Friday, April 30, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

The Platinum Dunes guide to creating a successful remake is as follows: find a beloved older horror movie (older in this case being anything before the 90s, when the company’s target audience started being born), and strip away any and all intelligence or filmmaking skill. Then they can successfully call it a day. It’s a pattern first devised with their debut offering, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which may well be the single worst horror remake I have ever seen), and has only been refined further ever since.


This is the worst kind of a remake, really, as in addition to being a much dumber film, it also tries to simultaneously change around the storyline while still shoehorning in all of the major hits of the original film, even though the changes to the story often make the highlights stolen from the first film incomprehensible. Now, instead of being a child murderer, Freddy Krueger is a child molester, completely negating any and all reason for him to have his iconic knife-covered hand. Of course, they couldn’t really do a proper remake without the glove, so he has it here too, for no discernable reason whatsoever. Then there’s the fact that the nightmare world is pretty much just the iconic boiler room where, as we all remember, he was burned alive by the parents of his victims…except he’s murdered in some kind of warehouse/factory looking place in the remake, so the nightmare world being a boiler room only makes sense as a lame bone thrown to fans of the older series. And don’t get me started on how the mechanics of the parents covering up their crime is supposed to work with the closing of the nursery school, because as much as I try to wrap my head around it, there’s nothing involved there that makes anything approaching sense.

To be fair, they do have one interesting potential plot twist, in that they briefly flirt with the idea that he may have been falsely accused and murdered, and is now enraged at the children that betrayed him so. That would have made him from a villain into an outright tragic figure (though it would have made a sequel pretty difficult to pull off). Of course, they very quickly find that, no, he really was guilty after all, and here’s some pictures to prove it. And also, there’s the glove that he apparently made for no reason at all. Lame.

Of course, the plots got pretty convoluted in the original series of films anyway, so how are the main issues, the kills and Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as Freddy? Well, the kills are pretty damn lame and uninspired (there is nothing in the film that can match, say, Johnny Depp’s death in the original), with lots of CG blood flying around looking like CG blood, and every last one is done with the glove, so there’s not a single bit of variety to them (though they do steal Tina’s death from the original, with her flying through the air, it’s not done nearly as well). Haley’s performance is harder to judge. I’m not really sure if he actually turned in a bad performance, or if the script never gave him any chance to give a good one. When he’s under the makeup, he’s pretty much relegated to growling in his Rorschach voice, and looking like nothing more than an X-Files alien that’s been badly burned. The flashback scenes that show him when he was still alive aren’t really any help either, as they’re mostly done in voice-over, so we only get brief glimpses of him. It’s not the way to really build a terrifying villain.

Of course, the rest of the acting in the film is pretty poor, with just about anyone that’s not aggressively annoying to watch getting killed off in the first half of the film, something that is a surprisingly common problem with horror movies. The two teens that last the longest, Nancy and Quentin (played by Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner) are so goddamned obnoxious that the movie almost has no chance at all with them leading the show.

The film has a good deal of other problems as well. For one, we spend too much time in the nightmare world, as the cast passes out every few minutes even at the start of the film, leading me to assume there’s something in Springwood’s water supply that causes mass narcolepsy. Then there’s the climax, when they pull him out of the dream world and into reality, goes into that delightful editing style where we do lots of quick cuts while throwing the camera around the room, so we frequently have no idea what the hell is actually happening. This is called building tension, I suppose. Then there’s the dialogue, where we have frequent exchanges like the following:

GIRL: Dreams aren’t real.
GUY: This dream is real.
GIRL: This dream isn’t real.
GUY: This dream is real!

It took two people to write dialogue that razor sharp.

