Friday, March 24, 2017

Genre Run-Through - The History of Werewolf Films, Part 1

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So, it’s time once again to do another one of these genre write-ups, and this one is about one of the finest monsters to grace the silver screen, the werewolf. This is one of my personal favorite genres and is one that has a lot to talk about whether it be in the cinematic realm or historical one, as this is one of the rare times where a film/genre has a connection to actual history. Now, this is one of the most convoluted and twisting turns to wrap around, so up-front I’ll say that this one will be two separate posts, so this one will be covering the history of the werewolf in history with the second one coming up later will be about the creature on film.

Immediately, going into actual history, we come across a small piece that needs to be explained first. There’s the small matter of where the name comes from, and a little digging unveils a small bit about the origins of the term. The main root here is a combination of Old English and Greek, as the early term comes from the word lycanthropy, a Greek combination that comes from the combination of the words lykánthropos for "wolf" and anthrōpos for "human," so literally a wolf-human. Throughout the years, the phrase was adopted and altered, going from the German variant “weriuuolf” that eventually became altered in “wariwolf,” while Anglo-Norman sources credit the creature as “garwolf,” and Scandinavian sources name it first as “varúlfur” before later using the term “ulfhéðinn” (meaning ‘one in wolf-skin’) and in modern Scandinavian also has "kveldulf," or 'evening-wolf,' after Kveldulf Bjalfason, a historical berserker of the 9th century who figures in the Icelandic sagas.


So, with that accomplished, let’s move on to another facet to be accomplished: what is a werewolf? A werewolf is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction that has usually come via a bite or scratch from another werewolf. While some of these have come and gone over the years, these are the commonly-associated terms to be found throughout history in regards to how the curse is passed on.

In more common terms, the term lycanthropy has a connection to a historical figure in Greek mythology. According to legend, the term is traced back to King Lycaon who ruled the kingdom of Arcadia in ancient Greece. There are numerous variations of the legend concerning his transformation into a wolf, yet the most commonly told version pertains Lycaon tempting Zeus, ruler of the Greek Gods, with the roasted flesh of his own son in order to determine whether Zeus was truly omniscient. Upon knowing of the ruse, Zeus vented his wrath upon Lycaon by turning him and his sons into the form of a wolf. As mentioned, there are numerous variations which range from utilizing a random stranger for the cursed meal to featuring a mutilated child of one of his kids, while others make mention of a mocking sacrifice to Zeus where he butchers a child on a sacred altar, but regardless of the method the common outcome is still the same.


Another rather common connection traces itself back to the Norse legends of the Berserker. In Old-Norse writings, the word comes off as “ber-skjaldaðr,” which means ‘bare of shield,’ a common tactic of Viking warfare of entering battle adorned in animal skins rather than traditional armor favored and utilized by armies of their contemporaries. Although commonly utilized with the wearing of bear-skins, the concept of wearing the outer skin of an animal in order to harness the power of the chosen animal is a common trope associated with later forms of lycanthropy in history.


Throughout history, the werewolf has been a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore developed during the medieval period, which lasted from the 5th to the 15th Century. Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland, especially the Valais and Vaud, in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolf activity being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. From the early modern period (or from around 1500 to about 1800), werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism in North America.

During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. One of the most significant efforts during this time was the case of Peter Stumpp in 1589, a serial killer and cannibal from Germany nicknamed "The Werewolf of Bedburg" who claimed under torture to having killed not only goats, sheep and lambs but supposedly fourteen men, women and children over a twenty-five year period, and in turn led to a significant peak of both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with the persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria. Other cases involving werewolves, including Gilles Garnier in France or Manuel Blanco Romasanta of Spain, figure prominently in the history of the genre though mentioning more will turn this into a far longer piece than intended.



One of the key aspects of many of these instances is their ability to transform into a wolf. Many of these supposed trials were conducted under the idea that these people were transformed into wolves through the use of magical wolf-skin pelts, worn by their intended victim and that transforms them into a wolf. This has a great deal to do with the berserker legend of Norse mythology, and even the fact that there’s never been a confirm recovery of one of these wolf-pelts didn’t stop the persecutions from continuing. A large amount of these cases, for example, have recently been taken into account as a physical condition known as of congenital porphyria, stating how the symptoms of photosensitivity, reddish teeth and psychosis could have been grounds for accusing a sufferer of being a werewolf. Though greatly debated, the possibility exists of this as a possible contender for the origins of this particular myth.

Outside the scope of Europe, there isn’t a great deal of work to be had here which manages to restrict this to a few small, isolated cases. Mainland Asia associates the legend with werecats, where the afflicted usually become tigers. In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer portrayed as a menace to livestock who might at any time turn to eating man. These tales traveled through the rest of India and into Persia through travelers who encountered the royal Bengal tigers of India and then further west. Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either a hereditary curse or a vindictive ghost as ancient teachings held that every race except the Han Chinese were really animals in disguise so that there was nothing extraordinary about some of these false humans reverting to their true natures. Alternatively, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers could become a malevolent supernatural being known as "Chang", devoting all their energy to making sure that tigers killed more humans. Some of these ghosts were responsible for transforming ordinary humans into man-eating weretigers.

Also, in Japanese folklore, there are creatures called bakeneko, a type of Japanese yōkai that are similar to “kitsune” (or ‘fox spirits’) and “tanuki” (‘raccoon dogs’). In Thailand, a tiger that eats many humans may become a weretiger while there are other types of weretigers, such as sorcerers with great powers who can change their form to become animals. In Thailand, however, the were-crocodile is more famous than any other werebeast. In the folk tale “Krai-thong,” for example, the titular hero defeats Chalawan the Giant, who could take the form of a crocodile with diamond teeth. Chalawan was nearly invulnerable and could use magic as well; however, all of these will be covered at length in later dates.

In both Indonesia and Malaysia, there is another kind of weretiger, known as Harimau jadian. The power of transformation is regarded as due to inheritance, to the use of spells, to fasting and willpower, to the use of charms, etc. Save when it is hungry or has just cause for revenge, it is not hostile to man; in fact, it is said to take its animal form only at night and to guard the plantations from wild pigs. Variants of this belief assert that the shapeshifter does not recognize his friends unless they call him by name, or that he goes out as a mendicant and transforms himself to take vengeance on those who refuse him alms. Somewhat similar is the belief of the Khonds, as for them the tiger is friendly, and he reserves his wrath for their enemies. A man is said to take the form of a tiger in order to wreak a just or sound vengeance. Also in Malaysia, Bajangs have been described as vampiric or demonic werecats, although that tends to blur the lines of what we're attempting here and again will be covered in detail at a later time.

