Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

After the Americans artfully slashed their way through Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), it was time for the Canadians to answer the call and cash in on the slasher craze.  The result is My Bloody Valentine [MBV] which is beloved by many and even labeled as a “cult classic” by some.  I don’t fall into either of these categories.  Like Little Nell in Rocky Horror Picture Show, I found myself saying “He’s OK” at the end of the film.  Nothing more, nothing less.

MBV has a few things going for it: 1) The scenes in the mine are creepy and atmospheric, 2) The look of the killer is original and interesting, and 3) the premise of the story is solid.  What it lacks are 1) characters we care about, 2) actors who can convey genuine terror instead of just screaming hysterically and, 3) a “twist” ending that’s actually a twist.

I know there will be many in cyberspace who will disagree with me with regard to MBV, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of slasher flicks and I found it to be fairly uninteresting, standard fare.  Yes, there are a few good kills that made me wince a bit but the rest of the movie is a yawner.  The young miners and their girlfriends who inhabit the opening scenes of the film are just not that interesting. I really could not have cared less who survived and who got impaled by the pick axe!  There is no character, like Laurie Strode from Halloween, who drew me in and stole my heart with her vulnerability and perseverance against a terrorizing psychopath.  Every character in MBV felt formulaic and poorly acted.

Yeah, I know, some of you out there LOVE this film!  What can I say?  I’m just not one of them.  I never saw the 2009 remake because I didn’t care for the original. If you’re a fan, tell me why you like it.  I’m still open to hearing what you have to say.

RATING: Fair.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Pet Sematary 2 (1992)

I don't know what's wrong with the critics on IMDB. My suspicion is that many of them don't like horror, especially when blood and guts are involved. Therefore, they rate many of these films much lower than they should be rated. Thus is the case with Pet Sematary 2. Director Mary Lambert gives us a second helping that goes beyond the Stephen King novel. This time out Richard Outten provides the screenplay, upping the violence and gore in place of Stephen King's more subtle approach. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it's just different. Personally, I think it's harder to do what the first film delivers, but the sequel is a powerful film to watch nonetheless.

In addition to Mary Lambert's direction, the film's other strong point is the cast. Edward Furlong [Terminator 2, Detroit Rock City] is dynamite as Jeff Matthews, a young man who experienced the horrific death of his mother. Anthony Edwards [E.R.] also does a great job as his father. But the real force of nature in this film is Clancy Brown [Highlander, The Shawshank Redemption] who plays Sheriff Gus Gilbert. His manic energy in Pet Sematary 2 is a joy to watch. He definitely provides most of the squirm-worthy moments in the film.

If you haven't seen this one, PLEASE give it a chance. It is a worthy successor to the original.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary is one of my all-time favorite horror films for many reasons.  First of all both the novel and the screenplay were written by Stephen King.  He is simply the master of setting an ominous mood and cranking it up to full force by the end of the story.  If someone else had adapted his novel, Pet Sematary would have definitely been a lesser film.

Secondly, director Mary Lambert, who did a number of award winning music videos for Madonna, has an impeccable visual style and each scene is lovingly composed.  There aren't too many women with an interest in doing horror and Pet Sematary is all the proof we need that there should be more of them.

Thirdly, the special effects are mostly subtle but really good.  I especially LOVE the work they did on Brad Greenquist who plays the ghost who keeps reappearing all throughout the movie. The other outstanding creation is Selda, the sister of the main characters who was actually played by a man, Andrew Hubatsek.  If that doesn't creep you out, I don't know what will.

Finally, we have a dream cast anyone would love to work with.  Both Dale Midkiff [The Crow: Salvation] and Denise Crosby [Star Trek: The Next Generation] are perfect together as Louis and Rachel Creed.  They help to create a family we really care about and that's essential for this film to work.  The other standout is my beloved Fred Gwynne [The Munsters, My Cousin Vinny] who plays the next door neighbor, Jud Crandall.  I think he is perfect in this role and shows he was just as great at drama as he was at comedy.

What more needs to be said?  If you've never seem this film, what are you waiting for?  I count Pet Seminary as one of the best Stephen King adaptations out there.  I never get tired of watching this film.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pumpkinhead (1988)

An iconic and original horror movie monster is born!  Pumpkinhead is the tragic tale of Ed Harley, a father who seeks revenge for the accidental death of his son.  With the help of a mountain witch named Hessie, Harley summons up a kick-ass revenge demon named Pumpkinhead.  The demon then begins to unleash his reign of terror on those who did Harley wrong.

