Posts Tagged ‘craven

25
Feb
11

My Soul to Take…eh, you can keep it.

A film as inspired as it's poster art...

a Primal Root written review
Man, oh, man, do I remember a time when Wes Craven was the man. When he was the sick hippie sadist who brought us flicks like the brutal rape/revenge classic Last House on the Left and the road-trip mutant fiasco film, The Hills Have Eyes. He created (althoughRobert Englund deserves just as much credit) the most iconic and important boogieman of the last 30 years in hideously scarred, murderous, dreamstalker, Freddy Krueger… He even brought the slasher film back for a post-modern rebirth with the Kevin Williamson-penned Scream franchise. But then something went horribly wrong. Scream 3 sucked. As did his werewolf flick, Cursed…Red Eye was really his last decent film before he went into producer mode and got on board the remake wagon to oversee the re-imaginings of some of his beloved earlier works with varying degrees of success…
And then, in 2010, Wes Craven came back with a new and original horror film in 2010! One that would prove once again why he is considered a Master of Horror! A supernatural horror film about schizophrenia, possession, soul collecting, California Condors, superstition, urban legend, prayer, pregnancy, blow jobs and two male leads who have terrible hair look like they smell even worse. Oh yes, here comes My Soul to Take…IN 3D!!!
As a horror fan I try to defend Wes to the best of my ability. The guy has seriously made some fantastic films, many of which he penned himself. He’s created memorable, timeless horror classics that are still viewed, still entertaining and still discussed today. He once upon a time proved that truly memorable horror didn’t just go after your guts, but after your mind as well. Sure, you can gross people out but if you really want your audience to be thinking about your movie when they go to bed the best place to attack is upstairs where their deepest, darkest fears live.
My Soul to Take was the last straw.
Our film begins with a grizzly killing spree in which a husband and father has the revelation that he is “The Ripper”, a serial killer that’s been going around town gutting folks with his super cool knife he must have ordered from swordsofmight.com. See, this fellow didn’t realize he was “The Ripper” because he’s schizophrenic…*sigh*. He calls his shrink but it’s already too late because he’s already slashed up and killed his pregnant wife. When the police arrive he has stabbed himself multiple time and is about to hack up his tiny daughter when the cops blow him away. But not very well. Because this asshole wakes up for approximately a dozen goddamn jump scares that are far more hilarious than they are shocking. The film’s prologue ends with an ambulance explosion, about five more dead bodies and three critically injured…and the killer somehow crawls off the gurney and is never heard from again…
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER!

Turns out on the night The Ripper was killed SEVEN children were born. That’s right, seven kids in this small community were born on the night The Ripper died. And on their collective birthday these kids go down to the river and perform some kind of passion play where they invoke The Ripper’s spirit and then knock over a puppet…I dunno. The cops show up just as all our stock characters are listed off. Several of them gather behind a fallen log o spend what feels like 20 fucking minutes discussing the myths and urban legend surrounding The Ripper. See, we already know everything that happened. We just saw it at the very beginning of the film. So to hear all these stories surrounding The Ripper is mind numbingly tedious.

What't the blind character looking at over there?

 

