Tag Archives: Slasher films

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child-1989

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child-1989

Director-Stephen Hopkins

Starring-Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox

Scott’s Review #1,032

Reviewed June 12, 2020

Grade: C+

When one compares A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) to the first A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), made merely five years prior, the latter is shockingly bad, but rated on its own merits it is okay with both creative and silly moments. The franchise feels exhausted at this point, a long rest recommended, as too many cheesy and doltish moments make this installment more of a comic failure with rarely any scary or sinister moments. A watered down and forgettable entry in a series once blooming with potential. Sadly, it would only be two years before another Nightmare was released.

With a mother theme complete, nearly all the parents and children involved in Freddy Krueger’s original story-line dead and buried, a dream sequence double-shot contained within parts 3 and 4, the logical next idea is to utilize a child story. This is not a bad idea given that Freddy was accused of child molestation, but the intention to produce a spawn of Freddy is less than marvelous. The Child’s Play franchise (1988-2019) took this cue with Seed of Chucky in 2004.

Once again, a year has passed since the events of the previous entry as Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Dan (Danny Hassel) cheerily date and enjoy their lives together as they graduate from high school. They are accompanied by friends Greta, Yvonne, and Mark. When Alice has a strange dream about a nun, a mental hospital, and an attack by patients, Dan stresses that she controls her own dreams. As the dreams, persist she begins to have nightmares of Freddy and a strange baby. When Alice and Dan learn they are pregnant, things become violent when Dan and the others are systematically killed off in their dreams while Alice is deemed “crazy”.

A pleasantry to mention is that at least the film offers a slight measure of consistency and continuity as we are reintroduced to Alice and Dan, familiar characters from Part 4. The film wisely keeps the same actors to avoid the jarring disruption that existed in Part 4 when a startling recast was made of its main character from Part 3. Johnson and Jordan are not the greatest actors nor are the supporting cast, but great acting ability is a nicety not a necessity in slasher films.

The visuals are also entertaining, which have habitually been good throughout each of the chapters. Some animated sequences emerge particularly within the dream sequences. The kills and attacks are also well crafted as when a comic book artist is terrorized by Freddy and when one victim, Greta, eats herself alive. There is more humor to the kills than in other installments. Greta’s death is almost revenge against her controlling mother, who is weight conscious. When Greta chokes to death (in real life) she drops dead in front of her mother and their dinner guests. The scene is macabre black humor.

Otherwise, the film is very familiar territory. The baby topic culminates in a wacky sequence that does not work well and is implausible even for a horror film. In dreams, Freddy is feeding his victims to the baby (strangely, named Jacob- wouldn’t Freddy Jr. have been cleverer?) as nourishment to make him be like Freddy. In the real world, Dan’s (now dead) parents demand the baby from Alice when it is born. This is a silly television afternoon special moment. The story concludes with Alice going to sleep to fight Freddy and save her son, which she naturally does.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, 1989 was a paltry year in cinema and specifically in the slasher genre. Quite successful during the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s, it became over-saturated and riddled with carbon copies. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) is a forgettable film offering little to distinguish itself from other chapters. In its defense, how could it, being the fifth release in six years? A feeble attempt by the studio to capitalize financially on a name brand that has run out of steam.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master-1988

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master-1988

Director-Renny Harlin

Starring-Robert Englund, Tuesday Knight, Lisa Wilcox

Scott’s Review #1,030

Reviewed June 8, 2020

Grade: B-

By 1988, a tepid year in cinema, and with the slasher genre nearly being dead on arrival, the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) had the cards stacked against it. The franchise feels tired and out of gas by this point so more comedy and humorous lines were added along with a return to a similar concept offered in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), the dream sequences. The film is so-so with not much making it stand-out as compared to the superior first three offerings. Thankfully, Robert Englund is the mainstay and main attraction.

A year after the events of the previous film, Kristen (Tuesday Knight) and her friends have been released from the stifling Westin Hills sanitarium, putting the horrific events behind them. Their attempts to resume normal teenage activities like attending class and partying are thwarted by Freddy Krueger (Englund) who begins to infiltrate Kristen’s dreams. Per usual, a fresh batch of teenagers is along for the ride as they struggle to stay awake by watching Music Television (MTV) and revisiting the lavish junkyard featured in the previous installment.

The redundancy of another franchise film using the tired “one year later” to begin events anew is feeling like a cliché. Main character Kristen being played by a different actress does not help the film only making it lack any consistency, the fact that actress Patricia Arquette had little interest in returning for a round two in the role is not the films fault, but a brand-new character instead of a recast might not have been a bad idea. Recasting prominent roles may work in daytime soap operas but not in the movies.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, while quite similar to its predecessor, Dream Warriors, so much so that they could easily be watched in tandem, has some positive qualities. I love the MTV angle, the network music channel overtaking nearly every United States teenager’s living room or bedroom throughout the 1980’s. If the film makers wanted to get teenagers who might not necessarily watch horror films, this was a perfect marketing tool. The target audience is perfectly aligned, and the film feels fresh and relevant for its time of release.

The drawback to the above point is that making a film that is timely means that decades later its risk is being referred to as “of its time”, and sadly that is what has happened with Dream Master. Nobody will scramble to watch this installment when other better chapters are out there. There may hardly be a reason to watch this one against unless a Nightmare marathon is on the docket. The junkyard set and the creepy church set are very good, so the film does well from a visual perspective.

Englund is Freddy and his familiarity cannot be dismissed, but the actor seems to be phoning in his performance by this point in the franchise. Finally receiving top billing, as he should, he shares his familiar witty remarks and playfully taunts his victims like a cat would before pouncing on a mouse. The actor adds even more humor to his one-liners, but this sacrifices the horrific moments of which there are not many. A successful horror/comedy fusion is a delicate balance and there is not enough meat on the bone.

Entertaining at best, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) is not well remembered, nor should it be. A dated affair, with emotionless teenage actors needing acting lessons and surely never to be heard from again, round out the cast led by Robert Englund. The film is a letdown because it is too much like Dream Warrior and suffers from too much predictability.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-1987

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-1987

Director-Chuck Russell

Starring-Patricia Arquette, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund

Scott’s Review #1,028

Reviewed May 29, 2020

Grade: B+

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) is a credible effort for taking the, at this point, tired slasher genre in a new direction, using style and special effects to its advantage. The film is not a work of art and carefully does not stray too far from the norm to risk losing the target audience, but the experiment works, providing the film with a fresh feel. Thankfully, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is in tow providing wit and humor and rich character history rarely seen in horror.

One year following the events of the previous chapter, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) awakens following a nightmare of being chased by Freddy Krueger, to find him in her bathroom where she is attacked again. Her mother believes that she is suicidal and sends her to Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital, where Kristen is placed under the care of Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson). The rest of the events of the film mainly take place in this setting. A new intern therapist, Nancy, (Heather Langenkamp) takes an interest in Kristen’s case.

In two clever plot twists, one a bit too coincidental, Nancy reveals to the remaining patients that they are the “last of the Elm Street kids”, the surviving children of the people who banded together and burned Krueger to death many years ago. The second is more intriguing as a nun named Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin) provides history of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger, who turn out to be one in the same. This humanizes Freddy a bit and provides layers to his story rather than just another “slice ’em and dice ’em” horror film.

The film has a way of gathering curiosity and delivering the goods with dreams and hypnosis and mental synapses, as the kids realize they have dream powers that culminate in a group adventure. Perfect for the mental hospital setting. The junkyard sequence that provides the climax with so much muscle is splendid adding creative and colorful bits of junk, littering the entire set with rusty tin trinkets and other nooks and crannies to marvel at. A feast for the eyes and a perfect backdrop for evil and killings. The set design works tremendously well in this film.

Familiar character Nancy played once again by Langenkamp (the main girl from the first Nightmare) is a nice touch of recognition that will please fans immensely. A returning favorite in a horror franchise is always a smart move. The casting of esteemed character actress Nan Martin, who can frighten the pants off anyone if given a good part, is a divine decision. The actress even resembles legendary actress Betsy Palmer (familiar to Friday the 13th fans as the dreadful Mrs. Voorhees). The creepy mommy theme so often works well in horror films and this inclusion is no exception.

The theme song to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a pop-metal treat written and performed by the heavy metal band Dokken. This inclusion assuredly brought the teenage girls and the mullet crowd alike to movie theaters across America. The song is catchy and can easily be head-banged to as the end credits roll across the screen. Even more impressive are that the lyrics make sense from a story perspective since dreams are a huge part of the franchise and of this specific installment.

