What I am Watching: Star Trek: Discovery and Seasons Three and Four of Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Discovery 

Well, it’s a sci-fi extravaganza for this latest blog post. This past Sunday CBS and CBS All Access premiered the first two episodes of the long-awaited new Star Trek television series Star Trek: Discovery.

There’s a lot riding on this show, as it is Star Trek’s first attempt to reconquer the small screen after a 12-year hiatus. Before this, Trek had had an impressive run of 18 years of uninterrupted programming on the small screen – from the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987 to the end of their last television show Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005.

Enterprise was the first of the series since TNG to be cancelled early, only reaching its fourth season instead of the usual seven. This, combined with the lacklustre box office of Star Trek: Nemesis, made for a lot of dead space in the Trek universe until the release of Star Trek: 2009.

The J.J. Abrams-produced film and its two subsequent sequels sparked life and, most importantly, interest back into the Trek universe and no doubt opened the door for where Star Trek shines the brightest, the small screen. And after much speculation, debate, and uncertainty, we have the first two episodes. My verdict is – they are winners.

I want to start by mentioning the hurdles this show had and still has to jump and how it has managed to do so fabulously in its first two episodes.

First, it has to please old Trek fans who have been waiting for more than a decade for a weekly series. They are the heart of the fanbase and most likely to tune into a weekly show as opposed to the casual fan who may dish out some cash to watch a Star Trek movie, old or new.

Second, the new fanbase needs to be catered to. Much to the chagrin of some in the old fanbase, J.J. Abrams brought in a new wave of Trek fans who expect a certain modern aesthetic and visual element to Star Trek that the older shows simply could not afford to have. The younger fanbase may never watch an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series or Star Trek: Voyager in their life, but they are part of the family now and the producers have to make a show that speaks their language too. Three, Star Trek: Discovery needs to operate in the rhythm and storytelling beats of modern television viewers. While it can surely take a deep breath and allow for moments of “Trek-

Three, Star Trek: Discovery needs to operate in the rhythm and storytelling beats of modern television viewers. While it can surely take a deep breath and allow for moments of “Trek-losophy”  to fill the storyline, it also has to show that it can play with the big boys like Stranger Things and Game of Thrones in pacing and the visual and special-effects game. Discovery, to be taken seriously, has to adapt to today’s television standards or sink in the blackness of television space.

Last, the show needs to be accessible to non-Trek fans. It’s been 12 long years since Enterprise went off the air. There are plenty of people out there who haven’t seen any of the new movies and know little to nothing about the classic series and movies. They are the casual viewer who wants to escape for an hour and be treated to a well-produced television show. The show needs to operate on a welcoming level to this new fans, otherwise, it will lose them during the first monologue about the importance of the prime directive.

Star Trek: Discovery managed to do all these things on firm legs (with a few wobbles here and there) in its first two episodes and leaves all possibilities open for further exploration of Trek themes as the series continues.  There were moments to please the old school Trekkie who loves universe-building and questions of morality in tough situations. There was plenty of modern special-effects wizardry and fast-paced action. The show also laid out its main storyline which will be followed throughout the season. And the show also did not spend too much time trying to explain itself, outside of its first opening sequence in the desert, where exposition was rattled off at copious amounts.

Star Trek: Discovery wasted little time flexing its muscles and thrusting us into the middle of a major conflict between the Klingons, led by the messiah-like figure of T’Kuvma, and Starfleet, led by Captain Georgiou and First Officer Burnham on the starship Shenzhou. T’Kuvna feels that the Federation is a threat to the individuality, purity existence of the Klingon race and the Shenzhou is drawn into his first move in a long chess match for power.

It seemed the writers were inspired by the more chaotic aspects of space life, best portrayed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the most well-crafted and nuanced of the Trek-series when penning these episodes. It pits US vs THEM and questions the moral high-ground of The Federation. One of the most effective scenes is T’Kuvman’s mocking of the Federation’s catchphrase, “We Come in Peace.” Parallels to peaceful nations of our time that always manage to find themselves in some sort of military conflict are not lost in that message, and as this series is set in the early days of The Federation, it’s quite possible that they themselves are still working those kinks out.

The acting on the show felt a bit wooden at times, but I dare you to find a Star Trek series that doesn’t feel wooden on first viewing. In fact, almost all of them take nearly up to the third season before things really start to gel. Discovery lives in the television-world of “come fully produced or get canned,” though, so it can’t afford to wait three years before it gets going. This affects the series positively because although there are a few clunky scenes here and there, for the most part, the show felt sure-footed.

Discovery also managed to accomplish its biggest challenge, serving all of its masters! The action-packed premiere will no doubt keep the younger Trek fans and casual viewer happy, but the pauses that the show took to explore Michael’s character and flesh out some of the bridge crew leaves me to think that this is an area that Discovery will go back to in future episodes and pleased me as an old-school fan.

My favourite parts are the ones that seem to want to analyze the sacrifices and effects of war. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went into this at length but almost always from the perspective of the senior officers. Here we are going to get a look at war from the perspective of those who don’t always have a say in the decision-making – the soldiers of war. Again, with all the conflicts raging across the world, this leaves room for Discovery to play out like the best of Star Trek in being a mirror for our own experience. When it was announced that the series wouldn’t be from a captain’s perspective, I was unsure of how that would work. Having watched these first two episodes and the previews for the season, it made me very excited about going on this journey with the crew.

Just so people don’t think I am glossing over the negatives, YES, there was a bit of an issue with too many dark tones and too much lens-flare, and camera tilts – but hey, new generation of fans happy. Thankfully the previews for the rest of the season showed a lighter colour palette and less shaky camera work. Episode two already felt like it shied a bit further from that, and I actually enjoyed it more for that reason.

Overall, I give Discovery high marks. Historically, it’s been nearly impossible to judge Star Trek series from their first outings. Perhaps only the original series came out of the gate being pretty much what it was going to be for the rest of its short run. Discovery was solid enough to make me want to see more, though. It not only proved that it has its feet firmly planted in classic Trek-tropes: light techno-babble, dialoguing and diplomacy, moral dilemmas and questioning of right and wrong, it also deals with more modern and down to earth tropes like sometimes having to fight or die, conflict between people’s separate viewpoints, not always succeeding in a mission and it has the visual spectacles to boot.

