Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Freddy Vs. Jason

[Full disclosure: Friday the 13th 1980 is the only film of that series that I know I’ve seen. I may well have watched one or two of the sequels but I can’t place them. Though I vaguely remember a lunatic going mayhem on a spaceship… Surely not?]

King Kong Vs Godzilla 1962. Alien Vs Predator 2004. USA Vs USSR. I haven’t seen the first one but the other two were disappointing. When Freddy Vs Jason 2003 was released I ignored it and avoided it until one day Channel 4 interrupted my surfing on the couch. If it hurt I always had the commercials to entertain me.

The notion had been pandered for years and New Line resurrected it for the fanboys. It’s the first film in the franchise Robert Shaye didn’t produce but he made sure he had his customary cameo in it. Sean S. Cunningham[1] did the honours. He had also produced (and directed) Friday the 13th.

To watch Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film 2006[2] is to enjoy Cunningham’s affability. Friday the 13th started with a marketing campaign. There was no script. There was no story. There was no money. Despite its exploitation origins the film had a coherent story. It also has the best ending in horror.
Although Cunningham has directed a number of features[3] his day job is producer. Indeed one of his first gigs was The Last House on the Left 1972 directed by Wes Craven. They would work together again (uncredited) on A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 and again on The Last House on the Left 2009.

Wes Craven was not involved with this sequel.

In a break with tradition the director of this film is Ronnie Yu. The tradition of Elm Street  is  hiring new and young directors. Yu was neither new nor young. He was a Hong Kong action cinema veteran when he directed his first American feature. At 48 he shot Bride of Chucky 1998 – the most successful film of that franchise[4]. At age 53 he helmed Freddy Vs Jason.

make money now – apologise later

Friday the 13th shows that Cunningham has form. Sell the idea: sell it to investors. Sell it to the public. There may well be a screenplay to this film but there’s no story. There’s not even a plot. There’s a concept – and that’s in the title. To try to understand this movie is to throw away the mythology created in the previous seven films – as risible as some of them were. This film stands alone – despite and not because of Jason – in its own carpetbagging avarice fantasy.

In 2003 Kelly Rowland was a bigger star then than she is now. Destiny’s Child, the biggest selling all-girl group, was on hiatus and Kelly’s solo album was an international hit. Someway somehow she did not negotiate top billing in a horror movie. That prize went to Monica Keena.


The lead actress. Something Heather Langenkamp didn’t receive in 1984.

Kelly’s positioning in the film is inexcusable. Her role is that of mammy[4.5] complete with ghetto name and accent. She’s the hottest chick in the film - she’s the hottest chick in the franchise – yet she’s the only girl not to have a boy slobbering after her. In the opening scene after the credits she sets up two white girls with two white boys while she feeds her face riding the fifth wheel.

In a later scene she complains about her nose. She wants a nose job. Fact: no black person complains about their nose. The only race that is obsessed with rhinoplasty is whites (Michael Jackson, La Toya Jackson and Janet Jackson haven’t been black since the 70s).

There’s more; at the party scene Kelly gets lambasted by the school nerd. Her pal laughs at her. Kelly doesn’t mind though. She starts dancing with nerd. All she needed was a good put down. Then of course if anyone hitherto missed the point even Freddy becomes racist. He describes Kelly as “dark meat”. Not a phrase he used to describe Kincaid, Sheila, Yvonne or Doc. In the 21st century even dream demons lurch to the far right.

I’ve written before how I’ve grown to trust the Elm Street series for its abstinence of racism. This film is an anomaly. It’s an anomaly in continuity, in narrative, in concept, in tone. There is no irony in that the only non-white to helm an Elm Street film directed this picture of hate; Cunningham greenlit the script.

Kelly Rowland deserves the harshest sentencing. In 1987 Robert Townsend directed Hollywood Shuffle[5] precisely aimed at her type of behaviour. For Rowland – a huge star – to submit to this type of portrayal sent a message to every young African-American female actor.

