Re: Rate & Mini-Summarize the Last Movie You Saw
Part 2 is here. Again SPOILERS BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
As horror developed in the decades after the 30s, movies became far more intense and a lot more violent. It eventually culminated in the creation of a new sub-genre of The Slasher flicks. These movies feature iconic killers driven to murder & slay their victims in the most gruesome way imaginable. In its wake, The Slashers exploded to create a whole new spin on horror which spawned a bunch of new clichťs and many more great original ďmovie monstersĒ that endure to this day.
I watched quite a few slasher movies over the last month. There are so many to choose from and many of them spawning tons of sequels. However, I was selective in which films I watched. I opted for the slashers that I felt were the most well known when I was really young: Freddy Krugar, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, & Leatherface.
Institutionalized since the age of six, deeply psychotic & murderous Michael Myers escapes imprisonment & begins to stalk babysitters in his old neighborhood.
To me, this is the best slasher flick ever made. Its not as gory as any of the others on this list, but it doesnít have to be. It succeeds in its simplicity. Director John Carpenter does a great job of building tension & intrigue throughout. Myers is introduced early and is shown stalking through the neighborhood and you know its just a matter of time before he starts killing. Its actually pretty creepy & tense just watching him stalking these mostly unsuspecting victims Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the only babysitter with half a brain, is fun to watch as well and makes a great leading lady for this kind of film. The setting is perfectly believable as a nice & normal neighborhood that is about to have something terrible befall it. Myers himself is what you expect any slasher killer to be: Heís large, mostly silent, has his face hidden with a trademark mask, and has a trademark weapon (in this case a white Captain Kirk mask & butcher knife). He does present an inhuman presence to the film and makes a great villain. The atmosphere is perfectly set here with its music score as well which is easily one of the most recognizable in the genre. And once the killings start, the film never lets up and manages to be scary & atmospheric, and all with very little.
HALLOWEEN II (1981)
Taking place immediately after the events of the first film, Michael Myers eludes capture and tracks down Laurie Strode to the local hospital. Dr. Loomis also learns that there is more motivation behind his madness than originally thought.
This is a pretty cool sequel. I love how it picks up exactly where the first film had its cliffhanger and continues the events of the same Halloween night. It really makes it feel like both entries are two parts of the same film, much like Kill Bill 1 & 2. If you have the time (which I didnít this time around), it would probably be cool to watch them both back to back. For the second movie, the scares are still good, although they definitely raised the violence bar this time around. Also, the relationships between the three main characters (Myers, Laurie, & Loomis) are enhanced a bit as we find out that Laurie is actually Myersí brother. That makes things a bit more personal this time around, and it all culminates in an explosive climax (literally). I have to say that I also liked them running around the hospital as that change of setting adds a lot. Sure, I worked in a hospital and I canít imagine one being that empty even that late at night, but it still makes it feel like Laurie is trapped in a maze with Myers trying to sniff her out. And I also liked that Laurie is incapacitated & medicated throughout the film as that makes her situation more dire.
Now when comparing it to the first film, there are some problems. First of all, why is ďMr. SandmanĒ playing at the start & end of the film? If it were Nightmare on Elm Street I could probably get it, but here it feels like a weak attempt at trying to be funny and it only clashes with the rest of the film. Also, I liked Laurie better in the first film because she was motivated to protect the kids she was babysitting & had to react to save them & herself. Here, sheís just a straight up victim with no real development. Also, the Jimmy character has got to be the biggest idiot trying to be a hero in any slasher film. He doesnít even get killed and he gets taken out by his own clumsiness & stupidity.
But the only thing all those problems add up to is that its just not as good as the first movie. Halloween 2 is still worth checking out and is a fun follow up to the original classic.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Seeking revenge on the parents of Elm Street, dead serial killer Freddy Krueger returns to attack, torture, & murder their children in their dreams.
Freddy is the man! I just have to get that out of the way. While the first Halloween film might be my favorite slasher flick, there is no denying that the Freddy is in a class all his own when it comes to the great movie slashers. Movie slashers are usually one of two things: Either a silent lumbering tower of power that hacks everything in their path to bits (Jason, Myers, Leatherface) or a deeply disturbed psychotic (Bates, Nicholson in the Shining). Freddy borrows elements from both, but has his own unique personality to go along with it. Whenever he kills his prey in the dreams, it feels like an elaborate performance, almost like The Joker. Freddy would become known for his one liners, but that is downplayed in this film.
