I came in expecting Baby Driver Wright, not Hot Fuzz Wright, so wasn’t disappointed. BDW has minor plot issues that become exasperatingly major in the last half hour, but at least three absolutely dazzling scenes per movie – instead of musical car chases, here it’s Thomasin “Leave No Trace” McKenzie dreaming Anya Taylor-Joy’s nightlife fifty years earlier, the two actresses swapping places in reflective surfaces.

At least I liked it better than rogerebert.com did:

Amid colorful, surreal kaleidoscopic reflections, a gaggle of morbid apparitions appear to attack Ellie. These ghosts elicit few frights due to their indistinguishability, and how often Wright deploys them. The ever-shrinking boundaries between Ellie and Sandy might be intriguing if the two were more connected beyond having the same address in different decades.

Just saw Anya’s charismatic pimp Matt Smith as a social worker in His House. Diana “Emma Peel” Rigg is Thomasin’s landlord, aka Anya herself all grown up and murderous. Other swingin’ 60’s actors: Rita Tushingham (The Knack) as Thomasin’s mom and Terence Stamp as a guy who hangs around whom she suspects of being the Old Pimp but is really just a doomed ex-cop. Michael Ajao (Attack the Block) is Thomasin’s over-the-top helpful love interest.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, Chuck Russell)

Kicking off the second Elm Street double-feature, and Videodrome was right, this is the great sequel, a big blockbustery movie, more inventive than it is jokey. Classy intro music until Kristen (Patricia Arquette’s debut) plays a cock-rock song on her boombox. Freddy slashes her wrists to send her to the psych ward where Nancy now works helping people with dream issues. We meet a new group of weirdos and misfits, who will be killed off one by one, their personality quirks weaponized against them.

Kristen’s thing is that she can pull others into her dreams (good sfx on this), which is how Freddy plans to get new victims, something like that. Is there any reason Nancy’s house should be so important in the hauntings, besides visual reference for the viewer? We get some new backstory, as we must, meeting Freddy’s nun mom’s ghost (Nan Martin: a nun named nan) who reports FK was “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.” They need to find FK’s bones and bury them in hallowed ground, but the kids don’t know where that is – maybe Heather’s drunk, washed-up dad John Saxon can help, before getting killed by a cool skeleton.

Arquette’s fellow survivors will be mute Joey (Rodney Eastman of I Spit On Your Grave Remake) and combative Kincaid (Atlanta’s own Ken Sagoes of the What’s Happening reboot). Memorable deaths include sleepwalker Bradley Gregg (of some major 80’s movies and also Class of 1999) featuring good stop-motion puppetry, and TV-loving Penelope Sudrow (the Jon Cryer ep of Amazing Stories). We also got punker Jennifer Rubin (Screamers) and wheelchair nerd Ira Heiden (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark) and a slumming Laurence Fishburne as a doctor.

I was getting Hellraiser II vibes from some of this – Arquette can’t help looking like Imogen Boorman, but the mute kid screaming and shattering mirrors, and Freddy pretending to be Nancy’s dad then stabbing the shit out of her all added to the feeling. Nancy gets another doctor (Body Double star Craig Wasson) to believe her crackpot stories about dream murders, the kids imagine themselves as the titular warriors, the bones are buried, and Chuck would go on to direct the pretty good Blob remake.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, Renny Harlin)

They were “the last” of the Elm Street kids in part 3, so what’s left for this movie, which opens with a shitty pop song, and stars nobody? Part three felt like a real movie, now suddenly all the dialogue feels made-for-cable. Wikipedia says the writer’s strike was to blame for this. Parts 2 and 3 were like alternative sequels, different ways to follow up the original, but this one just feels like a part four, so I’m holding off on the next Nightmare movies before they get too depressing.

Should’ve watched Hairspray instead:

It’s a little funny that the dog who digs up Freddy’s bones (which reanimate using Frank’s Hellraiser re-fleshing effect) is named Jason. Different Actress Kristen is now Tuesday Knight, singer of the opening theme and star of Sex Demon Metropolis: Vampire Madonna and AI-generated werewolf film The Amityville Moon, but we’ve still got the real Kincaid and Joey, for a few minutes at least, before they succumb to junkyard and waterbed.

