Category Archives: Slasher Films

I Know What You Did Last Summer-1997

I Know What You Did Last Summer-1997

Director-Jim Gillespie

Starring-Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Scott’s Review #1,182

Reviewed September 29, 2021

Grade: B+

Capitalizing on the wild success of the mid-1990s horror resurgence led by Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) was a popular low-budget popcorn hit at the time. The year 1997 was like 1979 or 1980 when the slasher craze (part Deux) was still fresh and intriguing.

The film is fun with superior direction and a dark ambiance that works quite well for the genre.

A slew of other imitators would follow this release including the tepid I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in 1998 but the first one is formulaic entertainment done well. It wisely cast youthful stars of the day chomping at the bit to be the killer’s next victim.

One hot July 4th night in the small coastal town of Southport, North Carolina, a group of four teenagers run over a fisherman and dumping his body in the water, vow never to speak of the incident again. Some members of the group feel little remorse while others are racked with guilt.

The four principals are Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Barry (Ryan Phillippe), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.).

Predictably, one year later Julie receives a frightening letter and the group reconvenes. They fret and worry that they have been seen or worse yet that they will be exposed. The letter clearly states ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. Someone begins to follow them, especially Julie, clad in fisherman’s gear and wielding a meat hook.

In a way, he is a combination of other horror villains like Jason, Freddy, and Michael Meyers, but we know neither his identity nor his motivation.

Does he want money or blood?

One of the group incorrectly pursues who he thinks is the killer and is unceremoniously run down and terrorized. The bloodletting only continues as other townspeople become involved in the events some amid a local Independence Day parade.

There are some obvious inclusions to the story to make sure audiences are aware they are watching a slasher flick and a teen-targeted genre flick. This is no wonder since the screenwriter, Kevin Williamson, was the best know for teenaged-themed writing for television’s Dawson’s Creek.

I Know What You Did Last Summer borrows from so many 1980’s slasher-flicks like Terror Train (1980), Prom Night (1980), and My Bloody Valentine (1981) that it’s a given that Williamson and director Jim Gillespie spent weekends shacked up with popcorn and sodas while watching these films for reference material.

The killer is masked. This is to make damned sure we know that we are watching a whodunit and that at the finale the killer will be exposed- think the big reveal in every Scooby-Doo episode. Could the killer be one of the teens themselves?

Julie is immediately the clear ‘final girl’ simply because she feels the most guilt and is the most pursued perhaps for that very reason. Other necessities like the asshole jock (Phillippe), the mean girl (Bridgette Wilson), and the red-herring are added on like clockwork. We know that Julie will be the one to survive.

Still, the premise is quite compelling and immediately had me hooked. I also knew that I was being manipulated but I did not care. I couldn’t wait to find out who the killer was.

The final sequence that ensures a sequel is delicious and an obvious ode to Brian De Palma films. A year later in 1998, Julie is in college in Boston. As she enters the shower, she notices the words “I still know” written in the steam on the shower door. Moments later, a dark figure crashes through it as Julie screams!

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) is straight up, by the numbers mainstream horror but the familiarity doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the experience. You know what is right around the bend and you can’t wait to get there.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan-1989

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan-1989

Director-Rob Hedden

Starring-Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves

Scott’s Review #1,163

Reviewed July 21, 2021

Grade: D+

After eight installments in only nine years of the iconic horror Friday the 13th series fans by this time know what they are in store for. The title of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhatten (1989) and its accompanying cover art offers a glimmer of originality and intrigue.

If this were 1989 I would be excited at the prospects of what this film could deliver.

Hell, the city of New York was dour and dirty in the late 1980s, filled with grit, grime, and seediness. What a perfect setup for our crazed killer Jason to mix and mingle with the dregs of society. I conjured up images of Jason chasing frightened teenagers through graffiti-laced subways and x-rated peep show theaters in the Times Square district.

We get a few location shots of Times Square but not much more.