This is not your grandparents, nor even your parents, Star Trek, but that is not a bad thing. Every new Trek show tried to be a bit different. This is why there are throngs of fans who love Star Trek: Voyager but who can’t really sit through more than a few episodes of The Next Generation. There are also legions of fans who will swear by the greatness which was Deep Space Nine, while others who to this day think that show betrayed everything that Gene Roddenberry stood for. This is the beauty of Star Trek, it can be many things to many people while still existing in one universe. Let’s hope Discovery only gets better as the weeks unfold.

 

Star Trek: Voyager Season Three and Four

I was so happy with Season Three of Star Trek: Voyager. When the ship finally left the Kazon behind and Janeway let her hair down, it seemed the show flourished with new adventures and its very own brand of Trek. It became clear to me that Voyager would not carry on the serialized and dark nature of Deep Space Nine, nor would it take the lofty philosophical high-ground of The Next Generation. Voyager was about adventure, and The Original Series would be its closest member of the family. Once Voyager itself seemed to come to terms with this and produce high-octane stories to go along with their style of Trek, the show became much more enjoyable. Season Three is a culmination of this.

This season also impressed me with the cinematic scope that took on many occasions, most notably in the time-travel escapade of Future’s End: Part I and II and the season finale Scorpion: Part One. Voyager’s strength shines in its muscles. Janeway makes questionable decisions at times, but she follows through 100%. She shines in these moments when her back is up against the wall and her death stare has become one my

Voyager’s strength shines in its muscles. Captain Janeway makes questionable decisions at times, but she follows through 100%. She shines in these moments when her back is up against the wall and her death stare has become one my favourite things to watch out for. Janeway, much like Sisko, is someone I would not want to run into on the outer edges of space. Her ship, like his Defiant, is small but carries a punch.

There are a few clunkers in Season Three, but that’s expected of any Star Trek show, but for what it’s worth, I breezed through this season with the same momentum that I had while watching the back end of Season Two.

I was hoping that this fun-filled trek through the stars would continue onto Season Four, and for the most part, it did, except for one big hiccup in the name of Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine.

The issue is not her character, per say, she made for an interesting addition to the cast – even if her attempt to do robotic monotone gets on my nerves at times. The problem is that the producers understood how she became a rating’s draw and therefore shifted most of the show’s attention to her. As someone who had finally warmed up to Captain Janeway and her style of command, it was frustrating to see the focus of the show being adjusted elsewhere. Even Trek’s most beloved sidekicks, Spock and Data, were mostly explored through the lens of their respective captains. Janeway was not afforded this same treatment. There are more than a few rumors that Kate Mulgrew was not happy about this. After watching this season, I can understand her position.

The episodes in this season are well produced and watchable, for sure. But while season three took me a few weeks to finish, this one took me months. The development of Seven of Nine as a character bored me to bits, and kind of killed any momentum the series had carried over from its previous one and half seasons.

I know that many people really love Season Four of Voyager, and they especially love Seven of Nine, but I would give this season an average score. “The Seven of Nine Show” was not exactly what I wanted from what Voyager had started to become. The saving grace is that the scenes that Seven does have with Janeway prove how strong both women are as personalities and actresses. This interplay is crucial to warming up to Seven’s character and carries on to Season Five … which is a much better season –  but more on that at a later date.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments and opinions below.

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What I am Watching: IT (2017)

 

I just came home from watching the pre-premiere of IT and my senses are overloaded.

This much-awaited reboot of the original made-television mini-series had a lot riding on its shoulders. IT is one of Stephen King’s most famous works, and the 1990 television movie, although not dreadful, only managed to scratch the surface of the horrors which lie in the extremely long novel. You can read my full review of it here.

So did it work? Was IT worth it?

The short answer is, “Yes!”

But before I get into all the reasons this movie is worth the price of admission, let me spend a little time on the things which turned me off.

Dare I say that it was a bit light in parts?

I actually caught myself having fun while watching some parts of this movie. This is mostly due to the uneven directing by Andrés Muschiettm. He played a lot of the story by the numbers with jump scares galore, twisted faces superimposed on each other chasing screaming kids in the dark, sly camera-pan angles around corners – in short, nothing we haven’t seen in every horror film before this one and perhaps even some episodes of The Walking Dead.

He also tried very hard to make these kids likable – and indeed they were. There were plenty of dick jokes, and 80s pop-culture references, which instead of adding textures to the characters, actually detracted me from the would-be seriousness of the film. What the original televised series did so well, is dig deep into each of these kids fears and allow their paranoia to build to a simmer before eventually boiling over. I felt these kids could have been any kids and the story wouldn’t have suffered any.

Worst of all is that with every nerdy joke, 80s reference, and bike riding scene, I kept being reminded of Stranger Things. And while I understand that Stranger Things is a direct homage to movies like IT, it’s not a show that operates on a pure horror level. In fact, it’s a lot of “fun” – which is what I didn’t need IT to be.

Unfortunately Muschiettm never really found the perfect balance between the best parts of the film, which were truly horrific, and the lighter parts of the film, which were truly funny. He also didn’t seem to know what to do with the story of the real-world bullies who tormented The Losers. They came off as an add-on and a waste of screen time which could have benefited from more exposition into our hero’s lives.

Having said all that, I came actually came away happy!!!

IT understands that its audience wants to jump out of their seats in horror and it delivered. I imagine that someone must have written the word, “visceral” all over the set because that is the only way I can describe the parts of IT which worked. Every time Muschiettm decided to throw away the “been there done that” horror playbook, he came up with memorable blood pumping sequences and IT would transform into an exciting horror-action film with everything at stake.

I left the theatre (and even while I write this) with my head pounding. Muschiettm throws visuals at the screen with lightning speed and dares us to keep up. This is most evident in Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He had big shoes to fill replacing Tim Curry in the role but did an admirable, albeit imperfect, job.

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Overall, Skarsgard is at his worst when he tries to deliver dialogue which is supposed to scare on a psychological level. His speech is too quick and enunciation is off – this is Curry’s masterful territory and his iconic slow and methodical performance is one the main reasons why the televised movie remains a cult favourite.  However, when Skarsgard reveals himself for what he is – a maniacal death machine – his performance, and the movie, benefit. He drives his madness into the audience like a jack-hammer and dares us to look away. What he manages to do with his eyes, face and body (with a bit of CGI help) make up for his lack of vocal presence. He certainly held the mantle of Pennywise high – but will give you scares for very different reasons than Curry.

