Review : A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 : The Dream Master (1988)

The fourth installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise came out only a year after Dream Warriors, in 1988. The film is directed by Renny Harlin who seems to believe all you need for a quality Nightmare on Elm Street sequel is Robert Englund and good special effects….and nothing more.

Since the events of Dream Warriors, Kristen, Kincaid and Joey have been released from the psychiatric hospital and are going to high school as normal teenagers. Kristen has new friends and even a boyfriend while still being close to Kincaid and Joey (though the two complain about Kristen pulling them into her dreams). Kristen is worried Freddy Krueger might come back. He eventually does and ends up killing the last of the Dream Warriors. It is now up to Alice, Kristen’s best friend, to stop Freddy from killing more people. Alice is a daydreamer, therefore, she is what is called a Dream Master, and is the only one fit to fight Freddy.

The Dream Master marks the end of an era and the start of a new one (and this is not good news) : Freddy is now more comical than scary. Freddy always had humor, he is after all famous for his great one-liners, but this film takes it too far and turns our horror icon into a clown. When Freddy appears on a beach and puts on sunglasses, you have a feeling something is not right. Then, when a character is doing karate with an invisible Freddy, you know for sure that something is absolutely wrong !

The film is also poorly written. For instance, the reason we are given for Alice being the Dream Master is that she daydreams a lot…lazy much ? There are too many plotholes to list here, just know that this film has more holes than swiss cheese ! One of the biggest flaws is the characters. There is barely any character development except maybe Alice who is the only one with some sort of a story arc. The dialogue is very poorly written and the delivery by the entire cast is really bad and cringe-worthy. The worst casting choice is Tuesday Knight who replaces Patricia Arquette as Kristen.

However, this fourth entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has some of the best special effects this far. I also thought the way Freddy is defeated this time is the best out of the first 3 sequels. No more power of love bullshit (I’m looking at you, Freddy’s Revenge) !

Review : A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 : Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3, directed by Chuck Russell and released in 1987, is widly considered the best entry in the franchise. Bringing back Wes Craven to draft the script, this new installment remains true to the original film while being bigger, better and stronger.

Freddy is back haunting children’s dreams. Kristen is having a recurring nightmare and one night, while sleepwalking, she accidentally slits her wrist. Her mother sends her to a psychiatric hospital specializing in troubled teenagers. Kristen meets a group of kids who are all having the same nightmares. The teenagers soon find out they now have a new precious ally to fight off Freddy : their new dream therapist, Nancy Thompson.

Dream Warriors uses all the ingredients of the original film and improves them to provide the most entertaining entry in the franchise thus far. The best idea the writers came up with was to have Freddy face an entire group of protagonists instead of simply picking them off one by one, slasher style. What I especially enjoyed was how Freddy uses each character’s weakness to torture and murder them. This makes the kills much more sadistic and memorable.

The strenght of the film resides in its characters. First, Freddy is better than ever, still spitting out one-liners (including the classic “welcome to prime time, bitch”) and being more creative than he’s ever been to dispose of the poor teenagers. We also learn more about his past, expanding the mythos of the iconic character. Our protagonists are all likeable characters, each with their strenghts and weaknesses. They are unfortunate children who haven’t done anything wrong to deserve what is happening to them. The adults around them (parents, doctors and medical staff), though acting with good intentions, never try to really understand them…until Nancy comes along ! Bringing back her character was a fantastic idea since it’s not a short cameo to satisfy the fans : she has a very important role in the film but never puts our protagonists in her shadow. John Saxon also comes back for a minor role.

Dream Warriors brings us out of Elm Street for the first time and offers a brand new playground for Freddy, who uses the new location (the psychiatric ward) in the best ways possible. The film brings us the best kills so far, each one being more creative than the last. The practical effects are especially great from Freddy’ chest of souls to a fantastic Ray Harryhausen stop-motion sequence.

It is rare enough for a sequel to be as good as the original but having one which almost surpasses it is a miracle….or the result of the hard work of talented people who love and respect the material they are working with. Dream Warriors is my favourite film in the franchise and I (obviously) highly recommend it !

Review : A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 : Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

With the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a sequel followed soon after. Released in 1985 and directed by Jack Sholder. The film isn’t a real follow-up to the first installment since it takes place five years later but none of the previous characters are featured here.

A new family moves on Elm Street, in Nancy’s old house. The teenage son, Jesse, starts having strange and horrific nightmares which his parents assume is due to the anxiety of being the new kid in town. In fact, Freddy Krueger has returned and is determined to possess Jesse in order to create mayhem in the real world. With the help of his girlfriend, Lisa, must fight back to save his own life as well as the people he cares about.

