A Halloween Horror Fest on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Now here’s a film that should need no introduction. Though to be honest, back in the 80s when A Nightmare on Elm Street – and it’s sequels – were hugely popular, I was never a fan. I’ve just never been really into “Slasher” movies – I was investigating the classic Gothic horror of Hammer and Universal at the time, and modern, contemporary films just didn’t grab me.

Never the less, I decided to give Wes Craven’s original another go, just in case I was missing something.

Brief recap: a bunch of kids on Elm Street suffer from terrifying dreams, featuring a crispy faced dude wearing a mask and possessing a gardening glove customised with lethal blades. Yes, it’s evil child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and he intends not only to provide the kids with some unforgettable nightmares, he also wants to bloodily murderise them.

Revisiting this film was actually a lot of fun, I was surprised how well A Nightmare on Elm Street stood up. Yes, it’s incredibly dated, and ridden with clichés, but hey – these were new, original ideas back in the day. It’s not Gothic horror, but the supernatural elements are well plotted and help create the Krueger mythos.

Englund is great, though he’s more restrained in this first instalment. It’s always great to see John Saxon, who plays a cop here; and there’s an interesting debut from a fresh faced Johnny Depp, playing teenager Glen (who was probably about 40 at the time of filming).

Yes, I have been proven wrong – A Nightmare on Elm Street is actually a pretty damn good movie, with a mix of scares, peril and gore that shows Craven knows what he’s doing. Not the best film eve made, but I’m beginning to see how the cult of Freddy became so formidable. I’ll definitely check out the sequels.

8/10

The Indestructible Man (1956)

Convicted criminal “Butcher” Benton (Lon Chaney Jr.) is going to the electric chair, and he refuses to tell his bank robbing colleagues where the loot is. After being executed, Benton is brought back to life in an experiment. He then commences to seek revenge on his former partners, and the police are left to put the clues together and stop the gruesome murders.

A strange mix of the Frankenstein tale and 1950s cop show, this movie hardly feels like horror, but does have an impressive body count. Chaney has few lines – he’s mute for some reason, when resurrected – and we usually see his intense emotion only in wacky, extreme close up.

No points for originality here, but the film benefits from scenes representing the streets, bars and Burlesque clubs of old Los Angeles. As a period piece, The Indestructible Man is fun – it’s typical drive-in B-movie fare. Ironic that a couple of key scenes actually take place in a drive-in theatre!

6/10

Big Tits Halloween Horror Fest

Big Tits Zombie (2010)

Yes, you read that title right.  Big Tits Zombie is trashy Japanese cinema, which I couldn’t resist picking up after reading about it in Bizarre magazine.  Hey, it only cost me £3!

Basically, this is the same strippers and zombies scenario as we’ve seen in Jenna Jameson’s Zombie Strippers, the only difference being this version features cute Japanese girls (rather than sexy American girls).  As per previous, the dancers inadvertently raise the dead and then have to survive the ensuing zombie apocalypse. btz

There’s actually a lot less smut on display than the title would suggest.  Instead we get some fairly amusing scenes of the girls trying to endure their boring day job, plus the addition of some martial arts when it’s zombie killing time.

Sadly, the special effects are lame CGI and the undead themselves are the least convincing zombies I’ve ever seen.  A shame – with better attention to detail this could have been a half decent horror spoof.

Don’t let the title put you off, Big Tits Zombie is very tame in the flesh revealing department, and actually features some mind boggling pop culture.  Worth a go if you have any interest in films that are just plain odd!

6/10

Scream (1996)

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve never been much of a slasher film fan.  I saw Scream nearly twenty years ago, not long after the film came out, and found it only mildly entertaining.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed it second time around. scream

The story centres around a group of high school teenagers, who are terrorised via phone (that’s a landline, kids!) and killed off.  Which sounds very unoriginal, right?  Well the clever thing is that Scream doesn’t try to be completely original, rather the film is happy to exploit the audiences expectations and play with them, tongue slotted into cheek.

All very post modern and self referential, but at the end of the day the film stands or falls on it’s ability to scare – which it manages to do very well.  The tension builds, characters face jeopardy and the audience is kept on the edge of its seat.

Scream succeeds in avoiding self parody and provides loads of thrills.  There are enough nods to it’s predecessors to keep the slasher fans smirking knowingly.  Good performances and quick dialogue made me glad I gave Scream another chance.

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest the 13th

Blacula (1972)

Blacula updates the legend of Dracula, placing it’s protagonist in early 70’s California.  African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is visiting said Lord of the Undead, who curses him to become a vampire, known as Blacula.  After being entombed for a couple of hundred years, Mamuwalde is revived when his coffin is transported and opened in modern day USA. blacula

It’s a fun film, transposing many of the myths we’re familiar with from Hammer movies into a different setting.  As in other versions of the tale, Blacula is transfixed by Tina, who he sees as the reincarnation of his lost love.  Tina, played by the beautiful Vonetta McGee (dead ringer for Beyonce) falls for his deadly charms; whilst her friends attempt to stop the plague of vampirism from spreading.

Whilst undeniably dated, and wallowing in numerous stereotypes that are somewhat non-pc by today’s standards, Blacula offers some great entertainment.  There are a few scares, some incredibly groovy costumes and settings, and a cool funky score.  It’s a novelty rather  than an original, though transposing the Dracula story into the realm of Blaxploitation works a treat.

Recommended, especially for fans of Dracula AD 1972 and Dark Shadows.

7/10

Friday the 13th (1980)

We’re off to the realms of slasher movies next, for one of the all time classics of the genre.  I first saw this film when I was 17.  I’ve not been much of a fan of slasher flicks since. fr13

Friday the 13th knowingly raids all the cliches from the cupboard and displays them proudly on the wall.  Set at Crystal Lake summer camp, the young counsellors fit the required formula and are gruesomely picked off one by one in the classic manner.

And yet it works very well, with some genuinely well done gore (Tom Savini, take a bow) and real shocks that convince even after all these years.  This might not have been the first slasher flick,but it follows the Halloween blueprint faithfully and delivers with surprises and tension.

I’m still not a massive slasher movie fan, but this original Friday the 13th is well worth investigating.

7/10

Attack of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

Halloween (1978)

This film is perfect for Hallowe’en Horror Fest!  I can’t believe I’ve not reviewed it already.  Here we have the original Halloween from Director John Carpenter, and by golly it’s a beauty.

Michael Myers has been locked up in an institution since the Hallowe’en night when, as young boy, he murdered his sister.  Now Michael has escaped, and returned to his home town to wreak bloody murder on the local teens.  Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence)  is in pursuit of the deranged killer, but will he be able to stop Myers before Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is his next victim? Halloween_cover

I’m not really a fan of slasher films, but here we have a film that bucks the trend.  Halloween is tense as hell – Carpenter manages to startle the audience time and again.  The viewer is constantly on edge waiting for the next shock.  This film created many of the cliches we are now familiar with in the slasher genre – so it’s to the credit of the Director that the frights still work.  The leads deliver believable performances, too – making this a classic standing head and shoulders over the imitators.

Carpenter also provides the spooky soundtrack, music which can give you a chill even without the visuals!

Recommended.

10/10