TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3-DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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

Third Elm St. flick is a marked improvement over the misfire that was ANOES2. It also saw the return of Wes Craven to the franchise as a writer and the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in their original ANOES roles. This installment finds Freddy haunting the dreams of a group of teens all under psychiatric care at an institute. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is now an intern there with a vested interest in the nightmares these kids are having. As Freddy starts to claim the young lives, Nancy and Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), try to figure out how to stop the dream demon once and for all.

Clever second sequel is directed by Chuck Russell (The Blob 1988) from his script co-written with Frank Darabont, Bruce Wagner and Wes Craven. It was a great return to what made the first film work so well and also started the series in the direction it would go till it ended. It felt far more like an Elm St. movie that it’s predecessor, too. ANOES3 made very inventive use of the dream segments and was the film that gave Freddy his twisted sense of humor and proclivity for witty one liners, that would accompany the demise of his intended victims. It was also the film that introduced the character of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger (Nan Martin), a nun accidentally locked inside an insane asylum, who is violated by the inmates and thus gives birth to Freddy, “The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs.” The film does have a moderate pace, but there are some gory and innovative death sequences, with some great prosthetic make-up effects. ANOES3 is today thought of by many as the best of the sequels in this classic franchise. It was a success and paved the way for five more appearances by Freddy and an eventual remake in 2010.

Film is supported by a good cast that make for memorable and mostly likable characters. Obviously Robert England is at the top of his game here as Freddy. He gets to do a bit more and have more fun with the role, which really helped keep this franchise afloat. He was still scary, but now imbued with a dark and mean-spirited sense of humor. Heather Langenkamp is good as an older and more mature Nancy. She cares for these kids and is one of the only people who believes their claims about a scarred man haunting their dreams…a man Nancy knows all too well. Craig Wasson is solid as Dr. Gordon. He’s desperate to save these kids, even if it means reluctantly believing there is a malevolent supernatural entity after his patients. Saxon is really good as Nancy’s father, who is now a security guard and a drinker. Classic John Saxon. A good cast of young actors play our kids, with Patricia Arquette as Kristen, Bradley Gregg as Phillip, Ken Sagoes as Kincaid, Penelope Sudrow as Jennifer, Ira Heiden as Will, Rodney Eastman as Joey and Jennifer Rubin as Taryn. All the cast members make their characters memorable and helped establish the template of a diverse, colorful group of kids for Freddy to stalk in the future installments.

In conclusion, this flick got the series back on track and headed in a direction that would carry it till it’s end. It’s fun, still has some scares and is very inventive with it’s dream-set deaths. While not as vicious as the first two, it still has the blood and gore, not to mention some outrageous make-up effects. The cast are all good and it also contains the now classic theme song Dream Warriors by the 80s metal band Dokken. Solid entry in this classic horror film franchise.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Freddy Kruegers .

**************************************************

Bonus: The Dokken classic Dream Warriors!…

bars

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY SAM RAIMI!

MZNJ_NEW_news

Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY SAM RAIMI!

Legendary horror director Sam Raimi hits a milestone birthday today at 60 years young! Raimi is the creator of the now classic Evil Dead franchise, as well as, produced a number of horror flicks for other up and coming filmmakers, not to mention directed three Spider-Man flicks! Happy Birthday to this legend of modern horror!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

bars

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE LATE, GREAT WES CRAVEN!

MZNJ_NEW_news

Wes__07-2smaller_crop

WESLEY EARL “WES” CRAVEN 1939-2015

Legendary horror director Wes Craven has been gone four years already, but today, on his birthday, we remember his legacy. Craven directed a number of horror classics over five decades from his grueling Last House On The Left to A Nightmare On Elm Street to Scream and it’s sequels, with Scream 4 being his final film! Craven was a one of a kind talent who will sadly be missed and whose work will forever be cherished by horror fans all over the world.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BODY BAGS (1993)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

BODY BAGS (1993)

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

Body Bags is a made for TV anthology the was produced, partially directed, and hosted by the great John Carpenter for Showtime in 1993. It’s an anthology of three unrelated stories linked by a morgue set framing segment with a creepy attendant (John Carpenter) relating the stories behind his latest corpses.

