Tag Archives: slashers

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Texas Chain-Saw Massacre, The (1974)

Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Written By: Kim Henkel
Starring:
Marylin Burns
Gunnar Hansen
Edwin Neal

In the old days of horror, before we were being desensatized by the blatant sadism and on-screen gore of Hostel and Saw, it was what you didn’t see that made a film terrifying. And what could be more terrifying than the thought of roadtripping with your friends, only to wind up being relentlessly pursued and butchered by a man wearing a mask of sewn human flesh whose dismemberment tool of choice is a chainsaw.

The film, it’s plot, or it’s well-known psychopath lovingly termed “Leatherface” should certainly not be new to the public, especially with the more recent string of Michael Bay remakes. But for those who are only familiar with the remake, you should realize that you’re missing out. The original Tobe Hooper classic is far more terrifying for a number of reasons: the first, and possibly the biggest factor in the horror of the original, was the backstory. Or should I say, the lack of backstory. Here we were introduced to a small band of friends who are thrown into a terrifying ordeal in which they are hunted like animals by family that actively practices cannibalism. And worse yet, the butcher of the family is a hulking six-foot tall brute who chases them down while wearing a home-made mask of human skin. And the whole while the events are unfolding, we are left to wonder: “why does he wear the mask? is he disfigured underneath? how can a family live like this?” Additionally, the pseudo-documentary atmosphere caused by the grainy and scratched celluloid, added to the striking realism of the situation. They have released a newly restored print of the film, but much the same as Friday the 13th (and for that matter Evil Dead) I would still maintain that an old VHS copy is the way to properly enjoy the movie.

There was always a certain taboo surrounding the movie, especially when I was young. The film is marketed as being based on real life accounts — and to a degree, there is an element of truth in that. The actual murders by the infamous serial killer Ed Gein inspired the cannibalism and body-part furniture decorations that are prevalent throughout the film. But the horror of the film isn’t found in tacky jump-tactics or cheap scares. The horror is in the suspense that is masterfully built by Tobe Hooper; the believeable performances from the small cast; and certainly, in the concept itself. It is a vicious, severe portrayal of a vile family and their apparent killing spree spanning generations. In the end, we are left to wonder how intact our own sanity would be were we to find ourselves in an identical situation.

The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre is an American horror classic. It is responsible for a slew of extremely varied sequels, as well as countless imitators. Without a doubt, it impacted the course of American horror filmmaking, and for that it is completely deserving of the praise it receives.

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Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Directed By: Stephen Hopkins
Written By: John Skipp
Starring:
Robert Englund
Lisa Wilcox
Kelly Jo Minter

One year after the release of The Dream Master, director Stephen Hopkins took hold of the reigns and steered the Elm Street franchise into an entirely new direction. The film is so different stylistically, that it often seems to suffer the same fate as Freddy’s Revenge: neglect. But why? What makes this film so different than its predecessors? The best way to describe it may be as follows: imagine what it would look like if Tim Burtondirected a Freddy film.

The Dream Child, a heavily gothic-inspired and incredibly dark chapter to the series is even more underrated than part two. I don’t know why this film has a tendency to get glossed over, because as far as slasher films go, it’s damn well-made. I constantly hear people saying something to this effect: great effects but bad plot. This makes no sense to me, since the plot of this film is what makes it superior to many of the other installments in the series. The movie follows the previous lead heroine, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), now pregnant and once again the target of the maniacal Freddy Krueger. The catch? This time around, Krueger is able to get to Alice through the constant dreams of her unborn baby. Now tell me, how is that not a brilliant plot?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are still more than a handful of plotholes and things to pick apart storywise, but I think the overall concept is solid. It’s also the first time anyone attempted to do something different with the formula since the second film, and for that I commend the writers. We also get something that was only hinted at in the third film: the savage backstory of Freddy’s mother, and the origin of Krueger’s conception. For this reason, The Dream Child is undisputedly an essential film in the series.

