CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: BROOKE THEISS as DEB in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly, never returned to these type of flicks, or whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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BROOKE THEISS as DEBBIE STEVENS in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)!

The Nightmare On Elm Street series was one of the most popular horror franchises of the 80s, if not of all time. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was not only the highest grossing of the original series, before Freddy vs. Jason, but the highest grossing horror flick of 1988 as well. The story has Freddy returning to take out the survivors who did him in the last time and then stalking a new bunch of friends. One of his potential victims is tough chick and physical fitness nut, Debbie. Co-worker, classmate and friend of the film’s heroine, Alice (Lisa Wilcox), Deb is a sexy, sassy, no-nonsense girl with a flowing mane of 80s hair and a rocking hot body that proved her workouts…worked. She is confident and cocky and has a seductive smile that could melt any demonic dream haunter’s heart. She certainly is a worthy crush and Mr. Krueger agreed with us…literally…as the nightmare master used her fear of bugs against her and turned the siren into a giant cockroach…and I think you know how that went.
In the true definition of a Cult Classic Cutie, ANOES4 is attention-getter Brooke Theiss’ only horror film appearance. She did star for three seasons on the TV sitcom Just The Ten Of Us about a teacher at a Catholic boys school with a large family of mostly girls. Ironically, Elm Street icon Heather Langenkamp also starred on the show as her older sister. The comedy aired a few months before ANOES4 was released in August of 1988 and lasted through 1990. She had only a scant few movie appearances after her tangle with Freddy, though Theiss did some TV work for the next few decades aside from starting her own family with her husband, who is also an actor.

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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Despite melting hearts as the ill-fated Deb, Brooke Theiss never graced horror screens again. She remains an actress, working even today, with small roles, while also juggling being a wife and mother and doing convention appearances. She may have bugged Freddy Krueger, but we will always remember her as the tough-talking, sexy hard body with a heart of gold, Deb.

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: PRISON (1988)

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PRISON (1988)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

This late 80s film is one of Empire Pictures’ better titles and the first foray into horror for prolific director Renny Harlin, who would make one of the best Elm St. sequels The Dream Master later that year.

Prison tells the story of the re-opening of the abandoned Creedmore Prison due to the lack of state funds to build a new incarceration facility. Warden Sharpe (Lane Smith) is set to take back control of his former prison with a slew of new inmates, including quiet loner Burke (Viggo Mortensen). No sooner is the prison inhabited, then strange things start to occur and inmates and officers alike start to die horrible deaths. Is someone in the prison a psychotic murderer…more-so than usual…or is there some truth to the growing rumor that an inmate executed over three decades earlier, Charlie Forsythe (also Mortensen), is haunting the prison and back to avenge his wrongful death.

Prison is a solid horror as directed by Harlin from a script by Irwin Yablans and C. Courtney Joyner. It is also a routine one and kinda forgettable despite some nice atmosphere and very effective moments. Maybe because it’s basically just a haunted house movie reset in a prison and with some very gory deaths added, that it doesn’t really stick with you after it’s over. Harlin does a good job. There is tension and some nice horror set-pieces, as well as, a nice purveying feeling of dread. As usual with his films, it looks good production design-wise and Mac Ahlberg’s cinematography is crisp. The FX work is very effective and there are some unsettling and imaginatively gory deaths. The drawback is that basically when you strip away the setting, it is indeed your basic haunted house flick with a vengeful spirit back to reveal truths and punish those responsible for their unwarranted death. We have seen it before and the prison setting and competent direction doesn’t hide it. I enjoyed it when I saw it in a theater back in 1988, but the film never stuck with me and it was only recently, that I felt the urge to check it out again. It had the same effect. It was solid horror entertainment while it was on, but it doesn’t last after the film ends.

The cast is efficient and effective. Mortensen does the quiet loner thing very well, as does Smith make a serviceable bad guy with something to hide. Chelsea Field is a state official trying to fight corruption and over-crowding within the prison system and makes a solid heroine. She and Mortensen work well together when she tries to investigate the mysterious deaths. Lincoln Kilpatrick is solid as Creesus, an inmate who was imprisoned there before and knows far more about Forsythe’s execution than he lets on. We also get Tom “Tiny” Lister as an inmate and fan favorite Kane Hodder as Forsythe’s manifested spirit under full make-up. It was Hodder’s work with make-up man John Carl Buechler on this flick, that got him the role of Camp Crystal Lake’s most famous resident when Buechler directed Friday The 13th Part VII.

All in all, this is an effective and entertaining horror. It’s well made, but due to the overall familiarity, it’s not a film that really sticks with you. It’s a sad case of a good flick that just lacks the key elements to really make it memorable. It’s too routine and too familiar to warrant much thought after it’s done. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it, but nothing you haven’t seen before despite a good effort by all involved.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 electric chairs.

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BARE BONES: GRACE: THE POSSESSION and DEVIL’S PASS

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GRACE: THE POSSESSION (2014)

Jeff Chan’s horror tries to do something novel by telling his possession tale from the demon’s point of view, but the idea never really works and just creates a non-camera POV movie where it isn’t needed. The film tells of 18 year-old Grace (Alexia Fast) a young woman coming of age who lives with her strict religious grandmother (Lin Shaye) after her single mom (also Fast) dies during childbirth.  Due to the nature of her conception…a reveal later on…there is a demon that want’s to corrupt the shy girl. What follows is basically just a routine possession flick told from the eyes of the demon within, though it could just be Grace’s eyes as nothing clever is ever done with the concept. It also wears out it’s welcome long before the film ends. Even as a possession flick, it’s nothing new or particularly scary and is actually slow going for a 90 minute movie. I appreciate trying something different, but then do something different with it. Routine and dull. Also stars The Guest’s Joel David Moore as a young priest taken with the pretty Grace.

2 star rating

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DEVIL’S PASS (2013)

Renny Harlin (NOES4, Prison) returns to his horror roots with this fact-based found footage tale of a group of US college students trying to discover the fate of a team of Russian hikers, who all died mysteriously during an expedition into the Ural mountains in 1959. As written by Vikram Weet, there are some good ideas here, but after an intriguing set-up, the film goes completely over-the-top for it’s final act. Not only is that final act filled with elements from a dozen X-Files episodes, but drags in elements from another supposed factual incident, as well. Some of it is still interesting, but going from a subtle mystery to an out-of-control adventure better fitting Mulder and Scully, is jarring and we get some truly awful CGI that totally undermines the impact of what it is supposed to represent. An intriguing and well-made effort that ultimately sinks itself under the weight of it’s own ambitions and the epic fail of it’s CGI artists. A case where an ambiguous ending may have been more effective than the idea overload we get.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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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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