutes, it’s quite a slog of a movie. This was one difficult sit-through that I did not remember or expect. I recall more recently reading the short story from King, and the added mythology and plot in this adaptation don’t add much of merit to the film. In fact, having really liked King’s story, which, like so many, offered an EC comics or Twilight Zone-style to them, would have made a great movie in the right hands, but it seems now that Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) was not the right person for this job. There’s so many strange changes made to the story that benefit neither the adaptation nor the overall feeling and tone of the movie.

Robert Englund is horribly miscast, appearing almost like a version of Freddy Krueger that had survived to old age. He brings a nose-twisting grossness and annoyance to Gartley, but then you have Levine, who struggles with some of the more cringe-worthy dialogue here (he starts swearing at a possessed ice box as one point in an absurdly laughable moment taking itself too seriously).

There are several times in the film that something interesting comes up, and it almost seems that Hooper is righting the ship, only for it to devolve into a wholly unlikable mess. I really liked the setting mostly being placed at the Blue Ribbon Laundry, and I think the setting is hyper-unclean in a way that I would have been able to believe. I really like the production design and the overall look of the laundry press. I even kind of the dug the finale, though it has aged very poorly, but even after all that, the film sort of limbers on past the point of my minor enjoyment.

The Mangler was advertised as the product of King, Hooper, and Englund, three horror geniuses, but I doubt anyone involved in this film would have been happy to have their name associated in such a way, especially King, who wrote a solid if somewhat absurd short story but had no hand in the film. This is one of those adaptations I would caution even King fans to shy away from. You have better things to be doing…like the laundry, for example.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, 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 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 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,

[Comic-Con] Ready Player One Trailer is Nostalgic Insanity!

Okay, so the biggies of Comic-Con definitely didn’t disappoint, but I want to take a minute to discuss Steven Spielberg’s new film Ready Player One, based on the novel from Ernest Cline.

I had zero expectation for the film outside of Spielberg’s name. I’ve never read the novel. I have no knowledge to go on for excitement level.

Then, the trailer happened.

What?

The?

Fuck?

This thing is crazy. I don’t even really know what to think except that I saw a DeLorean, Freddy Krueger, and The Iron Giant, who apparently plays a big part in the film. It’s one big nostalgic love letter to creatives, and I don’t understand it. Yet.

In the capable hands of Spielberg, I feel comfortable and ecstatic. The film, due out in March, follows Wade Watts, a kid searching for a big prize hidden in a MMO video game, and it sounds to be full of action, twists and turns, and hopefully some heart given what we’ve seen from the initial trailer. I’m really stoked.

Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think? Are you excited for Ready Player One? What sort of nostalgia do you think will pop up? Let me know/drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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