“The Lost Boys – No Sparkly Vampires Allowed”

The “Lost Boys,” which was released on January 31, 1987, would go on to win the 1988 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. Directed by Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill), the film is a mixture of dark comedy and horror, and was based on a story co-written by Jan Fischer and James Jeremias. Fischer and Jeremias, who had first envisioned the movie being a much more child friendly film, at the insistence of Schumacher, worked on the screenplay with Jeffrey Boam, who radically helped to change the movie’s overall tone.

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The film’s 97 minute runtime, begins in the evening at an amusement park. There are four guys causing trouble on the boardwalk at the merry-go-round. A security guard, who already warned the four to stay off the boardwalk, drives his point home by using his club to try and intimidate the leader of the group; it is a mistake, he will not get to regret for very long. Later that night, after the park closes and the lights have been turned off, as the rotund, mustachioed rent-a-cop is walking toward his car, he is attacked. He is not held at gun point, nor does he have a knife put to his throat, no he is assaulted from something that descends from the sky. Although, as viewers, we are not privy to what ultimately happens to the man, we do hear his screams pierce the night air.

The next scene strongly contrasts with what just transpired. During a picturesque day, recently divorced mother, Lucy, played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, Dianne Wiest (Bullets over Broadway), is traveling in her car from Phoenix, Arizona, to move to Santa Carla, California. She is accompanied by her two sons: Michael, portrayed by Jason Patric (Narc), and Sam, acted by Corey Haim (License to Drive), as well as Sam’s Alaskan Malamute, Nanook. The town they have chosen to move to is where Lucy’s father, Primetime Emmy winner, Barnard Hughes (Lou Grant), makes his home. He is an old, marijuana smoking, hippie type, known throughout the film simply as Grandpa. Hughes provides a good deal of the comic relief in the film. Unbeknownst to the family, they have moved to a place that is also referred to by town locals as ‘the murder capital of the world.’ There do seem to be an inordinate number of missing person notices posted around town. Initially, however, Sam’s biggest problem, is that even though his grandfather receives the TV Guide in the mail, he doesn’t own a television.

The next evening, while the family is walking around on the boardwalk, Michael and Sam wander off on their own. It doesn’t take long before Michael spots a girl who he is absolutely taken with. He will later learn her name is Star, played by Emmy nominated actress, Jami Gertz (The Neighbors). Michael and Sam begin to follow her, and a little boy, named Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), who Star is watching after. Sam wants to know what is happening, since all they seem to be doing, is walking around aimlessly. Michael, tiring of Sam’s questions, and his hanging out with him in general, asks if there isn’t anything better he could be doing. As fate would have it, at just that moment, Sam spots a comic book shop. It turns out not to matter anyway, whether Sam tagged along or not because, whatever may or may not have happened between Michael and Star, doesn’t take place on that particular evening.

While Sam is walking around the comic shop, he is being closely watched by Edgar and Alan, also known as The Frog Brothers, portrayed by Corey Feldman (The Goonies) and Jamison Newlander (Lost Boys: The Thirst). After the brothers approach Sam, he begins to tell them that their comic books are arranged in the wrong order, due to a variety of reasons. Edgar hands Sam a comic titled “Vampires Everywhere,” to which he replies, “no thanks, I am not into horror comics.” Feldman informs Sam, that he will like the particular comic he is giving him, because it might one day save his life. The next day, Sam returns to the shop. This time, Feldman again hands him another vampire themed comic, titled “Destroy All Vampires.” Sam reiterates the fact that those types of comics just aren’t what he likes to read, to which Alan responds “think of it as a survival manual.” The Frog brothers also list their phone number on the back of the comic book, with the admonition to Sam, that he should pray that he never needs to use it.

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As for Lucy, the previous evening, while she was out looking for any kind of job she could secure, she runs across the polite, bow tie wearing, seemingly, kind hearted, Max, played by Emmy winner Edward Hermann (The Practice). He is the owner of the local video store, and is happy to help her find something to watch. After some small talk, it turns out all Lucy really wants is a job. He not only offers her a job at his store, but also asks her out for dinner, two propositions, that please Lucy to no end.

The next evening, while looking into getting his ear pierced, Michael’s dream girl talks to him, letting him know that the guy doing the piercing is charging rip-off prices. If he wants his ear pierced, she is willing to do it for him. Virtually seconds before she takes off with Michael on his motorcycle, the gang who caused trouble the previous evening at the merry-go-round, arrives on their own bikes. I don’t think it is a spoiler for anyone out there who is reading this, for me to mention, that this is no ordinary gang of deviant bikers, but instead, they are a clan of vampires. In the role of the group’s charismatic leader, David, is Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning, actor, Kiefer Sutherland. He is not alone, however. The small vampire cadre consists of three other members: Paul (Brooke McCarter); Dwayne (Billy Wirth); and Marko (Alex Winter), who people will no-doubt recognize as one half of the duo from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” and its sequel “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Much to Michael’s disappointment, Star opts to get off of his motorcycle, and hop onto the back of David’s bike.

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Keifer Sutherland and Jami Gertz in the movie "The Lost Boys".For a guy who has the look, and gives off the vibe of a bad ass, David doesn’t get into a confrontation with Michael. Instead, he asks him, if he knows where Hudson’s Bluff is overlooking the point, to which Mike, sensing a macho showdown, admits that the bike he is riding can’t beat David’s motorcycle. Again, however, that is not what the leader of the gang is interested in. David makes it clear that he doesn’t have to beat Mike, he’s just got to keep up, which, throughout the wild ride they take, is easier said than done, and almost winds up costing Michael his life.

Michael is taken to the gang’s lair, which is the remnants of an old hotel that was buried during an earthquake. First David plays several hallucinogenic tricks on Michael, making him think that what he has offered him to eat is actually bugs, instead of Chinese food. At the conclusion of the parlor tricks, David gets down to business. He drinks from what appears to be a wine bottle, after doing so, he offers it to Michael, and asks him to drink from the bottle so he can become one of them. Star tells Michael that he doesn’t have to, because the contents of the bottle contain blood rather than wine. Michael proceeds to drink it anyway, as the gang members chant his name. Thinking he has only drank wine, in actuality, he has consumed blood, just as Star tried to warn him. By doing so, Michael has unknowingly begun his own initiation toward becoming a full fledged member of the undead. The final thing he must do before being allowed to become a vampire, is to take a life.

TLB PIC 5Later the next night, Michael begins to feel the need to feed, but food is not what he needs. Trying to drink milk, he spits it out, as if it has gone spoiled. Sam, meanwhile, who is taking a bath upstairs, almost becomes his first victim. Michael’s need for human blood is driving him toward doing the unthinkable. Fortunately for Sam, Nanook, senses that Michael is up to no good, and proceeds to attack him. In the process, he takes a nice size chunk out of Michael’s hand, which is soon spotted by Sam, who is completely bewildered by the situation. He wants to know why his dog would attack Michael? And seeing the blood, Sam is extra upset, because he thinks Michael just attacked Nanook, only to learn from Michael’s own admission, that the dog was protecting Sam from him.

Seconds later, Sam looks into the mirror, and sees that Michael’s reflection, while it can still be viewed, is very faded. It doesn’t take him long to put two and two together. He realizes, that Michael has been turned into a vampire. He places a call to the Frog Brothers, who claim to be experts on the creatures, and after they ask Sam a series of questions about Michael, tell Sam that he must kill his brother. That, however, is something, that Sam simply cannot do. The viewer will come to learn, that the only way Michael can return to a normal life, is if the head vampire, who created the clan, is killed.

