“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

On September 29, 2013, the final episode of the critically praised, and arguably, one of the best television series of all time, “Breaking Bad,” ended its five season run with the episode “Felina.” In the closing minutes of the series finale, Walter White, a role completely embodied by Golden Globe winner Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), vanquishes a group of criminal, Neo-Nazis. Walter’s actions, not only gets revenge against the criminals, who took the majority of his money, but more importantly, it helps to free his partner, Jesse, portrayed by three time Emmy winner Aaron Paul (Westworld), who was being held prisoner by the Neo-Nazis, and forced to cook meth.

After an opening flashback scene, featuring Jesse, and Mike Ehrmantraut, played by “Breaking Bad,” and “Better Call Saul,” cast member, and six time Emmy nominee Jonathan Banks, “El Camino,” picks up again right where “Breaking Bad” ended. Jesse is seen driving off of the compound, into the dark of night, as he screams in jubilation, that he is free from where he’s been held prisoner. He doesn’t get very far, before he sees a long line of police and law enforcement vehicles headed in his direction. Managing to pull into a driveway, Jesse sits nervously, gun in hand, waiting for what might be his final moments on Earth to take place, but fortunately for him, all of the vehicles speed by him. From that moment forward, he knows, he’s a wanted man. He’s short on time, completely out of money, and needs to make a quick escape from New Mexico before the law catches up with him. The only people he can completely trust are his friends, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones); both characters appeared in multiple episodes during the series run of “Breaking Bad.  Once he arrives at the house the two friends share, he is able to hide the El Camino, get a badly needed night’s sleep, and an equally needed shower, and begin to formulate a plan as to how he’s going to avoid being captured, and imprisoned for the second time.

Time has not been kind to Jesse. Fans of the series will immediately recognize that he’s not the same character he was during the series run, nor could he be, after the hellish ordeal he’s been through. His stay with the Neo-Nazis, and their inhumane treatment of him, where he was caged like an animal, has left Jesse scarred on both his face and back. The harsh life he led while their prisoner, also causes him to have painful flashbacks of the suffering he endured, both physically and psychologically, at the Neo-Nazis’ hands. Revealed to the viewer, via flashback, Todd, played by Emmy nominee Jesse Plemons (Fargo), is the person, from his time with the Neo-Nazis, that haunts Jesse the most. Ironically, it is Todd, who at Jesse’s desperate hour of need, might be the one person who can save Jesse, and give him the means to start a new life someplace else.    

While Jesse might have changed, the tone, look and sound of the series carries over into the movie thanks to the excellent cinematography work of Marshall Adams (Better Call Saul), and composer Dave Porter (The Blacklist). For example, one scene of interest, is when Jesse is tearing apart an apartment. The camera is facing down over the entire width of the apartment, and there appears to be multiple images of Jesse moving throughout the apartment at a brisk pace, while searching through each of the rooms. Additionally, and perhaps, most importantly to maintain continuity from the series, “Breaking Bad” creator, three time Emmy nominee Vince Gilligan (The X-Files) wrote and directed the movie which premiered on October 11, 2019 on Netflix streaming services. Furthermore, fans of the series will also recognize the time lapse photography to show the change of day into night, that was utilized throughout the series.

By his own admission, Vince Gilligan stated that: had “Better Call Saul” not been successful, the sequel movie, revealing what happened to Jesse, most likely, would not have been made. I don’t want to say too much more, because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you, who have yet to be able to watch the movie. Sadly, this was one of Oscar nominee Robert Foster’s (Jackie Brown) final films. He returns as Ed Galbraith, who is the owner of a vacuum repair and sales store, among some other things.

Will Jesse make it out alive? What does he need to do to ensure his escape? Where will he go if he can start over? All of the questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion. According to Aaron Paul, there are no planned sequels to the movie, so, Jesse’s story, by movie’s end, will be concluded.

 

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“Joker”

In the film “Joker,” Arthur Fleck, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here) is an unemployed, and mentally unbalanced man. He makes a living, and barely, at that, by performing as a clown at different events. He is both awkward and captivating to watch, which is thanks to Phoenix infusing his performance with a gamut of emotions, that are full of nuance. Fleck resides with, and is devoted to his ailing mother, played by Golden Globe winner Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), in a rundown building in the fictional Gotham City. The film takes place in 1981. In addition to trash being left uncollected on the streets, because of a sanitation workers strike, there is an out-of-control crime epidemic. Additionally, there is a wide gap between the wealthy, such as business man, Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), who is seeking to become Mayor, and the majority of the city’s residents. As it turns out, Arthur’s mother, was once employed by Wayne. She keeps writing him letters, in order to elicit his financial help, but he has yet to respond to her, and from what is divulged, it seems her letters have been going unanswered for a significant portion of time.

