MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 & 5

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As the Halloween season is in full swing, I decided to put together two of my favorite A Nightmare On Elm Street sequels! Not only do their stories connect and fit together well, but they are certainly both proper viewing for a month long celebration of things that go bump in the night. Enjoy!

 

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)

When deep sleep falleth on men,
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones to shake
~ Job IV, 13:14

ANOES 4 has the distinct honor of being not only one of the highest grossing of the Elm St. series, but the highest grossing horror film, domestically, of the 80s. It is also one of my personal favorites and in my opinion one of the best of the series after the classic original.

This entry picks up where Dream Warriors left off with Kristen (Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette) unable to shake her fear of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and thus empowering him to come back to try to finish off the surviving kids from that flick. He also targets Kristen’s new friends including boyfriend Rick (Andras Jones) and his shy sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox). When Kristen’s ability to bring people into her dreams is passed on to Alice, the meek girl must now find the strength to destroy Freddy before he uses her to kill all those she loves.

Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) directs this one from a script by Brian Helgeland and Scott Pierce from a story by William Kotzwinkle and Helgeland. It’s one of the most imaginative entries in terms of it’s use of the dream world and one of the coolest in terms of look and design. It makes some very clever use of Freddy’s ability to use people’s fears against them…one girl’s fear of bugs being a good example…and Harlin builds some nice suspense and tension as we do have a likable cast of characters to root and care for. Steven Fieberg’s cinematography captures Harlin’s visual style very well and the make-up and visual FX are top notch in it’s portrayal of Freddy’s hi-jinx. There is also a fitting score by John Easdale and Craig Safan with a cool opening song sung by star Tuesday Knight  and it adds up to one of the best of the sequels and one of the most fun, too.

This entry also had one of the liveliest casts and cast of characters in the series with Knight doing a fine job as Kristen and Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes returning as Joey and Kincaid, respectively, to face the dream demon again. They do step aside for a new cast of very endearing characters, highlighted by Lisa Wilcox, who takes her Alice from shy and sweet to ass-kicker over the course of the film…and Wilcox is very convincing as both. Andras Jones is fun as Rick and he seems like he has a good chemistry with Wilcox as her sibling and the supporting cast of Brooke Theiss as tough chick Debbie, Dan Hassel as school hunk and object of Alice’s secret crush, Dan and Toy Newkirk as brainy Sheila, all are a very likable bunch which helps us care for them, root for them and feel for them when they face Freddy’s knives. A solid cast of young performers who are always one step ahead of the oblivious adults. And as usual, Robert Englund is perfectly chilling and fun as Freddy and new cast member Nick Mele is also effective as Alice and Rick’s alcoholic ass of a dad.

Overall, this is my favorite sequel after Freddy vs. Jason and it’s a lot of fun. The characters are all colorful, as are Freddy’s methods for taking them out. It’s an imaginative sequel that takes the story of Dream Warriors and moves it forward and opens it up. It’s got some nice tension and suspense and makes really good use of the dream world sequences which are well-designed and executed. A bloody good time!

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)

Dream Child picks up shortly after Dream Master left off with Alice (Lisa Wilcox) getting pregnant by now boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel) and Freddy (Robert Englund) using her unborn baby’s dreams to get back into the real world to exact revenge against those who put him away…and their loved ones. Alice is not only forced to fight Freddy again, but deal with an unexpected pregnancy which Freddy takes full advantage of as he targets the very soul of her unborn child, Jacob (Wet Hertford). Can Alice defeat Freddy and save her child or will the dream demon gain a new protégée’ to help take out Alice and her friends once and for all? But there is one crack in Freddy’s plan…Alice may have an ally too…Freddy’s dead mother, Sister Amanda Krueger.

Not quite as good as Dream Master, I still think it’s a solid sequel, though, it did far less business than it’s predecessor. Leslie Bohem scripts this time as Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2) steps in to direct. The result is an entertaining enough entry that falls a little short of equalling the last flick. Hopkins does create some tension and suspense, but his visual style and imaginative use of the scripted dream segments, while effective, aren’t quite as sharp as Harlin’s. But the addition of an unborn child into the mix, as well as, the deeper look into Freddy’s conception…when his nun mother becomes locked inside an insane asylum overnight…does add a nice edge to the proceedings and gives the film a slightly different direction than the previous chapters. Hopkins presents the material well, it’s just the script need to be a bit stronger, maybe one more draft before filming began. The flick looks good with Peter Levy’s cinematography and Jay Feguson scores this time and utilizes the Elm Street theme well.