We’ve all seen Wes Craven’s magnum opus, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Remember how well Freddy’s back story was handled? It was always kept in the shadows. It was whispered about and the audience learned along with our hero Nancy just who her nemesis was. This added to our interest as an audience and gave the whole film a veil of mystery and suspense. When you show your audience from the outset what the back story of your villain is there’s not much left to reveal. But, then again, we still haven’t gotten to the California Condor/ Soul Collector shit yet…
Once My Soul to Take’s opening gore soaked hilarity comes to an end and our 7 possibly evil teens are introduced the pacing slows down to a snail’s pace. After one teen is dispatched in a relatively well handled murder sequence the film, once again, takes detour into Expositionville, where it spends the majority of its running time. We get a little taste of all 6 (sorry, one dies early on) of these kids’ lives but none of them are developed. Even our lead red herring, Bug, is never clearly defined. We know he makes really cool puppets and costumes, speaks in creepy voices,  likes the blonde girl but is only liked by the red headed uber-christian…I dunno, he’s the lead and I can’t tell you anything more about him than this without revealing any of the twists you’ll guess right from the beginning. Still, I will try to be a gentleman and let you figure it out on your own.
It’s apparent that the creative force behind My Soul to Take has no clear grip on what it is to be a teenager in America.  All the typical Breakfast Club characters are present. The pretty one, the outcast, the nerd, the unbelievably violent jock…with the added bonus of an asian weho has 5 minutes screen time, a blind black kid who has 10 and a very attractive red head fire and brimstone religious fanatic. Do any of these character or their clichéd traits add anything of significance to the story? Are you kidding?! Of course not. They all end up as lunch meat and do little more than walk around uttering mundane, ridiculous dialog that you would never hear come out of a teenager’s mouth.
Our teeny-boppers attend a droll and disturbingly empty high school. Really, the school is gigantic yet the only people we ever see in the halls or out in the courtyard are our key players. There’s no hustle or bustle between classes and even the gigantic hallways remain empty as our teen protagonists trade off meaningless, vapid dialog for endless, yawn educing stretches.
And The Ripper himself (Which is my nickname every time I eat a helping of baked beans) is little more than a dreary, watered down potty mouthed amalgam of Freddy and Horace Pinker dressed up in a zombie Bob Marley costume.  There’s also shades of Ghostface from the Scream franchise because The Ripper can’t just stalk and kill these kids. He has to give them taunting cell phone calls beforehand.

I suppose you can guess the fate of 'Blow-Job Gil' if you examine this photo. The Farter, er, The Ripper comes in from behind! Murder? Or surprise butt sex? See the movie...

Come to think of it, it’s almost as if Wes Craven put a handful of his films (Shocker, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street) in a blender and hit puree.  Hell, there’s even elements from the lesser Nightmare films to be found. Remember that lame plot device Renny Harlin used in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master? The one where Alice absorbed the souls of her friends when they died and she could utilize the one character trait that made them unique (i.e. karate, strength training, um, the power to plug things into outlets and press the power button…) and used those abilities to defeat Freddy in the end? Well, a certain character in My Soul to Take  has the same ability. He’s called the keeper of souls *face palm* only he doesn’t use any of their unique characteristics to defeat The Ripper, I mean what would he use? Blindness? Faith in God? Extreme Bitchiness? Constant Requests for blow jobs? These are not the weapons one needs to defeat a possibly supernatural monster intent on ripping out your lower intestine and using it as a jump rope.
No, this time around the souls help him figure out probability equations…to figure out the identity of the killer. Could it be one of the 7 kids (obviously not that one that dies in the beginning) or is it The Ripper returned from the grave? Or did The Ripper never die? The answer to this question is a lot lamer than you might initially think.
My Soul to Take is  a film chock full of ideas, not good ones, but ideas nonetheless. Craven just can’t seem to find a way to incorporate all of them and leave space to realistically develop his characters or give them understandable motivations and instead just gives them endless scenes where they try and explain to the audience just what in the name of Hell is even happening. I just watched this film and I couldn’t even tell you what the sentiment was. Did Craven have anything to say?  Near the conclusion of the film one characters whines out a line similar to, “People shouldn’t kill eachother all the time!”  Yeah…what a message.

I swear the lead actor is channeling Jesse from A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2 through the entire film. His sister ain't half bad on the left there...

 

Well, My Soul to Take is a hunk of complete crap.  I have to cut this review short because I could go one for another 2,000 words laying out every gripe I have with this flick. And this is coming from a guy who loves Trash Cinema.  Maybe one day I will be able to laugh at this failure, but in the hands of Wes Craven, I expect more. I expect better.

