Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Ring (2002)

The Ring (USA/Japan, 2002) - Color, Director(s): Gore Verbinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13
[UK: 15]
Approx. 115 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

Alright, I know The Ring isn't exactly a "classic" horror movie but if we're talking about influential horror films, you'd be hard pressed not to give it a mention. This movie single-handedly kick-started the Asian Horror remake craze that led to movies like The Grude, Dark Water, Pulse, The Eye, Shutter, One Missed Call, and a slew of others being adapted for American audiences. While proving that PG-13 films could be successful by outperforming R-rated movies such as: Ghost Ship, Cabin Fever, Resident Evil, Queen of the Damned, and even sequels to established franchises like Halloween: Resurrection and Jason X in box offices that same year. Based on a series of Japanese novels, The Ring has become a phenomena that has spawned an ongoing series of films and also popularized the trope of long haired ghost girls around the world.

Two teenage girls are hanging out when one of them tells the story of a killer video tape. After you watch it, the phone rings and someone on the other end tells you that you'll die in seven days. Exactly seven days later, you're supposed to die. Turns out, the other girl already saw the tape last week while up at a cabin with her friends and before you know it, the killer video tape gets her. The girl who witnessed her friend's death ends up in a mental institution and the other kids that saw the video all died around the same time. Naomi Watts plays a journalist who's asked by her sister to investigate what happened because her daughter was the one killed by the video tape. Watts' investigation eventually leads her up to the cabin where the kids saw the video and she ends up watching it herself. With seven days left to live, Watts needs to figure out how to break the curse. To make matters worse, Watts' son also watches the tape and time is ticking for both of them.

Nudity: None

Gore: Not much in the way of visceral gore but there are some disturbing images in the killer video, like severed fingers and nails impaling a finger. This movie relies more on creepy atmosphere and disturbing visuals than it does on violence or gore.

Awesome: Pretty awesome. I remember going to see this movie in theaters with a couple of buddies for Halloween, along with Ghost Ship, and being disappointed that both movies failed to scare us. We stayed up making fun of them until the early hours of the morning. Although it didn't scare us that night, there's no denying the influence this movie had. I used to have a small TV in my room that I used as a VCR, so it wasn't hooked up to the cable. Sometimes it would turn on by itself randomly and there would be nothing but static on the screen. I'd be lying if I said it didn't scare the shit out of everyone whenever it happened in the middle of the night. The same way Psycho made everyone paranoid when they got in the shower and Jaws scared people off the beach, The Ring made everyone shit their pants whenever static came on the TV screen. On that note, check out this prank where a room full of Japanese girls gets the crap scared out of them to the point where they're in tears.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Freddy vs. Jason (Canada/USA/Italy, 2003) - Color, Director(s): Ronny Yu
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 97 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5

After 16 years in development, two of the biggest icons in the history of horror finally meet on the big screen. At the end of Jason Goes to Hell, there was a big teaser with Freddy Krueger's clawed arm reaching up out of the ground and pulling Jason Voorhees' mask under. Now in the hands of veteran director Ronny Yu (the man who brought us Bride of Chucky, my favorite entry into the Child's Play franchise) we finally get to see these two monsters go head-to-head.

The movie starts with an introduction of Freddy Krueger's character, how he slaughtered children until the parents of Springwood came for him. They play a montage of Nightmare on Elm Street clips showing how Freddy could invaded the kid's nightmares and their fear would give him strength. Now he was trapped in Hell because they finally found a way to forget about him. Disguised as Jason's mother, Freddy sends Jason to 1428 Elm Street (Freddy's old stomping grounds) to start killing off some teens. Knowing this would spark a panic among the families of Springwood, who would all just assume that Freddy was back. His plan works but Jason is killing off the kids faster than Freddy's able to gather his strength. Now that Jason's been cut loose, not even Freddy can stop this killing machine.

