Monday, January 6, 2014

Nightmare/Friday: The TV Series

To add more discussion on the Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise. Let's move over to the TV Series.

First you have the Friday the 13th TV series (1987-1990). At first, I was a bit thrown off since it had the same namesake of the movie series but didn't have Jason. I know, I was one of those people but I was a kid at the time. It wasn't until years later, that  I gave it a watch or two, and I was surprised at how good it was and it's much more similar to the show The X-Files.

Even the female lead is a redhead
And I'm thinking this was it's inspiration of that show. It was also the most-watched and more critically-acclaimed than the movie series. So it's highly recommended.

And then there's Freddy's Nightmares (1988-1990). While the Friday The 13th Series was serious in tone, Freddy's Nightmares was unfortunately not. I heard a lot of buzz from this and so I watched a couple of episodes. There was one episode I remembered, That starred Lar Park Lincoln (Friday The 13th Part 7), Nancy Mcloughlin (Friday The 13th Part 6) and a pre-Hedwig And The Angry Inch John Cameron Mitchell. When I first saw this episode, it was like I was in an acid trip. I mean I see what they were doing, having this experimental feel that other television shows didn't do at around those years. But at the same time, it was too much going on for me to understand the basis of that episode. It was too confusing and it was sort of like the movie Inception but not in a good way.

I do give it points for aspiring shows like Tales From The Crypt as Freddy has the same appeal as the Crypt Keeper.
On the down side though, It has a very campy vibe and it was hard for me to take it seriously because of how cheap the production values are. The only reason the show was popular in the first place because of the many guest stars on the show like Brad Pitt, Mariska Hargitay, Lori Petty,etc. And this is the period where Freddy was selling himself short with the one liners and gimmicks which was done to death.
So the final verdict is: Friday The 13th The TV series of course! It has better production values, a better story, and an interesting cast of characters. Most of the story is coherent and it keeps us engaged.
Where as Freddy's Nightmares was only interesting for it's late night shock value.
So there you have it. Two shows who gained cult status from two successful film franchises until some asshole protested against it because of the violence, having it abruptly canceled in 1990, the same year shows like Twin Peaks were on air.
Although the shows didn't last long, They will always be remembered. For good or for bad....

Friday, January 3, 2014

Movie Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Warriors

This is, hands down, the best nightmare on elm street sequel. Good story, great characters, and awesome special effects. This is the most distinctive, true sequel to the nightmare franchise and it's also the start of the dream saga, with the two sequels after it. What the filmmakers did right this time was bring back elements that made the first movie for what it was: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxton, and most definitely Wes Craven, though this time around, as a writer. The dreams are more surreal and visceral, adding a more twisted fantasyland to the atmosphere. The most interesting aspect of the movie is how they use suicide as a metaphor. It's a deep dark subject for many teens and to use that in a horror film is pretty ballsy. But this is when the series transitioned towards fantasy instead of psychological. Not that it's a bad thing but by the second half, it felt like I was watching Justice League or something. Though, I still do think this is the best and memorable of the sequels.
Here's the story: Kristen Parker has been having really bad dreams. She tries to reach out to her mother for comfort but to no avail. Once her dreams get much more vivid, it gets worse. The man that his haunting her dreams is, none other than, Freddy Krueger, a vengeful ghost who haunts upon elm street. Freddy attacks her, resulting a cut on her wrists, making it look like an attempted suicide. So Kristen's mom sends her to a westin hills, a mental institution where kids her age seems to be suffering from the same problem. They all seem to be plagued by Freddy Krueger. So with the help of Nancy Thompson, who was a former victim of Freddy and who is now a counselor, the kids come to stop Freddy from taking their lives and mostly, their souls.

The acting was very good. You really get a sense that the cast had a genuine connection with each other. Especially to their characters, who are able to fleshed them out more, making them real people who we care about.

Patricia Arquette was just supreme. She really tapped into the emotional state of the character and brought a  bit of sadness and yearning just by the look in her eyes. There was something more that Patricia brought into the role, that we immediately cared about the character and her struggles.

