Laserblast 10/5/10: Splice, The Exorcist, Beauty & The Beast

Also coming out on home video this week: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CAPRICA SEASON 1.0, STARGATE UNIVERS: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, THE SECRET OF KELLS, GRINDHOUSE SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY, and DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND

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Tuesday, October 5 is overflowing with horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles of all shapes and sizes arriving on home video in various formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes downloads. The best of the new releases is SPLICE, which arrives in two versions, DVD and Blu-ray. When it hit theatres earlier this year, Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi horror opus was a bit misrepresented by its advertising campaign, which suggested a SPECIES-type monster movie. Instead, audiences got a thoughtful science fiction film with an overlay of dark satire.
Also out this week is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the unnecessary (and unnecessarily dull) remake of writer-director Wes Craven’s 1984 classic. The new version is slickly made but typically soulless. Somewhat less typically, it is also almost entirely devoid of shocks and suspense. Give this one a pass.
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This is one of those rare weeks when classic titles are overwhelming new releases, thanks to some deluxe editions that surpass and eclipse previous home video versions. Horror fans disappointed by the ELM STREET remake can take solace in Warner Brothers Home Video release a two-disc Blu-ray of THE EXORCIST (1973), which includes the original theatrical cut and the so-called “Extended Director’s Cut,” plus three new documentaries. The film is also being made available for download via iTunes for the first time. The extended cut is just a new name for the 2000 theatrical re-issue of the film, which at the time was dubbed “The Version You ‘ve Never Seen” – a sobriquet that hardly makes sense ten years later. Even if (like me) you have previously purchased both versions of the film on DVD (including the excellent 25th anniversary edition), you will find much worth viewing on this disc, thanks to previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage that provides an amazing glimpse at the making of this horror classic.
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If your tastes run more toward fairy tale fantasy, you are in luck: Walt Disney Home Video is releasing a 3-disc Diamond Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, their 1991 Oscar-nominated blockbuster, which has been unavailable in any form since 2003. (This combo pack will be followed seven weeks later by a 2-Disc standard definition DVD on November 23.) The 3-disc set includes one DVD and two Blu-rays. The DVD features an all-new digital restoration, three versions of the film, sing-along mode (with subtitles for the lyrics), and an audio commentary. The first Blu-ray disc includes the DVD bonus features and the three versions of the film (in high-def, of course), plus more extras, including previously unseen alternate opening and a deleted scene. The second Blu-ray disc offers the bonus features from the old Platinum Edition DVD, plus some new Blu-ray extras, including “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories,” “Enchanted Musical Challenge Game,” and “Bonjour, Who is This” – a game in which you use your phone to receive secret messages and guess players’ identities before they guess yours.
In a move no one could ever have expected, the abysmal TROLL 2 receives a Blu-ray release this week; the format seems altogether too refined by the cheezy little movie, which has gained some cult notoriety this year, thanks to the art house release of BEST WORST MOVIE, the documentary tracing the lives and reunion of some of the TROLL 2 cast members.
MGM Home Video offers the MGM Sci-Fi Movie Collection. Unfortunately, the company’s 1956 classic FORBIDDEN PLANET is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get one  (WAR GAMES) and a bunch of forgettable duds (SOLAR BABIES, ALIEN FROM L.A. with Kathy Ireland, HACKERS with a  young Angelina Jolie film, SPACE CAMP, and a WAR GAMES sequel).
Apparently, bargain days have arrived this week, with several previous available titles re-released in two-packs: GROUNDHOG DAY and SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, HANCOCK and GHOST RIDER, THE GRUDGE and SILENT HILL, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and WOLF, FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and I ROBOT, plus several others.
But wait, there’s more! Also on store shelves this week:

  • CAPRICA: SEASON 1.0 on DVD
  • SGU: STARGATE UNIVERS – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON on DVD and Blu-ray
  • THE SECRET OF KELLS on DVD and Blu-ray
  • GRINDHOUSE two-disc collector’s edition on Blu-ray
  • THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE COLLECTION on DVD
  • DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND on DVD
  • DELGO on DVD and two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo
  • THE EVIL/TWICE DEAD, a two-pack of Roger Corman Cult Classics
  • FINGERPRINTS on Blu-ray
  • THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS, a deluxe edition
  • THE RIG
  • SISTERS on Blu-ray (no not the Brian DePalma original but an unnecessary remake)

