31 October 2015


Halloween started with, appropriately enough, my own Saturday morning cartoon mix for my daughters. I wanted to sample some of the shows I used to watch around their age that influenced my love of horror.

The Real Ghostbusters 2.08: "Night Game" (1987) directed by Marek BuchwaldMasakazu Higuchi
The design of Slimer was truly a blessing for the cartoon show. With the movie establishing that ghosts could look nothing like a simple transparent human, the cartoon was free to let their creativity flow in any direction they felt like. We get a good dose in this episode, which features a surprisingly calm Winston playing in a spiritual baseball game populated by all sorts of weird critters.

The Real Ghostbusters 2.09: "Venkman's Ghost Repellers" (1987) directed by Marek BuchwaldMasakazu Higuchi
I've always loved the surrealism in this show. In this episode, the boys go on a rescue mission into the New Jersey Parallelogram, which is like the Bermuda Triangle, except with "more suburbs," It actually looks more like they are floating inside of tie-dye T-shirt, with bizarre origami-shaped dragon creatures chasing after the lost ships. Fun.

Ghostbusters 1.07: "Mummy Dearest" (1986) directed by Ernie Schmidt
I hadn't watched Filmation's Ghostbusters since, well, 1986 when it first aired. I didn't care for it then. In comparison to the movie-inspired The Real Ghostbusters, it was clearly inferior. The two ghostbusters of this show live in a haunted house inexplicably filled with sentient skeleton-themed furniture. They also take an intelligent gorilla named Tracy with them on their adventures, which they travel to using a sentient ghost car that looks like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and can transform into a jet-thing. It's typical Filmation crap, in which every episode they fight a Skeletor-like villain named Prime Evil who appears to be a mix of ghost, skeleton, and robot. It's standard '80s cartoon fare that pales in comparison to the creativity and, sometimes, depth found in the other show.

This episode has Prime Evil sending his idiot -- seriously, he speaks like he has brain damage -- mummy henchman to the Middle East to scare away all of the oil field workers. Yep. He wants to stop the flow of oil from the Middle East in order to destabilize the world (which he rather unimaginatively pictures as freeways packed with out-of-gas cars, as if people would continue to drive around during an extreme oil crisis until they literally ran out of gas on the way to work). Yeah, just stupid Skeletor-style stuff that the good guys stop using a car wash (really).

Ghostbusters 1.01: "I'll Be a Son of a Ghostbuster" (1986) directed by Tom Tataranowicz
Well, the girls dug the show and wanted to see the first episode in case they explained how all of this craziness came to be. It does, and begins with the dads of the two main characters attempting to teach them the art of ghostbusting. The most bizarre take-away from this episode is that both Prime Evil and the ghostbuster's haunted car have the ability to time travel. That would make for a short series had that been taken to its logical conclusion.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo 1.01: "To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before" (1985) directed by Ray Patterson
At the age of seven, I loved this iteration of Scooby-Doo. I believe it was the first version of the show in which the monsters were real, which I thought was cool. Plus, the 13 ghost spoken of in the title tended to be a little scarier than normal cartoon fare, being terrible demons (or ghosts, they call them both) who are released from a creepy treasure chest by the idiot titular dog. It also features the venerable Vincent Price in cartoon form, as the mystic Vincent Van Ghoul, who is awesome. On the other hand, the show also doubles-down on the annoying characters. Not only are Fred and Velma missing, they are replaced by Scrappy-Doo and an extremely annoying little kid named Flim Flam.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo 1.02: "Scoobra Kadoobra" (1985) directed by Ray Patterson
After releasing the 13 ghost, they group have to track down their first ghost/demon. This one gets a little sillier than the first episode, with the gang's antics approaching Looney Tunes goofiness at times. During one bit, they cut to a parody news cast in which Shaggy and Scooby berate an old lady complaining about danger of the episode's dragon who was breathing fire. I'm guessing the creators of this episodes were having some issues with standards and practices and needed to vent (the dragon fire remained, but it is green in color).

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1949) directed by James Algar & Clyde Geronimi & Jack Kinney
We skipped the non-seasonal Mr. Toad bit of the movie and moved directly to the Ichabod Crane section. It's been a little while since I've watched this. Interesting how Disney chose to present the story. Ichabod is pretty much a complete ass in this version. He cares nothing for anyone other than himself and only interacts with people if they can offer him something. This mostly results in him attending various societal functions in order to gobble as much food as possible. When the attractive, single Katrina appears -- the daughter of a wealthy farmer -- Ichabod uses all of his tricks to get into her good graces and to screw up the strapping, handsome Brom's shot with her. However, Katrina's continued sidelong glaces at Brom confirm that she has already made her choice and is merely enjoying having the two fight over her. In the end, Brom -- presumably -- has to scare the scam artist right out of town in order to win his bride. There's a lot of interesting truth buried in here.

