Thursday, July 18, 2013

Freddy Vs. Jason

Lean on me
when you're not strong
and I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on

- Bill Withers

I haven't seen this movie since it came out and I remember hating it. Not just kind of hating it. Really really hating it. As in I wanted to smack it with a shovel, bury it, then watch it come back to life so I could have the pleasure of making it all dead once more.

Well, time must have softened me a bit because I didn't hate it as much when I recently watched it for a review, but it's far, far from good.

The plot (if one can actually call the thin thread holding everything together a plot) is that Freddy is trapped in the nightmare world and needs Jason Voorhees to bring him back somehow. This involves a bunch of teens, including Lori who lives in Nancy's old house but inexplicably doesn't know who Freddy is, and her friends who all exist so they can get killed. Eventually the plot becomes a fight between Jason and Freddy, but not before we're all a bit bored and annoyed.

So Freddy vs. Jason. Who wins?

Jason. Jason wins.

Okay, let's clarify. There is no clear winner, even the ambiguous ending let's us know that. But I'm talking about who wins the movie. And Jason wins. This sounds like a strange thing coming from a girl who loves her some Nightmare and could care less about Friday the 13th (See my taken on F13 movies in  the Friday the 13th Marathon Experiment).

So why Jason? Jason is bigger, more terrifying and more interesting in this movie than he ever was in any of the Friday the 13th movies. I know there were a lot of people upset that Kane Hodder didn't play him this time around. I understood. But here's the thing, you don't miss him. He's played this time by stunt guy Ken Kirzinger (who did a Jason stunt in F13 Part 8 by the way) and he makes a wonderful Jason. He's big, he's hulking, he's threatening and also sort of weirdly sympathetic. When he's being scolded by his mother (a trick by Freddy) he manages to convey an odd sort of pathos,  even through the mask, with a tilt of the head, a look in the eyes and a slump of the shoulders. Heck, at one point he transforms back into his little deformed kid self and it's actually sad to watch. Ironically, that doesn't make him any less scary. It just adds a little more depth to his character.

Freddy on the other hand is anything but sympathetic, as well he shouldn't be. He was a child killer and there's no redemption there. So that's fine, he's supposed to be bad. But he's so obnoxious and talks so much here that I wasn't so much scared as wishing he would shut the hell up. Don't get me wrong, I love Robert Englund, but here he's playing Freddy like he did in Part 6 - all talk, no substance and absolutely not scary. Sorry Freddy, you know I loves ya, but Jason is outclassing you here...which is weird.  Interestingly enough, Jason also has the better make-up, which is again...very weird.

The kids are universally terrible, especially Monica Keenan's Lori, who we're supposed to feel for, but just is so annoying you'd wish Freddy would shut up and skewer her already. These are kids who go to a rave to dance and party after their friend was violently murdered and snapped in two the night before. They're obnoxious, they're useless, and you want them dead. The only bright spot  in this mess is Brendan Fletcher, who plays escaped teen mental patient Mark Davis - a guy who has encountered Freddy before and wants to help stop him before he kills again. He's a fun character who you actually would like to see survive. Of course he doesn't, but you kind of root for him while he's still around.

So I didn't hate this movie as much as once did, and that's not quite a glowing recommendation because I still hated it. And this concludes my Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon Experiment. So  what have I learned? Well that Freddy is best when he's scary and the Nightmare movies that worked best are the ones that focus on the kids. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back and watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy at his finest.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the re-make you can read my thoughts on it in a segment I call The Live Blogging of a Crap Horror Film.

Nighty-night all and sweet dreams....

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • Jason calmly walking through the corn rows at the rave whilst on fire and butchering any teen that falls into his path.
  • Jason's house which is brilliant - with rotting corpses and swampy atmosphere. It looks like a place the big lug would call home. And it looks like it would smell. Badly.
  • The coma patients in the mental ward, suddenly sitting up and pointing Freeburg to the Hypnocil. It's creepy and effective, which is something the rest of the movie lacks.
  • Jason coming out of the water, holding Freddy's head - which winks. Nice.
Fun Facts Kids!
  • Katherine Isabel (Gibb) refused to do nudity, so a body double was used for her shower scene.
  • Freddy only kills one person in the movie. The rest of the kills are all Jason's.
  • Even though Ken Kirzinger is a professional stuntman, the movie makers still insisted on using a stuntman for him in a few scenes. 
  • The original ending had Lori and her love interest Will about to have sex for the first time, when he rises up with a claw and kills her. (I saw it on the extras and let's just say...they were wise to cut it.)
Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

I never was the kind to sleep light
but then I never had these kind of nights 
Something evil watching over me 
And I'm afraid this ain't no fantasy

- 213

Is it over?  Is it really over? Of course not, nothing is over (until it becomes unprofitable) so fans asked for it. And they got it.  But I'm kind of unsure what they got at this point.