But as a horror film reviewer, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t discuss the makeup and special effects. Stylistically, this is where The Dream Childcompletely breaks free of the previous films and forges its own path. The Freddy Krueger depicted here is a Freddy that fits perfectly into the gothic atmosphere and scenery of the film. Physically he appears considerably older, sporting a sinister hooked nose, and is made to look more like a demented grandfather figure than the middle-aged man we’re accustomed to. The gothic sets — ranging from a dark and dirty asylum to a brilliantly horrifying reproduction of M. C. Escher’s Relativity – coupled with brilliantly executed special effects, are hard to ignore. They create a dreamworld which is no longer confined to just the boiler room setting that we’re used to seeing, but instead form a terrifying and inescapable bleak labyrinth. Lastly, the death scenes themselves are considerably darker, more drawn out, and far more sadistic than any of the earlier films — when was the last time you saw Freddy force-feed someone their own intestinal matter while a group of onlookers watched, laughing?

There’s no question that The Dream Child was trying to do something original and entirely new with the series, and I’m glad that Stephen Hopkins was ultimately chosen to direct the film (though it is interesting to note that both Stephen King and Frank Miller were both offered the role of writer/director). Without a doubt, it is unusual for the fifth film in any horror series to be as good as this one, so I encourage you to not wait any longer before checking it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Directed By: Renny Harlin
Written By: Willian Kotzwinkle
Starring:
Robert Englund
Rodney Eastman
Lisa Wilcox

It’s rounding 10:30 at night — a thick fog has rolled in, surrounding my apartment. Normally when I look off my balcony I see a city ninety-feet below me, expanding infinitely in all directions. Tonight it’s different… like being caught up on an enourmous weird cloud and drifting off into some unknown world. It’s eerie: the sky is pink from city lights, and there’s an unusual quiet that seems so foreign to life in a heavily populated area. Looking outside, it feels like I’m being carried away into an ominous and uncharted world. A dreamworld.

So I close the door to my balcony, pour a new drink, and sit down to write about horror films — specifically, the fourth installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street saga: The Dream Master. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

The horror community seems to be split: while most can at least agree thatFreddy’s Revenge was an embarassment to the series, the concensus is less-than-unanimous on Dream Master. Why is this? Well let’s examine a few of the gruesome details, starting first with the man himself: Freddy Krueger. If you compared the Krueger of the first film to the Krueger of part 4, you’d pretty much be looking at two very different Freddies, physically and personality-wise. In the first film, his crisped flesh was almost dripping off his skull, and so much attention went into creating a grotesque but realistic impression of a burn victim. By part 4, Freddy is looking stylized, appearing in well-lit scenes and displaying the roughly sculpted skin and exposed muscle tissue that we have since come to recognize as his trademark look. Furthermore, in the first film he barely spoke, grunting a few guttural phrases like “this… is God” or “I’ll kill you slow.” Over the course of the sequels, Freddy got increasingly vocal — and also honed his skills as a savagely dark comedian. In Dream Master, the amount of one-liners is almost ridiculous.

It should be clear that the tone of Dream Master is obviously much different than the other films, verging on the comical (though not pushing it quite to the extremes that Freddy’s Dead went to). This is the main cause for the split decision: Freddy purists seem to prefer him when he’s at his darkest and most sadistic; others however don’t mind the tongue-in-cheek humour and the lighter side to this slasher franchise.

I’ll tell you what I do like about this one: Alice Johnson. Starring as the Dream Master herself, actress Lisa Wilcox really stepped up to the plate and brought a strong new heroine into the Elm Street saga. Not since Heather Langenkamp did we have a likeable, powerful female lead who really commands attention and had us rooting for her all-the-way. Her scenes, when playing off against Robert Englund, were really the best part of the film to me.

At this point, one can’t possibly have high expectations for the fourth film in a series — particularly an 80s slasher series. I love the Nightmare movies as much as the next person (and personally this is my favourite slasher franchise), but part 4 is really a typical slasher, through and through. While not unenjoyable to watch, it has the least amount of substance and, as I said, is saved mainly by the acting of Ms. Wilcox.

Surprisingly, this is more than I originally thought I had to say about the film. Peering outside, the fog is still heavy, and the city is still quiet. The kind of night that demands one drink whiskey and watch a classic horror film. Which is exactly what I’m going to do now.