Freddy’s Revenge is, in my opinion, unfairly regarded as a bad sequel. It is often criticized for not strictly following the first film and for having a heavy gay undertone. I personally am satisfied with the story being very different and I find the gay undertone hilarious because of its lack of subtility and the fact that it doesn’t fit at all in a Freddy movie.

Freddy’s Revenge doesn’t match the quality of the first film but it is very entertaining and is one of my favourite entries in the franchise. Having Freddy interact in the real world instead of the dream world might be seen as a bad decision since the dream world is part of Freddy’s essence but I think it takes the story in a different direction and offers great opportunities which are not wasted.

Mark Patton’s performance as Jesse is very uneven throughout the film. However, he is great in the final act when he is completely (and rightfully) freaking out over the situation. He might also be one of the best scream queens ever seen on screen (watch the shower sequence and you’ll most likely agree).

The effects are great in this second installment. One of the most impressive scenes is when Freddy claws his way out of Jesse’s body. This sequel also marks the moment it becomes quite clear and irrefutable than nobody can ever play Freddy Krueger but Robert Englund.

I suggest you read this great piece written by Brendan Morrow for Bloody Disgusting in April 2016 : A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 deserves a second look

Review : A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven and released in 1984, not only brought a fresh new take on a static genre but also created one of the most famous horror icons. Whether you are a horror aficionado or not, you probably know who Freddy Krueger is and what he looks like. There isn’t much to write about A Nightmare on Elm Street that hasn’t been written before ; I am just here to confirm that the film does deserve its reputation.

Nancy and her friends are having the same nightmare every night : a strange and frightening man with a burnt face and a metal claws glove is chasing them. When her friends start dying in mysterious ways, seemingly in their sleep, she realizes Freddy Krueger might be more real than she thought. Only Nancy can stop him as nobody believes her when she warns the adults around her.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a groundbreaking horror film. Freddy Krueger is the first villain of his kind. Until then, horror villains didn’t talk much or at all : Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface…But then comes along mister Freddy Krueger, the king of one-liners ! Freddy is extremely entertaining and you find yourself almost cheering for him…until remembering he’s the bad guy. He brings a lot of comedy to the film but instead of having it tone down the horrific atmosphere, it creates a unique tone and renders the killings even more sadistic. Wes Craven created one of the greatest horror villains in film history. His look is perfect and iconic : the burnt face (amazing make-up), striped sweater, fedora and of course, the infamous glove ! Freddy Krueger is a perfect character and I have nothing negative to say about him.

Now, let’s talk about the other characters. After all, we need teenagers for our Freddy to have fun ! Nancy is a great main character. She is strong and doesn’t give up easily. Unlike most slasher characters, she doesn’t make stupid decisions or acts irrationally. She tries her best to fight Freddy in a realistic manner. She’s a good opponent to Freddy although the way she ultimately defeats him is quite disappointing. The rest of the group of teenagers is also compelling, they’re not the typical annoying teens and you feel bad when they eventually get killed (but damn is this also really fun).

The film is extremely well shot and some scenes offer horrific and yet beautiful imagery, such as the bodybag dragged by an invisible force in the school corridor. The practical effects are extremely well-made, the story takes us to several great locations and there’s a perfect amount of gore. If you haven’t seen this classic yet, I can only recommend that you put it at the very top of your viewing list !

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab a crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.

Review : Day of the Dead : Bloodline (2018)

Day of the Dead : Bloodline, directed by Hector Hernandez Vicens and released in January 2018, presents itself as a remake of Georges Romero’s Day of the Dead. Not only does Bloodline fails at retelling this particular story, it also fails as a movie altogether.

The opening scene shows a young woman walking in the street in the middle of a zombie outbreak. We are then taken back four days earlier never to return to the events of the opening scene. Our main character is a medical student named Zoe. After dealing with a patient, a creep obsessed with her to the point of carving her name on his arm, Zoe goes to a party with her fellow students. During the party, Max, the creepy patient, attempts to rape Zoe in the morgue but is stopped by a corpse coming back to life and attacking him thus starting the zombie outbreak. Then, the “hommage” to Romero’s Day of the Dead begins as we jump one year ahead in a military compound where military and civilian survivors have established camp.

This movie can hardly be qualified as a remake of Day of the Dead as it only relates to the original with two elements : the military compound and a zombie showing signs of intelligence. I’ll write more about the latter as it is what I hated the most about Bloodline. Now, I’m not a purist when it comes to zombies : I don’t always need my zombie flicks to have an intelligent underlying social commentary. All I ask for is decent characters, a good story, decent effects and zombies who behave like zombies. Out of these criteria, all that Bloodline delivers is good gore ans decent make-up.