With Scream 4 on the horizon let us all hope Wes Craven can regain some of the edge he once had and bring us something worth our time. I hope Craven can redeem himself. He’s an intelligent and talented man who should know what works in the genre by now. But after watching My Soul to Take, I cannot help but sense a sense of sadness and dread that one of the best  lost his touch. Over a decade ago.

My Soul to Take. Your time to waste.

Stay Trashy,
-The Primal Root

29
Apr
10

Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews presents: A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge

a-nightmare-on-elm-street-2-freddys-revenge-poster1

Hey Gang,

I’ve been recently experiencing terrible nightmares every night for the past couple of weeks. They all involve dream demon Freddy Krueger attacking me in incredibly vulnerable situations. Usually with me picking something up and not having pants on.

Perhaps there are some clues to be found in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge! The notoriously homo erotic follow up to Wes Craven’s original masterpiece. We will discuss both the underlying sexual meaning and imagery in the film as well as mercilessly riffing on it. Get ready for exploding birds, extreme gym shower towel snapping, phallic anacondas, sweaty ball sack adjustments, seedy gay S&M joints, Bob Shaye in a leather tank top, a fuckable version of Meryl Streep, caramel filled killers, off road mayhem, Clu Gulager, human faced dogs, more gay subtext than you can shake a suggestively shaped stick at and al kinds of Freddy Krueger part fouls.

Check out The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews presents A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and let me know what you think!

your pal,
– Root

 

06
Apr
10

Don’t Fall Asleep: A Nightmare on Elm Street Revisited

a review by The Primal Root

It’s easy to forget Wes Craven’s original 1984 masterpiece, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The horror audiences experienced when the lights first dimmed in theaters all those years ago and were introduced to a new boogieman. The ghost of child murderer. A man burned alive by one generation whose children’s lives, their futures, are now in danger due to their actions. Wes Craven created a classic horror film. One that holds up just as well today as it did in the 80’s. But more importantly, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a product of it’s time encompasses the Reagan Era, post Vietnam/Cold War generation. The notion that those horrible deeds done by a generation before us will be payed for by the blood of those being born. We are inheriting new life as well as paying for the misdeeds of those fading away.

Yes, it’s easy to forget what A Nightmare on Elm street represents. In the wake of the film’s success came the assembly line of sequels incapable of holding a flickering candle to the original Nightmare. Freddy became a cartoon character rather than the boogieman and in the process diminished any form of fear the audience may have carried for the child killer. The series became less about character and more about spectacle. Less about scare and more about effects. And the genesis of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the whole purpose of the original, became more diluted and washed away…

Now, on the eve of the A Nightmare on Elm Street relaunch I feel is the perfect time to take a look back at one of cinema’s most influential and groundbreaking films. Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The Original Nightmare Kids : From left: Rod, Tina, Glen and Nancy

Our film begins with Tina, an attractive teenage girl, running through a dark and steamy labyrinth of pipes and metal. Running from something stalking her in the shadows. A horribly scarred and disfigured man in a red and green striped sweater and equipped with a glove with blades fastened to the tip of each finger. This is Freddy’s boiler room. A place representative of all the things our society tries to cover up and forget about.The subterranean. Freddy closes in for the kill as Tina screams in terror and jolts up in her bed…it was all a nightmare. But the four slices down the front of her nightgown are far from a fantasy. There’s something terribly wrong on Elm Street.

The very next morning as Tina and her friends Nancy, Glen and Rod head to school it is implied that they are all suffering from the same unsettling dreams. All the teens try to shrug it off until the night Tina is brutally, mercilessly butchered during a sleep over. The murder takes place before her boyfriend Rod’s eyes only he cannot see her attacker and is incapable of helping. And Tina’s bloody, mid-air death might be the best in the series. Her death scene is ferocious and disturbing and taken in from the perspective of the fully awake and helpless Rod the audience can clearly imagine how deeply mortifying this moment is.

