‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’

Film: Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Rated: R


Directed by: Chuck Russell

Written by: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont

Starring: Patricia Arquette as Kirsten

             Craig Wasson as

             Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson

             John Saxon as

             Larry Fishburne as Max

 Tagline: If You Think You’ll Get Out Alive, You Must Be Dreaming.

 By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

 Pre-screening memories: A Nightmare on Elm Street is an American horror classic.  Wes Craven’s original chiller took horror into the dreams of teenagers, threatening audiences with a terrifying mantra: If you die in your sleep, you die for real.  It was effective and genuinely disturbing. 

Unfortunately, there was a sequel.

The follow-up, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was done without the involvement of Craven, and boy does it ever show.  Enter A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner were given a polish by Chuck Russell (who also directed) and Frank Darabont, and the result was a movie I must have seen a half dozen times during my youth.

There were images that stuck in my mind, mostly that of a wonderfully gratuitous nude scene and the Harryhausen-esque battle with a skeletal Freddy Krueger at the film’s conclusion.  By the time Dream Warriors came along, I was already a horror fan, but this was one that found a place on the video shelf, recorded from HBO back in the old VHS days, and watched on many a dark night.  There was something appealing about it, and I had very fond memories of the inventive uses of Krueger as dream villain in the movie.  In particular, Freddy as a giant snake stuck out as a particularly fun moment, including the creature almost swallowing a victim whole.

I was apprehensive about seeing this again, mostly because I liked remembering this movie fondly.  There is nothing more disheartening than returning to a movie that has so much nostalgia value, only to find that it has lost all its appeal, and you have lost a tiny piece of your childhood.

New memories: As I watched it as an adult, with more than 15 years between viewings, I reminded myself that even if it lost its sheen, it still held a place of honor in my memory.  What I realized halfway through the film was that I was having a good time.  The plot is clever enough:  Kirsten, played by Patricia Arquette in a very early role, if not her first, is having dreams of the burned and malicious Freddy.  What’s worse, Freddy’s modus operandi is to kill children in such a way that the kids appear to have committed suicide.  Kirsten is interrupted before Freddy succeeds, but she gets some wicked cuts on her wrists that lead to her institutionalization.  There, she meets a group of fellow Freddy survivors who insist they are being hunted in their dreams, but the doctors overseeing them, led by Craig Wasson in the role of Dr. Neil Gordon, aren’t buying it.  In steps Nancy Thompson, the survivor of Elm Street 1, now a therapist specializing in dream research.  Assigned to the hospital, she takes up the kids’ cause in an attempt to save them.  More interestingly, Dr. Gordon is having visions of a nun who reveals the secrets of Freddy’s past and the method of his destruction.  As he pursues the remains of Freddy, the adolescent patients discover that Kristen can draw them together in Freddy’s dream world, and that they possess special powers there, powers that may save them.

It’s actually a pretty compelling plot, not without some goofy turns, but it feels ambitious and complete.  I’d be curious to know just how much Frank (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) Darabont contributed to the script, but it’s a decent effort and head and shoulders above the previous sequel.  There are some downsides, of course.  Heather Langenkamp just isn’t a great actress, and her turn here as Nancy is frequently awkward.  Craig Wasson appears to be forever teetering on the brink of confusion.  The kids, on the other hand, are pretty damn good.  Patricia Arquette has a shrill scream that belongs in this sort of film, and an early performance by Jennifer Rubin as Taryn is also noteworthy.  Throw in Laurence Fishburne as the kindly orderly Max, and the return of John Saxon as Nancy’s pop is a blast.

The effects hold up well, too, especially the creative uses of Freddy in various forms, the first time in the series Freddy finds himself morphing into a variety of guises to stalk his victims.  The whole movie plays down the straight horror of the original to tell a more fun adolescent adventure.  The themes of youth versus authority and faith versus science pop up, but the movie never feels distracted from moving the plot along to the fairly satisfying ending.  The revelations of Freddy’s parentage leads to the best line of the film (“The bastard son of a hundred maniacs.”) and don’t feel like a reach, and the moment when Freddy reveals the fates of his victims is sufficiently creepy.  Also, there’s a hokey reunion between Nancy and her father that ends in a nice, dark surprise.