Unfortunately for fans, only the final thirty minutes or so of the film is even set amid the Big Apple and for eagle-eyed viewers, much less than that is even filmed in New York City. Years later, director Rob Hedden would blame Paramount studios for severely limiting the budget allowed for on-location filming.

The result is that Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhatten feels like a sham.

Okay, the film is a terrible, cheesy, poorly acted, jaggedly paced film, but on a late Saturday night, it provides some fun and comfort alongside the proper mood and spirits.

A few years following the events of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) multiple mass murderer Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) is resurrected from the bottom of Crystal Lake after an underwater electrical fire.

After he kills a passing boat’s occupants, he stows away on a cruise ship filled with a high-school graduating class excitedly bound for New York City. Strict Biology teacher Charles McCulloch (Peter Mark Richman) is on board with his niece, Rennie (Jensen Daggett), who has visions of Jason drowning as a child. They temporarily escape his bloody rampage, but, when Rennie and Charles reach Manhattan, Jason is hot in pursuit.

Apparently, the ten million other Manhattanites are uninteresting and Jason must kill Rennie and cohorts.

There is an unnecessary side story of Uncle Charles having pushed Rennie into Camp Crystal Lake in a sink or swim moment where she first saw glimpses of Jason. This has nothing to do with the main story nor is it needed.

The rest of the film is exactly as one might suspect with very few surprises. The character development, limited in slasher films like this, is extremely pitiful and uneven. One female character is a rocker chick who clutches her electric guitar and plays it nonstop, practically during her own death scene.

Other unintentionally laughable characters include a young black man who is an aspiring boxer and attempts to spar with Jason on the rooftop building. This proves to be a big mistake when Jason takes one punch at him and decapitates him. The popular blonde prom queen/mean girl, Tamara (Sharlene Martin) decides to throw Rennie overboard after she catches Tamara doing drugs. Apparently murdering a fellow student is a better option than being caught.

Finally, the deckhand played by Alex Diakund is a carbon copy of the Crazy Ralph character from Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th: Part II (1981) even uttering the famous “You’re all doomed” line.

The stereotypes are rampant. However, unusual in the slasher genre for 1989, diversity is apparent with African-American, Hispanic, and Asian characters. While all are supporting characters and know their purpose is to be bludgeoned, the inclusiveness is at least a slight win.

Other positives are the familiar Camp Crystal Lake setting not being completely scrapped as the title might indicate. There is something nice and familiar with Jason, a lake, darkness, and murder.

Rob Hedden’s idea to take much of the action to an unfamiliar setting like a metropolis is a good one, a city is the opposite of a lake, but the studio screwed the director over royally with their limitations. Still, a wonderful shot of Times Square can easily transplant a viewer watching the film in present times back to 1989 and experience, if only for a minute, what life was like.

That’s worth a small something.

Valentine-2001

Valentine-2001

Director-Jamie Blanks

Starring-Denise Richards, David Boreanaz

Scott’s Review #1,146

Reviewed May 26, 2021

Grade: C

Valentine (2001) is a horror film made in the wrong decade. The film could have been more meaningful or relevant if only it had been made in the early 1980s. Sadly, it feels like a weak retread and an ode to a former time. Its flight took off twenty years ago.

1981 or 1982 was the heyday of the slasher flick. It’s kind of like a band attempting to play 1980’s pop hits passed off as original music- it doesn’t work. Or, a cover band belting out Bon Jovi hits as their own. What’s worse is that it’s set in 2001. It might have been a better film with some feathered hair or parachute pants and a direct tribute to the 1980s.

It’s painfully mediocre.

If I sound harsh that is not my intention. Valentine is not a disastrous film and the pacing is fine at a short one hour and thirty-six minutes. It’s just that it’s dreadfully unoriginal and therefore uninspiring.

It’s like the filmmakers thought, ‘let’s put some hot chicks in a slasher film and off them one by one and make some money”. Valentine didn’t make much money and was universally panned.