It was ignored[6].

apology pending

Given the state of the script the actors made chicken vomit out of chickens hit; there wasn’t much else to make. Robert Englund cell phoned in his now typical mooning performance. The signal was all pantomime and gurning. The kills were more Jason than Freddy and the dreamscapes were hackneyed. The trick ending gives resonance to how prostitutes use the word.

Freddy Vs Jason is the most box-office successful movie of the franchise[7]. The good news is they didn’t make another. Even more good news; after only one other movie Rowland’s Hollywood career is over.

Regardless of its financial success most fanboys rate it 8th out of 8. Though I must disclose my man Reznor over at Koopaskeep[8] differs. Read his take to end this on a high note because as far as I’m concerned this film is best expunged from memory. It should be expunged from the canon. The first time I saw Freddy Vs Jason was on television. At least I had the commercials to entertain me. The second time was for this critique.

Never again. .
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A Nightmare on Elm Street [2010] Clips 5-7

The three new clips are bookended by two I’ve previously posted.

Clip 1 (58 seconds) is of Dean at the dinner.Clip 2 (1.10 mins): Kris falls asleep in class: The set up is effective. As the teacher lectures class about ancient savagery Kris pages through her textbook and realises she’s asleep. She’s in a dream. The implosion into dreamscape is an effect not done in the series before. It’s impressive.

The fact that she runs from Freddy at first sight is a welcome common sense approach. Freddy’s spin around at the blackboard looks rickety – otherworldly. Jackie Earle Haley inhabits the horror.

It’s a shame about actor Katie Cassidy. Her look stands out from the kids in her class. She obviously isn’t one of them. She’s too old – and looks it – to be one of them. This could hurt the movie. Also her performance here is less than in previous clip. She doesn’t have the ability to deliver – not in this role.

Clip 3 (1.14 mins): Jesse and Kris: More Katie Cassidy. She’s joined by Thomas Dekker in a dialogue scene. Dekker is too earnest. Cassidy is excruciating. The dialogue doesn’t help despite the fact that the scene is abridged for marketing purposes. The sooner Kris dies in this movie the better.

The most striking thing about this clip is the same as clip 2. The writers have taken the original scenes and inserted other characters in them. The net result may well diminish Nancy’s impact on the film.

The success of this whole franchise is due to the impact of the original. The impact of the original was expounded by the relationship between Freddy and Nancy. The chemistry between Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp can’t be duplicated but it should be replicated. This film depends on it.

Clip 4 (50 secs): Quentin and Nancy: The best of the three new clips. The acting is better. It’s more natural. They do have better dialogue. The scene is full of information and reference. The Pied Piper is the first story I remember being read to me. It’s a fairy tale. It’s a horror story. Actor Kyle Gallner is good. Rooney Mara looks like she can induce our sympathy.

On 30th April we’ll find out.

Clip 5 (1.11 mins): The Supermarket.
Read more Thrill Fiction: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

A lot is expected of a horror film directed by Wes Craven.

The Hollywood rule of thumb for a sequel is 3 years (note the two Star Wars trilogies). New Line closed the franchise with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare 1991. New Nightmare was released in 1994 yet it didn’t feel like a sequel. Since A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 each film had been rushed to theatres with the first sequel coming out a mere 11 months after the original. In Freddy terms enough time had passed. The return of Wes Craven would negate the tomfoolery of The Dream Master 1988.

The concept was daring: A Nightmare on Elm Street told the story of dreams invading reality. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare would tell the story of film intruding reality. The anticipation was frenzied - similar to that of the incoming reboot.

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
- Edgar Allen Poe

A dream within a dream is terrifying to experience. Panic erupts because you don’t know how many times you have to wake up to be awake. A flashback within a flashback is a filmic device that destroys narrative credibility (John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars 2001). A film within a film is defies suspension of disbelief and comes across as Hollywood indulgence. In New Nightmare director Wes Craven convinced all the principals to play themselves. I was prepared to suspend my disbelief.