Finally, we end up in America and find our focus on a specific creature that ties back into European folklore. Known in some quarters as the loup-garou, the more prominent spelling and pronunciation is the Cajun variant, the Rougarou. A shapeshifter from the swamps of Louisiana primarily, the rougarou most often is described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend. It's most often used to instill fear and obedience into young children with numerous sightings and rumors tying the creature into the areas's native superstitions concerning the holiday Lent, where in some areas it's said that the method for turning into the creature is for an individual to bring the rules of Lent for seven years in a row. Being a shapeshifter, the creature is not always concerned with being a dog-like creature and in some instances has been said to be anything from rabbits to insects and all manner of small animals living deep in the swamplands with a slight difference found in the change by being able to control their transformation into the beast either on regimented days or can be done at will.


Now, with that out of the way, what’s the particular connection between the historical connection and their film counterparts? Well, you’ll have to wait for that part next time.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Franchise Run-Through - Leprechaun

So today's a new day and time for a new write-up here, and due to the timeframe, there's no better way to go about doing this than the Leprechaun series. So grab your Lucky Charms, down your favorite green ale and celebrate St. Patricks' Day with this mischievous little devil.

Like always, we go to the beginning and start with the original. Despite its 1993 release date, the original was actually shot in 1991 and is most notable as being the debut film performance of Jennifer Aniston before she found fame on Friends. Beyond that, the film is also noteworthy as the first in-studio project of its production company, Trimark Pictures, to be released theatrically which had previously done theatrical releases of other independent work. Due to the continued need for reshoots to add more gore in order to appeal to older viewers as well as an issue the cereal brand Lucky Charms that needed to be removed after they grew upset over the film including the brand, the film finally came out early in 1993 and signalled the start of the franchise which came out in yearly increments for the first four installments and then carries on into several other entries later on for years to come.

So, there isn't a whole lot of behind-the-scenes trivia here on the production side, and while it will always be known as Aniston's launching pad no matter how hard she tries to deny it, there's little else to be found here regarding the series. One of the more important elements in the series, though, is that it helped to foster the rebirth of the urban horror motives later on in the early 2000s due to the final two sequels really enhancing those elements and putting the creature into those environments to somewhat different success as we shall see shortly. However, before we get there we again need to take a quick trip through the history of how I saw these. Now, it is a little bit of a random order, as I went from the original first to Back 2 tha Hood, then part 2, part 4, then the first in the Hood and then part 3 and topped off with Origins which I saw for the first time specifically for this write-up.

And with that, time to set these off:
Leprechaun

There was some good stuff to this one. It really manages to get a nice amount of suspense featured here in some of the attack sequences in the house as the singular location setting and relentlessness it goes after them makes for quite a fun time here, from the battles in the living room to the outside chase into the woods in a demented hide-n-seek game being played in the woods and the cheesy goodness featured in the mental home which manages to really get quite fun here. By introducing that cheesy nature with his constant quips and limericks, there's a lot of good times to be had here which does tend to really lower some of the later attempts at suspense with them stuck in the house attempting to figure out his intentions. The change in tone isn't a huge detriment in here which is a nice plus as the fact that there's plenty to like without a whole lot of flaws makes it a really solid effort. (9/10)



Leprechaun 2

This was a decidedly enjoyable if somewhat lackluster effort. The biggest plus here is the fine mind-games he plays on the victims, with the hallucinations and games he plays out in the real world coming across rather nicely in delivering some solid action as well as the utterly fun tormenting done when she's captured. The word-play games, the endless inescapable tunnel routes that hold her there and the way he constantly appears when she least expects it makes for a lot of great fun throughout here, and combined with the rest of the goofiness present gives this some solid positives. The new weakness introduced into the mythology doesn't make much sense as it's not tied into their history at all, there's little about the need for putting the curse on the girl in order to get her into this situation which makes sense and the final resolution fails to follow through any of the usual methods featured here, but there's still plenty of positives to be found here. (8.5/10)



Leprechaun 3

There's quite a lot to really like about this one. The reintroduction of more suspenseful stalking is a big plus, from the opening resurrection in the pawn shop to the hospital set-ups and the different sequences down in the casino all come off rather nicely, but the fact that there's still plenty of utterly cheesy antics throughout here. The new Leprechaun powers introduced here are utterly fun and silly, the way the coin continually passes to everybody around them gives this a rather fun atmosphere and so many of the kills here are just utterly goofy and silly that it really can't be taken seriously which expands on these elements even further from the previous efforts. The down-on-his-luck storyline in the first half is way too bland and doesn't really make it interesting while keeping the kills and the leprechaun off-screen which drags the pacing off, and some of the differences of tone between the cheese and the suspenseful makes it a tad jarring at times, but otherwise this one comes off rather fun. (8.75/10)



Leprechaun 4: In Space

This is one of the greatest efforts in the series. The film's at its best with the total adherence to the cheese, offering up not only the action with the introduction of the laser guns and the technology present in the time-period makes for the perfect world-building with the now side-splitting jokes, quips and limericks that are in play with the way the film goes out. The high amount of action doesn't hurt it and there's even more throughout here, from the opening rescue that springs this on to the garbage container shootout, the Marines encountering the creature in the underground tunnel makes for a nice sequence and the big battle in the cargo hold while he's now become gigantic is the perfect cream of the cheesy crop here and really enhances this one rather nicely. The CGI doesn't look that great, and the cheesiness doesn't for a second make for a threatening or even suspenseful tale here, but that's beside the point here as this one's charms come through much higher. (9.25/10)



Leprechaun in the Hood

This one here wasn't that bad and had enough going for it to be entertaining. Going full-bore into the cheesy storyline here is quite nice, as the transposition of an Irish Leprechaun into an urban, predominantly Africa-American neighborhood makes so little sense on its own yet still makes for a nice mixture of cheesy action and some thrilling moments. The first encounter in the subway station is a great way to start this, the rampant encounters in the ghetto are rather fun and the big encounter in the church gives this some really impressive moments. The film's biggest issue is the way it stops the plot dead in order to get the rap-battles out, as the gangster talk and lifestyle shown here are irritating to sit through and don't really move this along at all, the allusions to the lifestyle are innocuous if you're not a fan and they keep the creature off-screen for a large part of these scenes which isn't a big plus here. It has some decent moments, but there are some big flaws as well. (7/10)



Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood

This was a far better sequel than expected. One of the major improvements here is the comfortable manner of integration this has with the urban setting, as there's little here that feels at odds with the rest of the franchise. Dropping the hip-hop lifestyle in favor of a more universal story that at times feels like a remake of the original in terms of the creature seeking revenge for the perceived crime against him, not only feels like part of the other entries but gives this one quite a lot of action. From the rampage through the party to the stalking in the house, the car chase to escape the city and the big final confrontation in the abandoned lot, these all make for quite a series of highlights that feel quite in line with the rest of the action in the series, and along with some great kills and bloodshed offers a lot of positive here. The biggest issue is the change in the characters' motivations, as the dropping his tricks or wish-corrupting in favor of an ordinary supernatural villain is a little weaker of a villain than what it should be. It's really the biggest issue against this one. (9/10)