I recommend seeing IT even if it is devoid of the psychological horror that was the main allure for me in the original IT movie and book. But even while working as a pseudo-slasher/adventure film, it knows what buttons to push and pushes them well. It offers more than a few surprises and genuine laughs – and makes for an overall enjoyable movie experience. Let’s hope Chapter II, the adult story-line, operates on a more cerebral level.

Phil

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Twin Peaks Has Raised the Bar for Scripted Television Once More.

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Agent Dale Cooper

In 1990-1991, David Lynch and Mark Frost changed the landscape for scripted television forever with their drama, Twin Peaks. Even at its weakest, the show raised the bar far beyond its peers by introducing narrative, sound, and visual elements which have since been recycled to the point of being the norm for modern television.

Today, because of Twin Peaks and the many other shows it inspired (most importantly, The Sopranos), we are living though what some dub as a Golden Age of Television, where the small screen truly competes and at times surpasses the big screen in artistic and technical quality. The looming question surrounding the return of Twin Peaks for a third season on Showtime this year was whether Lynch and Frost would be able to bring anything new to the table.

After eight episodes of season three of Twin Peaks, it is safe to say that David Lynch and Mark Frost haven’t simply brought us back down memory lane, but they have challenged the current standards for quality television and raised the bar once more, leaving even the best shows of the last decade in their dust cloud. Twin Peaks is heady, humorous, surreal, and obtuse while still maintaining a narrative flow and hitting all the right dramatic buttons. It is a series which demands that we pay attention in a way very few others have the stylistic capacity to do.

The new season started out with a four episode introduction which essentially drew a line in the sand. The Soap Opera and small-town elements of the original series were gone, to be replaced with a broader story line, which opens in New York City, full of digital-age angst, darker (even self-referential) cynicism, and a good dose of “Lynchian” surrealist horror and humour.

If we had only been offered these four hours of Twin Peaks and nothing more, what was presented would already have made for a monumental achievement on the small screen. In these four episodes, Lynch and Frost managed to set up the main story with little dialogue, relying more on visuals and sound to create mood and pacing. They were also able to present a sense of direction to the plot without needing to work within the hour-long television model, instead allowing each episode to bleed into the next. This style makes it so that we may not necessarily know where the story is going while still having an overwhelming sensation that it is going somewhere. These first four hours masterfully point us in a direction without spoon feeding us plot points.

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The town of Twin Peaks, and its residents, continue to be justly slightly odd.

Once the four hour bonanza of light, music, and sound was over we entered the main narrative. The original Agent Cooper has escaped the lodge but is still not fully woken in the real world. The evil Dale doppelganger is roaming around possibly wanting to assure himself a permanent stay in our world as opposed to being sent back to the lodge. All the while there is a body with a missing head which may link back to Major Garland Briggs and in the town of Twin Peaks some new mysteries abound, as well as new clues regarding the life and past whereabouts of Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer.

This stretch of episodes leading up to episode eight, which we will go into in just a bit, is the “Frost-Lynch-mix” at its best. While the show gives us little bits of other story lines, the main focus is on a “not-all-there” Agent Dale Cooper who is occupying the life of a doppelganger named Dougie Jones. There is a comedic and dream-like quality to this thread which anchors the odd escapades of Dougie/Dale trying to adjust to life. Meanwhile, the other plot lines that are introduced offer just enough mystery, pseudo-answers to past questions, and quirkiness to remind us of the original series and keep us guessing to their relation (if any) to the Dale Cooper conundrum. The balance struck between straight narrative and surrealist horror and humour makes the David Lynch and Mark Frost partnership something worth cherishing and what truly drives the heart of this new season.

It is some time during this seven episode run that we, as viewers, should all come to a realization: we are not simply watching neat little chapters of a long story which have their beginning and conclusion at the end of each hour long installment, instead, we are watching what will essentially be an 18 hour movie. Each hour of Twin Peaks does not concern itself with resolving a plot point that will move the story forward, instead it adds more elements to a story which is organically moving forward at its own pace.

To understand the importance of this for television we must consider what the success of a show like LOST (a direct child of Twin Peaks) proved for many television executives. LOST took the the bits of Twin Peaks and even the mythology arch of The X Files, which forced viewers to tune in every week or get lost in the plot, and ran with it by making a show that was exclusively built on episodes that built upon what came the week before to make sense. LOST was essentially a binge-watchable show before Netflix and the internet actually made that a thing.

Yet, while LOST proved that it was artistically and financially viable for television to invest in shows that demanded religious weekly viewing, none of the shows that have come after have been able to truly push beyond the boundaries of the one hour “chapter” installment. From Breaking Bad to Game of Thrones, things do play out like one long movie or book, but with distinct episodes which present a problem which is solved or given a cliffhanger ending. David Lynch and Mark Frost have turned this notion on its head. They offer us episodes which, like scenes and acts in a movie, add moods and tensions, and don’t reveal the direction of the plot but only that it is indeed in motion.

What Twin Peaks did for television in 1990-1991, the new season of Twin Peaks may do for the medium moving forward. Lynch and Frost have just challenged anyone creating for television to surpass them and think outside the “installment” box. They are essentially saying that the small screen can be just as reliant on visual, sound, and mood and non-linear aspects to tell its story as the big screen – and that it can be done at a very high artistic and entertainment level.

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The most visually stunning and perplexing episode of Twin Peaks so far.

 

The eight, and final part, of this run of episodes (there is a two weak break before we enter the second half of the season) was essentially a chance for David Lynch and Mark Frost to push the envelope even further. Once we, the audience, became comfortable with what Twin Peaks had become, they gave us an hour long visual spectacle to dazzle and confound.

There are many theories as to the meaning of the episode, but I do believe we were given a visual and musical representation of the birth of many of the more esoteric elements of Twin Peaks. When compared to other hit shows like Stranger Things, American Gods and even the legendary X Files, that explain their own mythology through dialogue, Lynch and Frost succeeded in once more exploring the limits of the television medium, all the while telling all the children that were birthed from the original run of Twin Peaks to catch up to daddy.

There is still a lot more to go in season three of Twin Peaks. One can only hope that the level of quality will be sustained and that there will be reasonable resolutions to main threads while leaving enough dangling questions to keep us guessing for a long while. If the show does implode on itself, and all we are left is with is the magnificence of these first eight episodes, it is still enough make every young writer and director who is thinking of working in television to up their game.

