Monster, 2003

•May 7, 2010 • 1 Comment

I said this blog would be horror specific and I’m only reviewing Monster because it has some horror elements. Monster is a true story based on the relationship of serial killer Aileen Wournous and her lover Selby Wall. The film is only slightly about her fall into killing men for money as much as her love for Selby who she will do anything for. The real meat of the film is in the relationship between these two characters beautifully portrayed by Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci. The film itself is also about her murders and her descent into a dirty lifestyle of alcohol, sex and murder. It’s not a clean film, It’s not a pristeen bio-pic and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. The film itself is very dark and disturbing to a point but to call it a masterpiece like Roger Ebert did is giving the film too much credit.

For what Monster is I think it’s a solid film. It’s a film that is really carried by the performances of our two leads. Aileen is a damaged character we can tell that from her opening voiceover to her final scenes in the film. She is a fragile hurt human being who has not had a good life. The film almost paints her as a type of anti-hero who is only in her situation because of a damaged childhood and because her parents died at a very young age. The film follows Theron as she falls into the descent of murder. In the opening of the film she nearly kills herself but she still has money to spend so she decides to get a drink then finish her life. At the bar she meets Selby and her life is forever changed. They begin a relationship that would span for the entirety of the film and many of the better scenes in the film are the romantic sequences between Theron and Ricci. They are a team of actresses that do a fantastic job of creating a realistic lesbian relationship.

The brunt of the film though is about Wournous a serial killer. She only begins to kill after she realizes that she must do something in order to keep herself and Selby from starving and she wasn’t going to go back into prostitution so she decides the best plan of action is for her to kill the men who would have paid her for sex. The first few murders of the film are shown in a very undistinguished dirty way much like her character. She is a novice at what she’s doing she is unlike some of the more professional serial killers we have seen in other films. Her way of getting the job done is messy and unskillful. She makes mistakes and isn’t very smart about disposing of bodies and choosing her victims. It’s all to keep money flowing for herself and Selby. She loves Selby enough that she would kill for her. As the film carries on she gets more skillful at what she does and starts to get a taste for killing however she makes one fatal flaw. She murders a retired police officer and she is ruined.

Monster isn’t really a film that is so much about the serial killer Aileen Wourous as much as it is about her as a human being trying her best to live her life the only way she knows how. Theron gives an astounding performance in the film going from a solid actress to a bonafide star in this film. She has a complete transformation into this character and it’s almost frightening to watch. Ricci is the only other actor of any real significance in this film and she does just fine with her material as well. I’ve often felt that she was an underrated actress and her performance in this film is certainly the less flashy one and it’s almost as good. Overall Monster is a solid film. It’s not among the best films I’ve seen in the past few years but it’s certainly worth viewing, If only for Theron’s performance alone. In the annals of serial killer films this one is probably in the middle somewhere it’s a fascinating tale to watch and an interesting film but it does have some limitations. Monster is a solid enough film though for any real fan of film to enjoy to some level.

6/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, 1989

•May 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

“Freddy Delivers”

Not so much. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 is the first film in the series that I would love to skip when doing these reviews. It’s one of the worst reviewed and least favorite films of the entire series. It takes place directly after Part 4 which now that I’ve seen this one I realize wasn’t all that bad. Alice is living a seemingly happy life with her new boyfriend Dan however, shockingly Freddy Kruger has come back to life and he is now attacking the dreams of Alice’s unborn child and the friends around her. Not an entirely awful premise by any means but it’s executed so poorly by director Stephen Hopkins that it’s almost an embarrassment to watch.