New Kristen is out of the psych ward and in regular school, starts losing classmates left and right. First goes asthma nerd Sheila, then Kung Fu Rick (of the same year’s Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama – it’s a shame John Saxon didn’t live to meet Rick) and Weightlifter Debbie, who gets Gregor Samsa’d. At some point Kristen herself gets burned alive, and the various powers of all these kids are absorbed by classmate Alice (Lisa Wilcox of Watchers 4) who chases after Freddy with her useless boyfriend Dan. Calling back to the childlike magic of the original movie’s ending, Alice shows FK his own reflection, and his imprisoned souls tear him apart. The movie’s one cool addition is sticking the kids in a time loop, a very dreamlike scenario. Harlin had a big moment in the 90’s, but I haven’t heard of any of the ten films he’s directed since he botched that Exorcist prequel.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Remake (2010, Samuel Bayer)

Unexpectedly ended up watching the second half of this (and up through the first kill of Freddy’s Dead) on the ceiling of the dentist’s office while getting a filling replaced. Same ol’ thing, Nancy and her bf trying to stay awake, then trying to figure out why this is happening, then pulling Freddy out of the dream world to kill him. Jackie Earle Haley, now a repeat-offense child abuser, has some cool makeup, distinct from the original design, but that’s the only thing here that’s distinct. I didn’t recognize Rooney Mara at all, blaming the poor lighting for that. The bf was Kyle Gallner, just off Jennifer’s Body, who had worked with Craven on Red Eye. The parents are blamed for killing an innocent gardener (the three-pronged garden cultivator as finger-knives, get it?), then Mara discovers FK was not innocent at all, and isn’t killing them as revenge on the parents, but just because he’s a real bad man. The hearing aid scene in Freddy’s Dead holds up well, but the best Freddy movie I’ve seen this year is still Buzzard.


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven)

The dentist remake viewing experience combined with the Plaza screening part 3 got me curious whether the original Elm Street series was available cheaply on blu-ray, and yes, very cheaply, so it’s marathon time. My first time seeing any of these in HD, and in at least twenty years. Part one doesn’t look too distinctive, and human behavior wasn’t the writers’ strong suit, but all a horror movie needs to become legendary is a cool concept and good theme song, and we’ve got both of those covered.

First to die is Tina (Amanda Wyss, between Fast Times and Better Off Dead), victim of some memorably anti-gravity claw work. Her pretty-eyed boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia would appear in a couple Soderbergh films and Candyman 3) is blamed by the cops, led by Heather’s dad John Saxon. Rod later hangs in his cell, leaving only Heather (also of Shocker and Hellraiser 10) and her bf John Depp (later of Secret Window and Tusk).

“What the hell are dreams anyway?”
“Mysteries… incredible body hocus pocus.”

This is dialogue between two people who WORK at the DREAM INSTITUTE, a Cronenbergian facility where Heather is checked in. She also tried watching The Evil Dead to stay awake. Depp doesn’t make it (both of the movie’s cool kills are in bedrooms, bloody and gravity defying). Heather’s parents are complicit (mom is Ronee Blakley of A Return to Salem’s Lot) and we hear Freddy was “a filthy child murderer who killed at least 20 kids in the neighborhood.” He’s ultimately defeated through some childish magic: Heather turns her back on him and demands her friends back. But:


A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)

Jesse (Mark Patton of an Altman film) is new in town, a Simple Minds fan who just moved into Nancy’s house. Straight away he’s being followed by Freddy when asleep, and local girl Lisa (Kim Myers with Meryl Streep vibes, of Hellraiser 4) when awake. Nancy was nice enough to leave her diary behind, so the kids learn more about Freddy, who is trying to emerge into the waking world by taking over Jesse’s body – no glove here, the blades grow through his fingers. When this happens, Jesse ends up “inside,” and Lisa braves some seriously unconvincing mutant animals in the power plant where Freddy used to work, and they burn the Freddy off, Jesse emerging safe from within. A decent sequel, from before they’d fixed a formula for these things. Sholder would make The Hidden next (about killers possessing innocent bodies), writer David Chaskin would do I, Madman (about a disfigured killer wearing the skin of his young victims), both carrying on themes from this movie.