And the list goes on and on… All are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store. Click the links below to check them out, or go here.
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Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights 2010- review

Jason1_grindstone5x7 copyKnott’s Berry Farm’s annual Halloween Haunt pioneered the concept of basing walk-through haunted attractions on movies, usually tied in with some new release (THE GRUDGE 2, BEOWULF, QUARANTINE), but over the last few years Universal Studios Hollywood has taken the idea to its ultimate degree, building haunts around hit horror franchises for its  Halloween Horror Nights presentation. Thus we saw mazes built around A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in 2007 and 2008. Last year’s horrors were based on SAW, HALLOWEEN, and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. 2010 sees the return of the SAW maze, along with new mazes based on the remakes of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH.
Unfortunately, in aping horror film franchises, Halloween Horror Nights has become a little bit like one, churching out sequels and remakes that convey that “been there, done that” feel. Universal continues to succeed at its intended  goal, which is to bring horror movies to life, turning them into amazingly detailed walk-through mazes that immerse fans in the worlds of their favorite movie monsters. Unfortunately, focusing on individual films (such as the recent Freddy and Jason remakes) leads to a certain monotony. In each maze, Jason/Freddy jumps out at you in the first room, then the second room, then the third room, etc – and it’s always the same character with the same appearance. (The previous Elm Street and Friday mazes benefited from being based on franchises with lots of sequels, which offered some variety when it came to depicting the characters: for example, Jason could appear with a bag over his head, as in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II, instead of the familiar hockey mask.)
Here is a rundown of the horror-movie-inspired thrills and chils at Halloween Horror Nights’ 2010:
FRIDAY THE 13TH: KILL, JASON, KILL. Jason’s back, but this maze is remarkably different from the ones seen in 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately, Jason isn’t really given enough room to show off the difference between his current incarnation and the versions seen during previous Halloweens. The new Jason is supposed to take his cue from the performance by Derek Mears in the remake, who made the character more of an Olympic athelete, rather than the slow and steady menace that he was when played, most famously, by Kane Hodder in the FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels VII through X (it was Hodder’s performances that set the style for Universal’s previous “Friday the 13th” mazes). Setting that aside, the new “Friday the 13th” maze does justify bringing the character back, by showing him in new settings and situations, with lots of new gore gags.
Freddywipe7x5 copy
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. Like the “Friday the 13th” maze, this one lives up to the promise of offering something new, this time a grim Freddy based on the 2010 remake. Unfortunately, the attempt fares less well. The remake’s new Freddy makeup is not that impressive when translated into the live medium – it looks like putty smooshed around the face. And by focusing on a single film, the maze looses the variety made possible by pulling the best bits and pieces from several sequels. The result loses the “Nightmare” on Elm Street: it’s fairly generic, with burlap tunnels and tight corridors that force you to walk past windows and doors from which Freddy can make his expectedly unexpected appearances. There area  few nice touches, fortunately: solid walls that disappear, revealing Freddy behind them, or that stretch as if pressed from behind (recreating a memorable image from the original film that was botched in the remake thanks to cartoony CGI).
Saw1_7x5 copy
SAW: GAME ON. Against our expectations, “Saw: Game Over”turned out to be the highlight of 2009’s Halloween Horror Nights, so we are not complaining when we saw that this year’s incarnation is a virtual duplicate. There are a few nice gruesome bits included, such as the “rack-crucifix,” which neatly – well, not so neatly – twists off its victim’s arms. (We are not gore fans, but this one effect is almost worth the price of admission -although flashing lights and screams may distract you from seeing what’s happening.) The interesting point here is that most of Universal’s mazes try to feature the villain as much as possible, but “Saw: Game On” maintains Jigsaw as an off-screen voice, focusing attention on the mechanical traps and torture devices. Our only disappointment was with a recreation of a scene from the original SAW, in which one victim must dig a key out of the body of another victim in order to unlock a device before it kills her; for some reason, the actress playing the role was camping it up, simply flopping her fingers through bloody guts as if playing a game, not engaged in a life-or-death race against the clock.
