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Dream a grisly dream

nightmare_on_elm_street_three2A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS

4 Stars  1987/18/93m

“If you think you’ll get out alive, you must be dreaming.”

Director: Chuck Russell / Writers: Wes Craven, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell & Bruce Wagner / Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Robert Englund, Priscilla Pointer, John Saxon, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Heiden, Larry Fishburne, Penelope Sudrow, Brooke Bundy, Nan Martin, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “In my dreams…I am the Wizard Master!”


A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 holds the dubious honour of being the first slasher flick I ever saw, way back when I was about 11 or 12, a group of kids together in a TV room at a camp site, an older brother’s video cassette, fear, horror, Freddy!!, nightmares of my own for about six weeks. Never will I watch a horror film again, I said.

Even now, parts of Dream Warriors still give me a familiar shiver as I hark back to all those “little slices of death” as Edgar Allan Poe’s quote begins the flick, the most slasher molded entry in the series and probably the best of the sequels. Attempting to pick up the pieces left by the misfire that was Freddy’s Revenge (the gay one – which has a charm I’ll explore further when I add it to the site), Wes Craven rejoined the production team as a co-writer and first act in his role was to bring Nancy back into the fold.

Nancy, again played by the lovely Heather Langenkampenfussenschmidt, comes to help out at the Springwood Psyche Ward where a group of nightmare plagued teenagers are failing to convince the staff of the existence of their mutual boogeyman and, more importantly, failing to stay alive. We’re inducted into tale with Kristen (Arquette), who has a particularly eerie nightmare where she’s stuck inside Nancy Thompson’s old house – now Freddy’s – and ends up with a slashed wrist.

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The staff, primarily made up of bitchy matriarchal type Pointer, sassy porter Fishburne and Craig Wasson’s flakey but nice doc, think it’s all down to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll and just want the kids to have a good sleep. Awww…that’s it. Nancy’s arrival is followed by two grim deaths, both of which are inexplicably written off as suicides and she, somewhat a little late, tells the remaining kids about Freddy and what he did to her six years earlier.

elm3aHelpfully/contrivedly (you choose), Kristen has the ability to pull other people into her dreams and Nancy tries to turn the kids into ‘Dream Warriors’ using their most fantastical abilities of their wildest dreams against Freddy: wheelchair dork can walk and is the Wizard Master, ex-junkie chick is bad-ass punk, black guy has super strength and Kristen can backflip all over the joint. All the while, Freddy torments Nancy from beyond, scarring poor comatose Joey in the process…

There really should be a comma after 'him'

There really should be a comma after ‘him’

Throw in a creepy nun that only Wasson can see and John Saxon’s cameo as an alcoholic Lt. Thompson and we got ourselves the best type of 80’s horror flick!

"You are the last of the Elm Street children... Again."

“You are the last of the Elm Street children… Again.”

Things manifest in a joint assault against Freddy in the group dream, some of the kids die, some don’t, the creepy-ass nun seems to know a lot about Krueger (hmmm…), mute kid speaks again and there’s a sub-Jason and the Argonauts skeleton-of-death moment that hasn’t dated so well. The vein puppet sequence and “this is your big break into TV” would likely be close to the top in the Best Deaths in Slasher Movie category when the Oscar’s finally decide that this is a base level requirement ignored for too long.

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Dream Warriors is definitively 80’s: the framing, the hair, the music, the general tone of the picture and it’s inventively brutal effects work, something the later films used as their hook when Freddy had become about as scary as a basket of kittens. Characterisations are sharper than Part 2 and the ensuing sequels and there’s still something grossly repellent about Englund as the villain, although this film was most definitely the turning point of the franchise from high-rent Friday the 13th competitor to all-out pop culture icon status where victims became interchangable and nobody cared about them. It was a massive box office hit (outperformed only by Elm Street 4 and, later, Freddy vs. Jason, smashing the hockey masked one out of the running.

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There’s a lot to like about this charismatic and occasionally downright scary film (that kids bike that rolls into Kristen’s room – argh!!! Not the mention the best use of the creepy “One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you”… rhyme). For one thing, it’s not afraid to kill off once important players or sympathetic victims in the name of horror and, perhaps most impressively, is the end credits song by German spandex rockers Dokken, the video of which appears on the DVD as the falsetto squealings of the lead singer defeat Freddy…

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Blurbs-of-interest: Sagoes, Eastman, Bundy and, of course, Englund all returned for the next film, The Dream Master; Sagoes also appeared in The Back Lot Murders. Langenkamp returned in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare with John Saxon, who had also appeared in Welcome to Spring Break, The Baby Doll Murders, Tenebrae and the original Black Christmas. Wasson was in Schizoid. Chuck Russell previously produced Hell Night.

“No tee-veee…”

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HAPPY HELL NIGHT

3 Stars  1991/18/84m

A.k.a. Frat Fright / Hell Night (UK video)

“25 years ago he sold his soul to the devil… Now it’s time to pay.”