The cast is good, though the new characters aren’t quite as lively or mix as well as previously. Englund is awesome again as Freddy, no surprise there! Wilcox gives her Alice a nice maturity since we last saw her and her concerns over her newfound motherhood come across as legit for a character her age. Hassel’s Dan also has matured a bit and he and Wilcox have a nice camaraderie and their relationship comes across as fairly real. Newcomers Kelly Jo Minter as skeptic Yvonne, Erika Anderson as reluctant model-in-training Greta and Joe Seely as comic nerd, Mark are all fine, but the characters aren’t quite as memorable as the last batch and don’t seem as natural a fit as friends as the last crew. Nick Mele returns as Alice’s father who gives a nice performance as a man overcoming his alcoholism and finally becoming the dad he should have been years ago.

In conclusion I like this sequel. It is not up to Dream Master, but it is good enough and certainly far better than the train wreck that would follow with Freddy’s Dead. It’s moderate box office sadly caused the producers to drop the Alice/Jacob angle which was originally supposed to continue and considering how awful Freddy’s Dead is, it’s too bad.  A fun sequel that continued the series and fits in very well with the other films in this classic franchise.

3 Freddys!

nightmare 5 rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FADE TO BLACK (1980)

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FADE TO BLACK (1980)

Fade To Black is a horror thriller about obsessive movie fan Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher). Binford lives with his crippled aunt (Eve Brent Ashe), who blames him for her affliction, and works at a film distributors barely holding on to his job. Eric meets beautiful young Marilyn (Linda Kerridge) who is the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe, but when she accidentally stands Eric up on a date, he snaps and begins to dress up as classic movie characters to eliminate those he feels have wronged him…and he hasn’t forgotten about sweet Marilyn either.

This 1980 slasher has obtained a bit of a cult following and while it may not be totally deserving, it is one of the more novel slashers of that era and the 80s nostalgia element always adds something, if you’re a fan of films of that decade. One of Fade’s biggest drawbacks is it is directed in a very pedestrian manner by writer Vernon Zimmerman. While Zimmerman came up with a fun story idea that should have been perfect for a real entertaining horror treat, he is unable to give it much life from the director’s chair and the film plays very by-the-numbers. The slow pace doesn’t do much in the film’s favor either and scenes from real movies occasionally spliced into the action is about as stylish as this gets. Worse still, is the ending is clumsy instead of suspenseful…and there is little suspense as it is.

What fun we have is watching Christopher, who was so good in Breaking Away, ham it up as the psychotic, movie-loving Eric. Christopher knows better than his director that the material needs a bit of an over the top touch and he does his best to accommodate. He gleefully goes from Dracula to the Mummy to James Cagney while dispatching his victims, including a young Mickey Rourke as an obnoxious co-worker and a sleazy producer who steals one of his film ideas. Sadly the rest of the cast are rather bland including Tim Thomerson as criminal psychologist, Moriarty, who specializes in juvenile cases and Ashe overacts, but not in a good way, as his oppressive Aunt Stella. Australian Linda Kerridge is pretty as Marilyn, but doesn’t really have the dynamic personality to make her memorable. That and her character disappearing for a long stretch while Binford has his revenge, doesn’t help get to know her any better.

Despite it’s flaws, it is a strange enough film to warrant a watch if you haven’t seen it, especially if you like 80s slasher flicks. Don’t expect much in the gore department, as there is relatively little blood and a rather moderate body count. At least Craig Safan’s score is very 80s and adds to the nostalgia.

All in all, Fade To Black doesn’t live up to it’s cult reputation and, to be honest, wasn’t that well received when it first came out. It’s one of those films that has gained a following and has been elevated beyond it’s actual worth, though, it is an odd little movie and films like this usually tend to find their audience over time, whether they are really that good or not. A curiosity viewing, or if you are an 80s completist, but don’t quite expect a classic.

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) psycho film geeks!

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