The Mummy's Hand (1940) directed by Christy Cabanne
My youngest daughter, remembering watching The Mummy last year, wanted to watch "Mummy 2" this year. That works for me: I always try to watch at least one Universal monster movie every Halloween. Admittedly, the Mummy movies are my least favorite of the Universal stable. They tend to be very dull and the mummy himself is never very interesting. This one, at least, has some entertaining characters in the form of Brooklyn charlatan Babe and magician The Great Solvani. 

But, man, the mummy in this one dies in the most pathetic manner of any movie monster in the history of horror. The mummy requires tea made from the leaves of a special plant in order to continue to live. In fact, the mummy is so addicted to this stuff that he'll sniff it out where ever it may be (usually, placed in the good guys's tents by the bad buy). In the finale, the bad guy cooks up a mega-batch of tea that the mummy slowly shuffles towards. The hero of the picture easily knocks the tea bowl over before the mummy can get to it and the poor, pathetic addict of a mummy ends up kneeling down into the dirt to suck the tea off the ground. This allows the hero to easily knock a candle onto him to burn him up. Kids, don't do drugs!

Earlier in the film, the bad guy states that the mummy requires three leaves per day in order for his heart to continue beating. The bag guy is part of a long line of bad guys who have sworn to feed the mummy his leaf medicine every single day for the past 3000 years. Just how many leaves would that take, I wonder? Well, that's a long, long time to be using leaves. Turns out they would've need to stash 3.3 million leaves in the mummy's tomb to supply him for that long. No wonder the plant went extinct!

The next best thing to a new Trick 'r Treat movie, this is a horror anthology film with 10 different stories in it. Like any anthology flick, it's a mixed bag, but there are definitely more gems than duds in this one. Overall, I liked the movie quite a bit and hope it becomes an annual or semi-annual series.
  1. Sweet Tooth (dir. Dave Parker)
    A babysitter and her boyfriend spook their charge with the urban legend of Sweet Tooth, who'll do anything to get your candy (even if you've already eaten it all). Not a bad intro for the show; I like the ending, in which we're not sure if Sweet Tooth is really real, or if the kid just went psycho.
  2. The Night Billy Raised Hell (dir. Darren Lynn Bousman)
    Easily my favorite of the lot. A kid is urged to throw an egg at a man's house. Unfortunately for him, that man happens to be Satan himself, who seemingly takes the kid on an ever-escalating prank rampage through the neighborhood. Hilarious and dark.
  3. Trick (dir. Adam Gierasch)
    A bunch of child trick-r-treaters begin killing a group of adults in their home, slasher style. Only towards the end do we find the disturbing reason why. Effectively horrifying and also funny.
  4. The Weak and the Wicked (dir. Paul Solet)
    A man summons a demon to help him deal with the bullies who burned his parents to death when he was a child. Merely OK.
  5. Grim Grinning Ghost (dir. Axelle Carolyn)
    The worst of a the lot. A dull story about a woman stalked by the ghostly Mary Bailey, an urban legend-type creature. Full of atmosphere, I suppose, but not particular interesting.
  6. Ding Dong (dir. Lucky McKee)
    A twisted take on "Hansel and Gretel" in which a man realizes how awful of a person his witch of a wife really is. Creatively shot and an interesting story.
  7. This Means War (dir. Andrew Kasch and John Skipp)
    My second favorite of the lot. A man who sets up an elaborate spook house in his yard every year gets a new neighbor who does the same. Except, his new neighbor's spook house is loud and gory and the complete opposite of his refined and ghostly set up. That means war, with the entire neighbor watching. Funny as hell.
  8. Friday the 31st (dir. Mike Mendez)
    My third favorite. A Jason-rip-off killed stalks and kills a teenage girl, but a UFO and tiny alien turn the tables. Very funny.
  9. The Ransom of Rusty Rex (dir. Ryan Schifrin)
    Funny bit in which two a-holes kidnap a rich man's kid... except it ain't no kid.
  10. Bad Seed (dir. Neil Marshall)
    A mutant jack-o-lantern goes on a head-eating rampage. A goofy ending to the proceedings.