Nightmare 5 is also the first in the series to not carry the same vibe as the first four films. It’s kind of an oddly done horror film. The first four Nightmare on Elm Street films had a sort of campy-scary-gothic vibe to them and this one doesn’t. It’s got a really odd tone and it’s kind of hard to explain unless you watch the film. Alice our lead doesn’t even feel like the same character as she was in part 4. In Dream Master Alice was a mix of vulnerability and smarts and you could understand to an extent why she was cast in the role. In this film she comes off as really boring. That may be attributed to the awful screenplay but Lisa Wilcox should have stepped it up a little bit. Robert Englund returns once again as Freddy Kruger and plays virtually the same role as he does in previous films. Each Nightmare film has a vibe to the Kruger character though and this is one of the more boring versions of Freddy. Even in the last installment part 4 he had some decent one liners but you can clearly see that the series was really running out of steam here and even Englund couldn’t save it.

Nightmare 5 is a typical horror sequel. I think the film itself is a cash in on the Kruger character because nothing of great interest happens. Everything in this film just has a sort of uninspired feeling to it. I wrongfully graded a couple of the Kruger films with some pretty low grades these past couple days and I will probably bump them up because compared to this film they are masterpieces. It’s really sad to view a film like this lose all of it’s luster. Freddy is such a fun character and one of iconic stature in the 80’s but all this film does is hurt his own legacy. It’s probably a grand wish to think that a horror franchise could get better with the sequels it puts out and a few franchises have done that before but Nightmare isn’t one of them. It’s kind of an inconsistent horror franchise with some great films mixed with some awful ones.

To review Nightmare 5 without talking about all of the awful scenes is an impossible task. The film itself is just bloated and boring and doesn’t really do anything to further push the legacy of Kruger. There is one scene in particular in the entire film that I liked and it is the scene with the comic books. It had an A-Ha feeling to it but it was still nicely done it’s too bad that the rest of the film couldn’t have been as interesting as that one scene. It’s sad to see a horror franchise fall so hard in a sequel but Nightmare 5 does just that it’s a pain to watch even as a Nightmare fan. Englund and couple of okay scenes make the film watchable to an extent but this one is just really poorly done and way too awful for anyone to consider it among a list of good horror sequels.

Changed Grades on some of these after some more thought

Nightmare Series Ranked

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street- 9.5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors- 8
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master- 4
  4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge- 4
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child- 1.5

The next film I review will be Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, 1963

•May 5, 2010 • 3 Comments

Brazillian horror is something I am very inexperienced with but after watching this film I think that will change. The Coffin Joe character created in this film is so great to watch. The man has hatred towards everything and doesn’t believe in God or the Devil. He only believes in the lifeforce or the blood. He searches for a perfect woman to bear an immortal child and he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way.  At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is easily one of the most horrifying films I’ve seen in a while. It’s shot in dark corners and has a really eerie vibe. It almost has a grindhouse feeling to it, the film itself is definitely unpolished and that only lends itself to more scares. If this film had been made on a large budget it wouldn’t be half as scary.

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a low-budget horror masterpiece. It was shot by director Jose Mahica Marins who also stars as our evil lead Coffin Joe. The film is shot with a sort of spookyness that would inspire later horror films like Night of the Living Dead. It’s easy to see some of the earlier influences of shock horror films on Midnight. In Brazil the access to horror must have been low at the time so I think there is an influence of such films as Frankenstein on this one because they do have a similar look however, that film was never this horrifying. Midnight takes the horror genre and breaks every rule. In 1963 I couldn’t think of many horror films that had taken religion and openly mocked it with an almost atheist point of view from our lead. It’s really brave of this film to take religion and basically say it doesn’t exist but it’s only the ideas of fools. I am a religious person myself and I felt that was an insanely brilliant move.

The films finest moments are some of the kills though. For it’s time I can’t think of many films more gory or beautifully bloody than Midnight. Maybe Eyes Without a Face. The kills in this film are remarkable. From eye gouging that would make Fulci proud to a man being drowned. It’s so well done in this film for a shoestring budget.  There are so many classic kills in this film it would make any person obsessed with horror blush. As a horror fan it’s an absolute joy to watch and as a fan of film in particular it’s interesting to see how some of these effects were done in the early 60’s.