Leprechaun: Origins

This one here is quite the odd and rather confusing entry. There's a lot that works here, from the strong influx of local history and folklore into the storyline which gives this one a rather nice and enjoyable feel, the action of the creatures' attacks are quite fun especially in the first cabin sequence and the finale in the house and that also results in some nice brutality in the kills which are exceptionally graphic in tone and execution. Still, the fact that the storyline goes all over the place in terms of motivation for the creature, a thing of folklore that needs to be placated or a simple-minded beast out for specific items they have on them gives this a herky-jerky storyline which manages to leave this feeling like it's not even a part of the franchise as it has no real tie-ins to what's going on. Coupled with a disappointing and even infuriating creature which looks rather cheap and impossible to make-out with the quick-cut editing. These here hold it back but it's still got some positives overall. (8.5/10)



And so now we come to the ranking part:
1. Leprechaun 4: In Space (9.25)
2. Leprechaun (9)
3. Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (9)
4. Leprechaun 3 (8.75)
5. Leprechaun 2 (8.5)
6. Leprechaun: Origins (8.5)
7. Leprechaun in the Hood (7)

So, there we go with another run-through of a different franchise. A little controversial, but it's my thoughts on this series and one that I hold due to the series' rather fun and enjoyable outpouring of cheese that really appeals to me. Lighten up and have some fun with these films, you may find yourself enjoying them like I do. Thanks for stopping by and see you next time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Franchise Run-Throughs - Alien

So, it's time for another one of these franchise write-ups, and this time we're choosing to honor the recent passing of one of my most beloved actors, Bill Paxton, with the franchise role that made him famous, the 'Alien' franchise. I would've gotten to the series eventually, but his death will instead spur the catalist to do this series now.

Now, like before we need to start the franchise at the beginning. After completion of the film Dark Star (1974), writer Dan O'Bannon thought to develop some of the ideas (especially the theme of "alien hunts crew through a spaceship") and create a science-fiction action film. Provisionally called 'Memory,' screenwriter Ronald Shusett collaborated with O'Bannon on the project, adding elements from a previous O'Bannon script, Gremlins, which featured gremlins causing mayhem aboard a World War II bomber and wreaking havoc with the crew. The duo finished the script, initially entitled Star Beast, which was later changed to Alien after O'Bannon noticed the number of times the word "alien" occurred in the script. Their script was sold to Brandywine Productions, a company formed by producers Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill that had a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. The writers imagined a low-budget film, but the success of Star Wars inclined 20th Century Fox to invest millions on the production.

In the original script, the ship has an all-male crew although the script's 'Cast of Characters' section explicitly stated that "The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women", including the Ripley character, who would be played by actor Tom Skerritt. Later, when Fox president Alan Ladd, Jr. and the producers at Brandywine heard rumors of Fox working on other titles with strong female leads, Sigourney Weaver was cast as Ripley and Skerritt became Captain Dallas. Shortly before filming began, Veronica Cartwright was set for the Ripley role, but Ridley Scott opted for Weaver following screentests.

Swiss painter and sculptor H. R. Giger designed the alien creature's adult form and the derelict ship, while French artist Mœbius created the look of the spacesuits and Ron Cobb provided most of the on-set design.

While the first film was successful, Fox did not consider a sequel until 1983 when James Cameron expressed his interest to producer David Giler in continuing the story. After Cameron's The Terminator became a box office hit, Cameron and partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel scheduled for a 1986 release. Cameron wrote the screenplay from a story he developed with Giler and Walter Hill.

Following the second film, Weaver was not interested in returning to the series and so producers David Giler and Walter Hill commissioned a third film without the Ripley character. The premise was to return Ripley in a fourth installment, but Fox's president Joe Roth did not agree with Ripley's removal and Weaver was offered a $5 million salary and a producer credit to make 'Alien 3.' Released in 1992, the film was troubled from the start, with production beginning without even a finished script. Having already spent $1 million, music video director David Fincher, the third director considered for the film, was hired to helm the project. Giler, Hill and Larry Ferguson wrote the screenplay, based on a story from an earlier script by Vincent Ward. After production was completed in late 1991, the studio reworked the film without Fincher's involvement or consent. The death of Ripley was designed to bring closure to the franchise by killing off the principal character.

While fans and critics initially did not receive 'Alien 3' well, the film still did well at the box office worldwide and piqued Fox's interest in continuing the franchise. In 1996, production began on the fourth film, 'Alien: Resurrection.' Ripley was not in the script's first draft, and Weaver was not interested in reprising the role, although she later joined the project after being given a reported $11 million salary and more creative control, including being able to approve director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The script, set 200 years after 'Alien 3,' resurrected the Ripley character via human cloning. The film, released in 1997, experienced an extended production and was described by screenwriter Joss Whedon as having done "everything wrong" with his script.

And there we go with the full history of the series. Now, I would like to point out that I realize it's stopped at Resurrection rather than carrying on with not only the two Alien vs. Predator films but also the prequel series Prometheus and the upcoming Alien: Covenant. First, there's very little horror about either of the AvP films which are somewhat suspenseful Action/Sci-Fi films more than anything else and thus fall outside the scope of the purpose of the blog. The series as a whole does have a problem with this to begin with, and it's really exagerated in these films to the point of not being really pertinent in being here. As for Prometheus, there's even less horror elements here and it leans quite heavily in the sci-fi elements with a mystery about why they're there at the moon rather than dealing with any kind of horror elements. Covenent isn't out yet, so there's no way to have seen it. These here are what will keep them from being included.

Finally, one last big before we get to the films proper, my personal history with the series. There's not a really interesting story about the history of watching the series, as it's pretty much just straight on through in order. The first one came on TV when I was around 13 or 14, which prompted me to find the VHS of 2 and 3. It took a few years until I got the last one, and then the others were all seen shortly after they came to cable TV and home video. So, with that all done, let's get on with the films.