Nearly rivaling the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) in originality and plot, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warrior (1987) does a fantastic job bringing energy to a fading genre, one not to be rejuvenated for another nine years when Scream (1996) debuted. Engaging and brightly lit razzle-dazzle visual sets within dreams are pulse-racing and creative, while a mother story crafts fresh air. This film is the sequel high-point to a series of duds soon to follow.

Prom Night-1980

Prom Night-1980

Director-Paul Lynch

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen

Scott’s Review #1,025

Reviewed May 21, 2020

Grade: B

Released in the summer of 1980, Prom Night feels much more like a late 1970’s styled film than the plethora of carbon copy products that were churned out in the early part of its decade. To be clear, the film is a conventional slasher whodunit and does not reinvent the wheel, but small tidbits of stylized cinematography are nestled within its formulaic confines during what could be considered throwaway scenes. Prom Night might be forgotten if not for the casting of “Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis who leads the charge, carrying the story.

The film is heavily influenced by two very popular motion pictures that preceded it. The most obvious comparison, also in the horror genre, is Carrie (1976), that has a gruesome finale set in the usually cheerful late spring high school gymnasium event, known as prom night. Surprisingly, Prom Night also capitalizes on the enormous success of Saturday Night Fever, a 1977 vehicle that made John Travolta and discotheque’s household names, to say nothing of making teenage girls swoon. Prom Night even copies a cheesy disco dance sequence.

The story begins, like many horror films do, with an incident that took place many years ago, paving the way for the current events. Youngsters, Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick play hide-and-seek in an abandoned convent. When little Robin Hammond tries to join them, the group starts teasing her, repeating “Kill! Kill! Kill!”, over and over again, frightening her and causing her to accidentally fall to her death through a second story window. The children make a pact not to tell anyone what happened and keep the incident a secret. The shadow of an unseen person who witnessed Robin’s death emerges.

Flash-forward to present day when the children are now in high school and eagerly await a night of dancing, drinking and perhaps getting lucky, as they flirt and plan their partners for the night. Robin’s family, led by the stoic Mr. Hammond (Leslie Nielsen) memorializes her on the anniversary of her death as sister Kim (Curtis) and brother Alex (Michael Tough) ready themselves for the prom that night.

Meanwhile, Kelly, Nick, Jude, and Wendy begin to receive menacing phone calls. Could Mr. Hammond, Kim, or Alex be behind the calls, perhaps seeking to avenge Robin’s death, or is this too obvious an approach? As nightfall draws near the teenagers and their friends begin to fall victim to throat slitting’s, a decapitation, and a chase with an ax by crazed killer wearing a ski mask and black clothing. An ode to the Halloween franchise in the final act is delicious, but may or may not have been intentional.

The best part of Prom Night is the whodunit factor and most of the fun is trying to figure out who is offing the kids. We know the motivation but not the who. Red herrings are thrown directly to the audience like bones to a hungry dog. The creepy, alcoholic janitor, Sykes, leers at the teens and even witnesses one of the murders (spoiler alert- he is not the killer!) but his claims are dismissed as drunken rants. An escaped sex offender thought to be Robin’s killer, and an enemy of Kim’s are also thrown in to distract the viewer.

There is little character development (surprise, surprise) as standard stock character’s are on display. There is the jokester, the bitchy rich girl, the virginal girl, and the obnoxious boy, so diversity is not the ingredient of this film. A formula is clearly followed and we know the final reveal will be the be all, end all of a film like this. Despite being formulaic Prom Night is still enjoyable, never feeling mediocre. There is enough going on to please horror fans seeking thrills.

Not a bad effort, Prom Night (1980) captures the viewers attention immediately and never is dull. The one-hour and twenty-nine minutes of running time is a smart move as quick and easy can be described of the film. The surprise reveal genuinely does surprise when the masked killer is revealed. This is not Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) or Black Christmas (1974), the cream of the crop in slasher films, but is worth the watch.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge-1985

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge-1985

Director-Jack Sholder

Starring-Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund

Scott’s Review #1,024

Reviewed May 18, 2020

Grade: B

While producing a surprising and tantalizing sexual subtext to a standard story and including a male protagonist instead of the generic female, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) sometimes feels overwrought with stock characters and not enough scary moments to satisfy bloodthirsty appetites, but the effort and aching for something a bit different is apparent, if viewers are sharp enough to take a curious peek.

The glossy 1980’s cinematic look is cringe-worthy and very “of the time” which usurps the creative tidbits nestled beneath the surface, as deserving of their merits as they are. Nonetheless, the film is not at all bad, almost feeling fresh by today’s standards, and the familiar villain is worth the price of admission. Once again Freddy baits and taunts his victims, who never stand a chance, with his trademark sneer and razor-sharp nails.

Five years following the events of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, a new family arrives on the cursed block, happily anticipating a new life filled with baked cookies and warm fires. Parents Ken and Cheryl Walsh (film legend Hope Lange) raise two kids, Angela and Jesse (Mark Patton). The latter is haunted in his dreams by a killer driving a school bus. Jesse is joined by his friend and romantic interest, Lisa (Kim Meyers), school chum Grady (Robert Rusler), and Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell), who may or may not be gay.

An obvious comparison to the similar themed Friday the 13th franchise, a hot ticket during the 1980’s, is the return to a familiar setting. Elm Street is to A Nightmare on Elm Street what Camp Crystal Lake is to Friday the 13th. The locale is a character itself and knowing that bad stuff will occur there is pleasing to the viewer. Elm Street is supposed to be a quiet and safe place for families to snuggle in their beds with pets, dreaming the nights away, not worrying about an evil force turning their pleasant dreams into nightmares come to life.

A clever homoerotic tidbit, lost on most viewers, emerges nonetheless, especially in hindsight. Let’s remind ourselves that 1985 was not a hotbed of LGBTQ cinematic activity, especially as the horrific A.I.D.S epidemic was front-page news. Gay-themed films were not the norm, not even in the independent film circuit yet, so any mention of a gay character was a win for the community. A riveting scene has Jesse dreaming of indulging in a drink at a gay bar and is caught by Schneider, who sends him to the showers. The sexual overtones, obvious now, were not then.

Sadly, this is as far as the film goes with this subject. The remainder of the story is mostly standard fare, featuring a lively teenage pool party, aqua-net infused hairstyles, up-tempo pop music, and familiar written characters, most of whom turned up with different faces in the droves of horror films that peppered suburban movie theaters in those days. Not daring to make Jesse a gay character, though someone humorously made the character’s name androgynous, Jesse and Lisa share a tender kiss in her cabana.

Most sequels pale in comparison to their originals. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) is an adequate follow-up that dares to incorporate as much diversity and inclusiveness as could be mustered in a mainstream film during the mid-1980’s. Let’s not kid ourselves that the studios did not have profit on the mind over credibility and creativity, but the stakes are not exactly played safe which is to its credit. There were far worse sequels in this franchise yet to come!

A Nightmare on Elm Street-1984

A Nightmare on Elm Street-1984

Director-Wes Craven

Starring-Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon

Scott’s Review #1,019

Reviewed May 4, 2020

Grade: A-

Pioneer horror director Wes Craven, famous for reinvigorating the slasher genre with humor, wit, and satirically ponderous situations, created the iconic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which introduced the legendary character of Freddie Kruger (Robert Englund) to audiences. Followed by eight sequels or re-introductions, the debut is a clever affair and a breath of fresh air in the too often formulaic world of slashers. And who could deny the satisfaction of seeing future Hollywood royalty, Johnny Depp, succumb to the villainous Kruger.

A group of unsuspecting teenagers are tortured both consciously and unconsciously as they dream the nights away, by a hideously disfigured man clad in a striped shirt and a gloved hand with razors. He taunts and teases the teens unmercifully as they reside, party, and have sex in small-town America, mainly spending their time in high school or on the cursed Elm Street. The main girl to experience Freddie’s devious wrath is Nancy Thompson (Heather Langankamp), who uses caffeine and more drastic measures to stay awake and alive!

To review A Nightmare on Elm Street without mentioning the Friday the 13th or Halloween franchises would be foolhardy since, combined, they make up the “Big three” of the entertaining slasher genre, each living on in infamy. To provide a quick chronology, A Nightmare on Elm Street ran from (1984-1994) adding a crossover with Friday the 13th in 2003, and an unnecessary remake in 2010. Friday the 13th hit cinemas in 1980, never looking back until the uninspired remake in 2009. Finally, Halloween debuted in 1978 and is still churning out relevant chapters.