Arthur is on a series of medications, for a medical condition, which causes him to laugh at inappropriate things. In order to explain the condition, he carries with him a business card, which he can hand to a person, to let them know that there is something wrong with him, and he doesn’t mean anything wrong by his behavior. He has been meeting on a weekly basis, with a city appointed psychiatrist, but not long into the film, the funding for his treatment has been terminated, and he is on his own. Arthur is shown as someone who can easily be bullied, and doesn’t have the wherewithal, at least initially, to stand up for himself. There is a scene at the start of the film, where Arthur is performing as a clown, in front of a store; he is trying to promote the store’s sale. The sign he is holding, is taken from him by a group of young hoodlums, who to his credit, Arthur chases. The downside, is that when he catches up with the thugs, he gets beaten up, and left in a back alleyway.

One of the few pleasures Arthur seems to have in his life, is watching the Murray Franklin show, a late night talk show. In the role of Franklin is two time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II). Arthur dreams of having interactions with Franklin,  while at the same time attempting to pursue a career in standup comedy. The only other glimmer of light, in Arthur’s life, is his relationship with Sophie, a character acted by Emmy nominee Zazie Beetz (Atlanta).  She is a single mother he is dating, who lives in his building. Their relationship, like that of his dreams about appearing on Franklin’s show, leave a viewer wondering, how much is real and how much is Arthur’s imagination.

The violence in the film, doesn’t occur often, but when it does, it is quick and graphic. There also isn’t a tremendous amount of action in “The Joker.”  The film is, after all, not a superhero movie; while the movie does contain a few scenes that feature a young Bruce Wayne (Dante Pereira-Olson), his persona, as Batman, Gotham’s caped crusader, is years away. Instead, the film is a character study of a complex man; an origin story, as to how, the most well known villain in all of Gotham City came to infamous prominence. The final straw, that puts Arthur on the path of no return, is when he is bullied by three stock brokers, on the subway. The actions they take against Arthur, and he against them, sets up the second part of the film.

Oscar nominee Todd Phillips (Borat), directed the disquieting and intense film, and co-wrote the screenplay with BAFTA nominee Scott Silver (The Fighter). The screenplay was written using characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. The film premiered on August 31, 2019 at the Venice Film Festival.  Parts crime, drama, and thriller, the film’s runtime is 122 minutes.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Joker,” is that as a viewer, it’s hard to know whether to despise him, or feel sorry for Arthur based on everything that is imparted to the viewer regarding his background. The filmmakers, I felt, wanted the audience to come to their own conclusion. In closing, in my opinion, “Joker” is a well-executed film that succeeds on all levels, but the main reason to watch the movie is for the brilliant performance given by Phoenix as the title character.

 

 

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“Friday the 13th – The Start of an Enduring Horror Franchise”

Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Ned (Mark Nelson), and Jack, played by Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon (Taking Chance), are six counselors helping to reopen Camp Crystal Lake, a long dormant sleep away camp. In 1957, the camp suffered a tragedy, when a young boy, Jason Voorhees (Ari Lehman), who had a disability, was not being watched by camp staff and drowned. Jason was the son of the camp cook, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), who suffered a mental break down after Jason’s death.

“Friday the 13th”  opens during the summer of 1958; two counselors leave a sing-a-long, and sneak off to be alone together. Their fun will not last long, because within a minute, they’re murdered by an unseen killer. Since that time, whenever someone has tried to open the camp, which is located in New Jersey, strange things have happened, and the camp closes, almost as quickly as it opens. The local town residents refer to the camp as ‘camp blood.’  During one scene in the beginning of the film, local resident, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), as he’s known, warns the new camp cook, Annie (Robbi Morgan), that there is a death curse on the place. Annie ignores the ramblings of Crazy Ralph, and hitches a ride to the road that leads to the camp. Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), the new owner, has heard all of the same rumors, and has decided to ignore them as well. He doesn’t believe that the camp is cursed, and he has been working tirelessly, to try and get the grounds ready for campers who will be arriving in two weeks. (As an aside: “Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey, where the movie was filmed, is still in operation).”