Alien


While this may be regarded as a legendary film, this one instead comes across as overrated. While it may have a countless number of influences from the different aspects surrounding it (the set-design, ship, the alien, etc) the fact remains that, if taken on as a singular film devoid of any of its influences, this one isn't all that great. Plus, for all the later imitations of the film, none of it is really important to the film itself and speaks far more to the reaction of the public rather than anything else to do with the film itself. It's so slowly paced and lifeless at times that it's a struggle to stay invested in what's going on, hardly inventive at all since these are where it's money-makers are spent, the building-up of the suspense in what's going to happen next. Giving a reason to remain in a state of suspense is just as important as the release, and this one forgets to do that constantly. You also have the fact that this one barely contains anything about the alien, either featuring scenes of it or getting to know it, that there's just such a dearth of knowledge about what it's doing that there's very little beyond the physical, which is pretty impressive admittedly, to really get worked up with this one over. As mentioned, the psychical appearance of the creature is really the film's best idea, suitably foreign and extraterrestrial in concept and execution and looking quite imposing when first viewed with some really nice features about it that make it something to be feared. It also has a few rather fun shock scenes that are quite impressive, which are well-known and won't be repeated and the stalking scenes in the later half are really suspenseful, so there is some good stuff here, but overall this is still somewhat overrated. (7.75/10)



Aliens

This is an almost-flawless film, with tons of stuff to really love and very little to dislike. In fact, the only parts not to like here result from the film's near gargantuan running time, which is tempered by the continuous action but still has a lot of extras in it that are wholly unnecessary and don't really serve much purpose beyond character development, which is quite extended in the later half with the surrogate-mother storyline being the main culprit that really hampers the action. In fact, that alone is really the film's main shining quality, it's stupendous and utterly thrilling action scenes which are some of the best filmed in the genre, and among the top in many other genres altogether. From the initial swarming shot in the colony to the encounters in the infirmary and the numerous shoot-outs with them, its pace is nearly frenetic and nonstop by giving off so many impressive scenes that there's a real sense of thrills to come from them. That also includes the aliens themselves getting more screen-time, and the extra exposure does them good as they come across, in all their stages, as a really imposing and fantastic life-form, and the extra knowledge acquired about them doesn't hurt either. The gore is ratcheted up with some more bodies to get ripped apart, the locations much more suspenseful and the film as a whole doesn't have a lot wrong with it, leaving this as a fantastic sequel that is far better than the original. (10/10)



Alien 3

This wasn't all that bad of an entry and is a surprisingly underrated effort. One of the better efforts here is that it's got some really decent stalking scenes among the prison set, including the fabulous set-ups in the ventilator shaft after finding skin on the ground before being attacked, a pretty tense altercation in the infirmary before an attack and a real rousing sequence where it escapes a trap and starts a massive chain reaction of explosions and fireballs through the facility that takes out most of the group being among the highlights here. Also helped along is a series of good stalking scenes, nicely done from the start through the intimidating, foreboding locations in the prison and the final plan to deal with the creature is great fun, with the corridor chases through the alien viewpoints, great kills and tense confrontations that are highly enjoyable, despite the few flaws present. The CGI for the alien is really embarrassing and makes no sense to be included, the prisoners are made so unknown they're barely worth remembering and their inclusion into the fighting stages in the second half is rather weak. The main weakness, though, comes from the fact that, against the others before it, it's really weak and doesn't really hold up with them. Still, overall, this one isn't bad if it's not measured up against the others. (7/10)



Alien: Resurrection

This here is an unjustly maligned sequel and actually has a lot of good stuff going for it. One of the better areas in the film is the high-intensity action that permeates the surroundings, really from the start and manages to get in a lot of great stuff from it. There's a multitude of chases here that are a ton of fun and really high-energy, from the walk-through of the flooded corridor and the swim through the underwater section all the way through to the trap with the eggs and the resulting shoot-out there, as well as other scenes from the rampage through the ship and taking out the evacuees in the escape process as well as the rather impressive attack in the escape pod at the end which contains a lot of great parts to it and really works well. This is helped by a rather well-designed ship location that allows for these tension-packed scenes to take place and generate a lot of fun. Another good plus is the high gore on display, from scarred faces, jaws ripped open and other extremely graphic kills that give off a great feel, and as usual the aliens are incredible. The only real flaw to this one is the rather inane segment that keeps a dead crewmember around for no reason than to keep a big-name member more involved in the film at that point. Also problematic is the early scenes of the clone interacting with the crew which goes nowhere, but overall this one is a lot of fun. (6.75/10)



So, there we go with the original franchise. Now, lets see where they rank:
1. Aliens (10)
2. Alien (7.75)
3. Alien 3 (7)
4. Alien: Resurrection (6.75)

And before we leave, yes there's a whole section of franchise tie-ins and expanding done here which not only features the films listed above in the two Alien vs. Predator films but also the prequel Prometheus and that sequel Alien: Covenant but also we got tons upon tons of comics, graphic novels and other write-ups that carries on the world established in these films. I know next to nothing about these except for their existence so I can't say anything about what they're about and how well they carry on the series, so if that's something that appeals to you then by all means carry on with it. Otherwise, see you next time and once again, RIP Mr. Paxton.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Genre Run-Through - Blaxploitation Horror of the 1970s

The time has come for another write-up, and this time once again we go for the topical approach at the end of February which is not only Women in Horror Month but also Black History Month. Now, again never let it be said that we're not topical here on this blog, so there's a need to honor their contributions to the genre rather than simply being the token first kill in a movie that's since become the cliche when black people are cast in a film.

So, that means we must take a look through history to find our what they actually contributed in order to properly honor them, and that finds us taking a look at a small movement in the early 1970s that were often produced, directed and starred African-Americans that has become known as The Blaxploitation Horror Movement.

Now, that brings up an important question: What is blaxploitation? To better understand the subgenre of Blaxploitation horror films, it is necessary to understand what it is meant by the term "Blaxploitation." Blaxploitation is a mix of the words black and exploitation. It makes a point to enforce stereotypes that were afflicted on African-Americans by the so-called white media. The first movie to be considered 'Blaxploitation' was Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song in 1971. Melvin Van Peebles directed, produced, and took the lead role of this hyper sexual film about a male prostitute who is out to fight "the man."  which was not-so-subtly a reaction to white oppression. It spanned a new type of film genre that evolved all the way to what is now the urban blaxploitation horror films of the 21st century.

However, that is only part of the story here. Blaxploitation films, regardless of subgenre, spanned from race movies. These were films that started appearing in the 1930s–1940s. They were meant to segregate films featuring an all black class from mainstream Hollywood movies. Many of these films already had the element of horror integrated into them, and over time these films transcended into their own subgenre of film, Blaxploitation Horror films. In the 1950s to 1960s, Hollywood started to integrate films produced and starring African Americans into mainstream media. There was a lot of backlash by several African-American directors and actors that did not want to be integrated into mainstream media over this as they wanted to stay independent, This caused them to create more of what were originally known as race movies during the 1960s and 70s which happened during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans were in a fury at ongoing white oppression and wanted something that they could call their own. This lead them to begin creating films that were directed, starring and produced by African Americans. In an effort to maintain their cultural identity, they made it a point to emphasize the stereotypes the white media was portraying them as. They called this genre Blaxploitation. Many Blaxploitation films have a mix of comedy and horror, and most significantly William Crain took the aspect of horror in these films one step further and created the first Blaxploitation horror film, Blacula. As a result, a new subgenre of Blaxploitation was created, dedicated solely to horror.

