Posts Tagged ‘Robert Englund’

22. Hatchet (2006)

Director: Adam Green

Starring: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Joel Murray, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder

Before Sylvester Stallone got a bunch of his buddies together for the “Expendables” series of action films, the horror genre had already conceived of “Hatchet,” a virtual who’s-who of genre actors made by horror fans for horror fans. Having much in common with the “Friday the 13th” series, “Hatchet” is never once meant to be taken seriously. It’s just a bloody, often hilarious way to spend 80 minutes of your time.

Sampson Dunston (Robert Englund) and son Ainsley (Joshua Leonard) are fishing in a Louisiana swamp when they are attacked and killed by a monstrous, unidentified assailant. The next day, during Mardi Gras, Ben (Joel David Moore) decides that the festivities aren’t his kind of thing and instead elects to go on a haunted swamp tour. Despite his better judgment, Ben’s best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) decides to accompany him. Sadly, the tour has been closed due to negligence. The tour’s guide, Rev. Zombie (Tony Todd) recommends a similar tour down the street run by Shawn (Parry Shen), who neglects to tell his customers beforehand that he’s only done this once before. Marcus nearly leaves, but changes his mind when two amateur porn actresses, Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti) join the group. Also along for the ride are the girls’ director, Doug Shapiro (Joel Murray), and Jim and Shannon Permatteo (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo). The final guest on the boat ride to Hell is Marybeth Dunston (Tamara Feldman), sister of Ainsley and daughter of Sampson.

Along the way, a homeless man warns them not to go any further, but Shawn dismisses him entirely. Soon after, the boat hits a rock and starts to sink, forcing the passengers to continue on foot. During the tour, Shawn had been reading from a set of cards the legend of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a horribly deformed creature who once lived in this very swamp. But he’d apparently been getting several of his facts wrong, including the location of the Crowley home, as Marybeth corrects him at every turn.

Once it’s established that the crew is indeed stranded, Marybeth details the true legend of Victor Crowley. In an origin story which sounds (deliberately) similar to that of Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th,” Victor Crowley was a horribly disfigured child who was constantly tormented by kids his own age. As a result, his father kept him hidden away in the house in which they lived. The house accidentally caught on fire one night when a group of mean teenagers threw fireworks at it to scare Victor. His father tried to free Victor by breaking down the door with a hatchet, but accidentally killed his son by driving the hatchet into Victor’s head. His father later died of a broken heart. That would be the end of the story, except that the legend says that Victor is alive somehow, and one can still occasionally hear him calling out for his dead father.

The legend proves to be true, as Victor emerges from the house and kills both Jim and Shannon. Marybeth tries shooting Victor, but he just gets right back up. Shapiro, who has gone off on his own, is hunted down and killed by Victor. The others go looking for weapons. In the process, Marybeth discovers the corpses of her father and brother. Victor returns and kills Jenna and Shawn. While Ben goes looking for a gas can to set Victor on fire, Marybeth and Marcus try to lure him in while Misty stands as a lookout. Victor dismembers Misty off-screen, throwing the pieces at Ben. Ben discovers one can with gas left in it, which he throws onto Victor. Marybeth and Marcus set him ablaze. Unfortunately, at that precise moment, the heavens open up and it starts to rain.

The trio starts to run away, but Marcus is caught and killed. Victor pins Ben’s foot to the ground with a gate pole, which Ben and Marybeth then use to impale Victor. Seemingly escaping with their lives, Marybeth and Ben board her father’s boat. Marybeth is somehow pulled underwater. Nearly drowning, she spots Ben’s arm and grabs hold… but finds that the arm has been severed and is being held by Victor Crowley, who roars in Marybeth’s face as the movie abruptly ends…

Apart from the lame non-ending, “Hatchet” is at times over-the-top, but entertaining. Love slasher films of the 1980s? The people who made this movie do, too, and it shows. As bloody as “Friday the 13th Part VII” was supposed to be before the censors got to it, the real treat is seeing all the genre actors in one place: Robert Englund (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Kane Hodder (“Friday the 13th” Parts VII-X), Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”), John Carl Buechler (director of “Friday the 13th Part VII”) and Mercedes McNab (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”).

The best way to experience “Hatchet” is to get a bunch of your friends together. For optimal viewing experience, it’s best to marathon this with the sequels. Doing this also makes certain that the ending that’s not really an ending won’t annoy you at all. If you’re not already a slasher fan, I don’t even know why you’d be reading this review, much less watching “Hatchet.”  Extremely stupid? Of course it is, but that’s exactly the point. If that’s you’re thing, “Hatchet” delivers.