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Trivia buffs take note: During filming, Kiefer Sutherland broke his arm while riding a motorcycle, so that is the reason he wears black gloves throughout the entire movie; it was the only way he could hide his cast. “The Lost Boys” marked the first of many times that Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, would appear in movies together. Emmy Award winner John Carradine (Stagecoach) and Emmy nominee Keenan Wynn (Once Upon a Time in the West) were both considered for the role of the grandfather before it was eventually given to Hughes. Carradine had to pass on the part because he was too ill at the time, and Wynn, sadly, died right before production on the movie began. While the film is arguably one of Joel Schumacher’s most well known and beloved, he was originally never intended to direct the film. Richard Donner (Superman II), who wound up becoming an executive producer on the film, was originally planning to direct the movie, but due to scheduling conflicts and contractual obligations, was forced to begin shooting the first of the “Lethal Weapon” films. Additionally, Schumacher wasn’t even the second choice to helm the project. Mary Lambert (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary) was brought in to direct the film, once Donner was no longer available to do so, but due to creative differences, she decided the film wasn’t for her; this opened up the door for Schumacher.

TLB PIC 7Who is the head vampire that needs to be destroyed? If he can’t be killed, will the Frog Brothers wind up killing Michael against Sam’s wishes? Will Sam, perhaps, be turned into a member of the undead? What becomes of David and the other members of the vampire clan? Are they killed, or do they wind up not only turning Michael into one of their own, but continuing on with their murderous ways? All questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion. Credit must be given to Schumacher, for not only directing a highly entertaining film, but for his decision to bring Jeffrey Boam on board, to give the script a major re-write. If the movie had been filmed as it was originally intended, I think it would have turned out to be a box office dud, that no one would still be talking about years later. The film features a catchy soundtrack, the cast as a whole puts its all into their roles, and credit must be given to the excellent cinematography of Academy Award nominee, Michael Chapman (The Fugitive), whose filming style, served to enhance scenes, that might have come across as just mediocre without someone of his talents.

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“A Triple Does of Tim Curry In Tales From The Crypt”

The day of the door-to-door salesman has virtually, all but vanished as a profession. A once viable occupation for someone who had either charismatic looks, or the gift of gab, has been replaced by computers and telephones. I can, however, see a day in a few short years, where telephones also become an obsolete selling tool. More and more people, I speak to, are adding their names to ‘do not call lists.’ In spite of being on the ‘do not call list,’ I do get a number of calls from companies trying to sell me things, however, the majority of the calls I receive, where I don’t recognize a number, or a person’s name that has already been programmed into my phone doesn’t come up on the screen, turn out to be political robo-calls. The sort of heartwarming messages, that espouse why voting for or against a particular Democrat or Republican, to represent the state of Florida, where I live, could spell certain doom for life as I know it. In the interest of full disclosure, I do, however, occasionally, get calls from companies I already do business with, using scripted pitches, trying to sell me additional or upgraded features, products or services. The caller usually advises me that this is a limited time offer that I must take advantage of immediately.

When I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t pay attention to when shows that I watched on television had their season premieres, nor did I get all worked up over their season finales. What I cared about, as I moved from my ‘tween years’ into my teenage years, was that a new episode of a show I liked was going to be on that evening. These days, I certainly do pay attention to that sort of information, but the shows I like on television, just like any given number of movies, past and present, have become, in the intervening years, a passion of mine. Had I known that the “Tales From the Crypt” episode “Death of Some Salesman,” which premiered on October 2, 1993, was the catalyst that started off season five of the series, I would have waxed poetic about how entertaining I thought it was, to my friends at school the next day.

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The episode was directed by Gilbert Adler (Bordello of Blood), and co-written by Adler along with A. L. Katz (The Outer Limits). The twenty-five minute show centers around Judd Campbell, a con-man portrayed by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere). He is the type of individual who passes himself off as a salesman with a heart of gold, even though the antithesis is true. The episode opens with Campbell in bed with his latest conquest, Stella, a local yokel (Kathe Weeks), who he promised the evening before to take away from the one horse town she lives in. Like most of what comes out of Judd’s mouth, it is, of course, a deal he never intended to honor.

After he leaves, his first trip is to visit a Mrs. Jones. Campbell got her name while searching the newspaper’s obituaries, earlier that morning. Mrs. Jones, played by Yvonne De Carlo, of “The Munsters” fame, is neither expecting Judd Campbell, nor the news of the cemetery plot, or the ten thousand dollar death benefits payout, which Mr. Jones had apparently begun to arrange for him and his wife the week before his passing. Begley informs Mrs. Jones that because the fees owed his company were not paid in full, the company cannot honor the contract, and informs her that his office will offer her a refund of the two hundred and fifty dollars that Mr. Jones had already paid his company. Mrs. Jones is distraught, as her husband left her with virtually nothing. The fact that had he lived long enough to pay the remaining two hundred and fifty dollars, the policy, would have not only covered the funeral expenses, but would have provided her a check, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. She asks Campbell if he is willing to bend the law. At first, acting as if he must uphold the law, and do what is morally right, even though he feels bad for the widow, (yeah right) Judd acts very reluctant to even entertain such a suggestion. Without his having to say a word, it is Mrs. Jones who comes up with the idea, that perhaps, her husband had already put the money in the mail to Mr. Campbell. Still hesitant, but knowing he has hooked his victim, Judd tells Mrs. Jones he would be willing to go along with the farce, if she gave him the remaining two-hundred and fifty dollars that was owed on the policy, right then and there, in cash. She does so. Once inside his car, he places the cash inside an envelope that contains money from other vulnerable people he has taken advantage of.

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The odd ball Bracket family, consists of three members: Ma, Pa, and their daughter Winona. All three characters are played by the talented, Emmy winner Tim Curry (Clue), who showcases his versatility by completely immersing himself into the parts. For me, it was Curry’s excellent portrayal of all three characters that made this episode so unusual and memorable. Judd, makes the unfortunate error of arriving at their home, which shares a similar address with where he had originally intended to go. After learning of his error, he begins to leave, until Ma Bracket opens the front door to the house, to inquire if he is a salesman. Even though, she cannot see his facial expression, at the question having been posed to him, we as viewers, can tell that he is pleased at the prospect of perhaps earning even more money that day. (As an aside: Eddie Murphy was first approached about playing the roles of the Brackets, but he turned down the parts).

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Once inside the Bracket’s home, Campbell goes into his usual sales pitch. This time, however, he’s not dealing with an emotionally distraught widow. Instead, he has to convince, the cantankerous, Pa Bracket, that purchasing, plots at the fictitious cemetery, as well as the generous death benefits package, is worth five hundred dollars. Unlike most of the easy prey, whose recent losses effect clear minded thinking, which Campbell takes advantage of, Pa Bracket, is not about to pay any amount of money without seeing what he’s buying first. Of course, Judd can’t allow that to happen. Quickly thinking about a way to exit the situation, Judd actually sweetens the deal for the Brackets. Instead of just a check issued for $10,000, if they agree to pay $750 dollars cash, he will make sure that the amount of the check will come to $20,000. The deal is one that even the guarded, Pa Bracket can’t seem to pass up.

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Pa leaves to go downstairs to the basement where, he nonchalantly lets Judd know, is where he keeps his money. While waiting for his return, Ma Bracket asks Judd if he would like a cup of coffee, to which he replies, yes. After she leaves the room, and he takes a few sips, the coffee is way too cold for his liking, so he walks over to the microwave to warm it up, however, there is just one problem with that. Inside of the microwave, is a man’s, head. A horrified Judd, who begins to scream and stumble, next comes across another man on the floor, who has the suction end of a vacuum cleaner shoved into his mouth. While attempting, unsuccessfully, to flee the house, Pa Bracket, knocks Campbell unconscious.

Upon waking up, he finds himself tied up, and also in handcuffs. Pa and Ma Bracket, at that point, express their intense dislike for sales people, who, as it turns out, are the only sort of individuals who come to their residence anymore. Pa Bracket takes things a step further, and briefly talks about the salesman that sold him a color television that didn’t work at all until he fixed it. For dramatic effect, he pulls back the doors covering the screen, to reveal the body of the salesmen stuffed inside the television.

