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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.

May Face-off: Almost but not-quite slasher flicks

This month, let’s take a look at those films that either pretend to be slasher films and then turn out not to be and those that tip-toe through the gardens of slasherdom and beat a hasty retreat…

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BOO 2005

Setting up like another photocopy of Halloween, a group of teens go to party in an abandoned and ‘haunted’ hospital on All Hallows’ Eve where they are tormented by creepy hallucinations and turned into zombies with sloppy insides. It’s a little bit Session 9, complete with backstory revealed in segments by the inexplicably psychic heroine – something do with with a child-molesting patient and the nurse (Dee Wallace) who sacrificed herself to stop him escaping. There’s some good atmos in the first third but come the end, everything has been over-explained the way American supernatural horror films tend to do. Only a handful of eerie images – look out for that balloon clown – make a good film not.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: the one-by-one schtick is intact but the zombies and ghosts swallow too much of the plot.

deathproofDEATH PROOF 2007

During the early hype for Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino stated that his half of the feature would be “a slasher film at 200 m.p.h.” with nutjob stuntman Kurt Russell offing pretty young women. The final product has a few shots that bring back memories of Halloween and its ilk, but this turns out to be anything but a stalk n’ slasher. While it’s a fun romp once – albeit bogged down with way too much of QT’s ‘trademark’ dialogue – none of the slashers I’ve ever seen were edited this badly, had this sort of narrative or as much talking. It’s sky-high budget is visible through the cracks, making it look only pretentious, with annoying characters with oversized egos, all of whom talk like frat boys. The singular car accident is the high point and the stunts and cast are good but if anything, Death Proof shows that perhaps the director everyone has a boner for is a one-trick pony unable to create anything original, only add tiresome, irrelevant dialogue.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: opposite case to Boo here, maniac killer on site but no one-by-one opus and way too much self-indulgence.

hillshaveeyes2THE HILLS HAVE EYES II 2007

The original 1977 Hills Have Eyes wasn’t a slasher flick either, more a survivalist horror film, as was it’s pretty faithful but grisly-as-hell 2006 remake, this sequel to that remake is not a remake of the cheesefest 1983 Hills Have Eyes Part II, which is a slasher flick… Confused? You will be.

Wes Craven penned this with his son and, considering how much flack the ’83 film took, he’s managed to create something far worse here… An Aliens vibe pervades, with a group of National Guard trainees (all male, bar two) investigating some missing scientists in the desert. Dipping its toes in the torture-porn sub-genre with a brutal rape scene needlessly included (as in the ’06 film) and ample gore. Dialogue consists only of ‘fuck this’, ‘fuck that’, ‘fuck you’ and we don’t give a fuck about any of them anyway… The dog-flashback alone in Craven’s version outdoes this entire film.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: it’s a siege-fest with no real pattern emerging for the sequence of deaths, though interestingly both the female characters survive…

hostelHOSTEL 2005

The granddaddy of the torture-porn (or gorno) movement, it’s not the done thing to say you like it, but Hostel is a genuinely good film, sometimes included in lists of slasher flicks. Tarantino protege Eli Roth directed the less interesting Cabin Fever and waxes lyrical about putting T&A back into horror blah blah blah…

Interestingly, the main victims here are a trio of boys who fall foul of a Slovakian operation that allows rich psychopaths to torture and kill captured youngsters for their own sadistic pleasure. Lead character Paxton is an unpleasant fellow to say the least and would be killed with prejudice in any other film. This turn-around on the standard gender politics of horror attempts to blot out any accusations of misogyny, although it’s littered with naked girls and it’s even grislier sequel traded out boys for girls and so took this as permission to show sexualised violence and get away with it.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: there’s no single killer and more emphasis on Paxton’s escape and revenge.

tamara TAMARA 2005

Geeky wiccan Tamara is the victim of a cruel prank by a group of popular kids that ends in her death – or does it? Back at school, after burying her, the guilty party are surprised to find that Tamara’s back as a sexy siren with psychic powers at her disposal – and she’ll do anything for the love of her sympathetic English teacher.

After this I Know What You Did Last Summer-lite beginning, we expect the new foxy Tamara to start offing the other teens. However, Tamara doesn’t kill all of those who ‘killed’ her, she makes them insane, suicidal or homicidal puppets who do her bidding for her and finally corners the object of her desire and nice girl Chloe, who manage to defeat her.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: hardly anybody is murdered, which is a waste when you’re dealing with asshole jocks and nasty cheerleaders…

Victor: Hostel is the best non-slasher film here. See it if you can deal with all manner of torture devices being used and an eyeball being cut loose.

