Scare Zone: A Pleasant Horror Surprise

One day while scrolling through my digital movie library, I came across Scare Zone, a delightful little movie. It’s not the greatest horror movie ever, but it’s tons of fun and definitely worth a watch. Here’s a quick review (very few spoilers):

Photo: bloody-disgusting.com
Photo: bloody-disgusting.com

Scare Zone Premise

Have you ever wanted to work in a haunted house during the Halloween season? I have and plan to one year. I think I’d have a blast on the other side of the scenario scaring other people. Scare Zone has a believable premise and plot that show what it would be like to work in a haunted house. A group of people come together for a few nights of ghosts and mayhem, but problems arise when they start getting knocked off one at a time. Yep, it’s a slasher movie!

Characters

One of my favorite things about Scare Zone is when Oliver (Simon Needham) assigns everyone their roles. The writers use this opportunity to show the audience each character’s personality and label them in roles you’d find in traditional slasher movies. This is a fast, fun way to introduce a large group of people without going into unnecessary detail and backstory.

I don’t really love or hate any of the characters, which is different because usually I want to see someone get killed. (Trent in the Friday the 13th remake comes to mind.) However in Scare Zone, all the characters are tolerable and most even likable. I will warn you though, some of the acting isn’t amazing. Again, these aren’t huge names, but for the kind of movie it is, everyone plays their part well and you can overlook the quality of the acting.

Likes and Dislikes

Scare Zone is fun. It’s not too dark, it’s shot pretty well, and it honors other slasher movies. The pace usually moves quickly, and you feel like you’re part of the gang. The movie feels real — but not in a doom-and-gloom way, more like a this is what the job would be like, and Oliver is the coolest boss ever way. The kills aren’t overly gruesome or gory, and there’s no suffering. It’s just a good little slasher movie.

With every fair review comes the bad. I only have one real complaint about the characters, and it’s the awkwardness between Claire and Daryl (Arian Ash and Chris Burns). Neither actor stands out, so when they develop a “love interest” relationship, it’s very awkward to watch. I blame this mostly on Claire, and I can’t decide if she’s trying to be awkward or if she’s just not a stellar actress. My other issue is the ending. Scare Zone ends on a positive note, which I’m happy with, but a certain “transformation” seems a bit extreme. I don’t want to spoil it, so just pay attention to hair color and you’ll understand.

Scare Rating

Low if you’re an avid horror movie fan. I didn’t find it scary, but it has its suspense and jump scares. So, if you’re looking for a laid-back, entertaining watch, check it out. At the time of this post, the full Scare Zone movie is on YouTube, and it looks like great quality. Happy watching!

Valentine 2001: 14 Reasons Why It’s a Solid Slasher Movie

Valentine (2001) has worked its way up my list of favorite slasher movies. I never make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, but it shocks me that so many people hate this movie. Valentine 2001 came out in the same year as some better horror movies – such as 13 Ghosts remake, The Devil’s Backbone and Jeepers Creepers – but Valentine is still a fun slasher and worth a watch.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and to challenge all those who hate it, here are the reasons why it doesn’t suck (contains spoilers):

Valentine-2001
Photo: playonlinemovie.com

Boys will be boys. The male characters in this movie are hilariously bad people. Valentine sends a very strong message that finding Mr. Right is almost impossible. Throughout the movie, the girls are trying to find dates, and the pool is filled with egotistical d-bags. That’s the dating world, but the movie doesn’t send a hopeless message. It essentially says it’s ok to be single.

Everyone can relate. The movie starts at a dance with a nerdy, unpopular kid trying to ask several girls to dance. He faces constant, and most times, vicious rejection. We’ve all been rejected, so it speaks to a large audience.

Most of the victims receive creative Valentine’s Day cards. These cards are some of my favorite cards ever and add a nice touch. For example, “Roses are red. Violets are blue. They’re going to need dental records to identify you.” Not only are they creatively twisted, they’re funny.

You don’t feel bad for any of these characters. Sometimes, you feel like certain people should survive a slasher. Not in this one. Most of the characters are shallow and selfish, and most of them get exactly what they deserve.

Valentine keeps you guessing throughout, and there’s a fun little twist. It doesn’t end like most slashers, and the surprise is well worth the watch.

All 90s and early 2000s horror movie fans will love the cast. There are several actors you know from other movies. The Valentine cast includes: Denise Richards (Wild Things), Hedy Burress (Cabin by the Lake), Katherine Heigl (Bride of Chucky), Marley Shelton (Planet Terror, Scream 4.)

