Freddy’s Nightmares – The Pilot Episode

In October of 1984, in West Germany, at the Hof International Film Festival, writer and director, Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” an iconic film of the horror genre, was first screened. The original film would be the catalyst that would launch a franchise that consisted of six sequels, and a crossover movie between Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and “Friday the 13th’s” Jason Voorhees. Additionally, four years after the original film premiered, the forty-four episode television series, “Freddy’s Nightmares,” had its original air date on October 9, 1988. The pilot episode, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” was directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and written by three time Oscar nominee Michael De Luca (Moneyball), Emmy nominee David Ehrman (24), and Rhet Topham (976-EVIL).


The episode opens with a news anchorman (Bob Goen) giving a report on the chaotic happenings in the town of Springwood, Ohio. The anchorman speaks for a brief time, and after experiencing signal disruption, Freddy appears. He informs the viewer that they have nothing to fear. This time, Freddy is replaying his own nightmare. The scene shifts back to the same reporter, who is now standing outside the Springwood Municipal Courthouse, where the pre-trial hearing of accused killer, Freddy Krueger is being held. Springwood prosecutor, Mr. Deeks (William Frankfather) is presenting a slideshow of all of Krueger’s victims, as Krueger sits and watches from inside a bullet proof glass enclosure. When Deeks finishes his presentation, the judge (Gwen E. Davis) asks Krueger’s defense attorney (Steven Reisch) if he has any motions to make. When Krueger’s attorney speaks, he asks that the case be dismissed. As it turns out, the arresting officer, Lt. Timothy Blocker (Ian Patrick Williams), failed to read Krueger his Miranda rights. The judge has no choice, but to grant the defense’s motion for a dismissal. Freddy has his handcuffs and shackles removed, and is escorted from the courthouse by officers. (As an aside: Bob Goen, amongst other things he has done in his career, replaced John Tesh as co-host of Entertainment Tonight on May 30, 1996, where he worked until 2004).

Krueger being set free is something which raises the ire of Deeks and people in the courthouse, many of whom, for example, the mother of one of the victims (Alba Francesca) wants justice at any cost. She is not alone in that sentiment. Deeks, who states that he believes in the law and giving a person a fair trial, feels that the law failed the town of Springwood. He asks the victims’ family members to join him in hunting down Krueger, and making sure he pays for his crimes; they all agree. The angry contingent tracks Krueger down to the boiler room of an abandoned building. When they confront him, they set him on fire, something which was talked about in the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but never shown to viewers. If that were the end of the episode, a viewer might think that, given the circumstances, justice was served, but there is still time left. (As an aside: In addition to hearing voices in his head, when the camera shows the point-of-view through Freddy’s eyes, he sees things in infrared, and what he is looking at appears to him in a distorted manner).

Trivia buffs take note: The box office success of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” which grossed approximately 49 million dollars, was the convincing factor that led to the decision by producers to move forward with the television series. “Freddy’s Nightmares,” which was aired from 1988 through 1990, featured a number of actors and actresses that would go on to become well known in the film and television industry. Chief among them, but not limited to, were: Golden Globe winner, Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds); Emmy winner, Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights); Golden Globe winner, Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit); and Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black). Furthermore, not counting cameo appearances made by Robert Englund in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” the pilot episode is the first appearance of Freddy Krueger before he was burned.

Who will live and who will die at Freddy Krueger’s knife-gloved fingers? What manner of tortures will he inflict on those who have taken the law into their own hands? I watched the majority of the episodes as the El Rey Network was airing them over the past year. The shows range from the mediocre to good, depending on the story and the acting, although, no matter the episode, Robert Englund is always fun to watch, and the pilot episode is no exception.


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“Lights Out – Flickers Between Decent & Good”

David F. Sandberg’s “Lights Out” was originally released as a three minute, internet, horror – short film, in Sweden on December 30, 2013. Afterward, it was shown at festivals in: France – “Lyon Festival Hallucinations Collectives; Spain – “Bilbao Fantasy Film Festival;” and the United Kingdom – “Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival.”  I don’t remember watching it, until after it had been entered in the United States’ “Who’s There Film Challenge,” which took place on December 29, 2014. I found the horror short to be effective and gripping, because I was aware that, due to its short duration, there would be a resolution to what was transpiring before too much time had elapsed. Sandberg was inundated with calls from Hollywood, after “Lights Out” garnered strong critical praise, and audience enthusiasm.

