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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD

2.5 Stars  1989/18/86m

“Freddy delivers.”

Director: Stephen Hopkins / Writers: Leslie Boehm, John Skipp, Craig Spector & David Spector / Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Danny Hassel, Erika Anderson, Joe Seely, Nick Mele, Valorie Armstrong, Burr DeBenning, Clarence Felder, Beatrice Boepple, Whitby Hertford.

Body Count: 3


So I had this dream about A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 t’other day; I can’t remember much of it now apart from ‘being at’ the graduation scene. As it probably stands as my least favourite Freddy flick (including the remake), this subconscious soiree was enough to at least make me go back for a reappraisal…

While it’s still the most disappointing Elm Street (though I love the artwork), The Dream Child still houses just about enough charm to slink by, thanks mainly to that nostalgic drag the late 80s has as all three major slasher franchises began to wane. Seriously.

Halloween 5 was a subplot-scuppered mess, Jason Takes Manhattan tried to light a spark that fizzled out seconds later and as for Freddy, well Freddy’s problem was that he’d become way too big, way too recently…

If you’ve watched the excellent 4-hour documentary Never Sleep Again (and if not, what the actual fuck?) you’ll know that the fifth trip down Elm Street was rushed out in no time at all, with an unheard of four week pre-production schedule and the same time again to edit the film, it was done and dusted less than a year after The Dream Master, which probably highlights New Line’s then-greed with the franchise as the fourth film raked in an unprecedented $50million and favourable reviews.

Freddy’s worldwide fame notwithstanding (the TV series had begun, he was being namechecked by Ronald Reagan, he released a rap LP…), the producers made the error of attempting to back-pedal to the gritty, gothic feel of the first film, keeping Mr K pretty much out of sight for most of the film as he returns to torment Springwood teens through the dreams of an unborn baby. Desperate? Yes. Clever? Kinda.

The foetus in question belongs to Alice, who returns from surviving the last film along with boyfriend Dan and also her recovering alci dad. Now, I never really liked Alice in The Dream Master, she was all willowy and enfeebled, like some simpering Jane Austen chick who then went kick-ass. It was a by-the-book heroine that grated me. Thankfully, she’s a lot more resolute and likeable in The Dream Child.

No sooner than do she and Dan conceive, Freddy is able to enter the bub’s dreams and using Alice’s ability to suck other people into hers, eliminate her new circle of friends one by one. Or rather one, then two, then another one and no more.

A measly three victims are served up this time around, giving FK little to do and Alice and dwindling pals too much to do. Inexplicably, nobody seems to remember nor mentions the spate of deaths at Springwood High what, a year earlier? When Alice tries to convince her buddies of Freddy’s existence, they shut her down. Hello? Dead brother Rick? Kristen. Sheila. Debbie. Have they all developed amnesia?

A recycled subplot concerning Amanda Krueger and her lost remains is tossed in rather haphazardly (the producers admitted the end was not even written until the shoot was half over) and all manner of visual effects are wheeled in to try and divert the attention: Freddy as a chef who feeds one victim to death; cartoon super-Freddy; loads of gothic shit.

To be fair, the effects work – for its day – is excellent. One of the last films to make extensive use of claymation before the CGI dawn, The Dream Child at least puts effort into killing what few doomed teens there are. The MPAA, however, was not impressed and subsequently all grue scenes were cut back, rendering the film rather impotent on the gore stakes. Thus, it also became the lowest grossing entry, turning a decent profit but falling far short of the dizzy heights of the two former entries, which are arguably the best sequels.

Fortunately, they cut back on the comic one-liners as well – eventually going into overdrive in Freddy’s Dead two years later – to aid the reversion to Scary Fred Krueger. But it doesn’t work. By ’89 the brand was too ingrained in pop culture and no matter how off-screen you keep Englund, no matter if you bring back the finger-blades screeching along steel surfaces, he’s still the guy every other kid dresses up as at Halloween. Freddy fail.

Essentially, the rush-job that was the movie hurts it. Director Stephen Hopkins produced a good looking flick with no real surface issues but the drained ideas tank shows and is almost bone dry come the third act, which makes almost no sense at all. A couple more victims, more made out of the don’t fall asleep keystone that the whole series should pivot on might’ve drastically improved things but who can say?

