Archive for January, 2011

Night of the Demons (2009)

Directed By: Adam Gierasch

Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, Diora Baird, Bobbi Sue Luther, Michael Copon, Linnea Quigley

Subgenre: Demons & Possession, Haunted House

I found myself sitting in my recliner a couple nights ago wanting to watch a horror flick, but too lazy to go upstairs to pick one out.  I brought up Netflix on the old PS3 to see what caught my eye.  Bam! Night of the Demons remake.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  I was in the mood for some mindless filler and this looked to foot the bill.

I have to admit to not seeing and of the original flicks in this franchise; it’s probably close to the top of movies I should see, as that list is always getting smaller.  There really are not that many classic, cult, or iconic horror movies that managed to escape me the last twenty years or so.

The flick starts with a little flashback, filmed in a sepia tone, letting us know that this house has some serious infestation issues.  We are not talking termites here, but demons!  We cut to present day where a somewhat haggard looking Shannon Elizabeth is setting up the mother of all Halloween bashes at the same house.  While still plenty hot, she sure has aged since American Pie.

Anyways, we get to see the party goers getting ready to go, including a totally burnt out looking Edward Furlong who plays a drug dealer (surprise!).  There is also a group of girls that seem to frequent the plastic surgeon.  There is no way these girls are gonna drown with those flotation devices.  As you can see, things are lining up nicely for a good little horror flick.  We have B-list actors, girls with obnoxiously fake tits, a pretty cool setting, and a decent premise. 

Just as the party is getting going, the police bust up the bash, telling everyone to go home.  A few stragglers stay behind for various reasons and get locked in the house.  They soon discover a hidden room in the basement with six skeletons.  Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) tries to pry a gold tooth out of the mouth of one of them but the skeleton clamps down on the would be gold-digger, triggering the demon transformation (naturally).  Angela proceeds to make-out with anyone that slows down, infecting them with demonitis.  Apparently, the demons need to possess enough live bodies in one night to come back and rule the world (or something to that effect).

There is a good old fashioned showdown between the party stragglers and demons, including some pretty nasty scenes, particularly the disappearing lipstick trick.  I once saw something close to that in Mexico, but that is another story.

I think Night of the Demons accomplished what it set out to do.  It was a fun, gory good time that didn’t take itself too seriously.  Some of the FX could have been better.  It was supposed to be a theatrical release, but eventually debuted direct to video.  I think it would have done decently at the box office, and is better than some of the other Hollywood crap that oozes into the theatres.  Of course, I can’t compare it to the original, not yet at least.



The Church {La Chiesa} (1989)

Directed By: Michele Soavi

Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Asia Argento, Tomas Arana, Barbara Cupisti, Roberto Caruso

Subgenre: Demons & Possession

 

French Poster

 

There are some Italian horror fans that consider Soavi a directorial genius.  I wouldn’t go that far, even though his 1994 film Dellamorte Dellamore (or Cemetery Man here in the States) is a masterpiece.  He is the protégé of Dario Argento, but has also worked with directors such as Lucio Fulci and Terry Gilliam.  He was looked upon as the torch bearer for Italian horror in the 90s after Dellamorte Dellamore and The Sect, but had to retreat from the film industry to care for an ill child.  He has recently started working in Italian television and I can’t wait to see what he offers when (if?) he returns to the horror genre.

The Church was actually written and produced by Dario Argento and even stars his daughter Asia Argento, before she became the woman we all know today, if you know what I mean.  While The Church lacks Argento’s panache, his fingerprints are all over it.  It is a slow burn until the final act when the gore is finally cranked up.  The plot actually starts with a flashback to a group of knights, the Teutonic Knights to be exact.  Their resemblance to the Knights Templar is uncanny.  Anyways, they slaughter a village of “witches” and then decide to consecrate the land and build a church over it.  Is that ever a good idea?

We than zoom forward to present day and the church still stands.  We are introduced to a handful of characters, including the librarian brought in to chronicle the Church’s books and the woman in charge of restoration.  The restoration project inadvertently releases benevolent spirits that possess the happy church-goers and all hell breaks loose, if you pardon the pun.  The Church is designed to go into lockdown mode if this ever happens, so everyone inside the church is trapped.  We’ve seen this happen before and honestly, I was waiting for a Vincent Price cameo!

The movie does take a bit of a twist as the focus on what appeared to be the two main characters shifts to the Priest and Asia’s character as they try and defeat the evil and escape the Church.  It almost seems as if Dario was writing the script, his daughter said she wanted to be in it, so he went in another direction.  The result is a bit of a fragmented storyline that doesn’t flow all that well and is tedious at times.   

The Church was intended to be the sequel to The Demons and The Demons 2, but the possessed in The Church never resembled the possessed in those movies.  If you want to confuse and frustrate yourself, check out just how many Italian movies are considered sequels to those movies.  While The Church is not essential viewing for horror fans, it is worth checking out for fans of eurotrash style horror and Dario Argento in particular.



