Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie Review: Friday The 13th: A New Beginning

Now Just to let  you know that there are going to be some major spoilers in this review, so I advise you to watch the movie before you read this. Even though the final chapter was slated to be the last Friday film, it still made millions at the box office. So why not make another sequel, right? To explain things furthermore, it was supposed to be the final chapter for Jason and A New Beginning for Roy Burns. I don't why they would have a new killer, besides the fact they had Jason in three movies already. But on top of that, this wasn't the issue I had with the film. It was the overall sleaze factor that made me uncomfortable. The unlikeable characters, the unnecessary nudity, and it's also got this weird campy vibe. It wouldn't feel out of place in any exploitation movie. I just feel that that's not the what the Friday the 13th movies are. Yeah, some may see it as pointless slashers but it's the kind of horror movie that's a staple of pop culture and it's way far remembered than any of the imitators that tried to pull it off but came exploitative instead. Which is sadly what this movie felt like. I'm not saying it's bad but it's not great either. Though it does have some shining moments, which makes it stand out more.
Here's the story: Years (I don't know how many) after the events of Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis, now an emotionally-damaged young man, is sent to a troubled youth center. He is constantly plagued by terrifying visions of Jason, while keeping his sanity intact. Meanwhile, a string of  murders are happening around the campsite. Could it be that Jason has risen from the dead again?

Some of the acting was okay. Some were good, some were sort of bad. It's kind of a 50/50. It was hard for me to catch up with some of the characters since there were so many. So I'm only along for the ones who I think are the most memorable.

First, let's start with John Shepherd as Tommy, who was clearly the strongest actor in the movie. He plays a young man that is clearly tortured by his memories of Jason.

Throughout the film, he seems to be slowly losing his sanity and his grip on his reality. And once he able to face his fears it's too much for him, but suddenly he gains the strength to fight off the monster and get his life back together.

Though again, the haunting memories of Jason is too much and he falls deeper into a darker path.....

John Shepherd was the best part of the movie. It's a shame that it tends to lose focus on him as he was the most interesting, well-developed. Instead we focus on the obnoxious, repulsive characters who meet their end by a would-be killer (which will be discussed later). John Shepherd captured the emotional torture Tommy was going through and brought on a very intense nature to the role. Not to mention, he is quite handsome and an impressive body, too.

Then there's Pam. There's not much to say about Pam, because there's not much focus on her. Yeah, she serves as the film's Final Girl, but she's pretty much in the background for most of the time. There is some development to her character as she has a motherly presence beyond the group of kids. Melanie Kinnaman  did a great job, especially the scenes involving her and the killer.

Pam may not be as memorable as the previous final girls, but she still is badass. The scene where she fights the killer with the chainsaw has got to be the most remembered.

Then there's Reggie The Reckless (I don't know his last name) played by Shavar Ross from Different Strokes. Reggie is sort of a love it or hate it character. Although I did find him annoying at times, he is probably one of the most memorable characters, believe or not.

But one of my favorite characters in this is Violet, the new wave punk girl. It would've been interesting if she survived the movie. She doesn't get much screen time but once she's on screen, she steals the show.

Probably one of the most talked about and most popular scene of the movie, my personal favorite, is Violet's dance. You just have to see it for yourself:

The song is quite catchy, too
And let's not forget the hillbilly mother and son....

A total hoot!


The body count is a whooping 22. Though it's a shame Jason wasn't the one riling them up. The kills are quite creative, but it's quite impossible for a human man to have massive strength like that. Yes, I said human.

Which we'll explain about Roy Burns. It's pretty obvious he is the killer of the movie. Even his introduction is a massive spoiler but since this is a Friday the 13th film and previous films featured Jason, you would never think that.