Meanwhile, at Westin Hills psychiatric hospital, two former residents of Elm Street see a news report about the murders at 1428 Elm St. Recognizing this as his girlfriend Lori's house, Will and his buddy Mark escape from Westin Hills to make sure she's okay. They've been given Hypnocil to prevent them from dreaming about Freddy Krueger. In fact, anybody who had any contact with Krueger have been quarantined at Westin Hills. Now the teenagers are trapped between Jason who can kill them in the waking world and Freddy who can kill them if they fall asleep. Realizing that they can pit one against the other, they take Jason back to Crystal Lake and pull Freddy out of the dream world. Finally, the two meet face-to-face for their final battle.

Nudity: We get some nudity right when the movie starts, before the title screen appears. Ronny Yu really knows what he's doing! We also get the always beautiful Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, American Mary) baring her breasts on camera.

Gore: In an epic meeting between two of horror cinema's greatest slashers, of course there's going to be tons of the red stuff! People are stabbed, cut, slashed, impaled, burnt, electrocuted, decapitated, eviscerated, and torn in half.

Awesome: to the MAX! This movie was satisfying on every level for fans. The story is loyal to both franchises, including references to previous films like Westin Hills and Hypnocil. There were buckets of blood and guts with some quality T&A, both of which are staples of this genre. The best word I can use to describe this movie is FUN! I had a blast watching this movie in theaters and it's always a good time whenever I pop this into the DVD player. They did a great job marketing this film, having fans pick sides before the movie came out. They even had a weigh-in like they do for professional fights. I was so excited for this movie to come out, I had it set as my background on the computer. The only thing missing was Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. That'd probably be my only complaint. From what I understand, they kept telling him that he'd be in this movie up until things really started getting rolling. Then they wanted someone who was taller to tower over Freddy. Fans were really disappointed when they didn't bring him back. Aside from that, the movie was pretty much everything we've ever wanted from this crossover. One of the original ideas for an ending was both Freddy and Jason would end up back in hell. As they ran toward each other, chains with hooks would pull them apart and Pinhead from the Hellraiser would make an appearance. The biggest problem with this ending was that they didn't have the rights to the Hellraiser characters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (USA, 1994) - Color, Director(s): Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 112 min.

Z-rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

Like true evil, Freddy never dies and always finds a way to come back. This marks Wes Craven's return to the franchise that he created, even though he's had no involvement since the first film. Craven tries an unconventional approach with this sequel. Instead of adding to the continuity of the films, New Nightmare is told from the aspect of Heather Langenkamp's life. The movie opens on the set of Wes Craven's new Nightmare movie. Heather, her husband, and their child are watching from behind-the-scenes. Freddy's mechanical prop hand comes to life and kills two of the special effects guys but it turns out to be nightmare Heather Langenkamp is having. She wakes up in the middle of an earthquake and rushes to check on her son. Miko Hughes (Pet Sematary, Kindergarten Cop) plays her son, Dylan.

Following the last film where Freddy Krueger's character dies, Heather's been getting nightmares about him. As weirder and weirder things start happening, it seems that Freddy might be breaking out into the real world. After paying a visit to Wes Craven, Heather finds out that he's also been having strange nightmares and he's writing the script for a new Nightmare film based on those nightmares. As it happens, "Freddy" is an ancient evil that lives for the murder of innocents but can be trapped from time to time by storytellers. This evil has taken many forms over the years but in the last 10 years, it's been trapped in the Nightmare on Elm Street series as Freddy Krueger.

I remember renting this movie and watching it with my sister. The whole concept of this movie taking place in "real life" where Robert Englund was the actor and came out on the talk show in character make up, just went way over my head as a kid. I didn't understand how I could be watching a Nightmare on Elm Street movie where Freddy wasn't really Freddy for a majority of the movie. I really hated this movie with a passion at that age, the concept of the film was just too hard for me to swallow and I was so disappointed that my night was wasted. I can revisit this film now and appreciate how clever Wes Craven was trying to be with the story. For me personally, I would've rather seen a movie that takes place within the Nightmare universe. Between that and the disappointment I felt as a child, this is probably my second least favorite entry into franchise (Still a step above A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge).

Nudity: No nudity since this isn't a conventional movie, it's supposed to take place in "real life."