One can’t even begin to imagine what the inspiration from this season of Twin Peaks plus another individual’s genius touch can ultimately create – one need only see the long list of classic shows like The X Files, The Sopranos, LOST among as slew of others as evidence that Twin Peaks is a powerful muse for creative minds drawn to the small screen. For now, let’s marvel at what David Lynch and Mark Frost have offered us: television like we have never experienced before.

P. Ray

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Wonder Woman – The Triumphant Lifeline DC Movies Desperately Needed

Let me get straight to the point. Wonder Woman is a great film in any genre, not only superhero fare. It trades overproduced action sequences for a coherent, evenly paced story-line. It relies less on expository and quick quip dialogue and instead lets its characters develop and act based on their established traits. And most importantly, for the DCMU (DC Movie Universe) in particular, it finally found the right mix of seriousness while allowing its cast to breathe, laugh, and, yes, smile!

Wonder Woman took its main cue from Man of Steel in setting up the very unearthly aspects of Princess Diana of Themyscira, but it learned to not dwell on them. Diana is very proud of her heritage, and although she doesn’t fit in and is saddened by the state of “man’s world”, she doesn’t spend any considerable amount of time dealing with an existential crisis built on that alienation. She has been ready for action since she was a child and that is what occupies her mind – the only thing that’s changed is the surrounding environment: paradisiacal Themyscira is switched for a dark and grey World War I Europe.

This readiness for action is what drives the movie and its main protagonists. It wants to explore Wonder Woman’s heroic motives, but it does a great job of not lingering laboriously on this. She has a heart to care for mankind; it’s simple and straight-forward. Her actions are a manifestation of that. And even when she questions mankind, it makes sense as a direct reaction to something that has happened, and not some pseudo-heady post-modern dilemma.

While the plot sails along smoothly, and each set piece is well woven into the story, the movie does falter in one important aspect: it fails to create any real tension. The final act becomes especially tedious due to this. It relies on our investment on Diana’s choice whether to believe mankind is worth fighting for or not. As we all probably know the answer to that, these final scenes can’t help but be structurally anti-climatic. The main villain, who is not well established, offers no immediate threat and ends up simply being an agent to get her to say silly lines like, “I believe in love!”

But in the end that is what this movie is concerned with: telling us why Diana stuck around Earth and is willing to fight for us. It’s a well constructed enough backbone to stand on that the lack of, “how will they get out of this one,” set pieces doesn’t hurt the overall quality of the movie.

Taking these minor flaws aside, Wonder Woman is a triumph for the big screen – and should be considered the benchmark for the DCMU. It’s their most confident and complete story, not relying on CGI-heavy effects or action sequences every five minutes to make us forget there is no plot (or that the plot is too confusing to follow for anyone outside the core DC-fanbase). It finally gets the tone correct – keeping the real-world seriousness of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman while adding the more light-hearted aspects of Suicide Squad to the mix. And most applause-worthy (for a movie in any genre), it produces a female hero who is fully rounded, who likes to kick butt as much as she likes her hair beautiful – who isn’t afraid to fall in love.

Hollywood take note, being a female hero does not always have to equate to being a sexless, emotionless, pseudo-man with breasts. Wonder Woman is a girl-power movie without having to shout “girl-power” once. It’s better for it, and hopefully future superhero films with female leads will be too.

I definitely recommend catching Wonder Woman on the big screen. Warner Bros. did the right thing by listening to the fan criticism and putting out the movie that we wanted to see. I have no doubt that this movie will be a huge hit, and no doubt that her future films are open to limitless possibilities. As an origin story, I rank this nearly as high as Batman Begins – and we all know what followed after that. Look out Marvel, Warner Bros. and the DCMU has finally arrived to the games.

 

Phil Ray

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What I am Watching: The Witch, Don’t Breathe, Event Horizon and The Void

I went around asking some folks to recommend some horror or suspense movies that focused more on atmosphere and character than shock and gore. I got a few good hits. Here is what I thought of four that I watched.

The Witch (2016)

The Witch is a quiet little movie that didn’t make much of a splash at the box office. It recounts the story of a Puritan family who is banished from their settlement and has to try to make it out on their own. When the family’s baby son, Samuel, disappears, the movie takes a dark turn. The mother becomes depressed, the children seemed possessed, and the father does his best to hold things together with his faith in God.

The horror aspects of the movie are muted and intimated throughout. Is there really a witch out to hunt the family down or is it all strange hallucinations – possibly from hunger or some disease? The dank atmospheric tone and slow pace reels one in as the mystery unfolds to a tense climax which should leave one questioning the movie’s true intent as the credits roll.

I wish more big Hollywood horror films would take their time to tell a story as concerned with their characters and details as in The Witch. What frightens is not simply the payoff – but the build-up on which a payoff is buffered. Creating suspense, tension and mood are essential ingredients to this formula and director Roger Eggers proved that he has a talent for this. I am not sure if he will continue in the horror genre, but if he does, we may have quite a splendid writer/director in the making.

While The Witch is far for perfect, it deserves a viewing. I highly recommend this little film.

Event Horizon (1997)

This is another movie that, like The Witch, did not do well in the box office. Although given its larger budged it can be considered more of a bomb. I remember skipping it myself when it first came out, but I am glad I went back to watch it on a recommendation, it’s pretty damn spectacular.

The plot centers around an expedition to recover a ship, the Event Horizon, that was lost in outer space, but then suddenly reappears on the edge of our solar system. Once our travelers manage to reach the ship, a mystery unfolds as to its true mission and whereabouts in the years that it was missing. The Event Horizon may have traveled into another universe or dimension, and, more importantly, it may also have brought something back with it which spells doom for anyone who dares to leave the ship once they have boarded.

This movie is famous for its many production problems, and the version we see is not the R-rated version (this movie is PG-13) that director Paul W. S. Anderson and writers Philip Eisner and Andrew Kevin Walker had in mind. They wanted a more brutal movie, that would up the ante on the sci-fi/horror tropes of movies like Alien.

Still, the story works. There is a psychological element to the film which reminded me a bit of Micheal Crichton’s book Sphere (the movie adaptation was released only a year later to a slightly better box-office reception). The horror elements in Event Horizon are stronger than in Sphere though, and there is good amount of blood that spills on the old wayward ship. Lawrence Fishburn and Sam Neill also play wonderfully off of each other and manages to keep the tension going nearly up to the last minute.