Borrowing from several popular flicks like Prom Night (1980), Terror Train (1980), and My Bloody Valentine (1981), director Jamie Banks even steals the familiar holiday theme so necessary for this type of genre.

Even the final twist is unfulfilling because, like in almost all slasher films, a twist is almost mandatory and therefore unsurprising.

Before I forget, the acting is painfully bad. So there’s that bonus.

The action begins at a junior high school Valentines’s Day dance in 1988. An outcast named Jeremy Melton, asks four popular girls to dance and is disdainfully rebuffed by each. They are clearly mean girls. Their overweight friend Dorothy accepts Jeremy’s invitation and they make out underneath the bleachers.

When bullies discover them they are ridiculed. Dorothy lies and claims that Jeremy sexually assaulted her resulting in his being beaten, expelled, and eventually institutionalized after the group testifies against him, lying on the witness stand.

Years later, on Valentine’s Day, Kate (Marley Shelton), Paige (Denise Richards), Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw), Lily (Jessica Cauffiel), and Shelly (Katherine Heigl) begin receiving scary messages from an unknown sender, signed “JM”. The women then are killed off one by one by a psycho in a Cupid mask. They reside in San Francisco.

They suspect the murderer is Jeremy, having returned to exact revenge. Ya think?

There is entertainment in the mean girls being hacked to bits unceremoniously and it is definitely satisfying. I clearly sided with the Cupid killer but was I supposed to? Well, I did anyway. Jeremy is handsome and sympathetic. After all, they ruined his life. Why would we root for the girls to be spared?

And it’s enjoyable. The deaths include a slit throat, a brutal beating with a hot iron, and death by electrocution. A special edition for Valentine’s Day is a box of chocolates filled with maggots!

I won’t ruin the final twist by revealing any specifics but suffice it to say that, yes, Jeremy is indeed the killer. But it’s not quite in the way you’d think.

There is nothing original about Valentine (2001) which is about as formulaic a film as there ever was. Instead of ever watching or thinking about the film again I’ll happily break out my copies of Halloween (1978) or Friday the 13th (1980).

But still, it’s not the terrible film most people think it is.

Vacancy-2007

Vacancy-2007

Director-Nimród Antal

Starring-Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale 

Scott’s Review #1,127

Reviewed March 29, 2021

Grade: B-

Many times in cinema there exists a great premise for a good film that is a great idea only and the follow-through falls apart. Vacancy (2007) is one such film. Especially a vibrant story for a horror film, the first half is way better than the latter half as we can enjoy wondering what will happen next?

The film fumbles the football midway through once it’s revealed who the killer (or killers?) are and never gets its bearings back. It’s still an okay watch but the possibilities could have taken the film to another level. Instead, we get too much predictability.

The idea seems great because it’s very similar territory to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, Psycho. Think Bates Motel and a crazed killer not unlike Anthony Perkins, sans the good chemistry and motivation. The killer (or killers?) has no good motivation.

Vacancy is really a mish-mash of other recent horror efforts including Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), and Joy Ride (2001). It takes standard material from each and mixes them, trying to create a fabulous concoction. This doesn’t work so well. Instead, it just feels like a combination of the other films with a similar look and feel.

Since director Nimród Antal is Hungarian this would explain the Hostel pattern which also features a European vibe even though Vacancy is set somewhere off a mountain road in the United States.

A young couple lost in a deserted area near a seedy hotel will likely freak anyone out. What if my car breaks down and I have no cell phone and am not sure where I am, the viewer immediately thinks? Throw in a serial killer and you’ve frightened the bejeesus out of just about anyone. To make matters worse the characters in Vacancy choose to watch horror films on television for fun- not a smart decision.

When David’s (Luke Wilson) and Amy’s (Kate Beckinsale) car breaks down, they have no choice but to spend the night at a remote hotel. The couple decides to make the best of it by entertaining themselves with low-budget slasher movies on TV. They suddenly realize that the horrifying images they see look were recorded in the room in which they are staying!