Gore: The kills in this movie are a lot more tame, it's not Freddy killing people in their dreams. Most of them are people getting stabbed in the throat or chest. The best kill in the movie was Tracy Middendorf as Julie, the babysitter. She's in the room with Dylan when he falls asleep and Freddy crosses over into out world. They used another rotating room for her death as Freddy drags her up the wall and across the ceiling, in reference to Tina's death in the first film. This was Tracy's film debut and she was absolutely GORGEOUS in it.

Awesome: There were a lot of references to the first film. Heather Langenkamp says a couple of her famous lines like, "Screw your pass" and "Whatever you do, don't fall asleep." Heather also gets a gray streak in her hair like Nancy in the first film. The sticky stairs make a return towards the end of the film too. Some of the cast from the original appears too, like John Saxon who plays himself and Lin Shaye who returns as a nurse. Bob Shaye, CEO of New Line Cinemas, also makes an appearance as himself. Overall, not a bad movie, but still one of my least favorite in the franchise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (USA, 1991) - Color, Director(s): Rachel Talalay
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 89 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 5 stars out of 5

First time director Rachel Talalay would bring us the most cartoonish entry into the franchise. Sure, the last one had comic book characters like Super Freddy (who was faster than a bastard maniac!) but this one has some Wile E. Coyote gags straight out of Looney Tunes. I remember renting this and Jason Goes to Hell for one of my birthday parties as a kid (yeah, I had some weird parties). There's a scene at the beginning of the movie where a kid on a flight asks to change seats because he's afraid of heights. The fat lady sitting next to him says, "Don't be a pussy!" then suddenly gets sucked out through the roof of the plane. To a room full of elementary school kids, that was the funniest thing in the world! We sat there rewinding it so many times that we never made it to the second movie. From my understanding, Divine (of Pink Flamingos fame) was originally cast to be the large woman sitting next to the kid but he tragically passed away before filming began.

So the story goes that 10 years in the future, Freddy has killed all the teenagers in Springwood, Ohio. As a result, all the parents are experience mass hysteria. There is supposedly one teenager left (the kid on the plane) and he's trying to skip town. Freddy stops him a couple times, with some Wizard of Oz gags, before finally cutting him loose and using him as a connection to the outside world. Unfortunately, the kid hits his head the moment Freddy pushes him out of Springwood and loses his memory. After wandering around the city for a bit, the cops take him to a youth shelter. A case worker named Maggie (Lisa Zane) thinks that it'd be a good idea to bring him back to Springwood in order to jog his memory. So the two are headed back in a van but three of the kids from the shelter snuck on board and are along for the ride. Once the gang arrives in Springwood, there's no escape for any of them.

Just like they did with Jason in Jason Goes to Hell, a bunch of stuff was added to Freddy's backstory that was never there before. Freddy just got through trying to steal Alice's kid from her because he "wanted to be a father" but now it turns out that he already had a child when he was still alive. This is also the first time we're hearing about "ancient dream demons" that roam the dreams of the living looking for the most evil, twisted human imaginable and give him the power to cross the line to turn nightmares into reality. And wouldn't you know it, these are the exact dream demons that originally gave Freddy his power! What a coincidence!

This was the first movie from New Line Cinemas to ever have 3D, but it's only a segment at the very end. We get a tour through Freddy's twisted mind and the final battle is in 3D. Now, I'm going to spoil the end a little bit here so if you haven't seen the movie yourself, skip to the nudity portion of this review. In Dream Warriors, they buried his bones in hallowed ground and dumped holy water on him. In Dream Master, Alice uses his own reflection to cause the souls he's collected to tear him apart. In Dream Child, Alice's son spits souls out that pulls baby Freddy out and back into the womb of his mother. So in the "final" movie where Freddy was going to be killed for good, they bring him into the real world and blow him up with a homemade pipebomb! That's.... kind of a lackluster ending to one of the greatest horror movie icons of all time. To really drive the point home that Freddy was indeed dead, they actually held a funeral for Freddy that some of the stars from the previous films attended.

I was half expecting it to have "ACME" written on the side of it

Nudity: None.

Gore: There really isn't much blood and gore in this movie either. A kid's head explodes and we barely get any of the red stuff. This one might even have the lowest body count of all the movies!