The ending was a bit over the top for me, but it fit into narrative. I just wished it had kept the same level of suspense that had been simmering for most of the movie. It decided to go out with a Mortal Kombat style bang instead. However, the ending wasn’t bad enough to ruin what had come before. I definitely recommend taking this movie out for a spin. It still looks great and may give you the right amount of chills.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

I can’t believe I skipped this movie when it came out. It was a wonderful, suspenseful, and thrilling roller-coaster ride.

Three bandits decide that robbing a blind man is the brightest idea they have ever had. Things don’t exactly go as planned when said blind man is an Army veteran with combat skills to make Chuck Norris blush.

The premise is simple, get out of the house alive after the robbery is botched. The only problem is that the house is the blind man’s territory, and he knows every nook and cranny to keep his unwelcome guests trapped inside.

The tension is palpable and each scene kept me guessing how it was that these kids would manage to escape. Furthermore, there is a secret that the blind man holds in his basement which brings the second half of the movie to a whole different level of terror and suspense.

Director Fede Álvarez plays the camera well and utilizes the old house where the majority of the action takes place like a wizard. Just when I thought that there was nowhere else to explore, the movie took me upstairs or downstairs and hit the reset button on thrill ride.

I highly recommend this movie. It should keep your heart rate high throughout, and make you think twice about messing with someone who looks like an easy target.

The Void (2016)

I enjoyed the first ten or twenty minutes of this movie, but it slowly started losing my attention. It’s an ambitious project that begins in what seems to be small town occult activity, with cloaked figures appearing out of the dark, and ends up dealing with parallel universes.

The story centers around Deputy Daniel Carter who takes a hurt man he finds on the side of the road to a nearby hospital. The rest of the movie is set in this hospital where strange things begin to happen. For starters, one of the nurses murders a patient and later transforms into some strange tentacled creature.

It was around this point that the movie didn’t have enough fire power to keep me going. I watched on but only half paid attention to what was happening. The characters weren’t all that interesting and the plight they were in didn’t quite grab me either. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t in suspense, and I sure as hell wasn’t concerned with what happened next.

I did make it to the end where things get very monster-rific and pay homage to the horror movies of the 80s with the tons of practical effects. The payoff, where the mastermind tells his tale of why he was doing what he was doing made me chuckle a bit too. Needless to say, I wasn’t very much impressed.

I know a lot of people enjoyed The Void, though, and it came highly recommended. The plus on this one is its ambition – I appreciated the fact that it started on a very small scale and then brought itself into a very large scale. So, though I didn’t enjoy it, you may love it. Continue reading

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Culture vs Bad Behavior: An Expat in Brazil Wonders Where The Line is Drawn

CULTURE (Dictionary.com)
noun
1.
the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action
2.
the total range of activities and ideas of a group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group: the Mayan culture 

I imagine that one’s own culture will always be a sensitive topic when outsiders decide to comment on it. It’s like having a complete stranger walk into your house and give you an assessment of what is working and not working in your living arrangements. The phrase, “Who asked you?” is not totally unwarranted.

That said, I think there are exceptions to this rule which do permit someone who is an outsider to give their opinions.

First, if you are having to co-inhabit a space over an extended period of time then you have every right to express what you think needs improvement. Your life is being directly affected by the decisions of the original inhabitant.

Second, even if you aren’t co-inhabiting the same space but it is being managed in such a way that makes it nearly impossible to ignore, you have the right to speak up. Think of a neighbor who has used their front yard to set up the most beautiful garden you have ever seen, or the neighbor who uses their front yard as a makeshift trash dump. At some point, your impulse will be to comment on both.

Finally, and the most obvious, I believe an opinion is warranted if you are specifically asked to give one. Whoever asked must be prepared to get the good news with the bad though.

I follow these simple rules of thumb when talking about Brazil. I say good things, I say bad things, and I feel no shame in doing either because I would expect the same criteria to be followed if someone were talking about me or my culture.

That brings me to a conversation I had with an American and his Brazilian companion a little while back. She asked me directly what I thought of Brazil. This is usually a danger zone area, so I tried to be as polite as possible but at the same time tell her how I actually felt.

“There are good points but there are also some definite bad points – the sort of things which I have never seen before in my life,” I said.

This led to a healthy debate about whether or not I was trying to impose my cultural values (coming from America) on a nation, and whether that attitude was imperialistic.

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I thought that was a valid critique on her part. After all, I was only born here, but I did not grow up here and my view of the world was formed by my American upbringing. It is nearly impossible to not have some American bias when expressing my feelings on how Brazil should be run. However, this led me to think about something completely different: Where does one draw the line between “culture” and “bad behavior?” Furthermore, if one insists that the bad behavior is part of the culture, than is it fair to say that that person or nation has bad cultural parameters. And lastly, where does Brazil fall in that equation: is it their behavior or their culture which is bad.

To be clear, I define bad behavior as anything that causes direct or indirect harm to either another person, society at large, the environment and the predominant culture values of a nation. Littering, stealing, lying, abuse of authority, and other things of that nature fall into my opinion of bad behavior. I can say in good faith that it is bad behavior and not culture, because many nations have moved past some of these behaviors while still maintaining the best of their culture.

First I thought of other expats I have had the fortune to come into contact down here to gauge their thoughts on the matter and make sure that I wasn’t alone in thinking some of the behavior here is outrageous. By and large, they say nearly the same thing, “The country is nice but ethics isn’t really a word that’s thrown around a lot.”

This opinion comes from friends from places as disparate as Nigeria, Ghana, Croatia and Sweden who can even appreciate some benefits of living in Brazil, as opposed to their home countries, but can’t comprehend why some people act the way they do. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a pedestrian who refuses to throw trash in the bin, other times it’s the Brazilian obsession with trying to find shortcuts where there are none which eventually create bigger problems for someone else down the line.

The list of bad behaviors and qualms seem endless and are subjects of discussion every night in expat groups across Facebook. And although I can define it as bad behavior, the question still lingered, “Is it possible that this bad behavior is part of Brazilian culture?”

Well, to start, I do come away with the feeling that Brazil does indeed have a lot of great culture. There is wonderful music, food, architecture, art and folklore to explore. The problem is that Brazil also has a lot of bad behavior that is excused in the name of culture, as the girl I was speaking to eventually expressed to me. I could not disagree more, bad behavior needs to be called out and changed, regardless of whether someone was born and raised here or not.

As an American, I feel embarrassed by American travelers who run around the world thinking they own a place, and talking down to people. That isn’t American culture – that is bad American behavior. It doesn’t offend me one bit if someone calls it out. I know very well that my city of Philadelphia is a bit rough around the edges (maybe not as much as New York) but I don’t get upset when people talk about how fat we are or that we booed Santa Claus – that’s bad behavior, which can be altered and has no connection to the wonderful culture and history of beautiful City of Brotherly Love.

