Okay, Freddy now tells jokes in poor taste. It might actually make the movie somehow more R-Rated than just the murdering kids with knife hands bit. "Aw, but Freddy was a cultural icon," you might say. "I grew up on Freddy!" Have you seen the state of the nation? I blame Freddy Krueger. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Renny Harlin
I don't actually think that Freddy Krueger is responsible for the state of the nation right now. I'd love if I solved the root of a complex political climate by saying that Xennials watched too much Freddy. That's not the case. Please note: out of all of the images I've had in the reviews for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, this is the first one to actually have Freddy on it. (In the New Nightmare review, you have Robert Englund dressed as Freddy in silhouette. That technically doesn't count.) I wanted to show this image because this is where the movies get really off base. There might not have been the best base to start with, but Freddy eating soul pizza might be a very telling moment about where the franchise is at this point.
I might have to Wikipedia this one because it is super forgetable, considering I just watched this one two or three days ago. (It is so forgetable I now forget my timeline of when I watched this movie outside of the fact that it was very recently.) I'm a Die Hard 2: Die Harder apologist. I really like it. At least, I used to. I watched it over and over again for a long time, but it's been a while since I've revisited it. My wife didn't love the first Die Hard movie and I don't think she's going to jump on board the less famous sequel out of the blue. But Renny Harlin directed that one and when I saw that Harlin had directed Part 4 of the franchise, I was going to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, Die Hard 2 is very flawed, but for a sequel, it hits a lot of beats where they should be hit. I thought that this movie would at least be pretty fun. Yeah, I might have asked for the wrong thing. This movie tries really hard to be fun, but that really detracts from the fundamentals of what the story is trying to tell. I keep teasing that I hate a jokey Freddy and a lot of that is that Freddy's jokes are not funny. In fact, they are super uncomfortable. I think the B-word in today's society might be more scarring than the F-Word. The f-word, unfortunately I guess, can have a very casual feel to it in certain context. I suppose the b-word also does as well. But the way Freddy is using it? That seems super hateful and sexist. I know, I'm mad a child murderer for being a little bit sexist. But the one thing about other horror movie serial killers is that they are about the scares, not the spitting on the corpse. (Although Jason with that sleeping bag? Geez...) Perhaps I've been too brainwashed or maybe I'm just the right level of woke to realize that there's nothing fun about a movie when Freddy is just playing up his sexual assault. It's weird and uncomfortable and it is so far away from the original premise of a creepy boogeyman stalking teenagers in their sleep. When the movie's jokes aren't all sexual, the rest of it really plays like Adam West's Batman camp. That kind of works for Batman on a certain degree because he isn't murdering kids. But there's a sequence, and it might be the most bizarre of the entire franchise so please get ready, where Freddy murders a kid who is ninja training. The kid is punching the air and beating up an invisible Freddy. That sequence exists in this movie. That's not good. That's not scary. That's just stupid.
Part of the logic of making a movie fun is great. The next movie I'm reviewing is the Nightmare reboot (I know, it's not my promised order. Life happens. And when I say "life", I mean "lack of proper social interaction") and that movie is not fun. The philosophy is great. But by just saying that a movie is going to be more fun than its predecessors doesn't make it better than its predecessors. To execute comedy, everything has to be really well planned and really well executed. By saying a movie has to be more fun than its previous films is actually a really tall order. I hate to turn back to the Batman well, but A Nightmare on Elm Street kind of shares a parallel with the Joel Schumacher Batman films. Yes, those movies are technically more fun than the Burton entries in the franchise, but they are far from better. That element of fun was like my kids decided what goes on a cake. A little bit of frosting judiciously placed on a dessert makes it way better. Throwing a pound of sugar and gummy worms and cotton candy on a cake makes it a saccharine mess. It's still a cake and I suppose that A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 is still an entry in the franchise. But it's just too much of everything. That kind of goes with the Fangoria horror as well. There's a sequence where a character turns into a cockroach. There was no reason for her to turn into a cockroach. I don't remember her really being into "The Metamorphosis." The creature effects guys just kind of did it. It was the grossest thing that they could think of and they managed to pull it off. But it also really didn't fit the narrative.
I'm not sure if I talked about this in another entry, but how powerful is Freddy in dreams? There are times where he is chasing kids around a house and stumbling over stuff. They fight back and he gets completely wrecked before they wake up. There are other times where he can literally change the nature of reality and turn people into cockroaches remotely. He then changes perspective and everyone's in a roach motel, which he squashes. I think Freddy might be the ultimate villain of convenience. Whatever works to scare an audience or serve the narrative is what Freddy can do. Also, how do all the kids' plans to stop Freddy kind of work? I know that if I was being plagued by Freddy nightmares, I would be completely stymied. I have no idea how to take out a serial killer who haunts my dreams. But all of their plans to take him out kind of work. They at least work temporarily and they work better than they should. This kind of leads me to the most confusing element of the franchise: the introduction of Alice. Alice is this overpowered teenager who is the chosen one. I complained about this in my Nightmare on Elm Street 3 review, I think. Alice just has abilities that no one else has. The story gets so supernatural and occulty that it misses the mark of the relatability of any of these characters. Right now, Doctor Strange fits in the narrative better than Alice does. (Also, what is it with the name "Alice" and making her the chosen one. I'm sure it is all a veiled tie to Alice in Wonderland, but come on. Everyone is making the same allusion. At least the Nightmare series and the Resident Evil series are.) I don't like the fact that she can just do these things. I'm sure that Part 5 or 6 will try to give some hamfisted explanation for all the things that she can do, but it definitely seems like she's a bit of a Mary Sue.
The biggest problem that the movie has is the same problem that Alien 3 has. It murders what little goodwill that the previous movie provides. (Pun intended.) Both Aliens and Dream Warriors establishes a set of heroes who make certain sacrifices to save others only to have those characters killed off unceremoniously. The purpose of this is that they don't want these characters in the franchise anymore and to establish that the new threat trumps the previous threat. But why invest in characters at all if they are just going to be dispatched without an effort. For example, one of the kids from Dream Warriors overcomes his fear of speaking to defeat Freddy. As stupid as that is, it is a major internal conflict that he overcomes. Who cares, because he's killed in the first half hour of the next movie without even getting a chance to defend himself? Even Kristen, who was really overpowered in the previous movie, barely puts up a fight against Freddy in this one. On top of that, Freddy's mission statement has completely changed. In probably the most believable element added to this franchise, the Elm Street kids are dead. (So, um...Freddy won?) I guess this means that he just has to kill all kids. That's problematic in itself. I don't know how Alice really vets Freddy's murders, but she somehow has a tie to who dies. It's very vague in this one, but she also gains the dead's abilities. (Yup, even dumber than you thought.) There's just too much going on in this movie and none of it is really fleshed out.
I'm not excited for the last two movies in the original franchise. I kind of have a little bit of hope for Freddy vs. Jason because I do like the Friday the 13th films better. I'm not saying that they are good. I'm just saying that they are something different. Anyway, I'm knocking these out pretty well. And guess what? I didn't even have to use Wikipedia. I could grumble all by myself.
Not rated, because the movie is remarkably old. Charles Chaplin usually is pretty family friendly and The Gold Rush is no exception. There's a moment where he kicks a dog. If you ever want a film class turn on you faster, show them a scene where the tramp kicks a dog.
