Tag Archives: fusion slasher

“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”

a-nightmare-on-elm-streetA NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

5 Stars  1984/18/87m

“If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all.”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Robert Englund, Lin Shaye, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Whipp.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “I had a hard-on when I woke up this morning, Tina, had your name all over it,” / “There’s four letters in my name Rod, there’s not enough room on your joint for four letters!”


There are no perfect films (with the possible exception of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion) in the same way that there are no entirely merit-less films, even more so in the realm of the slasher flick, so it’s a rarity when something excellent comes along. By 1984, I’d imagine most people were sick of masked killers hunting down teenage prey until the last girl saves the day – and then came Wes Craven’s low-budge indie flick with a bizarre little name – shouldn’t it be called Suburban Sleepover Massacre??

Everyone should know the twisted genius at the core of the Elm Street model: Don’t…fall…asleep. It’s perfect in the way that the lore of Jaws was don’t go in the water. Sleep is something even more impossible to avoid and when you’re a hormone-riddled teenager, your parents aren’t going to believe your tales of recurring nightmares about the claw-fingered madman who really is trying to kill you. Mom…he, like, really, really is!

elm11High school BFF’s Tina and Nancy discover they shared the horrible dream of the toasted guy in the Christmas sweater who freaked them well and truly out. Nancy’s boy-toy Glen tells them that’s impossible but, from his reaction when the girls describe their tormentor, he’s had the nightmare too. When Tina is brutally slain during a sleepover party, her dodgy on-off boyfriend Rod is blamed by Nancy’s Lieutenant dad and soon tossed in prison.

elm31While parents and authority figures simply accept that Rod killed Tina, Nancy becomes convinced that it was the man in her dreams and resolves that to avoid becoming his next victim, she needs to stay awake. Cue parental meddling, peer-disbelief and a memorable trip to a sleep clinic and Elm Street‘s Ace is thrown into play – Nancy has to stay awake by any means possible: pills, bad late-night TV and a helluva lotta coffee from the percolator she hides in her room.

There’s no point in me going through the rest of the story – if you’ve not seen it, what the hell are playing at!? I avoided this film until I was 19 thinking it would scare the hell out of me and, curiously, it was during my second viewing that the film left its frightening imprint: this means it rocks!

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Heather Langenkamp-enschultzenfuss is more than your average slasher flick heroine: she is the centre of the film, far more so than Freddy, who became the linchpin of later sequels (in accordance with Robert Englund’s ascent to top billing), and so a lot rests on her shoulders. As the girl next door type, Nancy is nothing but convincing and her descent into the nightmare (both literal and figurative) is the essence of the story, although things trip over themselves somewhat when she rigs her house with countless Home Alone-type traps, has a heart-to-heart with her mother and falls asleep to battle with Freddy inside a twenty minute window.

Let's get phallical...

Let’s get phallical…

Johnny Depp’s debut is a much-fussed element: as the leading guy, his job amounts to little more than standing around and looking pretty whilst not taking Nancy’s claims seriously and, eventually, dying. But he does fine in the role although we never get to see into his nightmares, nor that of any other male character as a matter of fact.

Craven’s creative streak peaked here, packing in so many great themes and ideas from the genuinely creepy skipping rope song – which has become an anthem of its own – to the allegorical subtexts of the Vietnam War: apparently Craven was riffing on untold truths which return and kick the younger generation in the ass. Here, the sins of the parents are revisited on their kids.

elm71Very little hasn’t already been written about Elm Street in the quarter century since its release, so why even bother reviewing it? I could’ve just given it five stars and written “Awesome!” next to it. It is a classic, the nightmare imagery still stands (I love the squishy staircase) and only some of the technology and Nancy’s ever-increasing hair mass date it, elements that, compared to the flaws in the remake, are minimal, proving that it never required re-booting at all.

Craven never wanted Freddy to become a franchise and while some of the sequels sucked a bit (5 and 6 I’m looking at you!!) I’m glad it did; of the three major slasher franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street has the best story arc, bucked in Part 2, but back on track all the way through the 80s films until FK became a caricature and the films drifted further away from the sleep = death goldmine of a premise.

elm21In 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was made for about $1.8million and a lot of love. In 2010, It’s CG-heavy remake was made for $35million. Which one do you think people will remember in another quarter of a century?

BIG-blurbs-of-interest: Englund returned to his career-making role all the way up to 2003, starring in eight Freddy films and his own syndicated TV series (which was crap, by the way) and has cropped up in many a slasher flick including Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera and Urban Legend. John Saxon returned for Elm Street 3 and the New Nightmare and was also in The Baby Doll Murders, the original Black Christmas, Tenebrae and Welcome to Spring Break; Heather Langenkamp also came back for 3 and 7. Nick Corri, under his real name Jsu Garcia, was in Teacher’s Pet; Charles Fleischer was in The Back Lot Murders (which also had a cameo from Ken Sagoes from Elm Street 3); Depp has starred in big budget variants From Hell and Sleepy Hollow; Mimi Craven was later in Mikey. Craven also directed Deadly Blessing, The Hills Have Eyes Part II and the Scream trilogy.