All hope seems to be lost for Judd Campbell and his conniving ways, until Ma Bracket suggests something. She puts forth an idea regarding her daughter, Winona, which Pa Bracket quickly dismisses. In the end, however, he acquiesces. If Winona wants to keep Judd Campbell as her companion, and the feeling is mutual, he will be allowed to live. Not an easy task, even for a skilled con-artist such as Campbell. Winona is a snorting, un-hygienic, extraordinarily unattractive woman, for whom he needs to, in a very short amount of time, prove his love, not only with the spoken word, which he excels at, but physically as well.

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Will Judd Campbell be able to convince Winona that he loves her? Even if he does, will he be able to persuade Pa Bracket to spare his life? If Judd successfully convinces both that his intentions are genuine, will he be able to think up a plan, to make his escape from the house of horrors that he currently finds himself imprisoned in? Will he dare stop off in the basement and search for all of the money the Bracket’s have stolen from the previous salesmen? Will he do the smart thing and allow his greed not to get in the way for a change, and just leave? All of those questions will be answered at the conclusion of the competently acted, well paced, episode that features excellent makeup work and an interesting story to ponder long after the final credits role.

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“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”

“Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them.”

Edgar Allen Poe

Why did I opt to write about “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors” given the number of sequels I could have chosen from? The answer is simple, it is my favorite, and, in my opinion, with the exception of the original, and some might justifiably argue “The New Nightmare,” I consider it the best of the franchise. Directed by Chuck Russell (Eraser), the movie opened nationwide on February 27, 1987, and more than earned its money back. Budgeted for approximately four and half million dollars, the film would go on to earn almost forty-five million dollars. Amongst the sequels, the movie is the third highest grossing of the franchise, “Freddy vs. Jason” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” hold the top two spots. Contributing to the screenplay and story, was the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” writer and director, Wes Craven, who collaborated with, among others, Bruce Wagner (Map to the Stars). In addition, Chuck Russell also had input on the script, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee, writer and director, Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead). (As an aside: the film would mark the first writing credit Darabont ever received.)

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The badly burned Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who wears on one hand a glove that has knives for fingers, is no longer relegated to Elm Street. He has successfully extracted his revenge against the residents of Springwood, who having resorted to vigilante justice, killed him. The end result of their actions, however, backfired. Instead of ending his nightmarish reign of terror, they turned the fedora and tattered red and green sweater wearing Krueger, into an even more dangerous predator in death. As aforementioned in the blog on the original, he has the ability to enter dreams at will. Not only can he invade a person’s subconscious, but also use a particular person’s darkest fears to the most detrimental and deadly effect possible.

At the beginning of the 96 minute film, a teenage girl is constructing a paper-mache house out of newspaper and paste. She is listening to the song “Into the Fire” by Dokken. Desperate to stay awake, she is shown swallowing a spoonful of coffee grinds and washing them down with a soda. The girl’s name is Kristen Parker, she is portrayed, by Primetime Emmy winning actress, Patricia Arquette (Medium). The role was Arquette’s screen debut. Unbeknownst to Kristen, the house she is building is the Thompson home that featured prominently in the original film. The viewer will later learn that Kristen, who has never been to the actual Thompson house in real life, is creating it out of her dreams. Entering her room, to not only have Kristen turn off her radio, but to get her daughter to go to bed, is her mother, Elaine (Brooke Bundy). She is entertaining a male guest she has brought home.

Reluctantly, Kristen obeys her mother, and no sooner does she fall asleep, than she enters Freddy’s hellish world. Upon waking in her dream, she is standing in front of the same house she had been building while awake. A young girl, who is riding a red tricycle, enters the house. In an attempt to keep the child out of danger, Kristen runs into the house after her. Making her way to the basement, the girl lets Kristen know, that, that is where Freddy takes his victims. At the time, Kristen is standing next to a furnace which is operational. Kristen hears the sound of Freddy’s footsteps approaching; the girl lets her know that he is home. She picks the child up into her arms and runs as fast as she can, until she comes to a room where corpses are hanging by ropes from the ceiling. When Kristen looks down at the girl, it isn’t a girl at all, but the decayed remains of a child’s skeleton. Afterward, thinking that sight caused enough of a jarring effect to spring her to consciousness, Kristen feels that she is safely inside the bathroom of her bedroom. That is not the case, however, when the water faucets begin turning into Freddy’s razor sharp fingers and grab hold of her wrists. In the mirror, Kristen sees Freddy’s face; he is laughing at her, before he proceeds to cut her wrists. She screams, which finally wakes her from her nightmare. Seconds later, her mother bursts into the bathroom, and after looking at Kristen, surmises that her daughter has just tried to commit suicide. Elaine is at her wits end, so she admits Kristen to Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital for her own protection.

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The hospital staff at Westin Hills, that the viewer is introduced to, is comprised of three individuals: Firstly, there is Dr. Elizabeth Simms (Priscilla Pointer). She is a no-nonsense, by the book doctor, who doesn’t pay any credence to what she thinks are the wild tales of a nightmarish, boogey-man, invented by the charges in her ward. Dr. Simms feels that the teens have created Freddy as an attempt to avoid having to face the real roots of their problems. Her polar opposite, Dr. Neil Gordon, in a role acted by Golden Globe nominee Craig Wasson (Body Double), is more sympathetic toward his patients’ concerns. While he might not believe the teenagers are really being hunted in their dreams by an evil entity, he is willing to listen to their stories. Additionally, Primetime Emmy winner Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It), plays Max, a hospital orderly. He also demonstrates a genuine concern for the teens. Fishburne has a limited amount of screen time during the film, but as always, he is convincing in his role and makes the most of the time he is given.

Arriving at the same time that Kristen does is the intelligent and resourceful heroine from the first film, Nancy Thompson, who is portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Six years have passed since she first did battle with Freddy. During her time away from Springwood, the viewer learns that she has been conducting research into the study of pattern nightmares. She has arrived at Westin Hills to intern in their psychiatric ward, and it seems, she has come not a moment too soon. It doesn’t take long before her skills are put to the test. Kristen has ripped her stitches from her wrists, attacked Max with a scalpel, and outright refused to allow Dr. Gordon to sedate her, knowing that Freddy will be waiting to finish what he has started, once she falls asleep. Backed into a corner with nowhere to run, she begins singing the familiar rhyme associated with Freddy:

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.

NOES P3 P4Nancy enters the room and says the last line of the rhyme, which helps to calm the irate Kristen. She immediately questions Kristen as to where she learned the rhyme, while at the same time hugging the scared teenager, and removing the scalpel from her hand.

Kristen is not the only patient at Westin Hills, who is terrified of falling asleep. In fact, there are six other teenagers just like her. Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) is an aspiring television actress, who resorts to burning herself with cigarettes in order to stay awake. Joey (Rodney Eastman) has been so traumatized by what he has seen in his dreams, that he remains mute throughout much of the film. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) is quick witted, but also hot tempered, and has spent more than his fair share of time in the padded, quiet room, where those who misbehave are sent to cool down. Phillip (Bradley Gregg) is talented when it comes to making marionettes, but he also has a penchant for sleepwalking, something which will lead him into trouble later on in the film. Will (Ira Heiden) is in a wheelchair, because of a failed suicide attempt, while he was trying to escape from Freddy, and lastly, Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) was placed in Westin Hills, not only due to her insomnia, but her frequent drug abuse.

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Dr. Gordon brings Nancy up to speed on the individual patients, all of whom, despite their varied problems, share the debilitating ills of insomnia. He speaks to the fact that, collectively, they all fear the same entity in their dreams; a person who is so vivid, and real, that they will do whatever it takes to stay awake, for fear of dying in their sleep. Sadly, according to Dr. Gordon, one deceased patient, had gone to the extreme lengths of cutting off his own eyelids, in order to not fall asleep. Nancy, as anyone who is familiar with the original entry to the series knows, is no stranger when it comes to the behavior being exhibited by the teenagers. Even six years later, the thought of encountering Freddy Krueger while sleeping, forces her to take an experimental drug called Hypnocil. The drug provides the user with a dreamless sleep, while at the same time suppresses the onset of night terrors.