VAMPYRE MAZE
VAMPYRE: CASTLE OF THE UNDEAD. This is set in Universal Studios year-round walk-through attraction, thes House of Horrors, which was designed to provide a sort of tour through the history of the horror genre, starting with old-fashioned classic horror movies like DRACULA and moving through the decades to include PSYCHO, CHILD’S PLAY, etc. For the last couple years, Universal Studios Hollywood has taken to re-branding the attraction for Halloween: last year it was “Chucky’s Funhouse”; this year it is “Vampyre: Castle of the Undead.” The layout and sets remain much the same – this is a fixed location – the main difference is that the walk-through is haunted by a bunch of ugly vampires based on a comic-book tie-in. The inspiration here seems to be to go anti-TWILIGHT, which is fine with us, but that will take you only so far. The vampyres need something of their own to make them memorable, beyond the fact that they are not like Edward Cullen; what we get are fairly generic, if effective at hissing and scaring in the dark. There is also a problem with the setting: House of Horrors is designed to feature several different environments: in some the vampyres seem appropriate (like Dracula’s Castle); in some they do not (like Chucky’s toy story or Frankenstein’s laboratory). There is corridor of mirrors that we do not remember from years past – creating some visual distraction that allows the vampires to make effective surprise appearances from concealed doors, and there is a very effective bit at the very end, with a headless corpse that turns out to be alive.
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ROB ZOMBIE’S HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES: IN 3D ZOMBIEVISION
It may be Zombievision, but it’s barely 3D. The flimsy cardboard spectacles create some color separation that makes certain highlighted objects stand out, but for the most part the techniques does not yield particularly memorable results. The walk through the various ghoulish scenes is creepy enough to be worthwhile, but the characters have not truly achieved the cult status that makes them ideal choices for a Halloween maze. Rob Zombie’s fans will probably feel differently – and have a great time – but the average Halloween enthusiast will be less sanguine.
TERROR TRAM BACK LOT TERROR TRAM: CHUCKY’S REVENGE is another awkward attempt to insert the killer doll into a location where he does not fit: last year it was in the House of Horrors; this year it is on the backlot. It’s starting to feel like a pay-or-play situation, with an actor under contract who gets slotted into some movie just because the studio has already paid his salary and wants to get something back for its investment rather than letting him collect his check for doing nothing. The problem here is that, in spite of numerous sequels, the CHILD’S PLAY films were always a second-rate franchise, and although talking dolls are always creepy and unnerving, the tiny tike is just not credible as a serial killer.
To some extent, Halloween Horror Nights acknowledges this by not featuring Chucky very much on the walking part of the tour (I saw one small actor in a mask and costume, a stationary doll or two, and some pint-sized silhouettes). Instead, most of the monsters are storm-troopers with de rigueur chainsaws. There are also some nicely camouflaged “plant” monsters, who blend in with the vegetation on the dark hillside.
Chucky is truly featured only on the video played on monitors aboard the tram, and truth be told, this footage is amusing – a parody of true-life documentaries charting the fading careers of celebrity has-beens. Chucky is seen in a montage of clips and still that portray him descending into drink as the career opportunities fade. In a gambit that borders on bad taste – but is pretty funny – we are told that the official explanation for the devastating 2008 fire on Universal’s back lot was a cover story; the real culprit was a vengeful Chucky, angry at the way the studio had abandoned him.
The facades and scenery are more or less the same as in previous years, but retroffited to accommodate Chucky (i.e., it’s dolls hanging from the tree, not Jason’s victims). Also, the path has been altered in some cases to give you a slightly different view as you pass from the Bates Motel to the Psycho House, where you can see more “Mothers” (i.e., Norman Bates in drag) than you can shake a stick at. The effect is more campy than frightening.
The airplane crash site is just as awesome as ever, but the storm troopers do not do much to enhance it. In past year’s, this area worked best when used to convey a sense of apocalyptic horror, in which the world seemed to be in total chaos, with zombies feeding on helpless victims in the yards of nearby homes. If Universal really wants to do something interesting with this area next year, they should fashion it into something based on LOST – now that would be interesting.