Halloween (1978) directed by John Carpenter
As always, Halloween on Halloween. Random things I noticed this time out:

Donald Pleasence's accent is weird in this one. He's trying to speak with an American accent, but not very hard. It's actually pretty effective, giving the guy a strange manner of speaking to match his strange personality.

The dead leaves they spread on the grass in some scenes in order to make Southern California look like Illinois in autumn has the bizarre effect of making the movie seem slightly outside of reality. But, it's also a little like being able to see the zipper on the costume of a 1950s horror movie monster.

Right before being shot by Loomis, Michael's face is revealed when Laurie yanks his mask up. We can see he's a regular-looking young man. Why give us a glimpse of Michael's right at the end of his reign of terror? I think it was one final nudge to make the character as scary as possible. He starts by merely stalking. That escalates to hiding and jumping out of the shadows to murder. That is intensified by his apparent immunity to both pain and serious injury. Where can you go from there? You show that underneath the expressionless, ghostly mask lies a regular person. Michael could be anyone in your neighborhood. Beware.

And that's it for this year's Six Weeks! Thanks for reading!

29 October 2015

October 29th

The Walking Dead 5.16: "Conquer" directed by Greg Nicotero
Rick dropping a dead zombie in the middle of the meeting that was to decide whether to exile him or not is bad ass. And, not a bad way of convincing the pampered wimps in Alexandria that they need bad ass help. I imagine season 6 will be about encountering Negan's group -- the Wolves, I'm guessing, are what they are in the TV show -- and hopefully also contacting other safe zones in order to build up the army needed to defeat him. Should be good watchin'. I love this era in the comic stories.

Friday the 13th (2009) directed by Marcus Nispel
Derek Mears as Jason
13 Feb 2009
Freddy vs. Jason XIX: Jason Reborn
Remaking a Jason movie is not a big deal. Continuity never meant much in the original series, anyway, so pushing the reset button doesn't really lose us anything important. As long as there's a big guy wearing a hockey mask killing people around Crystal Lake, I don't really care.

Last time I watched this one five years ago, I didn't like it. I think I was too harsh. To be sure, this is a different version of Jason than we've seen before. He is the Jason from Part 2 made angrier and perhaps more realistic. He's created an underground shack underneath Camp Crystal Lake to live in, has set up alarms and traps on the property, and steals kerosene from a nearby farm when needed. He is the uber-mountain man, surviving on his own away from civilization. As I wrote in my Part 2 review, I've come to like the wild man version of Jason and it's nice to have him back after years of zombie Jason.

Though not quite as dreary as Nispel's Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, this is a darker movie than any of the other Jason films. Jason himself is meaner in this film than he's ever been. That sounds incredibly silly when discussing a man who has killed people by crushing their heads in his hands, but I think it has to do with the speed at which Jason kills. He's slower here. He wants people to suffer before they die. Instead of banging a girl in a sleeping bag against a tree to kill her, he ties her up above a campfire and slow-roasts her. Instead of instantly killing a guy when he throws an ax at his back, Jason merely paralyzing the poor man and uses his screams as bait for the other people hiding in the house.

My guess is that this change, more than anything else, is the source of people's dislike of the remake. I can understand. I'm an '80s slasher fan. I like my slasher killers to be more on the inventive side and less on the torture side of things. But, it's not the 1980s anymore. I don't think we can recapture that kind of fun and light slasher movie from when the SFX guys were kings. Technology is different and society is different. I am not opposed to trying something different with an old character as a way of keeping him alive in our culture's consciousness.

I think this change to Jason, for the most part, works. The big guy with the hockey mask looks very imposing and frightening in this film, confidently navigating his territory to clear it of invaders. You know that if he catches up with a character, they will have a very bad time of it. Though. at times, things feel a little too close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre for my liking. His underground layer is a little too Sawyer family for my taste, as is the old lady who mysteriously warns Clay about the woods.

If this ever does start a series, this isn't a bad place to start. Beginning with a super-serious take on Jason makes it much more difficult to jump into the self-parody era that slasher sequels always end up in. I cannot imagine remake Jason in space at all. That's probably a good thing.

Favorite Character
Trent (Travis Van Winkle): he was such the perfect douchebag character, I can't help but admire him. C'mon, who didn't love the bit where he screamed like a little girl when Jason was chasing him outside?

Favorite Sin
Hunting for a mythical field of weed.

Favorite Kill
Amanda (America Olivo), who, while still wrapped in her sleeping bag, is strung up over a campfire to roast.