Steve leaves his new counselors with a good deal of work to do, as he takes off for town to run some errands. Work is quickly forgotten, and the teens begin to explore where they’ll be staying for the next number of weeks. The teens, however, as the viewer knows, are not alone, they’re being watched. If that weren’t bad enough, Ned, the practical joker of the group, among several of his other antics, does something not at all funny. He pretends to drown. All he can hope to achieve with that stupid act, is to anger, who or what, is watching the counselors. Later that same evening, a bad thunderstorm forces everyone indoors. Jack and Marcie go off to a cabin to spend time alone; Ned wanders off by himself, and Alice, Bill, and Brenda play a game of strip monopoly. Throughout the night, however, a killer will strike repeatedly, in an attempt to once more cause enough mayhem, in order for Camp Crystal Lake to be closed. Those seeking help will of course find that the phone lines are not working, and all of the cars are having mechanical trouble. Who or what is disposing of the camp counselors? Will anyone survive the evening of horrors?

The original “Friday the 13th” is different, in a number of ways, from the films that would follow. Jason, for one, is linked, and rightfully so, to the franchise as a whole. He is the killer who wears the hockey mask, and wields a machete to vanquish those who are foolish enough to enter the camp grounds. During the 95 minute runtime of the original, he wasn’t the focal point. In fact, while his one appearance in the original is impactful, the filmmakers might’ve decided that the movie was a standalone. Of course, the money the film earned at the box office all but guaranteed a sequel. Imagine, however, if Jason had been relegated to that one scene he does appear in. Would the debate be, among horror film fans, as to his actual validity? Was Jason real, or was he merely the product of a nightmare?

Trivia buffs take note: The first person to ever die in a “Friday the 13th” film was actor Willie Adams; he played Barry, the camp counselor who sneaks off with his girlfriend during the opening scene. The working title of the script was called “Long Night at Camp Blood.”  Harry Crosby, who plays camp counselor Bill, is the son of the late, legendary Oscar winner Bing Crosby (Going My Way). Filming at the camp site lasted 28 days. In the evenings, most of the cast and crew, would return to their hotel rooms, however, Tom Savini and his special makeup effects assistant Taso N. Stavrakis (Dawn of the Dead)  would stay at the camp grounds. The two would alternate watching the same couple of movies on VHS, to pass the time. The score composed by Harry Manfredini (House), which is mainly comprised of ki ki ki ma ma ma is featured only when the killer is present, with the exception of the ending of the film. Two time Oscar winner Sally Field (Places in the Heart) auditioned, and was turned down for the role of Alice Hardy. In addition, Oscar winner Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde) was asked to play the part of Mrs. Voorhees, but politely declined. The role wound up being given to Betsy Palmer, who although she had made a number of appearances on television, “Friday the 13th” marked her first film role, since the 1959 film “The Last Angry Man.” (As an aside: I had the pleasure of meeting Betsy Palmer, at a horror fan film convention, and she couldn’t have been nicer. She answered a few questions I had for her, took a picture with me, and autographed a picture for me).   

The film was directed by Sean S. Cunningham (The Last House on the Left), admittedly, because he thought it would make him enough money to pay off his bills; he was right, and then some. “Friday the 13th” was budgeted for an estimated $550,000 and would proceed to gross approximately $40,000,000.  The  horror hit was written by three time Emmy winner Vic Miller (A Stranger Is Watching). Premiering on May 9, 1980, it launched a franchise that, as of the writing of this post, includes: nine sequels; one crossover film, where Jason squares off against fellow horror icon, Freddy Krueger; a 2009 remake of the original; as well as the two time Emmy nominated television series of the same name, which ran from October 3, 1987 through May 14, 1990.

“Friday the 13th,” when viewed today, is rather tame compared to contemporary horror films. The total body count during the film was ten people. Of that number, half of the deaths that occur, happen off screen, which helped to cut down on unnecessary excess, the type which the sequels would revel in. There is blood and gore, but not to the level of today’s films, or even film’s that have been produced in the past two decades. The kills that are shown on screen, were orchestrated by the outstanding, Tom Savini (Day of the Dead), and although dated, they still hold up well all these years later. For example, the demise of poor Kevin Bacon’s character Jack, should be especially pleasing to hardcore fans of the genre. The final edit of the film delivers a movie which is well paced, and maintains a level of suspense throughout its runtime, that, coupled with some genuine scares, drives the film forward toward its conclusion.