My favorite part of At Midnight and probably anyone who watches the film though would have to be the final act. The Day of the Dead. Coffin Joe must take a woman home. He thinks she may be the one to bear his child. Everyone is afraid to go out on the Day of the Dead. Coffin Joe and the lady are walking where they meet the Gypsy that we see earlier in the film she warns him of some things to come and they are played out brilliantly. The final 15 minutes or so of this film is some of the finest horror I think I’ve ever seen.

Everything about At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is perfect. The film is overflowing with spooky moments. It’s the type of film that creep a horror veteran out. This was my first experience with the Coffin Joe story and I definitely will be checking out the rest. If the other films are this good then I think I may have another favorite horror character. It’s such a brash horror film and I think it really needs to be seen by more horror fans. It’s history as being one of the first Brazilian horror films along with the Coffin Joe character’s actions make this a must see for any fan of film in general. It’s a joy to watch. This is as classic as horror gets.

9/10

Next Entry will continue with The Nightmare on Elm Street Series with number 5 the Dream Child.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, 1988

•May 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In Nightmare on Elm Street 4 one thing becomes apparent very quickly. Robert Englund is now the star of these films.  This is the film that took the series in an entirely different world. Freddy’s to be exact. He now controls these films. It isn’t necessarily the sleep deprived teens anymore it’s Freddy who is the most interesting character. Nightmare on Elm Street 4 follows a few years after Nightmare 3. The survivors of the first film are having dreams again of Kruger this time they are not so lucky. All of our leads that survived in part 3 are quickly killed and we are given a new batch of teens to deal with led by Alice.

The films script takes some elements from  the previous nightmare films most notably Nightmare 3. It takes the Dream Warriors premise and runs with it. Alice gains the dream warrior abilities of her friends after they are killed by Freddy. This is a solid premise to work with in the Nightmare series but sadly it’s not all that well executed. Nightmare 4 is not that great of a horror film or a cheesy film. Granted there are some elements that make the film fun. Englund once again brings his sadistic charm to the role of Kruger and some of his one-liners are classic in the horror genre.  Most notably “How’s this for a wet dream?”. Englund has often been the only consistent factor of the Nightmare films and he’s easily the best part of this film.

I don’t really mind Nightmare 4 though, there is enough evocative imagery and enough fun here to make it enjoyable for a fan of the Nightmare series.  I personally think the first 20 minutes of the film is just as solid as anything in Nightmare 3 but the film loses most of it’s luster in the third act. In the third act of Nightmare on Elm Street we find out another weakness of Kruger and it’s absolutely absurd. He has a Dorian Grey complex. He can’t see himself otherwise he dies. Really? Kruger the same man who can have a gaping hole blown through him in the same film and regenerate can’t see himself in the mirror? It’s just kind of odd that in the film where Kruger seems his strongest he has his most pitiful ending. Nightmare on Elm Street 4 is not the worst film of the series by any means but it’s definitely not one of the best. At it’s finest it does some really interesting things and at it’s worst it’s fucking awful.

Nightmare 4 is the first film in the series to have a Freddy-first point of view and although it’s interesting it doesn’t really work. There needs to be a certain equality between Kruger and the teens. If Kruger is the only interesting character then we are just waiting for Kruger to kill the next teen. We’re not rooting for any of the characters we’re waiting for Freddy. The first Nightmare on Elm Street film did this brilliantly. Renny Harlin was not the best director for the series to continue in a good way. Harlin is a bit too Hollywoodish to do the series justice and it’s bothersome to see. There are moments I like in this film but for the most part it’s kind of just a middling exercise in Freddyology.

Nightmare Series Ranked

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street- 9.5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors- 8
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge- 4
  4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master- 4

The Next entry will be At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul. I’ll post it later today.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987

•May 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So much fun this one is. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is among my favorite horror films of all time simply because I have a blast every time I watch it. That is probably poor film criticism but I don’t really care. Nightmare 3 brings back Heather Langenkamp in the Nancy Thompson role and in one of her first starring roles Patricia Arquette. They lead this films cast of solid actors playing the nightmare stricken teens. The film itself takes place in a mental hospital for teens. They are all sleep deprived and once again Freddy Kruger has shown up. Nancy Thompson our protagonist in the first Nightmare on Elm Street film is back in the same role this time as a sort of doctor who knows more about the dreams than anyone else.