But the black girl didn’t die – hurrah! Progress.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kelly Jo Minter later starred in Popcorn; Stephen Hopkins also directed Dangerous Game; Robert Englund can also be seen in Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera (1989) and Urban Legend; Whitby Herford was in Mikey.

Erotic dancers. Trannies. Razor psycho. Canada.

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

3 Stars  1981/87m

“Pray you never have one.”

Director: Don McBrearty / Writers: John Sheppard, John Gault & Steven Blake / Cast: Lawrence S. Day, Lora Staley, Tom Harvey, Neil Dainard, Michael Ironside, Lenore Zann, Larry Aubrey, Alexandra Paul, Mike Coperman, Claudia Udy, Page Fletcher.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Somebody tries to kill me, I get a little nervous.”


Good old Canada, making a film called American Nightmare. Who did they think they were fooling, eh? Well, me I guess but I was only 3 in 1981 so it wasn’t a difficult feat.

Anyway, this little known flick (produced by Prom Night directed Paul Lynch) has quite a lot going on for such a timid creature. Day is a pianist who goes looking for his missing (read: murdered) little sister in ‘the city’ after she left home a year earlier, became an erotic dancer-slash-hooker and, well, vanished.

Seems that a razor-wielding psycho has it in for the girls who dance at Club 2000. Nothing’s called Blah 2000 anymore, is it? Feels like we live so futuristically. High on the killer’s list is the beautiful Louise, who reluctantly joins forces with the out-of-towner, who more than proves he can take care of himself in the big bad city.

The real ‘American nightmare’ comes in the form of the tone; almost exclusively set in the sleazy world of pimps and pornography. The camera exploits its victims as society and, ultimately, the killer has – putting them on show for the voyeuristic pleasures of the slobbering men who come to the shows – and then brutally slaying them.

The film holds more than a hint of misogyny and homophobia to it as all the female characters are shown nude and the only male victim is a gay transvestite – dubbed the ‘degenerates’ of society. The only victims are the girls and the gay – not even the pimps and pervert motel owners fall victim to the razor.

Thankfully, once the mystery has agreeably unfolded, the ‘sleaze’ and ‘degeneration’ binds itself neatly to the so-thought upstanding members of the city who have deep involvement in the murders.

There’s an amusing scene where genre-regular Lenore Zann is stalked by the killer, who hisses her name – Tina – from the shadows, just as Freddy Krueger would do in a few years’ time.

A very interesting and unfortunately rare piece of horror with a cringetastically good twist and a cast of good soon-to-be’s, including future Baywatch hottie Alexandra Paul.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Ironside was also in Visiting Hours, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, Children of the Corn: Revelation, Fallen Angels and Reeker; Zann was also in Visiting Hours and Happy Birthday to Me. The 2000 movie of the same name is not a remake.

When wrong is right

WRONG TURN

4.5 Stars  2003/18/81m

“It’s the last one you’ll ever make.”

Director: Rob Schmidt / Writer: Alan B. McElroy / Cast: Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Lindy Booth, Kevin Zegers, Julian Richings, Ted Clark, Gary Robbins.

Body Count: 10


If you venture on to the IMDb message boards on the Wrong Turn page, there’s plenty of “this is the worst film ever ra ra ra…” declarations, which plague most slasher horror films on the site. Why people can’t distinguish between fact and their opinion is a continuing mystery as far as this is concerned. There’s no way one could see every film in existence to make a sound judgement.

Also, they’re twats. Because in the arena of be-forested body count films, Wrong Turn is fucking awesome.

A sort of inbred cousin of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘s antics mashed up with 70’s cannibal features into one of the best back to basics horror films of its era. What Wrong Turn does and why the idiots who continually dismiss it on the IMDb are stuck in a sort of perpetual motion twat-wheel that they can’t get out of (coooool!!) is to ignore comic relief, over-intellectualisation of the product and just tell the story of what happens when city folk are thrown together with admittedly ridiculous looking backwoods freaks.