This scene is a masterpiece in the annals of horror and sticks with the viewer long after it occurs. Unlike later Nightmare film which rely heavily on set pieces and elaborate creature effects, this sequences focuses instead on the slicing of young flesh and the spilling of warm blood. This focus on the organic, the human makes the phantasmal seem real as well as the consequences. And Craven stays true to this concept throughout A Nightmare on Elm Street and it proves to be one of the pictures greatest strengths.

Craven uses the mix of the organic and the phantasmal with an arsenal of trick shots to find unique and twisted ways to unsettle the audience, keeping them on edge. Like the diabolical murder of Glenn where a spinning room is employed and gallons of fake blood are pumped up through his mattress creating an enormous geyser of blood. As presented to the audience the bed is on the floor and the blood comes up out of the mattress with incredible force. The affect of this clever, simple idea is instant and unforgettable. It’s a shot that clearly expresses the rage and pure violence backing Krueger’s attack. He annihilates Glenn with such power that the guy comes squirting from his bed as if he was put in a giant blender set to puree.

Glen once Freddy's done with him.

But this nightmare violence would mean nothing without Craven’s intelligent and strong characterizations. One would do A Nightmare on Elm Street a great disservice if they didn’t bring up Heather Langenkamp’s portrayal of our young final girl, Nancy. A child of divorce who must cope with her alcoholic mother and an absent father. Nancy already has been acquainted with the dark underbelly of Elm Street. Of our American dream. And through her experiences in waking life she is equipped to connect the pieces between both her dreams and reality. Heather brings Nancy to life as an independent, strong, resourceful and incredibly intelligent young woman and is one of the finest , most enduring examples of slasher cinema’s final girl.

It’s also interesting to note Craven’s depiction of the family unit here. Early on the first adult we are introduced to is Tina’s mother who awakens Tina from a night terror only to scold her. She is then interrupted by an obviously drunk boyfriend who asks, “Are you coming back to the sack or what?” Later, through dialog between the teens characters, we learn Tina’s father abandoned the family a decade prior. Nancy’s father, Don, a police detective in Springwood, is comparatively absent from her life. He is patronizing and debasing towards her when she asks for his help but is quick to exploit her as bait when it helps his investigation. Nancy’s mother, Marge, is a sickeningly dependent alcoholic who hides bottles of booze all over the house, including the linen closet in the off chance she might need to swig her feel good juice while she’s walking from her bedroom to Nancy’s.

Not to mention both of Nancy’s parents, like all the Elm Street parents, are murderers. They are among the parents who took justice into their own hands and killed Fred Krueger when the judicial system failed. Their guilt, their sin, are all passed on to their children in the form of the demonic and purely evil Krueger. Thus, A Nightmare on Elm Street literalizes the notion that the sins of the father are passed on to the children. We will pay in blood and treasure for the misdeeds of those who came before us.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most important films of the last fifty years. A wellspring of creativity and ideas which maintain great currency within the genre. It gave American culture it’s most identifiable boogieman in the form of Freddy Krueger. Although, in this original Nightmare Freddy had yet to become the fun, silly M.C. he would transform into over the course of the franchise. Instead, he is a real monster, a mean spirited creep who enjoys torturing, molesting, and killing children. He’s a sadist who delights in inflecting pain on others with a wrath that is inescapable. Maybe that’s one of the things that’s so damn scary about Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street. That through supernatural means Freddy, a murdered child killer, has gained almost infinite powers to haunt us forever and murdering us in our most intimate and private of places…our minds. And there’s no escape. Because sooner or later we all must fall asleep. So Freddy isn’t only eternal…he’s unavoidable.

The mantra throughout A Nightmare on Elm Street is “Don’t fall asleep.” This is Nancy’s urgent warning and her battle cry. In the context of A Nightmare on Elm Street this line means much more than simply avoiding a confrontation with our razor gloved antagonist. It’s warning us not to be lulled into a false sense of security. To dig out the truth, to question authority, to fight corruption, lies and complacency. Do not give in, do not give up and…

Don’t Fall Asleep.




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