Halloween Scene: A Nightmare On Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989)

Holy crap, I love this poster. I know it’s in German and have no idea what it actually says, but how creepy is it? A portion of this image was used for some US posters, but flipped and cropped a bit. I prefer this one because it opens the image up to show everything that’s going on. Pretty crazy stuff.

Anyway, it’s been two years since I sat down and watched the first and second NOES movies and then the third and fourth in relative succession. Basically, I liked the first and third movies while the second and fourth were pretty unmemorable. Thankfully, NOES 5 did not fail to continue the pattern.

While I won’t say that Dream Child can stand on its own as a great movie like Dream Warriors can, I will say that there is a lot to like in this film. Director Stephen Hopkins does a great job of capturing the strangeness of dreams and actually created some of the better ones from the whole series (if memory serves). You’ve got the beginning one where we find out how Freddy was born that moves into the main girl’s bedroom and then the insane diving one which changes like eight times while a girl falls. He also did a great job casting Jacob who’s an intensely creepy kid.

The effects and camera work are also pretty damn solid here. There’s a lot of crazy angles that play up the weirdness of dreams. Each kill has a rad centerpiece that’s not always gore, but is almost always interesting and then there’s the last scene battle which takes place in an M.C. Escher painting, basically. All of which reminds me: PRACTICAL EFFECTS ARE THE BEST!

And you know what? The plot’s pretty solid this time around too. Our heroine, Alice who survived the previous installment, can control her dreams, but she’s pregnant and Freddy’s going through her baby to mess with her and her friends. That’s pretty ingenious. There’s also the character of Freddy’s mom who wields her own kind of power.

But, like I said, it’s not as good as 3. You know why? Because Freddy is way too annoying in this installment. He actually kind of ruins this movie. You go through this really crazy dream sequence/kill scene only to wind up with some doofus running around making dumb jokes and calling people “bitch” which basically makes him every drunk girl on every reality show. This balanced out a bit by the end of the movie which does some really cool things I assume will get discounted by the next installment which I’ll probably get to next week. If the pattern holds, I probably will not like it.

Oh, real quick, does anyone know who did the original comic art in the movie, the one that sucks the comic nerd in? It looked familiar, but I can’t place it and a quick Google search didn’t help out much.

Halloween Scene: Urban Legend (1998)

My buddy Rickey passed me some interesting horror movies for Christmas, one of which is the post-Scream Urban Legends which is a flick I never saw. I was a teenager when these flicks all started coming out, but thanks to a combination of theater attendants intent on stopping me from seeing R-rated movies and not super-loving either I Know What You Did Last Summer or Scream, I didn’t bother with UL because I was diving deep into the history of 80s horror and absorbing all kinds of horror both old and good.

I think it’s probably for the best that I waited until now to see this movie because I don’t think it would play as well before going to college. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, Alicia Witt and her friends–a group that includes Rebecca Gayheart, Jared Leto (who I didn’t recognize at all), Tara Reid, Michael Rosenbaum, Danielle Harris (!) and Joshua Jackson–are being terrorized by a slasher who’s using classic urban legends as a jumping off point for murder. One girl gets axed in the back seat of a car after running away from a creepy gas station attendant who tries to warn her, but he stutters! Another involves a dude hanging from a tree on top of a car (can’t say I’ve heard that one). Witt, being the main character and SPOILER final girl, of course thinks there’s something going on before everyone else catches on.

The characters aren’t super exciting and wind up being kind of one note. Jackson’s the prankster, Rosenbaum’s the frat guy (pretty much the same part he played in Sorority Boys, but honestly with less of an arc) even our heroine doesn’t have a lot of character to her, she just keeps running into trouble and trying to stop it. But, the kills are great. I’m especially fond of that involves a sliced Achilles heel, a car in neutral being used as a battering ram of sorts and a series of tire spikes. Sick. But more than that, I enjoyed the play between actual urban legends I’ve heard (the one about gang members and headlights among the rest) and how all that prays upon the fears of young people on their own at college for the first time. My college had it’s fair share of stories, though most of them involved ghosts. My favorite was that there was a room on campus that was supposedly so haunted that, after spending a night in there, the president of the school ordered it bricked up never to be used again!

Like a lot of other slasher flicks from the 90s, the killer doesn’t have the most interesting or original look (a parka hiding their face) and the motive winds up being pretty familiar for anyone who’s seen a horror movie or even an episode of CSI or Bones but all in all, I found this one pretty fun and enjoyable. I added it to my newly purchased DVD binder. I also decided to finally rewatch IKWYDLS which I absconded from the great Wizard library purge from a few years back. I’m a few minutes in and it’s funny because they talk about urban legends pretty early on, including the one about the guy in the roof of the car!

Halloween Scene: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) & 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

This might sound strange coming from a horror fan, but I’ve only seen the Freddy movies I’ve seen once, which makes it my least-watched franchise. Halloween’s probably the highest with Texas Chainsaw, Friday the 13th and Final Destination definitely ranking higher than it on my repeated viewing lists. When I turned 16 and could rent movies from Family Vidoe, I immediately started going through all the franchises I could, but never went back to Nightmare for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean I never wanted to go back though, so I asked for the two 4 Film Favorite packs that include all the Nightmare movies including Freddy Vs. Jason which I have seen plenty of times and already owned. On Friday, I had myself a little double feature and watched the first two Freddy films.