After the requisite opening slaying of a couple of luckless rock climbers, we swoop in and meet Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) on his way through West Virignia to an interview, persumably for some medical post from his banter, when he is caught in tailbacks that thwart his tight deadline. He doubles back and finds a turn off and a map at ye olde ramshackle gas station (complete with snaggle-toothed hick for an attendant) that shows him Bear Mountain Road will serve as a good shortcut. This, as we might’ve guessed, will be the wrong turn from hell. Or to hell if we’re going to get pedantic about it.

Some way down the road, Chris rear-ends a stranded SUV belonging to five teens on a camping trip who’ve fallen foul of some barbed wire tied across the road. With both vehicles totalled, Chris and the kids hike off to find help, leaving a couple of their friends to babysit the cars and, quite quickly, get murdered by whomever lives in them thar woods.

Lunch is up

Their friends, perky to-be-weds Carly and Scott and evident final girl Jessie (the lovely Dushku) and Chris come upon a shack-of-a-house in a clearing and go inside to look for a phone but find jars of questionable meat-products, pots full of car keys and other belongings and a body in the bathtub but before they can flee, the inhabitants return with their vehicles in tow and, as the group hide, flop a dead friend on the table and saw off her leg for lunch.

Things take a turn for the (even) worse when the group are caught creeping away and madmen give chase, which is essentially what the rest of Wrong Turn is. The simplicity of the opus makes for easy viewing (unless you’re squeamish) and a bunch of sequences that aren’t altogether original play out nicely and have you rooting for the kids – surprisingly all of them – to either get the fuck outta the woods or fight back with gusto. Working from a what-would-you-do perspective, the group don’t make too many idiotic decisions that get them killed. They try to hide and create diversions that don’t go to plan but it just seems like luck ain’t on their side.

While it’s content is pretty inconceivable, there’s an awesome scene where the fleeing protagonists come upon a clearing chocka with discarded vehicles, most of which have blood splattered all over them and recognisable belongings spilling out of them; climbing ropes, picnic hampers, shoes, sunglasses, a child’s doll. It’s jarring and upsetting, far more than most slasher flicks manage to be because they trade only in offing the kind of hateful twats that say “worst movie ever” and nobody in the audience cares. But the belongings found in the Wrong Turn parking lot of death are everyday things; luggage of the missing. And it is sad.

The characters gasp and question how the psychos been getting away with it for so long? Yeah, it’s a bit dumb to think so many families could disappear in one region and nobody fly a chopper over and spot a massive clearing full of cars! Hey-ho.

Later on there’s a great tree-top cat and mouse game and then finally the last ones standing – pretty damn obvious from the moment it begins and the DVD cover – get to dish up some sensational revenge. The scene is sadly a bit short lived as I was almost yelling for them to hit, punch, kick, poke, scratch harder first time I saw it, but the city people channel enough primal inner guts to let the cannibals have it and walk away largely intact.

Wrong Turn is short, punchy and to the point. No legacy and no pretence, it’s a rare ‘honest’ production that surfaced the same year as the suspiciously similar Texas Chainsaw remake. If I had to find fault, it’d be the excesses taken with the trio of inbreds; their malformations taken to the extreme that it becomes a bit of a joke, which was pushed to new levels of stupidity in the sequels. Nevertheless, it’s fictional – who cares? Suspend your disbelief and cynical “that would never happen” mindset and get into it. It rocks.

Blurbs-of-interest: All three cannibals have been in slasher movies before – Julian Richings was the creepy caretaker of Urban Legend; Ted Clark was the gorky newscaster-frat in Happy Hell Night; and Garry Robbins was the loon in Humongous. Lindy Booth was in Cry_Wolf and American Psycho II; Jeremy Sisto was in May; Kevin Zegers was in The Hollow.

Dire-logue’s Greatest Hits Volume 5: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby – Part II

It’s been a while since we “celebrated” the sonically idiotic verbal diarrhoea of the common-or-garden slasher movie character.

As expected, teens talk a lot about sex, so continuing on from our last instalment, here’s more of their inspired insights into the carnal world…

BLACK SERENADE (2001): “It was a question of survival: my dick or my life.”