Jason's Mood
"Git off ma land and leave me alone!"

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) directed by Samuel Bayer
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy
27 Apr 2010
Freddy vs. Jason XX: Freddy Reborn
Speaking of super-serious takes, that's also the direction New Line took with the remake Freddy. I also hated this one when I last watched it five years ago. I think I was too harsh with this film as well.

There is no way anyone is ever going to be able to touch Robert Englund's performance as Freddy. He is a huge reason the character became so phenomenally popular. But, Englund has retired from the role. If we want Freddy to continue, like Dracula or Frankenstein, he needs to be recast. Further, the character needs to be re-imagined a little. Any new actor attempting to do a Robert Englund-as-Freddy impersonation is going to be hated from the first frame of film. And, Englund already covered the silly aspects of the character, so the only sensible direction to take Freddy is towards darkness.

Man, did they ever. This Freddy is absolutely loathsome. It was easy to cheer for old Freddy when he was, for example, boinging idiot stoners around in a video game nightmare. Anyone cheering for remake Freddy is a psychopath. The guy is now a full-on child molester who used to work at a pre-school. His main goal in the film is to keep his favorite child awake so long that she falls into a coma, allowing him to play with her forever. You should hate the villain in a horror movie and Haley's version of Freddy makes this very easy.

I think this was a great direction to take the character. What if one of those skeevy-looking molesters whose mugshots we see on the news was granted infinite powers in the dreamworld? This film, more than the original, answers that question. Haley's Freddy lacks any of Part 1's maniacal insanity and instead has a clarity of purpose that is just as disturbing in such a creature.

On the other hand, Rooney Mara sucks in this film. Supposedly, she hated filming it so much she almost quit acting altogether. You can tell. She's a disgrace to the name "Nancy" and her dull performance drags the entire movie down.

My other large issue with the film are the references to the original. Any time they went out of their way to copy of bit from the original movie, it was horrible. Freddy stretching the wall above Nancy's bed? CGI crap. Freddy's glove between Nancy's legs in the bath? Where's the dragging down into the darkness part? Kris's death? Scarier in the original with Tina. Nancy seeing Kris in a bodybag being dragged down the hall? Creepier in the original. Had they just cut out all of the references (sadly, including Nancy herself) and confidently did their own thing for the entire movie, it would've been much improved.

Still, I feel like they got a lot right. The relentlessly dark tone of the film matches the new Freddy perfectly and makes the film scary in a different way than the rest of the series. "Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut you yet!" is actually my favorite Freddy line from any of the movies. The idea that prolonged insomnia would cause micronaps is brilliant, and is great way to have Freddy stalk the characters throughout the finale.

In the end, I think this version of Freddy was so incredibly dark that it had no chance of spawning a new series. Folks just don't want to watch a no-longer-merely-implied child molester torturing teens. That's fine. I'm sure Freddy will return in some other form eventually. Meantime, it was interesting to see this take on the character.

Favorite Character
Quentin (Kyle Gallner): the real hero of the film who replaces the largest useless Nancy as the guy who knows what's going on.

Favorite Sin
Saying "screw calling the police" and burning to death the guy who molested your child. There's no chance he's getting off on a technicality here.

Favorite Kill
Jesse (Thomas Dekker), who gets a razor glove shoved through his back and out his chest. But that doesn't kill him, as Freddy says: "Did you know that after the heart stops beating, the brain can function for well over seven minutes?" Easily the most disturbing kill in the entire series and a very clever use of the dreamworld.

Freddy's Mood
Filthy and very angry.

28 October 2015

October 28th

The Walking Dead 5.15: "Try" (2015) directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
All of this Alexandria intro stuff happened in the comics like five years ago, so I'm struggling to remember how the story went then. From what I recall, this episode -- at least the bit with Rick fighting Pete over his abusiveness -- seems ripped right out of the pages. I dig that. Though I seriously doubt that Deanna -- the equivalent to the leader of Alexandria in the comics -- is going to shoot out Carl's eyeball, but I could be wrong. That would make for an intense season finale.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003) directed by Ronny Yu
Robert Englund as Freddy
Ken Kirzinger as Jason
13 Aug 2003
Freddy vs. Jason XVIII: Friends Forever
After 17 movies and 23 years, the dynamic duo of slasher films finally meet. Was it worth it? Eh, it's a better swan song for the pair than their respective death movies were, though that's not saying too much.