Listen to the music because the soundtrack rocks. For all you heavy rock fans, you’ll love hearing Deftones, Orgy, Manson, Rob Zombie and Linkin Park.

Everyone has distinct personalities and issues. One thing current movies lack in general is good stereotyping; there is a reason stereotyping exists. In movies, it often pokes fun at them, and the same is true here. You have the pretty girl, the sweet girl, the chubby girl, the awful artist, etc. All the actors play their parts well.

Never underestimate the nerd. You know who the killer is from the go, but who is he/she 10 years later is the big question. They quickly dismiss the nerd because he “could barely operate a water fountain, much less an intricate revenge plot.” Think again.

The main girls die in the way they rejected the nerd at the dance. I love this. For example, when asked to dance, Paige (Richards) says she’d, “rather be boiled alive.” Guess how she dies.

It fills a niche of horror that has been heavily dominated by My Bloody Valentine, which is hands-down my favorite Valentine-related slasher, but Valentine 2001 isn’t trying to be a great movie; it’s trying to be fun. I enjoy the holiday-themed horror movies, and Hollywood doesn’t do many Valentine’s Day ones, so it’s refreshing.

No one wants an Oscar, including the writers. The dialogue is quick and feels very real. When two characters converse, it feels natural. The writing leads to some sub-par acting, but that’s the beauty of the movie. It’s easy to laugh at the characters and easily recognize the actors enjoyed making it.

Everyone can pick it apart. I rewatched it recently for this post, and at one point I thought, “Who’s house are they in?” There’s a scene where the main girls are in a random house for questioning, and you have no idea whose house it is because you’ve seen where everyone lives, and it’s not there. In another scene, a girl answers the door and looks down before she’s supposed to. It’s those little things that make a movie more entertaining, and Valentine is a great movie to watch alone or with your best friend.

If you love a mindless slasher, check out Valentine 2001. Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments, and Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Halloween: Original vs. Remake

We hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween! Another holiday has come and gone, however we had so much fun and great conversations about this topic that we’ve decide to extend it another week. We also want to thank everyone for reading and discussing horror movies with us all month. It is my pleasure to review this one, and heads up, I could talk forever about this one!

Michael Myers 1978
Photo: http://halloweenmovie.wikia.com

Halloween – The Original

Possibly my favorite movie from this era and definitely in my top five in the genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween is a classic. This was one of the first – maybe even the first – slasher movie I saw as a kid. I don’t want to gush and seem like a fan girl because I do poke fun at a few things too. So, here are a few of my favorite things about the original Halloween.

False Sense of Security: From the opening scenes, the audience sees this is a quite little suburban town. The teenagers are decent kids who party, but most teenagers do. The younger kids are excited about Halloween, and there are lots of shots of trick-or-treaters, trees, streets and houses. As the movie unravels, you feel sympathy for these townspeople. They have encountered a tragedy and evil that may defeat them and destroy their little town. You wouldn’t expect an evil force, and the original takes you from all those wonderful Halloween memories you have to fearing Michael Myers. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotion and disrupts what should be a fun-filled holiday.

Pure Evil: Myers is pure evil. It’s that simple. Some people are just born with an evil that consumes them. Whether you believe in this theory or not, the original Halloween did. There was no backstory. You do not know why Myers was a killer, and I never cared to know. I just accepted the “pure evil” within him because it was believable. He never says a word. He just punishes and kills, and that’s what makes him more threatening to me. Evil motivates him, and if you aren’t scared of evil, then what does scare you? The evil serves as a supernatural force, which is much harder to control than a person. It’s unpredictable, reckless, and illogical. The idea that you can’t control it is more effective from a horror standpoint and leaves you uneasy throughout the movie.

Jaime Lee Curtis: My pick for the top final girl. Curtis set the bar for final girls. She’s played several strong female characters over the years, and Halloween helped her establish that career role. In Halloween, her character is smart, responsible, fun, and studious, however she also smokes pot and hangs out with her friends. She is a normal teenager who becomes tormented by Myers. Her character was developed very well, and you follow her through her ups and downs. She was strong and weak; she fought and cried. She was a woman survivor. Curtis is and always will be Laurie Strode.

Michael Myers 2007
Photo: filmedge.net

Halloween – The Remake

I don’t think I saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween in theaters, and if I did, I apologize to who I saw it with! We’ve talked a little about re-imagining movies – such as A Nightmare of Elm Street – and that’s what Zombie’s version is. He took the original and built on it. It wasn’t a true remake because he added and changed a lot, and Zombiefied it as only he can do.