The first story is directed by Carpenter and is the best. The Gas Station is set in Haddonefield and finds a pretty night shift gas station attendant (Alex Datcher) on her first night of duty with a serial killer on the loose. It’s a spooky and suspenseful segment with Robert Carradine and David Naughton also starring and fun cameo appearances by the likes of Wes Craven and Sam Raimi along with Carpenter regulars Buck Flower and Peter Jason.

Second story is also directed by Carpenter and is sadly the weakest. The satirical Hair tells the story of vain middle aged Richard (Stacy Keach), who is frantic over his thinning hair. His sexy girlfriend Megan (Sheena Easton) doesn’t mind, but Richard is desperate. He turns to a TV pitchman, Dr. Lock (David Warner) who claims he can regrow lost hair with a revolutionary new process. Richard goes for it, but to his horror finds out you must be careful what you wish for, as his new hair seems to have a life of it’s own. Segment is well done, but more humorous and silly than scary. The segment also stars legendary singer Deborah Harry as a sexy nurse.

Third and final segment rebounds a bit with Tobe Hooper’s Eye. This segment finds minor league baseball player and expectant father Brent (Mark Hamill) loosing one of his eyes in a car accident. His career potentially over, he turns to a Dr. Lang (John Agar) who claims he has a new eye transplanting procedure that he’d like to try on Brent. His sight is restored, but while on recovery he starts to have strange visions and his behavior begins to change. Soon he finds out that his eye belonged to a serial killer and that killer might still somehow be possessing his eyes new owner. It has some very effective moments, a good performance by Hamill and some decent gore. Segment also stars singer/actress Twiggy as Brent’s wife and the legendary Roger Corman as Brent’s original doctor.

The three stories and wraparound were written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel and they could have used a bit more inventiveness, especially with the story similarities within the last two tales. Nonetheless they are all entertaining and with such guidance as Hooper and Carpenter, make for an entertaining enough 90 minutes. Carpenter seems to be having a blast playing the morgue attendant and his first segment shows he still has that magic. Originally this was intended to be a series, but for whatever reasons, it never happened beyond this initial flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 body bags.

 

 

 

 

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S DIRECTORS WHOM IT WOULDN’T BE HALLOWEEN WITHOUT!

MZNJ_new_views

Everyone has their own favorite filmmakers whose works they watch during this spooky time of year. For me, it just wouldn’t be Halloween without the films of these legendary directors…

halloween-pumpkins

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

GEORGE ROMERO

**************************************************

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

WES CRAVEN

**************************************************

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

TOBE HOOPER

**************************************************

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

JOHN CARPENTER

**************************************************

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

SAM  RAIMI

**************************************************

02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

DON COSCARELLI

**************************************************

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

girl in the photographs

bars

THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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

Flick is most notable for being the last film to be attached to the late, great Wes Craven as he was executive producer. Director and co-writer Nick Simon tries to give it a bit of Craven’s style, but the film is a mixed bag and a prime example of how a character and the actor playing them, can sink a flick like a stone. Story has pretty grocery clerk, Colleen (Claudia Lee) being sent photos of mutilated women by a couple of psychopaths. The photos also capture the attention of pretentious and self-centered, L.A. photographer Peter Hemmings (an awful Kal Penn) who, for some reason, travels to Spearfish, South Dakota to meet Colleen. Suffice to say this new attention  to Colleen does not sit well with the psychopaths in question and people start to die.

Co-written by Oz Perkins and Robert Morast, the film, obvious by the plot description, has a weak story that ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. Major plot holes abound, like the local police practically laughing off the fact that Colleen is getting pictures of dead girls and despite disappearances in the area, these local Barney Fifes (including a wasted Mitch Pileggi) don’t seem to feel there is anything worth investigating here. Add to that, gratingly annoying photographer Hemmings, finds out everything he needs to know about it online on a blog and feels these photos are personally calling him out, even thought they are being sent to Colleen, not him. If you are scratching your head, you are not alone. So Hemmings and entourage go to Spearfish and instead of investigating the photos, Hemmings becomes obsessed with making Colleen his new model. Ummm…what? This sets in motion more brutal murders from our killers, who we meet early on and are never given any sort of motive or reason for their actions. Just two redneck weirdos (Luke Baines and Corey Schmitt) who enjoy brutal killings and for no real reason have become obsessed with Colleen. There are a few brutally effective scenes and our psychos are very creepy, if not underwritten, but the plot never comes together or makes all that much sense as a cohesive story. There is very little suspense and the flick basically comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end. At least the production had legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey to give the film an atmospheric look.