Kristen is special , much different than Nancy or Lisa. You see, she has a special power where she pulls people into her dreams, which is a pretty interesting concept for a Final Girl. Like many heroines in the Nightmare Movies, she comes from a broken home. Her parents are divorced and she is under the care of her neglectful, selfish bitch of a mother( which I'll comment on later). She has the same tragedies as Tina, feeling vulnerable and alone where she has no where to turn to. This is easy prey for Freddy, who uses his victims' fears as weakness. Once Nancy comes in as a savior, she is the sister or mother she never had, so this prevents Freddy from striking any further. And by the help of her new allies, she is no longer weak. She is able to fight back and not hold back by her fears. Kristen is an interesting and profound addition to the nightmare final girls.

Which leads us to the first and original of the nightmare final girls, Nancy Thompson. Unfortunately, just like Tommy Jarvis in Jason Lives, Nancy isn't particularly the best written character in this. She just so underused and so.....boring. Nancy is supposedly in her twenties, but they try to make her look older, which doesn't work. I wish They wouldn't have been afraid to make her more hip and relatable. In the script, Nancy was more abrasive, more rebellious, and was willing to take risks to save these kids' lives. Unfortunately due to rewrites, her character comes off bland.

Heather Lagenkamp is good in this but there was other times where she comes off a bit stiff. I wish she would've put more emotion into the role. Even Heather Lagenkamp said in an interview that she felt she didn't quite connect to the character like she use to. Although, she is not the main aurora of the movie, she is still the driving force none the less.

The character of Neil is the most remembered in this movie. At first, he's a bit skeptical like most of these adults are In the series, but you genuinely see that he cares about the kids and once he gets into the action, he ends up being the movie's primary hero.

Along for the ride is Donald Thompson, who seems to be an important part in the series and the one who created Freddy. In this one, he is a bitter drunk who seem to have lost it all, still suffering from the mental scars that Freddy has planted.

And just to squeeze this in here, Elaine Parker is one of the most flawed and unsympathetic of the adults. She is frequently ignoring her daughter then after she finds Kristen slitting her wrists, she thinks she's doing it for attention. By far the most loathed character on my list. And did I mention she is a whore?
And here are the dream warriors but first let's get to my favorites, shall we?

Taryn is probably one of my favorite characters of the movie. it dwells deep into her struggles, going through detox, getting her life together, and fighting off Freddy Krueger. She also has one of the best lines of the movie.

"I dream that I'm Beautiful and Bad." Along with a classic 80's punk look.

Unfortunately, Taryn gets the sharp end of Freddy's finger knifes or should I say heroin needles. It's kind of sad and shocking to see her go because she is by far the best character in the movie.

Will may not be memorable as Taryn but he is still a sympathetic character, who has one of the coolest moments of the film when he turns into a Harry Potter clone before when Harry Potter was even around. I guess this is where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration.

Sadly though, his mystical powers are no match for the dream demon Freddy.

Kincaid is sort of a love or hate it character. He can be a bit obnoxious at first but he becomes a major badass in the end.

And again, he has one of the best lines in the movie.

Then there is Joey, the mute boy who Freddy holds as prisoner later in the film. There's not much to say about Joey, only that he has a crush on the hot young nurse, which is ultimately how Freddy captures him.

And can I say that he is such a cutie?

Oh my gosh, the special effects are just amazing. First, there is the Freddy worm, The roasted pig, and Freddy's hell world.

But the most memorable is Phillip's demise. When I first saw this, it totally freaked me out. I mean you have somebody's veins pulled up like marionette strings.

It's really gruesome.

But the one that totally scared me was Jennifer's death.

It was just so unexpected and sudden and it was still at the time where I was scared shitless of Freddy Krueger.

Speaking of, He has a lot more personality than in the first two films. He also seems to have more screen time. Whether that's good thing or a bad thing, It's debatable. But on top of this, Freddy probably has one of the best lines, including this:

But just to be clear, the appeal of Freddy was not to turn him into a comedian like he will eventually turn out to be, though the point of it was to not laugh at the joke or punch line. Freddy is known for his sick sense of humor and sometimes it's more uncomfortable than funny. This where it works. It's a balance of terrifying and funny. There is also a backstory to explain why he is the way he is. And the result of it all, is much more horrible than you can imagine.
This was possibly the biggest box office opener of the Nightmare franchise, though not until the next film, that the franchise will gain even more momentum at the box office.
Now on to the trivia. The movie went through at least three different script re-writes before the shooting script. Wes Craven's original idea for the third movie was to bring back the cast of the first Nightmare and based the script on real life, while the cast is being haunted by Freddy. Which will later turn into New Nightmare.
This was the most grueling and exhausting of the sequels the cast and crew had to work on with all the special effects and claustrophobic of the overpowering sets.
The movie was banned in Queensland, Australia because of the drug references and also the scene where Freddy kills one of the victims by pumping various heroin shots on his fingers and into her.
This was slated to be the last sequel, which, in my opinion, would've been a decent finale for the series. But since this was going to kick start a franchise, another sequel was in the works.
This is one of my all-time favorite sequels of the Nightmare franchise. Along with a great story,  a great cast, and a great soundtrack, this is one of the best.
My last word: A fun rollercoaster ride of thrills and chills.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Review: Friday the 13th: Jason Lives

After the poor reception of A New Beginning, filmmakers finally sought the chance to bring Jason back from the grave and the result is the fun and enjoyable fan favorite Jason lives. This is by far the ultimate Jason movie. It has thrills, it has kills, the stakes are much higher this time, and everyone is pretty much aware that a maniac is out in the woods. It's also one of the first films to have Jason as some sort of sub-human zombie-like killer, which is technically Tommy Jarvis' fault. The feel of the movie is a lot more lighter and softer than the sleazy part 5. So there's never a slightly uncomfortable moment. There's not even any nudity, it's almost like an apology. The characters are back to being likeable, though not only relatable but also charming and funny. Once you grow attached to them, it's almost sad when they die.
Jason Lives is much more fast-paced than your usual Friday the 13th film, with more action, slick writing, and a much more imposing killer.
Here's the story: after escaping the mental institution, Tommy Jarvis is set to face and vanquished his demons by burning Jason's grave, the man who have haunted him all these years. But once his inner pain and anger consumes him,  he stabs Jason with a metal pole, only to cause a strike of lighting to hit the metal pole, reviving Jason yet again. Tommy must now stop Jason from reeking havoc on Crystal Lake (now renamed Camp Forest Green) yet again.

The cast is much more charming and likeable than in the previous movies to the point where I felt a little bad when they met their end. They're not exactly one-dimensional, having each of the character mold into their distinctive personality. And finally for once the cops get to have a day in the spotlight.

Oh boy, there is so much to say about Tommy Jarvis. He's not particularly the best written character in this movie. He's also the sole reason why Jason is now an unstoppable killing machine, even though, HE'S supposed to be the hero. What was his purpose of going to Jason's grave in the first place? It could be said that Jason is the reason why he has this impending dark side. This other side to him he can't escape unless Jason is gone for good. They are one in the same and Tommy wants to break free from that. Live his own life without living under Jason's spell. Why didn't they put that in the script? I think his character would've been handled a lot better than it should. Even though I had read the script, there is no explanation on Tommy's psyche. It's just this routine of "oh look at me, I made a mistake" and trying to convince that Jason is real. It's a bummer because Tommy is the best character of the series and he was a lot more developed in Part 5.

Though besides all that, Thom Matthews is a solid actor, not to mention easy on the eyes, too. He just has that natural stance of the next big action star. The piercing blue eyes, the wavy blond hair, the chiseled features, and those kissable lips. He can definitely win an award for best Paul Newman look-a-like.

 Now let's move over to Megan Garris, who is our Final Girl, there is not much to say about her, only that she is the sheriff's daughter and she is totally in love with Tommy (not that I don't blame her). I did say she was a bit dumb in my last review, but that's not really the case.

She is viewed as a typical teenage girl who happened to discover boys and refuse to be Daddy's little girl forever. Then I thought she was there to be Tommy's love interest and eye candy for the boys, but what makes her stand out is that she has a cool personality. She's funny, likeable, and could hold her own.

The chemistry between her and Tommy works, It sort of reminiscent to the action couples of the 70's and 80's. In the end, I thought Megan was a really enjoyable character and Jennifer Cooke did a spot-on performance.
I couldn't quite catch up with the rest of the cast but the majority were likeable. I did enjoyed Megan's friends, Cort, Sissy, and Paula. I just thought they were harmless teenagers just sittin' back, doing their job, and having fun.