Springwood has managed to forget Freddy, which is quite a feat considering the state of the place just 4 years ago in which crazy teachers were openly discussing "Freddy 101." Following Nancy's theory from Part 1 that ignoring the dream demon will take his power away, the entire town decides to never mention Freddy's name, censors all newspaper articles about the guy, and locks away any teens having dreams about him in Westin Hills where they are doped up on Part 3's anti-dream med Hypnocil. It works and Freddy loses the ability to do much of anything. To solve this issue, Freddy yanks Jason out of Hell and convinces him to walk over to Springwood to strike up some terror.

That's all well and good, but what about the teenagers who must fight both of these monsters simultaneously? Not so good. This is one of my least favorite casts from all 18 of these things. Monica Keena is horrible in the lead, lacking the inner strength to give her character any gravitas. Singer Kelly Rowland is even worse, demonstrating high school play-levels of performance. As for the rest of the cast, I can barely remember any details about them (one was a nerd and one was stoner, I know that) as they are completely forgettable. Worse, in order to move the plot along, these characters have an uncanny ability to figure out exactly what is going on. For example, apropo of absolutely nothing, Keena's Lori randomly blurts out: "Freddy's afraid of fire. Jason's afraid of water. How can we use that?" Okey-dokey then.

Teen plot-wise, there's an uninteresting B-story in which Monica's "true love" -- at the age of 14, no less -- disappears and breaks her heart. There's an uninteresting C-story in which this true love thinks he saw Lori's dad killing her mother... but it was really Freddy. There's a completely irrelevant D-story in which Kia wants a nose job (huh?). It feels like all of these stuff was thrown into the script as filler, which it may well have been.

Because, that's not really what we're watching this movie for, is it? All we really want to see is Freddy and Jason interacting for the first time and fighting each other. That they do, and it's... OK. The main problem is that these two characters are so completely different that it barely makes any sense to have them battle in the first place. While Freddy is in the dreamworld with Jason, he is all-powerful and unstoppable. When Freddy is yanked into the real world, he's just a skinny guy with four little knives fighting an immortal powerhouse. They do their best to make Freddy a challenge for Jason -- including making him do some silly kung-fu kicking on the big guy -- but ultimately there's nothing that Freddy can do that will ever take Jason down. Either way, the fight is destined to be lop-sided.

Still, it was a kick to see these two characters on screen at the same time. I kind of wish this had become a huge hit, if only to turn this "monster vs. monster" idea into a Hollywood film cycle. I suppose I can settle for awesome superhero shared universe movies instead as a replacement...

Favorite Character
Freeburg (Kyle Labine): The requisite stoner character who decides that the middle of a break-in of a psychiatric hospital is the perfect time to light up a jay. Unphased when speaking to a giant caterpillar.

Favorite Sin
Smoking a doobie in the middle of a break-in of a psychiatric hospital.

Favorite Kill
Shack (Chris Gauthier), who gets a flaming machete thrown through his chest after setting Jason on fire with Everclear.

Freddy's Mood
Desperately trying to get back to that 1980s feeling.

Jason's Mood

27 October 2015

October 27th

The Walking Dead 5.14: "Spend" (2015) directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Glen, Noah, and Nicholas getting trapped in different sections of a glass revolving door while zombies swarm both the inside and outside of the building was genius. Move one way or the other to escape and the folks in the other section of the door get shoved into a pile of zombies. Of course, that is exactly what happens and poor Noah gets one of the most gruesome deaths of the entire series. Wow.

Jason X (2001) directed by James Isaac
Freddy vs. Jason XVII: Jason in Space
Kane Hodder as Jason / Uber-Jason
26 Apr 2002
Following Hellraiser: Bloodline in 1996 (AKA, Hellraiser 4: In Space) and Leprechaun 4: In Space in 1997, Jason got his turn a few years later. Tons of fans hate this entry and I can see their point of view. It's silly and self-referential and Jason belongs in the woods and not in a spaceship. Me, though, I've always thought this flick was a ton of fun.

Essentially, the story is a shameless rip-off of the first two Alien movies. Folks on a spaceship take a shuttle down to a planet with a hostile environment and bring back a monster. A greedy pencilneck wants to sell the monster for a lot of money. That monster escapes and methodically stalks and kills nearly everyone on board within the gothic/industrial confines of the ship. In the process, an android is decapitated, a bunch of space-marines are wasted, and the ship blows up. We last see the monster floating in space. Hey, if you're going to rip something off... rip off the best.