What made “Lights Out” such an enjoyable horror – short film to watch, was not so much what it did show, but what was not explained to the viewer. There was no time for character development in Sandberg’s original short. The film dealt with Lotta Losten’s character, who is listed as ‘woman’ in the credits, getting ready to go to bed for the evening. After exiting the bathroom, and walking toward her bedroom, she shuts off the hallway light. No sooner does she do so, she immediately notices that something is not right. She turns the light back on and as she looks down the hallway, someone or something appears to be situated there. No spoken dialogue is used during the film, so she doesn’t call out to the person or creature. Instead, she merely shuts the lights off again, and the next time she turns on the light the being has moved closer to her bedroom door. Once again, she dismisses what she is seeing as a figment of her imagination, and proceeds to turn the lights out. When she does so, the entity’s presence is seemingly within arm’s reach, and she becomes utterly terrified. After taping up her hallway light switch, she gets into bed, and under the covers. Unfortunately for the woman, it is a mere matter of seconds before what has been stalking her reveals itself. If you haven’t seen the short, it is very easy to find on, and well worth the minimal watch time. (As an aside: Lotta Losten, who appears in both the short film, as well as the feature, is David F. Sandberg’s wife).

The catalyst for the remake begins in the same manner as the original short film. Instead of a house, however, this time the opening scene takes place in a factory. The regular employees have left for the evening. The only two people in the factory are the owner Paul (Billy Burke), and his secretary Esther (Lotta Losten). Esther spots what, at first glance, appears to be a woman, but regardless, who or whatever she may be, she does not belong in the factory at that hour. What makes the woman’s presence even more bizarre, is that whenever a light comes on in the area she’s located in, she vanishes; however, each subsequent time the lights go off, the mysterious female reappears even closer to Esther than where she was last located. Esther removes herself from the situation and gets to safety. Paul is on the phone with his son Martin (Gabriel Bateman), and has no plans to leave until he is finished talking; it is a decision that, unfortunately for Paul, he will have next to no time to regret.


The topic that Paul was discussing with Martin, was a serious one, concerning his ex-wife and Martin’s mother, Sophie, who is portrayed by two time Golden Globe nominee, Maria Bello (A History of Violence). Over the past several months Sophie, who suffers from severe depression, has declined to take her prescribed medication. The pills literally help to keep the monsters, in this instance, a malevolent spirit, named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey), out of her life. The more time passes without her consuming her correct dosages, the worse things escalate. The situation becomes so out-of-hand, to the point where Martin can no longer sleep at night. This leads to his drifting off to sleep in the middle of the school day out of sheer exhaustion. Martin’s behavior, which is becoming a pattern, prompts a phone call home from the school’s concerned nurse (Elizabeth Pan). When she is unable to reach Sophie, she manages to get in touch with Martin’s step-sister Rebecca, a role acted by Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies). Rebecca’s relationship with Sophie is a contentious one.

Rebecca is a bit perplexed as to what to do with Martin. She likes spending time with her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), but is still commitment shy, not allowing him to spend the night at her place, nor can he even keep things there; not even it seems, one sock, let alone a pair. The last thing she seemingly needs is the responsibility of taking care of a school-aged child. Her line of thinking changes, however, when Martin talks to her about Diana. Rebecca has her own unpleasant childhood history with Diana. She informs Emma (Andi Osho) from child services, that she would rather keep Martin, then return him to Sophie’s house, but since Sophie is Martin’s mother, doing so is not such a cut-and-dry matter.


Once Martin is returned to Sophie, Rebecca begins an inquiry to discover who, and what, Diana is, and her connection to her immediate family. She is determined to put a stop to the creature, for her family’s sake. There is more to Diana’s story, as the viewer will learn, than just the fact the she thrives in darkness, but is reduced to nothing in light. For example, Diana and Sophie spent time together at a mental institution when they were children. Along with Bret and Martin’s help, Rebecca is going to reclaim the family home – one light at a time; as well her mother’s sanity by making sure Sophie takes her medication as prescribed.


What is the purpose for Diana’s existence? If she and Sophie were in an institution when they were children – when and how did Diana gain the power to terrify by the literal flick of a switch? Will Rebecca be able to save her step-brother’s life? What happens to Sophie? Does she regain her mental faculties? Does she sink into an even deeper depression, thanks to Diana, the likes of which there will be no returning from? All of those questions, and more, will be answered by film’s end, although don’t be surprised if a few are revisited in the sequel, which has begun filming, and is scheduled to be released in May of 2017.



The 81 minute feature film version of “Lights Out” premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 8, 2016. While Sandberg had, in essence, no budget to work with to film his short, he had close to five million dollars to use for the filming of the feature. Joining him as a co-writer on the script of “Lights Out” was Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5). Where the film falters, is that it doesn’t offer the viewer characters to get really invested in. Additionally, the script is, at times, rife with exposition. In fairness to the filmmakers, the scares, when they do appear on screen, are thrilling and in certain parts, tension filled, so credit must be given to cinematographer, Marc Spicer (Furious 7). Those looking for blood soaked carnage and gore will be sorely disappointed because there is none of it. The film relies more on elements of the supernatural and tension to help advance the narrative. For the most part, I found “Lights Out” to be entertaining, for a one time viewing experience, but it is certainly nothing I am anxious to watch again anytime in the near future.