Now, with that introduction out of the way, let's take a look at what this started:

Blacula (1972)


This was quite an enjoyable effort that really deserves a lot of the credit it gets for starting this movement. The fact that the film is played straight with the main vampire is still someone who actively and viciously kills people makes him someone to be feared and respected which makes all the action in here really fun and enjoyable. That ranges from the early attacks to the beatdown in the warehouse and all through the finale which are some of the more engaging and enjoyable set-pieces here with all the vampires emerging to take out the heroes and leading into the fun confrontation in the ship which has a lot of great fun to be had, while the film's dealings with the concept of race and quality manage to really hold quite an effective weight here by really delving into these areas showing the race of the characters as being integral to the story. It stumbles a touch with the interior logic at times and features some really bizarre situations set-up because the characters are foolishly trusting of others more than they should be, and with some dated and rather bad special effects work that does look great in concept rather than execution it's a fantastic first step into the genre. (8.75/10)



Ganja and Hess (1973)



This is a truly abysmal effort that has very little elements that are enjoyable and wasn't all that entertaining at all. The main thing with this is that nothing happens at all in here and it's an endless repeat of boring blather about nothing in particular or endless looping of an admittedly catchy tribal song and not much else, as the film's barely-there plot unfolds in such a confusing, mystifying manner that there's almost no way to ensure what's going on at all. That just makes the film seem endlessly long and excruciatingly boring since we don't have anything to really get a grasp on at all beyond the few decent moments of eroticism and sensuality present in their romance with each other. That mostly comes along during the final half which is where the few moments of enjoyment come from with the final revelation of the curse forcing this into some decent areas, but overall, this one just isn't all that worthwhile. (2.5/10)

I can't find the actual trailer for this one, so this is the best I can do:


Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)


As a sequel to a good movie, this one features some really great moments. The film's best quality is that it really showcases the vampires' struggle with bloodlust and how it affects his needs and desires, ranging from the need for victims and how he needs to stay hidden away from the world. By focusing on wanting to stay hidden while also needing to feed on the gang-members which really drives this one quite nicely. It plays a large part of this one and manages to work out so well that the debate about who he really is and how he's going to be able to keep it in check, and the fact that this is carried throughout here in strong tones makes this quite a welcome effort. Added together with the use of voodoo and more traditional suspense elements for enhanced atmospheric effect, and it's enough to hold off the few minor issues present. Again, the special effects aren't the best as the blood here is particularly distracting and comes off way too cheaply considering how liberally it's thrown around during the biting scenes, and that does drop this one somewhat as the original had no problems. There's also the fact that it just really ends without any kind of special ending, but really there's not a whole lot really wrong here. (8.5/10)



Abby (1974)


This here was quite the fun and wholly enjoyable Blaxploitation riff on the exorcism genre. By staying so close to the originals' storyline, it allows for plenty of familiar fun with the way it builds her possession that runs from the forced mutilation attempts and generally profane outbursts on friends and family to the more supernatural outbursts in her voice changes and going about unleashing the wind attacks on everyone. These are all rather fun as it sets up the wild finale's attempt to exorcise it out of her which has a lot of the fun while running through the fun and familiar sequences during here which is all capped off with the bits of sleaze and cheesy thrills that are commonplace in the genre. It does have a series of flaws, mostly the fact that it's off-and-on plot tends to run through stretches where it's fast-paced and breakneck but then really goes awhile before it gets back to the action which really sets up the film's biggest issue in its rather overt homages put there just to play into that storyline just changing the race of the participants around. That holds it down more than anything and makes it a fun if generally unimportant entry. (7.5/10)



The House on Skull Mountain (1974)


This was a rather fun and rather enjoyable effort that has a lot to like about it. Dwelling on the voodoo rites and ceremonies that are at the forefront of the plot which comes from the rather strong and enjoyable storyline that enables it all to come together in the first place, this plays like a prototypical Blaxploitation effort with the whole film taking a stereotypical plotline and infusing slight elements here and there that make it much more appealing to its central audience. The voodoo rites are themselves the best parts of the film, ranging from the early scenes of the black magic forcing them into deadly accidents to the discovery of the voodoo ceremony occurring in the house's basement to the battle with the big spirit in the finale, there's plenty to like here. There are a few flaws, from the inability to spell out why the main villain is really out to get the family as it's barely offered here and suffers from some pacing issues, but overall it's still highly enjoyable. (8.25/10)



Sugar Hill (1974)


There's a lot to really like in this one. One of the strongest aspects here is the fact that it really keeps a strong, viable tempo throughout here with the zombie attacks, which are the finest point here with a lot of encounters terrorizing the criminal gang. The trainyard encounter, the big showdown in the dance-hall where they attack the targeted gang member with a great deal of ferocity and the finale at the ceremonial grounds is quite a lot of fun and make all the action here quite enjoyable. Since it also manages to get some great-looking zombies that are appropriately-decayed and dirt-covered shuffling heaps of flesh, a truly fantastic resurrection scene that gives this some creepy imagery crawling out of the dirt and a fantastic mixture of voodooism and traditional zombie lore there's a lot to really like here. The biggest issue here that really holds this one back is the fact that this one goes for the idea of zombies as mindless slaves able to be controlled and directed on their enemies, which is quite a different take than what has come to be the norm in the genre even though the genre was originally founded on that idea so it does pay homage to those more than more modern fare. A few padded-out subplots also hold this one down, but it's still quite an enjoyable and engaging time. (8.5/10)



Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)


Overall this one turned out to be quite a bland and overall uninvolving effort. The scenes of him going through the transformation offer up some really enjoyable action scenes featuring him just standing there taking shots and fighting everyone off it really manages to get really enjoyable. It even gets an engaging, rousing finale that has plenty of fine action where there's the big foot chase through the streets all the way to the top of a set of electrical towers, but there's still a lot of issues with this one. The main issue to be found here is the fact that it's just way too scattershot with its tempo, featuring away too many plot points that are just there solely so it can pad out it's running time. The romance angle is so cliched and overdone it's really not that tender or romantic and the main issue with spending so much time on him being seen as a trustworthy doctor makes for quite a bland and somewhat boring time when it's not focusing on the action which happens a lot during the middle section of the film. It's quite watchable but really problematic as well (7.5/10)



J.D.'s Revenge (1976)