I love the Power Glove, it's so bad!

Awesome: This is the silliest entry into the franchise but you can tell everyone was having a great time making the movie though. There are a bunch of cameos in this movie. Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold are parents in Springwood. Alice Cooper plays Freddy's drunk, abusive father in a flashback. Even Johnny Depp makes a quick cameo in an anti-drug commercial before the stoner kid is dragged into the TV by Freddy. After the stoner is sucked into the TV, Freddy plays with him like a video game. They attempted to get the rights from Nintendo to use their Power Glove but even after they said no, the filmmakers gave Freddy his own version of the Power Glove. Freddy even says the line, "Now I'm playing with power!" in reference to Nintendo's motto. Speaking of video games, that same kid is playing a Tiger Electronics handheld version of Ninja Gaiden when we first see him in the movie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)


A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (USA, 1989) - Color, Director(s): Stephen Hopkins
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 98 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 4 stars out of 5

After the fourth film, New Line Cinemas attempted to launch a syndicated TV series around the franchise called Freddy's Nightmares. The series was supposed to be a horror anthology show similar to The Twilight Zone with Freddy introducing each episode like the Crypt-Keeper. Celebrities like Brad Pitt would guest star and directors like Tom McLoughlin (One Dark Night, Friday the 13th Part VI), Mick Garris (Critters 2, Sleepwalkers), and Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) would direct individual episodes. Tobe Hooper actually directed the pilot, which was the origin story for Freddy Krueger that followed the trial and death sentence at the hands of the Elm Street parents. The series ran for two seasons for a total of 44 episodes. The following year, we'd also get two video games based on the franchise. The most popular of the two being the one released on the NES but there was another game for the Commodore 64, both of which were loosely based on Dream Warriors.

That same year, we'd also get another another sequel to the franchise. What better way to follow up Dream Warriors and Dream Master than with... Dream Child? I guess that makes sense. When you follow the legacy of a Warrior who becomes a Master, the next step would be to pass it onto a child. This movie starts in the shower, which is always the best place to start any kind of movie. Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is suddenly transported back to the psychiatric ward in 1940's. She's reliving the nightmare as Amanda Krueger, the night she was raped by 100 maniacs. Robert Englund appears without his Freddy make-up during this sequence as one of the maniacs.

Freddy resurrects in another one of the dreams, where Alice watches on as Amanda Krueger is pregnant and gives birth to an ugly baby Freddy. Like something out of It's Alive, the baby hops to the ground and scurries out the door. The baby grows into Freddy after he crawls into the clothes, hat, and glove remaining from the last film where he was defeated. Alice wonders how all this happens while she's awake. Freddy immediately starts going after Dan and three of the new friends that Alice has made since the last film. Alice feels each of their deaths and realizes that Freddy can come to her while she's awake because Alice is pregnant. The baby is the one that's dreaming, Freddy is feeding it the souls of those he kills in an attempt to turn it to the darkside. In the end, Alice must fight Freddy to protect her unborn child and keep Freddy from corrupting it.

Nudity: Aside from small flashes of nudity during Alice's shower scene, there really isn't much else in this movie.

Gore: There is much in terms of gore, in fact, one of the characters faints at the sight of blood. Though, being a Freddy movie, there are some gross kills like a girl being force-fed until she dies. Not much blood and guts, it comes off more like a Nickelodeon gag. 

Awesome: Very. The scene where Dan is riding a motorcycle and it fuses with his body is insanely bad ass. I hear that some of it was edited out but I wouldn't mind seeing an entire movie about a character that's some twisted fusion of man and machine. In the Never Sleep Again documentary, the special effects guys cite H.R. Giger as an influence on the design. Something about this movie just screamed MTV to me. One of the characters is really into comics and the animation of him being sucked into a comic book totally reminded me of A-ha's "Take On Me" video. In the scene where Alice looks into her refrigerator and sees everything rotting away, the special effects looked like something out of an early 90's rock video on MTV. Overall, a fun entry into the series despite not performing as well in box offices due to an oversaturation of Nightmare on Elm Street films

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