The cast are a very mixed bag, too. Claudia Lee is fine as Colleen and she is a girl who can handle herself. She is pretty, though the character lacks the magnetism that seems to attract psycho killers and jerk photographers alike. Speaking of which, Kal Penn is absolutely awful as Hemmings, who is a an annoying character to begin with. The character is just a self-absorbed, prima donna and with Penn’s performance, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard whenever he speaks. He is completely unconvincing as a sexy, genius photographer and really drags down an already weak movie. Kenny Wormald is fine as Colleen love interest…another plot element that goes nowhere… and member of Hemmings entourage, Chris. He seemed like a bit too much of an ass-kisser to get the interest of a strong-willed, independent girl like Colleen, IMO. There is also scream queen Katharine Isabelle, former Disney channel star Christy Carlson Romano and the awesome Mitch Pileggi all wasted in small roles.

Suffice to say, it’s disappointing the Wes Craven’s legacy ends with his name on this misfire. The flick has barely a cohesive story, there is no real suspense and none of the characters have much motivation for what they do. Kal Penn is not only insufferable as Hemmings, but the characters is awfully annoying as written and really serves no purpose, like a lot of the characters here. There are a few effective scenes, mostly because they are brutal and the redneck psychos are creepy, if not purposeless in what they do. Saving grace has former Carpenter D.P. Dean Cundey lensing the flick and the appearance of some fan favorites in small roles. Not completely awful but definitely forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

final exam rating

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HILLS HAVE EYES part 2 (1985)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

hills Have Eyes Part II

bars

THE HILLS HAVE EYES part 2 (1985)

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

One of Craven’s worst films, unnecessary sequel is most notable for being the first film released on VHS and into theaters on the same day. I myself was working at a Palmer Video at the time and remember it coming in for rent on the same day it opened at the Paramus Century Twin theater.

The story, written by Craven, takes place 8 years later with survivor Bobby (again Robert Houston) in a relationship with reformed cannibal clan member Ruby (a returning Janus Blythe) who is now called Rachel and the two have a motocross bike team and have invented a new fuel to race with. As fate would have it, there is a race they are participating in right in the area of Bobby’s ordeal with the cannibals. He refuses to go there, but Ruby takes the team on a bus and proceeds. It’s no surprise that they take a shortcut through the desert, the bus breaks down and now the bike team and Ruby/Rachel are trapped in an area stalked by the surviving Pluto (Michael Berryman) and his massive uncle Reaper (7’4″ actor John Bloom) who, one by one, slaughter the team and take their bodies into their underground slaughterhouse to make into happy meals.

Craven himself, is not proud of this film. It was a paycheck job and he was not given enough money to complete it and had to use a lot of flashbacks from the first film to get the film to feature length…and it is evident, especially in the first third. The film plays out more like a routine 80s slasher with Pluto and Reaper, one by one, killing off members of the biker team in various gory ways in an abandoned mining camp. The slasher vibe is strengthened by the presence of Harry Manfredini’s score which is very similar to his work on the Friday The 13th series. As for the proceedings, the story makes no sense, as Papa Jupiter’s father, in the first film, never mentions a second son, and why you would leave out a seven foot sibling in the telling, is silly. That and if Bobby is still traumatized by the events of the first flick, then why is he dating an ex-cannibal clan member? The film follows the generic slasher formula, quite closely and has little suspense, as it is obvious by the scene set-ups who’s getting it next. At least there is some effective gore when they do get it and if anything, the film moves quickly. Having a blind girl as our main heroine (Tamara Stafford) has little impact on the story, as her more acute hearing only works when the plot needs it to. The inclusion of Ruby doesn’t add much either, although she does have some fun fight scenes with her former clan members.