I especially felt for Lizabeth, played by director Tom Mchloughlin's wife, Nancy. I really didn't see what was wrong with her character. She seemed pleasant enough, she had a memorable line, and it really shown that Nancy didn't have to act her character, after all, she is a nice, nurturing woman in real life. I just didn't like how they killed off her and Tony Goldwin's character so soon, there was much to establish on these characters. Hell, Lizabeth was willing to give Jason her money. She's that generous. Oh well, you know what you get in a Friday the 13th film.

Then there's Cort, who is your usual fun-loving metal-head not to mention a cutie pie, too.

Of course, I had the sharp end of the knife when he did.

And here is Sissy. She doesn't get much screen time, but when we do see her we get to learn more about her personality. She's laid back, cool and someone you could definitely be friends with. Well, she gets a pretty gruesome death where Jason takes her head and twists it clean off. just awful.

But Paula was the one I had my heart out for. She's probably the most nice and innocent of Megan's friends. She doesn't do drugs, she doesn't have sex, she doesn't even swear and she's also nurturing and kind towards the kids. But I think she gets the worst death in the movie because we don't see it. It's just awful and it makes Jason more scarier and more brutal than any slasher villain.

Once the kids arrive in the camp (which is first for a Friday film), you kind of feel the oncoming danger in its' wake. And once the kids are in the middle of the mayhem, you feel quite scared for them. Once you look at it in a perspective way, It sort like the monster that everybody tells campfire stories about has become real.

Finally, there is Sherriff Garris, who is shown to be a badass but has a soft spot for his daughter Megan underneath it all.

Once Jason goes after Megan, Sheriff Garris flips out and he goes into an epic battle with Jason, only to result in one of the most cringe-worthy on-screen deaths in the movie and it doesn't even have any blood or gore whatsoever. But at least the man died with dignity.

Now, with Jason, like I said, he is much more brutal and much more stronger than ever. He is played by CJ Graham, who was a military guy, which gave Jason this larger than life appeal he's known for today. Jason also seemed to adapt a terminator-like feel to his movements and it definitely worked in this film.

Now on to the special effects. It's amazing how they would conjure big money effects in such a small independent-made film.

I thought the RV scene was glorious. Once it crashes, Jason rises up triumphantly. It's probably one of the most memorable scenes.
Now on to the trivia. Originally, the filmmakers asked John Shepherd to reprise the role of Tommy, alongside Melanie Kinnaman and Shavar Ross as Pam and Reggie, respectively. But Shepherd later declined due to personal differences involving his faith, so the filmmakers decided to completely retcon the series, bringing in Thom Matthews in the role, who previously starred in Return Of The Living Dead.

Crew Member Dan Bradley played Jason in the first few days of shooting. Dan Bradley didn't quite have CJ Graham's tall muscular Physique, he is a lot much bulker and according to one of the filmmakers, "a little fat." So they decided to bring in CJ Graham to give Jason more of an imposing, threatening appearance.

When the film was first screened to test audiences, they demanded more body count, which includes a couple having a romantic evening in the middle of the night for some dumb reason and the death of caretaker Martin.

The Caretaker was originally supposed to live in the alternate ending, serving purpose to important plot twist involving Jason's Father, Elias. Yes, I said it, Jason's FATHER.

This would've been the first time we get to see him on screen. But this particular scene was not filmed, instead it was left on the storyboard. It gives more information as to how Jason was never cremated since then and implies that Elias pays Martin to take care of the body.

There is also a menacing side to the Elias character which explains how fucked up the Voorhees family tree is.
Time for some Nightmare connections. Jennifer Cooke starred as Elizabeth in the TV series V. Guess who starred in the mini-series prior to it.....Yes Robert "Freddy Krueger" England.

Some seem to the think that the little girl Nancy in the movie is a special nod to Nancy Thompson from A Nightmare On Elm street, but actually it was based on Tom Mchloughlin's wife as she has the same name. But you can think however you want it.
The movie was a box office hit but not so much as let's say the first Friday the 13th or Final Chapter, though it did well on home video.
I really liked this one. Some people might be put off by the humor in this movie but I think it works. To be honest, there was going to be some point in the series was going to be a little campy. So again, I really enjoyed this movie. With likeable characters, A scary villain, and a great soundtrack by Alice Cooper. This is definitely a fun thrill ride.
My Last Word: Easily the best Friday the 13th Film.