Whereas Friday the 13th and Halloween chose to stick with a more realistic formula- a crazed killer wielding a butcher knife or an ax, the brief foray into outer space with Jason X (2002) notwithstanding, A Nightmare on Elm Street is the more cerebral of the three, mixing dreams and reality so the viewer is left perplexed and filled with thoughtful questions and is scared. As each victim is gleefully toyed with, invaded and killed in their dreams, and thus killed, by the burnt killer, more complexities exist.

Released right smack in the middle of the 1980’s- the decade of decadence, where a snug suburban life meant safety and sweet dreams, the target audience is the teenage crowd. In the height of the Reagan years where everyone and their neighbor had a vacation house, boat or BMW, this film scared the daylights out of most viewers. Sleep did not come easy for those who took Freddie’s taunts to heart.

While frightening, A Nightmare on Elm Street does not take itself as seriously as Friday the 13th or Halloween does. Infusing humor and snickering fun is a great recipe to differentiate itself from its brethren taking on straight-ahead horror. The film can blur the boundaries between the imaginary and the real, toying with audience perceptions at every turn and making them think.

Imaginative, this is not always the film’s key to success. Craven needs to be careful that his story does not teeter off into the absurd or the outlandish, which it did in later installments. Credit must be given to Englund, who takes crazy Freddie off to orbit with dizzying rapidity, going too over-the-top only once or twice. And who can ever forget the frightening child’s rhyming song featured in the film.

Story always eclipses effects, and Craven is wise to craft a backstory for Kruger to enjoy almost making him sympathetic, but then harshly bringing reality back and making the killer a child murderer. Still, the parents who took their own brand of vengeance and burned Freddie alive are not saints but sinners. This allows Kruger just enough empathy to keep audiences engaged. He’s a fun villain!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a timeless classic that introduced the world to one of the horror genres best villains. Unlike Jason and Michael Myers, who are faceless, Freddie Kruger was played by one actor, Robert Englund, who gave him energy, zest, and charm. He will forever live on in the hearts of slasher fans everywhere.

Silent Night, Deadly Night-1984

Silent Night, Deadly Night-1984

Director-Charles E. Sellier Jr.

Starring-Robert Brian Wilson, Gilmer McCormick

Scott’s Review #974

Reviewed December 30, 2019

Grade: B

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) is a fun, holiday-themed horror/slasher flick that is cheery mayhem in the spirit of the season, and a worthy addition to any horror fans collection. The film is best watched late at night for appropriate effect, and obvious to view around the holiday that it celebrates. It would make a great companion piece to Black Christmas (1974), clearly a superior film, but both containing eerily similar musical scores, the former updated with electronic beats for the 1980’s.

The horror film was met with ridicule and protest upon release for the promotion of a killer Santa Claus, despite the story being slightly overreacted to and not interpreted correctly. The “real Santa Claus does not perform the slayings, but rather a mentally unstable young man dressed in the red suit does the dirty deeds. Nonetheless, the film was unceremoniously yanked from theaters after parents expressed fear that their kids might be traumatized by the film. Silent Night, Deadly Night has graduated to cult-classic status and is entertaining, perhaps embracing its derision instead of running from it.

The action begins in rural Utah in 1971, as the Chapman family drives to a retirement home to see their catatonic grandfather. When left alone, the elder warns five-year-old Billy to fear Santa Claus, which his parents disbelieve. On their way home, they stop along the roadside to help a man dressed as Santa Claus, whose car appears to have broken down. The man robs and kills the parents, sparing Billy and his brother from death. Three years later Billy and Ricky reside in an orphanage led by the sadistic Mother Superior, and a kindly nun, Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick).

Ten years later (present times), the now grown Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is benevolent and friendly, obtaining a job as a stock boy at a toy store with the help of Sister Margaret. As Christmas Eve approaches, Billy has flashbacks of his parents murders and later is forced to play Santa Claus for the Christmas party when a co-worker falls ill. As the staff become inebriated, a female co-worker is nearly raped causing Billy to go berserk and kill both the assailant and the victim who blames Billy. He then spends the night prowling the area for victims he can stab or behead.

Fun is the name of the game with Silent Night, Deadly Night. The film is to be enjoyed and is a macabre treat for slasher fans. The kills are respectable with the traditional methods used- an ax to the head and a bow and arrow death, along with more elaborate deaths like strangling with a chain of Christmas lights, and a bare-chested female victim being impaled on a moose head. The highlight is the beheading of a mean teenage bully as he gleefully sleighs down a hill on a stolen sled.

Plenty of gratuitous bare chests (female) common in these types of films are in store for the lusty male viewer, but a nude male is glimpsed as well to make for some R-rated diversity. Par for the course with slasher films made decades ago are the omission of cultural diversity. Not one Black, Latin, or Asian character is ever seen. The pure as snow Utah setting might be one justification.

If one were to attempt to analyze Silent Night, Deadly Night (not recommended) one can deduce a specific religious message or at least a questioning of Catholicism, specifically the harshness of Mother Superior and her interpretation of punishment being good and implemented in the name of god. Or maybe she is just a sadistic character? In perfect contrast, Sister Margaret is loving, protective, and nurturing to the orphans. Whatever the intention of the film makers, humor is the recipe as the strictness and rigidity are played for laughs.

Proper for any horror film, the final scene leaves room for a sequel. Indeed, there were four follow-up films made with the younger Ricky taking over as the serial killer. In satisfying form, Ricky glares at Mother Superior and exclaims “naughty!” before the credits roll. The unrated version of Silent Night, Deadly Night is the preferred version to watch.

Pull up the covers, light the fire, and kick back with a six-pack of Bud lite, roast some marshmallows, and enjoy Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) for what it is. Bad acting, sins of the flesh, and a delightful holiday slaughter with unintentional (or intentional) humor and cliched characters make for robust enjoyment on a light-weight scale.

Child’s Play-2019

Child’s Play-2019

Director-Lars Klevberg

Starring-Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill

Scott’s Review #948

Reviewed October 17, 2019

Grade: B

In the cinematic genre of horror, when a successful franchise has been dormant for a period it is an inevitability that sooner or later a reboot will be in the offerings. Child’s Play (2019) resurrects the series of films popular in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with a modern stamp. The film is formulaic but adds a bit of macabre dark humor that lofts it above mediocrity, but the freshness turns too silly in the final act and neither the film nor the killer is scary.

Kaslan Corporation has launched a successful new global product called Buddi, a revolutionary line of high-tech dolls designed to be human-like companions to their owners, learning from their surroundings and acting accordingly. Buddi dolls can also connect to and operate other Kaslan products, quickly becoming a phenomenon for kids worldwide. A disgruntled employee tweaks one of the dolls to turn sinister and then commits suicide.

Single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) works as a retail clerk in Chicago raising a thirteen-year-old son named Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who wears a hearing aid. New to the area he struggles to make friends, so Karen takes the defective doll from her store as a substitute friend and pick me up for her son. As Andy makes acquaintances within the building and takes a disliking to Karen’s new beau Shane (David Lewis), Buddi names himself Chucky and seeks vengeance against those surrounding Andy, eventually turning on the boy.

Child’s Play takes a modernized approach by making the new Chucky a more high-tech doll, much advanced to the original Chucky from the 1988 debut. 2019 Chucky is creepier and more life-like than original Chucky which provides the film with a fresh look rather than merely a retread of the 1980’s. Set in present times the film feels relevant and glossy. New Chucky is more human than old Chucky with more capabilities and room for thought and deduction making him more devious.

A treat for Star Wars (1977) fans and really any fan of cinema history is the inclusion of Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky. While Hamill’s voice is not sinister nor particularly distinguishable to the naked ear, the star power adds fun and familiarity, a throwback and ode to film lore. Hamill’s voice is pleasant and kind which adds a foreboding and sinister quality.

The film has some clever moments and bits of chilling dark humor that make it a fun experience. When Shane becomes the first victim of Chucky’s wrath and meets a dire fate at the hands of a tiller while hanging Christmas lights, he is beheaded and Chucky leaves the head in a disgusted Andy’s room. In hilarious and laugh out loud form, the head winds up as a wrapped Christmas present for Andy’s elderly neighbor Doreen who props it on her mantle until she can open it.

Bryan Tyree Henry, known for his prominent turns in Widows (2018) and the wonderful If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) adds comedy and a nice guy edge as Andy’s neighbor, Detective Mike Norris. Plaza, as Karen, is given limited material and unable to shine in her role, not seeming old enough nor motherly enough to add much realism. A big fan of the actress, she is more talented than this part allows her to be.