Cast are not really all that memorable aside for the iconic Berryman back as Pluto. At over seven feet, John Bloom certainly is physically impressive, but doesn’t really give Reaper the personality needed to put him anywhere near the slasher hall of fame. Tamara Stafford makes a fine enough heroine as Cass and she is pretty, likable and shows resilience like a good final girl should, especially with the character’s handicap. A returning Janus Blythe is almost unrecognizable as the now civilized Ruby, but she has some fun scenes with her former family members. They should have focused more on her physical scraps with Pluto and Reaper as they were one of the more entertaining aspects of the film and one which they wasted overall, as Ruby becomes a second tier character behind Cass. Supporting players are fine as generic slaughter fodder and are just stereotypical characters in a slasher flick, nothing more.

This is a bad movie. There is some entertainment value from the slasher aspects, if you are a fan of 80s slashers, but overall, it is every bit the paycheck job it’s said to be. The Hills Have Eyes is a cult classic horror and it’s sequel is a sad example of what happens when a filmmaker makes a film he doesn’t want to, in order to pay the bills…and a film he was barely given the resources to finish. If you are a completest of either Craven or 80s slashers, sure, give it a watch, but don’t expect much at all.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 (out of 4) Plutos.

hills have eyes 2 rating

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

hills have eyes

bars

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

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

Five years after The Last House On The Left, Wes Craven returned with this, his sophomore effort…and begat another cult classic. The film also continues his exploration of the theme of good people driven to violence in self-defense or revenge. Here, a vacationing family passing through the desert, takes a turn off the main road to do some sightseeing and encounters a clan of vicious, feral cannibals that target them for their next meal. As the savages, one by one, reduce the Carter family’s numbers, the surviving members must turn savage themselves in order to survive.

Once again Craven wrote and directed and with a somewhat larger budget, the film is less crude than Last House and the director is starting to show his visual style with the desolate desert setting. The film also has some brutal violence and an offbeat sense of humor, though here, Craven mixes the humor and violence much better than in Last House where the humorous bits stuck out. In Hills it’s mostly relegated to the oddball behavior of the feral clan and while it lessens their threat level a bit, it makes sense for those raised outside civilization. It also gives us a breather from the brutality, rape and violence that comes quite frequently. And there are some brutal moments and some suspenseful ones too and Craven shows definite growth as a filmmaker in both his style and his technique. It’s interesting to watch the wholesome Carter family revert to some of their own viciousness when faced with extermination. It’s an offbeat horror flick with a bit of a Chainsaw Massacre slant, but despite the story similarities, is quite it’s own movie and has become a cult classic in it’s own right.

The cast of mostly unknowns are all fine with only Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman having gone on to become genre favorites and horror icons. Wallace plays the older Carter daughter Lynne whose baby is abducted by the cannibal family during one of their raids on their RV. Berryman, of course, plays one of the mutant cannibals named Pluto and it is a role that started him on a cult icon career. He is certainly fitting in the role and provides much of the odd humor the film mixes with the more brutal moments. Some may recognize James Whitworth, who plays the clan patriarch Jupiter, from the cult classic monster movie Planet Of Dinosaurs. His Jupiter is fierce and threatening and far less ‘goofy’ than son Pluto. There is also prolific character actor John Steadman, who is the old gas station owner, Fred and father to clan leader Jupiter. The rest of the cast perform their roles as either Carter or clan family members appropriately, with standouts being Russ Grieve as ex-cop and family patriarch Bob Carter, pretty Susan Lanier as the younger Carter daughter Brenda, Janus Blythe as the sympathetic clan daughter Ruby and future filmmaker Robert Houston as Carter son Bobby.

Overall, this is both a mean and yet sometimes darkly funny flick. There are some very brutal moments offset by some oddball humor, especially from our villainous cannibals. It’s a cult classic and another example of Wes Craven’s versatility and the potential he would live up to with his future works. There was a remake (click here to see my review) in 2006 by Alexandre Aja, which is actually quite brutal and removes the oddball humor for a very intense take on Craven’s story.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 propane tanks…which come in handy battling cannibals.

hills have eyes rating

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

last house on the left

bars

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

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

Classic flick is considered one of the earliest modern slasher films, though, it is more revenge thriller and doesn’t really follow the formula that seems to have become standard with the advent of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas and Halloween. The movie is produced by future Friday The 13th director Sean S. Cunningham and was the first feature film directed by future legend Wes Craven. The film is also one I got to see at a re-release in 1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. With Craven’s recent passing, it’s time to revisit this flick that initially disturbed me on first seeing it on the big screen over thirty years ago.