What can you say? This is a movie in which an android makes herself magnetic nipples in an attempt to please her creator. This is a movie in which Jason shatters a girl's face after dipping it in liquid nitrogen. This is a movie where Jason's first attack in the future happens while he is still frozen when his corpse tumbles and his machete slices a stoner's arm off. This is a movie that references the horrible "Microsoft Wars" in which people beat each other with their own limbs. This is a movie in which nanites repair Jason as an unstoppable cyborg, complete with cyborg hockey mask. If you can't smile, lean back in your chair, drink a beer, and enjoy this stuff, you have my pity.

Favorite Character
Professor Lowe (Jonathan Potts): "Guys, he just wants his machete back!"

Favorite Sin
Holograms drinking beers, smoking pot, and wanting pre-marital sex.

Favorite Kill
Adrienne (Kristi Angus), whose head is shoved in a sink full of liquid nitrogen and then slammed onto the counter so that it shatters.

Jason's Mood
Slightly confused at his circumstances, but determined to make it work.

26 October 2015

October 26th

The Walking Dead 5.13: "Forget" directed by David Boyd
Sasha's reaction to the party is exactly the same as what I would have had. When the world is still in such disarray, it's maddening to see people worrying about the same pointless garbage they used worry about before the apocalypse (e.g., pasta makers). In fact, I'd say that if there is one advantage to the end of the world, it's the chance to ditch all of society's idiotic bullshit.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) directed by Wes Craven
Freddy vs. Jason XVI: A Parent's Nightmare 
Robert Englund as Freddy
14 Oct 1994
Wes Craven's best film. Yes, Part 1 is iconic. It was powerful enough to change our culture. It's the reason New Nightmare even exists. But, it's rough around the edges; the ending -- being the result of a fight between Craven and Shaye -- is not satisfying. New Nightmare feels like it is exactly the movie Craven wanted to make, and he has much worthwhile to say in it.

This is a horror movie for parents. All of Heather's nightmares involve Dylan either disappearing or in immediate danger from Freddy. All of my worst nightmares since becoming a parent are similar. But it's not just the supernatural that scares Heather (or me). What if there were something wrong with your child and you hadn't a clue on how to fix it? Worse, what if it's your fault? What if the stress in your life is affecting him? Or, what if you passed on a mental illness to your child? The little one is depending on you to fix things, but what if that can't be done or you don't have it in you?

Your child is the most important thing in the entire universe in a way that I don't believe the childless can comprehend. For this reason alone, I'm not surprised New Nightmare was the lowest-grossing Elm Street movie and that it is now only spoken of dismissively as merely a warm-up to Scream. The teenage audience that makes up the bulk of ticket sales for slasher movies cannot identify with this movie in the slightest. Myself, I caught this on opening day at the theater when I was 17. While I enjoyed the movie back then, my admiration of it has consistently grown every time I've watched it. This time, I'm the parent of a child who is the same age that Miko Hughes was during filming. Shortly after I started the film -- luckily right before Freddy's hand attacks the SFX crew, so when I paused it was on Heather's face on not a claw stabbing a chest -- my daughter wandered downstairs and told me she was too scared to sleep. Life and art, forever intertwined. Needless to say, the film affected me quite a bit this time out.

Nosferatu (1922)
This is a horror movie about the importance of horror stories. I greatly enjoy the premise of this movie: there's an ancient evil that thrives on the killing of innocents. The only way to stop this entity -- temporarily -- is to capture it in a story that it finds appealing. Once that story dies -- by becoming "too familiar, or too watered down by people trying to make it easier to sell, or it's labeled a threat to society and just plain banned" -- the entity escapes. This is an incredible perspective. What societies enjoy horror stories? Peaceful societies. If your country is involved in a civil war, you tend not to be going to the cinema to watch people get slashed to ribbons. Once you've gotten things under control -- you've captured the evil and contained it temporarily -- you're able to relax and enjoy darker stories.

New Nightmare (1994)
Why enjoy those darker stories in times of peace? Dylan gives us the answer in the movie. When Heather stops reading "Hansel and Gretel," telling him "this is too violent.  I don't know why you like these stupid old tales," Dylan insists she finishes. When she does not, he tells her the end of the story from memory. At the end of the movie, Dylan uses this story as a way to defeat Freddy. Dark stories, as Dylan says, are important. They get us thinking about what we might do should the same thing happen to us. They keep us strong and aware and prepared for the less-than-pleasant situations life puts us into. Horror is important and perhaps even vital to our ability to deal with our own existence.