The film misfires with the cliched misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions that Andy is responsible for the deaths Chucky caused.  Andy’s two apartment buddies are caricatures, and the big finale set inside the retail store is disappointing. Chucky brilliantly hacks the Buddi toys on the shelves and chaos ensues as parents and children are massacred as a stampede tries to escape the store. The scene does not work as well as a climax should.

Sticking closely to script and offering a predictable formula film the 1988 film Child’s Play is remade in 2019 with added star power. Familiar faces (and voices) Plaza, Henry and Hamill rise the film slightly above B-movie status, though the dumb finale made me tune out a bit after the main kills were over. I doubt the film performed well enough at the box-office to secure the known actors returns and hopefully this will be a one and done project.

Friday the 13th: Part III: 1982

Friday the 13th: Part III: 1982

Director-Steve Miner

Starring-Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka

Scott’s Review #743

Reviewed April 17, 2018

Grade: A-

By 1982 the Friday the 13th installments were becoming an almost annual event, which would continue until the late 1980’s. Still popular and fresh at the time (the novelty would soon wear thin), Part III has the distinction of being released in 3-D, a highly novel concept and just perfect for a slasher film, including sharp weapons to shove at the camera at every turn. Directed once again by Steve Miner, who also directed Part II,  the film charters familiar territory that will certainly please fans of the genre. The horror gem still feels fresh to me decades after its original release.

The plot originally was intended to copy 1981’s successful Halloween II and capitalize on the return of one central character, Ginny (Amy Steel), and continue her night of terror as she is whisked away to a local hospital following her ordeal at Camp Crystal Lake. While this plot seems laden with good, gruesome “kill” possibilities (think syringes, scalpels, and other neat medical objects), unfortunately this was not to be after Steel balked at a return appearance.

Directly following the bloody events the night before, a new batch of teenagers- oblivious to the recent killings- except for tortured Chris (Dana Kimmell), who once was attacked by the crazed killer, travel to Camp Crystal Lake for a weekend of fun and partying. As Chris teeters between imagining sounds and shadows, traumatized by her past, Jason lurks nearby waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims. In this installment, Chris is most certainly the “final girl”, a fact that is obvious with the immediate backstory. The other characters fall in line with traditional slasher stereotypes- the lovelorn couple, the prankster, and a stoner couple. Also, a rival biker gang is thrown in for added drama as they vow revenge on the group following an incident at a convenience store.

A few main differences between Part III and Parts I and II follow:  Part III incorporates less “point of view” camera shots from Jason’s perspective, and more from the viewpoint of the victims. The result is neither better nor worse- just different. This is the first installment in which Jason dons his trademark hockey mask giving the film a slicker feel, and more identity, than Part II did, where Jason mostly wore a burlap sack. In clever fashion, Jason steals the hockey mask from one of his victims. Finally, as evidenced by the soundtrack, Part III adds a disco/techno beat to the famous “chi chi chi” sounds, giving the music a distinct 1980’s feel that the two preceding installments do not have- those feel more like 1970’s films.

Memorable slayings include a knife shoved through a victims chest while resting on a hammock, an electrocution via a basement fuse box,  and death via a shooting spear gun. The main draw to the kills and thus the film itself is the clever use of the 3-D technology, which makes the audience feel like the center of the action. What a treat to see the implements used in the killings coming right at me!

Credit must be given to the added diversity Friday the 13th: Part III incorporates. For the first time (a glorified black extra in Part II does not count) minority characters are featured. Bikers Fox (Hispanic) and Ali (Black) as well as pretty Vera Sanchez are included giving the film more of an inclusive feel- though each of these characters is killed off.

Enjoyable also is the inclusion of a quick recap of Part II, similar to what Part II did with the original, so that the climax of the preceding film gives the viewer a good glimpse of how the action left off.  The screenwriters add a few comical characters, admittedly offed rather quickly into the mix. I would have loved to have seen a bit more of junk food eating Harold and his nagging wife Edna, for example, before they meet their maker.

Hardly high art, Friday the 13th: Part III is mostly remembered for some cool, innovative technology, a tiny bit of camp that does not overwhelm the straight-forward horror flavor, and for still seeming fresh before the franchise got old, stale, and tired. Part III, along with I and II, make for a wonderful trio in one of horror’s finest franchises.

Friday the 13th: Part II: 1981

Friday the 13th: Part II: 1981

Director-Steve Miner

Starring-Amy Steel, John Furey

Scott’s Review #742

Reviewed April 15, 2018

Grade: A-

Hot on the heels of the surprising success of the low-budget slasher film, Friday the 13th, a sequel to the 1980 film was immediately ordered. The film was released merely a year later and is nearly as good as its predecessor, but not quite to the level of that horror masterpiece. Part II is a well above average sequel with a fun style all its own while wisely keeping facets that made the first Friday adored by horror fans everywhere.

Gushing fans must have undoubtedly been chomping at the bit for a follow-up film and with an opening sequence that is quite lengthy.  The heroine of the first Friday, Alice Hardy (Adrienne King), takes center stage, eliciting a clever twist that must have shocked fans as she is offed less than fifteen minutes into the film- think the sequence with Drew Barrymore in 1996’s Scream for comparison. Regardless of the reasons King would not be the films star (money demands or a rumored stalker), the fact of the matter is this improves the overall film adding an immediate surprise.

After this compelling opening number, things become much more familiar and predictable as the viewer is enshrined in the antics of young and horny camp counselors rushing to sunny Camp Crystal Lake (or in this installment, a neighboring camp) to setup for the impending arrival of kids. The young adults are all very good-looking, fresh-faced, and ready to be sliced to ribbons or dismembered in some fashion as the case may be. As any horror aficionado knows, this is a major part of the appeal of slasher films and Friday the 13th: Part II follows a familiar formula.

Paul (John Furey) and Ginny (Amy Steel) are the lead counselors- a bit more adult and responsible than the others, thus they ignore the authorities warnings not to re-open the camp since it has only been five years since the original massacres. As the day turns into evening, Paul teases the group with the story of the legend of Jason and how he survived his drowning only to live in the woods fending for himself and avenging the death of his mother. Little do they know that the legend is reality and Jason is lurking among the trees ready to off the group one by one.

Besides Paul and Ginny, the supporting characters include sexy Terry, known to wear skimpy attire, sly Scott, who has designs on Terry, wheelchair-bound Mark, sweet and  innocent, Vickie, jokester Ted, and, finally, madly in love, Jeff and Sandra, who are curious about the history of Camp Crystal Lake. Delightfully, the character of Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), the comic relief of the original film, makes a heralded return to warn the youths of impending doom and gloom.

Friday the 13th: Part II mixes pranks and flirtations among many of the characters, but the audience knows full well what is in store for each of them- save for the honorable “final girl”, prevalent in these types of films. With Ginny receiving this title the others meet their fates in bloody style with interesting kills such as a throat slit by a machete while in a rope trap, a duo impaled with a spear as they engage in sex, and bludgeoning with a kitchen knife.

The final twenty minutes is quite engaging as Ginny must flee from the camp while enduring repeated obstacles preventing her safety such as a run through the woods, tripping and falling, and a failed barricade in a cabin. A wonderful touch within this sequence is the return of Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Voorhees) in a cameo appearance as Jason sees a vision of his mother. This move successfully creates a tie in to the original that works quite nicely as coupled with the opening sequence. The final “jump out of your seat” moment is highly effective as Jason, thought to be bested, leaps through a window for one final attack.

Interesting to note is what appear to be identical camera angles through much of the film, as the camera uses the point of view of the killer numerous times to elicit scares and the viewer serving as the killer- reminiscent of the first film. Additionally, camera shots of the peaceful, sunny camp and lake during the daytime are used, in contrast to the violence occurring at night.  Even the approaching vehicle the counselors drive (a truck) are shot the same way as we see them arriving at the camp in full anticipation of a fun time.

Friday the 13th: Part II is a fun follow-up to one of the most celebrated horror films of the slasher generation and is a perfect counterpart to the original. A perfect viewing tip is to watch both films in sequence on perhaps a late night horror extravaganza. Subsequently followed by a slew of not so great sequels as the franchise became dated by the late 1980’s, Part 2 serves as an excellent follow-up to the original using a similar style that will please fans.