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

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3 Stars  1982/18/100m

“If these walls could talk… they would SHRIEK!”

Director: Damiano Damiani / Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, Hans Holzer, Dardano Sacchetti / Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Erika Katz, Brent Katz.

Body Count: 5


‘Tis not a slasher film, you say. ‘Tis right, it ain’t. It’s for the Final Girl filmclub and, frankly, I could do with the traffic, so here it is. Suck it!

I think I’ve seen all but two of the Amityville films and, shockingly, this is the best one and the most slashy-like, so the wisest choice for a review here, methinks.

Most folks should know the story of Amityville, Long Island. A family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue after the previous occupants were shot dead by a family member and promptly bailed out less than a month later after a series of ghostly shenanigans, which have been attributed as hoaxes in the following decades, after several books, nine films (including the horrendous remake), and loads of morbid curiosities which ended with the house proper being renovated and changing it’s address detail.

But the film. It’s a schlocky exploitation affair, a prequel to the James Brolin/Margot Kidder original of ’79, loosely based on the DeFeo family who occupied the place until they were murdered by their eldest. Mom, Dad and four kids move into the waterfront property and straightaway become the targets of an invisible force of eeeeevil who lived there first and likes its own company. Breezes blow, nobody knocks on the door at midnight, brushes paint a giant pig on the wall and numerous rooms are trashed.

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Prize-prick Dad, Anthony Montelli, blames everything on Sonny, the oldest son and likes badmouthing everybody and generally being an arse. At one point, a mirror falls off the wall after Dad hung it up. Somehow, it’s Sonny’s fault despite the fact nobody was anywhere near it! Mom Dolores (the fab Alda), tries to keep it together, while daughter Tricia somehow enters into an incestual relationship with Sonny after he’s porked by the malevolent spirit one night.

"What's...happening to us?"

“What’s…happening to us?”

As time plods on, Father Adamsky drops by to bless the house and realises how eeeeevil it is and racks up a few boxes worth of guilt coupons when he ignores Tricia’s pleas for help and Sonny takes a shotgun to the whole clan. This occurs around about an hour into the film and thinking of the two or three times I’ve watched this film, I can never seem to remember what happens next. It gets boring, I’ll tell you that much. The haunted house stuff is all well and good, nicely dealt with and making great use of a floaty steadicam that locks many scenes into single shots. The major flaw is the first two thirds is that it all just looks…silly. Kinda like a parody with every cliche in the book tossed in to a spooky salad.

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OK, so when it works it is somewhat creepy – Sonny’s alone time in the house, the basement scenes – but the family largely over act their parts to the point where I burst out laughing at some of the dire-logue: Adamsky attempts to seek help from his superior who gives him wonderful advice to this effect:

“I thought I saw a ghost once. It could have been a ghost. I don’t think it was a ghost though. I think it was something else… Not a ghost.”

F&%£$^!!!! Stop saying ghost!

Then there’s the spirit itself. Sonny slowly morphs into a freaky-ass looking thing with the demon in full residence, which talks to him through his retro foam-capped headphones, “why didn’t you pull the trigg-urrrrr?” it asks in a weird accent. We see it at the end where the film most likely earns its 18 certificate and it looks a bit dumb, but still gross.

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In the end, I was too bored to worry about the impact of the ending and what it all meant, wishing a director with a name was cool as Damiano Damiani had had the sense to edit it down to 70 minutes, finishing at the murders. It proves that the Amityville franchise is a bit rubbish, but at the very least the first two films and the one with that lamp are good for a laugh.

Blurbs-of-interest: Alda turned up in a few horror films around this time, she was Mrs Mendrakis in the original When A Stranger Calls, as well as appearing in Girls Nite Out and You Better Watch Out! Andrew Prine was in The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2

friday2aFRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2

5 Stars  1981/18/84m

“The bodycount continues…”

Director: Steve Miner / Writer: Ron Kurz / Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Marta Kober, Bill Randolph, Tom McBride, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Kirsten Baker, Russell Todd, Stu Charno, Walt Gorney, Steve Daskawicz.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Axes, knives, saws – they can all be dangerous…”


This is a big one. For me, the best slasher movie in existence. Prepare thyself, I may become emotional…

So, after the mega box office ring-a-ding-ding that Friday the 13th made during the summer of 1980, ’twas not a surprise that a sequel was rushed into production. The budget went up, the script stayed almost exactly the same and cinema’s most prolific mass murderer was born. Ja. Son. Voor. Hees.

