Death of the Day—Drew Barrymore Gets Gutted in Wes Craven’s “Scream”

Today we are back with a brand new death of the day, this time we are taking a look at the opening scene of Scream. We feel as though this scene could easily stand alone as a short film because it was so perfectly executed. The cinematography is amazing and the script is extremely well written with some fun references tucked inside for the true horror fans. We have suspense and horror and countless other emotions flowing through us as this scene develops. We have an introduction to a new and exciting character right for the start of the film and it’s able to set up the rest of the movie for the audience. The death alone is nothing over the top, but the elements surrounding it is what we find so thrilling.

Picking Favorites: Ranking the “Nightmare on Elm Street” Films

My love for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series holds no bounds. It is a series that I grew up on and that I regularly watch. I can’t remember the last month that went by without me popping in a movie from the series as comfort food. Well, today I have decided to “rank” my favorite slasher series. Starting with the best and ending with the worst, the following are my selections. Please note that I will NOT be including either the remake or “Freddy Vs. Jason” into this list. Let’s say hello to Freddy! Pleasant dreams…

1) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Convoluted? Pretentious? Overly meta? Shockingly, no. “New Nightmare” is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. The film examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s “Scream” would play out to great effect two years later. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. It is my favorite horror film of all time and a modern classic.

2) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s definitive classic. Bet you can’t guess what it is. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.

3) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
If ever there was a horror sequel that screamed the 1980’s, it would be “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Crazy punk chick? Check. Wheelchair Dungeons and Dragons obsessed geek? Check. Zsa Zsa Gabor? Check. Dokken theme song? You better believe it, check! Dream Warriors is both a faithful to sequel to original masterpiece as well the rare sequel that actually advances the story without just being a carbon copy reboot of everything that made the first film great.

4) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Truth be told, “Dream Master” is probably the most fun a viewer can have with the series. The deaths are completely imaginative, the special effects top notch, and the acting is solid on all accounts. It is also probably the most quotable entry of the series. It is entertaining as hell. Nonetheless, part of me wants Freddy scary again. As cool as the deaths are (Debbie’s cockroach death being the highlight death of the entire series for me), something here is missing that made the third installment so special.

5) A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
For those of you who haven’t seen this film, I don’t really know what to say besides the fact that it is very, very homoerotic. From the gym coach that Jesse finds at a gay bar (???) while sleepwalking to the gym coaches’ bondage death to the love scene between Jesse and Lisa in which Jesse can’t “perform”. Everything about this movie screams gay…and I haven’t seen talked about the dancing bedroom cleaning scene. It’s all funny, campy, over-the-top and “oh so 80’s.” haha

But the problem with Nightmare 2 isn’t the film’s gay themes, it’s the fact that it breaks too many of the rules laid out by the original. Why would Freddy want to be in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? How does Freddy make the parakeet explode if no one is dreaming? It doesn’t make scene. I will give this film some credit. The imagery is imaginative, the acting solid, and Freddy is pretty damn scary. It just doesn’t feel like a Nightmare movie. This is both it’s greatest weakness and it’s greatest fault.

6) A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
The biggest problem with “Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child” is the same problem that exists in “Freddy’s Revenge”: it breaks the rules of the series. Why would Freddy want to live on in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? Add in some hokey mother moments and an “in the womb” Krueger and you get a pretty dreadful sequel. The cinematography is top notch and the actors do what they can but, by this point in the series, who really cares? This isn’t a terrible entry but just a middle-of-the-road one. By this point the series was starting to show its age.

7) “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” (1991)
If “New Nightmare” was the rare horror sequel in which everything worked than “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” is that rare horror movie in which nothing works. It sure as hell isn’t scary and the cameos by Johnny Depp and Roseanne come across as more desperate than funny. The deaths are awful as well. Killed by a robot hearing aid, killed by Freddy’s “power glove”, fallen from a parachute onto spikes placed by Freddy? Is this a Nightmare movie or a Looney Toons cartoon. Not only this, but Freddy himself doesn’t even get a cool or original death. They take the ending of the original and cheapen it and we are all worse for it. This film is a grim insult to Freddy fans everywhere.

To buy the box set from Amazon for under $30: Nightmare on Elm Street Collection

The Kids Are All Right: “The People Under the Stairs” Review

Some movies are a little bit out there. Some movies are a little on the strange side. Some movies can be a put off putting to others. And some movies are “The People Under the Stairs.” I can honestly say that I have never seen another movie like it. It is weird, over-the-top, and quite frequently crazy. You have a husband and wife (or mother and son or brother and sister, the movie really doesn’t make it very clear) that kidnap children to raise as their perfect offspring. However, when the child in question “hears, speaks, or sees evil” they are banished to the basement with the other neglected children. Sound fucked up?

Well, that’s only the start of it. The movie begins with a thirteen year old boy nicknamed Fool. Fools lives in the ghetto and has just found out his family is going to get evicted from their run down apartment. Fool is persuaded by family friend, Leroy, to sneak into the landlords’ home (the husband/wife, etc) to steal a prized coin collection rumored to be in their home. Desperate to help save his Mother’s life and the family from being thrown into the streets, Fool goes with Leroy and Leroy’s friend, Spenser, to the house.

Once they force their way into the house, they realize they got a lot more than they were looking for. After Spenser and Leroy are tragically killed, Fool tries to escape. Running for his life, he bumps into the landlords’ daughter, Alice, a young abused girl full of nothing but scars and fear. Fool feels sympathy towards Alice and persuades her to escape with him.