Happy Death Day-2017

Happy Death Day-2017

Director-Christopher B. Landon

Starring-Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard

Scott’s Review #726

Reviewed February 20, 2018

Grade: C+

Happy Death Day is a 2017 horror/slasher film offering that incorporates the “groundhog day” theme into its story in clever fashion.  Oddly, the film was released in October instead of February- missed marketing opportunity? Despite a unique premise, the film is overly complicated, especially for this genre of film, and rather than succeeding as a late Friday night treat, Happy Death Day becomes tough to follow leaving too many questions and puzzled thoughts in the after effects.

We first meet snobbish and sarcastic sorority sister, Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), as she awakens with a pounding headache and a bad attitude one morning in the dorm room of a handsome classmate, Carter Davis (Israel Broussard). She barely remembers the drunken tryst as she haggardly goes about her morning- today is her birthday!  Irritated with the day, she proceeds to dismiss her kindly roommate, and her father, and is rude to a former one-night stand, finally going to a party, where she is followed and brutally murdered by a figure wearing a campus mascot mask. She suddenly awakens to the same morning she has just experienced!

Perplexed, Tree spends the remainder of the film on the hunt to figure out who killed her, and to unravel the mystery of putting the events to a halt by going on a continues “loop” of the same night, each time uncovering more clues. Mixed in with the events, Tree realizes she has feelings for Carter and should really become a nicer person.

Star Jessica Rothe is perfectly fine in a breakout film role- though she had a small part in the musical La La Land from 2016. Her chemistry with Broussard is adequate, though when we talk horror, romance is not at the top of the list- blood is. Unfortunately, Happy Death day offers little in true kills or scares- the film is rated PG-13 for heaven’s sake.

A nice aside and testament to the character of Tree, though, is her possession of both “good girl” and “bad girl” qualities. Trendy in slasher films  is that the girl who parties and has sex is offed before very long, but in Happy Death Day, we are served both in the same character. Tree is, in fact, butchered, but then when brought back to life, the character eventually blossomed into the clear heroine. This is a nice twist on a traditionally written character.

I enjoyed the perpetual whodunit factor that screenwriter Scott Lobdell carves into the fabric. A bevy of suspects are introduced and the tale changes direction with each loop. In this way, with each loop the story becomes a bit more complex and characters stories or motivations shift each time. Furthermore, a few more characters are introduced giving the story more layers. This is both a strength and problematic- Trees professor, Dr. Gregory Butler, her secret lover, is a suspect. Is Trees sweet roommate, Lori, who wants nothing more than to treat her friend to a lovely birthday cupcake, too good to be true?

At a certain point things spiral out of control from a story perspective. What is the point of the local serial killer, John Tombs, injured and conveniently staying at the campus hospital, other than to serve as a red herring? Who is the masked killer and why do they suddenly disappear from the story? How is Tree able to seemingly change the details of her murder so much so that it ends up never happening? The reveal of the true killer is very good, but how did we get to this point? By the big reveal at the end I had stopped trying to figure out the film.

Slightly above par, Happy Death Day, while spirited and reaching for something different, becomes muddled and senseless, leaving the viewer wondering how all the various “groundhog day” stories add up to a satisfying conclusion. Sadly, by the time the films conclusion is reached, one will likely not wish to waste the time bothering to care. Still, some props for creativity must be awarded.

Scream-1996

Scream-1996

Director-Wes Craven

Starring-Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, David Arquette

Scott’s Review #710

Reviewed January 5, 2018

Grade: A-

Wes Craven’s 1996 film Scream is a piece that greatly assisted in bringing the horror genre back into relevance after a long drought throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when horror films suffered from both over-saturation and cliche-riddled messes. Thanks to Scream, creativity and plot twists and turns returned to the forefront of  good horror films and a clever film was birthed. Fast-forward to 2018, the film does suffer a bit from a dated “1990’s look,  but is still great fun to watch and a treat for all classic horror buffs as the references to classic greats are endless.

The film is sectioned off nicely and gets underway quickly  (in the best sequence of the film) as Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore)  receives a flirtatious phone call, while making popcorn,  from a man asking her to name her favorite horror film. The friendly game quickly turns vicious as the caller threatens to kill her boyfriend should she answer a question incorrectly. In a clever twist (think 1960’s Psycho!) Casey and her boyfriend meet deadly fates and the opening credits begin to roll. Given the huge star Barrymore was in 1996, this twist was all the more shocking and attention grabbing.

The remainder of the film centers around Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a popular California high school student, as she is pursued by an attacker known only as “Ghostface”, who dons a creepy costume and terrorizes victims via phone calls. The small town , led by police officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and bitchy newswoman Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), are determined to unmask the killer and figure out his or her motivations. Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich), and other friends are along for the ride as a possible connected sub-plot involving Sidney’s deceased mother are introduced. A romance between Dewey and Gale is also broached.

Scream is an enormous treat for fans of the horror genre as numerous references (and film clips!) of classics such as 1978’s Halloween abound throughout the film. Other references to Friday the 13th, Prom Night, and A Nightmare On Elm Street appear during the film. Writer, Kevin Williamson, clearly a horror enthusiast, must have had a ball writing the screenplay that would become Scream. In 1996, the mega-success of the film successfully not only jump-started the entire genre, it introduced younger fans of Scream to classics that were perhaps their parents generation and got them interested in the films.

Classic horror films are not only referenced during the film, but also explained, mostly by the supporting character of Jamie, the nerdy kid who works at the video store and adores horror films. A sequence in which he explains several “rules” of the horror genre is superlative and creative, and just great fun. He schools the teenagers at a party that anyone who drinks, has sex, or says “I will be right back”, is doomed to suffer a violent fate. This clever writing makes Scream enormous fun to watch.

The climax of Scream is quite surprising in itself and the “great reveal” of the murderer (s) is also intelligent writing and quite the surprise, as several red-herrings are produced along the way, casting suspicion on other characters who may or may not be the killers. A small gripe of the writing is the motivations of the murderers- when the explanation is given for their killing spree, the reasoning is a bit convoluted and hard to fathom, but this is horror and suspension of disbelief is always a necessity.

Scream is best remembered for giving the horror genre a good, hard kick in the seat of the pants and shaking all of the elements up a bit while preserving the core ideals of a good slasher film (suspense, a whodunit, and good solid kills). True to a good mention in the film, Scream was followed by several sequels, some achieving better successes than others. In 2018 the film may not be quite as fresh as it once was, but is still a solid watch and memorable for relaunching a genre.

Happy Birthday to Me-1981

Happy Birthday to Me-1981

Director-J. Lee Thompson

Starring-Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford

Scott’s Review #621

Reviewed March 4, 2017

Grade: A-

Happy Birthday to Me is a 1981 slasher film that I fondly remember scaring the living daylights out of me as a little kid-clearly too young to be watching a film of this nature, but sneaking into my parents bedroom with my brother to catch this film. Certain that the film helped shape my passion for the horror film genre, I hold a fondness for it- critics be damned. My opinion is that the film is a small treasure in the land of 1980’s slasher films, containing a neat whodunit and a grotesque ending.

Melissa Sue Anderson, clearly desiring to break out of her nice television persona thanks to the wholesome Little House on the Prairie, is cast in the lead role. Happy Birthday to Me also achieves some merit since the film is directed by acclaimed British director, J. Lee Thompson (Cape Fear). Anderson carries the film quite well in a challenging part. Glenn Ford co-stars as a Doctor.

Virginia Wainwright is a pretty and popular senior at exclusive Crawford Academy- a school for elite, rich kids. In fact, she is part of the “Top Ten”, the most popular and richest kids in the school. The ten friends meet nightly at the local pub. One night, Bernadette, one of the top ten, is murdered by an assailant on her way to meet her friends. This murder sets the tone as, one by one, the others are subsequently killed off, sending the school and local townspeople into a frenzy of panic. To thicken the plot, Virginia was involved in a horrible car accident four years earlier, which killed her mother, and caused Virginia to only have sparse memories of the accident. This piece is key to the film’s mystery.

There are many comparisons I can make to slasher classics that heavily influenced Happy Birthday to Me, but the most prominent must be 1978’s Halloween. The character of Virginia is very similar to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), in their somewhat virginal, good girl characters, and both have an almost identical hairstyle! Also, Happy Birthday to Me successfully uses the killers point of view as the camera frequently serves as the perspective of either the killer or somebody lurking around spying on someone else. The film also just “looks” similar to Halloween.

