Tag Archives: slashers

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Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Directed By: Chuck Russell
Written By: Wes Craven
Starring:
Patricia Arquette
Robert Englund
Heather Langenkamp
Larry Fishbourne

I read the script for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors before I rented the film — I went into the movie knowing every bit of dialogue, every death sequence, and every plot turn. And yet, even in a film that no longer held any surprises it still managed to freak the hell out of me.

Let’s backtrack here:

I started watching horror films in the days of BetaMax and VHS, where the horror section of movie stores were decorated with oldschool cover art. Where movie boxes looked exciting, let alone the films themselves. Where I lived, the local video store was a hopping place, and horror films were often difficult to get ahold of since they were constantly being circulated. And when I was first discovering the classics of horror, I was eager andimpatient to get ahold of every horror film I possibly could. When I was forced to wait for films to be returned to the rental place, it ultimately led me to discover one of the greatest resources out there: screenplay archives. Yes, when I wasn’t watching horror films, I could be found in front of the computer for long hours combing through the scripts for films that weren’t readily available. A horror geek in every sense of the word, but proud to be one.

So when people wax nostalgic when reminiscing about their first time seeing Dream Warriors, I too think back to how I first experienced the movie: as black text on a white background. But even the script sent chills up my spine upon first read. Predominantly set in a psychiatric ward, a group of troubled teenagers all happen to share the symptom: Freddy Krueger. Unlike the children of the previous Elm Street films, these kids aren’t entirely powerless against the dreamwalker. Each one has a unique ability in the dreamworld which they can use to fight their crispy-skinned boogeyman. The Dream Warriors, led by veteran Krueger survivor Nancy Thompson, must band together and take on their worst nightmare. But Freddy has been growing stronger, fed by the many souls of his past victims. The question remains: will the Elm Street teens have what it takes to take down evil incarnate?

Well let’s face it, these films are about one thing and one thing only: Freddy Krueger. So how does he stack up in this film? As any fan of this series will tell you, Freddy is truly in his element here. Dream Warriors basically marks the point at which Freddy was the perfect blend between sadistic comedian and all-out fright icon. This is the film that many consider to be the true sequel to Wes Craven’s original, and maybe rightly so since they nailed the character of Freddy so perfectly. But Dream Warriors is about more than just creative killings and special effects (though the film boasts a variety of sick slayings and an ample share of memorable effects), the film is great because the story is so solid. It does for Freddy what Halloween 2did for Michael Myers, expanding the mythology and introducing the character of Krueger’s mother, as well as shining a dim ray of light on the formerly unknown origin of Freddy.

Lastly, the cast cannot be ignored. Dream Warriors is significant in that it marks the first feature film appearance by Patricia Arquette who takes the lead role as heroine Kristen Parker, as well as features a very early appearance by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne (though credited as “Larry Fishburne”). It was also a very welcome sight to see the original cast reprising their roles, including Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, and John Saxon as her law-enforcing father.

I love this film, but it’s definitely one of (if not the most) intense installments of the series. It’s not something I can just toss on in the background because I wind up getting drawn into the story and the beautifully shot scenes. Unfortunately, fans of the series would be taken on a rollercoaster ride over the course of the next three installments and would have to wait almost a decade before the release of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare to see Krueger restored to his dark, sinister roots.

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Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Directed By: Jack Sholder
Written By: David Chaskin
Starring:
Robert Englund
Mark Patton
Kim Myers

Some films are doomed. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revengeis such a film — doomed to forever lie unappreciated in the shadow of its predecessor. And why not? After all, Wes Craven’s first Nightmare was unlike anything filmgoers had seen before; inventive, brutal, and memorable. Just like The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, despite whatever redeeming qualities the film may possess, it is cast off into the darkness of obscurity.

Okay, maybe that’s going too far. Freddy’s Revenge is far from obscure, but it’s certainly underrated. For as much as people complain about it, the movie is still leagues better than a lot of horror films being currently released, and in my opinion, was actually a worthy sequel to the first film (though part 3, which would re-unite Craven, Langenkamp, and Englund, is arguably the second best installment in the series).

Freddy’s Revenge works for me because it took a new direction to the Nightmare story — albeit an illogical one. While it was established in the first movie that Freddy Krueger, our favourite razor-weilding death-fiend, exists inside the dreamworld and through it can directly affect the physical world (i.e., if he kills you in the dream he kills you in reality), the second movie finds Krueger with the urge to relocate. Tired of being confined to the realm of dreams, he seeks to break through and once more exist in our reality (why a man who was brutally burned to death would want to experience physical pain again is beyond me…) How does he accomplish this? By using the newest resident of 1428 Elm Street as his vessel: high schooler Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton).

