ROBOCOP: Spotlight Podcast 5:7.1

Joel Kinnaman strives to be a cyborg with soul in ROBOCOP.
Joel Kinnaman strives to be a cyborg with soul in ROBOCOP.

And so, shouldering our backpacks and steeling ourselves against the urge to look back, we leave the doldrums of the start-of-2014 release schedule. Farewell, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES! Farewell, I, FRANKENSTEIN! Farewell, (ugh) VAMPIRE ACADEMY! May our paths never cross again. (A fruitless wish in the case of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY — the next installment is due in the summer.)
ROBOCOP — the remake of Paul Verhoeven’s politically acerbic, wildly satiric, and operatically violent science fiction action film — is much better. How much better, though, is open for debate. While celebrating  Brazilian director José Padilha’s success in updating the tale of a noble cop killed in the line of duty who’s transformed into an indomitable crime-fighting cyborg and literal corporate tool, the Cinefantastique team of Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons differ on how well this new version addresses its social issues and political commentary. Bottom line: The guys are happier debating the degree of goodness of a truly good film than hashing over how much a misfire sucks rubber donkey lungs.
Click on the player to hear the show.


Dark Shadows: The Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast – 3:19

The Fangs are Almost as Big as the Lapels: An undead Johnny Depp braves the ravages of the 70's in DARK SHADOWS.
The Fangs are Almost as Big as the Lapels: An undead Johnny Depp braves the ravages of the 70's in DARK SHADOWS.

Two hundred years is a long time to revive a vampire, but then again, forty years is long time to revive the first horror soap opera (not counting an earlier, feature adaptation and a TV revival in the ’90s). In Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is cursed into vampirehood by spurned lover Angelique (Eva Green) in the 18th century and is buried alive (undead?) to await his unearthing in the 1970’s. What he finds is the family fishing empire in ruins, the occupants of stately Collinswood manor — including Michelle Pfeiffer as matriarch, Helena Bonham Carter as a drunk doctor, Jackie Earle Haley as a drunker handyman, and Bella Heathcote as a nanny who bears a striking resemblance to Barnabas’ lost love Josette — devolved into feckless dissolution, and Carpenters music everywhere.
Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons have seen the film, and sit down to discuss whether Burton’s more comedic take on DARK SHADOWS’ melodramatics are worth the trip back to the Me Decade. Also in this show: What’s coming to theaters.


Young Barnabas Cast for 'Dark Shadows'

Thomas McDonnelAccording to The Hollywood Reporter,  Thomas McDonell (THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM) has been cast as a younger version of Barnabas Collins in the Tim Buton/Johnny Depp DARK SHADOWS.
Depp is playing the mature Barnabas, cursed as a vampire by the witch Angelique (Eva Green, CASINO ROYALE), in the feature film based of the 1960’s Dan Curtis gothic soap opera.
Michelle Pfeiffer has been cast as matriach Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Bella Heathcote as governess Victoria Winters, and WATHCMEN’S Jackie Earle Haley as the coniving caretaker Willie Loomis.
With a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Warner Brothers intend for filming to get underway in April.
McDonnell certainly looks a good deal like a younger Johnny Depp, though it’s unknown how extensive the part might be. If I recall correctly, young Barnabas and servant girl Angelique Bouchard had a fling in Martinique, and she became obessed with the wealthyAmerican.

John Barry remembered; Pet Sematary reopened; Jeff Bridges, exorcist: Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast 2:6

cfq round table copy
Yes, once again it’s time for a weekly round-up of news, events, and home video releases brought to you by the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast. With host Dan Persons missing in action, Steve Biodrowski steps into the driver’s seat, joined by regular contributor Lawrence French and by Arbogast, proprietor of the Arbogast on Film blog. This week’s topics of discussion include the death of Bond composer John Barry; the casting of Jeff Bridges as an exorcist in THE SEVENTH SON; the potential casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis in the proposed DARK SHADOWS remake; and the announcement of Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM; and Paramount Pictures’ plans to re-open the PET SEMATARY franchise. Also on the menu: the upcoming week’s theatrical and home video releases.