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13. Strangeland (1998)

Director: John Pieplow

Starring: Kevin Gage, Dee Snider, Elizabeth Peña, Brett Harrelson, Robert Englund, Linda Cardellini, Amy Smart

So, yeah… Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame wrote, co-produced and starred in his own horror movie! This is a thing that actually happened! Once that’s had time to sink in, “Strangeland” can be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of meeting people online. It treads familiar ground in depicting vigilantism as a non-solution to violent offenders. It is one of (if not the) first horror films to place a great deal of emphasis on the culture of body modification (tattooing, piercing, etc.). More than anything else, what “Strangeland” can best be described as is just plain weird.

After being invited to a party via chat room, high school student Genevieve Gage (Linda Cardellini) goes missing. Genevieve is the daughter Halverton, Colorado police officer Mike Gage (Kevin Gage). As if the unknown whereabouts of his own flesh and blood were not reason enough for Mike to spring into action, the discovery of the body of Genevieve’s best friend… who died from fright… creates an even greater sense of urgency. Frustratingly, he lacks any real leads to follow. Mike’s niece Angela (Amy Smart) helps him browse the chat room that Genevieve frequents, and to get in touch with Genevieve’s last known contact, the username Captain Howdy (Dee Snider).

Mike tries to pose as a teen looking for a party, but Captain Howdy senses his real intent and profession. Still, Mike is able to figure out where Captain Howdy’s lair is. There, he finds Genevieve alive, but naked, tied up, and her mouth sewn shut… and she’s one of six which Captain Howdy is holding prisoner. The elusive man himself, whose real name is Carlton Hendricks, is subdued and arrested with surprising ease. But that’s hardly the end of the story/movie.

Much like with Freddy Krueger, the trial of Carlton Hendricks ends with a verdict that leaves the entire town dissatisfied, in this case with Hendricks being found not guilty by reason of insanity. When he is released from the mental hospital a mere three years later, it is Jackson Roth (fittingly played by Robert Englund) who protests the loudest. Hendricks, who now shows no signs of the tattoos or piercings he displayed as Captain Howdy, seems timid and harmless. This could be attributed to the drugs the mental hospital has prescribed for him.

One night when Roth’s own daughter is out later than expected, Roth believes that Hendricks is up to his old tricks again and leads a lynch mob against him. Mike sees the whole thing happening, and it occurs to him to get out of his car to put a stop to it, but he ultimately decides not to. During the scuffle, Hendricks drops his medicine bottle. The lynch mob then carries out their plan to hang Carlton Hendricks from a tree. They leave satisfied, but they should have stuck around long enough to confirm the kill. The tree branch snaps just in time, and Hendricks’ near-death experience snaps him back into his Captain Howdy persona.

Captain Howdy kills Roth’s wife before kidnapping and torturing him and several others. This includes recapturing Genevieve, which serves to make you question Mike’s ability to protect his daughter. This time, Captain Howdy makes sure Genevieve’s parents bear witness to some of their daughter’s torturing by contacting her mother (Elizabeth Peña)’s computer. With a team of officers, Mike goes to Captain Howdy’s old hideout, where he discovers all of the torture victims alive, including Genevieve. Mike then tracks Captain Howdy to a church. Their fight this time is more difficult, and more brutal. By the end of it, Captain Howdy is left hanging in the air by a meat hook, allowing Mike to end him by setting Captain Howdy on fire.

Dee Snider’s “Strangeland” is a remarkably strange horror film indeed. Based on the songs “Captain Howdy” and “Street Justice” from Twisted Sister’s most popular album, “Stay Hungry,” “Strangeland” can get genuinely unnerving at times. This is due mainly to Dee Snider’s effective performance as Carlton Hendricks/Captain Howdy. He shows good range in his distinctive portrayals of each of his character’s two personalities. In particular, it’s the rather poetic way in which he delivers his lines when in the Captain Howdy persona which is the most lively. It’s quite a shame, then, that the movie in which his character exists possesses very little life of its own. Come for Dee Snider and the film’s rock soundtrack, but don’t expect too much out of your trip into “Strangeland.”

2. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Director: Ronny Yu

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Christopher George Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Katharine Isabelle

Perhaps no other horror film has suffered through the kind of prolonged developmental hell that “Freddy vs. Jason” endured. Originally conceived in the late 1980’s by both New Line Cinema and Paramount Pictures, it would take until 2003 for the picture to finally be completed and released to the viewing audience. In the meantime, on top of other series entries being produced first, the plot of “Freddy vs. Jason” would undergo numerous changes and responsibility for its creation would fall under several different writing teams. Among the unused plot elements were a Freddy Krueger cult, Jason Voorhees’ famous 1957 drowning coming at the hands of Krueger, and a “real world” Jason being the subject of an O.J. Simpson-like trial. Finally, settling on a modified version of a plot idea that had been considered for more than one of the 1980’s slasher icons over the years, it was decided that Freddy Krueger would attempt to get back to terrorizing the youth of Springwood, who had been conditioned to forget about him entirely, by way of gaining strength through the fear generated by the actions of Jason Voorhees.