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Storywise, we begin pre-credits on the street outside the home of sole survivor Alice (Adrienne King returning), where a creepy pair o’ legs skulks through puddles towards her abode… Upstairs on the bed, Alice has a convenient flashback dream that recaps the end of the first film (complete with blurry screen), Mrs Voorhees’ insane revenge plot and her subsequent beheading la-de-dah… Soon after Alice awakes, she grabs the world’s shortest shower and gets scared by her cat before finding Mrs V’s severed head in the refrigerator and getting an ice-pick in the temple. Cut to credits.

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We learn that it’s been “five long years” since the Camp Crystal Lake massacre and a counsellor training center nearby opens up to a bunch of nubile teens, all flirtation and pranks. Head counsellor Paul (Furey) tries to keep things together, all the while carrying on with his assistant Ginny (the legend of Amy Steel). Second assistant Ted is the uber-geek, then there are the main trainees: Vickie, Scott, Terry, Sandra, Jeff and wheelchair-bound Mark…

The legend of Camp Crystal Lake is told around the campfire by Paul, who mentions that little Jason’s body was never found and it is said he killed Alice and that now he stalks the forest, ready to avenge his mother’s death! A great little scene, is this, my very first memory of anything Friday the 13th related when I caught it on TV in Florida around Halloween ’89 (when I was 11 and nervy).

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While the youngsters continue to amble around the area exercising little caution, Crazy Ralph returns for no particular reason other than to supply Jason with a mid-point kill. He wears exactly the same outfit as he did five years before and learns the hard way that perving on Ginny and Paul is a fatal error.

The next day, Sandra and Jeff opt to hike into the woods and explore Camp Crystal Lake, but are intercepted by a toupee-haired cop, who duly becomes another victim. Their punishment for getting caught is to stay behind that night while everyone else goes out for one last night on the town, save for the other four we all knew would die… Terry goes skinny-dipping, Jeff and Mark have an arm-wrestling contest and a shady figure who we’ve not yet had a good look at appears in the camp.

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One by one, the teens are offed in a variety of now textbook MO’s, with excellent make up effects courtesy of Carl Fullerton, most of which got cut before release due to the MPAA’s clampdown on gore flicks. Said material has never been seen beyond a few stills – right there, look…look down! Nevertheless, these missing scenes do not rob the film of its pure stalk n’ slash integrity, B-movie spookiness and sense of the filmmakers really putting effort into making a quality horrorfest. Jason himself finally appears beyond the lower-body shots. There was no hockey mask back in ’81, but that burlap sack is pretty damn scary in a banjo-strummin’ backwoods hick sorta way!

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Then there are the ejector seat moments, executed with perfect timing, the kind of things most film’s screw up by telegraphing the shocks too early with fragmented shots rather than the long, lingering scenarios here as Ginny becomes the last one standing after she and Paul return to camp early. The stringy high-note that refuses to let up as she holds the door closed in the bathroom, unsure whether or not she should move towards the open window…

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And Amy Steel. The odds-on favourite heroine of the entire series plays psych-major Ginny perfectly, a mix of vulnerability and agility, she has sex with Paul and still survives the nightmare, screams amazingly and gives Jason a better run for his money than all of the ensuing final girls of later films combined. Her final showdown with Jason at his woodland shack is great, as is the extra value shock ending and the question mark that hangs over the fate of another character…

There’s absolutely nothing dull about Friday the 13th Part 2, it has everything I want in a slasher film: competent production, likeable characters, great heroine, liberal body count and good use of the camp setting. I love it and always will.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Amy took the final girl role again in April Fool’s Day; Marta Kober had a cameo as the pizza girl in Slumber Party Massacre III; Russell Todd had previously appeared fleetingly in He Knows You’re Alone; Lauren-Marie Taylor played Sheila in Girls Nite Out; Steve Dash (Jason) has a small role in Alone in the Dark; Walt Gorney supplied the prologue voiceover at the beginning of Friday VII. Steve Miner directed the next Friday film and also Halloween H20.

Scooby Don’t

THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II

3 Stars  1984/18/87m

“So you think you’re lucky to be alive…”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: Kevin Blair, Tamara Stafford, Michael Berryman, John Bloom, Janus Blythe, Penny Johnson, John Laughlin, Willard Pugh, Colleen Riley, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston.

Body Count: 8


The old mind struggles but this may well have been the first slasher flick I ever saw, late night Bravo channel stuff with my dad and my sister in the early nineties and there are no two ways about it, this film sucks. It’s the epitome of cheesy, schlocky, teen-kill trash and once considered a contender for the all-time worst sequel. But I fracking love it!

