Friday, October 31, 2008

Revisit: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part V: The Dream Child

A New Line Cinema release 1989

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Writing credits:
Wes Craven (characters)
John Skipp (story)
Craig Spector (story)
Leslie Bohem (story & screenplay)

Alice, having survived the previous installment of the Nightmare series, finds the deadly dreams of Freddy Krueger starting once again. This time, the taunting murderer is striking through the sleeping mind of Alice's unborn child. His intention is to be "born again" into the real world. The only one who can stop Freddy is his dead mother, but can Alice free her spirit in time to save her own son?

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorite horror flicks of all time. Combining slasher scares with meta-physical reality, Wes Craven crafted an original and truly scary film that took advantage of the 80's gore effects boom. It also spawned a slew of knock-offs and an obsession with altered-reality/dreams/paranormal activity that dominated 80's horror.

The sequels all tinker with the nightmare formula a little bit - Freddy's abilities to haunt and scare and the definitions of the dream world are all a bit fluid - but one element always keep these films from being a predictable slasher flick: the kills. Freddy Krueger murders are always an excuse for outlandish, over-the-top effects, and the crazier the better.

In this film, the fifth in the series, Krueger returns in an attempt to inhabit the soul of Alice's unborn child. The precedence for Freddy's soul-stealing was set in the second film - which is universally hated, I believe, for having gone astray from the original formula - and is no less ridiculous here.

Neither are the kills, which range from a ridiculous comic book style slashing to Seven-style force feeding to the infamous "Freddybike". This film is all about the effects, which take a cue from the works of Rob Bottin (The Thing) and feature a lot of flesh mutation and slippery tendons.

By this point in the series, Freddy had developed a strong personality too, which also separates it from many other slasher flicks. He's given some hilarious quips and says the word "bitch" a lot.

Look out for a great scene that addresses the subject of abortion (if Alice just got rid of the damn baby, Freddy couldn't keep killing). The dialogue is priceless.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Revisit: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

A Paramount Pictures release 1986

Written & Directed by Tom McLoughlin

Tommy Jarvis battles the infamous Jason for a third time after returning to his grave and accidently bringing him back to life.

The original Friday the 13th is basically a Halloween rip off with Kevin Bacon and a few twists. This film, the sixth in the series, wears the whole slasher killing sexy teens formula on its sleeve so much that it doesn't even bother to explain Jason's return. His corpse just gets struck by lighting and suddenly the slaughter begins.

I guess it's good that they cut to the chase. And some of the slaughter is sweet. The scene where Jason punches straight through the dudes heart is pretty kick ass.

Overall though this shit pales in comparison to the effects heavy Nightmare on Elm Street stuff, or the works of John Carpenter & David Cronenberg several years earlier. Maybe it's not fair to compare, but I still think there's room in slasher flicks for some pretty hefty visceral gore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revisit: Blast of Silence

A Magla Production 1961

Directed by: Allen Baron

Written by: Allen Baron (writer), Waldo Salt (narration written by)

Having been 'away' for some time professional killer Frankie Bono returns to New York to do another job: assassinate some mid-level mobster. Although intending to avoid unnecessary 'contact' while carefully stalking his victim Bono is recognized by an old fellow from the orphanage, whose calm and unambitious citizen's life and happy marriage contrast heavily with Bono's solitary and haunted existence. Exhausted and distracted Bono makes another mistake, but his contract is not one to back out of.

Though film-noir was a relatively dead genre by 1960, this film by Allen Baron is often cited as a classic example of the genre. Not a revisionist work like, say, Cassavete's Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Blast of Silence relies on more traditional noir elements to resounding effect.

Voice-Over narration, written by then black-listed writer Waldo Salt (Midnight Cowboy), provides the meat of the story. While the film is famed for this narration, and it is a tradition of the genre, I found it particularly distracting. I'll admit there's a handful of lines in there that are absolute gold ("Pay for the woman, and take her to a dark corner -- where no one can see your face"), it's pretty unnecessary.

Why? Because Baron - a first time director - gets the most out of his camera and his actors. Baron himself plays the lead, the unraveling hitman, to startling effect. Larry Tucker (most well know as the writer partner of Paul Mazursky) gives a commanding and incredibly enjoyable performance as Big Ralph, an overweight seedy gun salesman. But most impressive is Baron's camera, which captures some amazing shots of New York City. The film is downright gorgeous. And it tells us everything we need to know - without the VO.

Criterion recently put out a great remastered version of this flick, which Martin Scorsese often cites as his favorite New York City film. If you're a fan of the genre, this is a must see. And at a mere 77 minutes, it's a swift, easy watch.

High & Low Remake

Mamet & Nichols to Remake Kurosawa's High & Low -- /

Been a while since I've posted on here, but this news item prompted me out of retirement. Mike Nichols (Closer, The Graduate) and David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) plan on remaking Kurosawa's classic 1963 drama High & Low. The remake is supposedly going to be produced by Scott Rudin and Martin Scorsese.

This is probably my favorite Kurosawa film, one that's made with a lot of heart and technical skill. The film tells the story of a rich man who must pay ransom for the son of one of his employees. It explores the economic disparity between rich & poor in post-war Japan. Kurosawa's first film to be shot in widescreen, his staging is absolutely incredible. He knew just where to put his actors to maximize each shots impact. And the presentation of geography and the city landscape is also unbelievable.

Normally I'm flat out against remakes of perfect films (and this film is perfect), but my feelings are mixed on this one. While it could never hold a candle to the original, it could be very interesting thematically, considering the current political and economic climate.

Give the original film a look, if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed.

Also, expect more regular posts from here on out. I'm watching more movies and want to make a better record of what I've seen.