My Soul to Take

 

I honestly couldn’t bring myself to watch this one again, so here’s my immediate reaction to it when I watched it last year, followed up by what I remember.

 My Soul to Take has sort-of an interesting premise, but it’s also sort-of a lame one. Alex Plenkov, AKA “The Riverton Ripper” is a serial killer who has been terrorizing and murdering families. And one night his brain flips a switch and murders his own (pregnant) wife and gets shot while trying to murder his daughter. (It’s worth noting that this opening, right up until they get to the hospital, is actually pretty decent. LOTS of splatter! And madness!)

But then, and here’s where it starts to lose it: RIGHT at the moment of his death, 7 kids are born in the same hospital, and Plenkov’s soul is transferred to one of them. BUT WHO?!?!?

Flash-forward to 16 years later, when all the kids born on that night hang out near the sight of the Riverton Ripper’s shooting, and uh—I guess “reenact” the scene or something? I’m unclear on this part. Because it’s so lame.

 SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

Cursed

 

Starring Jesse Eisenberg before anyone knew who Jesse Eisenberg was (pre-Zombieland & The Social Network) and Christina Ricci, Cursed is a Craven/Williamson pairing that failed MISERABLY.

I was super excited at the prospect of a Werewolf tale from these two, especially one with Pacey Joshua Jackson, but unfortunately. Uggggh. There is so much terrible here. So, so, so, so much.

Ellie (Ricci) and Jimmy (Eisenberg) are a brother and sister who hit get into a car accident because of an animal running across the road, and then get scratched by whatever the animal is while trying to save the girl in the other car.

Jimmy seems to realize right away that all signs point to a werewolf, but Ellie insists that can’t be true while simultaneously struggling with her new, heightened senses and having crazily detailed nightmares about eating her boyfriend Jake (Jackson) alive.

 SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

A Whisper to a Scream (Quadrilogy)

This is kind of cheating (again. I know. I KNOW), since I’ve written about both Scream and Scream 4 before, but I wanted to cover all the Wes Craven films I’ve seen, so I decided to talk about all the Scream movies again.

My theory (and I don’t know if it’s right, because I haven’t read this anywhere) is that Craven hated how Nightmare 2-6 turned out, and decided he wasn’t going to let anyone else direct the Scream films, so he took charge of all of them. And he didn’t do a terrible job, but he did make some mistakes.

The first Scream was AMAZING. I was literally on the edge of my seat, chewing nervously on my fingernails and squirming around uncomfortably for the entire film. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore as Casey is fucking brilliant, and I love it with all my heart—enough that my blo0d-soaked Casey costume has been a go-to for several Halloween parties.

Scream is the perfect marriage of Craven and Screenwriter Kevin Williamson; they both compliment each other perfectly here, and leave very little to pick at, except of course, “death by garage door”, which I have always, and will always call bullshit on. But the rest of the film is so strong, I can let it slide.

The best thing about Scream is that it made horror films fun for me again, after getting burnt out on carbon-copy slasher flicks. The script does an apt job at throwing suspicion on EVERYBODY, so you’re not sure who the killer is until it’s revealed.

And YES, I do still think it’s scary, even though I watch it at least once a year.
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A Nightmare on Elm Street & Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

 

I’ve written a few times before about Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, why it’s so important to me, and why I love it so. But, I’m gonna go ahead and tell you again, and then cover New Nightmare too.

 A Nightmare on Elm Street was made in 1984, and I hear teenagers now say all the time that it’s stupid and not scary. And I want to punch them in their stupid mouths. (Just kidding! Kinda).

Look, I understand. The 80s were an amazingly awful time for fashion and hair, and everybody looks horrible and dated. And there is such a flood of gory, scary movies now that there’s no way a dude with knives on his fingers that haunts your nightmares is going to creep you out. But I still think it’s brilliant.

There is so much to love here—the creation of the glove at the beginning, the splatteriffic death of Tina in front of her boyfriend, Rod; “Screw your pass!”, the origin of Freddy (before that ridiculous “son of a 100 maniacs” crap in part 3), the fountain of blood that erupts from Glen’s bed, “I’m your boyfriend now!”, and Nancy totally kicking some serious ass when she’s done with Krueger killing all her friends. (more…)

Shocker

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Craven’s Shocker is similar to the terribleness of Deadly Friend.

There are elements of ridiculousness that have elevated it to kind of a cult status—most notably Mitch Pileggi (Skinner!) as foul-mouthed, over-the-top serial killer Horace Pinker, and the rockin’ soundtrack which includes the title song Shocker by The Dudes of Wrath, sort of an 80s hard rock super group made up of members from Kiss, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe, and Van Halen.

Shocker was released in 1989, at almost exactly the same time another similar movie called The Horror Show was released. I don’t remember much about THS now, but I do remember that when I finally watched it, I thought it was much better than Shocker. Which is weird, right? That I remember Shocker much more clearly even though it’s cheesier? And even though I thought the other film was scarier and better done overall.

Ah well, the power of Craven, or something.

Shocker is about a serial killer nicknamed “The Family Killer” (clever, huh? Since he kills…families) who is terrorizing an L.A. suburb. The police have no leads, until local college football hero Jonathan gets a concussion after running into the goal post at practice and somehow ends up dream-linked to the killer, Horace Pinker, just as he is about to murder the police chief’s (and co-incidentally, Jonathan’s own) family.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

Deadly Friend

Another Craven movie I saw in the theater with high hopes, 1986’s Deadly Friend is unfortunately TERRIBLE (not even in a “so bad it’s good” The People Under the Stairs kind of way), and I can only recommend seeing it if you’re having a Bad Movie Night with friends—and have a lot of booze on hand. And even then, eh. THIS was his follow up to A Nightmare on Elm Street, for chrissakes. THIS.