Following a brief recap of Freddy’s origin story and a subsequent collage of clips from all previous Nightmare on Elm Street films (except for “New Nightmare”), we return to the by now familiar home on 1428 Elm Street, where Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) and friends Kia (singer Kelly Rowland) & Gibb (“Ginger Snaps” star Katherine Isabelle) hang out with classmates Blake and Trey. Soon, Jason arrives and kills Trey by stabbing him repeatedly through the heart and then bending his body in half along with the bed he is lying in. This gains some but not all of Freddy’s powers back for him, and so he continues to allow Jason to “have some fun,” as the hockey-masked killer goes on to make Blake and his father the next victims.

At Westin Hills (the same psychatric hospital/asylum first seen in “Nightmare on Elm Street 3”) where all the young patients are fed the drug Hypnocil, Will Rollins (Jason Ritter) and friend Mark break out after learning of the attack on Lori’s house. Unfortunately, Mark manages to spread enough fear to give Freddy his strength back, and Krueger intends on testing himself on Gibb when she falls asleep at a rave party where she and other friends (Lori included) are in attendance. But he doesn’t count on Jason crashing the party and killing everyone in sight, including Gibb and a raver who attempts to rape her after she has passed out from too much alcohol.

Escaping along with the nerdy Linderman (Chris Marquette) and Freeburg (a not-so subtle clone of Jason Mewes from “Jay & Silent Bob”) Lori, Kia and Will discuss how to deal with the threat of death in both the dream world and the waking world. Approached by Deputy Stubbs (Lochlyn Munro), they form a plan to bring Jason back to Crystal Lake, remove Freddy from the dream world, and have the two fight it out on Jason’s turf. Before they can do this, Freddy kills Mark while Jason kills Stubbs and Freeburg… but not before Freddy takes control of Freeburg’s body and injects Jason with a tranquilizer. After their initial struggle on Freddy’s terms, Lori joins them in the dream world and witnesses Freddy trying to drown Jason before turning his attention on her after Jason wakes up. Finally arriving in Crystal Lake, Will revives Lori just before Freddy has a chance to kill her, and she brings Krueger out with her. Jason fatally impales Linderman, and later kills Kia with his machete.

Will and Lori watch as the epic battle between the killers begins as they prepare to destroy the camp’s gas tanks. Both Freddy and Jason severely wound one another, culminating in Freddy having his right arm ripped off, glove and all. The explosion from the gas tanks blows both monsters into the lake. Freddy emerges first, attempting to use Jason’s machete to kill Will and Lori. But Jason sneaks up from behind and impales Freddy through the back with his own clawed arm. Reacting with shock over the sight of his own hand sticking out of his chest, Freddy is defensless to stop Lori from beheading him with the machete (in a scene shot very much like that of Mrs. Voorhees’ death from “Friday the 13th”). With Will and Lori having escaped to safety, Jason emerges from the lake the next day carrying his machete and Freddy’s severed head. A final close up of Freddy’s head shows him winking at the camera and laughing after the scene has faded to black, thus making the true winner of the fight open to interpretation.

While just who wins the fight is left up in the air, there are a few things that are crystal. The film is littered with so many in-joke references that it seems to have been made specifically with the fans of both series in mind. Also clear is the fact that the film has its fair share of controversy. First is the casting of Ken Kirzinger as Jason, rather than the popular Kane Hodder who had played the role for the last four Friday the 13th films. The fact that Hodder’s may well be the worst movies in the franchise seems to either not be a factor or otherwise simply not a shared opinion where his fans are concerned.

Another gripe which is constantly brought up in relation to “Freddy vs. Jason” is the dream world scene where it is revealed that Jason fears water. While it is true that this is never so much as hinted at in any of Jason’s previous appearances, that doesn’t rule it out entirely as there have been plenty of absurd and bizzare contrivances throughout the 30+ year run of Friday the 13th. One other thing that I personally try very hard to ignore when watching this movie (but am not always successful) is the idea that Springwood, Ohio and the New Jersey-based Camp Crystal Lake could ever be located as close to one another as implied by this movie.

A cameo that may go unnoticed by some occurs when Will reunites with Lori in the hallways of Springwood High School. During this reunion, one can see in the background a female student in a green long-sleeved shirt and navy blue sweater vest. This student is Evangeline Lilly (“The Hobbit” trilogy, “Ant-Man,” and the TV series “Lost”).