Director: Brian Owens / Writers: Brian Owens, Ron Paterson & Michael Fitzpatrick / Cast: Nick Gregory, Franke Hughes, Laura Carney, Darren McGavin, Charles Cragin, Janez Vrhovec, Kate Delay, Ted Clark, Jeffrey Miller, Robert Restraino.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Technical difficulties – please do not adjust your dicks.”


A rare throwback to the cliches of 80s horror, possibly rendered as such due to its startling similarities to Hell Night proper, the Linda Blair mini-masterpiece about fraternity and sorority pledges being offed by a legendary thought-dead killer. Considering this flick was titled Hell Night for its UK video release and, if you look at the title card, one might think that the producer’s tacked the word ‘Happy’ on as an afterthought once they realised just how alike it was to the older film.

So, it’s 1991 and people were far more attractive than they were in the 80’s.

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A Yugoslavian/Canadian production, HAPPY Hell Night also revolves around a fraternity hazing stunt and the murderous subject of a local legend. The boys of the Phi Delta Sigma frat house are looking to win the competition for the most outrageous initiation prank, which will induct house president Eric’s lil bro Sonny into the brotherhood, thanks to some poking and prodding from dad Darren McGavin, an ex Sigma with some grisly secrets…

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As Hell Night kicks into swing, Sonny and another dorky pledge are sent off to photograph Zachary Malius, a Satanic priest rotting in a conveniently local institution for the last quarter of a century after slaughtering seven Sigma’s and a local girl. Expectedly, they fuck up their assignment and Malius totters from his cell and crashes the party, swinging a nifty ice-axe all the way! A handy powercut ensures most of the party revellers leave and there are some comical shocks; one nymphette is dim enough to handcuff herself to a bed frame and toss the key across the room, and there’s a rocking chair decapitation gag and gobs of nudity as expected.

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In spite of its status as something of a collectible (prior to DVD at least), HAPPY Hell Night is surprisingly well made and adequately violent with a sprinkling of semi-knowns peppered throughout the crowded cast roster: Sam Rockwell plays a young McGavin and future CSI star Jorja Fox is an early victim. One of the inbreds from Wrong Turn also appears as the requisite dorky prankster. The characters are quite intriguing too; brotherly love is tested between Eric and Sonny as they’re both giving it to the same girl, who is the nominal heroine.

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However, Malius is the star, commenting on each kill as he goes with such witty repartee as ‘No TV!’, ‘No sex!’, ‘No hope of international distribution!’ He’s like an overgrown, homicidal E.T., complete with overlarge black blobs for eyes and, admittedly, quite a creepy looking dude. This was one of the first slasher flicks I ever saw and I hated it at the time, but revisits have shown that it’s a fun little timewaster with cheesy dialogue, soap-opera acting and lots of Latin prayer-sayery at the weirdo ending. Try it and see!

MATINEE

matineeMATINEE

2 Stars  1989/18/89m

A.k.a. Midnight Matinee

Director / Writer: Richard Martin / Cast: Ron White, Gillian Barber, Jeff Schultz, Beatrice Boepple, Timothy Webber, Don Davis, R. Nelson Brown, Matt Hill, William B. Davis, Kerry Sanomirsky, Stephen E. Miller.

Body Count: 5


This review almost didn’t happen. Y’see, so rare is Matinee that I could find but two pictures of the DVD cover online and both were teeny tiny pixelations. Thus, I was forced to make my own abstract version, which represents nothing to do with the content of the film, but then neither did the existing cover art…

This seldom seen Canadian TV movie begins with an almost shot-for-shot rip off of Kevin Bacon’s murder in Friday the 13th, which turns out to be part of the movie ‘Murder Camp’ that a bunch of teens are watching at a small town horror festival. As the Kevin-imposter bites it on screen, so does some chick’s boyfriend – knife through the neck, exactly the same.

Two years later, the theatre is reopened for another festival, much to the townsfolk’s objections (well, the busybodies). New cop Al Jason is dragged into things when an arsey, mulleted teen dies in a suspect accident. Could the never-caught killer have returned? Elsewhere, projectionist Marilyn is worried about her daughter Sherri’s wayward boyfriend Lawrence, who becomes the prime suspect.

But there’s also sleazy reporter Geoff (Timothy Webber), Sherri’s absent father and horror producer, who has returned for the festival or campy hanger-around Warren, who may or may not be romantically involved with the theatre owner, Earle!

More talk than terror occurs and a few non-explicit murders punctuate the tedium, with some minor tension cranked once the killer turns out to be who we all thought it was and chases their last intended victim. Good casting, but whichever way you cut it, Matinee is for slasher and/or Canuck-completists only.