Nerdy Paul (Matthew Labyorteaux, who will always be Albert Ingalls to me) is a super genius who moves to a new town because his awesome robot named BB—okay, awesome if you saw it in the 80s, I mean—got him a fancy college scholarship. Or something. Anyway!

It’s not long before he realizes next-door neighbor Sam is a hottie (HELLO Kristy Swanson) and she, along with new friend “Slime”, decided to prank the neighborhood crazy Elvira (Anne Ramsey) by having BB break her super secure gate and ring her doorbell. I know, TERRIFYING, right? Unfortunately, Elvira likes to shoot things, especially unruly kids, so she ends up blowing BB into a million smithereens. Aw, poor robot.

Paul’s barely has time to morn BB when (shortly after their first kiss) Sam gets beaten to brain death by her abusive father. Naturally, the only sane thing to do is for Paul to enlist Slime to help him steal Sam’s body and Frankenstein BB’s chip into her head. That way see, he can have a hot girlfriend who’s still alive, yet compliant and teachable.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

The People Under the Stairs


Another Wes Craven entry for 31 Horror films this October: The People Under the Stairs

Here’s the thing about The People Under the Stairs: when I first saw it in the theater, I was so disappointed because I thought it was TERRIBLE. But since then, I’ve recognized that it actually swings right past terrible into “so bad it’s good” territory. Everything is hilariously over the top, to the point where you can’t actually believe Craven wrote and directed this ridiculousness.

After his parents get evicted from their apartment, “Fool” enlists the help of Leroy to break into the landlord’s house and steal their giant pile of gold coins. Wait. What. Anyway! Things go awry and Fool gets trapped inside, discovering that the house is actually a house of horrors—“Mommy” and “Daddy” (Wendy Robie and Everett McGill, who played Nadine and Ed Hurley in Twin Peaks!!!), a pair of brother/sister/man/wife serial killers, have a habit of adopting kids and then torturing and mutilating them when they don’t behave as expected. (more…)

The Serpent and the Rainbow


Ah, The Serpent and the Rainbow. This + The Believers kicked off a teenage obsession with all things voodoo and magic … which I guess would explain why I’ve watched it at least 20 times. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that my beloved Bill Pullman is the star.

Serpent is chock-full of insane drug-infused nightmares, visions, and of course the famous torture sequence, which left every male audience member shivering in fear.

Ethnobotanist/anthropologist Dennis Alan is employed by THE MAN to go to Haiti and track down a rumored potion that renders people unable to move or speak—and even gives them the appearance of death, though they can still think and feel. The end result, if the people survive this ordeal and manage to rip themselves out of their graves, is a sort of crazed zombie state.

All of this is actually based on a book by a real ethnobotanist, Wade Davis (who apparently HATED this adaptation), which I actually read and was fascinated by—well, after I got past most of the scientific talk. But this is a horror film, not a science report. So even though the potion and one of the “zombies” are routed in a (possibly) true story, Craven adds his own spin, which involves railroad spike torture, blood-filled coffins, mummies that shoot snakes out of their mouths, and a power-mad paramilitary leader obsessed with owning as many souls as he can.

So, anyway, Alan arrives in Haiti, and in the process of trying to track down a guy who will make the potion for him, falls for a beautiful doctor named Marielle and grabs the attention of Commander Dargent Peytraud, who is a very evil man.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

The Hills Have Eyes


It’s been awhile since I watched Wes Craven’s mutant cannibal family terrorize their unsuspecting victims in the dessert, so I wasn’t sure it would hold up. Having seen the remake more recently, I was thinking that the original version wasn’t quite as disturbing—but I was wrong.

While The Hills Have Eyes suffers from some of the same dated problems that I mentioned The Last House on the Left having, by the time it gets to the killing, you kind of forget about the bell bottoms and super groovy hair.

While traveling on vacation, the Carter family ends up on some seriously crazy back roads (supposedly because they’re “searching for a silver mine”… what.). After stopping at a gas station to fill-up and getting warned by the owner Fred to head back to the main highway, they stranded when their car and trailer tires run over a booby trap (Craven sure likes these!) set by the cannibals.

So let’s see: three women, three men, a baby, and two dogs are stranded in the middle of nowhere, and it’s getting dark, fast. Naturally the smartest thing to do is for the men to split up, and leave them women behind.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

Deadly Blessing

This 1981 entry into the Craven canon unfortunately suffers from extreme BOREDOM.

 Deadly Blessing is about Martha (Maren Jenson, who played Athena in the 70s Battlestar Galactica) a woman whose husband is an ex-Hittite, and who is being stalked by a mysterious figure in black who likes to murder people in various ways. It doesn’t take long before the figure offs her husband in a tractor “accident”, and Martha’s city friends arrive (Sharon Stone! What.) to help comfort her … but somehow just make things worse.

Craven’s script implies that the blame lies within the Hittite community, possibly with William (distinctive actor Michael Berryman), who also appears to be stalking her, and is obsessed with calling her, and well, everyone else who isn’t a Hittite, an Incubus. Yes, even if they’re female. (I do not think that word means what he thinks it means).

Ernest Borgnine also throws the term around liberally, making wild eyes at the three heathen women and angrily slapping his adult son around, just because. There’s also a clearly imbalanced mother & daughter who also live just outside the Hittite community and are harassed by them on a daily basis too.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD  (more…)