This one is a difficult one to grade. I enjoyed “Freddy vs. Jason” a bit more when I originally saw it theatrically as opposed to how I feel about it now. This is due in part to the initial excitement of seeing these familiar characters on the big screen together, a feeling amplified for someone such as myself who was too young to have seen the previous entries theatrically. Monica Keena is a solid “final girl” in spite of some of the lame lines she’s asked to read. The rest of the cast of victims is less endearing than some of their 1980s counterparts. Kelly Rowland, who is downright annoying, drags down almost every scene she’s in. One of the film’s highlights is when Kia is finally taken out by Jason. But the film is about the long dreamed of battle between two of the most popular horror icons of all time, and it is here the film surpassed my expectations (aside from the ambiguous ending). If you’re a fan of both Freddy and Jason… even if you’re a recent convert… this movie was made with you in mind.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Miko Hughes, David Newsom, John Saxon

After the successful, entertaining “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” the quality of the “Elm Street” saga went straight to Hell. 1989’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child,” rushed into production and plagued by both MPAA censorship and a bad script, is one thing a horror movie should never be: BORING! 1991’s “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” which does indeed close out the original series continuity, lacks the so-bad-it’s-good element of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” and is simply bad. At one point, Freddy kills a guy by using a Nintendo Power Glove. That right there best symbolizes the series’ decline. Only if I were being paid could I be persuaded to watch either of those movies ever again. The upside of these wastes of celluloid is that they paved the way for the return of Wes Craven. All Craven had to do to craft the best “Nightmare” since the original was to revisit an idea he’d had during the early stages of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,” and that is this: What effect can movies have on the people who create them?

Heather Langenkamp, star of the first and third “Elm Street” films, and her son Dylan (Miko Hughes) by special effects maestro Chase Porter (David Newsom) are bearing witness to the creation of a new “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie when the prop Freddy glove comes to life and starts killing members of the film crew. Just as Chase is about to be next on the chopping block, Heather wakes up in the middle of an earthquake, one which results in Chase receving the very same scratches as he had in Heather’s dream just before she was awakened. Making Heather even more nervous are the harassing phone calls from a Freddy-like voice which she has been receiving. All of this coincides with the 10th anniversary of the original “Nightmare” film, for which Heather is making the rounds on talk shows with Robert Englund, dressed up in his Freddy garb. Later, Heather is approached to do a new “Nightmare” movie (forgetting of course that her character was killed off in Part 3) by producer Bob Shaye. Ultimately, she turns the role down.

Following her meeting at New Line, her son has an over-the-top freak-out moment that seems to suggest that he has seen his mother’s horror films without her knowledge, on top of leading Heather to worry about Dylan’s mental stability. She calls Chase in a panic and pleads with him to come home. Along the way, Chase falls asleep at the wheel and is killed by “Freddy.” At the subsequent funeral procession, familiar faces associated with the “Nightmare” series can be spotted, including actors John Saxon, Nick Corri, and Tuesday Knight. Following an almost fatal incident with Dylan at an amusement park with John Saxon as a witness, Heather visits Wes Craven looking to make sense of everything. Craven explains that the Freddy character in the films had been holding at bay a very real evil, which had taken a liking to the form and persona associated with Krueger. Now that Freddy is dead, “the genie is out of the bottle.” He also explains that he too has been having nightmares as of late. The meeting leaves Heather no less disturbed, as she sees the line-for-line dialogue from their conversation on Craven’s computer screen in script form.

Further disturbing behavior from Dylan leaves Heather no choice but to take him to the hospital. There, Heather encounters Dr. Heffner (Fran Bennett), the same sort of well-meaning but ultimately counterproductive medical practitioner that Priscilla Pointer’s Dr. Simms was in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.” Heather’s own sanity is questioned, and the very real possibility that she may lose Dylan to foster care if his condition doesn’t change becomes apparent. The doctors eventually put Dylan to sleep against Heather’s wishes, and the result is the death of Dylan’s babysitter Julie (Tracy Middendorf) in the same style as Tina’s demise from the original “Nightmare.” Dylan sleepwalks out of the hospital and heads for home with his mother in pursuit. She soon sees that “Freddy” is manipulating reality, turning her and John Saxon into their “Nightmare on Elm Street” characters and making the outside of her house appear as 1428 Elm Street. With Dylan missing but leaving sleeping pills as “Hansel and Gretel”-like bread crumbs, Heather takes the pills and has one final showdown with “Freddy.” Setting the monster ablaze just like the “Hansel and Gretel” witch, Heather rescues her son and both wake up to find Wes Craven’s finished script waiting for them to read.

I realize that I just got through praising “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4” as the best “Elm Street” sequel. So, when I say that “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” is the best “Nightmare” since the original, I am keeping in mind the fact that this movie exists outside of the “Elm Street” continuity. It’s unusually clever for an early 1990’s horror movie. At that time, both the series and the genre as a whole had become stale. “New Nightmare” is something of a milestone. Effectively, it bridges the gap between the slashers of the 80’s and the period of self-awareness the genre would go through in the late 90’s. What it lacks in flashiness, it makes up for with a compelling story, characters you can’t help but care for due to their association with the franchise, and a welcome return to the serious tone of the original. Here, Freddy is not only back to being the dark demonic figure he once was, but is now even darker than before. Accordingly, the Freddy makeup is also much improved. Along the way, there are several callbacks to the original, from recognizable lines of dialogue right down to Heather’s wounds and the grey streak in her hair which she acquires at the hospital. If you’ve found that the “Elm Street” sequels don’t do it for you but that you enjoyed the original, this one should pleasantly surprise you.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Starring: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Danny Hassel, Andras Jones, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Lisa Wilcox