The whodunit aspect is the most effective of all the qualities of the film. There are a multitude of likely suspects and the film does not shy away from this, purposely casting doubt on several characters- could it be the creepy Alfred, who carries around a pet mouse and creates a fake head of the murdered Bernadette? Or the suave French student, Etienne, who snoops in Virginia’s bedroom and steals a pair of her panties? Finally, could it be Head Mistress, Mrs. Patterson, a harsh, no-nonsense woman harboring resentment for the snobbish, elitism that exists at her school?

When the killer is finally revealed a measure of pure shock and confusion will undoubtedly transpire- how can this be? But by the time the ultimate finale is played out all will make sense. The conclusion does disappoint slightly in the implausibility factor, and the original ending is much more logical and compelling than what was actually in the final cut- rumors have run rampant that the screenplay of the film was rewritten numerous times well into the production- never a good thing. So, the motivations of the actual killer are quite weak, but the buildup is amazing.

Not to be outdone by the whodunit, the kills themselves are superlative: a shish kabob to the throat, falling gym weights, a scarf caught in the spokes of a bike, and the traditional fireplace poker are done in macabre and fantastic fashion. We always see the killers gloved hands and we are aware that the victim is friendly with the killer, so we continually try and deduce who it could possibly be.

The gruesome “Birthday party” finale is gruesome and gleeful at the same time. Each murder victim is propped up around a dining room table, each with a party hat on and all in various forms of dismemberment or blood soaked from their murder wounds. It is a grim and hilarious reveal. The murderer parades out of the kitchen wielding an enormous birthday cake, cheerily singing “Happy Birthday to Me”. This is one great finale.

Happy Birthday to Me is a wonderful trip down memory lane and the film still holds up as a key, perhaps overlooked part of the slasher genre that should be rediscovered by fans and followers everywhere.

My Bloody Valentine-2009

My Bloody Valentine-2009

Director-Patrick Lussier

Starring-Jensen Ackles, Jaime King

Scott’s Review #604

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: B

What can I say? The remake of the classic slasher film from 1981 is a very slick version of the perfect Valentine’s day treat- My Bloody Valentine. To compare the 2009 offering to the original is unfair since I consider that one top notch. This version is what I expected it to be. Though several aspects of it were changed from the original, it was entertaining all the same.

The sleepy mining town that the film is set in becomes immersed in scandal as a string of grisly murders occurs in one of the town mines. It is revealed that a tragic accident occurred at one time causing several deaths. The one remaining victim awakens from a coma and goes on a killing spree. At the same time, youths throw a party near the mine and a series of deaths begin again.

The 3-D effects are necessary to a film like this, for without them, this movie would have been generic as anything else in the same style. The story is lame, implausible, and the characters are dumb, but looking past all that, as I usually do in the horror genre, this was a fun ride. Lots of gore nudity, violence, and a few genuine scares.

Friday the 13th-2009

Friday the 13th-2009

Director-Marcus Nispel

Starring-Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker

Scott’s Review #592

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: C-

As a devoted and faithful fan of the Friday the 13th film franchise and having many wonderful memories of Friday the 13th’s of the past, I was expecting better than this version. There was no reason for the producers to start from scratch with a brand new beginning- that makes no sense to me.

There is really nothing to distinguish this, 2009 Friday the 13th,  from other sequels. They would have been better suited making a “Friday The 13th Part 11” since that’s really what it was. In essence, an entire new story-line was created- only keeping to the original Jason and Mrs. Voorhees characters, and Camp Crystal Lake location.

This movie is not scary, nor are any of the characters particularly likable. In fact, several were quite unlikable- way too many horror films do that. The film also contains very distinct stereotypes, which in this day and age seem ridiculous. Also, Jason has now graduated to “taking prisoners” instead of simply hacking his victims. There is also a “flashback” scene from 1980, which, inexplicably is a newly filmed scene. A wiser choice, and treat for loyalists, would have been to show this scene from the original Friday The 13th from 1980 instead of foolishly recreating one.

The story is completely implausible in countless ways. I am giving this film a very liberal C- grade for at least giving us a new film and for being somewhat entertaining, even though there are many negatives. This film will be forgotten before too long.

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Director-John Carl Buechler

Starring-Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser

Scott’s Review #551

Reviewed December 19, 2016

Grade: B-

The seventh installment of the legendary Friday the 13th franchise is enjoyable, yet clearly predictable. However, props must be awarded to the creators for at least making an attempt  at a novel idea- this time the “final girl” is not the damsel in distress type, but rather, gives as good as she gets. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a decent offering in the horror genre and certainly better than some of its companion films.

The main heroine is a telekinetic girl named  Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). Via flashbacks, we learn that Tina’s father was an alcoholic and abused her mother. When Tina’s telekinesis was unlocked ten years earlier, Tina caused her father’s drowning death, conveniently at Camp Crystal Lake. Tina has harbored deep regret ever since and is now treated by Doctor Crews (Terry Kiser). The duo- along with her mother- decide to stay at the lake where a group of partying kids take up residence next door. Apparently none of them have any idea who Jason Voorhees is.

The beginning and end are ridiculous even by horror standards as the action is way over the top and too convoluted to go into, but everything else is fine. The cast seems a bit larger than in other chapters, which is great because that means more kills. Unfortunately, many of the kills have been edited to make an R rating. (I try to watch NR horror films- no edits). My favorite kill by far is the “sleeping bag” kill. Awesome!! Unfortunately, the DVD version of this kill is severely edited from the theatrical version.

Also, Jason looks like a true monster in this one and that is to be applauded. Stuntman Kane Hodder would begin a successful stint at the killer and he looks the part. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a fun popcorn horror flick.

Halloween II-1981

Halloween II-1981

Director-Rick Rosenthal

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

Scott’s Review #505

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Reviewed October 31, 2016

Grade: A

The follow-up to the surprise 1978 cult classic, independently made Halloween- directed by legend John Carpenter,  Halloween II was made in 1981. In real life it is three years later, but in the film picking up immediately where the original left off in a chronological sense- the infamous night Michael Myers came home to brutalize the town where he killed his sister years earlier. This is an excellent plot point that makes this film successful as it takes the viewer immediately back to that infamous night. Halloween II is one of my personal favorite film sequels.

Despite not directing Halloween II, John Carpenter, along with Debra Hill, both wrote the script so that they are, thankfully, heavily involved in the production of this film, giving it authenticity and familiarity. So much so that Halloween and Halloween II can be watched back to back- like one long film.

Michael Myers path of destruction continues in the sleepy, suburban town of Haddonfield, Illinois. This point looms large in this fantastic sequel and we are treated to a direct transition from original to sequel. The events switch from babysitter territory to the community hospital as new characters- mostly doctors, nurses, and ambulance people are introduced to the story, Laurie’s friends are sadly deceased.  Certainly, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence) are the main stars of the film and by the climax take center stage.

As a recap- the determined Loomis shot Michael Myers several times as he tumbled off of a balcony to his presumed death. In spectacular fashion, the original Halloween brilliantly set the stage for a sequel, as Myers survives and disappears into the night-whereabouts unknown. Now hours later, Laurie is transported to Haddonfield hospital for treatment.  While there, the hospital staff do their best to protect her, but are subsequently offed one by one by the crazed killer, who finds his way into the (conveniently!) deserted hospital.

A great quality to Halloween II is that it is gorier than it’s predecessor. More characters are sliced and diced in unceremoniously brutal fashion. One has her blood drained, another is stabbed in the eye with a syringe. Yet another is repeatedly dunked into scalding water. And then there is the traditional knife in the back.

In contrast to many other slasher films, the supporting cast of characters are quite likable and they are given little back stories of their own- a great touch. Bud- the wise cracking ambulance driver is dating Nurse Karen. Jimmy, a handsome orderly, takes a shine to Laurie. Mixed in with the clearly heavy horror are nice comic moments, as when Nurse Janet ineptly tries to assist the hospital security guard- the bumbling Mr. Garrett, with a walkie-talkie, or when Head Nurse Mrs. Alves scolds the staff for being tardy. We grow to care for these characters, in their little night-shift family, so that their inevitable demises hit home.

The chilling music- so instrumental to the success of the original- is slightly modernized into more of a keyboard style sound. This gives a slicker, more commercial appeal. Not to take away from the brilliance of the original score, but it is nice to hear a change- giving a fresher, more contemporary sound, rather than simply copying the same music.

Admittedly, Halloween II is not quite on par with Halloween, but that is asking the impossible. Halloween is a masterpiece, but Halloween II holds its own and is more than adequate as a sequel having large shoes to fill. Thanks to many of the same creators involved, it does not lose its edge nor its relevance all these years later.