The movie works as a social parable about the rich and the poor but works even better as a balls-to-the-wall action/horror comedy that is just about as weird and crazy as you would imagine. I can’t recommend this movie to everyone but for those looking for a little leather gimp action, a crazy incest plot, and lots of hillbilly kids. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Buy it here: The People Under the Stairs

The Power of Authority: A Look at “Red Eye”

Wes Craven’s brilliant thriller Red Eye is probably one of the most underrated suspense flicks of the last decade. The film revolves around a young woman named Lisa Reisert, an average, day-by-day nobody, who is thrown into a world of betrayal and intrigue when she meets a strange young man on a plane.

The film is beautifully constructed. From beginning to end, director Wes Craven shows that he has clearly learned a thing or two on how to present strong female leading ladies from Alfred Hitchcock. Much like Mr. Hitchcock, he uses the character as a strong, independent young woman who is forced to become a hero to survive. It is not something that she has set out to do and it is not something that comes naturally to her.

I like how Wes Craven toys with the audience here by giving us a hero that must do everything in her power to survive without giving her or the audience very many clues as to what is happening or who to root for. Hmm..sound familiar? She simply becomes the reluctant hero, much like Roger Thornill of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”

Lisa must use her authority figure status (manager of a successful hotel management firm) to save the day. Of course, the irony here is that had she not had this authority figure status, she wouldn’t have been thrown into this new mysterious and confusing situation. Her authority is the one thing that gets her into trouble as well as the only thing that can save her. In the end, her authority status saves that day.

Nightmare Redux: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010) Review

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
What I liked:
* The back story. Trying to figure out if Freddy really did the things he was accused of.
*The ending. Loved how the mom died.
*The relationship between Nancy and Quentin.
*The preschool stuff and the “class list”.
*Freddy’s lair and “the box”
*Freddy torturing Jesse.
*All of the stuff at the pharmacy.
*The “micro naps”

What I didn’t:
*The opening scene. Yawn.
*Pretty much everything before Kris died.
*The scenes that were in the trailer that weren’t in the movie (tunnel, Kris as Freddy, the pool opening, the peak-a-boo Freddy).
*The bad CGI.
*The awful acting by the parents.

Overall: Worth a rent and definitely not as bad as some fans have made it seem.

What Big Teeth You Have: “Cursed” Review

Going into Wes Craven’s new horror thriller “Cursed” I had very low expectations. First of all, the movie had been cut fairly severely from an R to a PG-13 and the movie had been retooled for the past two years (Thankfully the DVD is the unrated cut). Not only this but “Cursed” also wasn’t screened for critics. All signs point to “Terrible Movie.”

The film begins when two friends, Jenny Tate (Mýa) and Becky Morton (Shannon Elizabeth), are at a pier and decide to get their fortune told by Zela (Portia de Rossi). She foretells that they will suffer a horrible fate, but they don’t believe her and walk away laughing. A little while later, Becky realizes Jenny has disappeared and can’t find her on the pier; Becky was driving. One night, while in a car together, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and his sister Ellie (Christina Ricci) hit an animal and another car. They attempt to rescue the other driver, Becky Morton, but she is suddenly dragged and eaten by an unknown creature. Jimmy and Ellie are both slashed by the creature’s claws. Jimmy starts to believe that the creature was a werewolf, but no one will believe him. He and his sister start to exhibit wolfish tendencies (such as both of them eating raw bacon, Ellie catching a fly in her bare hand, and being attracted to the smell of blood) but Ellie denies it, apparently proving her point by touching a silver picture frame and not getting burned. Jimmy becomes much stronger, as exampled when a bully named Bo (Milo Ventimiglia) forces him to join the wrestling team. He easily defeats three wrestlers, including Bo.

Meanwhile, Jenny is torn apart in a parking garage by a wolf-like creature. Zela’s prediction for Jenny and Becky comes true. Eventually, Ellie starts to believe the werewolf idea, and Jimmy proves it when he holds a silver cake server and gets burned (he then discovers that the picture frame Ellie touched was actually stainless steel). He goes to warn Ellie with the help of Bo, who shows up at their house to say he’s gay and apparently likes Jimmy. Bo and Jimmy race to where Ellie is, and in the meantime she figures out that her boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson), is a werewolf. He confirms that, but claims it wasn’t him that attacked her and Jimmy. Another werewolf attacks, seemingly proving his story. Bo and Jimmy try to help, but Bo is knocked out. But…..who is the werewolf?

Surprisingly, this movie ain’t half bad. In fact, it’s actually really quite good. What we have here is a fun little werewolf thriller about a brother and sister that get attacked by a mysterious creature and are forced to deal with what they have become. There are some good scares (gotta love the Mya scene in the parking lot) and some surprisingly solid laughs (I loved Christina Ricci’s bitchy coworker and the “gay” subplot involving the head of the wrestling team). Not everything works in the film–the ending is a bit overkill and some of the effects are a bit iffy–but overall, I’d say it’s definitely at least worth a rental. It isn’t a bad way to spend two hours of good, solid creature feature entertainment. Just don’t expect an Oscar worthy movie and you’ll be fine.

Never Sleep Again: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Review

Wes Craven’s definitive classic. Bet you can’t guess what it is. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.

Nancy is having nightmares about a frightening, badly-scarred figure who wears a glove with razor-sharp “finger knives”. She soon discovers that her friends are having similar dreams. When the kids begin to die, Nancy realizes that she must stay awake to survive. Uncovering the secret identity of the dream killer and his connection with the children of Elm Street, the girl plots to draw him out into the real world.

The film goes for suspense, drama, and gore and delivers for the most part. Heather Langenkamp gives a very solid performance as Nancy Thompson, the young woman is the “leader” among her friends and the only one who may get out alive. Forget about Jamie Lee Curtis’ whimpering performance in “Halloween”. Here Langenkamp is the real deal and she kicks ass. A great horror film that still delivers today. Look for a young Johnny Depp who, arguably, has the best death scene in the flick.