Once again, I find myself drawing unpopular conclusions about a “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel. In “Freddy’s Revenge,” I found a movie which fails as a follow-up but which works as entertainment. “Dream Warriors,” while mostly a good sequel, tries to be both dark and funny without finding the right mixture, and insults my intelligence in the finale. “Dream Warriors” is also responsible for bringing its immensely popular villainous dream demon out of the shadows and into the spotlight, giving him more one-liners and making the murder sequences less gruesome and more cartoonish. For good or ill, this would be the path that the “Nightmare” films would follow until Wes Craven’s return in 1994. But, with both Parts 2 and 3, the series was still trying to hold onto the creepier elements with which it began. It wasn’t until “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” that the commitment to pure entertainment over horror was made in full, and that’s what helps to make it my favorite of the “Elm Street” sequels.

The three surviving “Dream Warriors” have all been reasonably reintegrated into society, back in high school hoping to get on with their lives. But Kristen (Tuesday Knight, replacing Patricia Arquette) has her doubts that Freddy Krueger is really gone for good. Her friends Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) are convinced he is, and they aren’t taking too kindly to being dragged into Kristen’s dreamworld every time she has a problem. The casting change had me fooled the first time I saw this movie back in the fall of 2000. Both Knight’s appearance and her performance as Kristen differ so greatly from that of Arquette that I didn’t realize I was looking at the same character until the first scene she has with Joey and Kincaid.

Eventually, Kristen’s fears are realized, and Freddy returns to take out both Kincaid and Joey, and to further terrorize Kristen. Her boyfriend Rick Johnson (Andras Jones) and his sister, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) grow concerned, especially after the deaths of Kristen’s two remaining friends from Westin Hills. They go to the house at 1428 Elm Street, still as unoccupied and dilapidated as it was in the last installment, where Kristen utters her worst line of dialogue: “It’s not just a house… It’s his home!” I honestly don’t know where to begin with what’s wrong with that line or how badly it’s delivered. After Rick quickly gives his friend Dan (Danny Hassel) the Cliff Notes version of Freddy’s origin story, Kristen’s mother (Brooke Bundy, reprising her role) shows up. Oh, god, not her again! Fortunately she’s gone as soon as she’s satisfied that she’s tugged on Kristen’s chain hard enough to force her to return home. That leads to Tuesday Knight’s one decent scene in this movie where, upon discovering that she’s been force-fed sleeping pills in her drinking water, Kristen tells her mother “You just murdered me!” Ouch. Could that have been any more harsh?

Kristen falls asleep, and Freddy shows up for one final confrontation. Being that Kristen represents the last of the Elm Street Children, Freddy needs a way to get to the other teens, so he gets Kristen to bring Alice into the dream and hand over her powers before Freddy tosses Kristen into a boiler. Alice wakes up and goes with Rick over to Kristen’s house. There, they discover in horror along with Kristen’s mom that her room is set ablaze and they are too late to save her. Alice, it seems, is set up now to serve as the Dream Master, or Freddy’s spiritual opposite.

Alice soon discovers that her new powers not only bring other people into her dreams, but they also give Alice herself certain character traits of Freddy’s victims. It’s unclear whether or not Kristen’s abilities included that little bonus. It certainly didn’t seem that way in the last movie, but maybe it would help to give an explanation within the film as to why Kristen was acting so differently. Next on the chopping block is Sheila (Toy Newkirk), an asthmatic who Freddy kills by sucking all the air out of her. Rick falls soon after, stabbed by an invisible Freddy who turns Rick’s novice martial arts skills against him. After the loss of her brother, Alice devises a plan involving herself, Dan and their friend Debbie (Brooke Theiss). But Freddy is able to single out Debbie, using her fear of cockroaches against her by turning her into one and crushing her inside a roach motel. At the same time, he puts Alice and Dan in a time loop so he can finish Debbie off uninterrupted. Still asleep while driving Dan’s truck, Alice and Dan attempt to run over what she thinks is Freddy standing in front of them. In reality it’s a tree, and the resulting wreck lands Dan in the hospital under sedation on the operating table.

Knowing that Dan is prone to an attack from Freddy at any moment, Alice hurries home, takes some sleeping pills, and goes into the dreamworld to kick a little Krueger ass. Specifically, Alice enters Freddy’s domain through her bedroom mirror, or “looking glass.” The Lewis Carroll reference should not be lost on anyone. Dan is injured inside the dreamworld and is awakened by the doctors, leaving Alice and Freddy to go one-on-one. A fairly one-sided battle ensues, with Alice getting the upper hand, but Freddy shows no signs of fatigue or lasting injury. Alice is finally able to turn the souls Freddy has collected against him, and they tear him apart before freeing themselves.