There are a number of things I love about this movie.  The biggest one is Pumpkinhead himself.  Stan Winston Studios created a magnificent monster that feels fresh and original.  Tom Woodruff Jr [Aliens, Terminator] is credited with playing the creature as well as make-up effects.  The look of Pumpkinhead is also enhanced by the subtle blue lighting and fog effects that are used for the night scenes.  It's a visual feast for the eyes.

Another plus are the performances of Lance Henriksen [Aliens, Terminator] and Devon Odessa [Uncle Buck, My So-Called Life].  Henriksen's Ed Harley is the heart and soul of this movie.  It would be in serious trouble without him since much of the acting is a little weak.  I also loved Odessa's portrayal of Hessie who is a crusty old hag is there ever was one.  Her scenes greatly add to the film as well.

Stan Winston also does a fine job as director. Although he is known more for his special effects, he paces Pumpkinhead nicely and creates lots of tension and suspense once the monster is unleashed. 

On the negative side, there are plot elements that are a little weak.  The set up where Harley's son is killed comes as no surprise and you can see the death coming way before it happens.  The other thing I object to is their portrayal of mountain folk.  I live in the mountains of Southern Appalachia and found this very insulting.  We have soap here and we wash our clothes!  We even speak proper English!  Rant over!

With a few tweaks I could have given this film an Excellent rating but it just doesn't quite reach that high.  However, I love the monster and feel like Pumpkinhead is an underrated film by many critics.  Give it a chance!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB


Friday, September 11, 2015

The Monster Squad (1987)

Yay, The Monster Squad is now streaming on Netflix!  I don't know a young teenager in the late 80's who didn't simply adore The Monster Squad.  It's the film that got many teens of this vintage hooked on horror.  It's a salute to all the classic horror archetypes, mostly from the 30's, with the exception of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  We have Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Mummy, and the Wolfman.  While they are different in appearance from the originals, I assume this is due to copyright restrictions.

The basic plot is that Dracula and his cohorts were vanquished by Van Helsing many years ago when they tried to rule the world.  Now they're back and giving it a second shot.  Standing in their way are a group of teen boys who are members of the Monster Squad.  They, along with a tag-along younger sister, combat the forces of darkness and, of course, save the world for a second time.

This is a classic piece of 1980's PG horror.  Very little blood is shed…but it sure is a lot of fun!  Fred Dekker's [House, Night of the Creeps] direction is spot on.  It has the feel of a Spielberg adventure with lots of action and a few "steal your heart moments" for good measure.  The effects are good for the time and nothing stands out as terrible.  It all works quite nicely.

In terms of acting, the cast is mostly unknown but this does not stop them from giving fine performances.  They are the kind of kids all of us grew up with and their characters ring true.  There is a brief scene with Jason Hervey [Back to the Future, The Wonder Years] who plays bully E.J. Justice is served on him quite quickly in a scene that will make nerds cheer everywhere!

There is not much more to say about The Monster Squad.  It's the perfect film for a lazy Sunday afternoon and will be a trip down memory lane for quite a few horror fans out there.  Classic stuff!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trick or Treat (1986)

Growing up in the 70's I was warned repeatedly about the horrors of rock and roll. Backwards masking on LP's contained hidden messages about the devil and many bands such as AC/DC (AnitChrist Devil's Cult) and KISS (Kings in Satan's Service) were accused of attending Black Masses and swore their allegiance to the Dark Lord.  I knew it was bull$*@ then and it's bull$*@ now.  Long live rock and roll!  Trick or Treat is a comedic horror send-up of all things metal.  It brilliantly casts Gene Simons as a deejay and Ozzie Osbourne as a conservative Christian preacher.  If that's not enough to entice you to watch it, I don't know what will!

While Trick or Treat is hardly a horror masterpiece, it's got a lot of things going for it.  The soundtrack from metal band Fastaway shreds it's way through a tale of teenage angst, bullying and, oh yeah, resurrecting a dead rock star.  Marc Price, who played next door neighbor Skippy on Family Ties, has an opportunity to shed his squeaky clean image as Eddie who is the dead rock star's greatest fan.  The other well known actor in this film is Doug Savant [Melrose Place] who plays the bully quite effectively.  It's all class 80's stuff and both actors give it all they've got.