With hidden cameras capturing their every move, David and Amy must find a way out before they become the latest stars in another film in the series of snuff films. At first, they panic then try to use good sense and figure out what the heck is going on and how they can escape this crazy hotel room.

Besides the plot loopholes, there really is not good chemistry between Wilson and Beckinsale which doesn’t do the film any favors. David and Amy are merely your average ordinary horror movie characters. They are on the verge of divorce due to some family tragedy that is never explained nor has anything to do with the events.

They have some measure of smarts and it is interesting to see how they finagle out of their peril but nor are they James Bond either so their actions are implausible and become riddled with B-movie cliches. By the halfway point Vacancy, which starts quite well, is reduced to a standard horror film with an average cat and mouse final sequence made completely predictable.

Speaking of cliches, Antal adds the too-good-to-be-true auto mechanic played by Ethan Embry, clearly the prime suspect, and Mason, the desk clerk. Is he a suspect too? These characters are a hybrid of Norman Bates and up to a point make the film fun. Once their true colors are revealed it becomes silly.

Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale do what they can with a less than a spectacular script that takes us too often into familiar territory and borrows way too much from other films. Vacancy (2007) has some potential that never becomes realized or feels fresh.

P2-2007

P2-2007

Director-Franck Khalfoun

Starring-Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley

Scott’s Review #1,106 

Reviewed January 29, 2021

Grade: B

Franck Khalfoun, a French filmmaker known for the horror genre, makes his directorial debut with P2 (2007). As a horror buff, the film has a great premise which made me immediately want to see it. Unfortunately, while the film has its moments of intrigue and plenty of gore, the climax ultimately disappoints and it turns run-of-the-mill. Like many of its modern horror brethren, there is little that separates it from other similar films.

It’s fine Saturday night viewing fare but quite predictable.

Films set during the Christmas holiday and especially in festive New York City always enrapture me so P2 gets a leg up. The film doesn’t utilize the holiday very well save for a smattering of decorations within an office building, some snow, and one creepy holiday song.

Set on Christmas Eve, the plot follows a young businesswoman named Angela (Rachel Nichols) who becomes trapped in an underground parking garage in midtown Manhattan, where she is pursued by a psychopathic unhinged security guard (Wes Bentley) who is obsessed with her.

Bentley, known for his terrific role in American Beauty (1999) is the main reason to see this film. He plays creepy and obsessed very well and is a great villain. His piercing blue eyes are intense and frightening and his obsession with Elvis Presley and his dog is revealed. He is clearly disturbed though for no apparent reason, which is not positive to any character development. Why is he crazy?

When Thomas plays Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” over the intercom it’s a festive and delightfully morbid highlight.

I desired to know what makes Thomas tick and why he prays on Angela. Has he been watching her for months or does he simply see an opportunity on this particular night and go for the gusto? The plot reveals a bit of both which is unsatisfying because there is no payoff. Does he knock out and kidnap Angela because she rebuffs his advances or would he have done this anyway if she agreed to dinner?

He is in love with her but why? It’s not that she isn’t a catch. She is pretty and a successful businesswoman with a good head on her shoulders. Does she reject him because she gets a bad vibe or because he’s a security guard? I wanted more backstory for both main characters but once she is chained to a table it hardly matters. He’s gone too far off the deep especially after it’s revealed he has killed others. Thomas’s motivations are not satisfying.

Nichols, a novice actress, is very good at her role. She carries the film and is in a state of peril most of the time. But she neither overacts nor plays the victim. There is a nice balance of terror and figuring out what steps to take to save her life and flee the madman.

P2 possesses a female-empowerment vibe but Angela does appear in skimpy clothing thus issuing the standard state of undress required by their female stars, a formula many horror films stick to. Angela is smart, quick-thinking, and strong. She tries to outsmart her capturer and more often than not she does and she is victorious in the end. Surprise!

I noticed multiple nods to the Saw (2004-2017) franchise since this series introduced and embraced the torture-horror genre. Many horror films used this technique to shock and startle viewers instead of providing clever writing or story. The use of videotape appears in P2 which borrows heavily from Saw.