Honestly, I’m amazed to find that “The Dream Master” doesn’t have as large an amount of fan support as its immediate predecessor does. It’s never boring, for one thing. I’ll address the four most common marks against it individually:

  • Freddy’s revival. In Kincaid’s final dream sequence, his dog shows up to spray a stream of flaming urine onto Freddy’s resting place, thus reviving him. The thing is… A) It’s a dream sequence and B) Freddy’s a showman, and as such, loves a flashy entrance. C) This was the late 80’s, after all.
  • The early exit of the “Dream Warriors.” This group of misfits were never that strong individually, nor were they that great as a cohesive unit. They only survived this long because of Nancy (R.I.P.). With her out of the picture, Freddy was free to pick them off as soon as he’d regained his strength. No big shocker, there.
  • The outlandish dream sequences. The ones I hear people complain about are the roach motel and Joey’s waterbed. The waterbed isn’t any more over the top than Johnny Depp’s demise in the original “Nightmare,” nor is it any more implausible than Jennifer’s TV death in “Dream Warriors.” As for the roach motel, yes it’s a little out there, but so are most of our own nightmares. Not to mention that this is miles above some of the kill scenes in the next couple of sequels. The only one that truly fails in its execution (no pun intended) here is Rick’s death, made less elaborate than intended due to the limitations of the film’s budget. Alice and Dan’s time loop, along with the previous sequence where Alice gets pulled through a movie screen and ends up at the diner where she works (where Freddy orders “soul food” pizza) are the two best dream sequences in any of these movies.
  • The final confrontation. I guess, after all the insanity that had come before, the finale wasn’t big and broad enough. The way that Alice deals with Freddy here is sort of the complete opposite of Nancy’s solution from the first film. Both women find a way to rob Krueger of his power, only he’s too strong now to simply be evaded or ignored. Alice, in a move that smacks of “old school” horror, defeats the monster by revealing to him his own ugly reflection. It’s never a bad thing to rely on old school methods.

My only personal complaint is the unavoidable re-casting of Kristen. Tuesday Knight does nothing to make me believe she is the same person as Arquette’s version, although I do appreciate Knight’s contribution to the soundtrack (the song “Nightmare,” which plays over the opening credits). It’s all good clean popcorn fun at this point. These movies have always been more fun than scary, and this is the one that finally stopped tap-dancing around that fact. The series probably could have ended on the high note that “The Dream Master” provides. If you’re seeing these movies for the very first time, whatever your opinion of this one, you’re likely to agree. Fortunately, series creator Wes Craven had other ideas.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)

Director: Chuck Russell

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Larry Fishburne, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, John Saxon, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Englund

Just as I can’t jump on the hate bandwagon against “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,” I also take a pass on boarding the love train for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,” which some fans see as their favorite of the franchise. Don’t get me wrong. “Dream Warriors” is still a great sequel. But I can’t help thinking how much greater it could have been. The few problems I have are similar to the ones I had with the original “Nightmare,” only this time they are magnified.

Six years after the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” we look in on Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette, in her first starring role) building a replica of the house on 1428 Elm Street. Playing loud music and eating coffee grounds washed down with Diet Coke, Kristen is told by her mother to get to bed, as Mom has a boyfriend waiting impatiently downstairs. Kristen does eventually fall asleep, winding up inside the 1428 Elm Street house. Kristen’s dream leads her back to her own house, where the bathroom sink comes alive and slashes her wrist. In the waking world, Kristen’s mother finds her daughter appearing to have sliced open her own wrist with a razor blade.

Off to Westin Hills we go, where Kristen reacts violently to the thought of sedation and is only calmed down when Nancy Thompson, a new staff member at the psychiatric hospital, enters the room and finishes the familiar Freddy nursery rhyme that Kristen begins. Afterwards, we become acquainted with the rest of the cast in a group therapy session. In addition to Doctors Neil Gordon and Elizabeth Simms (Craig Wasson and Priscilla Pointer), we also meet the other patients who, together with Kristen, make up the last of the Elm Street children (i.e. the children of those who originally killed Freddy). This is where “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” shows off one of its strong points; very few horror films in the late 80’s had casts of characters with such distinct personalities and backgrounds. We have Joey (a mute), Will (a paraplegic whose condition is the result of a nasty fall), Kincaid (who suffers from perceived behavioral issues), Taryn (a former drug addict), Phillip (a sculptor who specializes in clay puppets), and Jennifer (an aspiring actress with delusions of grandeur).