All the characters (and I do mean ALL of them) are morons portrayed by terrible actors. Watching Bloodline consists in watching characters you don’t care about make the dumbest decisions possible to advance a plot as thin as paper. The majority of the scenes is cringe-worthy and you’ll roll your eyes at the characters’ stupidity. For instance, Zoe, the main girl, is reponsible for the deaths of several characters…because she wanted to retrieve personal photos. Not to mention the absurdity of the plot conveniences.

Now, my biggest problem with Bloodline was the zombies which I am not even sure I can describe as zombies. Max is supposed to be this film’s version of Bub. Remember how great of a character Bub was ? You’ll find none of that here. Max doesn’t only show signs of intelligence but he also seems to have feelings. Yes, feelings ! WTF !? Is this a zom-rom-com ? Max gets jealous when men get close to Zoe (the woman he was obsessed with and tried to rape), he also shows signs of anger. To top it all, he doesn’t act like a zombie either : he runs, hides, uses doors, sneaks up on people, hides bodies and talks !! He is the worst zombie ever portrayed and it almost angered me because when you’re supposedly making a remake of a classic movie like Day of the Dead, the bare minimum is to have good zombies to at least show a little respect.

I suppose the director’s intention was to say something (what, I’m not sure) about rape but it is a failure on every level. Bloodline can’t even get zombies right which is an absolute shame when you’re making a freaking zombie movie ! The only positive thing I can say about it is that the gore effects are well done but that only means that the only competent people on set were the special effects artists. Avoid this terrible movie at all cost, it is not worth your time.

Review : Just Before Dawn (1981)

Just Before Dawn is a slasher directed by Jeff Lieberman and released in 1981. Five friends arrive in the moutains for a camping trip, though they have been warned on their way up there that a maniac is loose in the wild. Their “logical” reaction is to continue as planned. Of course, they find themselves on the path of the hillbilly maniac and must survive in the wilderness.

Just Before Dawn is as unoriginal as it gets with its premise involving campers and a maniac picking them off one by one. But that is not even the biggest issue of the film.

The characters are not as annoying as the typical teenagers populating the slasher genre but they are not particularly likeable either. The biggest problem of Just Before Dawn is the fact that the killer is not scary at all. He is a dirty, ugly, fat hillbilly. He is repulsive but does not strike fear (especially when he has difficulties running, making you wonder how those teenagers cannot outrun him easily). I didn’t feel any real threat during the entire film, even when the maniac is supposed to be lurking in the woods.

After a promising opening scene, the film slows down and it doesn’t feel like a slasher until much later. Until then, we follow the group of teenagers camping in the moutain and some scenes are unnecessarily long. Also, without spoiling anything, there is a twist which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t have much effect since nothing in the film made you wonder if there is more than meets the eyes. So, if the film never plants a seed of doubt in your mind, the reveal simply is meaningless.

However, the beautiful setting of the film is well used. The director must have loved the location the film is set in because there are numerous shots showing the beauty of the landscape. Just Before Dawn reminded me of Deliverance and after some research, I found out Lieberman cites the film as an influence.

There are a lot of great ideas in Just Before Dawn but unfortunately, they are wasted due to poor execution. It is at best a very average slasher with barely any gore and underwhelming kills.

[UK] Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing released by 88 Films

88 Films is releasing Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing on Blu-ray on September 10th, 2018.

From 88 Films’ Facebook page :

September 10th brings an old comic book favourite back to British shelves!

Long before superhero movies were packing out multiplex cinemas, Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven followed-up the success of Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN (1978) with this fondly remembered DC adaptation that brings a comic book favourite to livid and lunatic life! Following the success of THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977), SWAMP THING was also evidence of its director trying to adapt his style to less rough ‘n’ ready thrills and spills – and the result is an adventure thriller that highlights not just a mutant-monster with good intentions, but such sights as the timeless terror-star Adrienne Barbeau (THE FOG), future Twin Peaks star Ray Wise and David Hess (THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) in one of his best-remembered villainous turns. Released in 1982 to an appreciative cult following, SWAMP THING remains one of Craven’s most mesmerising achievements – with a faithful DC-comic outlay and plenty of action-packed special effects that hold their ground even today. 88 Films is delighted to present SWAMP THING in a very special edition BluRay release that packs a pristine punch and highlights this creature feature classic in all of its bayou-tinged brilliance!

Specs include:

Vintage audio commentary with director Wes Craven

New audio commentary with critic and fan Ian Jane

New epic interview with production designer Robb Wilson King

Booklet by Dr Calum Waddell