A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Whatever You Do, Don’t Fall Asleep

Today’s contribution to the last days of the October Horror-thon is a super overrated movie that a friend of mine told me I needed to buy because of how amazing it was.  Also, Loni can pay attention ’cause Johnny Depp is in this movie as well.  This movie is the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong.  I don’t see what everybody’s all on about with this movie, but let’s get to my review and you can see where I went wrong.  A Nightmare on Elm Street stars Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Amanda Wyss, and (for the second day in a row) Lin Shaye, and directed by Wes Craven.

This is probably a fairly familiar story to most people.  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) did some bad things to children, but he’s dead now.  But Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) is having dreams where a severely burned man is chasing her through a boiler room in his red and green striped shirt, fedora hat, and razor glove.  The next day at school, Tina’s friend, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) confesses that she had a similar dream.  Nancy and her boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) decide to spend the night with Tina because she’s afraid.  Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Nick Corri), shows up to bang the bejesus out of her.  While she sleeps afterwards, Freddy reappears in her dream and proceeds to mutilate her as Rod watches, unable to do anything.  Rod runs as Nancy and Glen find Tina’s dead body, but shortly after, Nancy’s father, police lieutenant Donald Thompson (John Saxon) catches Rod and puts him in jail, suspecting he killed Tina.  Freddy starts going after Nancy in her dreams and also kills Rod in jail.  Nancy tries to stay awake as long as she can.  Her mother, Marge (Ronee Blakley), confesses that Freddy Krueger had gotten away with the bad things he did to children a while back and so she and the other parents burned him alive in a boiler room, and now he’s come back in their dreams for revenge.

Alright, let’s break this thing down piece by piece.  The premise of this movie is actually pretty solid.  The whole set up to Freddy as being a child killer and/or pedophile that was killed by the parents is a good thing, though I do wonder if pedophiles took that as a sign that this may happen to them.  “Sure, I’d get burned alive, but I would come back with super powers!”  The premise of being able to kill someone in their dreams is probably universally scary.  As I watched this movie, I kept thinking about what you would do in this situation, and there’s really nothing that can be done.  You can only stay awake for so long before you would either die or pass out without you being able to stop it, and then Freddy’s got you.  And the land of dreams is his territory, so I assume I wouldn’t be able to fight him very well or escape him.  And I know for a fact I’m not good at waking up, so I’d be a dead man.  Many horror movies since this have taken this path.  Basically you just look for something that people do and make it a way you could die in an awful way.  The Ring took watching a video and made it fatal, there were a couple movies about being able to die via cell phone, all sorts of movies use this method for scares.  Conversely, the dialog is nothing special and some of the writing is bad or cliche.  For instance, Tina’s boyfriend is the classic over the top douche that, of course, gets the girl.  And at least one of the cops is a complete moron because it prolongs the suspense.  Nancy is screaming out of windows that she’s breaking to get the cop from across the street to get her dad and he just watches her saying “I wonder if I should get the lieutenant…”

The visuals are kind of hit and miss in this movie.  There are some that are really cool and some that are just awful.  The classic scene of Freddy’s face and hands trying to push through the wall that warps out like rubber (probably because it was) and the light hits the top of it just looks awesome.  Shortly after that, Freddy’s walking awkwardly in a dream with pointlessly long arms, and that looks awful.  When he starts attacking Tina and cuts appear out of nowhere on her chest, the chest is horribly fake looking.  It’s not the same skin color – in fact it’s closer to gray – and you can see the little wrinkles in the rubber.  A similarly bad fake body comes up later when Freddy cuts into his chest, exposing green blood and maggots.  I realize this was 1984, but if you could see how good something looks to put it in the movie, you can see how bad something is and have them do it right.  Also, what the hell is it with Wes Craven and his deadly Home Alone pranks obsession?  He does that shit in here just like he did in Last House on the Left.  All sorts of things like gun powder on a light bulb, wire to trip over, hanging sledgehammer, etc.  It’s goofy, not scary.

