Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Return to Horror

So, back when I started this often neglected blog up, I posted a set of reviews of the entire Friday the 13th series. I have taken my time in doing so, but I am now going to review the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series. This will allow me to finish the original review series as well. With Freddy vs. Jason as the cap to this series, I will be done with both franchises and can move on to another one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The original, and what an amazing movie it is. The script is a little weak with the dialogue, and the acting is pretty bad. but, this was made in '84, so you really can't expect much. I mean, really, 80's horror was not known for being brilliant in those areas. Where it excels, though, is in the plot. The idea behind the movie is inspired. Child killer, caught and acquitted of the crime, is killed by a group of parents. He then comes back in the dreams of the kids to get his revenge. The effects are pretty cool, from watching cuts magically appear on a girl's body to the quicksand stairs and the geyser of blood. Oh god, the fucking wall! Even better were the amazingly surreal dream sequences. They are subtle and unnerving at once. Nothing too over the top. Just little things like a sheep randomly being in a hallway, or a tree in the halls of school that is only there for one shot. The dreams are cleverly done so that you think it is reality, then it twists and you see that it is not real. I imagine that when this movie came out, it was also a great twist on the genre, since they keep making you expect the killer to come out of nowhere early one, before you know its a dream killer. Make-up is also a great touch, with Nancy slowly looking more and more worn out, and a streak of gray showing up in her hair (which nobody points out, making it that much better for the subtlety). Love it, and can see why it became such a huge thing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge: So, a year after the original, a movie taking place 5 years later occurs. The basic idea is, some new family movies in to the house where Nancy lived. Freddy possesses the son of this new family, hoping to use his body to be reborn. Somewhat of a flimsy premise. For one thing, why does Freddy pick this guy, and not the dad or sister? There is no real reason for this one particular kid to be picked. But, that aside, it's not to bad of a movie. The visuals are still cool, especially the transformation scene. I also kind of liked the showers bit, for the transformation there as well. Didn't like the S&M club and night at the gym bits, though, because they sort of made no real sense. I have a hard time believing a high school kid just randomly walking around at night, and finding an S&M club to wander into, only to have his PE teacher walk up to him and make him run laps at school in the middle of the night. I am also confused as to whether Jesse is supposed to be the weird outcast or the popular guy. It seems to go both ways on that. The surreal aspects were less dream-like and more just-plain-strange. The redesign of Freddy to have his glove actually be one of his hands was nice, though. I also liked the reoccurring theme of heat and fire, which is a good mirror to both how Freddy died as well as the boiler room he traditionally did his killing in. All in all, not a bad sequel.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors: The kid in the wheelchair plays D&D. D&D people! That's so awesome...except for the whole making him incredibly nerdy thing. Still, for when the movie was made, not too bad. We also have our first actual nudity (I don't really count the bath scene in the original, it was too quick). For the cliche of naked girls, drug use, and lots of sex that slasher type movies have, I have not seen nearly as much as I would have expected from the two franchise I have watched this much of. Anyhow, this was a fun movie. Nancy comes back, with her gray streak on the wrong side. The deaths in this were much more creative. Everyone dies or is attacked in a way that ties in with their personality. The puppet making kid, turned into a marionette with his veins as the strings. The mute kid tied up with tongues. The wannabe actress killed with a TV. The ex-junkie killed with hypodermic needles. The kid in a wheelchair is attacked by a spiked and bladed wheelchair. It was interesting to learn a bit more of Freddy's background. Not that the story was too terribly plausible, but it was a very 80's horror thing. The bastard child of 100 maniacs. I like the sound of that. I will call myself that from now on. Finally, it is an end to the Nancy stuff )for now, I know of the final nightmare connection). At least, I hope it is. I would be very annoyed to have Nancy show up again after dying. Freddy coming back, I can accept. Anyone else, not so much.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master: New Kristen , but the same Joey and Kincaid. Note sure why they got a new actress, cute as she may be. Hopefully there was a good reason for it, like scheduling or pay conflicts. I'm not a fan of changing cast for no reason. Also, I want a dog that can piss fire. Kincaid's death wasn't done well at all. He dies in the dream, with no visual cue in the waking world. This after they show that dreams and reality connect with the bloody dog bite earlier. Not good at all. Joey's death by waterbed was better. Still the dirty perv he was before. Beautiful stuff, there. I think we have all had the hot girl in the waterbed dream.So, Kristen ends up dying really early on as well. My first thought was, why even tie in with the remaining cast of the last movie if you are just going ot kill them right away. Then the movie tells me, by implying that Freddy can't kill more people if he doesn't have a link to the new kids. Since Kristen pulled Alice into the dream on accident, Alice is the link. This worked pretty well, actually. Nice tortured protagonist, who had a very good reason for gettin rid of Freddy beyond the normal survival thing. It was also interesting that Alice was somehow able to collect teh power of all the friends she got killed, thus enabling her to fight Freddy inthe end. The effects in this were less impressive than previous movies in teh series. Other than the roach transformation, and Freddy's sould attacking him in the end, the movie was rather tame in the graphics department. It is sad when movie 4 in a franchise has less impressive visuals than movei 1 did. I liked the return of deaths fitting the personality of the character as well. The first two movies didn't have that, but the last one and this one did. I also notice that Freddy's snark factor has increased a lot over the last couple movies. Where the first one he just taunted in a general manner, and the second was mroe of taunting Jesse but not so much taunting the victims. Three had a bit more snark, and this one was pretty much total snark from teh man. He is alsoless prone to getting his ass kicked in the process of fighting the kids. Interesting. I may have some final thoughts on this after i finish the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child: #1, yay Alice is back as the same actress! She's blond now, which is odd. I liked her as a redhead better. Nice to see the ties to the Krueger backstory from movie 3 being used for a plot in this movie. Somehow Freddy is able to be reborn by Alice dreaming of his original conception and birth...or something. It is a little unclear how it happens, but somehow he is back. So is his mom. Freddy seems to have gained in power again, prompting dream effects for Alice while she is awake. Oh, nevermind. They explain it as her baby's dreams. Freaky. One thing that surprises me is that nobody seems to know the story of Freddy, since every movie has to have the protagonist retell the story and nobody believes the dream killings are real. You would think after this many deaths due to the same thing, somebody would actually remember and believe. More ironic deaths, this time more tied to location than personality. The snark from Freddy is also higher than it was last time. Haha, I loved the comic geek with the blood phobia. Especially when he is pulled into the comic of the events of the movie. All technicolor clothes, while everything else is black & white (including Freddy). Another one of those so-so effects movies. Some bits were better than others, but they are more campy than the older movies. I prefer the semi-realism, as opposed to this camp stuff. The comic book death was still kind of fun, even if it was not my tastes for a death. I do somewhat wonder why Alice seems to have lost her dream powers. Like Kristen in the last movie, Alice has lost all of what made her able to defeat Freddy to begin with. Sort of lame. I do like how they do Freddy being "born" from Alice. Cool prosthetics there. As with the eventual defeat. Sort of mirrors the ending of the last movie, while still being original.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare: The "last" Freddy movie. Right. Hah. Oh my god, this was the most ridiculous movie yet. Fun visuals, if nothing else. But, damn is this over the top with the camp and the snark. So much that I can't help but dislike it as a whole. Well, at least the first half. After the kids are done dying, and Freddy has left Springwood and the backstory come into play. I liked finding out about Freddy as a father, and the reasons for his killing (even if they do a nature vs. nurture thing that I don't really play into). I nice way to tie things into each other. Like actually having the house mean something, instead of just showing up for no real reason. I mean, the house was Nancy's, so why was it always such an icon of Freddy? Well, now we know. Though, it does make you wonder why Nancy's mom chose to live there, if it was the old Krueger house. Whatever. Anyhow, I dig the last part of it, where you get to see the beginning and ending of Freddy. The DVD I have offers the ending in both 2-D and 3-D. I tried teh 3-D, but the glasses gave me a headache and were not very good. It was all just sort of crappy and two toned. So, i went back and watched it in 2-D. This is much more entertaining. Like watching Friday the 13th 3-D without the actual 3-D. You can see where it was supposed to pop out of the screen and freak you out, but you can also see that it was just sort of there to mess with the technology. No reason in the plot for there to be a spiked club coming out at you, or a flying molotov cocktail or anything. Pandering, and cheesy. So, you know, perfect. This makes a decent end to the franchise. Oh, wait, it isn't the end though. They had to go and make one more. Plus a crossover. With a TV series somewhere in there as well. *sigh* Moving on.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare: Now this is a Freddy movie. Semi-stupid plot. A movie about a new Freddy movie, which is actually Wes Craven summoning a primal evil. Eh...I guess it could work...Wait, it actually did work. Quite well. Freddy in this is much more menacing, and scary as hell to look at. Previous movies in the series have had Freddy a mildly creepy looking guy, but in this he is full on menacing. The glove is no longer a glove, but some sort of bony bladed hand. His face is much more demonic, while still being skeletal. It is hard to describe properly. The package works, though. Gone is the snark, leaving pure evil. Freddy closer to how he was in the first couple movies, and less like later incarnations. The return of Nancy and her Father, or the actors playing them, was a nice touch. Wasn't as keen on the hell where the final confrontation takes place, but I can accept it anyhow. I also liked the references to the original. Bland is killed in plain sight, thrown along walls and the ceiling, and nobody sees Freddy doing it. They only see her reaction. Quicksand stairs also show up later in the movie. This is probably the second best movie in the series, with the original topping them all. A great way to end a franchise, once and for all. more to go.