Craven’s ’77 original pitted a whitebread family trapped in the middle of the desert against the hill-dwelling insurgents who wanted to pillage their number. It was a thought-out tale of families from opposite ends of the spectrum thrown together in an explosion of violence and screaming and scratching and biting and stuff, remade to malevolent excess by Alexandre Aja in 2006 and followed by an equally grisly sequel the following year.

Claiming he ‘needed the money’, Craven signed on to write and direct this sequel, reportedly shot in 1983 and not released until 1985. Evidently driving under the influence of Friday the 13th (even drafting in Harry Manfredini to sort out the score), Craven wrote a cast of teenagers into the equation to serve as knife, axe and machete fodder for the extended family of psychos. After a couple of flashbacks from Bobby, who made it through the events of the first one, we’re reintroduced to Ruby, the turncoat, who, with said headband-wearing teenies, embarks on a cross-desert bus trip with some miracle motocross fuel that will make them all rich and/or famous. I wasn’t really listening to the intricacies.

With bike-ridin’ trio Roy, Harry, Hulk (!) and mechanic Foster, there are their tag-along gals, Jane, Sue and blind psychic Cass, who we could tell is going to be the final girl even if we were blind. Rounding out the group is the best character to return from the original – Beast the dog, now sporting a yellow scarf, Littlist Hobo-style. Remember him? He saved the day before, chewing up the ankle of nasty hill psycho dude Pluto. No? Still hazy? Well, never fear – Beast can certainly remember as he barks us along into his very own flashback! No, really… The screen goes all wavy and blurs into old footage of his pro-middle class savagery.

The gang realises they forgot to account for the time zone difference and, in an effort not to be late for whatever it is they’re going to, they vote to cross a desert track, which soon disables their funky red bus and they end up at an “abandoned” ranch-cum-mine.

The biker dudes decide to rev off into the wilderness in search of gasoline while the others explore the locale and Cass passes time by using one of those embossed label maker things to stick a love message to Roy on his (bike) helmet and starts to ‘sense’ things. Bad things, of course. It would have been nice if she sensed it was a sanctuary for unloved donkies and waterbuffalo, but it’s not and she doesn’t. She senses…eeeeeevil.

hhe2-beast-ruby-pennyMaybe the eeeeevil that Cass senses is closer than she thinks… Maybe it’s her friend Sue! Maybe her psychic powers allow her to see that Sue is no other than Sherry Palmer, neo-first lady and scheming wife to President Palmer in 24!!! It’s all a cunning disguise, the headband, the lycra… That’s her below left, beneath Beast and Reaper, Penny Johnson a.k.a. Sherry Palmer in one of her earliest roles. I’m not sure what she’s doing with herself there but she didn’t get a great many close-ups in the film.

Disappointingly, it transpires that Sue is not the killer and the real trouble comes in the form of a duo of hill-eye-havers, Reaper and the not-so-dead Pluto. Ruby – arguably looking worse in her cosmo-80s wear than she did in her rags – comes clean and ‘fesses up to being the girl-in-the-story that was conveniently told on the bus and spouts the usual ‘we’re all in danger’ garb. Meanwhile, Harry is killed and Roy incapacitated by the killers, who, as darkness sets in, descend on the ranch and it’s dim-bulbed newcomers.

This is where the cliches come thick n’ fast, but they’re enjoyable cliches. Hills II is one of those slasher flicks with a bit of a sense of humour to it. The characters are shallow but likeable; we care about them in the sort of temporary way we care about people we meet by the pool on holiday and the way we cared about the counsellors of Camp Crystal Lake. They’re just fun loving kids doomed to fates worse than, uh, not dying.

Pluto and Ruby have a confronation that is intercepted by the springiness of Beast, who soon scares him away, while Reaper stalks and slays the others, who defy Ruby’s warnings and canter off for showers or private rendezvous until Reaper bear-hugs and throat-slashes them into the next realm.

While Beast licks Roy back into usefulness and helps him do away with Pluto once and for all, Cass discovers the bodies of her friends, identifying them with her fingers and then catawaling their names along with the odd “why!?” Reaper follows and she manages to escape long enough for Roy to save her and formulate a plan that puts an end to both Reaper and their miracle bike gas, so that they and Beast and can enjoy the hike back to civilisation.

Minimal bloodshed, strangely lucid killers, token blindness and a dog with the ability to recall events from eight years ago… The ingredients of tripe, surely, but I’d rather watch this entry than the original or either of the ‘re-imagined’ films. Wes Craven scripted the 2007 Hills Have Eyes II, which sadly opted not to replicate the story here and was only a notch above total suckiness.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Blair (later Kevin Spirtas) was the hunky hero in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood; Michael Berryman was also in Craven’s Deadly Blessing, and Penny Dreadful and Mask Maker.

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