Blurbs-of-interest: Timothy Webber was Mo in Terror Train; Beatrice Boepple played Amanda Krueger in Elm Street 5; Stephen E. Miller was in The Stepfather and Funeral Homeas were the rest of the Canadian population.

Men are from Mars, women are from crazy

unhinged-coverUNHINGED

3 Stars  1982/18/77m

“Violence beyond reason. Victims beyond help.”

Director: Don Gronquist / Writers: Don Gronquist & Reagan Ramsey / Cast: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner, Sara Ansley, Virginia Settle, Barbara Lusch, John Morrison.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “I’ll be sure to excuse myself when she breaks out the heroin.”


More of a low-key psycho thriller than an out n’ out slasher extravaganza, Unhinged has a reputation as a shitty, best-forgotten throwback to the cheapo post-Friday the 13th days of slasherama.

Teen girlfriends Terry, Nancy and Gloria are off to a rock festival when they crash their car in a rainstorm. Terry wakes up at the secluded mansion house residence of Marion Penrose and her infirm mother, who rattles around in a wheelchair, abusing Marion and going into unexplained trances at the dinner table when she becomes fascinated with the table condiments.

u1aEdith Penrose is a nasty old hag who hates men, and so Marion’s simple brother Carl is restricted to creeping around outside after dark or in the attic. With Gloria out for the count after the accident, only Terry and Nancy have to endure the rantings of the old lady, sit on the floor like children and play dominos while Marion tickles the ivory and feel generally wigged out by the whole thing.

…And who’s that eye belong to staring at the girls while they shower?

unhinged-2picsNancy elects to trek into town for help the next day and soon meets the sharp end of a giant sickle. It’s a cool, unexpected murder scene, pretty much out of the blue. One second the girl is climbing up an embankment, then next she’s being slashed at with the uber-scythe by an unidentified rainmacked psycho.

u4aBack at Penrose Towers, Terry tries to find out why Marion puts up with her mother’s shit and there are some loooooong scenes of dialogue, some more night-creeping with the creepy-eye putting in another appearance. Gloria is summarily done away with having hardly appeared in the film at all and Terry begins to grow increasingly suspicious. Needless to say, bodies are found, running and screaming ensues and Terry reprimands the culprit…or does she?

u3aHorrible mom-from-hell, creepy old house, extreme close-ups on a gorping eye – all very Psycho. The handyman is even called Norman Barnes! While there’s only a principal cast of four, it’s evident one of them must be the killer – but who? Could mandrist-mom be toddling free of her wheelchair? Is Carl more dangerous than simple? Or is Marion more repressed than we thought?

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The outcome isn’t entirely predictable, in fact it would be pretty clever if so many almanacs and reviews didn’t give it away as the film’s ‘selling point’. Unhinged‘s best asset is the constant sense of dread hanging over proceedings; there’s very little action or standardised horror staples on show, which will undoubtedly make it an endurance test for many viewers, but if you’re into curious C-movies that somehow made it on to the ‘Video Nasties List’ until 2004, then it could leave a bit of an impression.

The film was loosely remade in the UK in 2017.

FATAL PULSE

FATAL PULSE

1 Stars  1988/88m

“Who is the killer behind the sadistic and horrific murders of beautiful young coeds…and when will this madness end?”

Director: Anthony J. Christopher / Writer: James Hundhausen / Cast: Michelle McCormick, Ken Roberts, Joe Phelan, Alex Courtney, Cindra Hodgdon, Steven Henry, Blair Karsch, Sky Nicholas, Maureen O’Hanlon, Kitty.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Don’t worry, almost nothing can go wrong.”


Trouble with the lexicon of late-80s made for video slasher films, even those that felt the need to remind you they were ‘full length feature films’ on the box, was that the introduction of made-for-video pictures opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of crap. Almost literal crap.

Fatal Pulse - not to be confused with the cheesy, but far superior Fatal Games - is a rubbish arse-wipe of a film in which the dimwitted residents of the Alpha Omega Kappa sorority house are being strangled, electrocuted, drowned and slashed by vinyl records (!) by an anonymous black-gloved killer, who could be the lead girl’s on-off boyfriend, his dumbass buddy, or her nasty ex. But we know it isn’t really. The real killer’s identity is so obvious the character may as well have been holding a decapitated head when he first appears.

It’s one of those scripts where the author hasn’t even tried. If someone was murdered in the room next door to me, I’d move out. These girls, they stick around, told nothing will happen to them (see Dire-logue) and are all presented as witless morons and nasty bitches who are utterly defenceless, cowering pathetically when the maniac leans in for the kill, slashing their bras open first of course! One girl encounters the psycho on a suburban street during daylight hours. Instead of running to a house, she decides an abandoned warehouse is the best means of escape!

If you want to see the film that makes Sorority House Massacre look like Black Christmas then Fatal Pulse is for you! Everyone else is advised to substitute the tape for a doorstop or toilet roll.

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