It's been five years since the remake that didn't impress anyone and 12 years since Freddy vs. Jason. Freddy's mostly assuredly dead again. Has some other story captured his evil? I can't think of any monster from the past decade that could qualify on anywhere near the same level as Freddy. Perhaps The Walking Dead? Though not about a single character, the show has immense cross-cultural appeal (it's not something only horror nerds watch or read). The more I think about it, the more I think this is correct: fear of the zombie horde has captured this entity at the moment. Though, I'm fairly sure we're nearing the end of that cycle as well. What will be next? Or will he be free?

Favorite Character
Heather Langenkamp: the character of Wes Craven tells her in the film, "it was you who gave Nancy her strength." I think the real Craven believed this, too (take a listen to the commentary track for Part 1 sometime). I believe it as well.

Favorite Sin
Taking your child somewhere and forgetting their favorite stuffed toy. I can't count how many times I've done this. Dylan's reaction is calmer than my own daughter's when this has happened.

Favorite Kill
Rex (the stuffed dinosaur), who sacrifices himself to Freddy's claw to protect Dylan. Stuffed animals -- we call them "buddies" in our house -- have a near-magical power to children that they take very seriously. I'm confident my daughter's Ele would do the same for her.

Freddy's Mood
Darker, more evil.

25 October 2015

October 25th

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) directed by Rachel Talalay
Robert Englund as Freddy
13 Sep 1991
Freddy vs. Jason XIV: Freddy's Temporarily Inconvenienced by His Daughter
The worst of the Freddy films. The filmmakers have completely given up on making Freddy scary. Freddy is a full-on stand-up comedian in this one. He only speaks in one-liners. He only kills with cute little gags (knives on chalkboard, death by video game, a Wile E. Coyote-style fall from a parachute onto spikes). Robert Englund mugs to the camera with increasingly goofy faces. It's tiresome and incredibly disappointing.

If that weren't bad enough, everything else in the movie is silly as well. Because the finale was shot in 3-D, Maggie has to put on 3-D glasses in the actual film at one point. This looks ridiculous. Freddy has killed every single child in Springwood (without the rest of the world noticing?) and this has driven every single adult in town nuts in the wackiest possible manner. Old men ride bumper cars by themselves, teachers teach "Freddy 101" to empty classrooms, and adoption agency ladies speak to invisible orphans. Perhaps worst of all, Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold have grating cameos as crazy Springwood parents. This is not remotely a horror movie.

Filling in the gaps between jokes is some Freddy background story. This is nothing that improves the character or reveals anything interesting. Freddy was a crazy kid who killed a classroom pet. Freddy was a crazy teen who got off on his stepfather's beatings. Freddy was a crazy husband who killed his wife when she found his kill room. I get it. Freddy was a crazy and evil person his whole life. Maybe, possibly, the ret-con of Freddy being a family man with a dark secret -- versus a loner who hung out in a boiler room, as he was before this -- could've been taken somewhere interesting. But it was not.

What a waste of a great opportunity.

Favorite Character
Doc (Yaphet Kotto): mostly because Kotto's performance vacillates between taking the role very seriously and "why am I here?"

Favorite Sin
Getting so baked in Nancy/Freddy's house that you see Johnny Depp get hit in the face with a frying pan by Freddy.

Favorite Kill
John (Shon Greenblatt), who is dropped onto a bed of spikes from 20,000 feet.

Freddy's Mood
As if Robin Williams and Bugs Bunny had a baby together.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) directed by Adam Marcus
Kane Hodder as Jason
13 Aug 1993
Freddy vs. Jason XV: Jason's Temporarily Inconvenienced by His Niece
The worst of the Jason films. What the hell were they thinking? I honestly cannot fathom the though process here. Why did they think anyone wanted to watch a Jason movie without Jason in it? I get it: the Jason formula was wearing a little thin at this point (in the last two entries, he fought Carrie and then went on a boat trip). So what? Think of something else to do with big guy... but use the big guy. No one on planet Earth wanted to see Jason's big finale involve him turning into a black heart/slug/demon baby-thing that jumps between bodies. What the ever-loving hell?