So what do you get when you take a dream-stalking boogeyman out of the dreamworld? Well, you get a movie that’s royally shunned. And maybe it’s just because of the plot that the film takes so much bad heat, because in all seriousness it has more than its share of redeeming qualities. For one, theatmosphere is bang on. I mean, this film is more 80s than the actual 80s! Additionally, the special effects – ranging from shocking to absurd — were creative and at times genuinely gruesome (the transformation scene was perhaps the highlight of the film). Lastly, this early installment of the series marks a point during which Freddy was still a dark, twisted bastard. He wasn’t the polished, almost comedic character that he slowly evolved into — here he was a guy who revelled in the fear of his victims, tearing the flesh off his skull just to get a scream. Critics of the one-liner spouting Freddy should at least appreciate the film on these grounds.

But I suppose the reality of it is that atmosphere and special effects can only do so much for a film, and if the story isn’t solid the movie will inevitably fail. While the film explores an interesting new angle (playing off the idea that perhaps Jesse is experiencing moments of violent psychoses and is not actually possessed by a long-dead child murderer) it wasn’t developed well, and winds up being unfocused at best. Ultimately, the film seems to be more about the hack-and-slash effects, which is unfortunate because a better developed story would have certainly helped elevate the status of the movie.

Freddy’s Revenge might be the black sheep of the series, but it is still deserving of a watch in this reviewer’s opinion. And if I haven’t been able to sell you on it yet, go watch it for no other reason than because it has baby-faced dogs in it. That’s right… dogs with human baby faces.

Sweet dreams.

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Nightmare On Elm Street, A

Written & Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring:
Heather Langenkamp
Robert Englund
Johnny Depp

Outside the wind is howling and the moon is shining bright in the midnight sky. It stirs up nostalgic memories of my early youth, when I would go to video stores on nights like this and spend a couple hours looking through the horror section, being absolutely thrilled by the grotesque monsters depicted on the VHS boxes. Even though I was too young to actually watch the films, the great movie maniacs still haunted my nightmares: though there was one in particular who stalked my dreams almost relentlessly. A gangly man who wore a dirty red and green striped sweater, had a terribly disfigured face, and razor-tipped fingers that surely meant a grim death if you crossed his path. Yes, even my early adolescent dreams were visited regularly by the infamous Freddy Krueger.

My dad, an avid 1980′s slasher watcher, was always renting horror films, and was inevitably always being questioned by me: “what happens if Freddy kills you in your sleep?”, “how did he get all burned?”, and of course “how did he get the knives on his hand?” Eventually he must have grown tired of answering my questions, because one Halloween night, we sat down with a pile of the classics of modern horror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Upon first viewing, all three became instant favourites, and I immediately understood why they were considered greats of the genre. ‘ Even at a young age I was able to recognize that ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ possessed all the elements that make a solid horror film: likeable characters, good atmosphere, a memorable monster, a well-planned story, and utterly repulsive death scenes. The early pioneers of the ‘slasher’ genre (Craven, Carpenter, Cunningham, Clark, etc) were making movies they wanted to make, and the low-budget wound up being more of a blessing than a curse. It forced them to do more with less, and what eventually wound up emerging were scenes that were financially affordable, but oh-so memorable (who can forget watching Freddy push through the seemingly solid wall above Nancy’s bed; or Tina’s bloodied body being dragged across the ceiling while her boyfriend stood by, unable to do anything but watch.)

The story is infamous and a lengthy description is not needed: the kids in the small American town of Springwood are having terrible nightmares, in which the same hideously deformed boogeyman is threatening their lives. The catch? If you die in your dream, you die in real life. The kids must figure out how to face an enemy that preys on you in your most vulnerable state before it’s too late.

I can’t say enough praises for this, nor should I have to. Accolades have been heaped on this film since its release, and you shouldn’t be spending another moment reading my nostalgic memories of it. You should be out making your own. It’s the perfect ‘feel-good’ horror film (yes, as any horror fan can tell you such a thing does exist), and a film that I find unable to turn away from whenever I see it playing on TV.

So tonight, as the wind continues to howl and the moon casts long sinister shadows across my floor, I feel a sudden desire to put in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and fall asleep. Though the immortal words of heroine Nancy Thompson ring loudly in my mind: “…whatever you do: don’t… fall… asleep.”

Good advice.