The real standout for me is Tony Fields who plays the dead rock star in question, Sammi Curr.  His performance is quirky and fascinating to watch, especially the concert scene where he owns the stage like the demon-possessed soul Sammi Curr claimed to be.  After watching the film I learned that Fields was a trained dancer and it definitely shows. Fields appeared in numerous music videos including Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Thriller."  He was also a Solid Gold dancer and appeared in the film version of "A Chorus Line as well."

If you're looking for serious horror, Trick or Treat will likely disappoint.  If, however, you're looking for a fun ride then it will fit the bill quite nicely.  It's everything some people either love or hate about 80's horror.  I happen to love it!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master (1988)

The kids from the looney bin that survived Freddy in Nightmare 3 are back in school and have a legion of new friends ready for Freddy's slash fest.  That's about as exciting as this one gets.  Once again, the franchise suffers from Wes Craven's absence.  The screenplay is weak and the direction and cinematography are lacking as well.  Heather Langenkamp is MIA which is always a bad thing.  All this smells like New Line trying to make a fast buck with as little investment in the franchise as possible.  They succeed admirably.

In Nightmare 4, Patricia Arquette, who played our hero Kristen in the last film, has been replaced by Tuesday Knight.  [Seriously?  Sounds like a porn star name to me.]  Her stage name alone gives you a hint what you're in store for: a lackluster performance that doesn't even come close to Arquette.  Two of the other surviving teens are played by the same actors but both are dispatched of early on in the film.  What is left are caricatures of teen archetypes who are bitched at by completely clueless parents and teachers.  

Robert Englud is back, of course, as Freddy but they even give him less to do in 4 than he did in 3.  I hate this because I'm a big Englund fan.  He's capable of so much more than the pablum they give him in Nightmare 4.  In this flick he's reduced to a series of clever retorts that really aren't that clever.

To add insult to injury, the soundtrack suffers with lots of marginal 80's tunes and bland, atmospheric synths.  Further the special effects don't light a candle to earlier films.  It all feels like it's been done before and done better.  And that's the truth!

Not until Craven completely took over the reigns of the franchise with New Nightmare [Nightmare 6 if you're counting] did Freddy rise again to greatness.  This one is adequate at best and I feel sorry for the actors who are trapped in this marginal film.

RATING: Fair.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nightmare on Gay Street?

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is a film that does not score well on IMDB with its most recent rating of 5.1 out of 10.  However, I think it's a much better film than many critics say it is.  The main reason for this is the gay subtext that runs through it which was pretty brave for 1985.  The themes in Nightmare 2 are quite different from Nightmare 1.  The first deals with Freddy invading people's dreams.  The second deals with Freddy trying to possess the body of Jesse Walsh, a teen who recently moved to Elm Street with his dysfunctional family.

I think that Mark Patton gives a wonderful performance in this film as he spans the emotional gamut from being scared shitless to wondering if he's losing his mind.  In the midst of all this trauma, we also see a young man who is also struggling with his sexual identity.

The short answer for me is that Jesse Walsh is gay but he hasn't quite figured it out yet.  He's a virgin who really likes his girlfriend Lisa Weber but not in the same way she likes him.  He's also attracted to his friend Ron Grady but is afraid to tell Ron how he feels for fear of rejection.  In the film Ron is definitely straight which makes the situation all the more painful.  This is a common experience of many young gay men in the 1980's.  Furthermore, Freddy stands as a symbol for the "love that dare not speak its name."  A love that Jesse struggles with and views as a monster that is trying to possess him.  

Lots of people have speculated about the gay subtext of Nightmare 2 over the years.  As a gay man with a partner of 20 years, who also happens to love horror films, I thought I'd add my perspective to the discussion.

Let's consider the facts:

1. In a February 2010 interview with Attitude magazine, Robert Englund commented on this when asked whether he was aware about the camp, gay appeal of the series. He replied: "... the second Nightmare on Elm Street is obviously intended as a bisexual themed film. It was early 80s, pre-AIDS paranoia. Jesse's wrestling with whether to come out or not and his own sexual desires was manifested by Freddy. His friend is the object of his affection. That's all there in that film. We did it subtly but the casting of Mark Patton was intentional too, because Mark was out and had done Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dead, Jimmy Dean."