New Nightmares

Film opens on a movie set. Wes Craven is directing a Freddy scene. The glove is new and improved. It is “state of the art animatronics enhanced with bio-organic grafting” and “nerve bundles from a live Doberman”.

Wes Craven say what?

The claw comes alive and attacks the crew.

If this scene is supposed to be scary it fails. If this scene is supposed to be real then it’s confusing. Metal claws don’t attack people and animated body parts are not scary. They’re ridiculous.

Heather wakes in her bed the middle of an earthquake. It was all a dream.

The curtain raiser serves to introduce the character Heather and her family. The problems are immediate. Husband is played by an actor (David Newsom) who is not her real husband (the premise and concept are under strain). Newsom is a central casting cut-out. He has zero charisma and zero presence. He has less than zero chemistry with Langenkamp.

The child actor Miko Hughes who plays her son Dylan is atrocious. He’s so bad I thought his role was mentally handicapped. In 1994 the British public had never heard of autism. Dylan isn’t autistic. He’s Craven worst casting choice ever.

The main problem lies with Langenkamp. She is the lead - she’s in over 90% of the scenes. It is her role to convince a fragile premise yet there is a lacking in her performance. Her tour de force in the original did not make her a star otherwise she would have kicked it with the Brat Pack[1] (she actually had a role in The Outsiders 1983). She is simply not up to it.

Let the horror fanboys haggle over the most important film of the last 35 years. Halloween 1978 created Jamie Lee Curtis. It replenished Donald Pleasance’s career. A Nightmare on Elm Street hasn’t created a single star. Langenkamp shines only when she is playing Nancy. Not when she plays herself.

There are new rules. Adults were inexplicably targeted in Freddy’s Revenge 1985 and Freddy’s Dead. In New Nightmare Freddy attacks adults but at least it makes narrative sense; he has been given new boundaries. Chase is the first victim. He falls asleep at the wheel much like Dan in The Dream Child 1989. Serves him right - much like Dan in The Dream Child.

The funeral scene is booked like a Wrestlemania. The actors from the previous sequels (ie the jobbers) get to appear and get to do nothing. Look – there’s Tuesday Knight. Look - there’s Jsu Garcia. Look - there’s a first glimpse of the new Freddy in a risible dream transition.

Broken dreams

This film is a potpourri of stillborn ideas. There’s a stalker subplot that fizzles out. There’s mention of Freddy’s impact on popular culture – then no more mention. There is a flirtation with the issues of mothers working in film but nothing. The one idea fully developed is the morality question of horror films themselves.

Actress Fran Bennett plays Dr Heffner. She is the sceptic, the conventional morality, the accuser. She assumes the role of the mainstream and points the finger at Heather. She is righteous. Heather back peddles and lies. To defend the genre is to be deemed mad. Or deviant. Bennet’s performance is the best in the movie.

Followed by Robert Englund. Without Freddy Krueger what would his career have looked like? Sans make-up his physicality is not striking but his on screen presence is. John Saxon’s involvement boosts the credibility of the premise. His scenes with Heather raise her performance. Their chemistry is that of father and daughter.

The story begins to coalesce at the fifty minute mark – that is far too long to wait for anything.

The best scenes are in the hospital between Dr Heffner and a Heather afraid of how she sounds.  This is where her hair turns grey (again). This is where she tells her son “don’t fall asleep”. From the hospital Heather goes home to a scene with John Saxon. He calls her “Nancy”. After initial resistance she submits and calls him “daddy”. 16 years ago at this tipping point I was convinced the story would ascend into art. That the new nightmare would morph into the original nightmare and rewrite it.

Bad dreams

What happened was an underwhelming kill-Freddy-sequence that had been done six times previously. However this was the best Freddy since the original. There was more malice in him. It was a scary and glorious sight to behold Englund at his best work.