There’s very little here to recommend itself. There’s quite a few spots where I laughed, though most of them were at the movie’s expense, not because of any intentional humor. It’s Samuel Bayer’s debut film, and while I hope he improves with his next movie, Fiasco Heights, the fact that it’s a) another Platinum Dunes release, and b) got a plot description on IMDB that goes “the story centers on a notorious hitman who teams with a failed private eye in search of a missing woman and an invaluable briefcase,” I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Rating: *


Thursday, April 29, 2010

So Mort It Be

And here we have it: at the end of the seventh disc in the Tomb of Terrors set (of twelve discs total), and we have made it to what is likely to remain the best film in the entire collection. Again, like every other film in this set, it’s a zero budget film just made by a group of friends, so it’s not going to be for everyone, but within that context, writer/director/star Fabian Rush completely nails it.

First, let’s get the most notable aspect about the film out of the way: the special effects and green screening involved in the film are so over the top terrible that they turn right back around and become brilliant. You can get a brief glimpse of this in the trailer, where you’ll also get to enjoy a glimpse of the two main villains: a bloodthirsty coven of witches, and an army of giant mutated rats that look and act suspiciously like furry sock puppets. Furry sock puppets that kill.

This is all a part of the film’s main strength, which is that it’s pretty damn funny. We have such jokes as a main character that’s trying to score with a goth chick, so to try to win her over he wears a T-shirt with a pentagram on the front and “Christ sucks cock” on the back, and another character that enjoys Anti Christo Magazine because nuns are hot.

Another thing I like is that, mid-90s PC graphics aside, it showed me something I have never seen in any other film before. Now, it’s hardly the first movie I’ve seen where someone gets attacked with a dildo (oh, the revelations on this blog), but I’m pretty sure it is the first time I’ve seen someone get attacked by a flying CG dildo, and I’m definitely certain this is the first time I’ve ever seen a flying CG dildo attack get blocked by the defendant wielding a painting of Jesus.

Again, this is clearly not a professional film. It was something made by people with a digital video camera and some special effects program they likely bought at Best Buy. Also, it takes more than a little of its plot from the Deadly Spawn. That said, though, there must be some form of market for such delightfully goofy independent films like this (beyond just myself, that is), and I would highly recommend checking this one out to anyone interested in the same. In seven discs of zero budget horror films, this is the single best one yet. I’ll be back next week with the next disc, assuming it’s not so awful it makes me start openly weeping.

Rating: ***


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

None Left Standing

And now we finally start getting back to movies that justify my having gotten this set. None Left Standing is far from a perfect film -- it runs far too long to sustain itself, and completely falls apart once its plot kicks into high gear -- but it has some really neat ideas, some quality dialogue, and seems like everyone had enough fun making it that it almost (though not quite) managed to wash the taste of the last two films out of my mouth.

The film follows three college students as they try to come up with an idea for a short film for their final exam. The teacher in this class is probably my favorite character in the film. She gives a lecture about audience attention spans and why you should always make your film 90 minutes long, and give your first major twist at the 45 minute mark, and so on, that sounds like such terrible, creativity-destroying advice, that I can only assume that it had actually been told to writer-director Samuel Benavides at some point.

The dialogue is really probably the best part of the film, as we get some lines more brilliant than most professional films I’ve seen. For instance, after unintentionally filming a murder, one of the characters debates the morality of making their student film around it by saying “Robbing liquor stores. That’s illegal and people do that every day.” It’s really hard to argue against that brand of logic.

Unfortunately, as I said, this one does fall apart halfway through, when they decide to kick the conflict into high gear and we start getting endless scenes of the villainous friend (I didn’t think to write down any of their names, sorry) making grand statements about how all the world is a film and morality only exists so far as making the best movies goes. Perhaps this was just what their teacher was warning about, but they did lose me here. Still, for something that was quite obviously just a group of friends with no money deciding they needed to make a film together, it’s a lot better than the bulk of its peers. According to IMDB Benavides has made two horror shorts since this, one of which (Mansfield Path) has a trailer on Youtube that looks more expensive than the entirety of this film. I’m curious to see if the shortened length improves them at all.