This here is quite a decent enough if unspectacular effort. The fact that this one does go for the possession route yet doesn't follow through on the vast majority of the intended storylines is a nice feat. Though it still has a lot of the same familiar tricks, ranging from the behavioral changes to the manner of keeping his characteristics in check through the hypnotism angle makes for quite a fun time here. The action is certainly decent enough and it has enough stalking and slashing that it comes off rather nicely with a solid pace keeping it moving along even if the film isn't really all that great. The main issue here is that the film's ideas of showcasing the terror really aren't that horrific, as merely wearing a different style of clothing or hanging out with a different set of people aren't enough by themselves to inspire fear. These are more supplemental elements rather than the main focus, and it can lead to some rather lame sections of time where they're worried about these issues which aren't that big of a deal. This one also manages to keep utilizing a rather disturbing scene from an animal slaughterhouse way too often and it does nothing for the film, otherwise, there's not much to this one. (7.75/10)



So, there we go. That's the original start of the Blaxploitation movement in the 1970s, and while I know I did forget to mention the film 'Blackenstein' I feel that's more of a straight comedy spoof with minor horror elements rather than a full-on blog. I do feel as though I may need to catch up to it at some point as it has been a while since I've seen it but as it stands it's not enough of a horror film to be covered here.

Now, what happened in the history of Blaxploitation horror? After all, I did stop in the late 1970s, so surely there must be more black-centered horror films since then? Indeed, you are correct as the genre simply took a rest until the late 80s actually when it was revived and has seen sporadic films included that has continued on to this day. We'll take a look at some of them later on, but for now, let's leave it as we have with our honoring Black History Month in fine fashion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Random Article - History of Female Horror Directors

So, it’s time now for a new episode, and never let it be said that this isn’t a topical blog so with it being Women in Horror Month, I figured it’s time to do a blog post celebrating the history of female horror directors in the genre. This won’t be a whole, complete run-down of every female director or a complete run-through of their individual works, but we’ll hit on enough to make the honor worthwhile for their contributions.

Now, although the genre dates back to the turn of the 1900s, it took a while before there were any to step behind the camera. It took all the way into the mid-60s for the first one to come to pass in Stephanie Rothman, a pioneer in the evolution of horror and exploitation in the 60s who was known for making strong female-centered characters in an age where most were required to scream or strip nude. She offered only a few efforts during that time which could be considered true horror efforts, but they include both Bloodbath and The Velvet Vampire, both drive-in staples during this era.

Unfortunately, while it takes a while for Stephanie’s impact to be felt, it strikes with a vengeance as it takes until the 1980s before another female would tackle horror films. Starting with Doris Wishman and her early slasher effort A Night to Dismember, we find another woman following in Stephanie’s footsteps with a career that started in sexploitation and skin-flicks that turned into full-on horror films later on, a feat realized with the title Each Time I Kill, completed after her death but certainly in her own idiosyncratic style. Still, her influence carried on with a crop of films and filmmakers taking influence from these initial starting grounds, going from Roberta Findlay who often directed exploitation and sex films with her husband before his death and who turned to making straight horror films much like Stephanie and Doris did as well as Barbara Peters as all of these women followed the same pathway.

Shortly after A Night to Dismember’s release, several women immediately broke into the genre. The first shot fired was Amy Holden Jones, who later became well-known for her comedies and chick flicks but who’s debut full-length was The Slumber Party Massacre. This series is renown for including female minded directors as each of the sequels was helmed by a woman as Deborah Brock and Sally Mathison tackled a follow-up. While all three contributed just one entry each, it still laid the table for others to follow suit such as Jackie Kong and Kathryn Bigelow each bringing some enjoyable elements to the table.

However, the woman who made the biggest impact in the 80s is Mary Lambert, who started off with the Stephen King adaptation Pet Semetery and it’s sequel in the early 90s. Coming off the film’s massive success and impact, she became quite a renown name in the genre with a slew of film and TV credits to her name that makes her quite an underrated genre director. Her work paved the way for the first wave of female directors to pop up in the late 80s, from the aforementioned Brock and Mathison to others like Holly Dale, Katt Shea, Rachel Talalay and Hope Parello who all contributed efforts to the genre for a rather spectacular scene at that time.

However, the mid-90s really swallowed that movement up as the dearth of horror films in general meant that only a few films total were made. Many of these women instead brought themselves into the TV realm as they provided one of the few outlets possible at that time. One of the only efforts to come out in that time was Office Killer by Cindy Sherman, although the effort Ravenous was helmed by Antonia Bird who wasn’t the original director attached to that one. Still, it’s obvious the decade was pretty lean for the genre and it shows.

However, one of the brightest spots to emerge from that time and one of the more underrated figures in the genre in Stephanie Beaton, who not only was a prolific filmmaker during her brief career but was also multifaceted, working on writing, producing, directing, make-up and special effects work among other hats in the field. Though it remains pretty obvious that few will have seen her work as there’s a decidedly overt turn for the underground that’s apparent in her work, her influence and impact is felt in many who have followed her footsteps in the genre.

Among the first to follow her footsteps was Amy Lynn Best who came out with a few relevant titles in the field before moving into other fields in the industry much like Stephanie accomplished. Now primarily an actress and producer, her start came at the beginning of a wave of female filmmakers who take the spirit of their fore-mothers to greater heights, from the work of Angela Bettis. Christine Parker and Lizzie Borden who have all managed to bring out a few entries in the underground horror community, clearing the way for another mainstream rebirth later on with the works of Katja von Garnier, Jennifer Lynch and Karyn Kusama who have brought some solid and respectable entries.

Running concurrently with the underground movement is a solid working of foreign directors who quickly became known in the genre. Starting with Kei Fujiwara in Japan, there’s not a whole lot of female director until we come to France in the early part of the decade. The work of Hélène Cattet along with her partner Bruno Forzani comes off with a rather intriguing mixture of stylish homages to the Italian horror films of the 70s with the rampant extremism common in French cinema during that period. Together, their work launches a minor renaissance with directors Marina de Van, Caroline du Potet and even Julie Delpy going behind the camera to direct genre efforts. More recently, Iranian Ana Lily Amirpour has become an emerging force with several stellar efforts and the Australian Jennifer Kent brought some solid work on her part.

So, in the end, where does that leave us in regards to women in the genre? With a slew of women still toiling in the underground making shorts or low-budget features including Emily Hagins, Karen Lam, Tara-Nicole Azarian and Jovanka Vukovic, the slowly emerging work of Leigh Janiak and Roxanne Benjamin all alongside the single biggest force in the genre with the Soska sisters Jen and Sylvia, it’s obvious the future looks bright for female horror directors.

In short, thank you ladies for your contributions!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Random Article: My History and Experience with Silent Horror

So, I debated about this blog post for a while now and only recently thought it important to discuss something about myself I'm sure you caught just by browsing around here without having to look too carefully. Around the right side of the blog, just below the main banner it says "A place for horror movie discussion, from the early 'Talkies' to last week," which is exactly what I wanted to clarify here.