2.  During his interview segment for the documentary "Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy," screenwriter David Chaskin admitted that homosexual themes were intentionally written into the script.

3: Mark Patton, the actor who played Jesse, did an online piece of fictional writing entitled "Jesse's Lost Journal."  [staticmass.net/jesses-lost-journals-preface]  It's really fascinating reading.  Consider the following entires…

A. "I hope this does not sound too awful but I know the girl likes me and I like her, just not in the same way but she can help me and I must let her. I have to let her take the lead, so he does not see my plan. I feel bad but I know she has already entered this world and her karma is here too. I need a friend."

B. "I went to Ron because I knew I would be safe there… you see the rule was that there would be no killing of people I love and yes I loved Ron so I thought that was the best course to take. I begged him not to go to sleep, so in my deepest mind I must have known not to trust Fred but I know he needs me, my body, so I made a mistake. Ron was not my lover as many assumed, we had a different bond. I could have crossed a line with him and we would have lost a lifetime… I thought I had forever, we had forever, you see I lead Fred away from my true love."  [NOTE: Mark is speaking the truth here.  I don't believe Jesse & Fred were intimate with each other.  I do believe, however, that Jesse probably wanted to be but held those feelings deep inside.]

4.  Mark Patton did an interview with Dead Central where he talked about the character of Jesse.  One of the bigger controversies surrounding Freddy's Revenge was the idea of casting a "final guy" instead of a "final girl." This is a phenomenon that Patton was keenly aware of. "Essentially, I was playing a woman's part and fans back then didn't understand that," Patton explained. "It's like they switched the rules of the genre on fans and a lot of people couldn't handle that so I think that's why some people have problems with part two. I do think the new generation of fans are more open to that idea now than audiences were back then."

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 (1984)

Critics give it a 3.6 on IMDB.  Only 20% of the audience on Rotten Tomatoes said they liked it.  Director Wes Craven has disowned the film.  So, how bad is it?  Not as bad as you might think!

H2 begins with two characters and one dog who survived from the first film.  Several years have past and “survivor boy” Kevin is sitting in a psychiatrists office, still trying to cope with the horrors he has experienced.  His trusted dog Beast is at his side.  Finally there’s Ruby who has once an inbred cannibal but has changed her wicked ways and is now a suburban kid enjoying life and hanging out with a motocross team.  [Seriously?  SERIOUSLY!]

O.K. so we’re off to a rocky start.  As can be expected the motocross team is headed for a competition and is running late.  [Damn you, daylight savings time!] Naturally, they take a short cut across the desert. [Didn’t Kevin learn something from the last time his family tried to do this?]  Naturally, they run into what’s left of the inbred cannibal family.

The main reason why this film does not work, besides the plot, is that we don’t care what happens to these teenagers.  They show few signs of fear and terror and seem to treat the whole affair as a grand adventure.  Furthermore, the once menacing Pluto, played to perfection in the first film by Michael Barrymore, is reduced in one scene to nothing more than a dog on a chain.

The reason why the first film worked so well is because it features an all-American family who is terrorized beyond belief.  Then we watch them devolve and become as ruthless as the inbred cannibals in order to survive.  It’s a brilliant study in human nature directed flawlessly by Wes Craven.   H2 has none of this and settles for far, far less.

A great deal of fuss is made by critics who complain the film has too many flashbacks.  There are not as many as one would think.   Furthermore the flashback that Beast the dog has is totally awesome.  How often do we get a dog flashback on film?  It’s cheesy but it’s my kind of cheese!
 

So while H2 is not a complete red hot mess, it’s hardly compelling film-making either.  But if you're really bored on a Sunday afternoon, give it a chance.  It might be better than you think!

RATING: Fair.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

The American Nightmare (2000)

This documentary examines some of the iconic horror movies of the 1960s-1970s and how they were influenced by, and were commentaries of, what was happening in the world around us.  George Romero, Tom Savini, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, John Landis and David Cronenberg look back on the movies they made as young men and offer some interesting insight into such beloved films as Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween among others.  These filmmakers also talk about the horror films that scared and inspired them as children and teens.