Halloween: H2O-1998

Halloween: H2O-1998

Director-Steve Miner

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin

Scott’s Review #504

16915002

Reviewed October 30, 2016

Grade: B

Halloween: H2O is the seventh installment of the Halloween franchise, though only associated story-wise with Halloween and Halloween II. Made in 1998, the film capitalized on the twenty year anniversary of the original classic horror film. To measure up to that masterpiece would be an impossibility, but the film is not bad on its own merits and nice odes to the past are peppered into the story making for a film franchise pleaser. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role that made her famous.

Before we are even re-introduced to Curtis’s character, we are treated to a nostalgic scene involving chain smoking Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) from parts I and II. Her house is vandalized by Michael Myers as he steals a file she has kept on Laurie Strode. How nice to see this character back in the fray- though her screen time is limited. She is pivotal to the kick-off of the new story.

Laurie (Curtis) has faked her death and is now living life anew in California- running a prep school as its headmistress. Her son John (Josh Hartnett) attends the school and her boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin) teaches there.  John’s girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams), a poetic security guard (LL Cool J), and a dizzy secretary, Mrs. Watson,(Janet Leigh) round out the cast.

For the past twenty years, Laurie has been troubled by the notion of Michael Myers returning to kill her and clearly her fears come to fruition. The film has an interesting slant- no longer is Laurie the victim, cowering in cars and corners. Now, she is intent on exacting her own revenge on Michael- her brother. She wants this long chapter in her life finally closed.

What nods to history this film contains!  And is really the best part of it. Otherwise, without the history, it would be a run of the mill slasher film. Besides the obvious Michael/Laurie connection, what a treat to see Jamie Lee Curtis’s real-life mother (and original scream queen herself), Janet Leigh. Furthermore, her character’s car is the exact make and model, and same license plate, from 1960’s Psycho, in which she starred- a brilliant treat for horror and classic film fans.

The film also uses some impressive stylistic choices- the use of mirrors and reflections are used successfully, as well as events occurring in the background- seen by the audience, but not the other characters are well used.

Halloween: H2O contains several young, up and coming stars, who, years later, would be big stars (Hartnett, Williams, and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Who new these talents got their starts in one of the greatest horror franchises?

Let’s be clear- Halloween: H2O is not a masterpiece- far from it. The horror clichés run rampant- the silly, supporting characters (friends of John and Molly’s) eager to drink and party and clearly meant for comic relief, in addition to the LL Cool J character. These characters are stock types. Predictably, we more than once think that Michael Myers is finally dead- only to resurface- perfectly timed to the plot.

The inevitable standoff between Laurie and Michael Myers is well done and a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic franchise. Laurie gets her revenge while Myers gets his just desserts in dramatic fashion.

April Fool’s Day-1986

April Fool’s Day-1986

Director-Fred Walton

Starring-Amy Steel, Jay Baker

Scott’s Review #498

60024022

Reviewed October 24, 2016

Grade: B-

Emerging at the tale end of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s slasher film craze that encompassed that period in cinema (for better or worse), April Fool’s Day capitalized on the “holiday theme” marketing tool that escalated Halloween and Black Christmas to superstar ranks.

Unfortunately, for this film, it is not a traditional horror flick, in that is has plenty of comic elements, but also contains the standard slasher characteristics, thereby making it a blockbuster failure. Is does not know what its identity truly is. From a story perspective, the film has one great twist, but otherwise suffers from mediocre writing and unmemorable characters that nobody cares about.

We are treated to an ensemble of actors, mostly of the unknown variety, except for horror maven Amy Steel, (Friday the 13th Part 2), who portrays Kit, arguably the most relatable of the female characters . A clever facet, weaved by director Fred Walton, is the casting of eight principals in April Fool’s Day, all with similar amounts of screen time, rather than one obvious “final girl” surrounded by minor characters, who we know will be offed.

The set-up is all too familiar in the slasher genre- the group of college-aged kids escapes mundane life for a spring break weekend getaway at their wealthy classmates, Muffy St. John’s, island estate. Conveniently, her family is away- leaving the friends to have the run of the mansion, with a dinner party as part of the plan. Even more convenient is that the ferry the group takes does not run on weekends, so once they are dropped off at the island, there they stay until Monday. This sense of foreshadowing gets the anticipated peril and dread going.

We also sense that there is something very off with Muffy- despite being everyone’s friend. When Muffy finds a jack-in-the-box stored in her attic, and has a childhood recollection, we know this is the set-up to the mystery. Is she mentally unstable? Is someone out to get Muffy for a childhood prank or event that once occurred?

Since it is April Fool’s Day weekend, the groups spends most of the film playing pranks and amateurish jokes on each other (a whoopee cushion, an exploding cigar), mixed with a dash of intrigue- someone is leaving trails of past history as part of the jokes. One girl had an abortion, so the prankster leaves an audio tape of a baby crying. In another room, heroin paraphernalia is left for someone with a former drug habit. Slowly, one by one, the college kids disappear one by one, but is it just a hoax? Or is the hoax just a hoax?

The final twenty minutes or so is really the main reason to watch this film. As Kit and boyfriend Rob are the last remaining “alive” there is suddenly a startling twist that changes the entire dynamic of the film- in one moment everything the audience thinks of the story is turned upside down-this is wise writing, but comes too late in the game.

Sadly, some parts of the film are downright silly and most of the characters are of the stock variety- the flirtatious blonde, the obnoxious jocks, the stuck-up preppy, which ruins the creative twist that is aforementioned.

With glimpses of genius and striving for something more clever than the standard, run of the mill 1980’s horror film, April Fool’s Day has some potential, but ultimately winds up with something missing and heaps of unearthed potential.

My Bloody Valentine-1981

My Bloody Valentine-1981

Director-George Mihalka

Starring-Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier

Top 20 Horror Films-#20

Scott’s Review #367

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Grade: A

Reviewed January 9, 2016

My Bloody Valentine is a perfect slasher film to watch on the romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day or, in fact, any day during the cold and snowy month of February. The film sort of loses something if watched during summer or any other time of the year, since the dark and harsh feeling of the film is perfect atmosphere if watched appropriately.

In my opinion, My Bloody Valentine is an underrated gem of the early 1980’s- just as Black Christmas was to the 1970’s- and both ironically are heralded so by directors such as Quentin Tarantino. Other less gritty films of this nature received greater exposure and commercial success, but I am proud to name My Bloody Valentine as one of my Top 100 favorite films. Both are also “holiday themed” films.

The plot is basic, yet layered, with a unique setting. Rather than a creepy house, a summer camp, or some other tried and true device, we have the ingenious coal mine setting- immediately fraught with great potential. Think about it- a coal mine is dark, suffocating, creepy, with countless secret passages, the fear of being lost, and running out of oxygen. It is also underground where help can easily be unobtainable. The town is aptly named Valentine Bluff (how clever) so Valentine’s Day is a major holiday. The Mayor and police chief figure prominently in the story and the use of town history makes the film engaging.

Typical for the slasher genre we have a bunch of horny teens, partying to the max, who decide that the coal mine is the perfect place to throw a Valentine’s Day party, and they do so with gusto. There are a few middle-aged characters with meaty stuff to do, and the main plot is of the whodunit sort. The killer’s get up is simply genius. He (or she) is wearing a miner’s outfit, completely dark, with an oxygen mask, which elicits a heavy breathing sound adding to the great atmosphere that My Bloody Valentine contains.

One of my favorite scenes involves the offing of Mabel Osbourne, the earnest, sweet-natured party planner, who excitedly is preparing the annual Valentine’s day town dance. She marvels at receiving a box of chocolates with a wonderful poem until she reads the poem. “Roses are red, violets are blue- two are dead and so are you”! Poor Mabel then has her heart removed and it is sent (gift wrapped naturally) to the Mayor and police chief. The scene is both horrific and comical.

My Bloody Valentine is a favorite of the genre for me and actually cascades that genre with its bloodiness, fun storytelling, and wicked charm.