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)Freddy’s back, in all his gory glory, but revisiting him in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is less likely to inspire an attack of night terrors than to elicit a bored yawn, followed by a restful sleep, wherein one’s pleasant dreams are disturbed only by the eternally unanswered question: When will all these pointless remakes end?
The 2010 NIGHTMARE ON ELMSTREET is not a bad film in the usual sense – it is technically competent and reasonably well acted – but it lacks the kind of inspiration that would justify dusting off the burned-up old bogeyman and turning him loose on another generation of terrified teens. Although the credits list Wes Craven only for “characters created by,” the new film is simply a slicker, glossier remake of Craven’s 1984 original: the narrative follows the same overall progression, with most of the key scenes and settings intact (the boiler room, the victim levitating to the ceiling, the gloved hand rising out of the bath water);* some of the character names and relationships have been juggled around, but the “updating” consists mostly of adding cell phones, laptops, and Internet search engines (here represented by Gigablast in some of the most prominent product placement in recent memory). The grim and gritty feel of the original has been lost, drowned in a sea of CGI and modern makeup effects that duplicate but seldom if ever surpass the source material.
What this NIGHTMARE has going for it is the same great premise that fueled the old ELM STREET movies, an idea  so profound and so simple that it’s like a great song, whose melody can survive even a mediocre rendition. The concept of a demon who stalks your nightmares, blurring the line between dream and reality, opens up vast vistas of cinematic potential – which, sadly, go mostly untapped here. Fortunately, there’s more to the franchise than that.
Unlike their slasher brethren of the ’80s, the ELM STREET films depicted a reasonably believable high school milieu peopled with students punished not for sexual promiscuity but for the sins of their fathers. This gulf – between the teens who need to know the truth and their parents who want to bury the past – effectively isolated Freddy’s young victims from the assistance of the adult world. Perhaps all teens feel isolated; here, the isolation was not a sullen pose, but a plot point. It is here that the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake fares best. The sad-eyed cast look not merely sleepless but often hopeless, and the dialogue does a nice job of etching their concern and despair without descending into bathos.

One of many scenes not so much "re-imagined" as "recreated"
One of many scenes not so much "re-imagined" as "recreated"

The script Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer (for which Strick inexplicably receives a “story” credit, even though it’s the same old story) manages a few interesting changes. The back story of Freddy’s immolation is revealed through a dream-flashback instead of dialogue. Somebody obviously thought through the big question: If Freddy lives in the dreams of his victims, what happens when all his victims are dead? Also, his victims are no longer merely the children of the vigilante gang that burned Krueger to death; they were, years ago in preschool, his intended victims – an ugly past that all of them have forgotten, which makes Krueger’s eruption into their dreamworld an almost literal example of Freud’s “Return of the Repressed.”
This last is a very nice touch, but it is not properly explored, simply offered as a plot device, in case anyone asks, “Why did it take this long for Krueger to manifest?” (Answer: because it took this long for the repressed memories to return.) The uncomfortable suggestion is that we’re better off with memories suppressed rather than bringing them to the surface (which is in fact the exact opposite of what psychology teaches us). This bungles the movie’s theme, which is that the parents, in trying to protect their children, actually made things worse; the way the script presents it, if the parents had achieved their goal, and everyone had forgotten about Krueger, then everything would have been okay.
Also, this plot device raises questions that the film doesn’t bother to answer, at least not in the theatrical cut. Are we really to believe that each and every child has absolutely no recollection of what Krueger did to them? The film is vague on this point: one could argue that only Nancy was actually molested, and the other kids were merely telling frightened parents what they expected to hear; but even so, someone should remember Krueger’s existence. One wonders whether the original idea was that the memories had been deliberately suppressed, through drugs or hypnosis – supposedly to protect the children’s fragile minds but really to hide the guilt of their parents.
And speaking of the parents, unlike those in the original, this seems to be a group of rather dim bulbs. Yes, the original parents were understandably reluctant to believe that their children were being murdered in their dreams by someone they had torched years ago, but these new parents seem completely oblivious to the fact that their children are systematically dying in inexplicable ways. Yes, the first seems to be suicide, and the second is passed off as murder, but the third takes place in a jail cell with a surveillance camera – but no one ever looks at the tape to see what happened; apparently, the police simply assume he was killed by his cell mate. Case closed.
Director Samuel Bayer manages some competent but unexceptional professionalism. He occasionally puts you on edge with the “is it real or dream” question, but for all the slick production values at his disposal, he seldom generates any other suspense, and even the shock-scares seem tame. As for the moral horror associated with vigilante justice, and the despair of seeing your friends die helplessly – forget it. Those are just arbitrary plot points linking the effects scenes together.
The effects themselves are occasionally impressive, but they lack real punch; their CGI origins lend a fanciful fantasy feel to what should be grim, stark terror (the image of Freddy’s shape pressing from behind a suddenly rubbery wall was much better two decades ago, when it was a physical effect).
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy

Likewise, Krueger’s makeup has been updated, supposedly to render a more realistic depiction of a burn victim, but the results are negligible and misguided. What makes Freddy frightening is not the fact that he’s a burn victim; it’s that he resides in the rubber-reality of a dreamscape wherein he is virtually invulnerable.
If we had any reason to raise our hopes for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, it was the casting of Jackie Earle Haley, who was so memorable in WATCHMAN, and turned in a great bit in SHUTTER ISLAND as well. He comes up short here; he is sinister, but his version of Krueger never as deeply disturbing as Robert Englund in the best of the previous films. The occasional one-liner – a sop to those who prefer the wise-cracking Krueger of the lesser sequels – hardly helps, but at least Haley delivers the dialogue in a voice intended to chill the audience rather than spoof the character. No one is likely to mistake this Freddy for a stand-up comedian, at least not yet.
The attempt to magnify the character’s evil, by having him gloat over how much longer he can toy with his victims, comes across as fading echo of the torture porn genre. They diminish Krueger, making him seem more like a human monster than a dream-demon; long before the surviving teens get the idea of dragging him back into reality, where he will be vulnerable, you wonder why someone doesn’t just punch him out and kick his ass.
Remakes and sequels based around characters (rather than situations) have a better chance of succeeding, but there is little that is done here with Krueger, even though Haley gets top billing. Dracula, Frankenstein, and other classic characters can benefit from a do-over as times change (making them more misunderstood than monstrous), but it’s not as if the cultural context of 2010 has measurably changed our attitude toward child-molesters. There is not much to do with the character or the concept to bring it up to date for 2010, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET barely even tries. We seem to be living in an era when, according to Hollywood box office theory, ticket-buying viewers are bored with old movies and want to see something new, but the “newness” consists of slapping a fresh coat of paint upon the same old structure.
Familiar imagery in the new NIGHTMARE
Familiar imagery in the new NIGHTMARE

Although labeled “re-imagining” of the Freddy Krueger franchise, this “New Nightmare” (per the poster tagline) is in fact much less original than WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, the 1996 sequel that actually did re-envision the Krueger character as a more profound, archetypal incarnation of evil. If there are going to be any future NIGHTMARE’s, it would be well if producer Michael Bay (also responsible for the recent FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE HITCHER, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) would hire some writers and/or a director who truly could dream up something new for Freddy.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET(April 30, 2010). Directed by Samuel Bayer. Screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, from a story by Strick, based on characters created by Wes Craven. Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Casidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown.

  • But not the phone tongue or Johnny Depp’s death in the bed that erupts with a geyser of blood.


A Nightmare on Elm Street – Trailer #2

The second trailer for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET brings back lots of memories from the original, with several famous scenes recreated with glossier production valuges and 21st-century style visual effects. Jackie Earle Haley cuts a mean figure as Freddy Krueger, but the overall effect of the trailer is…how shall we put it? Slightly blase. There is little on view to excite interest in the new film for its own sake; rather, you reaction to the trailer is based on your familiarity with the ELM STREET franchise. If you’re predisposed to anticipate a remake, you’ll see enough to confirm your feelings, but if you’re sitting on the fencepost, you won’t find much to excite your enthusiasm.