Rating: **


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kill the Scream Queen

This is the second and mercifully final film by Bill Zebub in the Tomb of Terrors set, the other being the delightful Rape is a Circle. By delightful, I of course mean that it was one of the worst movies in a pack filled with bad movies. This is just as bad, as he continues his proud streak of making some of the most inept, annoying, and tedious zero budget exploitation films of the past decade.

The film is an exercise in repetitiveness, as our main character (played by Zebub himself with the same care and effort that is typified by the rest of his filmmaking) lures young would-be actresses into some empty rock club under the guise of filming a horror movie, ties them up, and then sexually abuses and kills them while droning on in a dull monotone a whole ton of pretentious blather. The film is only 70 minutes long, and yet it’s so dull that it easily feels longer than Seven Samurai.

Further, considering both the subject matter, and how much Zebub seems to want to be viewed as shocking, it manages to be an incredibly tame film. Just about all the violence is off-camera, the only two exceptions being the opening woman whom he lightly whips for a brief time, and at the end where we once more get a little bit of blood, yet no visible wound. And just like in Rape is a Circle, the nudity is also really tame. All the girls get topless, and that’s as far as it goes. Now, far be it from me to constantly whine when my movies refuse to go full frontal, but when we straight up have a character monologue about how he’s now ripping off her panties and forcing himself inside of her, you probably shouldn’t pan the camera back far enough that we can see her panties are still on while he’s supposedly raping her. And you definitely shouldn’t be showing her corpse in the woods later, both with her panties still on, and without a single wound on her.

And just in case it wasn’t bad enough, it serves as a call-back to the terrible Jennifer Lopez film Enough (yes, I did indeed see it) by introducing each new girl with a title card like “Humiliation” or “Molestation”. Yes, the film is that bad.

Rating: ½ *

P.S. For those wondering, the half star is solely because two of the girls in it were pretty attractive. There is no other reason for this film to exist.


Sunday, April 25, 2010


So apparently it’s been a little while since I’ve updated this blog. I would apologize for the lengthy gap, but frankly, dipping back into the Tomb of Terrors set should be all the apology you people deserve. This is a bit of a landmark here, too, as I’ve now knocked out the seventh disc in the set, and so am now more than halfway through it. It’s been a long, dark journey, and I for one am proud that’s it’s now four movies closer to being mercifully over.

That’s not to say that all four movies on this disc are bad, but this first one here certainly is. Directed and co-written by Boris Pavlovsky, this is one of those movies where a group of friends gets together for a party and is picked off one by one by a mad killer. It’s a typical entry for the Tomb of Terrors set, both in that instead of a polished, professional film it’s done by a group of friends with a digital camera, and in that it’s not very good.

First, let’s talk about the ways in which is compromised by its effort to avoid any financial costs. This starts off with the time-honored tradition of talking to each other for the first half hour of the film (a classic maneuver, as dialogue doesn’t cost a dime), which becomes a problem when the writers can’t think of anything more interesting for them to discuss than a tedious and lengthy argument (I can’t call this a debate) on who’s better, men or women. I would directly quote some of the lines, but then you’d cry. We also have the title villain, who, no doubt owing to the high costs of roping someone’s grandmother into acting the part, is just one of the writers in a Halloween store mask/wig. There’s also a part where two characters are supposedly trying to drive away to safety, even though the car is visibly not moving. My best guess is that they were having trouble hearing the dialogue over the car engine, but if you’re going to be trying a thing like this, at least have the common sense to film it at an angle that doesn’t show an unmoving tree right next to the car!

The end twist is probably the worst part of a bad movie, however, as it means the film has completely cheated up to this point, while simultaneously trying and failing to rip off a fairly famous early 80s slasher movie in the process. I won’t reveal what it is here, but die hard slasher fans might be able to guess the twist just from that statement alone. It’s not completely without merit, of course -- if nothing else, it’s only an hour long, so it doesn’t linger overmuch, and I freely admit I laughed when one of the characters announces that he found a gun in the house, but they have to be careful with it because it only has one bullet. Thanks for that warning there, pal.

Rating: ½ *