Freddy vs. Jason: The big ending to both franchise finally gets a review. It was interesting, at least. The basic idea is that Freddy is currently powerless, thanks to the parents of Springwood making sure nobody remembers him. So, he tricks Jason into going there to kill people, hoping it will make the residents fear him again, thereby giving him his power back. Except, Jason continues to kill after his purpose is complete, and Freddy gets a little pissed off. So, they start to fight each other. While killing kids. As you do. The movie managed to throw in tropes from both franchise. You get promiscuous teens with drugs and drinking. you get surreal dream effects with a tiny bit of snark. And there's boobs, you know, it's all good. The deaths were not terribly inspired. Sort of a let down, when you realize how great the deaths have been in previous movies for both series. The crazy kid has the best scene of death stuff, but it ended very silly. The Freddy on Jason in dreams was fun. As was the Jason on Freddy in the real world. The "weakness" was sort of doofy as well. Freddy seems to have an affinity for fire, not a fear of it. Jason sure as heck never showed a fear of water in the past. He should have, but never did. So, yeah. Pandering, but kind of fun anyhow. Nothing great or meaningful, but decent popcorn flick. Oh, yeah. Never use obvious cg in a slasher movie. It totally ruined the parts it was obvious in. Old school, man. Prosthetics, animatronics, and buckets of stage blood are where it is at.