The acting here is either nothing special or bad.  John Saxon probably tops it off with “nothing special”, Johnny Depp comes up slightly below that, and everyone else is pretty uninspiring.  The worst of them will be mentioned in the next paragraph.  The worst of these people was probably the guy that played Rod.  He was mediocre and annoying throughout the movie, playing the douche nozzle that shows up while his girlfriend is having a bad day to bang the sorrow out of her.  The worst part of him was when Tina was getting killed as he watched.  She was being dragged up to the ceiling by an invisible force while bleeding profusely from the stomach and chest, and the big hero here sat in the corner furthest away from her with his arm outstretched yelling “Tina!”  I feel like you could have burnt a few calories and got up and at least stood on the bed and swatted at her.  Lin Shaye was also in this movie, which I only noticed because she was in the movie I reviewed yesterday, Insidious, and it was interesting to see her.

Alright, here it comes … Freddy Krueger was the worst part of this movie.  Yeah, I said it.  I have talked about it a little already when I reviewed Freddy vs. Jason, but I do not get the appeal of this character.  He’s not scary.  He’s either goofy or annoying, and I imagine that’s not what you want out of your horror villain.  If he’s not spitting out stupid, vaguely threatening jokes, he’s randomly inflicting damage to himself, and that’s supposed to scare his victims.  One of the first things he does is say to Tina “Watch this” and proceeds to cut his own fingers off and laugh about it.  Later, for Nancy, he slices into his own chest for some reason.  Why don’t you shut up and get to killing, Krueger?  Now, to be fair, I don’t blame Robert Englund for this.  He didn’t write it, and I don’t imagine he was improvising.  It’s the fault of the writers.  And the fault of the 95% of people on Rotten Tomatoes that like this.

I’m happy to join the lower 5% on this movie.  Not a good movie.  Everyone ragged so hard on the remake with the dude from Watchmen, but that one was way better.  Jackie Earle Haley made a few jokey comments as Freddy, but mostly just got to the business of killing.  Not great, but better.  I say you can skip this movie, but statistically you have probably seen it and liked it.  Even so, I give this movie “I take back every bit of energy I gave you” out of “I’ll kill you slow!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

So you are afraid of something after all

YEAH, HORROR THON!  Keepin’ it goin’ for the Octobers I decided to take on the mash up movie of two of the most famous horror sagas, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.  This fan service movie promises (and fails) to answer the question that horror nerds have been arguing amongst themselves for years: Who would win in a fight?  Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees?  So let’s see who takes home the crown (with some dudes head attached to it) with my review of Freddy vs. Jason, with Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger as the titular characters, and Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, and Brendan Fletcher.

One time potential pedophile (or at least kid killer) Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is not pleased.  He’s trapped in Hell and cannot resume his favorite past time (killing people in their sleep via their dreams) because the people of Springwood have devised a way to make the people forget about him, and he requires their fear to manifest himself.  He devises a plan using another resident of Hell, Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger).  He invades Jason’s dreams and disguises himself as Momma Voorhees, telling Jason to come back to life and kill people on Elm Street.  This will make people think of, and subsequently fear, Freddy again and allow him to resume his practice.  Jason goes back and kills a dude in the house of Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) while she hosts a little get together with her friends, one of which is Kia Waterson (Kelly Rowland).  In the police station, Lori overhears someone mention Freddy and he is able to use that to start manifesting in her dreams, though he’s not strong enough to do any damage there.  Lori’s old boyfriend, Will Rollins (Jason Ritter), is being held in a Westin Hills Asylum as part of the plan to keep Freddy down.  Seeing Lori’s predicament on the news, Will and his friend Mark Davis (Brendan Fletcher), escape to go and check on Lori.  Unfortunately, Mark has a little spaz attack at school while Will tries to explain things to Lori and ends up yelling about Freddy for the whole school to hear.  This gives Freddy enough power to attempt to take the life of one of Lori’s friends at another party, but Jason kills her first.  This does not make Freddy happy, and he inhabits the body of another friend of Lori’s as they break into the Asylum to get their hands on the medication that keeps them from dreaming.  Freddy uses this body to hit Jason with some tranquilizers and put him under, where he must fight Freddy on Freddy’s turf.  To even the playing field, Lori and her friends take the sleeping Jason back to Camp Crystal Lake and Lori goes under in order to pull Freddy into the real world to fight Jason fair and square.  Then we get to see who would beat who … or do we?

