And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Jason X (2002)

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Yep. We're pretty much his children.

Yep. We’re pretty much his children. No, not in that way, you pervert…

I’m supposed to warn you away from early-90s [Famous Person’s Name] [Semicolon] [Actual Title] films, but I’m pretty sweet on this one. It’s no Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but New Nightmare is something we hadn’t seen for quite some time by 1994: a decent Wes Craven film.

(And yes, though I’ll continue to call it New Nightmare for brevity’s sake, I’ll be filing this under “W”). As a member of the Home Video generation, I’m culturally obligated to mention the Craven movies most people (including Craven, it seems) would just as soon forget. People like Shocker and if I tilt my head and squint, I can see that. People like The People Under the Stairs and, hey, why not? But by the mid-90s, a sizable minority of horror fans had begun to vocalize The Unthinkable: maybe Craven just got lucky. Twice. Three times if you stretch. Maybe he’d never been the Master of Horror everyone wanted to believe. Or maybe, like George Lucus, he’d just spent too much time inside The Hollywood Bubble, constantly hearing people tell him how much of a Master of Horror he was/is/will forever be. Continue reading



Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Hey, I'd buy that postcard. No matter where you are, it'd still be accurate.

Hey, I’d buy that postcard. No matter where you are, it’d still be accurate.

By this point the Nightmare films were officially on auto-pilot, each one more profitable and less sensible than its predecessor. In terms of sheer dollars, the initial trilogy of Nightmares became a living refutation of the Law of Diminishing returns. The first grossed $25 million in theaters. Freddy’s Revenge pulled in over twice that. Dream Warriors broke them both, along with the bank, with an $87 million gross. Its success triggered the last great wave of Slasher movies. Most of them are rightly and truly forgotten, looked down upon even by sub-genre fans as the movies that finally ruined everything for everybody.

Except this one. While researching this review, I found an inordinate number of folks willing to give Nightmare on Elm Street 4 a pass. Not just for the usual, “It’s a Slasher movie, whaddaya expect?” bullshit reasons, but for their own reasons, varied as the person itself. Too bad I’ve always hated this movie. And now that I know why, I know this movie and I were destined to be enemies from the start. Say what you want about New Nightmare or Freddy’s Dead. For me, coming off the high-highs of Dream Warriors, this movie became the lowest of the series many lows. Continue reading



Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

You all know the story, right? Friday the 13th Part VIII was both the most expensive and least profitable film of the franchise. Gee, I wonder if those two facts are connected somehow? Even if they aren’t, Paramount spent the late-80s and early-90s “restructuring” itself after a string of flops (like Friday the 13th Part VIII) drove newly hired managers to do what managers love to anyway and sell everything that wasn’t nailed down. Including Jason Voorhees.

So New Line Cinema bought Jason up for cheap and promptly sat on him until Freddy died his “last” death in 1991. While Final Nightmare had the highest opening of its series, there was no getting around the sad fact that it sucked. So New Line spent 1992 proving they hadn’t learned a damn thing, making a Final Friday film that sucks even more…in a completely different way. Continue reading



A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Or, The one where they dropped the word “Part” from the title. Most of the the Slasher series that chose this  route tend to go downhill rather fast. Except when they already hit their nadir (and gaydir) in Part 2. Things just had to improve after that, right?

Right!?

Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about. Continue reading



A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
"Kumbaya, my Lord...Kumbaya!"

"Kumbaya, my Lord...Kumbaya!"

The first Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those remarkably few Slasher films where tacking on a cliffhanger ending actually worked. It felt like a thematically appropriate way to end that story because, as Tommy Wallace said to Laurie Strode all those years ago, “You can’t kill the bogeyman.” And what else is Fred Krueger?

The makers of Freddy’s Revenge obviously had no idea. So they just ripped-off Amityville II. Because what else can you do when a two million dollar picture pulls in twenty-five million at the box office? If you’re New Line, you let the writer/director responsible for everything good about the first film escape the reservation to go make The Hills Have Eyes II. The job of directing this homophobic little adventure fell to Jack Shoulder, who – to put it politely – lacks Wes Craven’s visual style. Continue reading



Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Plenty of critics dismissed Mortal Kombat during its initial run in theaters. Even the genre critics gave it a lukewarm reception. They found it fun in a vague, flat-tasting sort of way; another pitiful Enter the Dragon rip-off with a vaguely mythological twist.

Still, the damn thing made $70 million domestic, three and a half times its initial budget. Hollywood’s obsession with the “sure bet” is a well-documented phenomena, and we shall dwell upon it another time. We shall only pause to say that this “franchise” mentality is rapidly becoming the norm in video games as well. Be sure to expect a lot less overall originality from the folks at all your favorite design houses. The business of video games has, apparently, become Business.

Not that it was ever anything but business, mind you…ah, enough stalling. It’s time for me to repeat myself:

Fighter games, by their very nature, are short on plot and long on action. A Character (you, in other words) is magically whisked from one flashy arena to the next, where you must hit an opponent until he/she stops moving. Repeat. So in one sense, many of this movie’s critics are correct: it is slavishly faithful to its source material in terms of structure and style. {More}



Mortal Kombat (1995)

Plenty of critics dismiss the Mortal Kombat video game franchise as nothing more or less than gory, juvenile escapism. You know: crap. Plenty more go on to dismiss the very idea of a movie based on a video game. How can you blame them? Look at Street Fighter. Look at Double Dragon. Look at the anime version of Tekken if you can find the damn thing. Should I mention Super Mario Brothers? I could’ve brought that thing home and really given myself some ammunition for a good rant…but no. Instead, I’m gonna pick on this defenseless little excuse for a movie. Brainless monument to corporate synergy though it may be, Mortal Kombat has managed the strangest of hat tricks and become the high water mark in the perpetual kiddy-pool of video game based movies.

Which is amazing when you stop to consider it. Beat ‘um Up games like MK, by their very nature, are short on plot and long on action. A Character (you) is magically whisked from one flashy arena to the next and must hit an opponent until he/she stops moving. Repeat. In this respect, many reviews of this movie are correct: it is slavishly faithful to its source material in terms of both structure and style. Consequently, Mortal Kombat is light years away from being a good movie. Many of the things that made the video game so poplar are either truncated or forgotten in the haze of this (presumably) franchise-launching production. {More}



A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This is, apparently, God.

This is, apparently, God.

The 1980s were a watershed time for American movies studios. After the protracted collapse of the old studio system in the 40s and 50s necessitated a major overhaul of Hollywood’s entire production architecture, major studios spent the 60s and 70s establishing financial relationships with independent movie producers. Previously considered the lowest form of life on Earth, a rising generation of creative types proved instead that smaller films staring no one anybody had ever heard of could make major bank. All they needed as an idea, and a group of people who believed in that idea enough to see it put on screen.

The result? Well, we can see the result on any video store shelf: oodles of low-budget, indy films, no longer made so much as distributed by the major studios. Smaller companies, geared toward nothing but selling these pictures to theaters, sprung up like gravestones in the Crystal Lake Woods. One of them, founded in 1967 by distributors Michael Lynne and Robert Shaye, was named New Line. Continue reading