P2 (2007) is a fine effort and will satisfy horror fans. It may tread into familiar territory and back itself into a corner with limited story possibility, but I did look over my shoulder a couple of times after viewing the film when I was in my building’s parking garage. Ironically, I was on level P2. Maybe the film did leave an impression after all?

Terror Train-1980

Terror Train-1980

Director-Roger Spottiswoode

Starring-Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis

Scott’s Review #1,098

Reviewed January 5, 2021

Grade: B+

Terror Train (1980) is a creepy slasher film released amid the heyday of the genre’s popularity. It embraces a familiar formula of teenage party victims but adds a helping of red herrings/whodunit twists, which catapults it above mediocrity and will keep audiences engaged until the finale.

Helpful is the casting of the “scream queen” of the time, Jamie Lee Curtis, who is the main attraction and obviously the “final girl”. Her casting adds credibility and star power. The film serves as a puzzle and the ending is difficult to predict with many twists and turns along the way. A perfect watch for a snowy New Year’s Eve, when the film is set.

Events begin three years before the happenings in the main story, naturally at a New Year’s Eve fraternity party, inhabited by a group of energetic pre-medical students looking for a good time. Alana Maxwell (Curtis) is coaxed into participating in a cruel joke meant to lure an insecure pledge, Kenny (Derek MacKinnon) to a bedroom with the promise of sex. Instead of becoming a light-hearted prank the group later laughs about, the joke spirals Kenny into insanity and a long stay at a mental institution.

Reunited for another party, this time on a train, bitter cold and snowy New Year’s Eve is again the setting. The same group, now forgetting all about the prank, unwittingly boards the train for a night of booze, laughs, and partying. This time, a costume party is on the menu, which is convenient for a disguised killer intending to spend the night murdering the partygoers. He first kills Ed (Howard Busgang) on the tracks and takes his Groucho Marx costume to confuse everyone else. A mysterious magician and assistant are aboard to provide entertainment.

The film belongs to Curtis, of course. The idea was to create “Halloween on a train”. As much as Halloween (1978) is superior and scarier, Terror Train is cleverer. Many a red herring can be found throughout the story so that a deduction of the killer’s identity can quickly be questioned. Curtis, a popular star with the younger set in 1980, inevitably led fans to the movie theater to see Terror Train. The comparisons to Halloween are apt- both feature disguises, masks, costumes, and mayhem.

The casting of Ben Johnson as Carne, the train conductor, an actor making films since the 1930s, and winning an Oscar for The Last Picture Show in 1971, provides the patriarchal character like Donald Pleasance did in Halloween. Despite the vulnerability of being on a train speeding through the middle of nowhere on a frigid winter night with a killer on board, having a father figure and voice of reason is reassuring. And the casting agents were lucky to get him.

The vibe in Terror Train is great and the setting works wonderfully. An ode to Hitchcock, the train is an effective place for suspense or murder. The victims have few places to hide and a long tube with dark seats and hidden compartments while they disappear one by one is perfect horror fodder.

The gripe is that the identity of the killer is painfully obvious. Spoiler alert- it’s who you think it is! After the film, I was left feeling tricked and bamboozled. But, just like the mysterious magician, all is not what it seems. Newcomer director, Roger Spottiswood, casts real-life magician, David Copperfield, for good effect, and the star does a fairly good job of adding tension and looking sinister. When the big revelation is upon us, a cool gender-bender treat awaits, but the killer is predictable, nonetheless.

A quick nod to the inclusion of some diversity, few and far between in 1980 slasher fare. One of the fraternity brothers is a black male. The character is handsome, arrogant, and quickly gets his comeuppance, but the addition is to be noted.