I feel like Dream Warriors is one of the more successful sequels in the realm of horror, if flawed and a bit dated.  The schlocky subtitle aside, the series could and should have ended here.  It was a fitting resolution and offered real fun.  This isn’t a movie I see myself returning to again and again, but every decade or so, it may just find its way into the DVD player to remind myself that not every film from childhood is worse than you remember, and that Dokken still rocks.

 

Find out why Bo still suffers from night sweats after so many years after Dream Warriors by listening to the podcast below, downloading it here, or heading to iTunes! (Welcome to team Natsukashi , Bo!)

 

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‘Hooper’

Film: Hooper (1978)
Rated: PG
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Walt Green and Walter Herdon
Starring: Burt Reynolds as Sonny Hooper
              Sally Field as Gwen Doyle
              James Best as Cully
              Jan-Michael Vincent as ‘Ski’ Chinski
              Brian Keith as Jocko Doyle
Tagline: “Ain’t nobody can fly a car like Hooper!”

By George Kaplan Roger Thornhill

Pre-screening memories: If the ’70s had a Johnny Knoxville, his name was Evel Knievel. His death-defying acts inspired millions of young kneee-scrapers to shatter bones they had not even learned about yet in science class. Of course, his stunts were much more of a spectacle than the rag-tag Jackass gang — flaming hoops, rocket-powered cars, etc. But it spawned a cottage industry of carelessness as we took to our BMX bikes, attempting to duplicate such feats of derring-do.

He also helped shine a temporary light on the unsung hero of the film and television industry — the stuntman. Hal Needham, a former stuntman himself, seized on this opportunity as a director, and played to the good ol’ boy masses that like to see things get blowed up read good.

Filling his films with gears and beers, his films were like porn to this 9 year old. I wanted to be Sonny Hooper. Forget the fact that it was still another severn years until I was to get my driver’s license, I could still emulate all the stunts with my Mongoose BMX bike and a few piles of strategically placed dirt.

To me, Sonny Hooper was the real deal. Even if all of his stunts were actually done by someone else.

Was George Kaplan Roger Thornhill still doing wheelies on his repeat viewing of Hooper? Check out the podcast here, or listen below.

‘Night of the Demons’

Title: Night of the Demons (1988)
Rated: R
Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Starring: Linnea Quigley as Suzanne
                Amelia Kinkaid as Angela
                Billy Gallo as Sal
Tagline: “Angela is having a party…Freddy and Jason are too scared to come. But you’ll have a hell of a time.”           

By Shelley Stillo

Pre-screening memories: When people ask me to recommend a legitimately scary movie, I’ll usually say Nightmare on Elm Street or Night of the Demons.  Trouble is, I don’t remember the first thing about Night of the Demons. Sitting down to write these pre-screening memories has revealed to me that I can honestly only conjure up one scene from the entire movie.  And what I remember isn’t really scary.  So why has this film stuck with me all of these years? 

It may be because I also remember it as one of the naughtiest films I’ve ever seen.  I don’t remember why, but I do know that my prudish 12-year-old self was shocked by this film.  And if there is any stage when fear and sex combined are going to make their strongest impression, it would be the preteen years. I’m not sure, given the fact that I’ve oft thought about this film, why I haven’t taken the opportunity to revisit it before.  One reason might be that, as I got older and started enjoying my horror with company, I was afraid the film would be even naughtier than I remembered, and lead to an embarrassing group viewing experience.  (This has really happened to me–more than once–with the odd anime screening).

The one scene I do remember from the film does nothing to underscore either the films’ scariness nor its naughtiness.  It is a “Twilight Zone”-style morality moment that occurs at the end of the film.  At some point in the movie, we are introduced to an elderly man who plans to put razor blades in his apples on Halloween night.  In the final moments of the film, his wife decides to bake him an apple pie.  He realizes, with shock, horror, and dismay, that the pie has been made of left over apples just as several razor blades cut through his throat.  How he managed to chew and swallow the razor blades without noticing them, and while leaving them intact enough to cut through his flesh, is anyone’s guess.  When his wife smiles at the end of the film, we realize that she has killed him on purpose, likely as revenge for his feeding razor blades to the kids in the first place.  I’m sure, as an avid watcher of weekly television horror and sci-fi programs, I didn’t find this moment in the least scary, but I was satisfied with the joke.