I have a few issues with this version, but as a stand-alone horror movie, it’s pretty intense.

No security: As an audience, you never feel safe watching this movie. Zombie takes you from a highly dysfunctional lower-class family, to an asylum, then back to the dysfunctional family. There is nothing pretty in or about this movie. As an audience, it’s difficult to feel shocked about anything that happens because you almost expect it. It’s predictable. Whereas in the original, the murders are a tragedy because terror invades a small quiet town. You get to know the town as a whole, instead of Myers. I don’t agree with Zombie’s choice because Myers and his life are terrifying enough. He strips all innocence from the beginning. And if you take away the town’s innocence from the beginning, you take it away forever and leave no hope.

The backstory: I appreciate a little backstory, but I feel the first half of this movie is way too long. Zombie refuses the idea of “pure evil,” and make Myers a product of his environment. Coming from a dysfunctional and abusive household, Myers snaps. Then he is so consumed by loss and hatred, it turns into evil. Comparing the two, I prefer the original idea, however I accept that modern audiences need this backstory. They want to know why, and they have to see progression. If Zombie had shortened it 20 more minutes, I think most people would not complain about the length. Reviewers seem split down the middle about this – you either love or dislike the backstory – I side with the latter.

Laurie Strode: Once Myers escapes, Halloween 2007 turns into a respectful remake. Scout Taylor-Compton portrays Strode’s character well, and she stays true to the innocent good-girl type. Her character is modernized, and for the purposes of the remake, that’s okay. However, audiences don’t really know her. The emphasis on Myers is so heavy, Halloween 2007 lacks teen character development, which should be as important as Myers’ story. In the remake, Strode doesn’t stand out above her friends, and she is not the only final girl. It’s a disservice to the character, and I wonder if Annie (Danielle Harris) survives because the first franchise kind of screwed her over.

Final Thoughts

Zombie does keep a lot of the original details, which shows he wasn’t trying to outdo the original Halloween. Myers dresses up as a ghost with the glasses, Zombie uses the original score, the masks are the same, the girls resemble the original girls, etc. It is gruesome and bloody, which I can take or leave. I also expect that from Rob Zombie. I enjoy the movie much more once Myers escapes, but the violence and kill scenes feel too long. For that reason, I can’t watch this movie often because it borders torture instead of quick-slasher fashion.

The verdict: The original. I watch it every Halloween night, and it is perhaps a perfect slasher movie.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Dawn of the Dead: Original Vs. Remake

Few horror movies have been as influential on pop culture as George Romero’s Dead films. Though he started with the small, but revolutionary 1968 film Night of the Living Dead it was his follow up Dawn of the Dead in 1978 that made a greater impact on the future of zombie entertainment. These movies established the undead flesh eating zombie on film (then mostly referred to as “ghouls” in the culture) and interpersonal conflict between the human characters we follow during the story. It was Dawn however that created the idea of urban/suburban survivors scrounging for supplies and trying to subsist in a zombie-ravaged post-apocalypse. Over the years Romero’s first three zombie films developed a rabid cult following and the first film was the subject of a near perfect remake (directed by special effects guru Tom Savini) in 1990.

In 2004 a remake of Dawn of the Dead was released, directed by former commercial director Zach Snyder in his first feature film. Immediately the cult based around Romero’s original work rebelled, but as audiences, even die hard horror audiences, began to see the film it became clear this wasn’t just a cash-grab remake but, like Savini’s, one very much in the spirit of the original film.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The original Dawn of the Dead took what worked from the tight and focused Night of the Living Dead and expanded it into a broader world. It trades the isolated farm house for a suburban shopping mall, though it maintains the idea of a small group banding together. There is a lot that works and some that doesn’t, but it still makes for an entertaining film.

The Good:

  • Characters: With such a small cast you get to know and care about the main group of characters. Gaylen Ross and David Emge as the news broadcast couple are effective as neophytes who want to survive but don’t start out with everything it takes. Scott Reiniger is great as a SWAT member who actually cares about what he’s doing but realizes the cause is lost, and Ken Foree steals the show as Peter, another SWAT member who ends up as the defacto leader thanks to his cool head, forceful personality, and common sense. Even when annoying you genuinely like them and want them to survive the horror.
  • Location: The suburbs shopping mall and how they use it is remarkably effective and part of what ended up being the most influential. It’s the first time we’ve seen regular people scavenging for survival the ruins of the old world.
  • Effects: The zombie and gore effects are terrific. Some of the more gruesome zombies look truly gruesome. Given the age of the film, a lot of the practical effect really do hold up and as they are practical effects make a big impact on screen.