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Phillip experiences a surrealistic nightmare, the sort that only Freddy could concoct for someone to go through before ultimately ending their existence. Dr. Simms, of course, being the rigid ideologue that she is, chalks up Philip’s death to a sleep walking accident. Nancy, and the other patients are not buying one bit of that theory; especially the teenagers who watched exactly how Phillip died. Phillip’s hobby, as stated earlier was making marionettes. Phillip’s death is a very effective scene, with Freddy slicing out the boy’s veins in his arms and legs, and replacing them with puppet strings. He walks Phillip, like a real life marionette, to a high tower on the hospital grounds. The other teenagers, witnessing what is happening to Phillip, are screaming at him to wake up before it is too late. The entire time, Phillip is dreaming, he is fighting with every bit left in him, desperately struggling to try and keep himself from being murdered. Unfortunately, it makes no difference, in the end, as Freddy cuts the strings, causing Phillip to fall to his death.

NOES P3 P7Dr. Simms remedy to the problem is to have the patients’ doors locked at night, and to institute a policy of forced sedation. She justifies her actions, by stating that the teens need uninterrupted REM sleep. The policy outrages Nancy, who knows what Dr. Simms is doing will mean certain death for the teens. Fortunately for her, Dr. Gordon has become an ally in her fight against Freddy, and is willing to assist her with whatever she thinks needs to be done to help his patients. Going against Dr. Simms, he changes the orders, so that the teens will now receive Hypnocil, the same drug Nancy takes. Dr. Simms emphatically states that if the experiment backfires, she will have no choice but to go over his head and recommend that both he and Nancy be terminated. While Dr. Gordon outwardly supports Nancy, secretly he tells her he hopes she knows what she is doing.

For those of you who have not yet seen the film, I will not elaborate on how Nancy discovers that Kristen has an extraordinary gift. Kristen has the power to bring other people into her dreams, something she has been able to do since she was a small child. During a group therapy session, Nancy explains to the remaining teenagers, whose numbers have been reduced by two as a result of Jennifer also dying at Freddy’s hands, exactly who they are. They are not being targeted because of some random coincidence. No, who they are, is the last of the Elm Street children, and their parents taking the law into their own hands, is why they have incurred Freddy’s wrath. She lets them know her own history with Krueger, and speaks to the fact that years earlier he killed off all of her friends, and almost managed to kill her, before she learned the secret to stopping him. This time around, Nancy believes Kristen is the key to Freddy’s demise. As is the information learned by Dr. Gordon, thanks to a Sister Mary Helena (Nan Martin), someone who performs volunteer work at Westin Hills. She informs Dr. Gordon, that there is only one thing that can truly save the children; the bones of Freddy Krueger must be put into consecrated ground, thereby rendering his spirit – which is an abomination to both God and man – powerless. In addition to taking a crucifix from a local church, Dr. Gordon also receives help from Nancy’s father (John Saxon), who has been demoted from police lieutenant to hard drinking, security guard. Only he knows the location where Freddy’s bones were hidden, and thus the only one who can lead Dr. Gordon to them.

NOES P3 P8Will Heather and Kristen, with help from the other teens, be able to vanquish Freddy Krueger to hell, where he belongs? What powers if any will the teenagers be able to utilize once they enter the dream world where seemingly anything is possible? How many of their number have to die in the process before the burnt, evil one is defeated? During the film, the viewer will come to learn more about Freddy Kruger’s back story, especially as it pertains to his mother, which I found interesting. Overall, the film is quick paced, contains good special effects that still hold up well for the most part all these years later, a compelling story line, interesting characters, and Robert Englund as the diabolical Freddy Krueger in top form.

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“A Nightmare on Elm Street – Thirty Years of Scares”

“I don’t even know who’s doing it and I’m not interested. It’s actually really painful to think about it. It’s the film of mine that I probably love the most, and which made the most money. The script went around Hollywood for three years and nobody touched it and I went through all my life savings and everything else to pay for it, so I had to make the deal I did. Frankly, at that time I thought it would be one movie and that’s it. I never thought it would go on and on and on… Yes it does hurt, it does because it’s such an important film for me that, unfortunately, when I signed the original contract I gave up all rights to it and so there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Wes Craven’s response to being asked about the 2010 re-make of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The idea behind Freddy Krueger, who has become one of the most infamous villains in the annals of horror cinema history, was launched in the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film. As early as his childhood, there were aspects of Wes Craven’s (Scream) life, that would one day wind up making it into the film he wrote and directed. Fred Krueger was the name of a school bully who tormented him, both during school hours, as well as after school on the paper route, that they both worked. Additionally, when Craven was ten years of age, he heard some noise in the alleyway located next to the apartment building he lived in. When he looked out the window to see what the disturbance was, there was a homeless person, who was dressed in filthy clothes, wearing a Fedora. The man looked up and stared at him. Craven went away and hid for what to him, felt like hours. When he returned to the window, the guy was still standing there. Next thing Craven knew, he heard the man coming into the building, but when his brother, went to investigate, no one was there.

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Another source of inspiration, which brought Freddy to the forefront of Craven’s creative thoughts, was attributable to articles he read in the Los Angeles Times. Unlike the fictional scenarios he was used to depicting in his films, these stories contained nightmarish elements that were all too real. The articles pertained to three male, Cambodian refugees, who had come to America, in order to escape the totalitarian dictatorship of the Pol Pot regime. Each one of them would suffer the same horrific ending. Before meeting their demise, each spoke of not wanting to go to bed. In fact, each of the men outright refused to sleep, due to the surrealistic nightmares each was experiencing. Eventually, each of the three would succumb to sheer exhaustion. Once the men fell asleep, none of them ever woke up again. One of the men, whose family was concerned about him not sleeping, gave him pills, which they thought he was taking. After he died, his family members found all of the pills, hidden, in his room. In addition, he also had a coffee pot plugged into a wall socket in his closet. The autopsies conducted on the three men revealed there was no specific cause for their deaths. In recent years, the medical community has taken to calling the affliction that the three men died from, Asian Death Syndrome or Brugada Syndrome.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” first screened in Germany, in October of 1984, at The Hof International Film Festival, which has been taking place annually since October of 1967. Afterward, it opened in limited release in America on November 9, before opening on a number of screens on November 16th. The film’s budget, which was estimated to have been one million eight hundred thousand dollars, made almost the entire amount back during its limited release, earning a bit over one million two hundred and seventy thousand dollars. In terms of total gross, the film was a success that wound up earning close to twenty-seven million dollars, and saving New Line Cinema from having to declare bankruptcy. The movie, which as previously mentioned in Craven’s quote, took three years to secure a producer, was shot in a span of thirty days, and has a runtime of ninety-one minutes.

The film begins with Freddy, constructing a glove, which contains knives for fingers. The murder weapon will become synonymous with the killer. Krueger, portrayed not just in the original movie, but in its many sequels, as well as a television show, is completely embodied by Robert Englund (New Nightmare).