Terror Train (1980) is an atmospheric and surprisingly good holiday-themed slasher film that flies under the radar. Snuggle under a warm blanket, break open the midnight champagne, and enjoy the claustrophobic and frightening post-Christmas trimmings.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives-1986

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives-1986

Director-Tom McLoughlin

Starring-Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke

Scott’s Review #1,074

Reviewed October 26, 2020

Grade: B-

Due to the fan outrage that surrounded Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), a film I thought was decent, the powers that be decided that a return to form was in order, quickly resurrecting Jason in the corniest of ways. Re-discovering the “real Jason” is not the worst idea in the world but the execution is not there and I’m not crazy about the introduction of “superhuman” Jason. How is anyone supposed to ever kill him?

Adding comedy and children is okay with me but both ideas largely fall flat when paired with inadequate acting and gimmicky sitcom situations with no character development. There is no time invested in getting to know any of the characters. The heavy metal soundtrack, featuring the music of Alice Cooper, is the best part. The film isn’t helped by a slicker 1980’s visual look though this does come with better production values. Not the greatest of all the Fridays.

The chapter gets off to a compelling start when Tommy (Thom Mathews) and his friend Allen Hawes (Ron Palillo- yes, Horshack from the Welcome Back Kotter television series) trudge through the rain and mud back to Camp Crystal Lake to finally bury Tommy’s demons.

Fans of the series will recall that Tommy did a stint in Pinehurst Halfway House and a pretend Jason went on a killing spree to avenge his son’s death. The friends dig up the grave of Jason. The murderer is struck by lightning and magically comes back to life, killing Allen. Tommy spends the rest of the film trying to warn the town that Jason is alive and well and back on a deadly rampage.

The camp has been renamed to the more pleasant-sounding Forest Green to make people forget that numerous killings have ever taken place. This seems to have worked as a busload of kid’s flock to the camp for a summer of fun along with the usual batch of camp counselors in tow.

To the film’s credit, like with its predecessor, there is a black character, this time a counselor named Sissy Baker (Renee Jones), and some of the child characters offer different ethnicities. The diversity and inclusiveness are to be admired, but unfortunately for Sissy, she is dragged through a window and savagely beheaded. Jason kindly spares the kids.

I like how there is consistency in keeping the main character Tommy Jarvis, albeit with a different actor. We’ll probably never know why it was decided to recast John Shepherd with Thom Mathews, but the actors look enough alike to avoid too much confusion. Like Shepherd, Mathews possesses a wounded look which makes the casting adequate.

There is a rooting quality to Tommy especially as he faces adversity with the police department. Sheriff Garris and Deputy Rick are played purely as foils and are a roadblock to capturing Jason.

Any attempt at romantic chemistry between Tommy and Megan (Jennifer Cooke) falls flat because there simply isn’t any between the actors, try as they might. Neither are the best actors in the world (not a requirement for the horror genre) but have the right, fresh-faced look warranted to be cast. Megan is the only person who believes Tommy as they race to the camp to stop and kill Jason.

The rest of the film is more of the same and offers no surprises except for more humor. A coked-up pair having sex in a motorhome and a group of corporate types on a paintball outing are examples of this. The four “suits” beheaded by a machete are the best part of the otherwise campy and obnoxious sequence. The rest of the characters are killed off systematically with nothing especially interesting to add to the film.

Writer and director Tom McLoughlin attempts to revitalize the aging series and genre with more special effects and techniques and does little else to freshen his characters. It would have been nice to get to know some of them better. By 1986 the slasher film needed rest and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is a dull entry in the series catalog. There is nothing terrible about the film, nor is there anything memorable either.

When a Stranger Calls-1979

When a Stranger Calls-1979

Director-Fred Walton

Starring-Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Tony Beckley

Scott’s Review #1,046

Reviewed July 29, 2020

Grade: B+

When a Stranger Calls (1979) has the great honor of possessing one of the most frightening twenty minutes in horror film history, kicking the daylights out of the stunned and transfixed viewer from the first frame. While still a very good film, the pacing slows down and changes into a different kind of film before kicking back into high- gear again for the final twenty minutes of action. This results in some imbalance and imperfections throughout. Carol Kane, Tony Beckley, and Colleen Dewhurst make the film as good as it is and are the standouts for me.