The human behavior here is about 10% better than the original Nightmare. I remember the chaotic pool party, not the leather-studded gym teacher. We get real “Parents Just Don’t Understand” vibes from Jesse’s dad Clu Gulager. The kids are lame, but it feels more like they’re meant to be lame. School jock Grady (Robert Rusler of Sometimes They Come Back) has a Zappa poster. Was everything in the 80’s so very 80’s? Sure the music, but the wallpaper and decor and clothes too.

First victim is the family bird, boooo:

Sarah is afraid of her dreams, which are slow camera moves endlessly forward through dark portals populated by slendermen (rendered in Cinema 4D), like the MST3K movie-sign tunnel as reimagined by the guy who makes the Tool videos. Sarah is Julia Sarah Stone, who has also starred with Evan Rachel Wood, and in a Bruce McDonald movie, and I heard mixed things about this movie but the look (of Sarah, her house, the dreams, the props) is all striking.

Sarah signs up for a sleep study in a concrete lab with period-inspecific equipment where scientists can view low-res images of dreams, and becomes their star pupil until they start to see her slendermen escaping into reality. She watches her own dreams in the form of a Chromatics music video, leads the scientists on a sleepwalking tour through Uncle Boonmee woods, becomes a vampire, then receives the message that This Is All A Dream. I get that the message might be aimed Matrix-like at either the viewer or the character, but haven’t decided if that’s any better.

“It’s impossible to live without reason.” A series of unreal scenarios.

After talking about being afraid of the sled dogs on trips to northern Canada with his dad when he was little, cut to Willem Dafoe bartending in northern Canada with sled dogs out back – I buy this, this is the most grounded the movie is gonna get. He’s watching a guy play video slots when they’re both suddenly attacked by dogs. A pregnant woman gets naked for him in front of her grandma. He goes into the basement and is suddenly sliding down a rock cliff… has conversations with other Willems Dafoe… by the time he sleds past a scene of mass executions towards a cave that becomes a madhouse of nudes, the movie still has no coherent reality and is nearly half over. Since there’s no real cause and effect, one scene bleeds or jerks into the next – he goes from tundra to desert to greenery, he has sex with a girl who turns into his mom, he sleeps outside then a fish talks to him. It almost has the unstuck-in-time feeling of Je T’aime X2, but it’s more unstuck in different Dafoe movies. There are a lot of bare-breasted women; Ferrara still knows what’s important. Maybe it’s meant to be a fragmented story of a haunted guy with guilt over his parents’ deaths and a failed marriage seeking solace in the black arts?

The best piece I’ve found is Neil Bahadur in In Review:

The figure of Dafoe’s character Clint himself seems to be on a quest to narrativize his own life, only just barely possessing a grasp on reality by journey’s end, having montaged his life’s experiences and ideas throughout the film’s runtime instead … The terror of Siberia (possibly Ferrara’s first true horror film) is in Clint’s back to nature resolve, only to discover that the dreams of the 60s have shattered and nature is nothing if not ruthless. The true horror is determinism — the entire film is driven by an anxiety that people cannot shake their past … not just in choice but even in their own genetic code.

It was a twitter post by director/star Kentucker Audley which first alerted me to the online nature of Sundance this year, both that he had a cool-sounding new movie, and that ordinary punters like myself could watch its premiere for a reasonable cost, so I felt I owed it to him to watch this… though at this point in the late afternoon, an overall Sundance skepticism had set in, and I’d lost my hopes that it would be great. Thankfully, it was great, or at least good enough to seem great after Mayday – a hundred times wackier than that movie, beautifully imaginative and very fun to watch.

A year-2035 dream auditor has to visit an offline old woman who still stores her dreams on analog tape, to calculate how much she owes in taxes based on the objects her subconscious summons – or how much her estate owes, since she passes away while he’s on the job. Her VHS dreams start bleeding into his own life, and are more pure than the auditor’s own dreams. This is because she knows that companies beam advertisements into dreams, and has developed a protective helmet as an ad-blocker.

The woman knows about the dream-ads because her son is in charge of the ad agency, and when he arrives after her death he determines that the auditor knows too much, and tries to burn him alive in mom’s pink house to destroy all evidence. Asleep in the flames, he bonds with a young dream-Bella on a small island, making this my second movie in a row about an island-bound dreamer needing to awaken to their dangerous real life. Scenes from earlier that felt randomly eccentric return as sense warnings. Despite his meaningless job working for the man, the auditor deserves happiness because he stops to save a pet turtle on his way out of the burning house.