Freddy has invaded the dream, of Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss). She is running down a hallway, which leads into a boiler room. Tina hears her name being called, as she tries to escape from something that is not yet shown to the viewer. Freddy scratches the knives of his glove on the wall, and then rips through a sheet, that is hanging, before showing up behind Tina, ready to strike. She wakes up screaming, which causes her mother (Donna Woodrum) to knock on her door and enter the room. When Tina looks at her night gown, she sees that it has been ripped. Her mother asks her how she is, and she tells her not to worry, that it was just a dream, which suits Tina’s mother’s boyfriend (Paul Grenier) just fine; all he’s interested in, is getting the haggard looking woman back into bed. The motherly advice she imparts to Tina, is that she should cut her fingernails, and stop having bad dreams. My inner child groaned at the advice. I am sure we all would have opted back then, as well as now, to not have nightmares, if it were that simple. Deciding a bit more than nail trimming and wishful thinking is in order, Tina takes her crucifix off her bedroom wall, and keeps it in bed with her. Afterward, as little girls in white dresses on an outside lawn play jump rope, for the very first time, the viewer will hear a rhyme that goes hand in hand with the character of Freddy Krueger, and the franchise in general:

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, Better lock your door
Five, six, grab a crucifix.
Seven, eight, Gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, Never sleep again….

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The next morning at high school, the viewer is introduced to the other three teenage protagonists. There is Nancy Thompson, acted by Heather Langenkamp (Just the Ten of Us), Tina’s best friend, and as am sure many of you who are reading this already know, a true horror heroine. She is someone, who is not self absorbed, but the type of person a viewer will want to cheer for to make it out in one piece, when the film concludes. There is also Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz, played by Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner, Johnny Depp (Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), in his film debut. The last of the three others is Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia). The characters, except for Rod, who heads in another direction, are discussing Tina’s nightmare. With Tina’s mother going to be out of town for the next two days, Nancy and Glen agree to stay with her, since she is still not over the freakiness of her dream. While there, Rod, who was not invited, shows up. It is a decision, he will live to regret, albeit for a short time. (As an aside: While Langenkamp was being considered for the role of Nancy, she was in competition with two hundred other actresses; some of the more famous actresses that she beat out to secure the role, were Courtney Cox, Jennifer Grey, and Demi Moore.)

As it turns out, Nancy also had a similar nightmare, that contains the same characteristics as Tina’s dream. The person they are both afraid of, has long fingernails, or as Nancy more accurately points out, finger knives, that he likes to scrape along things. They also both remember his attire – a dirty, red and green sweater. The color choice of red and green for Freddy’s sweater, was done purposely, after Craven read an article in a 1982 edition of the magazine “Scientific American.” According to the piece that was written, the two colors that clashed the most when looked at by the human retina, were green and red.

Less than twenty minutes into the film, the viewers gets their first real look at Freddy, during an intense nightmare sequence. Rod is awakened by Tina’s screaming. He see her thrashing around on the bed, and being dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling, but he cannot see who is doing it to her. As much as Rod wants to help Tina, he can’t, because Freddy, outside of the dream world, is not visible. Knowing that he will be blamed for the murder, Rod flees through Tina’s bedroom window, and goes on the run. (As an aside: The scene where Tina is shown being dragged up and across the ceiling was shot on a set that was built to rotate. The camera was bolted to the wall for the scene, and was filmed with a cameraman, who was strapped to a chair, he spun as the room spun, to give the scene the effect Craven wanted. When Tina is shown on the ceiling, she is actually on the floor, and Garcia, who is panic stricken as to what is being done to her, is the one who is actually on the ceiling.)

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The police Lieutenant, Donald Thompson, played by Golden Globe winner, John Saxon (The Appaloosa), is put in charge of the homicide investigation. He is also Nancy’s father. The first question he has for her mother, Marge, acted by Academy Award nominee, Ronee Blakley (Nashville), who he is divorced from, is: what was Nancy doing at Tina’s house in the first place? Unbeknownst to Nancy, he is having some of his men watch her, thinking that Rod will attempt to reach out and make contact, which is exactly what he does the next day. Rod is placed in jail, but he doesn’t go quietly, proclaiming his innocence as loudly as he can, and of course as viewers, we know, he is not guilty of Tina’s murder.

Nancy decides to go to school, in order to try and keep a semblance of normalcy in her life. While she is in her English class, she falls asleep, as her teacher (Lin Shaye) is having a student read aloud from Shakespeare. The moment marks the first time we get to see Nancy encounter Freddy in the dream state. After chasing her through his boiler- room domain, he has backed her up into a corner. Demonstrating that she is not just going to allow herself to be ripped to shreds by Freddy’s glove, she realizes that she only sees the burnt visage of Krueger when she is dreaming. Nancy not only reminds herself that what she is experiencing is ‘only a dream,’ but she takes her arm, and places it onto a hot pipe, in order to burn herself. Her actions, jolt her out of her dream state, all the while she is screaming at the top of her lungs. Gathering her belongings, she immediately leaves the classroom. When she steps outside of school to head home, she looks at her arm and notices the burn mark on it. Nancy has learned the important lesson, that when it comes to dealing with Freddy, what happens to you in your dream, carries over into real life.

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After several other incidents, that would contain too many spoilers, for those of you, who have never seen the film, Nancy’s mother comes up with an idea to help her daughter. She takes Nancy to a sleep clinic, run by Dr. King (Charles Fleischer), who specializes in sleep disorders. While monitoring Nancy, the readings on the machines, which normally don’t go past a certain number, reach levels that are unprecedented, indicating, that something terrible is happening while Nancy is asleep. The doctor, Nancy’s mother, and the nurse, run into the room to wake her up. They discover that there is blood on Nancy’s arm, but she has also brought back something with her from her dream, Krueger’s Fedora. From that point forward Nancy makes it her missions to find out the truth behind who Freddy Krueger is, and why he is trying to murder her and her friends. Little did she expect her mother to come clean and talk about the time that she, and a number of other people, took the law into their own hands to kill Krueger, a child murderer, who thanks to a legal technicality walked free.

Trivia buffs take note: The make-up Englund was required to wear took on average three hours a day to apply, before he could begin filming his scenes. Englund wasn’t Wes Craven’s first choice for the part of Freddy. He initially wanted a stunt man to play the role, but after conducting some screen tests, he came to the realization that the film would be better served by having a real actor play the part. Englund’s total screen time amounted to less than seven minutes. Johnny Depp, had a good deal of competition: such as Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, Brad Pitt, and Charlie Sheen, among others, who all were considered for the part of Glen. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in charge of cleaning the sets after a day’s filming, because the total amount of fake blood that was used amounted to over five hundred gallons during the production of the movie. AFI (The American Film Institute) ranked Krueger as number forty, on their list of AFI 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains. The film also made the top twenty, coming in at number seventeen on Bravo’s list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

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In addition to Craven, Englund, Langenkamp, and the rest of the ensemble cast, credit also must be given to the following individuals: Emmy winner, Charles Bernstein (Inglourious Basterds) for the score he composed, which, like John Carpenter’s score for “Halloween,” is instantaneously recognizable. Like Bernstein’s score, the film probably would not have resonated as strongly as it did with audiences, if not for the excellent cinematography of Jacques Haitkin (The Hidden), who managed to capture just the right mood for each scene.

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Will Nancy be able to save the remainder of her friends from being sliced up by Krueger? Will she be able to save herself? How does she go about trying to put an end to Freddy? Is there a secret weapon that can be used against him to stop his reign of terror? All of those questions and more, will be answered by the conclusion of this highly entertaining, horror film, which features one of the all time greatest horror heroines in Nancy, and one of the ultimate bad guys in Freddy Krueger. The film, which, will soon be celebrating its thirtieth birthday, is still a beloved offering of the horror genre, and it doesn’t appear as if that will be changing anytime soon.

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“From Dusk Till Dawn – The Series”

The series “From Dusk Till Dawn,” does initially follow the plot of the cult classic film, directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), and written by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), based on a story by Robert Kurtzman. The show centers on the gun toting, suit wearing, Gecko brothers, Seth and Richard, originally played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, George Clooney (Syriana) and Tarantino. In the series, the role of the suave, do whatever it takes to survive, and stay out of jail, Seth, is taken over by D.J Cotrona. The incredibly smart, but seemingly, psychotic, and unpredictable, Richard, is embodied by actor, Zane Holtz. The ten episode series is a hybrid of the genres of action, crime, horror and the supernatural. The addition of new characters, expanded back stories on known characters, and the exploration of the mythology involving the Mesoamerican culture, whose members comprise the vampire population who were so prominent during the second half of the original film, had me intrigued enough to watch the series.