BLEED (2002): “You wanna see tits? Well here they are and fuck you!”

DARK WALKER (2003): “You know they call orgasms ‘little deaths’… I want a little death tonight.”

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009): “I have a better shot of fucking a penguin than that girl.”

HONEYMOON HORROR (1981): “It’s the biggest piece of meat I’ve ever seen!”

LOVERS LANE (1999): “You are gonna fuck me right now or I’m gonna kill your faggot ass!”

MONSTER MAN (2003): “‘Fucking virgin’? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

NAIL GUN MASSACRE (1985): “I’m as horny as a rooster in a Chinese henhouse!”

A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER (1983): “Vicki felt as though someone faceless was making love to her in bright flashing colours that were changing from one second to the next.”

SCAR (2007): “Hey altar boy! Come up here and take my virginity – I’m not graduating with it!”

SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971): “Your desire to make love is obsessive; compulsive. Go and take a shower.”

THE TOYBOX (2007): “I just want someone to notice my breasts.”

Lightmares and Nighthouses

LIGHTHOUSE

 3.5 Stars  1999/15/91m

“The brightest light. Your darkest fears.”

A.k.a. Dead of Night (U.S.)

Director: Simon Hunter / Writers: Hunter & Graeme Scarfe / Cast: James Purefoy, Rachel Shelley, Chris Adamson, Paul Brooke, Don Warrington, Chris Dunne, Bob Goody, Pat Kelman, Pete McCabe.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “Two words can sum that up: Sick. Fuck.”


Some films should only be watched once. Such is the case with this leftover from 90s Horror Month, which I frankly ran out of time to review.

In typical British horror tradition, the UK was pretty much the last country to get the film despite producing the damn thing. I saw it about a decade ago after importing an American video copy and thought it was very good but, if memory serves, not likely to hold up on repeated viewings. Watching it t’other day, I was right.

Psycho member-of-public cutter-upper Leo Rook escapes from incarceration during a transfer on a prison ship, offing a couple of guards as he goes and then rows to a nearby lighthouse-isle, slays the keepers and disables the lighthouse, which subsequently causes the ship to hit nearby rocks and sink.

A gaggle of survivors make it to the isle and hobble to the lighthouse where the remaining guards try to keep hold of their power before the group realise that something ain’t right. Attempts to fix lights, generators and radios are all thwarted by Rook, who likes to collect the severed heads of his victims. Eventually, the prison staff and shrinkologist Kirsty (Shelley) admit to the others who was on board and who might’ve escaped and who might be killing everyone. That’s the same person for all three of those categories, by the way.

Lighthouse excels visually and some scenes are precursors to the likes of Haute Tension: sequences where victims know the killer is close by and hide themselves away in tiny spaces while the music is muted and nobody is sure if Rook knows they’re there. Lots of work is done with reflections in puddles and weather beaten windows and shots are angled to maximise the claustrophobic feel of a scene or, elsewhere, making the interior of the building appear like a swirling nightmare. Another great scene involves two prisoners shackled together, one of whom is unconscious while the other decides between spending ages attacking their chains with an axe or hacking through something easier as the killer approaches…

There’s a weird and off putting flashback that links Rook to Kirsty that’s never wholly explain and made fuzzy by strange editing as the film lumbers awkwardly towards it’s overwrought climax, which unfortunately scrutinises the setpieces into looking a bit staged and cheap. There’s no prizes for picking who’ll live and who won’t but the cast is dotted with familiar faces, most of whom (nearly all the victims here are male) die quite gruesomely by the killer’s handy machete.

One of the better British slasher efforts hampered possibly by it’s almost-high-art-but-not approach to a generic opus; parts of it that look beautiful juxtapose clumsily with low-end effects work, but if you can see your way to ignoring that, there are some gripping situations to level the playing field and Lighthouse is definitely worth seeing for a touch of classiness.

Strangely, someone asked me if I thought the film was gay. Gay? Well, a load of men – some shackled together – scramble to salvation on an island with a big phallic penisey lighthouse. But no, I don’t think it’s some big cock metaphor.

Blurb-of-interest: Rachel Shelley was in The Children.

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