So, reactions. As with the Friday the 13th movies, these movies were sort of a couple different series linked together. You have movie 1&3 that sort of make a linked whole. That gives the story of Freddy vs. Nancy, ending in the death of Nancy and the final defeat of Freddy. You also have 3-5 as a sort of linked whole. With those you have a sort of in media res thing, with kids dreaming of Freddy and being put in an institution. Nancy shows up, to explain there is a link with her childhood, but dies in the process of trying to stop the nightmare. Kristen and Alice become the main protagonists in these, in a sort of Master/Apprentice thing. Kristen has the power to fight Freddy off, but it is her teaching Alice that ends in his final defeat. Movies 1-5 (again, minus #2) kind of work as an overarching plot as well. There you have the entire Freddy vs. Nancy thing, with Nancy being the master to Kristen's apprentice, who then teaches what she knows to Alice to eventually defeat the monster once and for all. Freddy's dead really only fits the series to show more of his back story, which really wasn't needed as it just complicates things too much in the big picture. Freddy's Revenge was a really nifty idea, but it doesn't fit into the overall story of the rest of the movies at all. it was kind of a sequel for sequel's sake thing. Great stuff, but nothing that adds to the overall plot of the movies. New Nightmare doesn't really fit any of teh series. It is more of a really cool idea to cash in one more time. As was Freddy vs. Jason.

I did notice a few reoccurring plot elements. There's the obvious dreams, and killing kids and all that. Also the creepy girls playing jump rope in slow motion while doing the rhyme. I did see a theme of uncaring, alcoholic parents as well. Parents who seem to possibly care, but are more self interested than loving parents. The theme of heat and fire started to show up in the second movie, and continued on. I imagine this is meant to tie in to the boiler room he did his killings in, as well as the death by fire Freddy suffered. Was one of the things in part 2 that I actually enjoyed the most. The bad dreams being blames on the heat, when it was more likely the dreams causing the heat to begin with.

So, there's my thoughts on this franchise. I am thinking I may make this an irregular theme. Hellraiser has a number of movies, as does Halloween. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also a classic with a few movies under its belt. I'm sure i can find others. So, we will see how much I am inspired to review those, when I get around to watching them. Any suggestions?

I do still have the 100 best movies to finish watching. Little under half way there (revised the list, which threw off my original count).

UPDATED 5/8/10
Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): So, here we have a new and improved rendition of a horror classic. I mean, it has to be improved right? With a higher budget, prettier cast, and new technology it has to be...right? They wouldn't make a new version of a movie so well loved and remembered, unless they were improving it....right? Well, kind of sort of, but not really. I will admit that I liked how slick this movie was, and the new cast is all fun. Not the best acting at times, but no worse than any other horror so nothing to complain about. They sure are a hell of a lot prettier than the original (with Johnny Depp being the exception, because that is one pretty man, haha). Some of the improved effects are ok, but most of the time they use cg in place of practical effects, and it suffers for them. The famous Freddy in the Wall scene is better in the original, than the obvious effects used i this one. There are some nice scenes homaging the original. Sleeping at school, Freddy in the Wall, Car Lighter, Gina/Kris's Death. Even a sort of (I assume) homage to the geyser of reverse. But, none of it really improved on the originals, and in many cases was worse. The additional flashbacks were a nice touch, telling the story of Freddy much better than the entire original franchise. I also liked the attempt to tie the characters together in a much more believable way. I will say this, though. The new Freddy is the best Freddy. With a look closer to a real burn victim, creepier motivation, and much less humorous take I enjoyed this version a lot. Even when he was being funny, it had a darker edge to it which really worked for me. I hear this is meant to be the start of a new franchise. I don;t know how I feel about that, but will give a sequel a fair chance.

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