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The idea to turn the original movie, which simultaneously opened in theaters in America and Canada in January of 1996, into a television show, belongs to Rodriguez. He wanted a program that would have name recognition for the El Rey Network, an English language station, which was launched on December 15, 2013. The maverick filmmaker created the network in a partnership with Univision Communications, and it is available on Comcast, Direct TV, and Time Warner Cable. The series is shot in Austin, Texas, headquarters of the director’s Troublemaker Studios. Rodriguez wrote the pilot episode, which premiered on March 11, 2014, and also directed four other episodes of the series. Part of the reason Rodriguez wanted to revive the long dormant film, into an episodic television series, was to explore the Mesoamerican mythology, which he first became interested in while the original film was shooting. The more research he did, the more his passion for the subject grew. The other reason was the characters; to quote the director in an interview he recently gave:

“It has been a joy to bring these characters back to life and have the opportunity to take our storytelling to a whole new place. We look forward to going back into production later this year and are excited about raising the bar even higher in season two.”

Following a botched bank robbery in Abilene, Texas, that left blood and bodies behind, the Gecko brothers, who, in their efforts to escape, also took a female bank teller (Samantha Esteban) hostage, and are attempting to make it to the Mexican border. The F.B.I. and the Texas Rangers are in pursuit. As in the original film, the Gecko’s are first introduced to the viewer at Benny’s World Of Liquor, which, just like in the movie, seems to be in the middle of nowhere, Texas. The stop at the store was meant to be a quick one, to get some provisions for the road. It will turn out to be anything but a short excursion. This is thanks to the arrival of Sheriff, Earl McGraw, played by Don Johnson, who has stopped off to purchase a bottle of liquor and use the bathroom. He is a veteran lawman, who has a weathered appearance. Unlike the character of McGraw in the movie, this time, however, the Texas ranger is not alone. His earnest, young partner, Freddie Gonzalez (Jessie Garcia), is waiting in the car.

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The Sheriff is a frequent customer of the store, so even though the clerk, Pete (Lane Garrison), knows his presence is something that doesn’t sit well with the Geckos, he can’t rush the man out of the place. After McGraw asks for his liquor, Pete asks the sheriff if there is anything wrong? McGraw responds, that he can sense that it is just one of those not so good days. He proceeds to ask the clerk if he’s seen anyone strange in the store that day? Pete replies that strange is the only type of customer he gets. The Sheriff excuses himself to go to the bathroom; after he leaves, the clerk is threatened with death by the brothers, if he happens to tip off McGraw that they are hiding in the back of the store. The Gecko’s are holding their guns to the heads of two unfortunate girls, who happened to be at the store at the same time. After McGraw finishes using the bathroom, he repeats his initial question to Pete. This line of inquiry, prompts Richard to walk up behind Earl and shoot him in the back. During the mêlée that follows Pete also gets shot up.

The situation begins a standoff between the brothers and Gonzalez, who is trying to figure out a way to save Earl from dying, while at the same time, keeping the Gecko’s from escaping. While the standoff, is greatly expanded from the film version, it doesn’t consume the entire episode. There are interesting flashbacks, involving observations, and sage advice, given from Earl to Freddie, about the all-consuming nature of their line of work, and the importance of spending time with family. Additionally, a brief flashback to the bank robbery is shown, as well as demonic visions, which are seen by Richard. During the standoff, Seth reaches out to his contact, Carlos, who is a gangster portrayed by Wilmer Valderrama (That 70’s Show). Seth calls Carlos, who works out of Mexico, to see if he can get the brothers out of the situation via helicopter. Prior arrangements had already been made with Carlos, that in exchange for ten million dollars, he would offer Seth and Richard, a lifestyle of freedom and comfort, in a place, in Mexico, he calls El Rey. (As an aside: The name El Rey in Spanish means The King).

At the conclusion of the pilot episode, I was initially left wondering, if the new direction the show was touted to be taken in, would turn out to be nothing more than a vengeance piece. I originally thought that might be the case, because Gonzalez vows to McGraw, to do whatever it takes, in order to hunt the Geckos down, and make them pay for killing his partner. He tells this to McGraw, who is in his final moments of life, as he lays on the floor of the store, dying in a pool of blood. Gonzalez swears on the life of his infant daughter, that he will hunt the Geckos all the way to the gates of hell if need be. (As an aside: Don Johnson’s character of McGraw, does appear, via flashback, in five other episodes of the series).

This blog is not a breakdown of every episode, so in addition, to numerous other scenes and situations which arise, while making their way to the border, the Gecko’s take the Fuller family hostage. The brothers are using them to hide out in their RV. Former Pastor, Jacob Fuller, portrayed in the movie by Academy Award nominee, Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs), is now acted by Robert Patrick (True Blood). He is dealing with the sad set of circumstances, regarding the death of his wife. Accompanying Jacob on the trip is his adopted son, Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) and his daughter, Kate (Madison Davenport), who were played in the original film by Ernest Lie and Academy Award nominee, Juliette Lewis, respectively. The Fuller’s stories like those of the other characters that populated the original film, have all been expanded. There is a reason, other than his wife’s death, why Jacob has given up on his duties as a clergyman, as well as his decision to take his son and daughter away from the only life they have ever known.

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The only choice Jacob has at the present time, for the sake of his family, is to believe in the promise made to him by Seth. He has informed Jacob, that he will let his family go free, without any harm having come to them, once he makes the exchange of money for freedom. Arriving at the border crossing, the viewer will once again see, that there is more to the Carlos character, than that of a typical gangster. Without getting into spoilers, he did something in the second episode of the series, that clearly shows he is not just a crime lord. Will there be light at the end of the tunnel this time for Pastor Jacob and his son Scott? If you remember the original film, you know things didn’t end idyllically for either character.

The meeting place, that Carlos has arranged, is a strip club and bar, that he owns. The place, however, is anything but a normal gentlemen’s club. Instead, it is a haven for the undead – for snake worshipping, vampires, to be exact. Professor Aiden Tanner (Jake Busey), who is first seen helping Gonzalez try to decipher a symbol, which keeps turning up at crime scenes, is at the bar. He is someone who has been studying and teaching archeology for many years, but he also turns out to be the character of Sex Machine. Many of you may remember, makeup and special effects master, Tom Savini, portrayed the character in the original film. Professor Tanner, for those of you who are wondering, still keeps a gun in the most unusual of locations on his body. His character points out, that the Spanish missionaries, who first reported on vampires, got it incorrect when it came to them stating that humans transformed into bats. The professor, aptly demonstrates on the body of a deceased member of the vampire tribe, that when one of them becomes their true self, they take on the features of a snake. Without describing everything that happens, suffice it to say, that once the Geckos and Fullers get inside the club, it doesn’t take long, for all sorts of hyperfrenetic mayhem and violence to break out.

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FDTD Pic 6The exotic dance, performed by Academy Award nominee, Salma Hayek (Frida), as the character, Santanico Pandemonium, in the original film, took up virtually all of her screen time. The series, however, treats the Santanico character, portrayed by Eiza Gonzalez (Amores Verdaderos), in a vastly different manner. She is a Queen among the vampires who inhabit the club. While she reigns supreme, there is a catch; she is stuck inside, physically confined to the grounds, unable to venture outside, not even under the cover of darkness. She can, however, make herself appear to Richard Gecko, in extraordinarily vivid visions, and is attempting to compel him to come find her. Apparently, he possess the power to set her free from her enslavement, that is being carried out by a group of vampire men, known as the nine lords.