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“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – One of the Earliest Horror Films”

The compelling and effective silent film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” directed by Robert Wiene (The Knight of the Rose) is considered, by critics and enthusiasts alike, to be a masterpiece of the German Expressionist movement. The story and screenplay were conceived by Carl Meyer (Sunrise) and Hans Janowitz (Der Januskopf). While the film, according to IMDB, is said to have first been screened in Poland in 1920, there is neither a date, nor a town listed where the premiere occurred. The next mention of the film being screened was in Berlin, Germany on February 26, 1920. If you have seen the movie, depending on what format you first viewed it in, the running time varies. On the VHS tape edition the film’s duration was approximately 51 minutes, whereas, once the movie was restored from existing film prints into a DVD, over twenty minutes of additional footage was added, bringing the film’s runtime to 73 minutes. (As an aside: Hans Janowitz stated that the initial idea for Caligari came about by a personal experience he had, while attending a carnival. He claims he observed a strange looking man, who was following an attractive woman around the carnival. The next day, the woman had been found murdered. When Janowitz attended her funeral, the man that had been stalking her was also in attendance).


The film opens with a young man, who the viewer will soon learn is named Francis played by Friedrich Feher (The Robber Symphony). He is relating a story to an older companion while they sit outside on a bench in a garden. The story Francis is telling his friend centers around an evil man by the name of Caligari. While the two are conversing, a woman dressed all in white walks by, in what I can best describe as a tranquil, dreamlike manner. When she passes the two men, she doesn’t give either of them even a second’s glance. What turns out to be very surprising regarding her completely ignoring them, is that Francis informs his companion that the woman who just walked by them, Jane Olsen (Lil Dagover), is his fiancée. (As an aside: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was one of the first movies to ever utilize flashback as a way to advance the narrative of a film).

The mysterious Dr. Caligari is a hypnotist, portrayed by Werner Krauss (Waxworks), who seemingly always appears to be wearing a sinister scowl on the contours of his face. He has arrived at the town of Holstenwall, Germany, at the clerk’s office, where he is applying for the proper permits to exhibit at the town’s fair. The only attraction in his exhibit is a somnambulist named Cesare who sleeps in a coffin – the part is acted by Conrad Veidt (Casablanca). The town clerk doesn’t show much respect, nor does he exercise a great deal of patience while dealing with Dr. Caligari. Interestingly enough, whether through sheer coincidence, or because the clerk disrespected the wrong man, later that evening, the same dismissive fellow is found murdered.

The next day, Caligari is entertaining patrons at the fair while showcasing his exhibit. He is regaling them with information about Cesare’s improbable background and ability. According to Dr. Caligari, the thin and tall, Cesare, who is garbed completely in black, which matches his hair color and dark rimmed eyes, has been sleeping for the past twenty-three years. Caligari has the ability to wake him, and once he does, he informs those in attendance that Cesare will be able to answer any question a person asks about the past or future. Francis, the man from the start of the story, is attending the fair with his best friend, Alan (Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski.). Alan has a yearning to know how long he will live? He asks Cesare for the amount of time he has left. The blood curdling response the somnambulist gives to Alan, is that he will be dead by the dawn of the next day. At first, Alan and Francis, appear to be fixated on the morbid answer, but soon move away from matters of horror to those of the heart. The viewer will learn, that there was a time when both men were vying for Jane’s love and affection. In fact, they made an agreement that they would let Jane decide who she wanted to be with, and that whoever she chose, the other would accept their fate, and the men would remain friends. Alan, like the town clerk before him, meets an untimely end before dawn, as predicted by Cesare. His demise, which is shown on screen, is done with a less is more approach. Instead of showing the brutality of the kill, the filmmakers opted to let light and shadow dominate the majority of the scene.




When Francis learns of Alan’s murder, he sets out to do two things: Firstly, he has to inform Jane of the tragedy. Secondly, he decides to help aid the police investigation into his friend’s killing. The search for Alan’s killer doesn’t take long, as the police arrest a man who attempted to murder a woman on the evening following Alan’s murder. The investigation into Alan’s death, however, is not over. While the man does confess to trying to kill the woman, he admits that he was doing so, in hopes that her death would deflect suspicion from him, and would instead be linked to the other two murders. In the interim, while Jane is out looking for Francis, she comes across Dr. Caligari, who invites her inside his dwelling to see Cesare. The appearance of the somnambulist unnerves her, and she runs off having been given a terrible fright. During the evening, Francis keeps a vigilant watch through the window of where Caligari is staying; his sole focus is on Cesare, who doesn’t so much as stir during the night. Little does he know, Dr. Caligari, is several steps ahead of him, and what Francis is actually looking at is a life sized dummy of Cesare. The viewer will learn, that the real Cesare has apparently been given instructions, by the diabolical Dr. Caligari, to kill Jane.



Will Cesare be able to go through with murdering Jane? If he does, will Francis take the law into his own hands and kill the creature? How strong a hold does Dr. Caligari have over his somnambulist? What, if any, motivations are there for the murders? Furthermore, after Dr. Caligari’s ruse is discovered regarding Cesare, he is chased by Francis to an insane asylum. Why would a man, who is trying to escape incarceration, seek shelter in a place where he can be just as easily locked up? All of those questions and more will be answered by film’s end.

In closing, credit must deservedly be given to the set and production values, which were the work of  Hermann Warm (Vampyr), Walter Reimann (A Daughter of Destiny), and Walter Röhrig (Faust). What the three men accomplished, would be considered simplistic by today’s standards, but their output was highly stylized for the time period. The film, which was produced on a budget of approximately, $18,000, looks fantastic given its age and the available technology of the early 1900s. The staircases, windows, and walls appear as if they are products of an hallucination, so too do the dilapidated configurations of the buildings that populate the film, which make them appear too dangerous to step into, let alone work or live in. Furthermore, there are particular scenes, where sharp pieces of what take on the appearance of broken, jagged edges of glass, seem to be jutting from the trees and grass of the landscape. For those of you, who normally opt to, perhaps never watch silent films, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you make an exception in the case of this movie.



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“I Am Nancy – Offers A Behind The Scenes Look At A Horror Heroine”

“I knew from the first day on set of Nightmare that there was something special about this movie and I honestly think that had I been involved with a different horror franchise I don’t think I would have been that open to coming back to do any sequels,”… And what I love about Nightmare is that there haven’t been any other horror franchises where you see an original character come back at various stages in her life and experience her maturing along with fans….I think that kind of continuity within a franchise is exceptional and that’s why fans care about the movies we make.”

Heather Langenkamp

During the course of three of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films, actress Heather Langenkamp (Just the Ten of Us)  portrayed the character of heroine, Nancy Thompson. The first time movie audiences were introduced to her, was in director Wes Craven’s (Scream) iconic horror film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). In the original entry, Nancy endures the butchering of her friends, at the knife-fingered hand of the ultimate invader of bad dreams, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Determined to stay alive, Nancy fights back by using her ingenuity, and by placing booby traps throughout her home, which she will eventually use to fight Freddy, if she can get his corporeal form into the real world, and out of her nightmares. Nancy believes she has discovered the secret to ending Freddy’s reign, and will do what is necessary to execute her plan. Unfortunately for Nancy, but not for legions of horror fans, she was wrong.



Langenkamp would reprise her role of Nancy for a second time in 1987 in the third entry into the franchise, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” In Dream Warriors, Nancy is now a grown woman, and working as a psychiatrist who specializes in dream therapy. This time, she is attempting to help a group of hospitalized teens. Kristen Parker, the most powerfully gifted of the group, portrayed by Oscar winner Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), has the ability to bring other individuals into her dreams. The teens, like her former friends, are being relentlessly tormented by Freddy in their nightmares. Nancy is attempting to show them how they can turn the situation they encounter in their dreams to their advantage, and thereby fight back against Kruger.


Langenkamp’s third, and at least as of the writing of this post, final return to the Elm Street series, came in 1994 with the movie “New Nightmare.”  In the seventh installment in the series, a demon has chosen to use Freddy Krueger as a conduit to gain access into the real world. Heather plays a mother, who is determined to protect her son, Dylan (Miko Hughes) from being harmed by Freddy, or more importantly, from the entity using him. This time, she will take whatever steps are necessary to permanently end the existence of Freddy, from committing any more atrocities.

The entertaining documentary “I Am Nancy” was released on April 29, 2011, on – the film’s website – for streaming rental, and DVD purchase. The 71 minute film marked the directing debut for Arlene Marechal. The project took approximately two years to film, during which time, Langenkamp travelled to different horror film conventions. In between signing autographs, and posing for pictures with fans, she interviewed between one hundred and one hundred and fifty people at each of the convention stops. Throughout the documentary’s runtime, it is shown, that there is not a great deal of memorabilia depicting Nancy’s likeness on things such as action figures and t-shirts. Nor do any fans, it seems, get Nancy tattoos whereas many fans get Freddy tats (some very impressive), such as the ink Mikey Rotella, who is interviewed at the start of the film, has. The topic the documentary concerns itself with, in what Langenkamp fully admits, is a very tongue-in-cheek manner: Why does  Freddy Krueger have an immense fandom, considering he represents evil incarnate. Why is there not a similarly enormous fan base for Nancy, as the heroine?



There are a number of fans, however, that were interviewed that spoke about the positive impact Langenkamp’s character has had on their lives. Some of those fans, for example, were people who had been bullied, and used Nancy as a role model to stand up against their own personal ‘Freddy Kruegers.’ One particularly memorable interviewee was a British fan named Jude. She had been involved in an horrific automobile accident, which led to her having her leg amputated, as well as having to endure a prolonged hospital stay. The resilient Jude, however, who had to undergo numerous skin grafts to fix the extensive damage caused by the accident, never gave up. While watching the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” during her recuperation, Jude, in a manner of speaking, not only identified with, but took inspiration from the character of Nancy. She equated Nancy’s fight with Freddy, with her own battle to live and fight on, and it gave her the needed impetus to never give up.

In addition to the fans Langenkamp met at the various conventions, she also conducted interviews with both Robert Englund and Wes Craven. Englund was generous with his time and his praise for Langenkamp’s contributions to the series. He opines as to why he feels the films have resonated as successfully as they have with the fan base.  Furthermore, he discusses why he feels Wes Craven made the perfect choice in casting Langenkamp to portray the role of Nancy Thompson. (As an aside: Langenkamp, never collected Nightmare on Elm Street memorabilia. In fact, the only thing she kept from her time on all three sets, were the pajamas she was wearing when she fought Freddy Krueger in the original film. While she’s interviewing Englund, she removes a figure of herself in the tub, during the scene where Freddy’s glove comes out of the water, and asks him to autograph it for her, which he does without hesitation).




Craven’s interview with Langenkamp went beyond just the known information that has been discussed regarding the Nightmare on Elm Street films ad infinitum. For example, the conversation they have about how Craven thought up the Nancy Thompson character was informative. Craven delved into not only the reason he opted to have Nancy be his heroine, but also revealed why he made sure he wrote her character with certain personality traits in mind. His answers were sometimes humorous, such as: when he relays a story from the film “Swamp Thing” where his now grown daughter, Jessica, also interviewed in the documentary, got on her father’s case when she asked him: Why girls, such as Golden Globe nominee, Adrienne Barbeau (Maude), who played the role of Alice Cable in the film, always had to fall down while being chased by the bad guys?


The following are Langenkamp’s responses when asked what she thought of the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and if she was approached for a role in the film?

“I made a conscious decision that I never want to see another Freddy Krueger besides Robert Englund, so I didn’t see it…And I’ll never, ever, see it. It was made with the wrong set of goals, and the goals were to take advantage of an entire fan base that would basically pay 10 bucks to see Freddy again… I just can’t even express in words how disappointed I am in that kind of motive.”

“After they tested it and saw that it wasn’t going to be well received, I think they called me and asked me to do a cameo and I said, “No thank you.” I thought that it was very cynical, the whole way they made that movie was very cynical.”

For those of you interested in watching or owning a copy of “I Am Nancy,visit the website For $2.99 you can buy a streaming download of the film. If you prefer to own the documentary you can purchase it right on the website, with the option to receive an autographed copy for an additional fee. If you would prefer, there is also a link to buy the film on Amazon. Additionally, the website also sells a few other “A Nightmare on Elm Street” memorabilia items.

In closing, when I still lived on Long Island, on a number of occasions, my friends and I would take the long drive from Nassau County to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to attend Monster-Mania Conventions. Once there, we got autographs on actions figures, posters, still photos, and also took pictures with numerous entertainers, who work both in front of, and behind the camera on horror films. On two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to meet, talk with, and get items autographed by Heather Langenkamp; she couldn’t have been nicer, both in terms of her attitude while meeting me, and in the time she took to talk with me.





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“Hush – Offers A Clever Twist To A Home Invasion Horror Film”

The main protagonist of the effective and suspenseful film “Hush” is Maddie, a successful writer, portrayed by Kate Siegel (Oculus). She has moved from the big city to a house in the relative seclusion of the country. Maddie is friends with her nearest neighbor, Sarah, played by Samantha Sloyan (Grey’s Anatomy). After Sarah finishes reading one of Maddie’s novels, she stops by to return it, as well as compliment her on her writing prowess. The two women are communicating by sign language. This is necessary because Maddie became deaf, and lost the ability to talk, when she was thirteen years old, due to a severe case of meningitis. (As an aside the movie contains only fifteen minutes of spoken dialogue out of the film’s 81 minute runtime).   

A nameless killer, whose character is simply credited as ‘Man,’ and is acted by John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane), arrives on the scene. He is first seen chasing Sarah, who runs to Maddie’s sliding glass door. She desperately begins banging her hand on the glass hoping that Maddie, who is cooking in the kitchen, will turn around and see that she is being attacked, but it is to no avail. The killer, after stabbing Sarah, and removing her body from in front of the door, has sensed something is not right about the situation. He returns to the sliding door, and at first taps on the glass with his knife. Next, he starts pounding his fist hard on the glass, and realizes that the woman inside can’t hear. Her disability intrigues him, and he decides to make Maddie his next victim. There is no back story given pertaining to the murdering, psychopath. The only clue a viewer can speculate on, is that Sara has joined a number of other individuals he’s killed. This is due to horizontal scratch marks that are lined up in a numerical pattern etched into the side of a crossbow he carries; a weapon he will use to torment Maddie. While the killer at first wears a mask, after a short time, he discards it. He is not concerned about concealing his face, as did, for example, Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th.”  (As an aside: There is only one location used in the film, and the cast consists of five people; the three aforementioned, as well as Emma Graves who plays Maddie’s sister Max who is seen via web camera, and Sarah’s husband, John, portrayed by Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica).


Maddie, who is unaware that she is in real peril, busies herself with attempting to write the conclusion to her latest novel. She is also avoiding face-time phone calls from her ex-boyfriend. During a web cam communication with Max, her sister spots something that moves behind Maddie. When Max inquires about it, Maddie dismisses it, letting Max know that it is just her cat, but viewers are aware that the killer is inside the house. The killer knows that Maddie is unaware of his presence, and that he can end her life with very little effort, but he decides, that first, he wants to mess with her psyche. The killer takes Maddie’s cell phone, and begins sending her pictures while she is working on her laptop. Maddie, will soon find out, who is taking the snapshots, when the killer appears in front of the sliding glass door, where as mentioned earlier, he removes his mask. After doing so, he asks Maddie if she can read lips. When she responds ‘yes’, by shaking her head, he informs her of his intentions, and a deadly game of cat and mouse commences.

Will Maddie survive the horrifying ordeal she finds herself in? Has the killer underestimated Maddie because of her disability? If he did underestimate her ability to fight back, does it lead to his own demise? What possible plan can Maddie devise to thwart a killer who can hear her every movement, and knows when she might be trying to escape, or go on the attack?

“Hush” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 12, 2016, and at the moment, can only be viewed on Netflix. The film was directed by Mike Flanagan (Absentia), who co-wrote the screenplay with lead actress, and his spouse, Kate Siegel.  The couple were interested in making a home invasion movie, but they didn’t want it to be a standard offering that has been seen numerous times. After coming up with the idea for the struggle for survival that would take place between Maddie and the Killer, the creative team would role-play each of the scenes in their home before adding a particular scene to the script. They did this in order to attempt to make Maddie’s character’s reactions as realistic as possible.

Credit must be given to the cinematography of James Kniest (The Last Witch Hunter), which captures the seemingly hopeless situation Maddie finds herself in due to the isolation of her house. The prospect of escape, especially after the killer slashes the tire on her car, doesn’t seem to be a viable option. The sound in the film, or lack thereof, during certain scenes, in essence takes on the role of an additional cast member. Furthermore, the music, composed by The Newton Brothers (Urge), effectively helps to advance the narrative. While the film does contain gore, it is not depended on to carry the movie to its conclusion. What might at first sound like a gimmicky concept, is not, in my opinion. The fact that Maddie’s character can’t hear or speak, I felt, only helped to elevate the tension, and she makes for a realistic heroine. I don’t want to get into too much more. The less that is known about how things unfold from the point where Maddie and the killer learn of each other, the better it is for those of you who have not seen the film.


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“Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Season 2 Episode 6 – Halloween”

“She couldn’t have dressed up like Xena?”                                 

                                                                             Willow Rosenberg


The episode opens in a pumpkin patch located in the fictional town of Sunnydale, California. In fact, the town, which is the antithesis of quaint and quiet, sits atop an area known as the Hellmouth. The location is a gateway between the human world, and a place from where all types of dark and dangerous creatures venture forth. Buffy Summers, portrayed by Emmy winner, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions), is the current slayer. The petite, ultra-tough teen, is part of a lineage of  female warriors. When one slayer dies, another ‘chosen one,’ as girls such as Buffy are referred to, will rise to take the deceased slayer’s place. Buffy, in her capacity as slayer, is someone who protects humanity from the evil entities, especially the never ending attacks by vampires, one of whom she is fighting at the start of the episode.


Unbeknownst to Buffy, the fight is being videotaped for Spike (James Marsters), a British, leather duster jacket wearing, platinum blonde haired vampire. His character, at the airing of the episode, is one hundred and forty-four years old. He has vanquished two slayers during his long life. The first was Xin_Rong, a Chinese Slayer, during The Boxer Rebellion (November 2, 1899 – September 7, 1901). The second was Nikki Wood, an African American Slayer, who he fought to the death in the 1970s, aboard a moving New York City subway car. He will use the video footage of Buffy’s fight to look for weaknesses in her that he can exploit. Spike, along with his paramour, Drusilla (Juliet Landau), also a vampire, has come to Sunnydale for the express purpose of killing the slayer.


After Buffy finishes fighting, she makes her way to ‘The Bronze,’ a popular local hangout. Her reason for going there is not to socialize with her good-hearted friends – Willow Rosenberg, played by Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother), and Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon). No, on that particular night, Buffy has arrived at ‘The Bronze, post fight, to go on a date with Angel, a role acted by David Boreanaz (Bones). When she gets there, however, she sees Angel sitting at a table with the attractive Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). From what Buffy can observe, Angel is all smiles, and laughing at Cordelia’s jokes, so she turns to leave. Angel sees Buffy leaving and goes after her. When he tries to get her to stay, she basically tells him that right now, normal girl stuff, such as dating, is not what she is about.


The next day at school coincides with Halloween. Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), is Sunnydale High School’s librarian. He is also the person who watches over and teaches Buffy about the world she fights in. Giles has told Buffy that Halloween is traditionally a slow night for demonic activity. Thinking she can spend a rare, peaceful night off from slaying, and just be with her friends, she’s mistaken. Buffy, Willow, and Xander are not asked, but told by Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman), that they are going to be taking children trick-or-treating from 4:00pm – 6:00pm, and that dressing up in a costume is mandatory. The purchasing of the costumes, at a place called ‘Ethan’s,’ is the catalyst that leads to the chaos that takes place in Sunnydale for the remainder of the episode. The reason for this, is no matter what costume or prop Buffy and her friends purchase from Ethan’s, later that evening, they will take on the character traits of the costumes they are wearing. The same will happen to all the children whose parents bought their kids costumes depicting the faces and bodies of ghouls, goblins, and the like. This is thanks to the sinister, Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs), who the viewer will learn is a former friend of Giles. Ethan brings about the transformation spell by uttering incantations to the statue of Janus, who amongst other things, is the mythical, Roman God of transitions.



In an effort to appear more feminine to Angel, Buffy has dressed as a noblewoman from the time period of the late 1700s before Angel was turned into a vampire. As a result of her choice of costume, she has no powers, and doesn’t remember who she is. Additionally, she has no understanding of the current time period. For example, when she sees a car coming down the street, she thinks it is a monster. Xander has also forgotten his past, but because he is dressed as a soldier, he takes on the role of  protector, usually reserved for Buffy. Willow, who originally dressed up like she was going to a nightclub, opted to cover herself with a sheet, and go trick-or-treating as a ghost. Due to her choice of costume, she has retained all of her memories, and goes in search of Giles, in order to find out what can be done to put an end to the mayhem. When Willow tells Giles what has happened, and the name of the costume shop, he sets off to find his old friend. During their confrontation, Ethan calls Giles by the nickname ‘ripper’; it is the first time that name is ever associated with Buffy’s watcher. Furthermore, while verbally and physically insisting that Ethan reverse the spell, the viewer is treated to a much darker version of Giles that has not been previously seen in the series.


Will Giles force Ethan to reverse the spell? If he doesn’t, what can be done to change everyone back to their former selves? What will be the extent of the damage if the spell can be reversed? Those questions, and more will be answered by the conclusion of the second season’s, Halloween themed episode; one of only three Buffy episodes to be based on Halloween. Furthermore, the character of Ethan Rayne would return to appear in three more Buffy episodes: “The Dark Age” (1997), “Band Candy” (1998), and “A New Man,” (2000).

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was created by Oscar nominee, Joss Whedon (Toy Story). The series premiered, as a mid-season replacement, on March 10, 1997, and concluded at the end of its seventh season on May 20, 2003.  “Halloween” premiered on October 27, 1997. The forty-four minute episode was directed by Bruce Seth Green (Angel), and written by Carl Ellsworth (The Last House on the Left). Additional contributions to the writing of the episode are credited  to Rob Des Hotel (That ’70s Show), and Dean Batali (Ties That Bind), as executive story editors. If you’re like me, and couldn’t miss an episode when Buffy had its original run on television, but haven’t seen it in a while, this is a fun episode to watch, at this time of year.



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“Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”

No matter what mood I happen to be in, if the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” is brought up in conversation, or I catch a portion of it on television, a part of me can’t help but feel a certain amount of happiness. I don’t believe that I am in the minority by counting the movie amongst my favorite films of all time. I have a strong feeling that it always will be. With that being said, while I have seen the movie countless times, originally on VHS tape, and thanks to my parents, who purchased for me as a birthday gift, the DVD box set which contains all of the Indiana Jones movies, that is the extent of my involvement with the film. As I soon learned, after I began to watch the documentary, “Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made,” directed by Jeremy Coon (Napoleon Dynamite) and Tim Skousen (The Sasquatch Gang), the extraordinary lengths to which some people’s fandom extends.


“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was directed by Oscar winner, Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan). It was written for the screen by Oscar nominee Lawrence Kasdan (The Accidental Tourist), and Star Wars creator – and the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg  Memorial Award – George Lucas, who conceived the story for the film with BAFTA winner, Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being).  From the beginning, the film, which premiered on June 12, 1981 in America, captivated not only the American movie going public, but went on to become a global box-office success. In the summer of 1982, two Mississippi youths, Chris Strompolos (Rewind This) and Eric Zala (Backyard Blockbusters), staunch admirers of the movie, decided to make a shot for shot remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Their efforts would extend well beyond the one summer. In fact, their remarkable zeal and dedication to complete what they began would continue for the next seven years, and they would come close to finishing their undertaking, minus one scene. The scene they were missing was the airplane scene, in which Indiana Jones fights the muscular, bald headed, Nazi. After the fight comes to a gory end, Jones is victorious, in large part, thanks to the aid of one of the plane’s propellers, but there is also an explosion due to leaked gasoline that has spilled onto the ground. (As an aside, instead of asking, for example, a new bike or video game system for a birthday or holiday present, Strompolos and Zala would ask their parents for props they needed for the film, such as, a leather jacket that resembled the one Indiana Jones wore in Raiders. If they received money, they would use it to buy equipment to help build sets or costumes. Zala recalls one trip where he went to the Salvation Army store to purchase Boy Scout uniforms which were then turned into Nazi uniforms).