DIRECTOR: Charles Chaplin
I like the fact that I have another Charlie Chaplin movie on my list. It gives my film blog more credibility. I always get weirdly bummed when I add another movie from 2017 to my film index. Sure, it means that I'm keeping up with the Joneses and I'm all topical and stuff. But I love classic film and I feel like I'm a complete hack when I have movie after movie of just trash. I mean, I'm elbow deep in Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Thank goodness I have time for what might be considered Chaplin's greatest film.
I don't think it's Chaplin's greatest film. I really like it and I want to watch the complete 1925 version. (I started the 1925 version for the kids, but the print was garbage so I continued with the '42 version. Then I watched the '42 version in its entirety.) But Chaplin had such an amazing career. I am genuinely wondering why The Gold Rush gets all of the attention. My favorites on the list are The Kid and Modern Times. Those movies are near perfect for me. While The Gold Rush is absolutely wonderful and a joy to watch, there are some jokes that don't click nearly as well as they should. I should really read criticism on this movie. I hear so much about it and it was always a crime that I hadn't gotten around to it. But I realized what makes Chaplin work on a level that perhaps Keaton didn't. (I really love Keaton and I'm low-key watching Sherlock, Jr. right now, so don't start ripping my page apart yet.) Chaplin works in the melancholy moments. He knows how to juxtapose two very separate tones to create a specific emotion resulting in catharsis. I'm sure that the Germans have a word for this emotion, but that darkness followed by immediate hilarity is something very special. It sticks with me better than Steamboat Bill Jr. did. (I'm so sorry, Mr. Keaton. You are still an absolute genius to me and I will never hold a candle to your worst work.) The tramp is such a pitiable character because he means so well. After watching the movie Chaplin, I perhaps have a little less respect for the man, but the character is so pitiable.
I'm going to talk about Georgia and the girls. My goodness, Mr. Chaplin. Who hurt you? Seriously, I was just bummed for the entire New Years Eve scene. Like, I was down in the dumps for the entire five minute sequence. I don't think I've been that bummed by a movie for a while, and I watch all kinds of morose stuff. I find it interesting that even in the tramp's fantasy, he still is the underdog who can't have anything work out exactly right. But his fractured fantasy was still better than the reality he faced regularly. That's some stuff right there. OBVIOUS SPOILER:The whole thing works out for him. He doesn't freeze to death (which I simply assumed, but this movie hints at a weird darkness behind the funniness, so who am I to make that call?). Chaplin might be the best at pulling the audience into a low low before bringing them to an unreasonable high again at the end of the movie. The lows in The Gold Rush aren't end of the world, but they are pathetic in the true meaning of the word. I will say that this, despite being the A plot of the movie, is only a small section of the film itself. Much of the movie, like Chaplin's other films, are a series of interludes that are mini-segments loosely related to one another. The movie really starts with its B-plot. I thought the B-plot was going to be the main plot of the film, but it kind of disappears shy of a deus ex machina / deus ex Big Jiminna. The movie gets really melodramatic when Chaplin isn't on screen, involving a shootout and murder in the snow.
But I might be stating the obvious. While the balance of melancholy and humor make the movie somewhat special, the most impressive thing about the whole thing is the physical humor. (I will say that the '42 edition weirdly works with the narration. I'd love to be the guy who was the purist and swears by the intertitles, but the pacing is almost better with the narration. The narrator for the '42 version is pretty great.) Chaplin does things that I question how it was done. Some of these moments are simply from Chaplin being very limber and in control of his body. But these moments really shouldn't be ignored. There's a scene where the tramp pretends to be frozen so someone can carry him into the house. It's a simple scene of Chaplin lying outside stiff as a board and maintaining that as someone deadlifts him under his armpit. While there is not a ton of "how did they do that?", the scene is still pretty impressive. But then there are moments that are amazing special effects for 1925. I know, we can all see the string now and the fact that it is a model, but the entire sequence with the house falling off the cliff is amazing. Really, anything with the snow lodge is very impressive. I think of the very intricate "wind blowing the door open" sequence and I still sit impressed. I keep looking at the floor on the blu-ray to see if I can see that it is a belt or Chaplin is just inventing the reverse moonwalk sixty years ahead of schedule. But Chaplin is the true definition of the auteur here. He is running the whole show with writing, directing, and performing. When a movie looks like The Gold Rush, directing really means choreography and that choreography is tight. There isn't a loose string to pull anywhere on this film. If I had to say that there were any weak spots (and I still contend that there really aren't any), I'd have to say that Big Jim and Black Larsen look a little too similar with their builds, outfits, and facial hair. The first time I watched the lo-res print of the '25 edition, I had no idea what was going on based on the constantly changing motivation of what I thought was the same guy. (I know that they were in a room together, but that is very brief.)
Can I also talk about the chicken scene? Big Jim tries to eat the tramp because he envisions him as a giant chicken. There's no analysis here. This is all appreciation. At one point, Jim realizes his folly and apologizes to the tramp. Okay, but the next thing absolutely kills me. He realizes that he was close to becoming a full on cannibal and then just becomes okay with it. Let me tell you. I love that. That moment where Jim goes on an unbridled cannibal rampage is such a hilarious moment. It may not be the funniest moment in The Gold Rush, but it absolutely crushed as a concept for me. Also, that chicken costume is on point.
I have yet to watch a Chaplin movie I didn't like. I really need to watch the rest of them, but as of right now I'm a very happy dude. Perhaps Shoulder Arms next?
Approved. You know, 1957 for a movie that most people could watch. My kids caught the last fifteen minutes of this movie. If I was a better parent, maybe I wouldn't let my kids watch a movie where people shoot each other. I don't know why that is more tame than watching it in glorious Technicolor, but I'm not losing sleep over it either.
DIRECTOR: Samuel Fuller
I have a subroutine running in my head. (I don't know why in this narrative I'm an android, but it is a good way to put this entire idea that I'm playing with.) I don't like when people pigeonhole genres. I know a lot of folks don't really love Westerns. If I'm honest, I tend to dislike a lot of Westerns as well. But I also really dig some. When I watch a Western, I need it to be great. I want to be able to throw it down and say, "See? This movie is amazing." Even though this movie is one of Sam Fuller's, I can't scream it out and say that it is amazing. I watched this movie on Monday and it's Friday. I've already forgotten a lot of it. That might not be a good sign for the quality of this film.
I love Sam Fuller's noir titles. As a film nerd, that's not the most shocking statement that someone could make. In fact, if I said anything opposite, I might get my film cred revoked. So when I saw that Sam Fuller had made this movie, I buckled my seatbelt. I knew that this movie was going to be something special. The opening of the movie kind of supported that. It had this really cool cold open where a wagon is overwhelmed by the titular forty guns. (This might really be the only time that the title comes into play with the rest of the movie, so let's put that out there.) I was really jazzed. But then the movie did what I really didn't want to do. It spiraled into a bunch of Hollywood Western tropes. The bad guys were bad because they were bad guys. Literally, the inciting incident is a bunch of the guys in the gang want to start shooting up the town because that sounds fun. There is little motivation outside of the fact that there is no one to stop them. Sam Fuller is kind of the king of cool. He always seems to make really cool antagonists, but these guys were dressed like Hollywood outlaws and their only motivation is to cause trouble. When a gunslinger walks into town and takes care of what the sheriff ignores, that's what gets the ball rolling. Admittedly there are some plot elements that work better in this story, like the reasoning for the sheriff's cowardice. But that is setting up the film on a pretty weak foundation. The story only gets more ridiculous from there. A lot of that that has to do with Barbara Stanwyck's character, Jessica Drummond. Jessica Drummond is playing another Hollywood stock character as the leader of the gang. You know that she's the leader of the gang because she's wearing an all black version of what everyone else is wearing. Only, you know, ladyish. (The 1950s version of sexy. I use that term very liberally.) But her character is absolutely a sexist portrayal of a character.