 

 

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“Let the Right One In” (2008)

The film “Let the Right One In” is set in 1982, in Sweden, in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a twelve year old child who is often lonely. His parents. Yvonne (Karin Bergquist) and Erik (Henrik Dahl)  have divorced. Furthermore, he is frequently the target of Conny (Patrik Rydmark), Jimmy (Rasmus Luthander), and Martin (Mikael Erhardsson), who are a trio of bullies at his school. In order to escape his isolation, he ventures outside of the apartment building where he lives, when Yvonne leaves for work at night. It is there, as well as other places, where he dreams of revenge against those who torment him. One evening, he meets the mysterious Eli (Lina Leandersson). She is one of two new tenants, who have moved into the building where he lives. Eli is new in town, and she and Oskar appear to be the same age. She doesn’t act like a child of twelve, and for good reason, she’s not. Eli is, in fact, a two centuries old vampire, stuck for eternity inside of a child’s body. The other new tenant is Hakan (Per Ragnar). For an undisclosed amount of time, he has been helping to provide Eli with what she needs, but as of late, he hasn’t been taking care of her at the level he used to. This, in turn, forces Eli, to venture out on her own in order to ensure her survival.

A friendship between Oskar and Eli grows stronger as the film progresses; even though Eli stated, when they first met, that the two couldn’t be friends. Their friendship is a struggle at times, but what seemingly becomes Oskar’s love for Eli, wins out, whenever he’s in a moral quandary regarding her actions. As she explains to him, in a matter of fact manner, she does what she has to in order to survive, not because she likes it. Oskar’s acceptance of, and concern for Eli, is something which she greatly appreciates. Eli attempts to reciprocate the friendship Oskar has shown her by getting him to drop his passive approach to dealing with the bullies, and take his revenge on them out of his fantasy life and into the real world. In essence, she is trying to instill in Oskar the courage to stand up for himself and fight back.

The film does not showcase an overabundance of special effects, or shock value, but is instead character driven. The horror aspects of the movie, are for the most part implied, and not shown to the viewer. The blood and gore that is shown in the film, mostly represents the aftermath of what has taken place. In addition, in many respects “Let the Right One In” is not a traditional vampire film. Eli need not fear seeing crosses, eating garlic, or people trying to kill her with wooden stakes, but she is still governed by a good deal of the well known vampire mythology. For example, going out in the sunlight is off limits to her, as is entering someone’s residence without an invitation; these are things that can result in dire consequences for her.

“Let the Right One In” was directed by BAFTA winner Tomas Alfredson. John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote the screenplay, which was adapted from his bestselling, 2004 novel Låt den rätte komma in.” On October 28, 2008, St. Martin’s Griffin published an English version of the novel, which was translated by Ebba Segerberg. The film premiered on January 26, 2008 in Sweden at the Göteborg International Film Festival. On September 13, 2010, an American-British remake of the 2008 film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film which was re-titled “Let Me In,” was written and directed by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes). The English language version stared Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Oskar, the character’s name was changed to Owen for the remake. Additionally, Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), was cast in the role of Eli, whose name was changed to Abby. While overall, not a bad film, it failed to generate a profit at the box office. The film was budgeted for approximately $20,000,000 and it grossed a bit over $12,000,000. Conversely, “Let the Right One In” was budgeted for an estimated $4,000,000 and wound up making close to $11,300,000.

Trivia buffs take note: Actress Lina Leandersson’s voice was considered too delicate to be that of a centuries old vampire, so actress Elif Ceylan, was cast to do voice over work for all of Leandersson’s dialogue. In 2005, the short story collection “Låt de gamla drömmarna dö,” which translates into “Let the Old Dreams Die,” was written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. He writes what life is like for Oskar and Eli, years after the events of “Let the Right One In.”  In 2017, TNT was set to produce a series based on the film, but for unknown reasons, the show never came to fruition, even though a pilot episode had been ordered by the network.