New memories:  Immediately after I re-viewed this film, I was fairly stunned that I’d remembered it at all.  It was still plenty naughty, maybe a little more than other ’80s horrors (though certainly no more naughty than Revenge of the Nerds), but it wasn’t scary, or even that interesting.  It has a very standard plot:  a group of teens, featuring all the typical players — the good girl, the ‘greaser,’ the token black guy, the goth girl, the slut, the party couple, etc. — break into an abandoned funeral parlor to throw a Halloween party.  They decide to hold a seance and unknowingly unleash a demonic force that commences to possess the party guests one by one. Who will survive to party another day?

I kept thinking about the movie though.  It would have been easy to say “well, what a 12 year old found appealing in 1988 just isn’t appealing anymore.”  But I couldn’t just leave it at that because this movie continues to have a very solid reputation among horror fans; yes, even those who have seen it recently as adults.  I kept trying to think what could make this movie “hold up” for so many people.  One reason is certainly the appearance of horror goddess Linnea Quigley in the film, who teases here certainly capitalize on her tombstone striptease from Return of the Living Dead.  But I think the real appeal of this film is how it simply embraces the genre, its heights and its foibles.  It never moves into the realm of horror comedy, but it doesn’t take itself seriously.  Without pretension, it uses the tools — self consciously, I’m beginning to suspect — the genre provides and runs riot with them.  So, unless you’re trying to recapture an experience that is 15 years gone, and mostly forgotten, it is easy to get into the spirit of the film and go revel in the fun.  It’s not a film that exceeds genre expectations, but its not a soulless regurgitation of them either.

Would Shelley still accept the invitation to the party? Find out here, or listen below:

‘Ernest Scared Stupid’

Title: Ernest Scared Stupid (1990)
Rated: PG
Directed by: John Cherry III
Starring: Jim Varney as Ernest P. Warrell
              Eartha Kitt as Old Lady Hackmore
              Austin Nagler as Kenny
              Barkley as Rimshot

By Whitney from dear jesus

Pre-Screening Memories: People can go on and on about The Exorcist as much as they want, but as far as I’m concerned, Ernest Scared Stupid is the scariest movie ever made.

My memories of Ernest Scared Stupid are highly anecdotal. I remember the experience much more than the film itself, which seems only natural seeing as I was 7 and it was the first movie I ever saw in theaters.

First and foremost, there was my cousin’s bangs. Utah is known – in some, probably jealous, circles – for its very distinctive, early 90s hairstyles. My cousin sported what was called the “Utah Claw.” You curl the top half up, the bottom half down, and ratt ratt ratt. Beautiful. Anyway, she couldn’t get it quite right and my entire family was late to the movie because of it. I remember a lot of crying, a lot of screaming, and a lot of hairspray.

My mom didn’t go with us, so my dad – being the less frugal of my parents – went ahead and bought us popcorn, which I thought was just the shit. As a seriously poor, dumpster-diving young family, this was one of maybe four times I remember getting popcorn in a movie theatre. On later dates we ate microwave popcorn and Tootsie Rolls out of my mom’s purse. But in the case of Ernest, we gorged!

And as far as the movie was concerned? Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Let’s just forget the fact that the whole plot is centered on trolls that steal children and turn them into wooden dolls, it also features the seriously scary faces of Ernest and Eartha Kitt interacting as though they were human. I wish my cousin’s bangs had made us later, because if I remember correctly the beginning of the film takes place under a tree stump full of little children dolls. Being a child, and not wanting to be a doll, this was not a pleasant experience.

I spent the middle section of the film on the floor, eating popcorn and hiding from the trolls. I remember the ending lightening up a bit and a mention of “Miak,” but that about sums up my memories of what I’m sure is a film classic called Ernest Scared Stupid.

How stupid was Whitney scared on her repeat viewing? You can download the podcast here, or have a listen below, knowwhutimean?

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