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:

Bill Pullman goes to Haiti to investigate a zombie rumor with the help of a local doctor – but he didn’t expect the DOCTOR to be a PRETTY LADY, he tells us in voiceover. Pullman has been good in comedies (Spaceballs the year before this) and dramas (or whatever Lost Highway is) but I don’t buy him for a second here. The pretty lady is Cathy Tyson of Mona Lisa, and she and Paul Winfield almost make the movie worth watching.

The day after our guy makes sweet love to the pretty doctor, the government declares martial law and to show him they’re serious the local badman (S African Zakes Mokae of Dust Devil and Dilemma) pounds a nail through Pullman’s scrotum, but Pullman persists, and gets Mozart (Lodge 49 star Brent Jennings, I didn’t recognize him!) to mix him up some zombie powder to bring home. Everybody either dies, or dreams they’ve died, or comes back to life, and the silly explanatory titles at the beginning and end trying to frame this buncha nonsense as news/science don’t help anything.

Part two of my Wes Craven tribute, because when a horror giant dies just before SHOCKtober, memorial screenings are in order. I used to have this movie’s sequel on VHS (bought at a garage sale), and saw the awesome remake in theaters, but have probably never watched the original until now.

Stupid family taking cross-country trailer trip breaks down in the desert at the foot of cannibal-infested mountains, send a few guys in different directions looking for help. But first we set up the Harbinger hillbilly gas-station attendant (and incidentally the grandfather of the cannibals) who tells them not to go poking around, and mountain thief Ruby, who’s looking for help escaping her murderous family.

Ruby:

Bobby (Robert Houston, later an oscar-winning documentary filmmaker) runs after his escaped dogs, discovers one of them murdered but doesn’t tell anybody. Mustache Doug (Martin Speer of Killer’s Delight) finds nothing and comes back. And Big Bob (Russ Grieve of dog-horror Dogs) returns to the old man in time to see him get slaughtered, then Bob is captured, crucified and set on fire, distracting the family into leaving their trailer unguarded, in what’s probably one of the most intense sequences of the 1970’s. Bald Pluto (Michael Berryman of too many horrors to list, also One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and curly Mars invade, shoot Mustache’s wife Dee Wallace (star of The Howling and The Frighteners) and her now-insane mom (Virginia Vincent of The Return of Dracula and Craven’s Invitation to Hell), eat the parakeet, steal the baby and flee.

Family portrait, pre-invasion:

The next morning it’s payback time. Young Carolyn Jones (Eaten Alive) and Bobby plot to use their dead mom as bait and blow up cannibals who return to the trailer. Not sure how head mutant Papa Jupiter escapes that explosion, but they kill him good, with gun and hatchet. Mustache Doug climbs the mountain and attacks head-on to rescue his baby, unexpectedly aided by a rattlesnake-wielding Ruby. I can’t recall if Bald Pluto dies (think Bobby’s other dog gets him), but he’s definitely on the VHS box cover of part two.

Papa Jupiter:

Craven did interesting things to the horror genre with New Nightmare and Scream, and made some great thrillers with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Red Eye. One of the movie sites pointed out he’d been interviewed by Audobon, and had lately been writing short stories for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine about local birds, which include a strong pro-bird environmental message as well as time travel, the ghosts of passenger pigeons, and an osprey using a shotgun.

“It’s hard convincing a bird of anything in words. They’re musicians.”

Rest in peace, Wes. The birds have lost a friend.

I grew up on Nightmare On Elm Street movies, and loved horror in part due to Wes Craven. So what better way to celebrate his life than to watch the last ten minutes of all his worst movies via Amazon Prime (and one good movie, The Hills Have Eyes).

Deadly Blessing (1981, Wes Craven)

Girl is walking around a dark farmhouse chanting thees and thous when she’s swiftly murdered by Battlestar Galactica‘s Maren Jensen. Climactic shotgun shootout, and glamorous Sharon Stone wakes up at the last minute to help out. Beardy amish guy shows up at the last minute after the women are finished killing each other off, then after a comforting epilogue, sudden Drag Me To Hell ending. It all looks very murky and VHS-generic. I guess Craven was having trouble finding work between the cult classic era (The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left) and the mainstream hit (Nightmare on Elm Street)

Chiller (1985, Wes Craven)

Michael Beck (Xanadu) returns from cryogenic sleep with no soul, and his mother is disappointed, so he stalks her with a metal hook. Beck walks into a giant freezer, and any fool viewer knows she’s going to trap him in there, but he fakes out some cops and forces her to shoot him. Also appearing: horror regular Jill Schoelen (The Stepfather, Popcorn, Robert Englund’s Phantom of the Opera) The sound on this one is awful, and it’s weirdly listed as a 2007 release, and I’m starting to think quality control might not be Amazon’s highest priority. Wes would follow this up with the killer-robot-child movie Deadly Friend. I mainly remember people jumping fences in front of a creepy house, and someone’s head exploding from a robot-propelled basketball.

Night Visions (1990, Wes Craven)

“Bland mystery with obvious killer,” raves the IMDB of this most obscure Craven tv-movie, made between Shocker and The People Under The Stairs. Loryn Locklin (Fortress) is at the studio of killer/photographer Jon Tenney (Beverly Hills Cop III), cop James Remar (the gargoyle story in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) comes to save her and immediately gets run over by a truck, haha. There’s some unconvincing multiple-personality schtick and Tenney is dropped off a tall building. This was even worse than Chiller – what happened, Wes?

Wes Craven presents Mind Ripper (1995, Joe Gayton)

Bald shriekling madman is tearing walls apart and Claire Stansfield is leading an injured Lance Henriksen to safety. Whoa, the madman has a long pointy finger for a tongue, is menacing Natasha Wagner (John Carpenter’s Vampires 2: Los Muertos), but young Giovanni Ribisi (in his first film) plugs the tongue into an outlet and they run like hell (out of what looks like The Keep from The Keep). They drive away in a van but the madman’s on the van! Then they escape in a plane but the madman’s on the plane! Cowritten by Wes Craven’s son Jonathan.

Wes Craven presents Carnival of Souls (1998, Adam Grossman)

Bobbie Phillips (Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain) runs past creepy clowns and creaky rides then shoots the king clown. But it was all a dream and now she’s in a waterlogged truck. But it was all a dream and she’s outside the carnival having flashbacks. But it was all a dream and she’s actually dead in the river, survived by her sister Shawnee Smith (Amanda in the Saw movies). Not as cool-looking as the 1962 original. Grossman also made Sometimes They Come Back… Again.

Cursed (2005, Wes Craven)

Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg! “I’ll check the circuit breaker” will be probably be Jesse’s last words. Joshua Jackson (The Skulls, Apt Pupil) arrives as Ricci and Jesse start morphing into vampires. Vamp-fight ensues, including ceiling-crawling and a silverware stabbing. Josh catches fire and everything’s cool. Doesn’t seem awful except for the music, but I can’t imagine it was great either. Written by Craven’s Scream series collaborator Kevin Williamson and directed the same year as Red Eye.

Wes Craven presents They (2002, Robert Harmon)

Laura Regan (Hollow Man 2) is trapped in a subway tunnel, which seems to be tormenting her with surround-sound effects. Actually it’s not at all clear what’s happening, so I assume in the end she’ll just turn out to be crazy. Oh yeah here we go, mental ward where a condescending doctor is telling her she just needs to rest. But oops, she is sucked into another dimension and tormented forever by beasties. Harmon also made the 1986 The Hitcher, which I saw a million times at the video store and never rented.


Speaking of video store mainstays that never quite looked good enough to rent, here are a few more I found online (not Craven-related).

Waxwork (1988, Anthony Hickox)

Whoooa, monster effects a-go-go, as Zach from Gremlins and Sarah (Deborah Foreman of April Fool’s Day) fight an orgy of monsters alongside Zach’s butler Joe “not Don” Baker. Did I just see the baby from Demonic Toys? And a riff on Audrey II? Zach defeats a pirate then drops waxwork man David Warner into a vat of wax, obviously. Hickox made Hellraiser III, which is also absurdly entertaining.

Waxwork II: Lost In Time (1992, Anthony Hickox)

Shootout/swordfight in a zombie-filled mall. These Waxwork movies look quite good. Zach time-travels at random, stops Jack the Ripper, distracts Nosferatu, interrupts a melty-looking Godzilla, while Sarah (who is now Monika Schnarre of the Beastmaster TV series, because women are interchangeable) stabs some guy. When did Zach’s hair get so big? He pushes her through the time door back to the normal world, and she uses the disembodied hand she brings along as evidence in a jury trial.

Ghoulies (1984, Luca Bercovici)

They’re like flying-squirrel puppets, the ghoulies. Becky (Lisa Pelikan of Swing Shift) falls down the stairs and our hero Jonathan faces off against glowing-green-eyed Michael Des Barres (of Waxwork II: Lost In Time!) when Jack fuckin’ Nance, Eraserhead himself, comes to the rescue. Barres and Nance shoot each other with eyeball-lightning for a really long time. I love how during this whole scene two terrified dwarfs are shaking their heads at Jonathan. From the writer/director of Rockula.

Ghoulies II (1988, Albert Band)

Another carnival, jeez. Kerry Remsen (Pumpkinhead) climbs a ferris wheel then Phil Fondacaro (the troll in Troll) reads from a magic book, summoning a ghoulie-eating demon. It strolls around murdering ghoulies, which suddenly seem pretty slow and helpless, then our heroes trick it into eating a stuffed animal with a bomb inside. Albert “father of Charles” Band also directed Doctor Mordrid and something called I Bury The Living, which looks like it would’ve gone direct-to-video if there’d been video in 1958. Ghoulies 1 & 2 are free, but Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go To College costs three bucks, so we’ll have to stop here.