What makes the atmospheric film a fantastic entry into the horror genre, is the relationship between Oskar and Eli. The child actors do an excellent job in their respective roles; there is not a false note to be found between them. The cinematography of Oscar nominee Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk) helps to excellently capture the right amount of tension. In addition, the score composed by Johan Söderqvist (Spring Tide), helps to set the right tone for what is transpiring on screen. For those looking for something that strays from conventional vampire movies to deliver an absorbing and well-executed film, this is a can’t miss, especially for horror fans, who haven’t yet gotten around to watching this gem from Sweden.

 

 

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“Village of the Damned” (1960)

“Village of the Damned” begins on what appears to be an idyllic afternoon, in the English countryside, in the village of Midwich. Gordan Zellaby, portrayed by Oscar winner George Sanders (All About Eve) is talking with his brother-in-law, Major Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn), when their communication is suddenly interrupted. Major Bernard didn’t like the way the phone call ended, and asks permission of his commanding officer, General Leighton (John Phillips), to investigate.

As Major Bernard will soon learn, every person in the town of Midwich has fallen into a state of unconsciousness at the exact same moment. The military springs into action, setting up a blockade, which prevents anyone from entering the village, however, a plane flies too low over the village, and the pilot passes out, causing his plane to crash. The cause of what is taking place in Midwich can’t be determined; however, it is apparently not a harmful gas or toxin, that was released into the atmosphere. Within the span of several hours, the villagers awaken, with no discernible damage to themselves, but also, no recollection of what happened. The full ramifications of their collective unconsciousness, won’t be fully realized until later.

In several months time, the twelve women of childbearing age, who reside in the village, are pregnant. If that didn’t cause enough turmoil, the women, will wind up all giving birth on the same day. Those females include Zellaby’s wife, Anthea (Barbara Shelley). As it turns out, she will give birth to David (Martin Stephens), who will become the leader of the children. The twelve children, six boys and six girls, grow at an alarming rate. Furthermore, they all share the same physical characteristics; pale complexions, platinum blonde hair, high foreheads, and thin fingernails. They shun the other village children, opting to stick only to themselves. In addition, during the runtime of the 77 minute film, the children will demonstrate that they have telepathic abilities. They’re able to communicate with one another, even when far apart, and when one child learns something new, the other children,  instantaneously acquire the same knowledge.

From the moment the children were born, the people of Midwich were seemingly against them, except for Zellaby and his wife. The fear that the children’s presence causes, sets up the second part of the film. The hostility from the villagers, in turn, causes the children to unleash their abilities. When the children use their powers, their eyes glow, and at the same time, a humming noise can be heard. The adults who show distrust and are scornful of the children, are compelled to do things against their will, which results in self-harm. The more the children are antagonized, the more they unleash their powers.

Gordan and Anthea appear to be the only people, in Midwich, who want to find out what the children’s agenda is? Are they on Earth to cause harm? Do they bring knowledge far superior to our own, that can be shared for our betterment? Will Zellaby succeed in finding out the answers, before fear overtakes and destroys Midwich? There are apparently children, like the ones in Midwich, in other parts of the world. How are they behaving? Have they let their intentions be known?  (As an aside: The way the filmmakers were able to make it appear as if the children’s eyes were glowing, was by matting a negative (reversed) image of the actors eyes over their pupils, when they were compelling one of the villagers to do something against their will). 

 

“Village of the Damned” was directed by Wolf Rilla (Strange Affection), who co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar winner Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night), and Ronald Kinnoch (The Ipcress File), who wrote under the pseudonym, George Barclay. The screenplay was based on the 1957 novel “The Midwich Cuckoos,” written by John Wyndham, and published by Michael Joseph. The film premiered in London on June 16, 1960. Director John Carpenter (Halloween) remade the film in 1995. Carpenter’s version was written for the screen by David Himmelstein (My Name is Sara), with additional contributions, although not credited, from Steven Siebert (Pulsebeat) and Larry Sulkis (Ghosts of Mars). The film stared BAFTA winner Christopher Reeve (Superman) and Golden Globe winner Kirstie Alley (Cheers).

The original 1960’s movie, for the most part, contains a captivating plot, and in general, is well paced. The horror, in the atmospheric film, is understated to be sure. There is nothing in the way of gore and blood. Instead, anything that can be perceived as horrific is insinuated. For those seeking horror that is implied as opposed to visceral, and are in the mood to watch a classic of the genre, this should hold your interest.