By the finale, Nancy grew her hair so big that even razor blades couldn't penetrate it

By the finale, Nancy grew her hair so big that even razor blades couldn’t penetrate it

Death is just a click away

imurdersiMURDERS

2 Stars  2008/15/99m

“You don’t know who you’re talking to…”

Director: Robbie Bryan / Writers: Robbie Bryan & Kenneth Del Vecchio / Cast: Terri Colombino, Frank Grillo, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Tony Todd, Joanne Baron, Charles Durning, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Billy Dee Williams, Brooke Lewis, Miranda Kwok, Christie Botelho, Dan Grimaldi.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “It’s difficult to put the milk back in the carton when you’ve already had the cereal.”


Look at that cast roster! Forsythe. Todd. Anwar. Durning. How could this film fail, you might ask? And yet…

iMurders is a strange one. It’s a film that borders several genres and has so many criss-crossed mystery plot threads that the writer’s of Lost would be envious. There’s a lot to resolve in just 99 minutes and things would likely work out better were this a mini-series like Harper’s Island.

Things begin usually enough with a woman returning home to find a blonde riding her husband’s lap. Faces are obscured and we flick to the exterior as voices are raised and a gunshot sounds.

Ten months later, Colombino’s pretty singleton, Sandra, moves into a new apartment and quickly connects back on to ‘FaceSpace’, the social networking site she’s obsessed with. FaceSpace. I think I hear you groaning!

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A group of eight super-friends meet religiously for online chats, during which LA FX artist Mark sets them a contest, the winner of which will be rewarded with some movie memorabilia. However, during their chat, Mark cops a powerdrill in the back of his head, which the others, watching over cams, believe is just trickery in accord with his Halloween-themed task…

Sandra becomes romantically involved with brooding ex-cop neighbour Joe, whose sister is an FBI Agent looking into both the chatroom murders and Billy Dee Williams’ crooked lawyer, who sets up attacks on people and then sues for them. His latest client, Anwar (the trigger-happy Fi from TV’s excellent Burn Notice), is a model whose face has been permanently scarred after she was attacked by a knife-toting loon in a nightclub. Consequently, she spends the entire film with a giant square band-aid stuck to her cheek.

Elsewhere, Forsythe is a philandering college professor trying to hide his ways from his missus and discourage an amorous co-worker. Durning is a shrink with a bizarre young client who babbles incoherently about the number 666, the chatroom and her dead lesbian lover, which allows, yet again, for a sleazy girl-on-girl scene.

Another murder occurs and brooding cop’s FBI sis and Agent Tony Todd (!) – for once neither a hook-handed urban legend or a death savvy mortician – sweep in and arrest bad lawyer and 666-girl and discover another of the chatters slain. As the script steers us towards suspecting Sandra of the killings, we think twice and realise that the killer is most likely that other person who’s always there, loitering…

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“I hear if you chant “iMurders” 5 times in front of your screen…absolutely nothing of interest happens…”

iMurders is a good looking production. I mean, if the director could get that cast, then he obviously knows how to call in favours. Its ambition is what uploads a virus into it; the top-heavy plot structure is simply way too much for the film to adequately cope with. In addition to this there are too many characters and the killer only manages to knock off a dismal three of the eight chatroom members. The token gay character is done away with first and the murders are too tame for a slasher flick and too brutal for a TV movie. CTRL+ALT+DEL out of this one.

Blurbs-of-interest: the music was composed by no other than Harry Manfredini, who scored nine of the Friday the 13th films; Anwar was also in Crazy Eights; Forsythe was in Hack! and the Halloween remake; Dan Grimaldi was in Don’t Go in the House; Todd was also in Final Destination‘s 1, 2 and 5, Hatchet (and its sequel), Jack the Reaper and Scarecrow Slayer; Charles Durning was in both of the When a Stranger Calls films plus Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

SILENT RAGE

silentrage1.5 Stars  1982/18/95m

“Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him.”

Director: Michael Miller / Writer: Joseph Fraley / Cast: Chuck Norris, Ron Silver, Stephen Keats, Toni Kalem, Stephen Furst, Brian Libby, William Finley.

Body Count: 10


Even with a body count that reaches double figures, this attempt to fuse martial arts with a slasher opus flatlines through boredom and is desperately predictable for its running length. A man wakes up in his rented room, calls his doctor and says he can’t take it anymore before donning an axe and chopping up his landlady and some other poor schmuck. After a scuffle, he’s subdued and shot dead – or is he?

No.

Meddling doctors feed him a formula they’ve been working on, which rapidly speeds up the regeneration of damaged cells blah, blah, blah. In short, dead guy goes Mighty Mouse and decides to go on a killing spree until the inevitable showdown with Chuck. Considering the film spends a spare reel on Chuck whipping some biker gang ass, it would’ve been nice for said bikers to have provided extra victims for the psycho, but they leave forgotten as soon as their bar brawl scene wraps.

Meanwhile, things shift from aping Halloween to a Halloween II deserted hospital killfest, which sees Kalem’s hysterical heroine chased along empty corridors for an eternity and Stephen Furst as a comic bumbling deputy who is heartlessly killed off in the only unexpected twist on offer. The final smackdown is good for laughs but the horror audience will feel short-changed by everything else, except maybe the cheese that oozes from the poster!

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Miller also directed National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, which co-starred Furst, who was also in The Unseen. Ron Silver was later in The Wisher.