I have to admit, I don't think I'd ever sat through this movie before, although I'd seen bits and pieces it never seemed to hold my interest. I'm glad I sat through it this time, but it still took a concerted effort. We start off with a nifty little dream sequence featuring a Freddy special effect gone terribly wrong and a rude awakening via an earthquake. There we meet the beautiful Heather Langenkamp playing herself, her husband Chase (David Newsome) and their little kid Dylan (Miko Hughes, the creepy child from Pet Semetary.) But all is not well in the household. Poor Heather is being stalked by someone leaving Freddy calls, and, as it turns out, Freddy himself may actually be real as the pages of a script for an upcoming Nightmare movie are, apparently, writing themselves.

New Nightmare was written and directed by Wes Craven and marks his return to the dead franchise. And it's obvious Wes loves the character that he created and that he wanted to bring NOES back to it's scary roots. I applaud that. Good for him. The issue I have is that this is a movie that takes itself seriously. No, wait....very seriously.  Extremely, extremely extremely seriously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. More on that later.

First let's talk about Heather. She looks fabulous here and seems comfortable playing herself, but she isn't given a whole lot to do in the script. She starts out by worrying and fretting, continues to worry and fret and finally ends with her screaming a lot whilst worrying and fretting. I can understand this, as she seems to live in a place where earthquakes occur daily, and the original Nightmare on Elm Street plays on TV 24/7 but it would be nice to see her have a few happy family moments before all the craziness begins.

Apart from Heather we also get to see a couple of NOES actors playing themselves. There's John Saxon (who hasn't aged a day since the first movie), and of course Robert Englund, whose in a few small scenes, the most memorable being one where he's talking to Heather on the phone while painting a disturbing picture right out of a nightmare. Tuesday Knight from Part 4 and Nick Corri from the original also show up briefly during a funeral scene.

Well, what about Freddy? He looks...different. I mean, I know what the make-up people were going for.  And even though it's an uncredited Robert playing him here, he looks nothing like him. Which is good, the better to make Freddy a character completely separate from Robert Englund. I get it. But the make-up is just...bad. It's kind of like Jason 2.0 in Jason X. Sure it's modern, but that doesn't make it better. The green hat and trench coat have got to go. Freddy in leather pants is just plain wrong. And can you say "bone claws?" Sorry Wolverine, but it looks like Freddy stole your schtick. Oh Freddy, you were far more contemporary in a dirty green and red sweater and old fedora. Fire your stylist.

Oh, and the story. The premise is great, Freddy is becoming real, Heather is freaking out and somehow her child is involved. But how is the child involved? Sometimes it appears as though Freddy wants to possess the kid. Then others he's using the kid to get at Heather. And then there's a stuffed dinosaur that Dylan feels protects him. Oh and the kid is sleep-deprived, talking to himself and growling like Freddy. I don't know, none of it made much sense. And...then there's the kid. Well kudos to Miko for growing up and staying out of trouble, unlike most child actors. He looks great today and every bit as cute as he did back then. But back then, every time he plays scared or evil, you kind of want him to shut up. It's more annoying than terrifying.

Let's get back to the "serious" problem.  It's all well and good to want to make something less cheesy than the past ones. But this adds a whole lot of cheese on top of cheese that is in essence, humorless. Okay, Heather having to go through all these ordeals at once is somewhat believable and she handles it well. But her kid playing in traffic, while a gigantic animated claw dangles him is just plain stupid. As is the "looks like taffy" tongue wrapping itself around Heather/Nancy trying to kill her. And Freddy trying to "eat" Dylan is one of the worst special effects moments in the series. Yeah I said it. It's dumb. But it's played serious. Why?

There are little nods to the original. "Screw your hallpass!" and the babysitter death in the revolving room for example. But they have little to no impact except for the audience to say "Hey I remember that from the original" so they're pretty useless.

So this is the last one (not counting the remake).  Should you watch it? Sure, why not? If only to see Heather. But will you enjoy it?  Jury's out on that one. Your call.

And that concludes my canon-style review of the NOES series!
Oh wait. I forgot Freddy vs. Jason. 

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • Wes Craven explaining to Heather that he wants her to play Nancy one last time. And the script that's writing itself to include their conversation.
  • It's nice to see Robert Englund as Robert Englund. I wish we could have seen more of him though.
  • John Saxon calling Heather, Nancy. And Heather realizing...she IS Nancy. And suddenly she's in her PJ's in front of Nancy's home. Creepy.
Fun Facts Kids!
  • Heather Langenkamp's real life husband is a special effects artist.
  • Miko Hughes still has the sewed up version of Rex.
  • The PJ's Heather wears and the jacket John Saxon wears when he becomes Nancy's dad were from the original movie. Wes Craven had kept them all those years.
  • The tongue phone scene used the same type of mechanism they used for the original tongue phone scene.
Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment