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Monday, June 21, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street

How scary was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET when it was released way back in 1984? Extremely. Chock full of terrifying imagery and memorable moments galore, ELM STREET tells the story of Nancy (perfectly played by Heather Langenkamp). Things start to get weird when she finds out her friends are having the exact same dreams...

     This shocking slasher about a horribly burned madman who stalks teens in their dreams became a sensation upon its release, and made an instant horror icon out of Robert Englund, who so terrifyingly brought Freddy Krueger to life. 

    Freddy Krueger has become such an over-saturated character that it's almost hard to remember just how scary he truly was the first time we saw him back in 1984. The original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is most definitely a classic horror film, and Freddy Krueger is easily one of the most popular villains in cinema history, part of the Holy Trinity of Terror alongside Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. And Freddy, like any other movie monster, was eventually milked to death and became a cackling comedian in the latter sequels, and he became less and less frightening. But you cannot go wrong with the original, the classic.

What makes the original ELM STREET so scary is that we hardly see Freddy in the movie- like JAWS,  Freddy is wisely kept in the dark through most of the film. We get glimpses here and there- his hands, his hat, his sweater. Just enough to freak us the hell out. 

       Wes Craven did a great job of capturing that certain small, mid-western teenage vibe, like John Carpenter brilliantly achieved in HALLOWEEN. Craven chillingly depicts a nightmare world inhabited by the evil Krueger, which would haunt many a movie-goer's dreams back in the day. The film is visually stunning for a low budget production- it's filmed almost hallucinogenic and surreal,which makes the nightmare scenes so memorable. It's truly an original premise, and it was very influential in horror.  

     But it really should have stopped after this one or the second installment. If Freddy could only be remembered for the original terrifying performance he gave in 1984, instead of the family-friendly comedian he became. It's one of the best to come out of the 80's, and it was seriously scary stuff for 1984. I was 12 years old and petrified watching this. And yes, this was the film premiere of a certain actor named Johnny Depp.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Terror In the Aisles


     Not many have seen or even heard of, for that matter, "Terror In the Aisles"- what is it, you ask?  It's a compilation of some of the most famous clips in horror movie history that was released in theaters way back in 1984.  Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen are your hosts, providing a running commentary on why people love scary movies.  And tons of clips.  It's nothing too deep or insightful, basically just an excuse to see clips from such classic shockers as "Psycho", "Jaws", "Alien", "Carrie", and "Halloween".  It's put together rather nicely, although some of the "theater" scenes with Allen and Pleasance come across as somewhat cheesy.  Still, it's a fun ride.  Some of the selections are strange ("Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein"?  "To Catch A Thief"?  "Vice Squad"?  Really?...), but overall it hits most of the classics.  Now this should most definitely be redone today- primarily because we've had some pretty good horror movies released since 1984.    Towards the end, it does lose a bit of steam, but I still think if you can come across a copy, it's worth a look.
      I would have loved to have seen this in a theater back then- even though at a mere 84 minutes I might have felt a bit cheated.  There's no rhyme or reason to "Terror In the Aisles"- they show many clips from "Friday the 13th Part 2", yet the only clip from the original is when Jason jumps out of the lake at the end.  Some movies are represented alot- "Halloween", "JAWS", and "Psycho" come to mind, while others such as "Suspiria" and "Night of the Living Dead" are only shown briefly.  And oddly enough they do not identify the movies.  It took me years to figure out what movies some of these clips were from.  But it was kind of fun tracking down some of these particular movies.  This is a total guilty pleasure of mine, as I've seen it hundreds of times.  I genuinely enjoy watching this, flawed as it is.   It's still the most comprehensive look at horror movies in general that I've ever come across.   And the fact that this was released theatrically is quite astonishing.  I've seen other cheesy compilations- "Boogeymen" for one.  Yuck.  In that respect, "Terror In the Aisles" is far superior.  If you can find a copy, get it!

Here's a taste of the fun that awaits you in "Terror In the Aisles"...

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Slumber Party Massacre

      I absolutely adore THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.  I find it hilarious, actually. There is a delicious wit running through every minute of this slasher flick, and it's one of my favorites of the decade. Although we're presented with possibly the least frightening killer ever put on celluloid- he's laughable all the way, and maybe it's just me, but I insist on my psychopaths wearing a mask. Why is this?  I mean, if somebody is coming after you with a knife, no matter what they're wearing, it's probably going to be pretty scary, right? Right. But i prefer my slasher to be sportin' a mask.

     There are exceptions, of course. Pamela Voorhees didn't wear a mask, and she was certainly scary enough on her own. HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE offers a killer without a mask, and it works for the most partEYES OF A STRANGER has a killer without a mask. No sweat. But c'mon- would HALLOWEEN have been near as scary if Michael Myers was just a regular guy walking around?  I think not. Would Leatherface have caused as many nightmares as he did if he didn't walk around wearing other people's faces? Doubt it. I'm just saying.

     THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE came about during that magical time period otherwise known as the early 80's. In 1982, the slasher genre was going full-tilt boogie, and it seemed there was a new madman stalking teens just about every weekend of that year in theaters. TSPM features the barest whiff of a plot- while the parents are away, a bunch of girls throw a slumber party. And there's an escaped lunatic running around with a power drill with a very large bit attached (I'm not even going into the whole phallic imagery bit- it's been discussed to death already...) and killing people. That's pretty much it. Simple, yet effective. We didn't need no stinkin' plots back then- we just wanted to see Jordache-wearing teens being slaughtered for whatever reason.

     There are so many things I love about this movie, but mainly- I love the humor found here.  There is some genuinely funny comedic dialogue running through THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE- so much that I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times. I love that the girls in this movie look at least 30 years old, while the boys could easily pass for 18. The somewhat-butch young girl obsessed with "PLAYGIRL" magazines is quite hilarious, and you gotta love the gay next-door neighbor asked to look after the girls while their parents are away. Is this movie cleverly spoofing the slasher films of the era? Is the humor intentional or unintentional?  There is almost a sly, winking vibe to this movie, and I really dig it. This is high camp all the way, kiddos.

      THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE has developed a strong following over the years, and remains a definite guilty pleasure. Great fun all the way, and highly recommended.


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