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The El Rey Network’s first original series, has already, as stated in Rodriquez’s quote, been given the go ahead for a second season which will expand the episode count from 10 to 13. The first season is currently streaming on Netflix. The series as a whole, contains new plot points, interesting flashbacks that add details about the characters lives, as well as spot on direction, not only from Rodriquez, but from guest directors; for example, Fede Alvarez, who directed the re-make of the original, “Evil Dead” movie. If you had more than a casual interest in the first film, and have seen it several times since its release, you will probably enjoy this series a good deal. For those of you who have never seen the cult classic, but are fans of the horror and supernatural genres, with the understanding that the series does contain action and crime elements mixed into the episodes, you should definitely give the series a try, for at least the first few episodes. One other point, if you were like me, the final shot of the original film left you wondering, what exactly was contained within the huge structure of the Aztec temple that the club was built atop of? Without getting into spoiler territory, the answer to that question is made quite clear, while watching the series.

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“Strawberry Spring From King’s Night Shift Collection”

The career of ultra prolific and best selling author, Stephen King, has been a long and distinguished one. The collection of short stories, contained within the pages of the book “Night Shift,” marked one such distinction. When Doubleday published the book in February of 1978, it marked the first time that King’s short stories had ever been released to the public in one work. Sixteen of the collection’s twenty stories were originally published in the following magazines: Cavalier, Cosmopolitan, Gallery, Maine Magazine, and Ubris. Four other stories: “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” “The Woman in the Room,” and “Quitters, Inc.” were previously unpublished works. “Night Shift” was the first book in which King wrote a foreword to one of his works. Additionally, one of King’s literary idols, John D. MacDonald, wrote the introduction to the collection.

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The words Springheel Jack, appearing in a newspaper article, is the catalyst which has brought back memories to the unnamed protagonist of the story, “Strawberry Spring.” The piece was originally published in 1968, in Ubris, which was a literary journal at Stephen King’s college, The University of Maine. The character, through first person narration, starts vividly remembering a time, eight years earlier, when a series of grisly murders took place. The crimes were committed on the campus of the fictional, New Sharon Teacher’s College, which he was attending at the time. The same type of weather is upon the area in which he lives, just like it was on March 16, 1968. The term ‘strawberry spring’ refers to a false spring, that has arrived earlier than expected and will not last long, before the cold replaces it once again. The protagonist can’t help but wonder, if the coming of that weather will begin another cycle of violence, the likes of which, began and ended with its arrival and departure in March of ’68. King has the narrator describe his feeling regarding the rare weather condition, in almost magical terms, and even briefly inserts characters from The Lord of the Rings into his story:

“And when night came the fog came with it, moving silent and white along the narrow college avenues and thoroughfares…It made things seem out of joint, strange, magical. The unwary traveler would step out of the juke-thumping, brightly lit confusion of the Grinder, expecting the hard clear starriness of winter to clutch him . . . and instead he would suddenly find himself in a silent, muffled world of white drifting fog, the only sound his own footsteps…You half expected to see Gollum or Frodo and Sam go hurrying past, or to turn and see that the Grinder was gone, vanished, replaced by a foggy panorama of moors and yew trees and perhaps a Druid-circle or a sparkling fairy ring.”

On that same evening, the screams of John Dancey, a Junior at the college, can be heard piercing the foggy night air. While heading home for the evening, he has come across the body of Gale Cerman; her throat has been sliced from one ear to the other. The next day, the college is a buzz with all sorts of gossip, not only about the details of the crime, but the type of person Gale was. Most of the information is completely made-up on the part of the individuals who engage in gossip mongering. One rumor offsets another, until the arrest of Gale’s recent, ex-boyfriend, Carl Amalara. The police have found a hunting knife, as well as a picture of a cut up, Gale, in the foot locker, under his bed. That, combined with the fact that the couple had been arguing for a month prior to her murder, was enough for the authorities to make an arrest.

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With Carl’s arrest, the students of the campus can breathe a sigh of relief, or can they? Why not? The killer has been caught, and is behind bars, so therefore, it is safe to venture out into the night again. Not so fast, as the narrator informs the reader:

‘He got another one,’ someone said to me, his face pallid with excitement. ‘They had to let him go.’

‘Who go?’

‘Amalara!’ someone else said gleefully. ‘He was sitting in jail when it happened.

When what happened?’ I asked patiently. Sooner or later I would get it. I was sure of that.

The guy killed somebody else last night. And now they’re hunting all over for it.’

‘For what?’

The pallid face wavered in front of me again. ‘Her head. Whoever killed her took her head with him.’

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This time the victim was Ann Bray, who, according to the narrator, was the first runner-up in the Miss New England pageant.  The second murder puts the police, as well as campus security, on an even higher alert level. The school’s administration also issues a mandatory, nine o’clock curfew. The day after the second murder, everyone on campus is extra guarded, having thought everything was back to normal with Carl’s arrest. The students’ study one another’s faces, even though, as the protagonist pointed out earlier in the story, the school is small, and everyone had at least a nodding acquaintance with one another. Someone among their number, however, is committing the crimes:

“There was someone dark among us, as dark as the paths which twisted across the mall or wound among the hundred-year-old oaks on the quad in back of the gymnasium. As dark as the hulking Civil War cannons seen through a drifting membrane of fog. We looked into each other’s faces and tried to read the darkness behind one of them.”

The next three evenings go by without incident, until March 20th. On that night, a campus security guard thinks the killer has struck again. The body of an unconscious undergrad, Donald Morris, is in the same parking lot where Gale Cerman’s body was found. While driving the boy to the hospital, he sits up in the back seat, and begins asking questions. This causes the guard to run his car off of the road. As it turned out, the student had passed out, while walking to get something to eat, having been in bed the previous two days with the flu.

The well written, atmospheric story contains a lyricism to it, that is brought to life by the narrator’s manner of looking at things. Almost a decade later, he is able to look back and remember with such vividness, all that transpired during the brief period of time known as ‘strawberry spring.’ The method by which King writes the story, concentrating on the reactions, of both the students on campus and of law enforcement, to the murders, instead of getting into graphic detail about how the killer murdered his victims, was done to great effect. King’s writing follows a well charted progression that involves the mindset of those who are living where the murderer has struck. At first the conversations are gossipy, and rumor filled, as mentioned earlier, but after the second killing, more of a panic sets in, not only on the part of the students, but the authorities who are trying to catch the killer.

Will it turn out that the narrator was the killer? After all, on the evening of Ann Bray’s killing, he speaks of leaving his room to go for a walk because he has a headache. He recalls the fog, and how the faces in it are obscured; he talks about the shadows; he also makes mention of hearing footsteps. The narrator admits to the reader, that any one of the shadows, or set of footsteps he heard could have belonged to Springheel Jack, but he never once seems to fear them. And when his roommate asks him if he wants to go out for the evening, he claims he has to study for a trigonometry exam, but once his roommate leaves, the narrator spends time thinking thoughts, that make one wonder:

“For a long time after he was gone, I could only look out the window. And even after I had opened my book and started in, part of me was still out there, walking in the shadows where something dark was now in charge.”

Will there be more murders? Has the killer moved on to another location, due to the heightened police presence? Does the killer ever get caught? Read the short story, discover the clues, that King places in the text, and enjoy the offering from an overall excellent collection of the author’s early work.

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“The Sacrament – Mirrors Real Life Horror At Jonestown”

I didn’t have an opportunity to see Ti West’s (The House of the Devil) film “The Sacrament” when it was in the theaters this past May. While searching through the new release section on Netflix the other day, I saw that it was listed, so I added it to my queue and watched it later that evening. Written and directed by West, the film had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2013. The movie, which has a ninety-five minute runtime, is a combination of the genres of horror and thriller. The story is set in the present day. I was glad that West decided not to make the movie a ‘found footage’ style film. While I certainly think he is a capable enough director to have pulled it off, I think it would have turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help, and I am not sure if certain scenes could have been as effective.