I hate just about everything about this movie. Why does everything always have to be about the killer's relatives? Halloween has Michael chasing his sister and niece and nephew. Freddy's Dead conjures up a daughter for Freddy. Now this film gives Jason a sister and a niece and a grand-niece to chase. Why? Because "In a Voorhees was he born. Through a Voorhees may he be reborn. And only by the hands of a Voorhees will he die." Why is that? I don't know. How does Creighton Duke know this? I don't know. Do these new relatives seem to live in the shadow of their killer uncle/brother, perhaps shunned by the town of Crystal Lake? Nope. They have no connection to the guy and don't really speak of him. They're just people for him to chase, no different from anyone else.

The film breaks its own rules. For most of the movie, a body possessed by Jason cannot speak and it looks like Jason can barely control it. At the end, Officer Randy acts completely normal and speaks perfectly fine with Jason in him, just to serve the "which one is the bad guy" plot cliche.

When Jason returns to his true form at the end (wait, he got a new body, but looks like a rotted zombie still?), he is pathetic. Completely unlike himself, he is content to throw Steven around (and not very far, this isn't the Jason who threw a guy through a window) and sometimes grab his leg (without breaking it, this isn't the Jason who can crush skulls with his hands). Then he is easily poked in the chest by his niece, which is apparently a signal to Hell that they should grab him? I don't know.

There were a few bits I enjoyed. The beginning of the film is awesome. The FBI has finally caught on to the supernatural mass-murderer who hangs out in Crystal Lake and sets up a trap to finally stop him. This is a great idea: Jason is clearly not stoppable by regular people, but what happens if the full force of the US government is applied to him? Jason being dragged to Hell by demon hands isn't a bad way to "really" kill him. It was a kick to see Freddy's glove grab Jason's mask at the end. That's about it.

Here's my idea for the real death of Jason. Keep the beginning if you want and have the FBI blow him up. In the real movie, Kane Hodder plays a security guard guarding Jason's morgue. Have him get taken over by Jason's spirit (not eat his heart!). Maybe have Kane goofing around and trying on Jason's mask... suddenly, the mask fuses to his face and he is now Jason reborn. Bam. Now we've gone back to living Jason, looking not too unlike the guy who played him in Part 2. Plus, there's your post-modern winky-winky: the man behind the mask really does become the man behind the mask!

Have this new Jason go on a killing spree in Crystal Lake once again. Finally, the town has had enough. Like the end of Frankenstein, they gather everyone in town together to hunt Jason down. In a fit of fury for the 13 years of hell this monster has put their town through, the entire population descends on Jason and tears him to pieces. The final shots, Halloween-like, are of the interiors of the Crystal Lake townspeople's homes, each having a glass belljar on their mantle with a piece of Jason in it (with the final shot being the jar with his mask in it). There. He's really, really dead this time, but there's a chance for a sequel, too.

What a waste of a great opportunity.

Favorite Character
Creighton Duke (Steven Williams): the only interesting character in the film and one who seems to has as much contempt for everything in the movie as I do.

Favorite Sin
Getting off on breaking peoples's fingers.

Favorite Kill
Deborah (Michelle Clunie), the camper who is punctured and then ripped open from belly button to shoulder by a metal stake.

Jason's Mood
Huggy and smoochy.

23 October 2015

October 23rd

The Walking Dead 5.11: "The Distance" (2015) directed by Larysa Kondracki
I like how the greatest tension in this episode comes not from the zombies, or from the mysterious Aaron and his promises of safety, but from Rick. Whether Rick will go apeshit and kill or harm Aaron and ruin the group's chances of joining Alexandria is the primary source of concern. I think that means the showrunners have successfully conveyed how hard being on the road has been for Rick; how changed he is after all of the heartache of the previous 4 seasons; how difficult it would be to let go and trust a stranger in such an environment. Nice work.

The Walking Dead 5.12: "Remember" (2015) directed by Greg Nicotero
Thinking back, I remember the last time Rick and company had a chance to take showers. This was in season 1, in episode "TS-19." Of their trip to the CDC, I wrote:
Inside, they get a nice break, with real food and hot showers and safety from the dead.  We haven't seen them go through enough hardship for this to really mean anything.
Now we have. Now it means something. I like how it takes the group a long time to unwind. Spending years (?) under so much tension, it would be hard to sit back and not worry about things. This is great: it feels like a completely fresh direction for the show to explore. I love where the comics are right now, generally, and I'm excited to see Alexandria eventually expand into a linked collection of nearby communities.

I wonder if Alexandria has already met Nagen, or if he shows up as a new character to everyone? I wonder whose skull Nagen will bash in, given they love to switch up the big deaths in the TV show as compared to the comics? I'm sure Glen is safe. I'm betting it's Carol instead. We shall see.