Likewise, I can look at some nations I have never been to that subjugate women, kill homosexuals, and persecute people of other faiths and say without wavering, “That is bad behavior.” And if a nation’s goal is to truly infuse this bad behavior into ones culture and transmit it from generation to generation then I have no qualms (nor fear of the PC brigade) to call it bad culture.

So, yes, Brazil, you either have a case of really bad behavioral norms or your culture is just bad. It’s up to you to decide what it’s going to be because your future depends on it.

Personally, I tend to believe it’s the former, as I meet plenty of Brazilians everyday who are wonderful people and who really represent the best in Brazilian culture. But there are also plenty of people out there who a good friend of mine likes to describe as having a “weak moral fiber.” They are like a graffiti stained wall that paints a negative picture of the country where there could be plenty of positives.  

There has to come a time when Brazilians must look themselves in the mirror and ask whether it’s really worth the hassle doing some of the things that they do, and think about the consequences of those actions on other people and the country as a whole.

Is it really worth the extra bucks to pull one over on a friend? Is it worth the damage to the environment to keep littering? Is it worth some government aid to keep electing people who rob you in plain sight? Is it worth the enjoyment to blast your music for the whole neighborhood to hear knowing that a mother who has worked all day to feed her kids can’t go to sleep because of your noise? Is it worth your time to not read or stop to think about the affect of your actions ten years down the line? Is it worth any of it to act like life is just a game where you must come out the winner at all costs – even if the gains, like in any gambling sport, are short-lived.

Brazil has a lot going for it. It was dubbed, “The country of the future,” many years ago, but it seems to never get its act together long enough to ever reach that gloried future. Brazilian art from names like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, and Vik Muniz have traveled the world and stood side by side with some of the world’s greatest in their respective fields. The culture of everyday folk from dance, music and cuisine has been shared across the globe. Oscar Niemeyer and Lina Bo Bardi are recognized as some of the greatest architects in history across the globe. Brazilian works of literature have also been translated into hundreds of languages and enjoyed by millions. Brazil does not lack in the culture department. What holds the country back is its inability to take itself seriously and to constantly blame others for its woes. It’s this inability that makes one look at a polluted river and only blame the government but not see where their own actions had an effect. It’s this inability that allows for some in the country to never choose the long hard road but instead choose to trod listlessly down the “Brazilian way”.

Phil Ray

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Ranking all of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Movies

I am by no means a horror movie super-fan, but I do enjoy a good horror film now and again. The horror films that marked my childhood – and scared me enough to never want to revisit the series again – were any from the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

Freddy Krueger is indeed the stuff that nightmares are made of. Although Robert Englund’s legendary performances plays a big role in that, Wes Craven’s idea of being attacked in one’s sleep, when we are the most vulnerable, is genius too.

Since I have been on a horror movie kick of late, I decided to grow a set of balls and revisit all the movies – none of which I can recall I had ever seen from start to finish. There are nine major releases in total.

While these movies certainly didn’t have me reaching to turn on the light, like when I was a kid, some were quite entertaining and even made me think twice before closing my eyes.

The series also has its real duds, and had it not been for my desire to complete all of them, I would have never made it through the schlock.

Here is my ranking of the movies from worst to best. Make sure to disagree and tell me how you would rank them. Enjoy!!!

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

This 2010 remake of the 1984 classic is dead on arrival. The kids (who are played by actors who look like they are pushing thirty) walk around like the bunch of depressed millennials that they are and feel like they have no pulse long before they are killed. It made me wonder if the original Freddy Krueger would even get off on killing these kids? Well the answer is, “no!” because this Freddy Krueger is not a viciously brutal child killer, but a sickening predatory child molester – so going after broken and lonely social outcasts are his thing.

Although the cinematography is crisp, and the special effects look great, the clinical production of the movie only compounds on the lifelessness that abounds. Every single character – from the parents to Freddy himself (who is barely intelligible behind his prosthetic mask) – is given nothing interesting to do but take up screen time.  The kids, in particular, are so bland that I had no reason reason to root for them. This in effect created no suspense. In fact, I couldn’t wait for most of them to die, and even when they did die I kept wishing the old Krueger would step in and say “Cut! This is how you properly decapitate someone!”

But, alas! How can this new Krueger devise imaginative ways to murder his victims when his victims lack any imagination or creative drive?

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) did prove one thing – the stereotypical millennial does not have the sufficient spark for life necessary for an intense slasher horror film. When the studio heads inevitably try for another remake, I hope they push for a script with some kids who have skipped a rock or two in their lifetimes or even climbed a tree. Better yet, set it in the 80s ala Stranger Things – those kids were awesome.

Don’t watch this movie unless you want to fall asleep. I know that if I had to be forced to watch this mess again, I may indeed have nightmares – but not for the reasons that producers were shooting for.

8. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is the sixth and final chapter of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street series. It attempts to put the Freddy Krueger character to rest with a bang, but it hit all the wrong buttons. This movie isn’t as bad as the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street – but no by much.

Is there anything worthwhile to say about this movie? Well, the soundtrack wasn’t bad. There is a pretty great Iggy Pop tune that plays during the end credits and a few decent pre-mega-rock/pop-phase Goo Goo Dolls songs to fill in the empty space between each excruciatingly bad scene.

The other mini-redeeming quality of this movie is that it puts a cap on the rest of the Krueger mythology as far as telling us a little about his youth and how he came to be a child murderer. Unfortunately these scenes are short and vary blasé. Had the writers taken the time to really go into the psychology of Freddy Krueger before he turned hell hound, it would have added a lot more weight to the climax – and perhaps would have even made for a more interesting focal point for the film as a whole.

What we do have instead is a movie that doesn’t really concern itself with a plot or characterization, but rather, how to get all the players into place for Freddy’s terror. While that criticism could be levied on some other movies in this long franchise, at least the Freddy-kills in those movies were darkly funny, creative, and somewhat scary. Here they are mostly all played for Loony Tunes-level comedy violence.

The final act of Freddy’s Dead is probably the most absurd part of it all. Krueger is taken out of the dream world again (you would’ve figure he would have learned how to defend himself from that little tactic by now) to face off with his own daughter. It’s a grudge match that is badly staged and lacks any real depth of character or odds to root for or against. Although the writers did try to build Freddy’s relationship with her as something more meaningful, via a series of flashbacks, these scenes, like the ones trying to explain his upbringing, were short and badly written thus adding nothing to the final confrontation.