This is the first Nightmare on Elm Street film to take a more campy role. The first 2 Elm Street films legitimately tried to create horrific tone and settings this one is more in the camp or cheese genre’s of horror which is fine by me. The film takes a similar plot to Nightmare 1 however, this time there is more of a dream battleground with supernatural powers. Our teens each have their own problems with drug addiction, paralysis and being mute. Each one of them uses their own unique set of circumstances to become strong “dream-warriors” hence the title. The idea alone is super cheesy and would probably be laughed at today but in the 80’s it worked.

The film itself uses a great amount of special effects and Hollywood mechanisms that are apparent in most studio pictures. This is the first Nightmare film that feels like a studio picture the first two almost had an independent feel to them with this one having more of a hired hand feeling. It’s certainly not a great film on paper and some may even hate it today but I personally feel that Nightmare 3 is among the best horror sequels ever made because it’s so damn fun. From the one-liner’s Freddy spouts out every five minutes to the absurd plot movements the film stays interesting. Some have called Nightmare 3 bloated and unmemorable but I think it’s a good film.

I mostly feel the way about Nightmare 3 because they basically took everything they could think of and put it in this film. It’s silly and oftentimes eye-rolling bad but it’s so much fun for a horror fan of the Nightmare series. They took everything but the kitchen sink and made this horror film. It’s very easy to see why this film has attained a sort of cult following. Everyone who is a fan of the series could tell you about “Welcome to Prime Time Bitch!” or “What a Rush!” They are so iconic in this series.

The film itself is not very horrifying so you could say in one aspect it’s a failure as a horror film. I disagree though because in horror you can have camp and cheese and it can still be an enjoyable experience how else can you explain how some horror films became so popular. Horror has often been a bastard child of filmmaking because of films like this but I love them with all my heart. This film review itself is almost a more personal review than any actual film criticism but it’s truly one of my favorites. People will probably be mixed on this one when they see it. It’s truly a love-hate film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Series Ranked

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street- 9.5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors- 8
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge- 4

My next review will be either A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master or the Coffin Joe film, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.

Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, 1985

•May 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge takes place five years after the original. A new family has moved into the house once kept by Nancy Thompson and their son is having nightmares. However, these nightmares eventually turn more severe. Freddy is trying to posses Jesse (the son mentioned) into killing for him. This is a radical change in philosophy from the first film and it’s one reason why I don’t think this one works as well as Craven’s 84 original. The film itself is hampered mostly by an extremely poor script which is in my opinion the worst script of the Elm Street Franchise, and an overt gay subtext which comes off as a bit odd in the film.

It would probably be unfair itself to just mention everything wrong with the film without first saying a couple of positive aspects of the film first. Robert Englund who is always reliable as Freddy Kruger returns to the role and remains the most consistent part in this shaky sequel. Englund plays the role with the same sardonic wit and black humor as in the first one but his role is a little more sparse in this film. The film itself is competently shot by director Jack Sholder who often tries a lot of interesting camera positions and movements to keep the film itself interesting from a cinematic point of view. The film is well lit and the effects like in all Elm Street films come off with a sense of cheese that is joyous to watch. However, I’m sad to say this is the end of my positives for the film.

First of all Nightmare 2 is a mess of a film. I commend the screenwriter and director for trying something completely different but I don’t think this should have been done so early off the success of the first film. The film itself doesn’t really explore the dream world that Freddy inhabits as much as the film explores the psychological aspects of our lead character Jesse. The film itself almost doesn’t even work as an Elm Street product, because Freddy’s role is sparse compared to Jesse who is overly used in this film. In future Elm Street sequels they realized the appeal of Kruger and they made him the main character. No one remembers Jesse everyone remembers Freddy Kruger. The rest of the characters in the film often come off as stereotypical and unfunny. The lead female character played by Kim Meyers shows she can act in the film. Often holding her own with Englund and outshining Mark Patton (Jesse) in every scene. Other characters like parents and friends are too boring to even mention.