Purely by accident, it is revealed that Nancy has been taking an experimental drug called Hypnocil, used for dream suppression. She wants Neil to prescribe this drug for the kids, but Neil balks at the idea of administering a drug that the FDA won’t even approve. After another dream in which Kristen is attacked by Freddy and then demonstrates her ability to pull others into her dream with her by calling for Nancy, Freddy and his nemesis are reunited. Subsequently, Phillip is killed when Freddy causes him to sleepwalk up to the hospital’s highest point and then cuts him loose, having used Phillip’s tendons as marionette strings. The next day, Jennifer is killed in a scene which couldn’t possibly be interpreted as a suicide, yet is. When Jennifer falls asleep in the TV room, Freddy interrupts a talk show hosted by Dick Cavett. Jennifer goes to the TV to try to fix the scrambled signal, but then Freddy’s head emerges from the top and two mechanical arms extend from the sides, pick up Jennifer, and then ram her head into the TV screen. Max (Laurence Fishburne), the head orderly, finds Jennifer with her head indeed smashed through the TV screen. The trouble is that she would either have had to run at the TV, jump and then headbutt the screen, or at least get something to stand on first. Considering no chair or footstool is in sight, I’m guessing the hospital staff went with the even more ludicrous explanation.

All the while, visions of a nun named Sister Mary Helena convince Gordon to go along with Nancy’s recommendation of giving doses of Hypnocil to the children. He also decides it would be best to try group hypnosis. Within the ensuing dream, the kids all discover they have powers unique to them. But the hypnosis experiment backfires, resulting in Freddy trapping Joey in a coma, and Dr. Gordon and Nancy both being fired. They soon head for a local bar to confront Nancy’s father, estranged from his daughter ever since the death of her mother. Nancy knows her father is the only person who can tell them where Freddy’s remains are hidden, as Sister Mary Helena has told Neil that burying said bones are the only way to put Freddy to rest for good. Lt. Thompson is less than cooperative, so Neil sends Nancy back to the hospital while he convinces her father to take him to the auto graveyard.

Nancy makes it back to the hospital, hoping to help Joey and Kristen, who has been sedated and placed in isolation after freaking out over Nancy’s firing. Max stands in her way, but she convinces him to let her visit with the others one last time. It is here that she gathers Taryn, Will and Kincaid for one final group hypnosis, warning them that death in the dreamworld means death for them in the waking world as well. Only Kincaid and Nancy manage to survive to free Joey from Freddy’s clutches while Neil and Lt. Thompson remove Freddy’s bones from the trunk of a Cadillac and proceed to dig a hole to bury them. Now here’s where the movie sinks from being as good as or even better than the original into bitter disappointment.

Before Lt. Thompson and Dr. Gordon can finish their task, Freddy’s bones come alive, impale Nancy’s father against the Cadillac and knocks Neil unconscious with his shovel before collapsing again. Most occurrences like this in the series can be attributed to the characters falling asleep without them or the viewer knowing it, but the way this scene plays itself out I have to believe that Freddy somehow reanimated his bones in the waking world. What happens next, however, may be even worse. After Joey reveals his dream power to have been the use of his voice in screaming so loud that it appears to drive Freddy away, Nancy automatically assumes the danger is over. She even becomes complacent when her father appears in the dream without having been pulled in by Kristen and tells her he has “crossed over.” Nancy believes this lie so thoroughly that she doesn’t notice anything is amiss until she feels the four blades of Freddy’s glove in her abdomen. Freddy also traps Kristen in the room with them, and although she uses her gymnastics dream power to evade him briefly, he does catch up to her and appears ready to take her out until a mortally wounded Nancy sneaks from behind and forces Freddy’s gloved hand into his own chest. Neil also wakes up and shoves Freddy’s bones into the grave and consecrates the ground, apparently defeating him. But victory comes with a price, as Nancy dies in Kristen’s arms. Later, at Nancy’s funeral, Neil discovers that “Sister Mary Helena” was the assumed name of Amanda Krueger, Freddy’s mother.

As originally conceived, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” was to be much darker and more violent. Freddy himself was to be much more vulgar, instead of the wisecracking persona he adopted and has since become known for. In fact, Wes Craven’s first idea for the movie had had Freddy emerging into the real world to invade the dreams of actors filming the latest “Nightmare” film, a concept he would later have the chance to revisit in seven years’ time. The final product, the subject of rewrites from three additional sources (including Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell), still manages to be the best written of all the “Nightmare” sequels. It also contains some of the series’ best nightmare sequences, and features an undeniably catchy hit tune in “Dream Warriors” by Dokken.

So why can’t I love it the way that most fans do? Much like the first “Nightmare,” the ending to this one is downright frustrating. It’s not that big a deal that Nancy dies. Heroes die in horror movies all the time. It’s the WAY she dies that’s such a bring-down. Nancy had demonstrated in the past that she’s too smart to fall for the trick which seals her fate here. Compounding the situation is the awful dialogue given to the otherwise talented Patricia Arquette in this, the series’ saddest moment. Because we know now that “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” would not be the final “Nightmare,” her death is ultimately in vain, turning what had been a fun movie up to that point into a most depressing affair indeed. Tonally, it would have worked better in Wes Craven’s darker, original draft. If this movie had been terrible, I wouldn’t even care. I would just ignore the fact that it exists. But it’s not terrible. It’s actually very entertaining and inventive, and that’s why it’s so disheartening that it doesn’t quite have the ending it deserves.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Robert Englund