 

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“Ghost Adventures: Season 5 – Episode 5: Lizzie Borden House”

For over a decade the Travel Channel  has produced 246 episodes, and counting, of their immensely popular series “Ghost Adventures.”  The series was created by Zak Bagans and Nick Groff. Bagans, conceived of the show based, on what he claimed was, his own personal experience with a ghost, that scared him so badly that he had to leave his home, and sleep in his car, until daylight. Bagans relayed his experience to Groff, and the two teamed up, to prove the validity of not only Bagans’ claim, but that of countless others, who have reported having seen, or having been haunted by something supernatural. In addition to Groff, who left the show in 2014, in this episode, Bagans is joined by Aaron Goodwin, who serves as the equipment tech, in charge of capturing whatever evidence he can on audio and video, as Bagans and Groff conduct their investigation. Each of the “Ghost Adventures” episodes is approximately 43 minutes in length, and the team travels to supposedly haunted locales in the United States and abroad.

Premiering on October 21, 2011, the episode begins with Bagans standing in front of the infamous Borden house. He begins to relay background information, which I’ve expanded upon to a degree, on the horrific event that occurred there: The double murder of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother, Andrew, 70, and Abby Borden, 63, took place on August 4, 1892, in the Borden’s home, at 92 Second Street, in Fall River, Massachusetts. The Bordens were struck a combined thirty times. Abby’s body was discovered, lying face down in a pool of blood on the floor of the upstairs master bedroom, while Andrew Borden’s body was found on the couch in the sitting room, his face unrecognizable to those who had known him. The well known rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one,” while appropriately creepy, doesn’t encapsulate what actually happened to Abby and Andrew. Furthermore, for the sake of historical accuracy, the Bordens were killed with a hatchet, not an axe, not that it makes what happened to them any less horrific. Within less than a week of the murders, the prime suspect for the crime, was and still is, over a 127 years later, former Mission Chapel Sunday School teacher, the Borden’s daughter Lizzie, who at the time was 32 years old.

Throughout the episode, historical pictures are shown to the viewer, as well as reenactments of what might have taken place. The team speaks with, among others: the property manager, Lee-Ann Wilber, who gives the team a tour of the house; paranormal investigators, Matt Moniz and Tim Weisberg, both of whom claim to have been part of a ghost sighting in the basement of the house, which became physical; and journalist and paranormal researcher, Jeff Berlinger, meets up with the team at the cemetery, where the Bordens are buried, and imparts information regarding the history of the Borden’s house; as it turns out, a terrible occurrence happened there, long before the now infamous murders.

The second part of the episode pertains to the Ghost Adventures team’s lockdown. In every episode, once the sun goes down, the team locks themselves inside the haunted location, all of their equipment having already been set up, and proceeds to stay in the location, until morning. This episode is no different, however, the team is not alone. The team members are joined by Eleanor Thibault, a tour guide, who worked at the house for twelve years, and has stated that she dislikes going down into the basement, because she feels a spirit resides down there. In addition, also joining the Ghost Adventure members, was psychic medium, Liz Nowicki, who has conducted other outings in the house. She claims that the spirits there don’t like her, especially, Andrew Borden, because of certain questions she asks him, based on historical speculation. The purpose for the two women being there is to participate in a séance.

Does the team capture the voice or ghostly images of the Bordens? If the spirits are still residing in the house do they speak to the Ghost Adventure team? If the spirits do speak to them, what do they tell them? Do the spirits state who killed them? Will other potential secrets lost to history come out, in order to give a clearer picture as to why the murders were committed? What, if anything, do the ghosts do in order to make their presence known? All of those questions and more will be answered by the conclusion of the episode. I found this episode, as I do, almost all of the episodes to be interesting and entertaining, and in this episode in particular, I learned something, that I had not previously known, even though I have watched a number of documentaries and films on the subject.

 

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“Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)

The seventh installment in the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film franchise takes place approximately a decade after the iconic first movie in the series premiered. When the film opens, it appears as if Freddy has returned. Is he back once again to do major damage to the descendants of those who hunted him down and took justice into their own hands, after the legal system failed the victims of his crimes? Leaving Freddy’s motivations for revenge aside, it’s not as if he didn’t deserve the vigilante justice he received. He was, after all, known, prior to his capture and trial, as The Springwood Slasher, responsible for multiple murders. Freddy, who is not shown on screen, seems to be building a new and improved weapon, his signature glove. This time, however, it is robotic, but when the camera pans back, we see that it is merely special effects people, working on a film set. This being a horror movie, things don’t remain docile for long, and soon the glove begins to malfunction, causing Heather Langenkamp, the star of two previous films in the series, including the original, to wake up screaming from a nightmare.