Barbara Stanwyck starts as this rough and tumble leader who takes no nonsense from no strangers. (ENGLISH TEACHER!) But she is easily manipulated to the side of good because of her relationship with Barry Sullivan's Griff Bonnell. (Another issue I had with the movie is that the movie had three brothers who all filled the role of the lawmakers in town. Fuller decided to dress them alike because of reasons. They all looked exactly alike and I started to get confused about which brother I was watching. I'm pretty sure it was Griff, but if I was wrong, just write about it in the comments and I'll put an edit somewhere in this review.) I know, I'm shouting at the '50s for not having its act together when it came to equal rights, but it is pretty shameless how Jessica had no real personality that was able to determine things for herself. There is one moment where Drummond and Bonnell are riding through a sandstorm where she can handle getting dragged by a horse and then she is this passive little waif who looks to Griff for all of the choices that she's used to making. Remember, the name of the movie is called Forty Guns? She has this whole gang that looks to her for choices, but she's hanging out with the law, making doe eyes and having fancy dinners. What? C'mon. I'm not saying that Stanwyck was ever that convincing when it came to appearing in charge, but I want to have a little more struggle than simply surviving a sandstorm together.
That's not to say that there aren't really cool parts in this movie. The Bonnell brothers are pretty awesome. There's this B-plot where the older Bonnell brothers don't want to let the younger brother be one of the lawmen because Chico (the younger brother?) is the future. He hasn't killed before, but he looks up to his brothers who have done more killing than they are happy with. There is this throughline that reminded me of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance because it talked about the decline of the old West. Griff has this realization (that is totally Sam Fuller just talking to the audience) about how his era is dead and that the Old West is a thing of the past. I know that he's partially commenting on the famous gunslingers who ended up selling their talents to travelling shows, but he might also be commenting on the death of the genre. Westerns would still survive a number of years after this, outside of the novel outliers like Unforgiven, but there seemed to be a movement away from the cheaply made old timey Western. Perhaps Sam Fuller was just reading the lay of the land, but he is doesn't predict the whole Technicolor era of Western film. But talking about Technicolor...
...I love how this movie was shot in CinemaScope. That made me happy. While a lot of moments were pretty generic in terms of how the town was designed and the mise en scene in general, the CinemaScope did give it this epic scale that made it somewhat special. It looks like a real pretty movie and there is this weird element that I'd like to explore. This movie has a musical like element. Lots of Westerns have a balladeer crooning some old timey song all over. That's fine. That doesn't make it a musical. However, wherever that this one character went, someone was scoring what he was saying. I guess I can chalk it up to style. The style isn't overt, but it does share similarities with Baby Driver where the music is in-universe, but not necessarily realistic. You know that questions that people always ask when a musical is going on? "Why does everyone seemingly break into song and dance and how come they know all the words and dance moves?" There's a suspension of disbelief with an understanding that musicals exist in a different reality than ours. Forty Guns and Baby Driver are simply a heightened version of reality. People are actually playing this song. Maybe the people of the town are very cool with the idea that this guy likes to sing and are just wildly accommodating to his situation.
This movie is in my 501 Must See Movies, but I don't exactly know why outside the fact that Sam Fuller directed it. There is one sequence that I really dig and it's pretty SPOILERY, so I'm just going to warn you now. The killing of the brother in this movie is pretty great. The relationship with the brother and his girl is absolutely insane. They do this very odd James Bond gunbarrel moment with her head, but it is supposed to be romantic. I don't think that necessarily works. But the whole idea of Wes getting gunned down was a very cool sequence. There's this other moment where the sheriff tries to murder Griff by having a stooge pretend he's Charlie Savage that's pretty clever too. But these moments are really the exception to the rule. The movie is pretty short, so it doesn't really drag. But the scenes don't necessarily lead to a cohesive narrative.
I wish I liked this movie. I'm always happy when I find a Western I love. I find it absolutely bizarre that I don't love a Sam Fuller movie, but I also know that I'm not supposed to just love a movie because a great director is attached to it.
Okay, I get it. The full title A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't there. Still stabby stabby dream guy. He murders adults in this one if you think that deserves a PG-13. (It doesn't.) This is still a hard R.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
IMDB, you and I have a beef. This movie was always Wes Craven's New Nightmare, not just New Nightmare. If it's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stephen King's It, then it is Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Look how big his name is on the poster! It is part of the title. But since I always follow IMDB's listing, I had to label it New Nightmare. I'm still putting it in the film listing as Nightmare on Elm Street 7 because I have control of my own domain. Much like the spirit demon in this movie has control over our domain and the kid who was in all those '90s movies.
People preach this one. People swear it is a return to form. It is the one that is special and when I first watched it years ago, I was on their team. I swore that New Nightmare was cool and original. I think time has not exactly been kind to this movie and I might have to blame Entourage. For those unaware with New Nightmare, the movie is insanely meta. The film treats Freddy Krueger as a fictional character, similarly to how we view him in reality. Wes Craven is a real dude. Heather Langenkamp played Nancy and is a working actress. (Okay, not everything is accurate.) The Nightmare franchise has devoted followers and the Freddy's Dead ended the franchise. A viewing audience wants to view more. It is in this world that Freddy comes back. There is no real guy named Fred Krueger, but rather a spirit of evil that has Freddy as an avatar. This all sounds pretty cool and, at one point, I thought this was awesome. Entourage brought us a meta world filled with self-parody and I realized, that's really the only way to make meta really work. The problem is that Wes Craven thinks that he's a genius. So instead of having Wes poke fun of himself (shy of one throwaway line), he's just touting how awesome he is. That is super icky. This movie is just preaching how influential Wes Craven is as a director and how great the Nightmare movies are. That's annoying. That's why I think that the name of the movie is Wes Craven's New Nightmare. It's all about how great this guy is and why would I want to watch that for such a long time. There's no sense of irony in a movie that is definitely screaming for it. (Pun intended.)
What we actually get is kind of a novelty. It is a horror movie that is somewhat unique. It had to be weird for Heather Langenkamp to play this part that was supposed to so closely resemble her life. Not being a fan, I know nothing of Langenkamp's personal situation, but I don't think I would handle reading about the person who is actually supposed to be my spouse or child being cut up or horribly tortured. The movie is about the movie that they are making. Wes Craven plays up the idea that all of his scary movies come from his bad dreams. He apparently looks forward to bad dreams because they give him ideas for films. That's got to be a weird experience. The good news is that this movie allows for the filmmakers to throw away a burdensome amount of mythology and are allowed to just focus on the story. The odd thing is that Wes Craven decided to replace it with a new insane mythology that is possibly equally insane. It's not full on retcon because it acknowledges that the other mythology exists, but that this creature simply inhabits Freddy's form only makes the movie only the more confusing. What inadvertent thing happens, though, and I'm counting my blessings on this one, is that we get a significantly less jokey Freddy. Since this character isn't the same guy as the one from movies 3-6 (and since Wes Craven is throwing his OG gauntlet on the table), Freddy has no reason to really tell jokes. I never really understood jokey Freddy. Is he trying to make his victims laugh before they die? Is he entertaining himself? Isn't the very nature of killing cathartic to him or does he feel like he has to say something before people die. At least James Bond often had a weird audience when he told a morbid joke.
Like the reboot, this movie has a little bit of a problem with being overpolished. Freddy somehow works great when it is from the lens of a struggling director. I know that none of the movies really look low budget, but they definitely have that Cannon touch to them. There's something a little cornball about the whole thing. Freddy himself looks shiny and new. I kind of like it because it seems like a lot of attention was made into making the perfect Freddy. But there are a few sequences where Freddy is brightly lit (a rarity for the franchise, believe me) and you can see every stitch of his clothing. He looks very impressive, but I also like the idea that Freddy always looks a little ratty. This is a deluxe action figure version of Freddy. I'm not saying the special effects carry across the entire film. Perhaps it was a bad idea to watch a high def print of this movie because some of the sequences were never meant to stand up to the scrutiny of a 4K UHD TV. Yup, I'm just showing off that we have a very impressive TV and I'm going to shut up now. The scenes that look good look really good. I think New Nightmare fits in the perfect spot of history. The movie doesn't look so good that it looks sterile, but it also doesn't completely suffer from overly cheap special effects. We're still primarily in the practical special effects era. There's one special effect that is possibly worse than the rest of the franchise. As much as I don't love the Fangoria aspect of these movies, the special effects for the most part hold up most of the time. There's one in this movie that really lacks the polish of a clean effect. At one point, Freddy becomes the moon. It's this morphing effect and it looks absolutely terrible. It doesn't kill the sequence because the sequence, admittedly, is pretty cool. But this is a time when movies were just discovering special effects by computer and I thank my lucky stars that this is the only effect they really tried. It's minor, but it is noticable.
I don't think I like Wes Craven's supernatural stuff. His otherworldly sets always seem to have the same aesthetics and that really gets boring and old over time. His nightmare worlds are all variations of the boiler room. When the movie enters the demon's dimension, it looks exactly like you think a demon dimension should look. Why am I complaining about that? I want to be surprised. I want to be blown away. Instead, it looks like a Clive Barker knockoff. It's that weird gothic nightmare look to everything. I just think that there could be something far more creative. Honestly, the Matrix white room would actually work as a more terrifying idea. What about an adorned room? I think of the room with the eye-hand guy from Pan's Labyrinth. That room doesn't have the traditional look as most demon dimensions, but that locale is way scarier than anything presented in the demon's dimension. I also wonder if the very premise's locale kind of seems blah. I never got much out of L.A., especially when it comes to scary movies. I know that the characters are commenting on their real lives, but Midwest suburbia always screamed way creepier than a rich actress's house. I also don't understand if Heather Langenkamp is honestly that successful to afford such an awesome mansion.
Now, the big question that really is getting my goat is wondering if John Saxon is really amazing friends with Heather Langenkamp. If he is, that's a little bit weird. I don't know what they have in common outside of being in two movies together, one of which is a sequel to the other one. The other scenario might be far more awkward. Did Wes Craven write John Saxon as Heather Langenkamp's best friend and then they had to pretend like they talk to each other, let alone like each other? That's awkward. They would have had to pretend to hang out all the time when John Saxon is way older than Heather Langenkamp. That's pretty bizarre.
I honestly really wanted to like this one again. I had a good time the first time I watched it and I didn't absolutely hate it this time. But I also know that this movie (and even more so Wes Craven) takes itself way too seriously. This movie had such an opportunity, but instead it feels like a huge ego boost to everyone involved.
I don't know how I can stress this enough. This is a series of movies that has a bunch of kids ripped apart by a guy with knife hands. He has knife hands. Knives are a terrible way to die. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Jack Sholder
And back to the grind. Since I tend to deviate from what my focus should be in my first paragraph, I suppose I should give you a little background on my history with this movie. This was the movie I had walked in on when I was a little kid. I'm sure I didn't walk into a movie theater as a two year old (You now know how old I am), but I do remember being eight or nine and walking into a basement and our family friends watching this movie. I walked into the movie when the bird exploded. That's a scene. A bird exploded in midair and I was destroyed. Luckily for my well-being, this is one of the more tame moments in the movie and I eventually got over this fear. For years, I was terrified to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 because I thought it had to be the scariest movie ever. Eventually, I tried looking like a boss that could handle horror movies and I sat down to show how cool I was. This movie is dumb. In that moment, I realized I was scared of a really dumb movie. Now that I have a more than passing understanding of popular culture, I came to realize that most people hate A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2. I knew I hated it from the second time I watched it. But I'm obsessed with researching the topic I'm going to be talking about, so I watched it again. And as a common theme to this blog, I have to say...
...I didn't hate it this time.
The movie is bad. It never stopped being dumb. I'm going to gripe about this movie to no end in this entry, but I do want people to know that my brain was shut off enough to kind of enjoy it. The thing that works about it is that it really tries capturing the tone of the first film. I'm not saying that the movie takes itself overly seriously, but it isn't going for full on camp yet. This is still the boogeyman version of Freddy. The basic motif of "Don't fall asleep" is still intact, if not heavily cracking. (I'll get to that in a second.) The story is dumber than anything else and I'm not sure if you can watch this without bringing up some interesting film theory, but the rudimentary things that made Freddy kind of work in the first film are still here. Freddy is still on his quest to revenge himself on the Elm Street parents. (Also, question because I'm in Part 4: Is the name of the town "Springwood"?) The scares aren't gimmicky and I like that. Freddy might tell a joke here and there, but those moments are definitely afterthoughts. I know nothing else of Jack Sholder's work, but I get the vibe that he definitely wants to make a movie worthy to be a sequel to Wes Craven's original film. The movie looks more like Craven's original than the sequels do. Somehow, this makes the movie more watchable than many people give it credit for. Yeah, I know I preach about the value of making something original and risky. But with a crap script like this movie has, perhaps the best I can hope for is the fact that it kind of looks like the first movie in a few ways.
But the rest is where the movie really collapses in on itself. The OG Nightmare on Elm Street was made in 1984. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 came out the next year. The worst of sequels give the turn around time as two years. New Line Cinema had to be trying to capitalize on Freddy fever. I wish I could say that it didn't work, but there are a lot of the movies in this franchise. (Oh golly, I just realized that if there wasn't A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, there would probably be no Lord of the Rings trilogy. Butterfly Effect, right? Actually, I don't think that New Line did that one.) The movie's biggest problem isn't its premise, which I weirdly like. The problem with the movie is that it doesn't follow its own rules. The rest of the franchise kind of has this problem as well. The loose version of the plot follows a weakened Freddy Krueger trying to resurrect himself. He has lost the ability to jump into people's dreams, so he can only control one kid, Jesse Walsh. Jesse has moved into Nancy's old house and Freddy's enchanted knife glove is in his basement. When Jesse, in a dream induced daze, puts on the glove, he slowly becomes possessed by Krueger. I can live with this premise. Jesse becomes the only one who can't fall asleep in this version of the story, which is fine. I actually applaud a franchise that chooses to go smaller with its sequels, but that doesn't work out with making a gory, bloodsoaked ending. Instead, Freddy, who I remind you has lost the ability to take over dreams for the most part, can now influence the real world. I consider that a pretty major upgrade to just throw into the story. Things just start catching fire and the real world becomes like his dreamscape. There's no explanation for any of this. Freddy still seems pretty weak without Jesse, but he's just able to set fire to stuff. Also, I don't know if the fire motif works as well as the franchise thinks it does. Freddy was set on fire, I get it. But melting stuff doesn't have the same effect as the filmmakers think it does. Also, there's a cool tease that people will be boiled alive, and that doesn't happen. (Am I a sadist that I wrote that sentence?)
The character stuff is absolutely bananas in this movie. Jesse is all over the place and just epitomizing the '80s anytime he gets the chance. There's a truly weird section where he has been asked to unpack his room and he does this odd dance number with glasses until he's interrupted by his girlfriend. I don't know if anyone knew what to do with Jesse because his relationships with anyone are just a hot mess. (Again, this is where the film theory comes in. I choose not to spell it out.) He has the weirdest chemistry with his girlfriend. He becomes best friends with the guy he fought without pants (and there it is again). His dad hates him but seems kind of like a homebody. I choose not to analyze his coach. This might be where the sequels kind of got their gift for stock characters. Every person in this movie is a two dimensional character, which is ironic because it might be a very introspective movie if given a chance. After all, Jesse is fighting against a part of himself that he is trying to bury. In this case, it's Freddy Krueger so it's a bit on the nose, but think about the metaphor alone. Had Jesse been this well developed character, this movie might have been (God forbid!) kind of deep. Instead, there is no real way to tell what Jesse's motivations are except for wondering what is going on with him. Jesse, in some ways, becomes the precursor for the "special teen" that the rest of the franchise has. Say what you will about Heather Langenkamp's Nancy, she was just a regular girl who figured out how to beat Freddy before her time came. Jesse is this chosen one and can be the only one to defeat Freddy. This also can be said for Kristen in Part 3 and Alice in Parts 4 and 5. I guess Heather Langenkamp is also chosen for New Nightmare. There's something very bizarre about the warrior against Freddy. I don't like that these characters are special. I'm now realizing that every horror franchise eventually becomes this. SPOILERS FOR OTHER FRANCHISES: Sydney Prescott is related to the killer each time. Laurie Strode is Michael's sister. Jason has to fight Corey Feldman. Why can't the person just be one of us? I like when the protagonist is an avatar for me.
There's a lot of stupidity in this one. Jesse's girlfriend doesn't really make a lick of sense. I think I like the Ripley protagonist better than a character like Jesse. Having such a weak girlfriend character after having Nancy is a bit of a disappointment. But Lisa (who looks like a young Meryl Streep) does have one of the best moments in the movie. I don't know why this horror trope is always so effective with me, but I love when someone puts a human face on a dog. It is always really cool looking. If you Google image search this movie, you'll find it among your first options. I clearly am not the only one who liked this effect. But that also introduces one of my least favorite elements of the Nightmare series: the boilers. Boilers are always in B movies because they look creepy in themselves. I guess I have to take them over the boring abandoned Elm Street house, but boilers always make the movie look cheap. It looks like it was made in someone's basement and I can't dig that. "But it ties into his mythology." Yeah, I don't love the Freddy mythology either. I like the parents' perspective. Why can't we dig more into that problem? It's because the parents are the worst stock characters ever. I'm watching Part 5 right now and that might have the worst examples of stock characters yet. I'll talk about that then.
I might genuinely believe that the movies go in order of quality. I know people will dog Freddy's Revenge especially in light that they love Dream Warriors, but outside of real script problems, the movie is okay. It looks and feels more like the first one, which I like a lot. A non-jokey Freddy will win me over every time.
I'll give this one a firm PG. Sure, they're little toys that hit each other. But violence is bad, right? Like, I shouldn't be encouraging the kids to watch violent things. I hope that my son and daughter don't grow up to be ninjas, right? It'd be cool, but then I know that my kids kill people for a living. Also, when did we get cool with people wanting to be ninjas? They're just assassins!
DIRECTORS: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
I have something to review besides violent gore horror! Do you understand that this is such a weird blessing right now? I get to write about The Lego Ninjago Movie! I bet I'm the only person who will write that sentence in history. I feel pretty good about setting that record. There's something to break up the monotony of having to write about how stupid Freddy's individual kills are. Anyway, I'm not saying that the movie is amazing or anything, but I really liked taking my kids to this one. Admittedly, my wife slept for most of it, but she's not feeling great and she was being a trooper.
I weirdly like the Lego franchise. When I heard that they were making a single Lego Movie, I groaned pretty hard. I hate marketing on that scale. But the first movie was great. Then I found out that they were making an extended universe out of this, because they are Sony and they're ridiculous with their trying to make everything an extended universe. But then The Lego Batman Movie was also great. (I have yet to watch it formally again, but I hear the audio from time to time and it always makes me chuckle.) Then they decided to push too far and make the next movie about Ninjago. I never was into Lego when I was a kid and I know that Ninjago is a pretty recent line of toys. I just learned this week that there was a TV show about Ninjago and that it had a separate voice cast. So I went into this movie fairly optimistically. I have two very paradoxical thoughts that I believe about The Lego Ninjago Movie based on all that I've just said. A) The Lego Ninjago Movie is the worst in the franchise. B) That's not necessarily a bad thing.
What makes the Lego movies work is that they are really funny. The tone established in Miller and Lord's original really works for this series and I love it. Miller and Lord are remarkably funny and let me establish right now that I'm bummed that many of their shows are cancelled and that they were fired from the Han Solo movie. Although I'm pretty sure they didn't write The Lego Batman Movie, the movie took their style and applied it. But the one complaint I had about The Lego Batman Movie is that it was TOO funny. Read the review. I deal with a lot of reflection on what that means in that review. Batman sacrificed a little bit of vulnerability to tell jokes and I thought it was its only weakness. The Lego Ninjago Movie is still pretty funny, but it is also the least frenetic. The one thing that these movies established is how high energy and chaotic the movies really are. Instead, The Lego Ninjago Movie decides to scale back the humor a bit and focus more on a straightforward narrative. The narrative is okay, but I applaud the series for not trying to one up the previous movie every time. There is a bit of an input overload when it comes to previous movies in the franchise, but Ninjago gets that there is a tipping point to that. I almost guarantee, however, that Sony is going to read the weaker reviews as "We need to make the next movies in the series more insane." If you have been a long time reader, you know my thoughts about the insane corporate structure that Sony employs. But if someone has a decent head on their shoulders, he or she should realize that the studio should lean into that comfort zone because there is no way to top the insanity that was The Lego Batman Movie.