CONCLUSIONS

Halloween Horror Nights would be better if it made greater use of its own classic movie monster movie legacy. It is certainly a shame that, on the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchock’s PSYCHO, Universal Studios could not have found some way to feature the famous franchise. Yes, one could argue that Norman Bates is dated, but so is Chucky. Canning the killer doll in favor of Norman – or just about any other Universal monster – would be an easy improvement (and it would tie in nicely with the back story for this year’s Terror Tram).
Bottom Line: If you have not been to Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights, you really owe it to yourself to make the effort. However, if you have attended on previous occasions, there may not be enough new and novel frights to make a return trip an absolute necessity. If you have not already seen King Kong 360 3-D and the Simpsons motion-simulation ride, this is certainly a good opportunity to do so.
By the way, if Universal was going to bring back both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees for Halloween Horror Nights 2010, would it have really killed them to stage a Freddy vs. Jason fight somewhere on theme park’s lot?
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Sense of Wonder: Counting Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi Franchises on One Hand?

franchise combo copy

In this post about SAW 3-D, being touted as the finale installment in the Jigsaw saga, Lionsgate president Jason Constantine makes the following statement about the longevity of the SAW franchise:

“You can count on one hand the franchises that lasted seven years — and every year, no less,” says Jason Constantine, Lionsgate’s president of acquisitions and co-productions. “It became part of pop-culture discourse.”

This strikes my as slightly myopic in terms of the history of horror, fantasy and science fiction film franchise. Off the top of my head, here are several more than you can count on one hand – unless you are a polydactyl alien from a galaxy far, far away:

  • The Universal Pictures Frankenstein series began in 1931 with FRANKENSTEIN and continued through 1948 with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, totaling eight films.
  • Toho Studio’s original Godzilla franchise began in 1954 with GODZILLA (a.k.a. GOJIRA) and took a breather after TERROR OF MECHA-GODZILLA in 1974. The franchise revived in 1985 and lasted until GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER in 1996, then resumed again in 1999, wrapping up with GODZILLA: FINAL WARS in 2004, with 26 films on its resume.
  • The Hammer Films Frankenstein series began in 1957 with CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and ended in 1974 with FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, totalling six films (not counting the aberration known as HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN)
  • Hammer’s Dracula series began in 1958 with HORROR OF DRACULA and ended in 1974 with LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (a.k.a. THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA), totaling eight films (nine if you count BRIDES OF DRACULA, in which the Count does not appear).
  • The James Bond franchise launched in 1962 with DR. NO and continued until QUANTUM OF SOLACE in 2008, totaling over 20 films. (There was a haitus in the 1990s, but still this is a long-lived franchise).
  • HALLOWEEN started its reign of terror in 1978, which lasted through HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION in 2002. The franchise started up again in 2008 with a remake.
  • FRIDAY THE 13TH began in 1980 and lasted through 2003’s FREDDY VS. JASON, before launching a remake last year.
  • A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET arrived in 1984 and officially ended with FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE in 1991 – barely six years. But then the franchise started up again in 1996 with WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, followed by FREDDY VS. JASON in 2003, and then a remake this year.

Well, that makes eight. I guess we’re not supposed to count the ALIEN franchise and George A. Romero’s sequels to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), because the films were spaced out at long intervals: the ALIEN films extend from 1979 through ALIENS VS. PREDATOR in 2007; Romero’s latest, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, arrived earlier this year.
If we include non-sequel franchise, we get the Vincent Price Poe movies from HOUSE OF USHER in 1960 through THE OBLONG BOX in 1969. Extending past the real of cinefantastique, we get lengthy franchises devoted to Sherlock Holmes and other screen detectives, not to mention such low-brow fare as Ma and Pa Kettle and Francis the Talking Mule.
Let me know if there are any I missed.
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Krueger Sequel Already in the Works


Still from the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street
Still from the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street

Talk about speedy work as The Wrap have the scoop that a sequel to the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake is being planned a mere five days since its release. The news of a sequel doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the film has done so well at the box office, and neither does the news it’s possibly, that’s right, to be shot in 3D.