Teenage babysitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) calmly walks through an affluent California neighborhood for a quiet evening of watching two children. The doctor and his wife are embarking on a night of dinner and a movie and the children will be no trouble, Jill is told since they are recovering from colds and are already fast asleep in their beds. Shortly after they leave, Jill begins to receive odd phone calls from a man simply asking, “have you checked the children”? At first, assumed to be a practical joke, the calls become more menacing prompting Jill to get the police involved.

Now terrified, Jill is told by the alarmed police to calmly get out of the house because the calls she is receiving are coming from inside the house! She flees and is met head-on by Detective John Clifford (Charles Durning), who apprehends an English merchant seaman named Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley), who has ripped the children to shreds with his bare hands. He is subsequently sent to asylum only to escape seven years later prompting Clifford to hunt him down like an animal.

The film is really sectioned into two segments and multiple genres. The beginning and conclusion are standard horror sequences while the guts of the film delve into a psychological thriller or crime drama territory with similarities to Dirty Harry (1971) emerging. Clifford spends much of his time trying to track down Duncan in a cat and mouse game throughout Los Angeles. Colleen Dewhurst plays a middle-aged woman who catches the eye of Duncan one night in a seedy downtown nightclub.

Director, Fred Walton, makes Clifford a hard-edged, grizzled detective who has seen it all and has no mercy for Duncan, intent on killing him rather than capturing him. Durning is not the best part of the film and the role might have been cast with a more charismatic actor.

Perplexing is what Duncan’s motivation is for killing other than simply being crazy which is not a good enough explanation. Was he abused as a child? During some scenes, he is sympathetic, more like a wounded child than a crazed killer. He simply wants a friend, whereas Clifford, the good guy, is sometimes unsympathetic and tough to root for.

With “deer caught in headlight’s eyes” expressions and emotions, Kane’s Jill is brilliant using her eyes to great benefit. The audience feels her peril, fear, and panic during her scenes. When Duncan resurfaces looking for her again (though it’s not clear why he obsesses over her), her nice life, two children, and husband’s lives are all placed in jeopardy. Dewhurst, who could have easily been cast as the lead in Gloria (1980) is tough as nails and no-nonsense, though she does feel sympathy and some attraction for Duncan.

In 1996, when Scream was released and provided the oomph that the horror genre desperately needed, thanks was justifiably given to When a Stranger Calls for its mighty influence. The first twelve minutes of Scream are a direct homage to this film when a stranger calls (pun intended!) and the leading lady’s life spirals out of control due to a phone call and a menacing voice. Parts of the opening sequence are influenced by Black Christmas (1974) a brilliant horror film instrumental in the making of so many others. The revelation that the killer is inside the house is a plot device that remains scary and satisfying.

Offering a cross-genre approach that works best with the terrifying horror elements, When a Stranger Calls (1979) is a sometimes terrific and sometimes an uneven picture. Thanks to compelling acting, the slowed-down middle portion does not ruin the entire experience, but what an erupting and memorable beginning and end. Followed by an unsuccessful sequel and an even more disappointing remake in 2006.

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 the great acting ability is a nicety not a necessity in slasher films.

The visuals are also entertaining, which has 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 1970s and the early 1980s, 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, be 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.

As 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. The 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 around two in the role is not the film’s 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 filmmakers 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 the history of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger, who turns out to be 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 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 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), which 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 the 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, a decapitation, and a chase with an ax by a 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 witnessed 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 characters 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. Enough is going on to please horror fans seeking thrills.

Not a bad effort, Prom Night (1980) captures the viewer’s attention immediately and never is dull. The one-hour and twenty-nine minutes of the running time is a smart move as quick and easy can be described in the film. The surprise reveals 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 1980s, 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-1980s. 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-2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street-2010

Director-Samuel Bayer

Starring-Jackie Earle Haley

Scott’s Review #1,023

Reviewed May 14, 2020

Grade: C-

Rather a pointless remake, but unsurprising given the speedy attempts at re-doing almost every successful horror franchise in recent memory, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) offers nothing that the original did not provide better.