As a horror film, the first entry in the Nightmare series is quite good. The dream sequences & deaths are pretty elaborate. The premise itself allows the film to have its own identity among the myriad of slasher films out there. And the idea is actually kind of scary. I mean we are at our most vulnerable when we sleep, so to create a villain that attacks in that manner is a pretty disturbing idea. Sometimes the acting is off and the ending was kind of confusing to me (apparently Wes Craven didnít want to put it in so yeah), but those problems are overshadowed by the creativity being utilized & the strength of the Freddy character.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
The original survivor of Freddyís initial dream based attacks, Nancy, finds work interning at a psychiatric ward where the children being institutionalized show signs of being victimized in their dreams. Knowing that Freddy Krueger has returned, Nancy encourages the teenagers to find their inner strength to fight back in the Dream World.
After a boring and uneventful sequel, Part 3 gets the series back on track with a highly entertaining entry. The humor of Freddyís character is in effect by this point as he delivers some of his best comedic moments here (Welcome to Prime Time BITCH!). I also think this film does a much better job of connecting to the events of the first movie, namely by including Nancy and her father, and I like that bit of continuity. The teenaged ďDream WarriorsĒ themselves are a very interesting bunch as well with various quirks & personality traits that make them stand out. And where the film shines is once again in its dream sequences as they get pretty creative this time around (I especially liked using the kids veins to use him as a puppet). Some of it is kind of silly, especially when trying to explain how the kids are able to have these powers in the Dream World, but if you turn your brain off and accept it, the rest of the film works well. I also liked that we got some great details on Freddyís past, specifically his conception which was disturbing to say the least. All in all, Iíd say this one is one of the best showcases for the Freddy character and definitely one of the better Nightmare sequels.
WES CRAVENíS NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
Following the conclusion of the Nightmare on Elm Street film series, various members of the cast & crew that worked on the original film find themselves haunted by a demonic entity that has taken the form of Freddy Kruegar. When Helen Langencamp, the actress who played Nancy, and her family are terrorized, she finds that the only way to defeat this force is to act out the event as if it were a Nightmare film and play Nancy one more time.
This is a great entry in the legacy of the Freddy Krueger character. Iím not even sure what you would call it either. Its not really a sequel as it doesnít continue where the last of the series left off, but it isnít a reboot since it acknowledges that the film series exists. Iím just going to call it a ďBreak-the-4th-Wall-QuelĒ. Yeah that works for me. Its really a creative take on the series to acknowledge that The Nightmare films are a film series and then have Freddy break out into the real world. This approach does feel most appropriate with Freddy since I feel heís the most recognizable of the Slashers & the one that is probably scariest to kids since heís all about hurting them while they sleep. Its nice to see the cast members in their every day normal lives, especially Robert Englund. The appeal though is that we get to see how the real world reacts to the influence that Horror movies have on society. And the Nightmare sequences themselves are once again pretty good. I especially like the redesign for Freddy as he does look more terrifying while also staying recognizable.
Wes Cravenís approach to this film almost feels like a precursor to Scream. Not only do we get the creepy & threatening phone calls, but a lot of the discussions about the impact of the horror genre does feel like dialogue that belongs in that film. It was nice to see Craven toy with some new ideas for the series while at the same time doing some great homages to his original classic. I also have to say that Helen Langencamp really grew as an actress by this point. Watch her in the first film and then watch this one and you can see the improvement. She comes across believably as a concerned mother & as someone dealing with the horrors surrounding her. The only real problem I have is that some of the dialogue regarding the existence of Freddy in the real world is downright confusing. But it matters very little. This movie breaks the formula of The Nightmare films and most slasher films in general and does so exceptionally well. Iíll go out on a limb and pick this as my number one favorite of the Nightmare series & Freddyís finest hour.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
While getting ready to open up the Crystal Lake Summer Camp (an area plague by stories of murder from decades earlier), a group of counselors find themselves victimized by an unseen killer.
I have to say that this film does not hold up very well at all. Re-watching it for the first time in years, I have to say that it comes off as a bad version of Halloween. In retrospect, I think the film really suffers by NOT having Jason Voorhees as the main killer. When you look and see what the series eventually became and how iconic Jason was, not having him in his fully realized glory in the first film makes it feel like there is something missing. Also problematic is how boring the teenagers are. It is a really bland bunch, so much so, that I lost track of who was who before the film was over. Normally in this films you have a group of kids that at least have some trait that makes them stand out. Not here. Its just a bunch of booze & sex hounds that fall victim to an unseen force until the end.
