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.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Movie Review: Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

This was the movie that made Jason a star, a true slasher icon of the 80's and I love every second of it! Likeable characters, disturbing kills, a badass heroine. All those in one would make one kickass movie. I know I said this movie was cheesy in my last review but what 80's movie wasn't? even the good ones had their moments.
This was also the start of the Tommy Jarvis chronicles which starts out his humble beginnings  as an artistic 11 year old to an accomplished survivalist and foil to Jason Voorhees.
So here's the story: The Jarvis family has just moved into their idyllic vacation home.

After going through a tough divorce, Mrs. Jarvis thinks this will be a good stress reliever for her kids, Trish and Tommy. Along the way, a group of teenagers are vacationing next door for little R+R. Little do they know that someone used to live around these parts and he's not too keen on strangers. His name is Jason Voorhees, who is set out to clean house on those who invaded his territory.

The cast is a likeable, charismatic bunch that bring realism to their characters. Everyone seems molded into their own personality and did I mention the cast is more hotter this time around? Okay, let's round up then.

In this corner, you have Paul, the tall handsome jock with a heart of gold. Just look at those bedroom eyes. Just look at them.

and in this corner, you have the sensitive blond Jim, a shy cute nerd with a quirky sense of humor.

And then you have Doug, a gorgeous hunk with soft blue eyes. He's so good he's the type of guy you want to take home to mom. No wonder Sarah had to get in the shower with him.

Then in this corner, you have cool, smooth Ted, a wise-cracking stud with a really nice ass:

And last but least, we have the hunkiest of them all, our false hero(yes, I said false and we'll talk about that later). A strong woodsman who is on the prowl. Woof! Even our main girl Trish couldn't keep her eyes off him!

Now that we got that out of my system. Let's get to our real main characters, Tommy and Trish. But first let's take insight on the red herrings.

First, you have Sarah, who seems like the potential candidate for the final girl role. She is doe-eyed, wears pink sweaters and pastels, bookish, shy, and sweet. but in the heat of the moment, she falls for the very handsome Doug and her desires take over for a love session in the shower.

Well, you know what happens...

Then you have Rob, the strong woodsman who is out to avenge his sister's death(Sandra from Part 2) and has the high potential of being our main hero. But just like the character of Rick in Part 3, he goes out pretty easily.

So finally we get to Trish, who is seen as a substitute parent for Tommy since their parents divorced. But what so cool and interesting about this character is how much she puts up a fight and boy does she. Just see for yourself:

She literally crashed through a window, gets up and proceeds to fight Jason with the machete.

If that's not badass I don't know what is.

But through it all, the true hero of the story is Tommy. It is basically a coming of age story for him as he realizes his true talent, discovering girls, and ultimately facing his fears and overcoming them. He suddenly becomes a man by saving his sister from the monster.

Though by the end, he will become a broken young man with an emotional baggage.

The special effects are truly amazing. And finally they brought in Tom Savini for his artistic license. The aesthetic he puts into these effects are just simply brutal and hard-edged than the first one. The kills are disturbingly real and cringe-worthy and it really freaked me out when I was a kid.

Now, Jason in this movie is full on vicious. He is much more stronger and tougher than he was in the previous films. And furthermore, much more scarier. Thanks to Ted White for putting such a strong force and malice to the Jason character. He claimed he only did it for the money(Oh yes, Ted White, play the money card like Betsy Palmer did) and he's not really a big fan of the Friday films. I understand that it isn't a film for everyone and he was just a humble guy doing his job. And he did it pretty well I might add.
according to the cast + crew, the happenings on the set was a real life horror movie of it's own. Over and over the actors had to re-do scenes, not to mention shooting outdoors in the dead of fall and winter. It was so excruciating that Judie Aronson(Sam) was almost in tears because she had to stand inside the water under the almost 20 degree weather. Ted White got so pissed to the point where he threaten to quit because of this. Once I hear what goes on behind the scenes from this film, it makes me feel kind of bad that this was what the actors had to go through for the sake of entertaining the audience. But in a horror movie, you always don't know what you're getting yourself into.
There was alternate ending involving Trish finding her dead mother in the bathtub. Finally the missing reel can be found on the 2009/2010 DVD box set, since most of these missing alternate endings wound up disappearing. Here's the Clip:

This was a great time. This is possibly one of the best slasher sequels of the early 80's. It was so successful in fact, that it even beat out A Nightmare On Elm Street the same year. Even back then Freddy and Jason was duking it out.
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter has the special ingredients of a slasher: Likeable Characters, A scary villain, and gruesome kills. It is an instant fan favorite and one of the memorable Friday films.
Last word: Watch it, you'll have a great time.
P.S. Here's Crispin Glover's goofy dance. It's a hoot:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Movie Review: Friday The 13th Part 3

Now the moment you've been waiting for....Jason finally puts on his iconic hockey mask. This was a more of a fun addition to the series, that dosen't have to take itself too seriously. Some say this was the more dumber of the series but I generally liked this one. It has funny and likeable characters, good special effects and quite a few suspenseful moments. Jason is much more gusto in this one, showing his superhuman strength to many levels (I guess it's the power of the hockey mask). This is the movie that made Jason popular, though I think he still has a long way to go.
So here's the story: After the events of part 2, Chris Higgins and her group of friends go to her family lodge, just a corner near by Crystal Lake. She goes to face a dark past and rekindle her first love, but little do Chris and her friends know that something menacing is lurking. and that something is a product of Chris's haunted past....
The cast is quite the quirky bunch in this one.

We have the innocent, resourceful heroine Chirs

Her muscular love interest Rick

A sexy, young couple(whom are expecting) which consists of loveable jock Andy and nice cheerleader Debbie

Spicy Latina Vera

Insecure goofball Shelly

And The Stoner Couple, who looks too old for their age, while spending the rest of the movie getting high off their asses.
I liked how the actors blended into their roles, especially Larry Zerner as Shelly, who actually had character development than your usual prankster in a horror film. And the actors seemed to have fun in their roles, almost like they're playing themselves. But I guess the most challening parts to play were the biker gang, who didn't seem that all convincing really. Then there's false hero Rick, who seems like a tall, big strong guy who could take on Jason, right? unfortanately no. Jason gets him pretty easily, which will result in one of the coolest deaths in the movie. Now, let's talk about Chris. She is one of the first few heronies to have a history with Jason and it's a implication that she may have come back to her summer vacation home to face her demons.

Chris also inhabits the classic final girls tropes: She has a girl-next-door charm, She is resourceful, and she also has a sense of paranoia that something's not right. It was actually Dana Kimmel's suggestion to make the character should be in the purer side of things. And it works. It makes us feel scared for the character, since Jason is veering towards being indesctructible.

And yes, let's get to Jason. He is much more stronger and broader than the klutz he was in the second film. And he seems to be much more intense with his kills:

The highlight of this is the scene where Jason crushes one of his victim's head until his eye pops out into the camera:

This movie is also memorable for having Jason don his hockey mask for the first time:

It is Pure Awesome!
It really brings out Jason's character and it has been a staple of many slasher films that ripped it off from time and time again.
From what I remember, this was actually one of the more conterversial of the Friday films. There is a scene where one of the character mentions that she is at least three months pregnant. So technically, Jason just killed a soon-to-be teen mom and a soon-to-be teen dad. Just to be honest, I wouldn't be so non-chalant about being pregnant in college. Then there is the implication that Jason might of raped Chris but it's never disclosed during her monolouge. The mystery of the whole thing just makes it more disturbing and makes Jason more like this wild animal/caveman.
There was an alternate ending used at the last minute but due to creative differences it was cut out for a re-shoot. Here's a little snapshot:

A Rumor was speculated that Dana Kimmel called foul on the ending because she felt her character shouldn't deserve the treatment she recieved after what she'd been through. But in reality, it was all a dream. So her character would still be alive then, right? So instead, we have a retread of the first movie's ending but not with much impact:


Now to put some thought into this, I really thought the ending would be more scarier and definitely more original. It would actually have more impact than you're usual jump scare in an 80's slasher.
Again, I think this is quite an enjoybale addition to the Friday the 13th series. Although, it can be cheesy in some moments, it makes up for it by making Jason this ferocious madman, along with some pretty suspenseful sequences.
My Last Word: a definite favorite for all slasher fans.