Skip this one unless you are in completest mode or really need to see a Johnny Depp cameo. Here is the never boring Iggy Pop, though.

 

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

I know this movie is a bit of a fan favourite (and also the highest grossing film of the original six movies in the franchise) mostly for its very creative Freddy-kills, but it bored me to bits. I think I nodded off a few times before I could finish it. The comments section is below – so you can let me have it – but let me say my piece.

Simply put, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master lacks an interesting story. Its only mission is to set the pieces in motion to allow for Freddy to continue his murderous spree by tricking Kristin, the main protagonist in the previous A Nightmare on Elm Street film, into pulling her friends into one of her dreams.

Like I said, this movie is beloved for its many inventive Freddy-kills, and there are certainly a lot of them and they are without a doubt morbidly entertaining. However, I needed little bit more than just that to hold my attention.

Though I do love a fair amount gore and violence in my horror movies, without a proper set up, the payoff feels empty. Besides that, Freddy is at his best when he has reason to kill – revenge for being murdered and fear of being forgotten being his two great motivators. Without that extra impulse, he can teeter closely to being portrayed as just a cartoon character. This is not a horrible movie, but I would probably never put it on again.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

The second installment in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is one strange turkey. It picks up a few years after the events of the first movie, but it doesn’t really bother to expand on them. There is a whole new host of characters which include Jesse, a teenage boy who is now living in the same house that Freddy had haunted in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not long before Freddy begins to appear in Jessie’s dreams.

The movie takes us on a trip through Jessie’s increasingly bizarre behavior as Krueger uses the boy’s body to operate in the real world. Having Krueger manifest in this fashion is a bit confusing and also strips away a lot of his scare factor since in dreams he is much more terrorizing and powerful.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy’s Revenge also fails to present us with a good motive for his killing other than just the fact that he wants to and can – as I have stated earlier, this neuters Freddy Krueger a bit into just your average bogeyman. What saves the movie is that Freddy has yet to fully turn into the king of the comic one-liners, and his attacks here are still delightfully sadistic and gruesome.

I had never seen this movie before and one thing that did stand out was the gay subtext – there’s a lot of boy and man ass to be seen, and Jesse’s scream is on par with most of the best female scream-queens. Later, out of curiosity, I searched around the web to see if I was reading too much into the movie, but it seems that there are many sources that confirm what I thought. Some have even speculated that the plot of the movie (with all the changes in Jesse’s demeanor, as he struggles with Freddy living inside of him) is a metaphor for his coming to terms with his own sexuality. I don’t know if I would go that deep – to me it just felt like 80s gay camp fun.

Whatever the gay case may be, Freddy’s Revenge doesn’t do much to set up a good reason for Krueger’s revenge, as none of the original kids are back, but it at least makes an attempt at having a plot, keeps Freddy Krueger mostly vicious, and is filmed well enough for me to rank it higher on this list than the movies we have already gotten past. This movie needs to be watched with a good dose of tongue inserted firmly in cheek.

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989)

Although this fifth installment in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series plods along at a very uneven pace, flitting between being a straight up gore-filled horror film and an atmospheric Goth inspired suspense thriller, it manages to have a few truly interesting moments.

Alice, the hero from the last A Nightmare on Elm Street film, is the main protagonist again. Freddy Krueger has been silent for a while, but when she suddenly begins to have visions of herself dressed as a nun some mysteries unravel about Krueger’s past and his plans to get back into action.

Freddy Krueger’s kills are not that scary or creative this time around, but the scenes involving the visions of a mysterious nun and the secrets she hides caught my attention. Though this movie edges very close to entering the fantasy genre in some spots, I found the change of pace refreshing after having watched four previous films which mostly covered the same ground. Even the coloring of the film is different, with a shadowy blue filter covering most of the scenes, adding to a more suspense than horror mood. While the plot was a bit bizarre and uneven in parts, it was clear enough to have made me invest more in The Dream Child’s final acts, unlike many of the movies we have already seen on this list.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child is not a great film by any means, but it’s far from unwatchable; it simply takes a decidedly different path in telling a Freddy Krueger story. It may lack the humour, and jump scares of earlier films, but it does a decent job a building up Krueger’s mythology by telling us about his past. There are times when this works magic and other times that it falls completely flat. It makes me wonder what this movie could have been under more skilled hands in the script writing department.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Trying to stay fresh and inventive in any long franchise is difficult – especially one where the audience already knows the major plot points and gimmicks. Therefore, very rarely are the follow ups to the original as good as the first outing.  Yet sometimes, things are tweaked around just enough that a good story comes around that is on par with the energy of the original – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 – Dream Warriors is one of those films.

The story focuses on Freddy Krueger’s attempt to kill the last of the Elm Street children. At the start, a young girl named Kristen is his main target. After one of his bloody dreamscape attacks, her mother thinks that she has tried to commit suicide and promptly puts her in a psychiatric hospital to be looked after. There she meets other kids who are also plagued by strange nightmare involving a man with razor glove.

Dream Warriors brings back the original movie’s final girl, Nancy, who plays a therapist who is assigned to the hospital. She has been able to control her dreams so that Freddie cannot attack her and wants to help these kids do the same in order to defeat him.

It’s a shame that Nancy’s character never comes off as believable – she simply doesn’t have the gravitas or emotional weight of someone who was once a victim of Krueger. She also doesn’t look the part of a therapist for these kids who appear to be only about a year or two younger than her. Her dialogue and action sequences are wooden compared to them. She, and the scenes focused on her, unfortunately, end up being the movie’s weakest link.

The movie succeeds greatly when it lets everyone else get a chance to shine. These kids are interesting, charismatic, tough, and funny. This forces Krueger to find many new and inventive ways to kill them off. The movie also does a better job at moving the original plot from the first film further along (unlike the direct sequel, Freddy’s Revenge) and adding more to the mythology of the Kruger character like expanding on his abilities in both the real and dream world, which I think was a great touch.

While the original A Nightmare on Elm Street works as a straight up horror/slasher classic, Dream Warriors is a broader, action-filled horror film which stand out for its gruesomely awesome kills and a set of kids who decide to take the fight to Krueger instead of wimping out.

3. Freddy vs Jason (2003)

Start screaming now because I ranked this one so high!