New Poster for Nightmare on Elm Street

New entry in the enduring horror remake trend, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, is almost upon us but Empire have managed to get their hands on a new poster for the film:

Nightmare on Elm Street one-sheet
Nightmare on Elm Street one-sheet

The remake of the 80s slasher classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is being directed by Samuel Bayer (music video director) with Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN, SHUTTER ISLAND) playing the part of Freddy Krueger. Based upon the trailers released thus far the film seems to stay very close to the original storyline which saw a supernatural serial-killer killing off a group of teenagers in their dreams.
Most of the horror remakes that have plagued cinema screens since the early 2000s have been terrible, but a select few have actually been pretty decent. Whether NIGHTMARE will fit in the former or latter category is anyone’s guess at this point but the trailers are looking rather promising and Haley is a brilliant choice to replace Robert Englund. This new one-sheet, which is brilliantly simple yet striking, also shows potential.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is released on the 30th of April.

2nd Annual Wonder Awards Winners

Zoe Saldana is the Wonder Awards choice for Best Actress, in the Best Pic winner, AVATAR.
Zoe Saldana is the Wonder Awards choice for Best Actress, in the Best Pic winner, AVATAR.

It’s Sunday, March 7, and everyone is wondering what the winners will be. Well, wonder no more, because here are the official winners of this year’s Cinefantastique Wonder Awards. Oh sure, other people are tuning into the Oscar telecast to see whether Sandra Bullock takes home an Academy Award, but for aficionados of horror, fantasy, and science fiction cinema, the Wonders are the awards that really matter, because they offer a chance to recognize great films that are often denied Academy Award nominations because of their genre affiliation.
Of course, this year is a bit of an exception, because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated two science fiction films for Best Picture, AVATAR and DISTRICT 9, along with one animated fantasy, UP. With several other Oscar nominations in technical categories, the genre has at least a fighting chance of winning some recognition from Academy voters.
Nevertheless, the Wonders are the true measure of achievement in the genre, voted on by experts with a life-long love of horror, fantasy, and science fiction – and more important, voted on by those imbued with that all-important Sense of Wonder.



  • James Cameron for AVATAR


  • Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchll for DISTRICT 9
  • Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (story by Docter, Peterson & Thomas McCarthy) for UP


  • Saoirse Ronan in THE LOVELY BONES


  •  Robert Downey Jr in SHERLOCK HOLMES
  • Sam Rockwell in MOON


  • Vera Farmiga in ORPHAN


  • Jackie Earle Haley in WATCHMEN






  •  Henry Selick for CORALINE


  • Mauro Fiore for AVATAR


  • James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivki for AVATAR


  • Michael Giacchino for STAR TREK


  • MOON


A Nightmare on Elm Street theatrical release

Warner Brothers releases this new horror film, the latest remake produced by Michael Bay (who has given us updated versions of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE HITCHER, among others). Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN) toplines as Freddy Krueger, bastard son of a thousand maniacs. Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, and Katie Cassidey are among the potential victims, with Clancy Brown (HIGHLANDER) along for support. Samuel Bayer directs from a screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. Wes Craven, creator of the original, gets only a “based on characters created by” credit, although the trailer suggests a point-by-point remake.

Watchman cast as Krueger

Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen (2009)Variety reports that actor Jackie Earle Haley – most recently seen as Rorschach in WATCHMEN – has been cast to play Freddy Krueger in New Line Cinema’s upcoming remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which is to be produced in conjunction with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. The film will be directed by Samuel Bayer, working from a script by Wesley Strick (who wrote Martin Scorsese’s remake of CAPE FEAR). Shooting starts in Chicago next month.
New Line and Platinum Dunes recently collaborated on the remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH, another film that relaunched an ’80s horror icon.