Tyler Davis’s Vanity Fair review is good at noting what makes this movie special, while accidentally summarizing my own Sundance experience:

Like Ham On Rye, another recent fantastical low-budget film, Strawberry Mansion puts modern dread at the fore through a series of dynamic set pieces that reveal just how many obstacles are placed between us and our inner lives … The boundaries between our imagined lives and the ones we try to lead in the midst of never ending sales pitches has thinned to a sliver … It’s easy to mistake Strawberry Mansion for a simple parable about advertising and the federal government. But ultimately, it’s a strange film about art and its conditions … Increasingly, as we’re asked to look at more and more yet with less and less of our minds activated, all the watching becomes unbearable. Strawberry Mansion takes a wild swing at yanking its protagonist—and us—out of this predicament.

After finally catching up with Three Lives, checking out Ruiz’s latest posthumous release, completed by Valeria Sarmiento. Due to the vagaries of video releasing this lost/unfinished film from the mid-60’s is in better shape than the mid-90’s hit with the major movie star.

Iriarte is a gruff-voiced professor (the soundtrack was lost and all actors were re-dubbed in 2019), bottling sock water with his Jason Schwartzmann-looking nephew Joaquin. He visits friends Silva and Lola, tells them about his dreams, which involve a wig under the bed, rivers of blood, and the return of his late wife Maria. Finally, Iriarte can’t sleep, tormented by wigs, and shoots himself after writing letters to everyone he knows.

The second half is mesmerising, the scenes replaying in reverse with backwards dialogue and new thoughts via voiceover. Silva and Lola had appeared in Three Sad Tigers, and Joaquin joined them in Nadie dijo nada. Ghost Maria reportedly appears in a Sebastián Silva movie, and our main guy was in a couple Miguel Littín movies.

“To die so that the god may live is a privilege, Kevin”

British dude casually finds some 1700-year-old coins in the backyard, and an elongated skull – I thought this was Hugh Grant for a while until the real Hugh Grant appears a couple minutes later and I realized I had no idea what Peter Capaldi looked like prior to The Thick of It. They meet at a white worm party – with a white worm costume and a band playing a rowdy white worm folk song – along with the Trent sisters. Grant is out with Sammi Davis of Hope and Glory, and her sister Eve is Catherine Oxenberg of the Yugoslavian royal family, who started her career playing princess Diana on a TV movie, and most recently appeared in Ratpocalypse and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.

Our fearless foursome:

Everyone is talking like they’re on a sitcom, but a few short minutes later, Lady Sylvia Marsh is introduced sucking on the leg of constable Ernie (Return of the Jedi‘s rancor keeper) and the movie gets good ‘n’ crazy, and stays that way. It’s cool that Grant and Capaldi are here, but Amanda Donohoe is the movie. Looks like I can see her with Sammi Davis and Glenda Jackson in Russell’s The Rainbow, and I probably should.

Lady Marsh takes a boy scout home and feeds him to the worm-god in her basement, and Eve is taken captive next. Sylvia is excessively horny during these scenes, while the others are eating damp sandwiches, searching for signs of the long-missing Trent parents. Grant gets the Stendhal Syndrome and climbs inside a painting. Snake imagery abounds, the script is all entendres, and the visuals flit between ace makeup/lighting and insane greenscreen dream-mayhem. Most horror filmmakers are content to make normal-looking movies with a few crazy visual bits – Russell isn’t happy unless the crazy bits completely overwhelm the normal stuff.

After my second reference this month to a christian order building atop pagan grounds, Grant steps up to his destiny, and plays snake-charming music on a PA system while the team attacks the castle with help from a worm-hunting mongoose. Mary is accosted by her undead mum, then by the possessed cop, but Capaldi saves the day with snake-luring bagpipes and drops a hand grenade down the worm-god’s throat. This plan obviously took some prep, but it’s also an emergency rescue mission, so was it necessary to change into the kilt?

There’s an Oscar Wilde quote – Russell made a Wilde movie the same year. Grant appears here the year after starring in a James Ivory film, Capaldi five years after Local Hero. Partly based on a Bram Stoker novel, partly on the legend of the Lambton Worm, and I guess largely made up by Russell.