I will say right from the start, this is not a good movie, but it’s damn entertaining. It offers up blood, guts, and a few fun action sequences – although one could debate that Michael was responsible for most of them. Most importantly of all, as flimsy as it was, there was an actual plot line to follow (anyone notice how important that is to me, yet?)

The story centers on Freddy needing to slip back into people’s conscious fear in order to have enough power to terrorize and murder kids again. In order to do this, he conveniently brings Jason back to life and somehow the big man manages to get all the way to Elm Street. Once Jason starts killing unsuspecting teenagers (who look about thirty) older people start murmuring the Freddy name, thinking he is back. The kids start to get curious about this Krueger character and and our old man slowly creeps back into the game.

There are plenty of, “don’t ask how or why that happened” moments in Freddy vs Jason, but the movie seems to be completely aware of this and just winks at the audience while pushing forward at breakneck speed. Its main concern is the headline match up of Freddy and Jason going at it over the souls of wayward teenagers.

The breaking point that leads to this epic confrontation is when Jason starts killing off more teenagers than he should have, which begins to draw all attention to him and leaves Freddy out of the fear-zone. Mr. Krueger quickly realizes he has unleashed an uncontrollable beast and aims to put an end to the shenanigans so he can have all the fun – the fight is on.

Freddy vs Jason is campy and even a bit cheesy – but not embarrassing so. After a series of overly explained Freddy movies, this was a call back to what audiences enjoyed the most from the series: blood and guts and just enough brain power to not be a complete dud. The not-so-young-looking kids are full of life and genuinely frightened, but they are also not afraid to fight back in Dream Warriors fashion.

After having watched all the movies in the series to this point, I found that the most endearing part of the movies were the victims who wouldn’t allow themselves to be victims. Different than some other horror movies that have their characters fight to survive, the best A Nightmare on Elm Street movies are the ones where the characters take the fight to Freddy before he can really get warmed up.

Another positive in this little funfair is that the gore and special effects department had a bit of a field day. There is blood squirting, decapitations, and dismemberments galore. Although this movie doesn’t have the shadowy demonic mood of the earlier classics, it is a good take at the more entertaining pop-culture phenomenon which is Freddy Krueger without completely neutering him. This movie is a a fun breeze to watch and it’s definitely a nice finish for Mr. Englund, who finally hung up the claws after production was ended.

2. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

After watching the A Nightmare on Elm Street series implode on itself and then finally attempt to but Freddy to rest in the horrible Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, I wasn’t sure I could handle another movie.

Thank God Wes Craven came back to save me. This movie is smart, suspenseful, and has its share of real scares. It’s also plays out like a dry run for what will eventually become Scream for it is set in a “real world” where the actors (all playing themselves, or a caricature thereof) comment on the impact of the fictional world of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

The plot revolves around the fact that Wes Craven is writing a new script for the A Nightmare on Elm Street series and Heather Langenkamp is asked if she wants to reprise her role as Nancy. Most of the actors from the original franchise show up as themselves, including Robert Englund. as they decide whether or not they want to be part of the project.

What feels like a pseudo-documentary feature at the start slowly evolves into a supernatural horror-fest as Freddy Krueger (who is supposed to just be a made up character) manages to slip into reality, terrorizing Heather’s family and friends. From thereon in, the movie does a sleek job of bending the lines between truth and fiction while poking a finger at itself, the movie industry, horror films and critics of the genre.

As I was watching Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, I kept thinking that if felt like a poor man’s version a David Lynch movie, where reality and fantasy blur, but it’s done so expertly and with good intentions that I can hardly fault it. Everything that had been missing from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series for so long – the mood, the build-up, the creepy camera angles and a Freddy Krueger who jokes less and is truly menacing – is back in this film, and this 1994 movie still holds up very well for those reason.

One final plus how this film pays fan service to the original 1984 movie. There are some copycat kill-scenes and plenty of other call backs. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was able to both close out a chapter in horror history while commemorating the glory from yesteryear. Freddy Krueger could have easily been put to  a satisfying rest after this movie, but he came back for one more bloody bout in Freddy vs Jason. In either case, both movies washed the bad taste of Freddy’s Dead out of my mouth.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Yes, there have been plenty of fun rides with Freddy Krueger over the years, but nothing beats the original outing.

The first thing that stood out while I watched this movie for the first time in a very long time is how A Nightmare on Elm Street looked fresh. The cinematography was crisp and the plot moved along at a pace that current audiences are more accustomed to. Furthermore, although the characters (especially the lead, Nancy) were a bit one dimensional, there was a palpable sense of urgency they transmitted when facing the dilemma of how to deal with a monster who attacks them in their dreams.

This version of Freddy Krueger (who is still called Fred) is far removed from the campy pop culture icon he would eventually become. His role here is to add real terror (not rattle off one liners), usually creeping up from the shadows and killing in less inventive albeit extremely brutal ways.

An example of how Wes Craven chooses direct slasher brutality over the oft-utilized carnival-like dreamscapes of later movies is how Tina, one of the kids on Freddy Krueger’s hit list, is killed. Freddy stalks her from the shadows in his nightmare world but when he finally catches up to her, in order to start slicing her up with his iconic glove, he throws a blanket over both of them. We, the audience, are mostly not shown the attack in Freddy’s world, the real horror is in watching what Tina’s death looks like in her world, in her bedroom, while her boyfriend looks on helplessly. It plays out like a scene from the Exorcist on speed as she is jolted about the room and even ends up on the ceiling, blood spilling everywhere. Sequences like this add a true element of horror and suspense that still hold up to a lot of today’s standards for the genre.

Much of the success of this film can be attributed to director and writer Wes Craven, who uses camera angles, lighting and mood to set each scene up. He never allows things to settle down long enough to lose track of the main story but he also allows us, the audience, a time to breathe (albeit heavily) before shocking us back into his nightmare. Robert Englund is also great as Freddy. He has a lot less to say, but that’s because his main mission is revenge, not entertaining a crowd.

This movie didn’t scare me as much now as when I was a kid, but it still managed to give me enough chills to think twice before closing my eyes. Most will agree that the best horror is not the type that only knows how to play us for jump scares every other scene, but the type that stays with us long after the credit rolls. A Nightmare on Elm Street definitely stands firmly as a part of that latter group. It would be a decade before Wes Craven would helm the ship again and make Freddie a truly frightening creature, but even his New Nightmare doesn’t match the grandness of this original film.

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