Film tells a violent and vengeful tale of irony both cruel and just. Cruel in that two pretty young girls Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) and Mari (Sandra Cassel) head into the city to see a concert and just happen to run into two escaped convicts Krug (David A. Hess) and Weasel (Fred Lincoln) along with Krug’s son junior (Marc Sheffler) and the sadistic Sadie (Jeramie Rain). They are held against their will in the group’s apartment and suffer torment and rape before being taken bound and gagged up into a rural wooded area. There the torment and rape continues until both girls are brutally murdered. The just irony comes in that the four fiends responsible are not far from Mari’s house. Without knowing who they are, they trick their way into the couple’s home intent on more evil doings. Now inside, though, their identities are discovered and when the Collingwoods (Gaylord St. James, Cynthis Carr) find out who their guests are and what they have done to their daughter…there will be hell to pay!

Written and directed by Craven this is a raw and crude, but very effective flick. Some may see the events as convenient coincidence, but the ironies that brings characters to their fates are certainly effective. As first, it brings the sweet Mari and her more rambunctious friend into a snake pit where they both cruelly meet deaths they don’t deserve and then it delivers those responsible to the very doorstep of Mari’s loving parents. Movie plot device, maybe, but life can deliver such ironies as we all know. The sequences of the girls’ torture, rape and murder are still uncomfortable to watch after all these years as our villains are truly detestable and are enjoying their acts. All the more disturbing as that they are perpetrated on are sweet young girls who have done nothing to deserve it. When Craven’s script brings his four deviates to the Collingwood home, revenge is almost as cruel, but far more deserving…and that’s what makes this work. There is some disturbing violence and ample bloodshed, obviously, and it is an interesting portrayal of how grief and anger can turn good people savage…a theme Craven would explore again in The Hills Have Eyes.

Not everything is perfect. There is a subplot involving the antics of a bumbling sheriff (Marshall Anker) and his incompetent deputy (Karate Kid‘s Martin Cove) that is played for laughs and sticks out in an otherwise serious and brutal film. Also, aside from the perfectly placed ironies, it is a bit of a stretch that the Collingwoods could stay so cool in the presence of the murderers, even after they find Mari’s body. I also thought it a bit of a stretch that they would invite the four strangers into their home, long before they found out who they were, even if this is the early 70s. There are also some songs on the soundtrack…the music is by star David Hess who was also a singer…that don’t seem to fit the mood of what is occurring onscreen.

The cast are all fine for such a low budget flick. Cassel is sweet and portrays a good girl simply wanting to sow a few oats at a concert and Grantham is the more vivacious friend who wants to help her do it and have a good time. Both are very likable and Grantham in particular shows some strength as her Phyllis remains protective of Mari even during their ordeal. Our villains are truly detestable and contemptible. David Hess is an abusive and sadistic monster, plain and simple as Krug. A man who seems to know nothing else but violence and he openly enjoys it. Fred Lincoln is equally disturbing as Weasel a man who enjoys depravity and killing and at times seems more demented than Krug. Equally sadistic and heinous is Jeramie Rain as Sadie. A cruel woman who enjoys the pain of others and appears sexually perverted as well. Rain makes her very disturbing. The only slightly sympathetic characters is Junior, Krug’s son. As portrayed by Marc Sheffler he seems more a young man too afraid to oppose his father than someone who actually wants to be involved in such depravity…though go along with it he does. Rounding out are Gaylord St. James and Cynthis Carr as Mari’s parents, who seem like typical good-natured, all-American parents, which is all the more reason their descent into sadistic violence is so shocking when they seek to avenge their daughter’s murder. The two actors fit the bill well as a Norman Rockwell-esque family driven to deplorable acts of revenge.