Any film that is considered a dud with the word “nightmare” in the title is ripe for the picking as far as jokes and mockery go. The film is not too terrible but is rather mediocre and average to the taste. There is no reason to watch this offering over 1984 original, besides perhaps a moment of curiosity.

A quick recap or re-introduction. Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a serial killer who crosses the worlds of dreams and reality to slice and dice his victims with his razor-sharp blade-fingered glove, is on the loose in small-town America.

As Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her pals fight for their lives, they also uncover clues to a shocking secret from their past. Freddy was a known child molester decades earlier and was tracked down and burned alive by angry parents seeking revenge after he escaped prison. He has vowed to destroy the children of those parents who all conveniently still live in the same town.

Capitalizing on the box-office success of a commercially successful yet critically sub-par 2009 offering of Friday the 13th, the light bulb went off and A Nightmare on Elm Street was green-lit and born. The intention was to make Freddy and the film harsher and scarier than the 1984 original.

This is a severe misstep as what made the original so good was the character of Freddy. What 1980’s teenager doesn’t fondly recall oozing with delight at Freddy’s one-liners and quips as he playfully toys with his pray before slitting their throats? New Freddy is sinister, violent, and banal. Boring!

Earle Haley, a character actor known for 1977’s Breaking Away and finding a well-deserved career resurgence with the brilliant Little Children (2006) is cast as the brutal villain, sans any of the humor. The actor, small in stature, is cast well on paper and doesn’t purposely ruin the role. It’s just that he is not Robert Englund and therefore never has a chance.

While admittedly Earle Haley is menacing, he lacks the charisma and charm to do very much with the role except try to recreate something that is not his, to begin with.

The rest of the teens in the cast are decent but hardly spectacular. The “final girl” is Nancy Thompson (Rooney Mara) changed to Nancy Holbrook in this version in another eye-rolling mistake since no reason is explained for the name change. It’s like changing Freddy Krueger’s name to Freddy Kelly. Regardless, Mara champions on in a role she is way too good for. The actress, about to reach stardom for gems like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Carol (2015) clearly needed the paycheck and a start. Fair enough.

From a visual standpoint, the film has some jump scares and frights that are stock fare for slick, mainstream horror films, almost now becoming clichés. The sets are decent with some of the houses and, a church, worthy of mention. Darkness is the main ingredient of this film- it is horror after all, and the filming has a very dark texture even during bright scenes. Some nice kills flesh out the rest of the experience.

If there is money to be made in Hollywood, it will be made. The true motivator of remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) was profit over art. This is a reality and not so much a criticism, after all, it’s called the entertainment biz for a reason. The changes made to the script do it no favors and if a remake had to be done, it was better left alone and not fooled with. Jackie Earle Haley does his best, but he is not and never will be the real Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund has that dubious honor.

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 is 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 Langenkamp), 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?

The 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 genre’s 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 fan’s 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 1980s.

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 parent’s murders and later is forced to play Santa Claus for the Christmas party when a co-worker falls ill.

As the staff becomes 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 filmmakers, 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 1980s. 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 fewer “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. Cleverly, 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 victim’s chest while resting on a hammock, 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 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 star of the film (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 set up 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 authority’s 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 real 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 car the counselor’s drive (a truck) is 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 1980s, 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 1980s 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), is 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 but also introduced younger fans of Scream to classics that were perhaps their parent’s 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 parent’s 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 killer’s 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 has 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 killer’s gloved hands and we are aware that the victim is friendly with the killer, so we continually try and deduce who it could 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 as 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 have many wonderful memories of Friday the 13th 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 to making a “Friday The 13th Part 11” since that’s really what it was. In essence, an entirely new storyline 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 unlikeable- 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 attempting 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- decides to stay at the lake where a group of partying kids takes 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.