The subject is thoroughly explored in the way one would expect from the Independent Film Channel.  Also included are various professors/historians who add their insights as well.  This is really good stuff.  I know a lot about these directors but found myself being surprised by their candid insights time and time again.  If you have any love of horror, this one is a must-see.  I’m amazed I haven’t seen it before.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing is the Wes Craven adaptation of the Len Wein comic books of the same name.  While its tight budget definitely shows, I've always enjoyed this film and have watched it several times over the years.  The basic story is about the botanical experiments of Dr. Alec Holland.  Naturally, they go awry and a lab explosion turns him into the "Swamp Thing."  Rival scientist Anton Arcane then plots to capture Holland and learn his secrets.
Adrienne Barbeau [Creepshow, The Fog, Carnivale] and stuntman Dick Durock are a modern day Beauty and the Beast in Swamp Thing.  They are the heart and soul of this film.  It would be dead in the water without them.  Barbeau plays Alice with charm, warmth and a smidge of toughness.  Durok's "Swamp Thing" is perfect.  His height and the way be embodies the swamp suit are first rate.  Like King Kong before him, Durock also shows a great deal of tenderness that wins over the heart of the audience.
French actor Louis Jourdan plays the evil Dr. Arcane.  Personally, I would have picked a different actor to fill this role but Jourdan is what we've got to work with.  He's fine but not nearly menacing enough for my tastes.
Kudos also to Harry Manfredini [Friday the 13th] who wrote a luscious score for Swamp Thing.  It has a classic feel to it like Psycho or Jaws which greatly enhances the viewer's experience of the film.  
The two negatives of Swamp Thing are the pace of the film and much of the special effects.  There are segments of it that are simply too slow, especially toward the beginning.  Furthermore, with the exception of the Swamp Thing's make-up, the rest of the effects look a bit hokey.  Thankfully, none of my favorite make-up men worked on this project.  Where is Tom Savini when you needed him?  Oh well, I guess he couldn't do every project in the 1980's.
In the end, the goods outweigh the bads.  Swamp Thing is a cult classic that is definitely worth your time.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Deadly Blessing (1981)

Wes Craven takes on the subject of a conservative religious sect in the thriller Deadly Blessing.  The story is about a group of Hittites [similar to the Amish] who believe that a neighboring house is possessed by an incubus.  It also happens to be the house of an ex-communicated Hittite who married a city girl, an outsider.  Naturally strange things start to happen including visions and mysterious murders.  Who is behind these evil deeds?  Well you'll just have to watch the movie to find out!
I am generally a big fan of Wes Craven but was a little underwhelmed by this one.  Craven's previous films included the groundbreaking and utterly terrifying Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes.  Viewers would naturally expect more of the same.  However, Craven takes a bit of a breather with Deadly Blessing but this is not necessarily a bad thing.  It's just unexpected.
Craven's direction is very good in Deadly Blessing and he captures nice performances from the entire cast, which includes Ernest Borgnine as the leader of the sect, Sharon Stone, and Michael Berryman [The Hills Have Eyes].  I'm a big fan of Berryman and he really shines as the "he's not quite right" Hittite, William.  
The big weakness of Deadly Blessing is the ending which is completely unforgivable.  It's cheesy and totally unnecessary.  If it was meant to be frightening, it's a dismal failure.  With a different ending, this film would have been much better.  
So, if you're a Craven fan like me you might feel a little let down by Deadly Blessing.  However, it's still a decent movie that has many more hits than misses.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1986)


The biggest mistake Wes Craven made with the Nightmare franchise was handing many of the films over to other directors.  I would argue that the two best films in the series are the original and New Nightmare, both of which Craven directed and wrote.  The other films simply don't match up with Craven's skill in creating a creepy, unsettling atmosphere where Freddy can unleash his reign of terror.  Furthermore, Craven's screenplays are stronger and scarier which is the way I like it.  Otherwise, Freddy is reduced to playing the role of the class clown instead of the ruthless killer he was destined to be.