The start of Roy's rampage, begins when one of the patients, Joey, is murdered by another patient named Vic Morrow. Now when I first saw this, it really put me out of my comfort zone. To have one of the teenagers kill one of their peers, besides Jason, it's pretty jarring yet interesting. And this is what starts the plot...Roy Burns just so happens to be one of the paramedics to pick up his son's (Joey) dead body. Once a Jerkass paramedic makes a harsh comment, that's when Roy's rage takes over.....

Fans weren't exactly thrilled with this twist but I think this was something fresh and new. It threw me off at first, though afterward, I was perfectly okay with it.
Now for some behind the scenes facts. In the original script, the opening dream was different. It opens up as a continuation from the ending of final chapter as the young Tommy Jarvis is taken to the same hospital with Jason and winds up killing the whole staff, trying to get to the body. He finally finds Jason where he rises from the operating table before the teenaged Tommy wakes up on his way to Pinehurst. Honestly, that would've been a stellar opening.

Corey Feldman was originally to have been the star of the movie but due to scheduling conflicts, including his involvement in The Goonies movie, he only did a cameo.

Gina Gershon was one of the actress to play the part of Tina but I guess her agent wasn't all hyped about the nudity for the role, so she turned it down.


Then there's Darcy DeMoss, who would later star in part 6, was given the role since she was actor John Robert Dixon's girlfriend at the time. After many setbacks, the filmmakers put her on delay because she wasn't "endowed" enough (real classy, you guys). So eventually Debbie Sue Voorhees, who was a playboy model, got the part. Having all this trouble to find an actress with a role that involves nudity is pretty ridiculous but since Danny Steinmann was a softcore porn director back in the 70's, I guess it was important to him.

Mark Venturini and Miguel Nunez Jr. would later star in The Return Of The Living Dead. Thom Matthews, who also starred in the movie, would later play Tommy Jarvis in Part 6. Mark Venturi was once considered the role of Tommy Jarvis but decided Vic was more of the role for him.
The film was submitted to the MPAA NINE time before it had a proper release, because of the graphic death scenes and the one sex scene involving Tina and Eddie, which Danny Stienmann wanted to keep but the producers cut it down. I guess the sleaziness of it made them a tad bit uncomfortable.
I really don't think this is the worst of the series. It's actually quite watchable. It's not the best but at least I give it points for doing something different. Although, Jason doesn't appear in the film, it's still is your usual Friday The 13th but what puts me off is the sleaziness of it and some of the characters tend to be rather irritating. And furthermore, I wished they would've focused on Tommy's arc more since he was the most interesting and much more well-developed than in part 6.
Even though, this is the weakest of the series, it's still is entertaining.
My Last Word: Mediocre, but still watchable.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street

This is the ultimate cult classic. This is possibly one of the best slasher films of the 1980's right beside the Friday The 13th films. It is innovative, creative, interesting, and intelligent. And it takes the Master Of Suspense Wes Craven to convey such an original story.
I remembered this movie scared the shit out of me when I was five years old. It took me about five years later to watch the whole movie and I was still terrified. I could barely sleep that same night. If a horror movie scared you way up until your elementary age, it's a good damn horror movie. And by the age of twelve, I have love this movie ever since.
Here's the story: Nancy and her friends are beginning to have terrifying dreams of a mysterious man in a boiler room, trying to kill them.

Little do they know, their dreams are becoming more intense, more visceral. So scary, in fact, that if they die in their dreams, they die for real. So it's only up to Nancy to fight this evil being from destroying her life and taking it once and for all.

The cast is phenomenal. The chemistry between the actors seemed real and genuine. It seemed like the actors understood their characters and that's why the cast is so good, they really don't have to act their roles, it all comes naturally.

First, let's get to the red herring as I always do in these movies.

As the movie begins the main focus is on Tina, who is (supposedly) treated as our main character. Her mother is pretty apathetic towards her and the only people she seems to confine in is her friends, the closest being Nancy. She has a sort of shaky relationship with Rod but seems deeply committed to him, craving for male affection due to a lack of a father figure. The movie doesn't really have to show or tell us about the character, it frames a much more bigger structure to the situation at hand. Tina thinks she can fight the monster but her fears get the best of her. Not just the fear of Freddy but her inner fears which he feeds off of.