The dramatist must imbue the audience with a suspension of disbelief. In order to do so the fiction must have a sense of reality. Wes Craven achieved this when he wrote earthquakes as a backdrop to the story. New Nightmare was released on 14th October. The LA ‘quakes[2] were a fresh memory.

The focus of the franchise is dreamscape and the kills. There is no dreamscape to speak of until the final sequence. The Julie kill is extemporaneous. The others are forgettable. There are more issues. What is positioned as a climatic scene - Heather chasing Dylan on freeway – is bereft of tension. It’s ridiculous.

Sex and violence in the movies is usually depicted in a wishful thinking manner: teenager Julie punches a woman who outweighs her by 40 pounds. The nurse drops – unconscious with one punch. Julie doesn’t even shake the broken bones in her hand. This kind of scene reminds the viewer that it’s only a movie.

The audience didn’t get it - this film scored the lowest box office of the franchise[3]. Or rather Wes Craven didn’t get it. Whatever his initial ideas and vision were he failed to communicate it to his fans. A mere two years later he succeeded in pulling back the curtain with Scream 1996. New Nightmare is best known as a failed experiment. It’s not exploitation. It’s not even a sequel. It was to be the epitaph.

Nightmares 1-6 was the first series. 30th April sees the launch of the second.  

TFi recommends a read of Koopaskeep[4] for a contrary yet beautifully observed view.

Elm Street by *AIMaNeGrA on deviantART
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Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street [2010] 4th Clip

Dreamscape and the transitions are the raison d’être of the franchise. Katie Cassidy plays Kris – an update of Tina. The web has rumbled about how old she is – 22 at the time of filming. The trouble is she doesn’t look like a teenager. A young person’s face is baby fat. Cassidy’s is drawn. She looks like a Hollywood actress on a perpetual diet. By contrast her co-star, Rooney Mara, who is only a year younger, looks the part. The character Tina was prominent in the first film. Cassidy is prominent in the clips and trailers. Though her performance in this clip is utilitarian Cassidy is casting error #1.

This clip may be an edited version of the scene because it doesn’t make sense that one of the furies would lead Kris to Freddy. He may not be wise cracking but that dialogue is superfluous. He doesn’t have to say anything.

Overall the dreamscape look is fantastic. The longshot, Kris’s approach to camera, the fury entering the frame, the Freddy reveal. It looks like Bayer may have his images together – at least in dreams.

We await the story.

Original image by ~imdeerman at deviantART.

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street [2010] 3rd Clip

Here’s a third clip courtesy of ShockTilYouDrop:
There’s been a lot of web talk about this incarnation of Freddy being a child molester. This clip certainly leans towards that possibility in the script. As hard as it is to judge a performance in a clip of a scene the actor’s lot means they have to be on point at all times. We the viewer have paid to see that type of brilliance on many occasion; Denzel Washington in Training Day, Al Pacino in The Godfather, Charlie Sheen in Platoon. There are thankfully too many to mention.

In this clip actor Rooney Mara – the new Nancy - fails woefully. Although she knows she’s in a dream there is no sense of panic bubbling under her self control. When Freddy goads his true self to her Mara does not project recognition. Her delivery is all one tone.

I said ‘no more’.”
Nancy Holbrook

Shouldn’t that be said with anguish? Or fright, hatred, terror, fury, disgust, self-disgust? All of the above as opposed to none? Shouldn’t she plead or admonish? Alas Mara recites lines.

Yes you did. In your dreams.”
Freddy Krueger

Krueger’s response is a taunt. It’s mocking her helplessness – then and now. It is also suggestive of collusion – this would be Freddy’s dream.

The artist is his own best censor. Paedophilia is unnatural. It is a subject the writer (and other artists) should approach with extreme caution. So too should an audience. If the rumours are true and this Freddy is a paedophiliac the question is why?

The premise of the previous eight movies is that he was a child killer. Most people can draw their own conclusions from that (if it is left unsaid it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true). This is how art works.