The documentary begins with an introduction by Emmy nominee, John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), he will appear several times during the movie. He portrayed Indiana Jones’ friend Sallah, in both “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Indian Jones and the Last Crusade.” Next, viewers are introduced to Strompolos and Zala, who are attempting to raise money to complete their long dormant adaptation. Their plan is to shoot the airplane scene, and insert it into the existing footage. The film already had inconsistencies, due to it having been shot over such a lengthy duration of time, but none will be as obvious as the scene they need to shoot, especially considering that Strompolos, who played the role of Indiana Jones as a teenager, is now in his early forties. (As an aside, in addition to directing the adaptation, as well as numerous others tasks performed by  Zala during the production, he also played the role of Belloq, which was portrayed in “Raider of the Lost Ark” by British character actor Paul Freeman). 

The documentary alternates back and forth between 2014, and archival footage that features clips and outtakes from the adaptation. Additionally, there are interviews with Strompolos’ and Zala’s friends and families, many of whom contributed to turning the two friend’s dream into a reality. Further commentary is provided by Jayson Lamb, who worked as the cinematographer, editor, and special effects supervisor on the adaptation. The three friends had a falling out, during the original filming, over creative differences. In the documentary, Lamb is given ample time to discuss his take on what transpired.

On August 12, 1989, the teenagers staged a screening of their completed adaptation (minus the aforementioned scene) for friends and family at a factory in Gulfport, Mississippi. The screening was modeled after a Hollywood premiere, replete with limousines and a cocktail hour. Those who attended dressed in formal evening wear; and while a show such as Entertainment Tonight didn’t cover the event, the screening was featured on the local evening news. As time passed, Zala got a respectable job, and eventually married, and fathered two children with his current wife; the life of Chris Strompolos, however, took a different turn. He became addicted to crystal meth, and began associating with some very dangerous people. He has since turned his life around, and is married. His wife provides commentary during the documentary.

The film faded into obscurity, until writer and director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), who had received a VHS copy, was enamored with what he saw. In 2002, Roth asked film critic Harry Knowles (Ain’t It Cool News) if he would show the adaptation at Knowles Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival, which takes place annually, in December, in Austin, Texas. Knowles informed Roth that the lineup, which features both vintage as well as premiere films, had already been scheduled for that year. The only time he could screen it was during a forty-five minute lunch break, which took place before an advanced screening of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”  One couple, that was interviewed, recalled that they wanted the festival to delay the screening of Oscar winner, Peter Jackson’s blockbuster, in order to watch the rest of the adaptation, and they were not alone in that sentiment. When the festival was over, Roth went in search of the filmmakers, and that was the catalyst which sparked the interest in the long forgotten movie. In June of 2003, thanks to the efforts by Roth, the adaptation had its official premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Word of mouth soon spread, and the adaptation began to be shown at film festivals across America.

After a warm reception on the festival circuit, Strompolos and Zala decide to finish the project. The friends, return to their hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi to pick up where they left off. Surprisingly, many of the film’s original participants, including Angela Rodriguez, who portrayed Marion Ravenwood, in the adaptation agree to once again participate. Filming as adults, however, still proved to be a difficult endeavor. The $5,000 that had been raised from donations, and a Kickstarter campaign, only went so far. Furthermore, continuous days of  rainy weather hampered the scene from being shot, thereby extending the amount of time that Zala needed to take off from work. In fact, his employer was on the verge of firing Zala before relenting, and giving him two additional days, with the proviso, that Zala would receive no more time off for the remainder of the year.

Will Strompolos and Zala realize their dreams? Does a lack of finances or real life responsibilites put an end to their quest to complete the adaptation? If they are successful in finishing the production, what is the next step? Those questions, along with numerous other entertaining stories that are told throughout the documentary, which I haven’t written about in this review, will be answered by the conclusion.

If you’re a fan of “Raider’s of the Lost Ark,”  you will more than likely find this an entertaining and inspirational viewing experience. I for one, loved the fact that these guys had a vision in their youth – stuck with their dream as long as they could –  put their best efforts into the production, with, for what was for all intents and purposes, limited resources, but their driving ambition kept moving them forward. The documentary serves as a testament to all those who have a dream, no matter how ridiculous, or a waste of time it might seem to others, to keep striving to achieve it, no matter how long it might take.“Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”  is currently streaming on Netflix.



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