You see, the thing is, I'm not a fan of silent movies, not even silent horror films.

However, there's an explanation for that, and much like how I got to be a horror fan it's a pretty unconventional one with a history and backstory to it all.

Now, as you can recall, it wasn't until the late 90's that I really started becoming a horror fan in earnest, and my mentality at that time was pretty simple: it really didn't matter to me where it came from, the history or significance of what I was watching, it was only important how entertained I was after it was over. Obviously, you're aware of the difference in quality in terms of production value and spectacle, but I found myself having fun with Action films of these varying qualities. This was incredibly important, for it taught me to give everything a chance so I could let the film itself sell me on its virtues and not have to rely on history, importance or whatever.

Well, once I started to get into Horror films from that point, that same philosophy carried over to them, and after Bride confirmed my interest I decided that I was going to watch films in the genre and started searching for everything. Eventually, I happened across all sorts of genre films, including silent horror films. That first one I saw was Nosferatu, the only problem was that I couldn't force myself to finish it and it was merely the fact I realized that there was only 15 minutes or so left on the airing to finish the movie which I struggled to finish. Afterwards, I naturally didn't think much of it.

Sometime later, I came across something potentially interesting: a back-to-back showing of The Phantom of the Opera and Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages which offered some potentially enjoyable viewing, but again both films weren't fun and proved to be utterly excruciating. Now, at the time that was off since I couldn't figure out why I found all three of these supposed classics to be an excruciating and painful experience.

Then it hit me: they were all SILENT!

There's a sense of familiarity with sound and dialog in films that's quite important to me in allowing myself to get immersed in the movies' universe and follow the story that's developing within. Being able to have that sound, not just the talking going on but hearing the steps ascending the stairs, the crash against the walls and the ambient noises in the environment around the characters helps me to feel as though I'm there with them in that scenario as an invisible observer, obviously unable to interact, communicate or transmit thoughts but going along for the ride, and that's an incredibly powerful aspect to help make these movies fun.

Silent films, on the other hand, don't offer that for me. It's a similar journey through the same situations, but there's no connection thereby not having those familiar elements at play and even bringing up a full-screen closed-captioning box to showcase what's being said instead of hearing it and being immersed in that reality. Instead, all you hear is piano music blaring throughout which isn't the same thing.

All in all, it's a reminder that the world I'm watching is blatantly faked.

Friday the 13th could happen to me. Nosferatu will not.

Now, let's not get confused by this statement. It's not that I don't think these are terribly-made films or anything. Quite to contrary, I think they're impressive and incredibly made films, with the special effects scenes in Haxan makes the movie all the better due to the day and age it was made. Those are the best parts of the film, but it's still quite apparent to me that I'm doing nothing more than watching special effects, not engaging in a potential real-life scenario.

So, for those of you who have stayed with me throughout all this, I hope you have understood my position about the subject and can understand it regarding them as for why they're not going to be covered here in this blog. While I will certainly acknowledge them whenever necessary, that will be all the mentions they get. I understand if you fail to see this and wholeheartedly love them, or even just appreciate them for what they did to our favorite genre, but I won't be covering them.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Franchise Run-Through: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Well, it's time now to take a look at a franchise, and the one we're looking at now is the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

There's a few reasons that we're doing this one first, the main one of which is the fact that I want to get it out of the way quickly and can move on. There's a simple reason for that mentality: I've never really cared all that much about Freddy's exploits, as he never really offered me the kind of thrills that others utilized. His rather silly tone and indecipherable dream-world logic were hard to penetrate in an age where the straightforwardness of Jason and Michael had more enjoyable and fun. Now, there's some good stuff to be had here as there are some decent films in the series, but there's still a lot of issues with the series as a whole that makes for this one being the lowest of the classic franchises.

So, before we get into the films themselves, there are a few things to get through which we'll discuss here. The first here is obviously the series' origins and how this came into being, as the basis for the film was inspired by several newspaper articles printed in the LA Times in the 1970s on a group of Southeast Asian refugees, who, after fleeing to the United States from the results of war and genocide in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, were suffering disturbing nightmares. After suffering from this condition, they refused to sleep and some of the men died in their sleep soon after. Medical authorities called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome. The condition itself afflicted only men between the ages of 19 and 57 and is believed to be sudden unexplained death syndrome or Brugada syndrome, or both. The 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright sealed the story for Craven, giving him not only an artistic setting to "jump off" from but a synthesizer riff from the Elm Street soundtrack as well.

By Craven's account, his own adolescent experiences led to not only the naming of Freddy Krueger but also the initial inspiration for his creation. The initial concept of Krueger draws heavily from Craven's early life. One night, a young Craven saw an elderly man walking on the sidepath outside the window of his home. The man stopped to glance at a startled Craven and walked off. Initially, Fred Krueger was intended to be a child molester, but Craven eventually characterized him as a child murderer to avoid being accused of exploiting a spate of highly publicized child molestation cases that occurred in California around the time of production of the film. As for the name, he had been bullied at school by a child named Fred Krueger, and he named his villain accordingly. The colored sweater he chose for his villain was based on the DC Comics character Plastic Man, and Craven chose to make Krueger's sweater red and green, after reading an article in Scientific American in 1982 that said the two most clashing colors to the human retina were this particular combination.

So, with that out of the way, let's discuss another issue about this one in the order that I saw these in, as that might explain a little about the lack of interest in the series but which is still a rather fun story. Contrary to most other fans out there, the first one I saw was not the original but was rather New Nightmare which was rather early into my horror-watching lifestyle which I knew of  Freddy's appearance by then I hadn't seen him

A Nightmare on Elm Street (original)-


For me, this is one of the more controversial of the classic-era horror films because a lot of what makes it so appealing is due to historical significance and reputation rather than any actual merits of the film itself. The main source of that reputation is the rather clever and unique manner of the killer's backstory, which here is made to showcase one of the more common archetypes of horror, the sins of the mothers and fathers repeating to their sons and daughters, but is done with such a unique and original take that there's a sense of originality in the work and that makes for some of the best sequences in the film like the bed-attack where she levitates in mid-air, the first encounter in the alley and the final showdown in the house with all sorts of nightmarish situations being utilized in the battle by both sides. These are high-quality scenes that work not only because they're incredibly creepy but also due to the big action-spectacle they endow the film with, and when it's coupled with the fun special effects and several ingenious kills, this one does have some positives. The main flaw to this one, though, is the fact that there's a hidden clue to the film's sense of reality-bending that really makes it easy to write off a lot of what happens and takes a lot of the sting out of this one with how it handles its' main villain. That really makes this one feel a lot less creepy than it really is, as well as the ending which undoes everything that's happened and doesn't seem to really offer much beyond a lame jump. Otherwise, this one still has some going for it. (9.25/10)