A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Directed By: Samuel Bayer

Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

Subgenre: Slasher

Well, I have been dreading this write-up since starting the Elm Street series.  I actually watched this prior to going through the original series, mostly to wash the bad taste out of my mouth.  I am not against remakes, not at all.  I think they are as much a part of the horror genre as vampires and zombies.  We have been getting remakes since the dawn of film.  The Nightmare remake just didn’t work for me, on several levels.

This remake does some things different than the original, which is usually a plus.  We got more back story for Freddy, which I actually thought was one of the positives of the flick.  We got to see how he interacted with the Elm Street children.  Jackie Earle Haley pulled off the pre-Freddy role very well.  I honestly couldn’t see Robert Englund portraying the groundskeeper without coming off as overtly evil.  Sadly, that is the end of my positive thoughts on the movie.

I felt that the remake took the iconic scenes from the original and bastardized them with CGI.  They weren’t scary, innovative or the least bit interesting.  There was no nostalgic feeling watching the redux scenes.  Speaking of CGI, I know Freddy was supposed to resemble a true burn victim, but I thought he looked like some freaky turtle-hamster amalgam.  It was more comical than scary. 

Nightmare ranks as one of my least favorite horror remakes, partly because it was remaking such an iconic film. There have been some really shitty remakes in the past couple of years, but most of them have not featured a horror icon.  Remakes like Dawn of the Dead and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre were well done, at least in my opinion.  I even enjoyed the Friday the 13th remake, at least much more than Nightmare.  What the sequel did do is make a boatload of cash at the box office, so it is inevitable that we will be seeing another installment of the series.  Hopefully, they will tweak the look of Freddy and come up with a better script as well.  Maybe they should actually consult Wes Craven this time around as well.  The best Freddy stories have had him involved in some fashion (the original, Dream Warriors and New Nightmare.)

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Directed by: Ronny Yu

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Lochlyn Munro

Subgenre: Slasher

The idea of getting Jason and Freddy in a film together has been in the works since 1987.  Both New Line and Paramount tried to get the two together for what would have been the seventh installment of Friday the 13th.  After failing to agree on a deal, A New Blood was made.  It isn’t a stretch to think of A New Blood as Jason vs. Carrie, which is not nearly as cool as Jason vs Freddy.  Just another reason that Hollywood sucks sometimes.  Anyways, the idea was revisited often, but there always seemed to be stumbling blocks, such as Wes Craven coming back to New Line to develop A New Nightmare and several executive changes at New Line (which acquired the rights to Friday the 13th in 89). 

New Line dropped this bombshell at the end of Jason Goes to Hell to let us know the crossover was coming. Too bad it took so long. Guess we had to wait for Jason to get back from space.

Eventually, after over 15 years of development and a reported eighteen different scripts, we were treated to the duel we had all been waiting for.  The production would not start without some controversy however.  New Line and Director Ronny Yu elected to not bring back Kane Hodder as Jason.  Hodder had portrayed Jason in the last four movies, and was a fan favorite.  It is pretty much agreed that he brought a life to the character that had not been seen before.  His subtle movements and tenacity under the mask were amazing.  He was Jason.  To twist the knife just a little bit more, Yu hired Ken Kirzinger to be Jason.  Kane and Ken are very good friends, and Ken even worked as a Jason stunt double in part 8.  Even though Kane was not happy about the decision, he is still very good friends with Kirzinger.  Not sure if Ronny Yu is on his Christmas Card list however.

Now, how do you bring two of the biggest horror icons of the 80s together in a manageable story?  Well, there were several ideas, but the one they rolled with started with a weakened Freddy, lamenting the fact that he had been forgotten in his hometown, thanks to Hypnocil, the dream erasing drug used throughout the series and a concerted effort by the adults of Springwood.  He decides to dig up Jason and bring him to town in an effort to rekindle the fears of the community.  It works great, except Jason doesn’t stop killing.  Freddy gets pissed because Jason is hogging all the kills to himself and not allowing him to get in on the fun.

Oh yeah, there are some town kids and a deputy new to town involved in the story as well, as if you cared.  There are some pretty familiar faces to be found including Kelly Rowland (Destiny’s Child), Jason Ritter (the late John Ritter’s son) and Monica Keena.  The cast does an above average job for the genre, but none of them really stand out.  I found Rowland’s character to be pretty damn annoying.

The ending was designed so there would be no “real” winner, which I thought was a bit of a cheap way to go.  Personally, I was pulling for Jason.  Rumors of a sequel continue to this day, involving everyone from Ash to Michael Myers to Pinhead.  Several comics have been produced that bring Ash from the Evil Dead into the story as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed Freddy vs Jason.  The fight scenes are really well done, pitting Jason’s brute strength against the speed and agility of Freddy.  The movie isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself (Freddy dropping WWE style elbows) but still delivers some pretty gnarly death scenes; my favorite coming early in the movie where Trey gets folded in half backwards.  The soundtrack is amazing if you are into the metal/hard rock scene as well, featuring Killswitch Engage, Spineshank, Powerman 5000 and more.