Nightmare 2 also doesn’t quite work in the overall death sequences with only one real memorable death that isn’t even a death. Freddy popping out of Jesse is probably the most memorable sequence of the film. Using some very good special effects and it’s just creepy looking. Other deaths in the film either come off as dull (like the S&M gym teacher, or Grady who is simply slashed). The biggest problem though with Nightmare 2 is that I didn’t care about the survival of the lead character. In the first installment of the series Nancy was a character you could really attach yourself to. Jesse isn’t. He’s a whiny kid that often times you just wanted Freddy to kill him to get on with the film. I just didn’t care about the survival of these characters and that stems from the script and the performances, both of which are poor.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is a big step-down from the first. I can admire the fact that they tried to do something different with the film but overall it’s a failure. In horror you can often have a bad film that becomes watchable because it’s endearing to a certain extent or campy enough to enjoy but this film doesn’t quite work. Nightmare 2 will leave you unsatisfied for the most part, if you are just getting into the series.

Nightmare Series ranked so far

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street- 9.5/10
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge- 4/10


The Next entry will be A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

“A Nightmare on Elm Street: 1984″

•May 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

Spoilers

In 1984 Wes Craven directed the film A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film went on to a level of fame that few horror films have ever had the pleasure to obtain. The film itself is one of Craven’s stronger efforts and might even be his best film. It takes similar elements that we’ve seen in horror films before like the wholesome girl fighting off an evil creature and turns it on it’s head. Heather Langenkamp who stars in the film is in my opinion one of the very best heroines in horror history. She is the perfect level of vulnerable and badass. She truly seems like a person that could take on Kruger if push came to shove. A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the horror classics of a generation.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the finest horror films ever made. I truly believe that. With all of it’s wonderful gore effects and effective scares the film really makes itself well known in the genre. Many horror films lack a typical villain that you can really get to know and Kruger is the antithesis of a great villain. He is sardonic, evil and tricky. He’s the type of villain that you would hate to meet in real life but would love to watch on screen. Robert Englund does a fantastic job of portraying Freddy in this film specifically with it’s darker and more serious tone. Heather Langenkamp is also a force to be reckoned with in this film and in my opinion is the best horror protagonist since Laurie Strode in Halloween.

Although A Nightmare on Elm Street may seem cliche’d in some points with the over-characterization of some actors in the film and some really predictable moments it always stays one step ahead of most horror films. The film sometimes comes off as a Black Comedy which is always a fantastic thing in the horror genre because horror and comedy go hand in hand.

There are so many classic moments in Nightmare on Elm Street it’s difficult for me to even think of some of my favorites. You would have to immediately go to the first death in the film involving Tina being torn apart above her bed. That moment is one of the many reasons why I absolutely love A Nightmare on Elm Street. The moment is so intense. We do not see Freddy, we don’t really know how Tina is dying. All we see is her floating above the bed and blood pouring out of her. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. Johnny Depp also has his first classic scene in cinema with his death in this film. His character Glen dies near the end of the film. He is absorbed into the bed and an explosion like coke and mentos happens. It’s a beautifully done horror effect and still probably my favorite moment of the film. Wes Craven isn’t often associated with some of the better directors in horror because he’s so hit and miss but I think he truly created some memorable scenes in this film. Some other scenes I love are the bath-tub sequence and The ending of the film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is often considered one of the finer horror films ever made and I cannot disagree with anyone on that. I think it stands head and shoulders above almost every slasher film made before and after it. Although the series has often become a sort of joke among horror fans, the first film still gives me chills. With it’s black comic ties and truly frightening moments A Nightmare on Elm Street leaves an impact that won’t let you sleep for the next few days.

-Grade- Classic Horror

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge will be my next entry.

 
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