Propaganda, pornography, sensationalism are not art. Paedophilia for shock value is not realism. Paedophilia for entertainment should be subject to censor. It should be banned. Failing legislation the audience should vote at the box office.

If executions were broadcast live on the evening news it would do wonders for their ratings.

It’s my world.

I don’t want to jump the gun. I will wait until opening night and see for myself. I will write my mind online when I compare the original and remake in my Re/Made series.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Re/Made: The Last House on the Left

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A Nightmare on Elm Street [2010] Clip 2

This clip shows Dean – formerly Rod Lane – wandering in the kitchen of a diner. It’s a well structured scene with a good boo! moment but the soundtrack detracts from the suspense.

The biggest gripe is at the beginning of the clip: the edges of the frame are blurred - Dean’s point-of-view is tunnelled. There shouldn’t be an alert that we’re in a dream otherwise the audience is ahead of the characters. The net effect of that is to diffuse tension and sympathy. The Johnny Depp death had no preamble or hint. That’s one of the reasons why his demise endures.

Let the kids wake into the dreamscape at their peril. Let the audience discover what’s going on to our horror.

In good news actor Kellan Lutz is the second sight of good performance. In those 50 seconds his caution, fear and disorientation are palpable.

Eight days left.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street [2010] Clip

This clip displays the film in its glorious budget. Director Samuel Bayer is a veteran of music videos so the look of the movie was never going to come into question. The question is mise-en-scène: What is the purpose of the content within the frame? Is there a point to it or was it so photographed because the director thinks it looks 'cool'?

The difference between a feature director and a music video director is that the former has to tell a story sans dialogue - the way a single snapshot does. The later uses imagery to sell a product: a music video director shoots (pretty) images with no context. 

The good news is this scene is not lifted from the original. We'll see how it fits in overall. It starts well with Nancy realizing she's in a (micro-nap?) dream. Freddy appears in long shot. Yes - his gait and full frontal look is menacing. I have no issue any longer with showing his full face. What concerns me are the flashes between dream and reality. Not content with a stalk-slash-kill scene Bayer inserts the characters actions in the conscious world. So who's knocking the product of the shelves?

Wes Craven's nightmare world does not work this way. An invisible Freddy does not stalk the Elm Street kids in the real world - it's in their sleep. Even when they're kicking and screaming there is no correlation in the real world: they're fast asleep.

So why insert the flashes? It looks 'cool'. Apparently. 

Pretty images with no context. On 30th April the rationale will be revealed.

Or not.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Lie to me
But do it with sincerity.
- Depeche Mode[1]

Human beings insist upon being lied to (does my arse look big in this?). The most perpetual lies are spoken by loved ones, politicians and the Hollywood machine. The Final Nightmare 1991 stated its lie in the title.

Audiences had tired of the (home video assisted) horror surge of the 80s[2]. It was a boom that precipitated its own bust. Despite the initial originality (Halloween 1978, Basket Case 1982, A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984) the period was rife with sequels and copycats (My Bloody Valentine 1981, Shocker 1989). The horror obituary was written in box office receipts. In 1989 A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child was the least performing (to that date) in the franchise.

In 1991 The Silence of the Lambs was a phenomenon and the studios turned their genre expectations to serial killers. New Line Cinema decided to close the book on Freddy Krueger – until it was time to revive him[3].

The film opens with two epigrams – possibly to make up for the lack of one in The Dream Child. This device is only useful when pertinent. To quote Nietzsche and then quote ‘Freddy Krueger’ is a display of illiteracy. The accompanying soft rock soundtrack over the opening credits is a reminder of The Dream Master’s (financial) success. This film is commercial. Freddy is to die with a bang.

Rachel Talalay[4][5] produced The Dream Master 1988 – the franchises biggest box office success (to that date). Freddy’s Dead is her directorial debut. Her subsequent resume attests she has no business directing features. Furthermore she penned the story. The screenplay is by Michael De Luca[6] – one of the producers. To wit this film is written and directed by the studio execs.