A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge-



Like most people it seems, it's taken me a while to come around to this one but it does have some good parts here. The biggest thing it seems here is the rather bland pacing, The build-up of his psychosis tends to take way too long with rather bland manners of getting to the point about what's happening of getting Freddy back, taking a while to really get going that it doesn't really feature a whole lot of chances anyway for Freddy to do his work here, despite the fact that this one's rather enjoyable story based on his psychosis and potential possession generates plenty of good points. Once it lets Freddy loose, it's quite as much fun as it was in the original, with a fun opening and a great party sequence at the end where he really lets loose on the teens getting some rather fun action alongside the typical horror elements found within here to give it a few good scenes along with the few inventive kills along the way which also gives this one some decent gore along the way. Overall, it's fun if a little lower than the original. (8.5/10)



A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-


For me, this was always the most rewatchable efforts in the franchise and it still is with a strong sense about it that it was going to be more straightforward and wholly consistent entries. The psychiatry clinic at play here is the perfect kind of setting that should be utilized in such films in the series, providing the right kind of mystery involving whether or not Freddy is really preying on them or the victims are just crazy, the reintroduction of elements from the first one feel organic and complete the storyline involved there with the way. It not only gives us a completely logical manner of why Freddy's back in the first place but gives this a coherent feel tying into how Freddy goes after the kids which provide this with some of the series' best scenes. The two opening dreams exploring the run-down house and the fight with the Freddy worm are highly enjoyable, as well as some great kills in here with the other attacks on the kids throughout here. Though some of the quips here with the introduction of the comedy are lame and the pace stumbles somewhat in the middle segments, it's still one of the best entries in the series. (9.25/10)



A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master-


Frankly, this one was enjoyable if not entirely spectacular. Once again, the dream sequences are top-notch and manage to not only include some rather chilling ideas presented here as the scenes of him going after the kids from the previous film in the boiler room and the car graveyard which are quite exciting action scenes in chilling locations, a hallmark of the series. Once it gets to the new crop of victims, the goofier nature comes off rather at odds with what's being attempted here as these are supposed to be dark and chilling yet are played purely for cheesy laughs. This creates such a disjointed feel that so many of the scenes lose their impact, and that really forces the film to rely on the visual impact and creativity of what's going on as there's little else going on elsewhere in here, and that does make for a much more impressive time here since those dream sequences are again just as much creative and original as they have been in the rest of the series. This is certainly a watchable effort, even though there are some big flaws to this one. (8/10)



A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child-


Overall, there are a few decent parts with this one but it still has plenty of flaws. What really tends to hold this one up is the fact that there's still quite a lot of impressive work in the dream sequences as these are some of the series' most enjoyable and creative. Being the big driving factor here since it allows for those rather impressive special effects which has long been a hallmark of the franchise, there's a lot to like here and really generates the film's best  moments, really getting a lot of that in the finale which is some of the better fighting against Freddy which ends this on a high-note. Still, there's the ever-looming shadow hanging over the franchise in the inherent silliness being at such jarring odds with the rest of the horror here that it feels wholly chaotic and disorganized. There's little about the story that makes sense either which is a huge part of the film's flaws since nothing about it is given any kind of coherence to the remaining franchise entries and never really works quite as well as expected. Overall, there's stuff to like but it's got a lot of problems. (7/10)



Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare-


This one ended up being quite a bitter disappointment and is overall one of the weakest entries in the series, if not the absolute worst. One of the biggest offenses here is the absolutely inane and over-the-top comedy injected into the film, from the never-ending quips and one-liners to the physical slapstick of the kills that are no longer horror at all and instead are now pure comedy. There isn't a whole lot here that really falls into the horror realm beyond the opening dream, which is the most serious of the scenes in here despite a few jokes thrown in, but the fact that this is mostly built up as a comedy doesn't really help this much. The 3D finish doesn't really mesh well with the rest of the film and doesn't have much point in helping the film out, feeling as though it was thrown in as an after-thought. While the joke-filled nature might wear on some, the fact that this is so silly might be a virtue to some as, though it doesn't work as a straight horror effort as a comedy this is really good with all those elements brought into play. That really lowers this one overall. (5.5/10)



New Nightmare-


This here turned out to be a decent if slightly flawed entry. Among the many things that work here is the fact that, by tying into the film series as a separate entity away from the reality presented here, it manages to be a lot smarter than it usually would be for this type of film, and that's something to commend by having the actors playing themselves instead of the film roles. That makes the typically-clichéd is-it-all-a-dream-or-not set-up far more effective than it has any right to be, given even more credence with Freddy's return to being scary again. Dropping any semblance of wisecracks, puns and lame jokes, reducing their screen time and really only appearing to do damage makes him a credible, scary force again, and that helps this out tremendously. With some great action in here, a lot of great special effects and a fantastic finale, this has a lot going for it but there's still a few problems here, mainly in the film's continued usage of the annoying child who does nothing but screams and yells, doing nothing to help the film overall. The low kill count means there's little variety to be found there as well, but overall this isn't all too bad. (9/10)



Freddy vs. Jason-
I'll cover this one in the Friday the 13th write-up, you'll just have to wait for that one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake)-


Frankly, I've always enjoyed this one and have always, always enjoyed it a lot. The main issue with it is the fact that this one doesn't seem to have any reason for being here, which is one of the single most ridiculous and pointless arguments to be made against a film. The fact that it tends to replay so many scenes as carbon-copies of the original without improving or altering them in any shape or fashion is a much bigger crime, as this one being a remake does bring up so many scenes that play off what happened in that manner which is the biggest factor to hold down the film. For the main part of the film, there's still a lot to like with the high amount of screen-time for Freddy making him somewhat creepy and chilling again through the admittedly still-scary sequences in here. The continuing taunts are effective and the trips into the dream world offer incredibly fun visuals that look really impressive due to the escape from reality they represent even though it is obviously CGI. A fast pace and some nice kills make this quite fun, so it's got some really enjoyable elements within here. (8/10)



So, with that done, let's rank these:
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (original) (9.25)
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (9.25)
3. New Nightmare (9)
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (8.25)
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (8)
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake) (8)
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (7)
8. Freddy's Dead: The Final Friday (5.5)

And before I leave, I should mention that no, Freddy never haunted my dreams growing up, and I've never woken up from a nightmare clutching something I was holding in my dream like this one says you can despite how many times I've tried. Lastly, I am aware of the TV show, but no I'm not going to give an overview of that one as this is a movie discussion blog, not a TV show blog so that will not be covered here no matter how good you say it is. Thanks for stopping by.