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Vice is a New York City Multimedia Company, headquartered in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that focuses on covering international news, arts and culture. Broadcast in over thirty-four countries, Vice covers controversial and provocative stories that are largely ignored or given minimal air-time by the established main stream media outlets. The name that Vice gives to their particular brand of journalism is called immersionism.

The film begins with AJ Bowen’s (A Horrible Way to Die) character, Sam Turner, who is sitting at Vice headquarters with a person he dubs as ‘one of the company’s favorite freelance fashion photographers,’ Patrick Carter (Kentucker Audley). Patrick has relayed a story about his sister, Caroline, portrayed by Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color), who has been struggling for years with drug addiction. His sister, in an effort to get herself clean, had left New York City to join a sober living community in rural Mississippi. Patrick begins to grow concerned about Caroline’s well being, after he receives a mysterious letter from her in the mail. No return address is on the envelope, nor does she provide one in her correspondence; there is, however, a phone number included at the bottom of the letter for him to call. After calling the number, he speaks to a man who can only inform him that his sister, along with the rest of the community, has moved out of the country, to an undisclosed location. If he wishes to see her, he will be given instructions as to what country to fly to, and once there, he will be flown by helicopter to a remote location that must remain secret. Sensing the potential for an interesting story, Sam and videographer, Jake, played by Joe Swanberg (You’re Next), accompany Patrick on his trip to visit the commune Caroline is living at, which is called Eden’s Parish.

Once the trio arrives in the foreign country, they are taken by helicopter to a place that is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They are greeted by several gun toting men that work for the parish. They are immediately told by the men to stop filming. Arrangements had only been made for Patrick to come visit Caroline, not for Sam and Jake to travel with him. The men will not let the trio continue, until they receive radio confirmation from the commune that it is okay that Sam and Jake come along. Once permission is granted, the three men are told to get on to the back of a flatbed truck. The truck will take them the rest of the way to Eden’s Parish, which only has one road leading in and out of its grounds. (As an aside: The movie, while it was made to look as if it were filmed in another country, was actually shot on a ranch in Savannah, Georgia).

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Caroline is very excited to see her brother. She informs Sam and Jake without any prompting, that she and her brother, grew up wealthy on the upper west side of New York, and that she doesn’t consider that living. The work she is doing at Eden’s Parish, she feels, is real living and is a place that she labels ‘heaven on Earth.’ When asked any questions, she answers in a positive, reaffirming tone of voice, regarding anything that is taking place at the Parish, which make it obvious to the viewer, that she is a staunch advocate for both  Eden’s Parish, and its yet to be seen on screen, leader, known as Father. His voice is briefly heard over the loud speakers, set up throughout the commune, when the men first enter. He is asking his flock to welcome their guests. The guys from Vice, of course, want to interview Father. Caroline thinks that it should be okay, but she will have to ask him first. In the meantime, she tells Patrick’s Vice team members, that she would like to spend some time alone with her brother, whom she has missed dearly.

Eden’s Parish is comprised of a racially diverse group of people. The total number of members that make up the commune, consists of 167 individuals: seven are infants; thirty-five are children; and there are approximately sixty senior citizens among their numbers, according to Wendy (Donna Biscoe), who runs the medical center at the Parish. Every one who Sam interviews, speaks glowingly about not only life at the Parish, but about Father, who is their proverbial sun, moon, and stars. Watching the film, however, I got the sense that West was winking at the viewer, asking the person watching: Do you really think there could be a place that exists in this world where everyone lives harmoniously without any sort of basic human emotion causing the slightest of problems? I also got a sense, after Sam talks to a woman named Lorraine (Shirley Jones Byrd), who everyone calls Ms. D, that a great many of the people who are at Eden’s Parish came there out of a sense of desperation. There was nowhere, or no one, left for many of the people, to turn to. Father, even though it is learned, has taken all of the commune members’ money from the sale of their homes, as well as every material possession the members owned, except for the clothes on their backs, is looked at as God’s emissary on Earth, who can do no wrong. Not everyone there, is lonely and seemingly desperate. For instance, one young woman (Kate Lyn Sheil), who Sam briefly interviews, comes from Melbourne, Australia. When asked by him if she misses her family in Australia, and would ever want to go see them again? She respond in the negative and states, in effect, that the commune is the best family she has ever had.

Father, whose real name is Charles Anderson Reed, is portrayed by Gene Jones (Oz The Great and Powerful). He gives a very convincing performance; every facial expression, as well as the way he delivers his dialogue, is nuanced perfectly by the actor. He comes across, at first, as a man who has a disarming demeanor about him. Once again, however, the manner in which West films the character of Father, gives the viewer a sense that the man is not someone to be trifled with or disobeyed.

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The name Father, which Sam inquires about, is a nickname that was given to him, at some point, so long ago, he can’t now recall. When asked where he was born, the bible quoting Father doesn’t answer the question. Instead he goes into a monologue, that sounds like words he has spoken hundreds of times over the years. He talks about his impoverished upbringing, and how, because of his economic class, he always felt he was treated as an outcast. He lets the three men from Vice know that he has travelled to every big city and no name town with sparse populations. He claims, that no matter where he has gone, he always witnessed people living in poverty, acts of violence being committed, and the ugliness of racism. He makes special mention of historical figures, for example, Martin Luther King, who he points out, tried to make the world a peaceful place to live in, but were assassinated for their efforts. He will give people who want to make something of their lives, a chance to come and live at Eden’s Parish. He will give each of them a job, a place to live, a bed to sleep in at night, and they will never go hungry.

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Is there more to this kindly, older gentleman than meets the eye, as the guys from Vice suspect? Are the members of the commune all as taken as they appear to be with how they are living and what they were promised? Do people secretly have a desire to leave Eden’s Parish because it is not the social utopia that it was touted it would be? Can people leave if they want to? Will Father allow members of his flock safe passage from his gun toting bodyguards to do so? All of those questions and more will be answered at the conclusion of the film.

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WARNING: SPOILERS CONTAINED FROM THIS POINT FORWARD:

Unlike, the vast majority of films people watch in the horror genre, those who visually devour them on a steady basis and crave the carnage candy, you might find this particular film, very unsettling. I know I did. The reason being, while the film is not a direct parallel of what transpired at Jonestown in 1978, because those events culminated at the end of a twenty year period, the gut wrenching ending is a hard thing to sit through. This is, unfortunately, not some made up horror screenplay, that some creative writer came up with, but is taken from the actual pages of a sad, sick history of true events. The imagery involves the killing of children and old people. One particular scene shows a mother willingly holding her infant, as the baby is injected with what’s known in the popular vernacular as “cool aid,” but should be more appropriately called “suicide juice.” Without getting into exact detail, the final scene between Patrick and Caroline was particularly upsetting for me to watch, and horror movies usually don’t evoke those kinds of emotions in me.

In the aftermath of the film, on screen is written the fact that 167 people, needlessly perished at Eden’s Parish. An astounding majority quite willingly did so, at the behest of their beloved leader, who turned out to be nothing but a fraud, when it was all said and done.  I will quote words that West used in an interview to describe the feeling he was going for with the ending of the film: “Even for people who are gore hounds, that scene just makes people uncomfortable. And that was a big point in the movie was to remind you that real violence, there’s accountability with that and that it’s actually scary.”

Overall, West uses atmosphere and sound to great effect. In terms of the characters he created, the performances from everyone involved in the cast, whether they were a main character, or had a word or two of dialogue, was uniformly excellent. The dialogue was well written. I couldn’t detect one false note in anything that was spoken. It sounded like I expected people in a situation like that, with a leader, who has a gift of gab, combined with a knowledge of scripture, to sound like. The guys from Vice are also no exception. They asked the type of questions, and investigated in the manner in which I could clearly see people from news shows of that ilk doing. In what seems to be the director’s typical fashion, in his horror films, he methodically builds a great amount of dread and tension before the point of impact, and in this film, his style, which has served him well, is no different.

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