That being said, Nightmare 2 is a decent film that has a number of things going for it.  While the presence of Heather Langenkamp [Nancy] is sorely missed, Mark Patton [Freddy vs. Jason, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean]  does a decent job as Jesse, the new kind on the Elm street block.  He's 80's cute and navigates the emotional territory of feeling like he's slowly being possessed by Freddy rather well.  His sidekick and love interest, Lisa, is no Nancy.  Kim Myers [Hellraiser: Bloodline, The Sitter] is good but nothing special.  Robert Englund does what Robert does best with the material he's been given to work with.  However, he was much scarier in the original film thanks to Craven's smart direction and dialogue.

The soundtrack has some bad 80's excesses from time to time and, overall, is a weaker score than Charles Bernstein's 1984 masterpiece.  It's missing the strong musical themes established in the first film that should have been carried over into this one.

As a point of interest, Nightmare 2 also has a subtle gay context to it.  Jesse is probably not gay but the way they handle the character makes it easy for gays to identify with him.  What do you think about this?  Also did you notice there's no T&A in this film but there are lots of guys running around in their undies.  Hmmmm.

So, Nightmare 2 is not the worst of the bunch but it's not the best either.  Still, I found it quite enjoyable and even fun from time to time.  The pool scene in particular is a riot!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Although this doesn't quite qualify as vintage [My cut off is 25 years old] Wes Carven's New Nightmare has to be mentioned when talking about the Freddy Krueger franchise.  It is easily my second favorite in the series next to the original.  With New Nightmare Wes Craven, thankfully, took over the reins as both writer and director.  Freddy Krueger is always at his sinister best when Craven is in charge of his every move.  Instead of lots of snarky humor, this Freddy is more sinister and fear-inducing.  I think the character is at his best when portrayed this way.

The premise of New Nightmare is absolutely brilliant as we find ourselves in the "real life" world of Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.  A mechanical Freddy hand goes away during the making of a film and the cast and crew quickly begin to realize that Freddy is trying to move from the silver screen into reality.  Great stuff!

Heather Langenkamp, who was one of my favorite 80's horror heroines, does a great job playing herself!  She is definitely the emotional center of this film just like she was in the original.  In New Nightmare her son, played by  Miko Hughes [Pet Sematary], also plays an important role.  Hughes is just as creepy here as he was in Pet Seminary and does a great job in the scenes where Freddy tries to possess him.

If you've never seen this film, what are you waiting for?  Wes Craven's New Nightmare gives us an idea of what the series would have looked like if Craven had written and directed every film.  I can dream can't I…or is that a really bad idea?

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Shocker (1989)

Released the same year as The Horror Show, Shocker gives us an eerily similar plot, but with better results.  Much of the credit for this goes to Wes Craven [A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream] who wrote the screenplay and also directed the movie.  Like Horror Show, this movie has a detective who helps to put a maniac behind bars, and a maniac who vows his revenge even after death.  This is where the similarities end.  Craven's script is smarter and a bit darker with a dash of humor. [No surprise there.]  He also focuses the film on the detective's son who becomes the emotional center of the film.  If there is one weakness in the script it is when the killer stops switching bodies and jumps into the T.V. screen.  The son incomprehensibly follows in a move that is too Elm Street for my taste.  I know the audience is supposed to go along with this change of direction but this is when I started asking lots of questions which is never a good sign.

The cast is a bit uneven in Shocker but this can be blamed on budget constraints.  Veteran character actor Michael Murphy [Batman Returns, X-Men: Last Stand] is O.K. as Lt. Dan Parker but is nothing special.  Thankfully Peter Berg [Friday Night Lights, Battleship] is spot on as Parker's son Jonathan.  He makes us care what happens in this film and Shocker's success is mostly due to his performance.  Mitch Pileggi [X-Files] takes on the role of serial killer Horace Pinker.  He does a good job with this but his character feels a bit more like the Road Runner rather than a vicious killer.

Don't get me wrong, I like Shocker very much.  However, my dream movie, combining the best of both films, would be Wes Craven's script and direction as well as Peter Berg as the son.  Mix this with Horror Show's Lance Henriksen as the father, Brion James as the killer along with Harry Manfredini's soundtrack and it would be a total home run.  [Craven opted for late 80's hair metal in Shocker which doesn't work for me to establish the right mood for the film.]

The overall story contained in both of these films is screaming for a remake.  Since Craven has been redoing a lot of his early work, this may happen in the next few years. I'm still convinced that this story has not been told as well as it could be.  Both films leave me wanting more.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.