And speaking of that, Iím going into major spoiler territory here, but I have to talk about it. Mrs. Voorhees being the killer has got to be one of the lamest reveals in the history of film. First of all, she is never established or referenced prior to her reveal within the last 15 minutes of the film. We get blasted with exposition & a new character right at the end, and it really feels forced. The only clue we have that sheís the killer is that in the POV shots of the kills, the victims initially show no signs of fear for the stranger. Thatís it. The story of Jason drowning is never referenced until the end so it doesnít even connect to an earlier part of the film. My other major problem with this: ITíS A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN!!! I donít mean to sound sexist or anything, but they expect me to believe that grandma was going around overpowering & murdering all these people? Sorry, I donít buy it. Maybe if they had established her or the Jason story earlier, it would have been easier to accept, but the fact that we get hit with it in the last 15 minutes makes it feel like it was something cooked up by Mr. M. Night. And maybe if they hadnít made Jason the main villain in future entries and he hadnít became as well known as he did, I wouldnít look back on this creative decision so harshly, but it is what it is. Part of me likes to think that Jason was helping her the whole time and we just didnít have that revealed to us.
The film isnít all bad though. The kills are pretty good and there is a nice atmosphere surrounding the film, and I like the setting of a Summer Camp. And the final scare at the end is a really good one. Iím glad that we got sequels out of this though, because the first entry wasnít very impressive.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Another group of counselors are preparing to open up a Summer camp near Crystal Lake, and once again the group is terrorized by a ruthless killer.
Now THIS is more like it. Jason is now the killer for the remainder of the series, and its better off for it. In many ways, this movie is almost identical to the first one. It hits most of the same action beats, the set up is the same, and even the final shock scare is near identical. However, with a better & more lively group of potential victims & Jason in the role of killer, the movie stands out a lot better than the first. Unlike the first film, we do get a nice telling of the story of Jason and how heís sort of the boogeyman in that local area, thought to be only a legend. We also get to see the killer throughout the film, including his own home in the woods which is a pretty creepy setting as its set up as a shrine to his beheaded mother. Jason is a powerful force throughout the film and the manner in which he kills his prey is pretty gruesome in places. Although I do have to applaud them for killing a guy in a wheelchair and sending him down a large flight of stairs. Pretty tacky, but hey it worked, ha ha.
This movie is just good old fashioned cheesy slasher fun. Iíd never rank it up there as one of the best, but I do feel itís a better start to the Friday series than the original film was. My one major problem is Jasonís look. He isnít in his trademark hockey mask yet, but rather looks like a farmer with a pillowcase over his head, sort of like a poor manís Leatherface. He doesnít look scary at all, but they would get the look right in the future.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982)
While on the run after his recent rampage, Jason Voorhees finds himself on an old farmhouse with plenty of new victims at his disposal, including a girl that survived an attack from him two years earlier.
Now this one is a ton of fun. Of the three Friday films I watched, this one definitely had the most colorful group of victims. We had a biker gang, a couple of burnt out hippies, and a practical joker that earned the label of ďThe Boy Who Cried WolfĒ when Jason finally attacked him but no one believed he was in trouble. It felt like this movie really tried to make the victims stand out quite a bit, and I do appreciate that effort as like I said with part 1, blandness of the victims can really take the fun out of it.
And of course the major element of this film I have to talk about is that Jason finally gets the Hockey Mask & uses the machete more prevalently than he had before. The Hockey mask is a much better look for him than the burlap sack in the last film. This is the movie where Friday the 13th finally had its iconic killer. The look wasnít quite complete yet, but the image of Jason in the mask had become too good to drop in future films. Its amazing to think how many entries it took to get Jason to look perfect.
Aside from that, itís the same old fun stuff. The kills got pretty creative this time around and I do like that the main girl had some previous encounter with Jason as that makes their interactions here a bit more personal. The ending was a bit of a cluster and I felt they tried too hard to reenact the ending to the original film, but overall, this is the best of the first three Friday films.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)
A group of unsuspecting travelers find themselves victims of a brutal family of butchers & a chainsaw wielding lunatic.
Iíll say it right now. This movie is the ECW of horror films. It had humble beginnings, but managed to have a major impact on its genre, in both good & bad ways. It is the earliest film in the list of slasher flicks I watched for this. It predates even Halloween, which is normally credited as being the most influential film of its kind. So I could argue that it created many of the clichťs & elements of these films that would become so familiar & imitated. Leatherface is the blueprint for killers like Michael Myers & Jason Voorhees, and giving him a chainsaw as his trademark weapon seems more inhuman somehow. Its also the same basic story as all the rest. A bunch of teenagers are snooping around a place they probably shouldnít be and get killed off one by one by the psycho killer. In addition to Leatherface though, I have to say that the Hitchhiker is a frightening & memorable character as well. The last surviving member of the group is a girl, something that stayed consistent in all the other slasher flicks I covered here. So that is all really cool that this movie brought so much of what would become familiar to the genre.