The jokes still mostly work in The Lego Ninjago Movie. There are times where it feels a bit pandering to the current style of humor employed in shows found on Cartoon Network (face paced, brightly colored absurdity), but those moments don't really taint the movie as a whole. I found myself laughing just enough at these moments. I actually would have probably enjoyed the movie more had it been my first Lego experience, but the jokes still mostly land. The best bits are a rehash of Toy Story 2's absurd parenting jokes. I guess Ninjago really plumbs that well a bit deeper, considering that the parenting bit in Toy Story 2 was only small portion. The joke I'm referring to is the idea of "What if a supervillain was your parent?" like Darth Vader with jokes. I'm always a sucker for stories about fathers and sons, so I'm already not being objective. Garmadon, played by Justin Theroux, is pretty funny, but I always think that he sounds like James Woods. I also acknowledge that I keep laughing at Kumail Nanjiani because I like Kumail Nanjiani. But I have to start adding Zach Woods onto my list of people whom I respect. Zach Woods always delivers, yet he always plays a background character. However, his Zane probably has the best one liners in the movie. It doesn't sound like him, but that's just because he's playing a robot. I like that he finally gets a different character than he gets in The Office or Silicon Valley. He's very talented and I hope to see him in more things. I know that fans of the TV show are mad that Jackie Chan is the voice of Master Wu. I know nothing of the TV show, so this character isn't precious to me. I don't know if Jackie Chan has the best vocal timing necessarily, but it is nice having him act as a live action book end for the movie.
I'm a little befuddled about how seriously the bookending scenes work, though. The movie kind of plays into stereotypes a bit hard with the Oriental shop run by Jackie Chan. I'm sure I can't be the only one who felt a little uncomfortable by this. (Now that I'm thinking about all of this, a ton of non-Asian characters appropriating Asian culture might be a bit insensitive...) But then there's this delivered-serious-as-day (mixed metaphor) moment where Jackie Chan puts out a sculpted Lego figure of Master Wu. Golly, I wish there was a joke there, but it also puts Lego into this serious marketing spotlight that they've been responsible enough to avoid in previous films. Maybe it was meant to be a joke and it really didn't fly. This moment gives Lego this authentic quality that it really shouldn't have. It is treating it seriously as opposed to what the other films did. The other movies always acknowledged that these were clearly toys that were playing and that it was silly to take anything more than a grain of salt. This one moment kind of undoes that good will and I don't know why it is in the movie. Similarly, this is the movie that doesn't wink at the camera as much as it could about the nature of the toys. When the Ultimate Weapon is unleashed, that finally breaks down that wall for a second. But the movie does take its universe a little literally to the point where I realized that none of this stuff really had to be made out of Lego. This, with the exception of the Ultimate Weapon, could be a traditionally animated film about ninjas. While I applaud the toning down of the comedy, I do want them to maintain a self-aware element to them. It still happens in small doses, but those come in pop culture references to Michael Strahan and songs performed on the flute.
But the movie is first and foremost fun. While it is the weakest in the franchise, I don't mind watching it again with my kids. The jokes really land and the plot is pretty good, if not a bit cliche. I don't love the Captain Planet stuff, but who cares in the long run? The movie never denies that it ever is anything outside of what it presents on the poster. A bunch of teens learning to be ninjas to fight one of the character's dad is just 3 Ninjas. (I don't know if the 3 Ninjas ever fought family. It's been a while and I almost guarantee that 3 Ninjas doesn't hold up.) Western ninja stories never really drew me in, but I also acknowledge that this movie is both appealing to kids and fairly entertaining for adults. I don't think that Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts have the cultural penetration that the studio execs at Sony think that they do, but who cares? The jokes still play.
Did we not establish this, not only on this blog, but as a culture? The Nightmare on Elm Street series is going to be R rated. I would almost say none more so than the first in the franchise. There is so much gore, guys. Like, so much. There's also crass language and innuendo. You know, for those of you who are totally cool with kids getting chopped up but don't like language.
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
This is the one I like! I'm going to be griping about this franchise for many, many reviews, but I do actually like one of these movies. But then I realized that it kind of makes me a snob to say, "None of the sequels are as good as the original." When I say I liked this movie, it never really made me a fan of the franchise so much as it gave me a good scare. I'm also going to keep on feeling guilty. Considering that Wes Craven had the insight to put a strong female character as the protagonist, I couldn't help but make the image up top be of a young Johnny Depp. I hear that he cameos in Freddy's Dead, but I always got the vibe that Johnny Depp has mentally separated himself from this franchise.
I think that Wes Craven might be one of those intense hit and intense miss directors. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a genuinely creepy film. I don't get scared very often because I've been horribly desensitized through my own doing, but A Nightmare on Elm Street kind of gets me. The same thing with the first Scream film. That movie is so good and so creepy. It has to be from just finding the right balance and believing in a product enough. Both of those franchises never had another film in the series that really captured the brilliance of the first film and there has to be a reason why. In my review for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, I talked about the simplicity of formula. Scream is not a simple film, but it also sticks to its premise. For a movie that is so genre focused, the Nightmare series loses its basic premise pretty early. That premise was so good. I guess it comes down to the basic problems with sequels. A Nightmare on Elm Street creates a scare around a really basic idea: don't fall asleep. It is something so common and something so relatable that it forces its audience to start hypothesizing what they would do in the same scenario. Similarly, the concepts of dreams becoming reality is such a strong notion that it isn't much of a leap to get to that point. That's what makes the first Nightmare on Elm Street work so well. Dreams and nightmares are chaotic. While I've had dreams that are definitely around my personality (Two nights ago, I dreamt that my wife and I became friends with Jodie Whittaker), most of them don't make a lick of sense. Craven seems to really understand that notion in the first film. The killings aren't novelties and magic tricks. Rather, they are simplistic. The kids are naturally afraid of the things around them because those things are scary. Our brains mess with us and Wes Craven understand that the imagery doesn't have to match the personality.
One of the gimmicks that he uses to stress that dream logic is bizarre is the idea of getting one's feet trapped in sludge. So far, I've watched five of these movies in the past week and a half and they all go back to this gimmick. But the gimmick works best in the first one because it is part of the natural surrealism (natural surrealism...geez, I hate me) of dreaming. Similarly, the creature effects in this one aren't "show-offy" like they are in future entries in the franchise. Rather, they really help the narrative of the bizarre nature of dreams. There's a sequence (I suppose it's pretty memorable) where Freddy is chasing Nancy down an alley. His arms become elongated and it just feels like a real dream. It's scary and weird. The dreams in this one seem to mirror what the dreamer creates, not simply what Freddy wants to accomplish. Nancy seems to be her own worst enemy in this one and that's a cool concept to me. Adding to that the absurdity of the whole premise is the disbelief of the adults. That motif follows the entire franchise, but it is a central concept within the first film. The adults know that they have done something wrong, but can't possibly believe that a serial killer has entered their kids' dreams. But in that, we also get another cool premise that isn't followed up past the third entry. I love that the adults who murdered Fred Krueger also have this deep and dark secret. SPOILER (but not really) FOR THE WHOLE FRANCHISE: Freddy eventually gets all of the Elm Street kids. That causes all kinds of problems for the best elements of the movie. John Saxon being a law enforcement officer who resorted to clandestine vigilante justice is fantastic. Compounding that with the notion that he eventually realizes that he is mostly at fault for the events that are haunting Nancy and her boyfriend is an awesome realization. John Saxon pulls it off (because I will always say that) very well while Ronee Blakley's alcoholism is a bit over the top, but it still works.