I say this is a solid movie.  It’s light on scares (but what isn’t anymore?) but pretty solid on action.  It has a good amount of call backs to the classic horror staples that I enjoyed seeing and being able to pick out.  Girls always get their titties out, and the movie starts out with that.  You get a couple more throughout the movie, and all of them are top notch.  They have the creepy sound effects from Friday the 13th, although I can’t think of anyway to explain them in writing.  It’s like CHI CHI CHI KA KA KA.  You’ll know it if you’ve seen the movies from that, I think.  But horror movies make women out to be stupid, don’t they?    Always need to get their tits out, always tripping when running away from certain death, dating guys so douchey they should have been wearing Ed Hardy, always walking through a corn field at night to follow someone you know to be dead, even though you know there’s a killer on the loose.  You know, those classics.  The writing of this movie is exactly what you expect.  It’s not plot heavy and the dialogue’s not great, but it’s solid enough.  It was visually satisfying though.  The way it was filmed, the settings, everything worked very well visually.

The biggest problem was the same problem I had with Alien vs. Predator.  And that problem is the backbone of the writers.  Neither of these movies is willing to pick a winner!  I understand why, you don’t want to alienate the people that prefer Freddy or Jason, or Aliens or Predators, but then you shouldn’t have taken on a movie claiming it would answer that question!  You’re worried about pissing people off, but you’ve pissed off people like me who are annoyed that you refused to pick a winner and end the movie in a stalemate.  You want to know who would win?  Jason!  Because Freddy is a crappy horror villain.  There, I said it.  Bring it on!  Jason doesn’t say anything and has no personality, but he’s a straight up killer and is immortal.  Freddy is goofy and fights people while they’re asleep like a bitch.  I do not understand the appeal of the Freddy character.  He is so goofy and not scary at all.  If I were in a dream and he came up and hit me with one of his goofy lines, I would say “If you work off of fear, you’ve got no power over me.  But I would like it if you would kill me so I wouldn’t have to hear that joke again”.  None of that for my boy Voorhees.  He just kills you.

For the acting, Robert Englund does a good job, but I hate the Freddy character.  Jason doesn’t really act.  The female lead, Monica Keena is an odd one to me.  Some guys let their fists do the talking, she lets her tits do the acting.  She wasn’t necessarily bad, but her tits were always the center of attention when she was on.  Maybe she can’t act that well so she said “Can I lose the top buttons on my shirt?  I can’t act that well”.  Jason Ritter does a fine job too and I was much less distracted by his breasts.  Kelly Rowland annoyed me for most of the movie, and not just because she was probably the least attractive person in Destiny’s Child.  The climax of her annoyance was also the climax of her life: when she gets killed.  She gets Freddy’s attention as he was going after Lori and Will and so he starts coming after her.  Then she decides that this is her opportunity to try out her stand up routine and whip some “snaps” and “Yo Mamma” jokes at Freddy.  Then Jason smashes her into a tree.  That’s what you get for that nonsense.  Of course, the problems with her were the fault with the writers and not poor Kelly, so perhaps I’m too hard on her.

This movie is a slasher movie, pure and simple.  Go in expecting that and you probably won’t have any major problems with this movie, unless of course you were looking for a movie to answer your nerdy mash-up questions.  I give this movie “Got your nose” out of “Tilt!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.