End Story

A title card proclaims the proceedings take place “ten years from now” in Springwood Ohio:

Mysterious killings and suicides wipe out entire population of children and teenagers.

The inspiration for A Nightmare on Elm Street [7] is factual[8][9]. Wes Craven created a mythology rooted in reality. Before her first shot Talalay sabotages that myth. She turns the core of reality into ludicrousness: sometime in the future in a town where all the young people have been slaughtered in Springwood Ohio.

Since she wanted to change location (for the hell of it) why not Boise Springwood Idaho?

The customary curtain raiser has John Doe in a Freddy plagued nightmare. He wakes in a house falling from the sky. This device – waking from a dream into a dream – is a real phenomenon. I’ve experienced it myself. In film it is used as a swerve; something to off balance the audience. In this film it is a cheap gimmick. The next cheap shot is of Freddy on a broomstick. The Simpsons are famous for parodying movies because they’re good at it. The effect of referencing The Wizard of Oz 1939 is to highlight that the wicked witch of the west is now scarier than Freddy Krueger.

John Doe crash lands and stumbles up to 1428 Elm Street. He turns on his heel and runs (it’s a novelty to see the common sense approach applied in a horror film). It is to no avail. Freddy throws him out of the dreamscape to “go fetch”.

In the context of the story the curtain raiser has a purpose.

Movie making by committee

Everyone sings in the shower. Some people sing karaoke. Some try out for American Idol. The problem is the moment you open your mouth the whole world hears you sound like a stray cat at a dog pound. Writing is different. No one will tell you to your face that texting does not constitute an essay. No one told Talalay. This story has no rhythm. It makes no sense. That it was filmed is evidence that New Line was past caring.

Hollywood parlance for motion pictures is ‘a piece of shit(sic)’ [10]. That’s the level of respect the industry has for its own product - which is more than they have for their audience.

There is a cynical attempt at furthering the mythology: Freddy had a daughter. He was married. He killed his wife but was not (tried? or) convicted. However his daughter was taken from him. Thus he turned into a child killer. This is cynical because it rewrites history. Krueger was a child killer because he was evil not because he was aggrieved[11].

However there is a retro scene where Freddy is bullied by his classmates. They chant “son of a hundred maniacs” after he bludgeoned the class hamster. That scene alone could suggest his hatred for children that followed him into adulthood. Alas that is not the only flashback scene and the others clutter the effect.

Lisa Zane plays den mother to a house of troubled teens. Clearly this is a rip off Dream Warriors 1988. Zane is no Heather Lagenkamp. She’s best known in Britain for being Billy Zane’s sister. Who’s best known in Britain for stealing the no-talent Kelly Brook from Jason Statham[12] who’s best known for being this generation’s Jean Claude Van Damme. Zane’s performance is so wooden Ikea is listed as an endangered species.

The pleasant surprise casting is Yaphet Kotto. He’s an esteemed actor of gravitas and he delivers a grounding performance. Alas his role is too small and not pivotal enough to disguise the film’s shortcomings. Lezlie Deane has a larger role as Tracy – a copycat of Taryn (Dream Warriors). She delivers in scowls punches and kicks – and is always watchable. She also handles the dramatic scenes well. Witness when she confronts her father in her dreams.

Tom and Roseanne Arnold have an enjoyable comic cameo as does Johnny Depp. He’s the best thing in this flick. Look closely and you can’t even see the gun that had to be held to his head.


To accept this story has plot is to accept a bikini model at a black tie event. In Dream Warriors Kristen had a unique power to pull people into her dreams. She (somehow) passed that power onto Alice in The Dream Master. In this film both John Doe and Tracy stroll into Spencer’s dream like gate crashers. Talalay’s direction of the actors has them shout at each other in mid-conversation (presumably to wake up the audience). The editing ignores reaction shots thus negating the already risible dialogue.