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Director-Joseph Zito

Starring-Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman

Scott’s Review #125

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Reviewed July 21, 2014

Grade: B

Being the 4th chapter in the popular Friday the 13th saga, and the shameless marketing of this installment as being the final chapter, obviously a fib since the ending of the film clearly sets up another sequel, I have a soft spot for this Friday the 13th sequel, but, if I am being honest, with each viewing I realize more and more it is not nearly as good as the first three. In fact, from a storyline and technical perspective, it is a crappy movie. It now seems incredibly dated and of its time- the acting is mediocre at best. Fans of the franchise will love it, it is predictable, like eating at McDonald’s, you know exactly what you will get and that is fine- a gathering of horny, pot and beer induced teens flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a weekend of revelry. Apparently not knowing, or caring, that dozens of other teens have been slaughtered there before, they begin their partying.

For horror fans there is comfort in this film. We know the youths will be killed- we just don’t know how or when. That’s the fun and beauty of it. Will someone be decapitated? Lose a limb? Will the murder weapon be an ax or a machete? Who will be the last remaining victim? The introduction of the twins is a nice touch and a very young Crispin Glover appears. The addition of Corey Feldman to this one adds child feistiness. Otherwise, it’s pretty formulaic and not much separates it from any of the others. Fans of the Friday the 13th franchise will love this film, all others stay away.

Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Director-Danny Steinmann

Starring-Melanie Kinnaman, John Sheperd

Scott’s Review #118

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Reviewed July 17, 2014

Grade: B

The fifth installment of the seemingly never ending Friday the 13th franchise, Part 5 offers viewers a twist, a twist that sadly did not go over well with horror audiences. Hardly high art, and hated by myself initially, I have grown a fondness for this film over the years after repeated viewings. Originally, I was not crazy about the twist at the end of the film, but I now recognize, for this type of film, an appreciation for trying something different.

The lighting is brighter and more modern than its predecessor, Part IV, despite being made only a year later. There is greater comedy in this one- the hillbillies are laugh out loud fun and the waitress scene is howlingly awful in the acting department- in fact most of the acting is atrocious and can be laughed at, but a much needed change of setting away from Camp Crystal Lake works and seems refreshing. The final victim is, for a change, not a teenager, but a mature, intelligent young woman.

Released smack dab in the middle of the 1980’s, the film has a jarring dated look to it, which doesn’t do the film any favors in the longevity department. Obviously, the film cannot compare to the original or even the first three installments (the best in my opinion), but more experimental than any of the others, which deserves some credit.

Friday the 13th- 1980

Friday the 13th-1980

Director-Sean S. Cunningham

Starring-Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King

Top 100 Films-#18     Top 20 Horror Films-#6

Scott’s Review #115

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Reviewed July 17, 2014

Grade: A

Friday the 13th is one of my favorite films (horror and otherwise) of all time as I have such fond and scary memories of watching at too young an age! My personal highlight is in later years watching this film alongside star Betsy Palmer herself in a movie theater. I can watch this film countless times and never tire of it. Is it high art? Hardly. Is it brilliant film making? Not a chance. But for whatever reason, this film is very close to my heart and I love it.

The premise involves seven young adults, all squeaky clean and All-American looking, who flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a summer involving counseling, partying, and frolicking around the lake. They engage in strip poker, smoke pot, and play jokes on each other, but share a good spirits.

Through flashbacks we learn that two brutal camp counselor killings occurred years ago and the camp has been unsuccessful at reopening since that time due to strange events like bad water. The residents of the town are convinced that there is a curse involving the lake and warn the teenagers to stay far away, specifically one loony townsperson named Ralph, who frequently shows up proclaiming messages from god and other rants of doom. Inevitably, the teens begin to be systematically hacked to bits one by one in creative fashion such as a slit throat, axe to the head, a dagger through the neck, and other good, old fashioned horror kills.

The film has many standard horror elements- a dark, ominous storm, a mysterious hidden killer lurking in the shadows, giving first time viewers a suspenseful whodunit. Could the killer be crazy Ralph, one of the counselors? Or Steve Christie, the man opening the camp? As each victim is killed one begins to narrow down the remaining suspects to the crimes and at least one red herring comes into play, which leads us trying to figure out the conclusion, which, critically speaking, is an enormous surprise. The looming killer, whose feet and arms/hands are really the only parts shown throughout is successfully ominous. As the killer angrily watches the counselors swim and goof around, one of them gets a sixth sense of being watches and is sure she sees someone in the trees, but quickly shrugs it off. Another ominous scene involves one counselor setting up an archery game for the kids as another counselor jokingly shoots an arrow near by. They both laugh, but the foreshadowing of what is to come is fantastic.

Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King add so much to this film, which would not be nearly as good if not for them. The conclusion involving a knock down drag out, mud fight is my favorite sequence, in addition to the final thirty minute chase scene around the camp and its vicinity. The final character hides in closets, store rooms, bushes and a cat and mouse game climaxes. Great stuff. The big twist at the end almost rivals, and is very similar to, the shocking ending to the 1976 horror classic Carrie.

The sound effects are spectacular- the distant loons and the creepy sound effects add a ton to making Friday the 13th a classic fright-fest. The line “kill her mommy, she can’t hide” is undoubtedly permanently etched in horror fan’s minds.

Friday the 13th has successfully held the test of time and is now a highly regarded classic within the horror genre. A highly entertaining, mainstream, cut above the rest, and a fun must see for all horror fans.

Halloween-1978

Halloween-1978

Director-John Carpenter

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

Top 100 Films-#4     Top 20 Horror Films-#3

Scott’s Review #114

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Reviewed July 16, 2014

Grade: A

 Halloween is an iconic horror film from 1978 that set the tone for the barrage of slasher films to follow throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s.  Today, the film continues to hold up incredibly well and I am proud to list it as, not only one of my favorite horror films (in which I religiously watch every Halloween), but one of my favorite films of all time. The focus is on style and substance over gore (the film contains little) and the score is one of the scariest and most effective in cinema history.

The premise of the film is simple- a homicidal maniac is on the loose in a sleepy little town named Haddonfield, Illinois and is targeting three female babysitters one crisp Halloween night. The audience knows that the six-year old little boy dressed as a clown on a dark Halloween night years ago, and who butchered his older sister to death, is the now grown-up culprit. What we do not know, nor should we, is what his (Michael Meyers) motivation is.  This confusion only adds to the impact of the story. Subsequent remakes have added complexities to the character, needlessly so, but in the original, we see a seemingly happy child with stable parents and a good life.

Similar stories have been told over time in film history. But with Halloween, it is simply one of the greatest horror films ever made. As simple as the story is, it is the way the film is made that makes it a masterpiece. Everything about Halloween is mesmerizing- the lighting is perfect, the ambiance, the incredibly scary musical score brilliant, the battle between good and evil, the perfect feeling of a chilly Halloween night. Highly unusual for its time, the point of view of the killer and heavy breathing is prevalent throughout the film, which will startle and scare the viewer. The opening shot is through the eyes of a masked six year old kid wearing a clown mask. The unique technical aspects go on and on.

Director John Carpenter had a vision for this film and thankfully no studio influence ruined it since it was an independent film on a shoestring budget. The Hitchcock influences are evident in the character names- Sam Loomis. Many scenes involve someone watching the action or peeking around a corner, through a window, which makes the viewer anxious and nervous. Set in small-town USA, a frightening element of the film is that it could happen anywhere and the location is ingenious. There is very little blood, let alone gore, in Halloween- it is needless. It is the creepiness that makes the film brilliant.

The three teenagers are perfectly cast- Jamie Lee Curtis is the serious bookworm, P.J. Soles and Nancy Keyes are the flirtatious bad girls, but the chemistry between them is great and the audience buys them as best friends. The jump-out- of- your seat moments are incredibly well-timed and it is one of the few genuinely scary films.

Forget solely the horror genre- Halloween is one of the greatest films ever made.

Girly-1970

Girly-1970

Director-Freddie Francis

Starring-Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

Scott’s Review #11

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Reviewed June 14, 2014

Grade: B-

Girly is an unusual British horror film about an affluent, bored family, clearly deranged, who kidnap victims and force them to become “members” of the family by participating in game playing escapades for their delight.

The premise of the film is appealing and intriguing as to how it will play out. The family members (Mumsy, Nanny, Girly, and Sonny) are played with gusto by the cast, but are never over the top. My favorite is “Mumsy”, wickedly played by British actress Ursula Howells. The film itself has a fairy tale quality to it with the sets of the house they share. The main victim (a male gigolo) is miscast (too old, not sexy enough) and begins a cat and mouse game of trickery, plotting the family against one another until the inevitable bodies pile up.

The film loses steam midway through and the ending is not satisfying. Why the victims are not able to escape the vast property is weak (a 7 foot tall flimsy fence??). “Curious” film that becomes a tad boring towards the conclusion.