Now the bad part. Well the film isnít as violent by todayís standards. Iím sure back then it was absolutely gruesome, but compared to these days, they really donít show that much (which in some ways is probably more effective). However, I do kind of feel like this film started the appeal in the ďtorture pornĒ style of horror movies that keep popping up every now and then. When Sally is taken hostage by the family, the last 20 minutes before the final chase is all about being as abusive to the main character as possible rather than playing to atmosphere & actually trying to be scary. I donít really hold it against this particular film, but you can definitely see how this film could have probably influenced something as abusive and unpleasant as something like The Human Centipede Part 2.
All of that said, this film still delivers the goods after all these years. For its intensity & everlasting effect on the genre (for better or worse), this film gets a thumbs up from me.
Obviously there were many more iconic movie slashers like Chucky, Pinhead, Ghostface, and the original, Norman Bates. But I felt like I touched up on some of the true heavy hitters in the sub genre. As far as the other films these characters have been a part of, Iím sort of all over the board there. When it comes to Freddy & Jason, Iíve seen most if not all of the films with them attached to it (minus their remakes). Like I said, Freddy is my favorite of the slasher characters, so I checked out every single movie he was in. There are some bad Nightmare films out there and the films got increasingly ridiculous as they continued (with 6 being little more than a straight up comedy). But good or bad, pretty much every Nightmare film was worth checking out just to see Freddy in action. Heís just such a fun character that could be scary, funny, & and everything in between. Now I never saw the Nightmare TV show, but I doubt it packed the same punch as the movies did. As for why I picked the films that I did to watch & review, I wanted to pick out these killers in their best appearances. In most cases, that involved sticking to the earlier entries, but Freddy required a little more jumping around. I felt like I truly picked the 3 best with Freddy & I recommend those films. The rest are hit & miss, but Iíd say 2 & 6 are the worst while 4 & 5 are at best, OK, but mostly forgettable. As for the remake, I haven't seen it, but I did see what Freddy looked like...why does he have a chipmunk face?
Iím pretty sure I had seen all the Friday films as well, but there are so many of them they sort of run together in my mind. 4 was originally supposed to be the end with 5 being a copy cat killer in Jasonís place. But he rose from the grave and did all kinds of things including a trip to Manhattan & even Outer Space. I donít remember disliking any of the sequels except for Jason X which featured a Sci Fi/Horror blend so striking, it just became silly. I remember really liking IX which, again, was supposed to be the final film and I wish I had covered that one instead of the first one. And of course I HAVE to talk a little bit about Freddy Vs. Jason which, to me, might be the best crossover ever done. The movie isnít perfect, but its exactly what you would want when interacting these two characters. I havenít seen it since it first came out, but it was a blast upon first viewing. Lets call that one the 4th Best Nightmare film at least. As for Friday's remake, I actually want to check that one out and I'd be willing to bet that it might be better than the original first film.
Now the Halloween & Chainsaw series, Iím actually mostly in the dark about both of them. I have seen Halloweenís 3 & 4 with 3 being completely disconnected from the Michael Myers story & 4 being an unnecessary sequel. I like the approach to the 3rd film and apparently the original idea with the series was to do an anthology series with a different Halloween story with each film with no connection between them. Unfortunately, once they did the 2nd one with Michael Myers, they probably should have nixed that idea entirely. Speaking of 2, part of the reason Iíve avoided most of this series is that I felt 2 was the perfect way to end it. Loomis takes his own life to take down Myers in a massive explosion. That should be the end. I canít imagine any other film being able to follow up on that, and the 4th one certainly didnít (how did Loomis survive?!?!). Maybe Iíll give the other entries a shot someday though.
As for Chainsaw, again, I felt the original ending is good enough to stand on its own. That one is more open ended and allows for sequels, sure, but the image of Leatherface swinging around his chain saw in anger as his victim gets away is such a powerful image, that I donít want to have it tainted by future sequels. Maybe Iíll get around to seeing its sequels, prequel, and the remake (and all the other remakes Iíve missed for these films), but for now, I like to think of this one as a stand alone classic.
But here I am talking about all of these character decades after their creation. For better or worse, these characters have endured and remain an inspiration for horror films the world over today.