As a general rule, I tend to enjoy a given film more when I know the least about it. But, every so often, one comes along that I would have been better suited in knowing exactly what I was getting into beforehand. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” is one of the latter. Back when I originally sought out the Freddy Krueger series, I saw this particular one out of sequence. While that much didn’t really matter, what did matter was that I came out of that first viewing experience feeling sorely disappointed! For several years, in fact, I completely wrote this first sequel off. Later, I came to realize I’d done so because of what this movie is NOT, rather than appreciate it for what it IS. This is not to call it the best of the sequels, because that would be crazy. But I do believe that fun can be had in watching it as long as you go in with the right frame of mind.

Five years after the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) and his family have moved into the same house at 1428 Elm Street which was once occupied by Nancy Thompson and her mother. Jesse, as a matter of fact, now lives in the same room as Nancy once did. The house itself is largely unchanged from the first film, although the front door is now painted red (instead of blue), and it would remain so in all the house’s future appearances in the series. Jesse is having nightmares about Freddy Krueger, the same dream demon who once haunted Nancy. This time, since Jesse’s parents weren’t part of the mob who originally killed Freddy, Mr. Krueger is not out to kill Jesse but rather to possess his body so that he can kill more indiscriminately in the waking world rather than be limited to the realm of dreams. This was a change that has never gone over well with fans, and I can certainly see why, but it’s not really the deal-breaker it’s made out to be.

Jesse is obviously very confused about who this guy is and why he’s being targeted. Eventually, after a very embarrassing moment in which Jesse is caught dancing in his room (watch the scene and you’ll understand), Jesse’s girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finds Nancy’s diary hidden away in the closet and begins reading passages from it. The diary entries pique Jesse’s interest because they talk of Nancy having similar nightmarish experiences to his. In school, Jesse is at odds and then suddenly best friends with Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). Neither young man has much use for their gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell), and Grady even goes to the extreme of explaining Schneider’s after hours activities at a gay S&M bar.

Jesse accidentally confirms this story later when he sleepwalks there and is caught by Schneider, who is in full S&M garb (as is the bartender, played by New Line Cinema exec Robert Shaye!).  Schneider then brings Jesse back to the school to run laps in the gymnasium. Oh, I’m sorry. I meant he KIDNAPS Jesse and forces him to run laps against his will when he should be sending this kid home! Also very strangely, while all this is going on, various kinds of sports equipment inexplicably hurl themselves at Coach Schneider. He can’t handle Jesse’s balls…  Schneider’s hands are eventually tied with jump ropes and he is dragged screaming into the showers by an invisible force. There, still screaming, he is restrained, his clothes removed and his bare ass slapped with a towel. I would have thought a man of his nature would have thoroughly enjoyed this sort of treatment. But I can certainly understand how receiving a couple of fatal slash wounds to the back would be a bit of a bummer for anyone. Worse still is that when the smoke clears, Jesse discovers Freddy’s glove on his hand, and screams his fool head off! Eventually, he makes his way back home through the rain and with police escort.

Lisa does a bit of investigating, which leads her to the location of the old power plant where Freddy used to work and also where he brought the children he killed (hence all the nightmares set in a boiler room that the Elm Street kids have had). The movie eventually leads us to the scene of a pool party at Lisa’s house. Jesse attends at first, but leaves in the middle of a make-out session with Lisa, deciding instead to head for Grady’s house to stay the night hoping to avoid the takeover of his body by Freddy. And if you think it’s a mere coincidence that this sequence of events has Jesse exiting a poolside changing closet to be with his same-sex (although thoroughly heterosexual) best friend, then you’d be wrong.

Eventually, Jesse does transform into Freddy, slaughtering Grady and also several of the guests at Lisa’s pool party. Finally forced to retreat by Lisa’s father wielding a shotgun, Freddy heads for his old boiler room where Lisa confronts him one last time, convincing Jesse to fight off the monster inside of him in a blaze of fire and crawl out from beneath the ashes. But as with the first film, the defeat of Freddy does not mean the end of the battle, as Freddy is apparently free to haunt Jesse’s dreams once more, showing up in an updated version of the school bus nightmare which began the film.

There’s more than enough evidence to conclude that at least some of the people involved with the project knew full well that they were crafting a story which “Elm Street” fans would come to refer as “The Gay Nightmare,” though some still claim to have been ignorant at the time. Writer David Chaskin certainly knew, as did openly gay lead actor Mark Patton. Who knew vs. who didn’t doesn’t matter. That the film dares to be different does. It’s undeniably stupid at times, and batshit crazy in other instances, but I can’t help admiring it for being so bold. It has that so-bad-it’s-good quality which has helped lift other potentially bad movies into cult status. That’s why you watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,” not in the hopes that you’ll find a worthy successor to the first film, but because of its own uniqueness.