So, yes this is a cult classic and an auspicious debut for a man who would go on to be recognized as one of the greatest horror directors of all time. It’s a crude film in many ways, but it is still effective, even if not quite as shocking as it was back in it’s day. There are some obtrusive comic elements and it takes a little effort to accept some of the ironies that set things in motion, but they do work. It’s a landmark horror and a solid career starting point for writer/director Craven and producer Sean S.Cunningham. Certainly recommended, but be warned, even after 40 years the flick still has some bite.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) chainsaws…yup, 2 years before Leatherface, Last House made use of one!

evil dead 2 rating

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SHOCKER (1989)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

shocker

bars

SHOCKER (1989)

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

While it has it’s fans, this is definitely one of the weakest in Wes Craven’s filmography and a real mess that appears quite overindulgent for a director who usually had good command over when to be subtle and when to turn things up to eleven. The story has an L.A. community being stalked by a vicious and brutal serial killer whom is skillfully eluding police. It’s not until he attacks the family of the detective investigating his case, Det. Don Parker (Micahel Murphy) that it falls apart. Parker’s adopted son Jonathan (Peter Berg, who is currently a prolific director) dreamed the whole thing while it happened (there is a vague explanation on why this occurs) and claims he can locate and identify the killer. He does…though, at the cost of his girlfriend Alison’s (Cami Cooper) life…and soon murderer and black magic practitioner, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) is sitting in the electric chair. Despite getting thoroughly juiced, Pinker’s dark magic allows him to leap to another body and soon Pinker is going from body to body trying to get his revenge on Jonathan and anyone close to him.

Also written by Craven, the tone and story are all over the place in this borderline mess. The usually, very skilled director can’t decide whether this is a straightforward slasher with some brutally violent sequences, or, an outright comedy with Pinker and Jonathan battling it out inside TV signals and thus their fight getting inserted in various TV shows and broadcasts. It’s absurd. It’s bad enough Pinker is a sub-par Freddy Krueger, who’ll even possesses a little girl in his effort to kill his adversary, but, he can invade TV signals and travel through electrical outlets? The film gets more ridiculous as it goes on and at 109 minutes, is at least 15-20 minutes too long. Craven seemed intent to create a new franchise with a new boogeyman and simply went overboard. It’s not like the director can’t mix horror and humor, The Hills Have Eyes has some darkly comic moments, as does Elm St. Here, it’s very intrusive with the darker elements and just creates a very schizophrenic tone. There is also little of the director’s trademarked suspense and tension and as a villain, Pinker seems too bloodthirsty to have successfully evaded police when corporeal and makes some bad choices in body hosts when he’s a vengeful spirit. His one-liners are also forced and without the disturbing wit of Mr. Krueger. Craven still has a good visual eye, as in all his films, there are some nice shots and the dream sequences all look appropriately surreal…such as Allison’s spirit gliding through a fog shrouded lake. The gore effects are also gruesomely effective and there is a lot of it. The visual effects are quite cheesy at this point, though, and the various metal tunes peppered throughout the soundtrack are obtrusive and obviously only there to create a marketable soundtrack CD…which actually does have some cool stuff on it.

Cast-wise, Mitch Pileggi, who went on to play Skinner on The X-Files, has a fun time here with what he’s got but, the script let’s him down from being truly memorable. Future director Peter (Lone Survivor) Berg is an OK hero. He’s not quite bland but, never really makes Jonathan endearing or memorable like Langenkamp’s Nancy. Michael Murphy is fine as his father and the case detective but, he and the rest of the characters, for that matter, go along with a lot of unproven nonsense when it comes to Jonathan’s claims about Pinker’s powers. Cami Cooper basically just needs to be pretty and angelic as Allison and then her ghost and for that, she’s fine but, also not very memorable. Cast also features Ted Raimi and Richard (Shakedown) Brooks as Jonathan’s football teammates.

So, what happened here? The director of the viciously brutal Last House On The Left and nightmarish A Nightmare On Elm Street, delivers what might be one of the biggest fails of his storybook career. Craven may have had his share of misfires but, this one is such a mess in both story and tone, you wonder what he was thinking. It’s tedious, ridiculous, over-indulgent and fails to create the new franchise it was so obviously made to do. There are still some nice visual scenes from Craven and the gore is abundant and very effective, but, overall, those things are sunk by the weight of a silly and convoluted story and some uneven direction from a highly competent filmmaker. Craven would bounce back, somewhat, two years later with the oddball and amusing People Under The Stairs and then fully rebound with the classic Scream in 1996…which would redefine the slasher and horror genre for years after.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 fried Pinkers.

shocker rating

bars