I think the original Nightmare still holds up pretty well. I can’t say it ever actually scared me, but I can imagine someone first getting into horror movies could still appreciate the classic scenes like the glove-in-the-tub, room-spin and geyser-of-blood deaths. Plus, in this first entry there’s a lot going for the franchise. The concept is incredibly cool: a killer who can only get you in your dreams. Hell, the entire idea of building a movie and then a series of movies around the craziness of dreams sounds fascinating, especially after seeing some really cool dream sequences, like the ones in The Sopranos. And, of course, Freddy himself is very creepy and potentially terrifying.

The problem is that the series doesn’t really hold up to all of those potentials from what I can remember. Perhaps the remake will pick up on some of these and run with them in new and interesting directions, but all the trailers are showing me is that they will be doing all of the exact same gags, but this time with computers.

If memory serves, a lot of fans don’t go in for the first sequel which came out a year after the original. This time, instead of the kids only contending with Freddy in their dreams, they’ve got to worry about Freddy actually taking over a dude’s body and killing them that way. It’s an interesting concept that gets ignored for the rest of the series from what I recall, but it seems like a logical next step for the narrative.

The film also has some pretty good effects itself, like when Freddy bursts out of the dude’s chest and brushes him off like Jay-Z does dirt off his shoulder. I will say that the film isn’t particularly memorable. I was working on some freelance while I had it on and I remember the main kid having to contend with a weirdly strict father who demands he empties the boxes in their room (they recently moved into the house on Elm Street from the original) and then dating a blond girl who becomes the final girl for lack of a better word. The main guy makes friends with a guy who seems mostly like an enemy who doesn’t go to the big party at the end of the movie. Oh, and the parents of the girl throwing the party go inside the house to have sex. As soon as they do the kids are like “Let’s really party!” and start blasting the music. Guys, they just went inside, it’s not like they hopped a flight to Crystal Lake.

Anyway, the film ends in the party scene where Freddy is free to run around and go after plenty of teenagers, but doesn’t really do anything but stumble around. Maybe he was enjoying a pool party of his own before crossing into the real world? Like I said, I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember enjoying the movie, or at least not being put off by it.

Actually, here’s something I’ve never thought of: what does Freddy do between terrorizing children? If he’s got all this power, he’s probably got a pretty rad set up in dream world. Ooh, I wonder if Morpheus from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman created him. Okay, I’m getting off track. I dug these two movies enough. I’m glad I’ve got them around along with my Friday the 13th box set and collection of Halloweens 1-5, but still prefer those other franchises so far. One thing I do remember liking about the series, aside from the next installment, is that I appreciated how they continued to build on Freddy’s origin, even if it got crazier and crazier as it went on. I don’t necessarily need an origin story for this psychopath, but I like that they tried to build on the character after a fashion. Oh, plus the covers to these movies are CRAZY.

Halloween Scene: Hatchet (2006)

It’s funny how elements beyond your control can come together to enhance a movie-watching experience. Saturday night I was flipping through my online Netflix queue looking for something to watch and decided on Hatchet, which I think I’ve heard good things about. I say “I think” because, like any other horror fan, I was bombarded with ads for this movie online and in print a while back. Anyway, it was probably around midnight when I pushed play and about 15 minutes in, I started seeing flashes of lightning through the trees (my TV is right in front of our living room windows). As the film went on and things got bad for the characters on screen, nature added ever closer lightning along with some nice pouring rain to match the movie. I can’t think of a cooler viewing experience I’ve had. Oh, and the movie was pretty great too.

Like I mentioned above, I saw a TON of advertising for this movie, but I think it was all in print and online, so it didn’t really hint at the plot aside from the image of the hatchet itself. This is the art that was on Netflix and I’m pretty sure also adorned most of the ads:

I actually prefer this poster, which hints at the humor that goes along with the horror in the movie:

I was actually starting to think the movie might turn down the Scary Movie route when the cast started revealing itself. Our hero is Joel Moore, who you may remember as the nerdy guy in Dodge Ball, the nerdy jerk in Grandma’s Boy and the dude in Katy Perry’s Waking Up In Vegas video. He’s accompanied by Deon Richmond who I recognize most as the Token Black Guy from Not Another Teen Movie. They’re at Mardi Gras (pre-Katrina obviously) looking for a zombie boat cruise which brings on a pretty funny cameo by Candyman himself Tony Todd (we also get treated to a Robert Englund (Freddy) role in the beginning and Kane Hodder plays the killer). So, I wasn’t so sure what to think.

Until Hatchet Face (aka Victor Crowley) shows up and starts wrecking shop on a small group of boat tour patrons and their guides. In the group you’ve got an older couple (the man being played by Office Space’s Richard Riehle), a Girls Gone Wild-ish guy with two girls who keep taking their tops off (the guys was in the first two seasons of Mad Men and one of the girls played Harmony in Buffy), the tour guide with a bevy of fake accents, our two guys and a mysterious young woman. Wow, that’s a long sentence. Anyway, the characters are just interesting enough that you feel bad when they get offed. I also really liked seeing Deon in a larger part, sure he got a little annoying at times, but overall he kept the mood light even during some incredibly gory scenes.

So, the story was cool, the characters solid and the gore rad. All in all I had a great time watching Hatchet and was really impressed with Moore’s transition from nerd to bad ass. He should really do more stuff. Plus, he wears a Newbury Comics shirt throughout the movie, a comic/DVD/CD store I’ve been to a few times when visiting Em’s parents in New England. And, super double extra points for an ending that I saw coming but was still surprised by the execution of. I think there’s a pun in there, but you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.