New Line did not self sabotage. De Luca had a trick up his sleeve. Today that trick is the advent of a new frontier and the reason for the biggest box office in history[13]. 3D sold Avatar 2009. It also sold Freddy’s Dead (though 3D in 1991 was hardly different to 3D in the 1950s). Film was the third most successful at the box office of the 6 released (to that date).

No one cried at the end of this movie. At this point I was done with the franchise. Robert Englund’s performance was caricature. He was one film away from becoming embarrassing. Though like professional wrestling we all knew he’d be back. James Bond has been revamped on more than one occasion.

Freddy is not dead. He never was. He’s part of folklore.

TFi: You've got to read Reznor's take on this movie over at Koopaskeep[14]. I do.

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Friday, 16 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

For the first time in three sequels there is no epigram.

When used correctly epigrams are informative. They are harbingers of tone. The skill to the epigram is deftness and/or precision. Witness Dream Warriors 1987. When misused it is a pretentious gimmick; bear reluctant witness to The Dream Master 1988. In the absence of epigram The Dream Child begins with goodwill.

Splatterpunk[1] [2]

25 years ago horror fiction birthed a subgenre called Splatterpunk. Two of its conspirators were John Skipp and Craig Spector. They are both still active. They are both best selling authors. At the time of this film they were writing partners. Robert Shaye hired them to pen the story.

Horror films gave birth to the Scream Queen[3]. Some of these actresses have gone on to mainstream successes: Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campell, Sarah Michelle Gellar. What about the scream director? Horror is a notorious sweatshop for (pretty) young things. The upshot is it has provided a number of future stars their break. What of the young/neophyte directors who launched their careers through the genre?

The remake is helmed by Samuel Bayer[4] – a hitherto music video director. His future is yet to be determined. The Dream Child is directed by Stephen Hopkins. He would go on to make Predators 2 1989 and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 2004. Barring Wes Craven he’s the most successful of the Elm Street directors.

After the box office bonanza of The Dream Master it looks like Robert Shaye was seeking redemption; atonement for that sequel’s sins. He was in a comfortable position to feel guilty enough to go back to storytelling. However Tuesday Knight’s Nightmare raised the franchise bar for the credit soundtrack. In this film the soundtrack is a generic score. New Line should have stuck with the Tuesday template.

Alice sweet Alice

The main credits intercut with a love scene. It’s all very temperate. There’s nothing to offend or arouse. This film is rated ‘R’ due to its horror and not due to a naked shoulder. The female goes to shower. It’s Alice (Lisa Wilcox).

Blurred behind the shower door is eroticism unseen in this franchise. (They must have used a stand-in for Wilcox.) Inside the shower the faucets flood the cubicle. There’s a shot from below – through the plughole. It’s reminiscent of Nancy’s bathtub scene. It is nowhere as effective but it does signify that for the first time in two films the director is assured:

Alice falls out of a wall of water into a dark passageway. It leads into a holding pen for the criminally insane. Here dressed as a nun she/we witness the rape of Amanda Krueger.

That’s an effective curtain raiser.

Alice has a new clique. Their dialogue is excruciating and the delivery is in sing-song. There’s no mention of her deceased brother throughout the film. This script does its best to ignore The Dream Master - while not a bad thing a line or two would have help continuity.

Alice is beckoned by the furies - the white frocked children who sing Freddy’s ode. She follows them into dreamscape. (Note; she was not asleep) Inside this dream she witnesses Amanda Krueger give birth to monster. The baby monster self generates into Freddy.

It’s an improvement on a dog urinating over a grave.

(Wooden) actor Danny Hassel reprises his role as Dan although he doesn’t survive the first act. It’s become customary in this franchise that the returning characters will die early. Of course if you fall asleep while driving a car - like Dan does - you’re likely to die anyway – Freddy or no.

Alice is pregnant with Dan’s baby. Her baby Jacob dreams while he sleeps in mommy’s womb. His dreams take the franchise back to its ethos as Freddy kills the clique according to their insecurities.