Viewers will soon realize that things are different this time around. Freddy is back, there is no hiding that fact, especially years later, but so are several of the key players from the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but not in the way audiences watching the film for the first time in 1994, probably expected. This was not merely another story involving Freddy Krueger stalking the dreams of the descendants of those who had killed him years earlier. Actress Heather Lagenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), stars in the film, but she’s not playing the part of horror heroine, Nancy Thompson. Instead, she’s portraying herself, as if the events of the movie, are actually occurring and haven’t been scripted. In the film, she’s married to Chase (David Newsom), a special effects production guru, and is a mother to her young son, Dylan (Miko Hughes).

When director Wes Craven, who also portrays himself in the film, begins to have nightmares, the bad dreams that he’s having, seem to give birth to the real Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven’s dreams, seemingly bring Krueger out of the movies as a fictional character, and into the real world. Heather’s relatively idyllic life, begins to take a turn for the worse, with everything from creepy phone calls, to her son having horrible dreams, where he winds up sleepwalking. When Heather confronts Craven about what is going on, he states that he is working on a new script involving Freddy. He posits, that by killing Freddy off in the 1991 film “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” directed by BAFTA nominee Rachel Talalay, who co-wrote the screenplay for the film with three time Oscar nominee Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips) that Freddy is no longer confined to fiction. Craven fears that a more dangerous version of Freddy has been released, because he feels horror stories keep out real world fears from taking over, but once the stories no longer exist, it opens a doorway to let the things that haunt us into our everyday lives. Craven lets Heather know, that he is once more going to need a champion to vanquish the evil that has escaped; that someone that he needs, is a reluctant Heather.

In addition to Heather Lagenkamp and Wes Craven, other people involved with the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” reprise their roles. Robert Englund, once again returns to play both himself, and a darker, more dangerous version of Freddy. Heather is not the only one having nightmares about Freddy. Englund, apparently for the first time, is allowing the character he brought to cinematic life for the six prior films, and in the television series “Freddy’s Nightmares,” to get to him psychologically. Furthermore, Golden Globe winner John Saxon (This Happy Feeling) starts off playing himself, but as the film progresses, he reverts back to the role of Lt. Thompson, who is not only a member of law enforcement, but Heather’s fictional father in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” A few people involved with the first film make cameo appearances: Robert Shaye, who produced the original Elm Street film; his sister, Lin Shaye, who played a small part as a teacher in the first movie, but is probably most recognized these days for her role as psychic, Elise Rainier in the “Insidious” films; and Jsu Garcia, who played Nick Corri, one of the main teenage protagonists in the original film.

The film was written and directed by Wes Craven (Scream). The movie premiered in Germany at the Fantasy Filmfest in August 1994. The film which has a runtime of 112 minutes is comprised of the genres of fantasy – horror – mystery and thriller. Trivia buffs take note: This is the only film in the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise that doesn’t feature opening titles. Prior to filming, Heather Langenkamp was dealing with a stalker in real life; she gave permission to Craven to use the storyline in the film. In the film’s credits, Freddy Krueger is credited as himself, even though Robert Englund played the part. Furthermore, Englund has stated that “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” is his favorite film in the series.

Unfortunately, for Craven and all involved, the film didn’t garner, anywhere near the box office returns of the previous six films, in the franchise. For example, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was budgeted for an estimated $1,800,000, and went on to gross approximately $25,504, 513. The profits would only rise as subsequent films were released. For example, my personal favorite in the series “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” was budgeted for an estimated $4,500,000, and went on to gross approximately $44,793, 222.  “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” had an estimated budget of $8,000,000 and grossed approximately $18,000,000, far below expectations based off of the earning power of the previous six films in the series. Speculation at the time, was that viewers wanted the standard slice and dice Freddy Krueger film, and instead they were watching something that was not at all what they were used to. Audiences, if the film were released today, I believe, would have an overall positive reaction to the movie. I also think it would’ve done much bigger box office, based off of positive word of mouth. The film, despite its detractors, is a refreshing entry into a series, that while enjoyable for me, being the horror film fan that I am, became a welcomed departure from the, by and large, formulaic films that were produced, as the number of sequels increased.

 

 

 

 

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