The financial success of Freddy vs Jason, coupled with the success of other remakes, contributed to the decision to reboot both franchises (Friday the 13th in 2009 and A Nightmare on Elm Street in 2010).  The Nightmare review is next on my list, but you’ll have to wait for my thoughts on the Friday the 13th remake, the gauntlet of Elm Street films has sapped my strength when it comes to huge franchises…

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Directed By: Wes Craven

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Wes Craven, Miko Hughes

Subgenre: Slasher

 

This one has special meaning to me, although I really did not like it the first time I watched it.  It was early 1995 and a friend invited me to a movie, along with some other people.  The movie was New Nightmare and my friend had intentions of setting me up with a girl.  Well, 16 years later, she is still hanging around.  We were married three and a half years after our “first date.”  She is awesome and loves horror flicks as much as me.  Anyways, personal tangent over, now to the movie…

Wes Craven had come up with the general storyline for New Nightmare way back when he worked on Dream Warriors, but the studios put the kibosh on it.  He wanted to bring back the Freddy he created, one more menacing and dark.  I think he succeeded in that mission.

New Nightmare isn’t part of the continuity of the series, instead it treats the rest of the series like movies, with the original actors playing themselves and Freddy being a fictional character.  Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and Wes Craven all play themselves, with Craven wanting to direct one last Freddy movie.  Freddy soon crosses over into the real world, threatening Heather and her son, Dylan.

Craven’s idea was bold, and something new to the genre.  It was well received critically, not that horror fans usually care what mainstream critics think, but it didn’t do so well at the box office.  I was one of the many that didn’t like it at the time.  I guess I didn’t “get it.”  Now days, it is one of my favorite sequels, along with Dream Warriors.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that Craven had his hand in both of my favorite sequels.  It is a movie I urge fans to give a second chance if they didn’t like it before, I was happy that I did.

Freddy’s Dead: A Nightmare on Elm Street 6 (1991)

Directed By: Rachel Talalay

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Breckin Meyer

Subgenre: Slasher

New Line Cinema decided to send Freddy off in style, releasing the sixth installment in glorious 3D!  Freddy’s Dead was released in 1991, taking place 10 years after the events of The Dream Child, and Freddy has returned and managed to kill all but one of the children in Springwood, with the exception of one guy, who we know as John Doe.  John escapes Freddy, but hits his head and suffers from amnesia. 

He ends up at a youth shelter where we get to meet more future victims, including Spencer Carlos and Tracy.  Maggie, one of the doctors at the shelter, finds a newspaper clipping from Springwood in John’s pocket and thinks it is a swell idea to return to get some answers.  Of course some of the kids decide to stow away in the van in an attempt to run away.

Freddy’s ridiculous lines continue and so do the ridiculous kills.  The producers decided to throw in another twist in Freddy’s Dead as well; one of the kids from the shelter is actually Freddy’s child!  I think the story may have worked, but the cheese factor, combined with the terrible 3D just overwhelm.  The single most shameful moment in Elm Street history occurs in Freddy’s Dead.  Krueger actually attacks one of the kids as if he was a video game, going as far as to use a Nintendo Power Glove while making him jump through walls like Mario.  Just terrible.

As we have seen in almost all the installments to date, there is a final battle where Freddy is banished forever.  This was intended to be the end of the Elm Street series, but it made a fair bit of coin at the box office, so the powers that be squeezed Wes Craven for one more in the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Directed By: Stephen Hopkins

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson, Joe Seely, Whit Herford

Subgenre: Slasher

Well, we are on the fifth Elm Street movie in six years, and anytime you rush production like that, you have the possibility of some pretty terrible movies.  I think parts 5 and 6 are the lowest points of the franchise.  Freddy is just not frightening at all.  His one-liners are ridiculous and the death scenes are just as bad.

Alice returns in this installment, along with her boyfriend Dan, but soon starts to dream of a young Amanda Krueger.  About the only redeeming part of this movie is the beginning, where we learn hwo Freddy came into this world.  His mother was a nun at an asylum for the criminally insane that was accidentally locked in overnight.  She was repeatedly raped, making Freddy the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.

Alice has some pretty disturbing dreams involving giving birth to a demonic “mini-Freddy” which gives the audience some very heavy handed foreshadowing.  Boyfriend Dan makes an early exit as Freddy causes him to fuse to his motorcycle and crash into another vehicle.  This was a pretty decent scene, but the transformation was a little too long.  It reminded me a bit of Tetsuo though.  We find out that Alice is pregnant with Dan’s child, but who didn’t see that coming?

Anyways, Alice discovers that Freddy is using the unborn child to infiltrate the dreams of Alice and her friends.  Not sure how that really makes sense, but OK.  Freddy does his thing, taking out the friends in short order with the most ridiculous fight/death scene involving aspiring comic artist mark turning into a Punisher-style hero to take on Freddy, who promptly morphs into “Super Freddy.”  Yeah, bulging muscles and everything.  This one ranks up there in the absurd Freddy moments list.

The ending duel involves Jacob, Alice’s unborn child, the ghost of Amanda Krueger, Alice and of course Freddy.  The ending is pretty bland, at least as far as I am concerned, but by now, the franchise is boring me.  It’s about time to take the franchise in a different direction or end it.  Up next Freddy’s Dead, but don’t be fooled into thinking that is the last movie in the series.