Heather Langenkamp does a better job in this one than she does in Dream Warriors, but that doesn't necessarily means that she crushes it. I do like the fact that Nancy is a strong female character and the guys are kind of dopes. Nancy is a bit more like Ripley than a lot of female protagonists in horror movies. She seems to take control of her situation as best as she can. She also has this cool element of being haunted by the death of her friends. Could someone besides Heather Langenkamp pull it off better? Probably. But she's definitely doing some heavy lifting in this movie and I have to give her props for that. I do love that Johnny Depp is in this movie. This is Johnny Depp before he really became the Johnny Depp we know. He doesn't even hint at his stylized acting style that we get from him in his other movies. I've never seen him play it so safe before that it's weirdly rewarding to watch him in this one. I'm saying that there's nothing special about his performance like it is a good thing. But it also makes him seem more human.
I think the favorite thing I like about the first Nightmare movie is that Freddy doesn't really joke. Freddy is a boogeyman. That is all that is really behind his character. He seems like a force of nature and that really works for me. The second that Freddy started to crack wise and call people the b-word, I lost interest. This seems demented, but I know I'm not alone in this emotional response. I occasionally laugh if a sequence of gore catches me off guard. Perhaps it is the unexpected. Maybe I'm just impressed and I have no idea how to emotionally respond, but the best sequences of 2017's It were moments where the gore completely surprised me. Remember, I'm not a gore fan, but I can still be impressed by effects. To add a joke to force that response is probably one of those mood killers. I have the same reaction to when people put "funny" music over funny sequences. I like the moment to play out itself and to treat that release as a cathartic reaction to built up tension. By having Freddy joke later in the franchise, I can see the telegraphing of the situation. Instead of having that suspense released in a single intense moment, the suspense slowly fades as I prep for release. Freddy is scary in this. He's the Predator (pun intended). I have just the right amount of info that I need to know about this character to follow his motivations while finding him absolutely terrifying.
I try not to watch this movie too often because I imagine being obsessed with this film can only harm my mental state. It's a gore fest, but it is also a gore fest mostly done right. There are eye rolling moments and I'm not sure the film as a whole is perfect like I'm making it sound. There are definitely cornball moments, but the movie mostly works. It is a scary film and its a shame that the rest of the franchise so far can't find the legs it needs.
I'm going to be writing a lot of reviews for The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise over the next few weeks. They are all R. For all the violence. You thought there was some violence in your other movies? Nope. It's in these movies. Also, a rampant use of the "B" word. That Rick and Morty Scary Terry thing was accurate.
DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell
Well, this is uncomfortable. For the podcast, we're doing a Nightmare on Elm Street episode. I'm the guy who over-researches every topic I talk about. If we're going to talk about one of them, I'm going to watch the whole series and everything else the director has made. The only one in the franchise that I hadn't seen was Part III. It was partially because I could get my hands on it for five bucks and Mr. Henson hadn't gotten his copy of the franchise yet. So the odd order for these reviews is going to be 3, 1, 2, 7, 4, 5, 6, Freddy vs. Jason, then the reboot. I also have to put a giant disclaimer for how much I waste my time. I don't even really like the Nightmare franchise. I'm going to go as far as to say I dislike it, yet I'm watching the series for a second time.
For fans of the series, the idea that I hadn't seen Dream Warriors seems to be complete blasphemy. It's the one that the fans swear by. If you've read my past couple of reviews, you'll see a common theme. Don't tell me if a movie is amazing or terrible beforehand. My expectations take over and I expect something truly great or horribly awful. Rarely, if ever, does it meet that expectation and I tend to savage the movie. Mr. Henson told me that Dream Warriors is the best one. The only one I even kind of liked before was the first movie, so I was excited to get an entry that might change my opinions on the series. I am clearly stating this right now, this movie does nothing for me. In fact, it breaks one of the rules of a horror franchise that I find to be crucial. The movie tried complicating the mythology. Freddy works in the first movie for one reason: he's a mystery. Very much like Predator or Alien, we don't need to know much about him. The whispers that John Saxon puts in the movie are more than enough information. He was a guy that the parents of the town killed when he escaped justice and now he's hunting down their kids in their dreams. Heck, that's already pretty complex, but it is just the right amount of complex. Dream Warriors, as you can kind of tell by the title, is a force to stop Freddy for good. (If you haven't noticed, there's a ton of movies after this so they only succeed in the fact that the movie ends with a defeat sequence for Freddy.)
I'm not really sure why people love this one so much. Perhaps the fact that the franchise gets a little kitsch and self-aware might be the reason why some people like it. There are moments where I really like ironically watching horror. I'm not above it. But the first movie is actually a pretty good film. I didn't realize that Craven really didn't direct a lot of these movies after the first one. Craven kind of understands how he just wants to translate horror movies into a visual medium. By the time Dream Warriors comes around, the movie becomes about murder tricks. Like many of these horror movie franchises, it focuses primarily on what creative way can we vivisect these teenagers. That means that almost every moment in the story is based on novelty. These characters become less fleshed out and just shells of characters. There is little attachment to anyone in the story because as audience members, we're trying to figure out how Freddy is going to kill these kids. To take that idea a step further, these characters become two-dimensional in themselves. There's a kid who won't speak, so clearly his attack will have to do with speaking. There's a kid who likes the equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons, so his attack has to do with that. These characters are simply created to match whatever attack the writers have planned for them. These reverse engineered kids aren't that compelling to watch. As part of that, and I don't completely hate this, the movie becomes about creature effects. The Nightmare series is mostly about creature shop guys in a competition for who can create the most interesting visual effect. But this is also where I get off the train. If I was really that interested in visual effects in this case, I would subscribe to Fangoria. I'm much more interested in the narrative and the narrative is stupid.
The premise of Dream Warriors is that Kristen and a group of teens have been misdiagnosed as suicidal and have been placed in a mental ward. Rather than any kind of tenancies that they might have, they are all actually the final victims of Freddy Krueger. Kristen, for some reason, has the ability to pull people into her dreams. No explanation. I guess after my big shpiel about overcomplicating the Freddy mythology, I should be grateful for this. But Kristen doesn't make a lick of sense and I don't care about her outside the fact that she's played by a young Patricia Arquette. They are all rallied by the worst excuse for a Professor X character, a return of Heather Langenkamp's Nancy from the first movie. Langenkamp has a pretty devoted following, even among my friends. I think she might be the weakest part of the movie. (My favorite part of the movie? The return of John Saxon. I regularly shout out during movies, "Hey, it's John Saxon!" Even if it isn't John Saxon.) The end of the first movie is very ambiguous when it comes to Nancy's fate because of the abstract ending. The second film gives a one line answer saying that she was in a mental institution. But now she is a social worker who has figured out a way to keep Freddy out of her head. This plot slowly feeds into Dream Warriors, but it is oddly dropped. Instead, they all confront Freddy head on. I'm going to complain about this a lot over the course of the next few reviews, but the rules of the Nightmare movies are all over the place. Freddy can do whatever he wants and he is often Nerfed by the end of the movie. (If you don't know what Nerfing is, Google it. It's a great term and it makes you sound hip.) Langenkamp's performances in all three movies she appears in is the worst. She's bad. She's really bad. Ms. Langenkamp, if you are reading this, I'm sorry. I can't handle this performance. I have to imagine that there isn't much to work with, but golly. Sorry if I'm riffing too much on you. I really don't think it is your fault because I can't think of a good performance in the movie...
...outside of John Saxon, who is a national treasure.