In utero

Lisa Wilcox plays lead for the second time in the franchise - tying with Heather Langenkamp. Unfortunately Wilcox’s performance is never better than line recitals. She does not have the gravitas of a Langenkamp nor the vulnerability of a Kim Myers. The stand out in a typically mediocre cast is Kelly Jo Minter. Kelly Jo had a nice run in the early 90s that included House Party 1990 and the Wes Craven directed The People Under the Stairs 1991.

Reznor[5] describes Kincaid as the ‘angry black dude’. He was being tongue-in-cheek (I think). He attributed a stereotype to all the kids in Dream Warriors. The Dream Master cast included Toy Newkirk as Sheila Kopecky. She may have been a stereotype (bespectacled-asthmatic-bookworm-nerd) but she wasn’t a racial stereotype. The same can be argued for Kelly Jo’s role and performance.

The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has earned my trust. There is an abundance of films written in racism[6] and released with racist intent: True Romance 1993, Pulp Fiction 1994, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans 2009 amongst a multitude of others. Ironically there is less racism in horror than there is in mainstream movies where it is accepted for granted. That is not to say racism does not rear its demonic head within the genre – I stopped watching Cabin Fever 2002 in the first act. Thrill Fiction has zero tolerance for racism; wherever it is encountered it will be exposed and condemned. Thrill Fiction has due respect for Wes Craven, John Carpenter and James Cameron (honourary inclusion). They have made some of the most iconic horror/sci-fi films in history. They have made a point of anti-racism.

Alongside Kelly Jo actor Joe Seely’s portrayal of Mark the comic book geek is deceptively good. In the film’s key dramatic scene Dan’s parents threaten Alice with their adopting her unborn baby. Wilcox’s performance rises to her best scene in the franchise. Seely’s performance makes this scene great.

There are five actors but he is the only one with no lines. He stands in the same shot as Alice. Timidly at first – he walked in on a family argument. As the argument heats he becomes bold; he stands with her. Two kids against two adults.

The running theme of this series is teenage friends standing together against the horror of their dreams and the corrupt reality of adults. This scene and Seely’s performance in it encapsulates that.


Robert Englund continues to play Freddy as a pantomime villain. At this point the viewer might as well accept it. The horror is gone out of Elm Street. This film may as well be sci-fi since the attempt to scare has been abandoned[7].
Yet the dream transitions are an improvement. The curtain raiser is an example of this film’s fluidity between consciousness and dream sequences. The Alice chasing after Mark into his dream scene is a flutter of élan. Whereas Dan and Greta’s deaths are overcooked the best death is Mark’s cartoon. I’m tempted to say it was inspired but I know where the inspiration came from[8].

These are the best dreamscapes in the franchise to date. That may be because there’s a variation on the usual 1428 Elm Street and its infinite cellar/ boiler room.  Production designer CJ Strawn creates an asylum and maternity ward that invokes claustrophobia in the viewer and participation in Alice. The best dreamscape designs surround Amanda Krueger. While her storyline does not further the mythology inserting the mythology into the storyline is striking enough.

Thanks to the retro direction taken by Robert Shaye this film focuses more on story than its predecessor. It has the best idea of all sequels to that date – a foetus dreaming – but lacks the knockout script to deliver. It paid the price at the box office[9]: The Dream Child is ranked 7th out of all 8 films. However after the dreck that is The Dream Master this instalment was a welcome surprise.

This film was released 11th August 1989 – a mere 51 weeks after the previous one. Therein lay the problem similar to the current Saw series. New Line hot shot the Nightmare movies before giving them chance to develop into story and performance. It has been to the studio’s short term financial gain. It has been a long term narrative and cultural loss to the rest of us. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein dominated the 20th century in literature and popular culture. Freddy Krueger has the potential to dominate the 21st century in the same way.

Time and the remake will tell.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
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