Which leads us to our true main character Nancy Thompson played by the awesome Heather Lagenkamp. Nancy is not as strong as Tina, physically, but emotionally, she is able to find an inner strength she never thought she had.

Nancy isn't your stereotypical final girl that fades in the background until the end or runs and screams most of the time. She is portrayed as a real person with real issues that anybody can relate to. She has an alcoholic mother, a distant father, and a useless boyfriend she can't seem to depend on (I'll get to him later). When her friends start dying, there is no one to relay to at this point.

So she uses her smarts and wits to defeat the monster and eventually succeeds by turning her back towards him and letting her fears and anxiety go away. She doesn't have to hide anymore. She doesn't have to be scared anymore....

Some say that Heather Lagenkamp's acting isn't all that good but I think she did a stellar job. She probably isn't the most best actress in the world, though after all, it was her first role and I really thought she put realism and true honesty to her character. She was born to play this role.
Now let's get to the boys. They are great actors in their own right but sometimes the way their characters react to things tend to confuse me.

Let's start with Rod, he comes off as this stereotypical(not to mention hot) bad boy type with a 1950's greaser attitude. It's kind of amusing at first. But then what baffles me is in this scene right after the death of Tina. I know the cause of his actions were in a matter of shock but it's quite stupid at the same time too. He just stands there while his girlfriend gets slaughtered, keeps yelling and screaming, and eventually leaving the scene of the crime, pretty much making himself look guilty. Then the next day, he tries to explain to Nancy that he's innocent. Therefore, she asks questions like any other rational person would do. Rod, on the other hand, just threatens her out of nowhere, making himself EVEN MORE guilty.

Although, he does show his vulnerable side, flaws and all.

Then there's Glen, Nancy's cute but utterly unreliable boyfriend played by Johnny Depp in his first role. He's practically the more underdeveloped of the four characters. He does seem like a nice guy and all but there were moments where he comes off like a careless douche. First of all, he doesn't seem that all affected over Tina's death. I mean he seen her dead body for Christ sakes! And he doesn't seem all that comforting towards Nancy, after all the shit she's been going through, even though, he does give her advice but at least he should have a little empathy towards her since she's been having nightmares. Even when she begs for him to help her, the moment after that, he just goes off to sleep. Wow, just wow. Yeah, he gets the most brutal death of the movie, but I can't seem to stop myself from saying he had it coming.

I liked that the adults are full front and center in a slasher film, though mainly the focus is on Nancy's parents. They never seem careless or apathetic and truly wants to help Nancy, even though they have emotional baggage of their own, including keeping a dark secret.

Which brings us to the mastermind of the story, Freddy Kruger. He is a mix of Nosferatu and James Cagney, He is the eternal boogeyman that haunts dreams and feeds on fears. He is the disease in these kids' lives. I like how they kept him in the shadows and didn't really give him too much dialogue. It makes the character more mysterious and creepy. What sets him apart from most antagonists of the slasher golden age is that he's a really hateable villain. Most slasher villains of the 80's tend to be more sympathetic than the victims, having a tragic backstory to fill out the motivations of their killings. But Freddy Kruger is not so sympathetic at all. Before his "death", he was a ruthless child murderer, who had no qualms on human life. So this is where his backstory begins. Once he is caught for his horrible crimes, the cops finds no evidence since he burns most of them, so the judge has no choice but to release him (by the way, this was way before CSI). The parents were completely outraged, setting up a plan to get rid of this monster once and for all. So they hunt him down and burn his warehouse with him in it. So that's where his reign of terror begins years later... Soon, Freddy becomes a manifestation of the parents' guilt. But instead of haunting them, he haunts their children...The creation of Freddy Kruger is an original ghost story that is both effective and creepy.
And then there are the special effects which are eye-catching, elaborate, and even sometimes brutal.

The most memorable is Tina's death which terrified me as a kid.

Then there's Glen's death, which really freaked me out when I first watched it. Just imagine something out of nowhere pull you under the bed and that's just the end of it. Here are the scenes.:


There are quite a few scenes that are extremely suspenseful. Like the bathtub scene which came out of nowhere and the scenes involving Nancy seeing Tina in a body bag.

The only downfall to this is Rod's death scene, it wasn't at all effective like most of the special effects and it was kind of cheap looking but overall they are still worth-watching.

I like how the filmmakers set up the dream sequences, without making it otherworldly or over-ambitious. They had very little money at the time but was still able to make an atmospheric, eerie setting by making the elm street neighborhood a desolate ghost town.

The boiler room scenes are just as atmospheric. It is very horrifying and you can feel the sweat and heat boiling in your skin just by looking at it.
Now for some behind the scenes scoop. The concept of A Nightmare On Elm Street was based on an article Wes Craven read on the newspaper about a young man who died in sleep in Korea. Very scary once you think about it. The character of Freddy Kruger was based on, of course, inspired by his childhood fears such as a run-in with a bully and a creepy homeless guy who scared him while looking outside of a window.
There were 200 actresses who tried out for the role of Nancy. Examples include:

Jennifer Grey

Demi Moore

Courtney Cox (who would've thought she would work with Wes Craven again in the Scream Movies. Wow!

Claudia Wells


Marisa Tomei

Carrie-Ann Moss

And lastly, Tracey Gold of Growing Pains fame

I even heard a rumor that Winona Ryder tried out for the role. Now that would've have been interesting.
But Heather Lagenkamp was the true pro for this role. She had the look, the grace, and the presence of the character.
Then there was a few actress who tried out for the role of Tina. Examples include:

Jodi Benson (Ariel in a horror movie? could you believe that? lol)

Robin Wright

And Laura Dern
Just to add this little fact here, Amanda Wyss, who finally got the role of Tina, never even watched a horror film before. Imagine what she had to go through. Yeesh!
Before Johnny Depp was cast as Glen, the actors who auditioned were:

Charlie Sheen

John Cusack

Brad Pitt

Kiefer Sutherland

Nicolas Cage

C. Thomas Howell

And lastly, Jackie Earle Haley who will ironically play Freddy Kruger in the 2010 Reboot.
And a few actors auditioned for the role of Rod, such as:

Ralph Macchio (yes, The Karate Kid)
And Darren Dalton

But I wondered If Matt Dillon auditioned as well...would've been quite interesting.


There was once a veteran actor David Warner who was approached for the role of Freddy Kruger but due to scheduling conflicts he couldn't no longer accept the role. So eventually It was Robert England who would don the makeup, the hat, the sweater, and the overall malicious Freddy Kruger is known for.

Now, just to make things clear, I really didn't care for the ending. What I heard from Behind the Scenes, the filmmakers had to do at least four re-shoots until the final edit. Wes Craven originally wanted a happy ending as he wasn't too keen on a sequel. But Producer Robert Shaye insisted on having the ending to leave out with a bang. and that's the start of the Nightmare sequels to come. The good....and the bad.
This was one of the most successful horror movie of 1984. Even though, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter beat it out of it's running game, it was still the highest grossing film.
This was a true classic. I still watch it til this day. It is probably the best out of all the sequels and it really keeps you invested into the characters and the story because of how original and intelligent it is.
Suspenseful, Hair-raising, and creative, A Nightmare On Elm Street brought back the gold to the golden age slashers and it also built New Line Cinema, once an obscure film distribution company, to a comity of the 80's and 90's
My Last Word: A Total Must See. Period.
P.S. Johnny Depp in a jersey shirt.

Very hot in the 80's. especially for macho jock types.