The odd part of this movie is that I really have a hard time determining who is the protagonist of this movie. A lot of team movies have a hard time finding a central protagonist with a central conflict, but this movie really plays round robin with the focus. For a good portion of the movie, it seems like Nancy is the focus. She is, after all, the returning femme fatale. But then the focus gives way more importance to Kristen because she has powers. She is the protagonist in The Dream Master, so it kind of makes sense. But then the movie gets weirdly male focused and gives all of the attention to Craig Wasson's Neil. He gets all these moments where he takes control while the other kids are just reactionary. He fights this claymation Freddy skeleton and he finds the backstory about Freddy. I'm a little torn about his part of the story because elements of Freddy's backstory are cool. The child of a 100 maniacs is a cool thought, but it's more of a cool line than it is a great discovery. There's also a weird ghost story that happens with his character. Dream Warriors is not unique in that it has a goofy interpretation of Catholicism, but there are eye rolling moments when it comes to viewing the intensity of the supernatural elements of faith. Neil is the skeptic and he's supposed to be helping Nancy with the plot, but the movie focuses way too much on his throughline, taking away power from characters who actually have more at stake.
Also, Kincaid is annoying.
Anyway, I don't know how I'm going to write a million of these reviews. Dream Warriors might be the perfectly campy horror film for junkies, but I like genuine scares and stuff. Dream Warriors, like many films in this franchise, is all about gore. I don't love pure gore movies. But a year from now, when I push for the Friday the 13th franchise or the Halloween franchise, I'm going to change my tune. I don't know what the difference is, but there is one. Anyway, I hope to be pretty positive about my next review, whenever that happens.
A pretty R rated movie about a supernatural murdering clown. Also, the kid from Stranger Things swears a ton. There's also some horrible things that humans do to each other. Really, a solid R. An R that you could build your house on.
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti
This is one of those indie movies. You probably haven't heard of it. (Okay, I'm going to establish the fact that "It" is a very common pronoun and multiple times through this review, "It" can serve for both a pronoun and a proper noun.) I'm joking, of course. This movie dominated pop culture for the past few weeks. Everyone's obsessed with it. You know the Halloween costumes are going to be really messed up this year with this movie that's out. What got me really jazzed is that it was apparently terrifying people. It was terrifying people who don't get scared at horror movies. I know that Stephen King's novel It is infamously one of the scariest novels ever. The mini-series with Tim Curry as Pennywise is also lauded as one of the scariest movies ever. So I went in ready to get messed up.
Okay, I didn't get messed up. I really liked the movie and there were some legitimate scares, but this movie isn't going to be a secretly passed around tape. (Tape, look at me. It looks like I come from '89 now.) I know exactly who it scares: people who are afraid of clowns. Me, I never had a clown phobia. Not a once. At best, I get anxiety when performers try to get me involved in the show. Mascots aren't my favorite. But clowns? Clowns are great. Is the movie wholly relying on the terror that is associated with clowns to get by, but you can get pretty far into this movie if you don't have clownophobia (coulrophobia, if the Internet is to be believed). Since I was on a Stephen King kick this summer, I audiobooked a lot of the novel before going to see the movie. The book is insanely long and I had to return it to the digital library, but I got many of the beats that were eventually used in the movie. This is where the movie got really smart. I know that Muschietti cut his teeth on Mama, which I hear is also great, but he really managed to find an awesome balance to this movie. Since I've seen the mini-series and have read most of the book, I was really prepped for a lot of the scares that were coming up. (I guess I should have prefaced this earlier. I was more ready than most for this movie.) Muschietti keeps the essential story beats of the novel, but changes how Pennywise messes with the kids, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes not. But he keeps the essential narrative while scaring the audience in new ways. I know that die hard purists want to see their scares onscreen. But that would have been completely boring for people who don't want to see the same things over and over again. The scares were significantly more authentic because they were a variation on a theme. That was awesome. The important relationships and plot points remained (mostly) intact. No, THAT scene is not in the movie. Perhaps that's what remakes really need. Most remakes are either slavish to the source material or trying improving on what has been done before with limited results. It really does something parallel to the original and I like that better.
I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I might be a hypocrite. I always thought that the imagination was way scarier than anything shown on screen. With the original mini-series, a lot of the scariness was left to the imagination because of budgetary constraints. People were happy with this, but I never found the original scary. I think that this is the first time that a movie successfully pulled off special effects that are equal to the imagination. SPOILER, the movie full on shows Georgie's arm eaten off. Normally we get a cut away or fade to black with an L-cut. Not this movie. It is full on established that Pennywise is a supernatural monster. That's great. I've seen the out-of-focus / shaky scary effect, but it really works with Pennywise. Pennywise almost becomes a creature or a force of nature than he is a character for much of the movie because of the effectiveness of the special effects. Part of me is getting bored with having to figure out what happened off camera. So while I normally applaud off camera gore, I think it works with It for some reason. I guess the special effects would have to be considered part of the mise-en-scene and as part of that, Pennywise's whole build is nearly perfect in that context. His makeup works so much better with Bill Skarsgård than it does on Tim Curry. Tim Curry is creepy and it works, but Skarsgård takes it to this whole other level. I don't think there are many perfect harmonic convergences like Skarsgård and his entire build-up. That costume, the makeup, the props, the lighting. All of that with that actor is absolutely genius.
I hope you guys are into horror because I'm getting all of the horror movies out of the way now for our October podcasts. The big podcast we are doing in October is the Nightmare on Elm Street franchises and I found the connections between It and the original Nightmare eerily similar. A lot of the same beats and motifs are hit between the two movies. If you are watching these movies around the same time, start making a checklist of similarities between the two. But the movie, perhaps unfortunately, also shares a bit too much with Stranger Things. There seems to be a little bit of coattail riding with It setting the movie in 1989. I know why they are doing it. They want to have the adult Losers in present day, but then casting Finn Wolfhard as Richie is very on the nose. (Apparently, the Stranger Things folks had to give Wolfhard a talking to because his newly found pottymouth. This is why I tell my mother-in-law that Olivia can't be a child actor.) The feel of the movie is very much like Stranger Things, hitting the plot points of a group of nerds in the '80s fighting against a supernatural creature that they can only see in a small town. I love me some nostalgia and the execution of this nostalgia is top notch. (Hey, Nightmare 4 was playing! Look at that synergy!) But I also like the idea that something isn't capitalizing on another work's success. Let Stranger Things be Stranger Things. I don't want to get burnt out on that formula. I kind of wonder if there was a discussion of keeping the movie in the '50s like the book was. There's nothing wrong with setting the adult Losers in '84. It's also odd how Finn Wolfhard has already been typecast for the rest of his life and he's only been in two things. Regardless, New Line Cinema knew what they were buying when they hired him, so can I be THAT mad about it? Probs not.
It is a really solid horror movie considering that we haven't gotten a ton of great non A24 movies lately. I love that one of the Stephen King adaptations was successful and I'll probably watch it a few times. Again, if you aren't scared of clowns, the movie will be scary enough without destroying you. If you are scared of clowns...well, I have no good advice for you.
We're back with another full episode! We take a very positive look at the new DuckTales show (as controversial as that might be?) and then fall down a pretty deep nostalgia hole.
NEWS! We're porting our podcast over to SquareSpace. There's going to be a bit of a transition, so if you have a hard time getting your content, let us know. For sure, you can download this on iTunes. Google Play is fighting with us right now about feed change, but we'll update this when we get a chance.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.