Distribution president at Warner Bros, Dan Fellman, tells The Wrap,

“We don’t have a story yet, but this is the largest horror opening in the April-May corridor, and it just proves there’s a lot left in the franchise”.

Meanwhile producer Andrew Form told Dread Central,

“Platinum Dunes is very open to the possibility of a NIGHTMARE sequel. It would be amazing to work with Jackie and the cast again. Unfortunately, as far as we know right now, Sam wouldn’t be back to direct the follow-up, but we’d love to come back to Elm Street because Freddy always has a story to tell. We definitely left ourselves open for a sequel so it would be a great privilege to get to do another NIGHTMARE film.”

Fellow producer, Brad Fuller, added,

I think that making the NIGHTMARE sequel in 3D is a bigger discussion than for right here. We think that 3D movies have to be designed and written as such. If Eric Heisserer and Wesley Strick came to us with a NIGHTMARE script that is for a 3D movie, we’d be fools not to make it.”

It’s seems  you can count on Hollywood for two things these days. First, it’s that they’ll milk a cash cow for all it’s worth if they think there’s mileage left in it. By all accounts the NOES remake is pretty terrible but since it’s made a lot of money they’re obviously going to drag the franchise out as long as they can. Secondly, any film that’s being made right now is at least being considered for 3D and hey, probably even one’s that have already been made (here’s looking at you, CLASH OF THE TITANS).

I think that making the Nightmare sequel in 3D is a bigger discussion than for right here in this room. We think that 3D movies have to be designed and written as such. If Eric (Heisserer) and Wesley (Strick) came to us with a Nightmare sequel script that is for a 3D movie, we’d be fools not to make it.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Cinefantastique Podcast, 1:12

1...2...Freddy's coming for you.
1...2...Freddy's coming for you.

Freddy’s back, and the Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast has him in its sights. Is the new A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a dreamscape of unspeakable terrors, or is it a big snooze guaranteed to induce micronaps? What’s up with those dour teens? Why are their parents so oblivious? And how big a distinction should be make between the old “child killer” Krueger and the new “child molester” version? These and other questions will be pondered, ruminated upon, delved into, and dissected by Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski.

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Favorites Nightmares from Elm Street: Sleep, Dreams, and Discerning Reality

Freddy makes an impression.
Freddy gets you at your most vulnerable - while asleep.

Although I have never been a fan of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, Freddy Krueger, or slasher films in general, there are several aspects of the series that I find intriguing. They are all related, arising out of Freddy’s ability to enter into the consciousness of his victims as they sleep in order to launch his attacks. Like other films such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and more recently Paranormal Activity (2009), the Elm Street films were able to tap into a basic human fear related to our extreme vulnerability when we sleep. We have all read news reports of sleeping homeowners awakened by intruders who have broken in in order to steal their belongings, and horror films like the Elm Street series take this one step further by suggesting that it is not merely human entities that we should fear during our nocturnal slumbers. Our childhood fears of the dark at bedtime continue into adulthood as filmmakers suggest that various slashers, monsters, aliens, or paranormal entities threaten to inflict harm, perhaps even to the point of fatality while we sleep.
But the Elm Street films take this further – into a realm where not only does the most basic and necessary of human functions such as sleep subject us to risk of attack, but our dreams become the entry point into which Freddy inserts himself to engage in his mayhem. Scientists and psychologists do not agree on why we dream, but it is certainly a common human experience, and this important part of brain functioning demonstrates another example of vulnerability exploited by Krueger.
Finally, the question of discerning reality in relation to dreaming and awakened states of consciousness is one of the frightening facets of the Elm Street films. In the series the victims try to stay awake, and when that ultimately proves impossible, they are also unable to realize they are dreaming, and thus vulnerable to Krueger’s attack. If they could awaken they might be able to avoid their doom. And yet this never seems possible. Perhaps the greatest cinematic treatment of this problem is found in The Matrix, in which Morpheus says to Neo as he begins his own journey of “waking up” from the illusionary dream world of his “reality”: “What if when you woke up, you didn’t know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?”
Freddy Krueger has been frightening filmgoers for generations. Perhaps the reason that so many have found this horror mythology intriguing is its ability to exploit some of our most basic human processes and needs.
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NOTE: This article was originally posted under an incorrect byline.

BC bashes Bayer for blaming Nightmare backlash on fans

Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy

Brian Collins of HORROR MOVIE A DAY offers a sweet and succinct response to director Samuel Bayer, who gave an interview to Fangoria in which he blames fans for their negative reaction to his NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake. The post is too short to quote without spoiling the punchline; you should read it for yourself – it will only take a minute, and it is well worth the laugh.

Favorite Nightmares from Elm Street: Freddy’s Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)Although a lot of fans and critics find A NGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) one of the weaker entries in the series, what I’ve always admired about it was the progression of Freddy’s character in it. The burn make-up is more vivid. Freddy sheds his glove for genuine finger-knives, embedded in his digits. He starts wise-cracking as a way to bait his intended victims. Robert Englund’s voice was even more heavily filtered than in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), although in some scenes it’s pretty much left untouched. While the film is barely referenced in any of the other entries in the series, it really was the film that put Freddy on the path to horror icon status. Which was then cemented with PART 3: DREAM WARRIORS, which played off many of the character progressions made in PART 2.

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Favorite Nightmares from Elm Street: Saxon, Skeletons, and Severed Heads (oh my!)

John Saxon's character dies in a battle with Freddy
John Saxon's character dies in a battle with Freddy

For my favorite nightmare from Elm Street, I’m gonna go with NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, mainly ’cause it’s got a guest appearance by John Saxon and I got a soft spot for the guy. He co-starred in the first Hollywood film I ever worked on, MY MOM’S A WEREWOLF, and though he was a rather quiet, reserved fellow, I personally thought of him as calm and patient. I never saw him get upset around the crew.
But to focus on the less personal, I also got a kick out of the battle in the junkyard with the stop motion Freddy skeleton. It’s jiggy, man! And how can you not like the decapitated head of Kristen’s (Patricia Arquette) mommy dearest (Brooke Bundy) telling her that she always spoils things whenever mom brings home a beau?
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Favorite Nightmares from Elm Street: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The convertible top - colored like Freddy's sweater - encloses the kids at the end of the original NIGHTMARE

Though not a huge fan of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, I did enjoy the first film. What fascinated me was the premise: the daemon that stalked you in your dreams, leading to the fear and desperate avoidance of falling asleep. Since we must all in the end sleep or die, this encapsulates the horrifying ultimate “no-win” situation. The film also excelled at blurring the line between the real and the nightmare world.
These ideas are very good ones, and naturally had occurred before in fiction and film. The Robert Bloch scripted William Castle film THE NIGHT WALKER (1964)had touched upon the idea of the breakdown of the barrier between one’s waking life and dreams, and the madness that could cause. THE TWILIGHT ZONE’s “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play” (both based on Charles Beaumont’s short stories) has touched on these very subjects, and THE NIGHT STALKER’s “The Spanish Moss Murders” (Al Friedman & David Chase)had even introduced the element of an item of the dreamlands crossing over in the physical world. All of this is potent stuff.
Wes Craven was inspired by actual events reported in newspapers (see Wes Craven on Dreaming up Nightmares) about men from Southeast Asia who had died in the middle of dreaded nightmares, and a case of a young man so fearful of the same fate that he resorted to desperate tactics to stay awake, duplicated by the character Nancy in the film. Only the real world model eventually did fall asleep… And died.
Favorite effect: Well, to be honest I’ve only really seen the original and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS in their entirety. I consider them the best of the series.
The skeleton from Elm Street 3
The skeleton from Elm Street 3

Gore effects, no matter how inventive, don’t entrall me. There are a number of notable dream effects and distortions that are very impressive. But what immediately stands out in my mind is the convertible-top/Freddy sweater ending of the first film, and the skeletal remains of Krueger coming to life (via Doug Beswick’s animation) in the third film. Call me old-fashioned, but I just love those walking stop-motion skeletons — something right out of my own film-fueled childhood nightmares.
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