The Bad:

  • Tangents: The film lacks the focused intensity of Night, which behaved as a short wild ride. It meanders from SWAT raids to redneck hunts. Sometimes the scenes feel unnecessary and given the length of the film you wonder how many of the extraneous scenes and montages need to be in there as they can kind of take you out of it.
  • The Stupid: There is a LOT of stupid in this movie. From characters that behave in incredibly dumb ways to enhance artificial tension (by not being able to get their keys or forgetting a bag) to entire sequences that really take away from the mood. While zombie movies tend to agree other people can be more dangerous than zombies…rampaging bikers riding through the mall hitting zombies with pies is a tonal left turn. And to me is a massive black mark on an otherwise great narrative arc.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Surprisingly the remake actually follows the intro of the original Night of the Living Dead more than Dawn. A 10 minute build to set up the world and events is followed by a plot-punch in the face as the zombies take over. It takes what the original film did, stripped some of the goofier stuff, and added a bit of modernization to make a great progenitor for modern zombie horror.

The Good:

  • Characters: AGAIN the characters are the strongest part of the film. The larger cast starts with principle character Ana played by Sara Polley, and later adds Ving Rhames, Mekhi Pfeiffer, Jake Weber, Lindy Booth, and even Matt Frewer in supporting roles. The cast is bigger but each character feels as though they have a purpose and you care about their outcomes, whether you want for them to make it or to be brutally shotgunned. My favorite is Michael Kelly as CJ. You initially hate his character but as the story progresses he ends up being one of the best. A testament to the writing and performance. Ken Foree does a cameo saying his famous quote from the original as does Tom Savini, appearing as a sheriff. And he is one cool mofo.

  • Sound Design: There is an old saying that sound design is something that you don’t notice unless it goes wrong. The original made some odd sound and music queues, from western-style bullet ricochets to silly music stings. The remake is spot on in sound design and the ambiance is incredible because of it. The musical design is absolutely terrific, the Johnny Cash intro, the Richard Cheese montage, and the Jim Carroll outro are stand outs. Zombie cries are eerie and combat impact is brutal. Notably the zombie baby is pretty freaky…
  • Narrative: Written by James Gunn now of, Guardians of the Galaxy fame, from Romero’s script, the story is, if anything, stronger than the original. We grow with characters and hope for their success. As their various trials and tribulations unfold we invest wholly and are gutted with each death. It’s hard to think of a modern zombie movie with so many effective individual story subplots, arcs, and resolutions. It might be missing some of the anti-consumerism of the original, but Romero’s handling of that subject was a bit ham-fisted to me anyway.

The Bad:

  • Modern Zombies: I’m not a fan of modern zombies and this movie is one of the first that made the undead zombie stronger and faster than the living. Biologically alone this makes no sense at all and fast zombies just feel added to create a better sense of danger. I think the sheer number and ferocity of humans who want to eat you is bad enough without making them move like extras in a kung fu film.
  • The Downer Ending: One of the best aspects of the original film is it has a positive ending. While things aren’t looking great overall, characters show resolve and conclude this chapter of their narrative with a little positivity.  The character we all invested in the most comes through in the end. Modern horror likes to let the bad guys win or end on a note in minor key and Dawn 2004 does this. While the ending is ambiguous you do discover the plan you’ve invested in is in at least some way a failure. It is a decent ending but I’d have liked to see something good for the characters we’ve been built up to love.

The Verdict:

Some thought has to be given to the impact of the original but enjoying a movie is a visceral feeling and I actually prefer the remake. While both movies have great benefits I feel Romero’s relatively guerrilla style made for a film that is less well made and the story didn’t quite have the effective edge of the remake. A lot of this hinges on the climax, as we I feel the remake benefited from having the zombies as the primary cause of the climax rather than a bunch of roving Hell’s Angels. As I said in my Nightmare post a remake can work if you give it to a good writer/director. Zach Snyder, unlike a lot of directors who came from TV and music videos (I’m looking at you Samuel Bayer) is very good at telling a story visually (if he can be a bit cliché and overdone) and Gunn delivered an excellent story as he has proved he is capable of doing since. Both make for good viewing, if you want to see where modern zombie horror originated (millennials who think Zombie-Personal Drama started with The Walking Dead are about to learn something) the original Dawn of the Dead will show you that and give you a great story. For an exciting film with a better developed sense of what works and what doesn’t the remake wins for me.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Original vs. Remake

In 1984 horror maestro Wes Craven created the characters, world, and lore of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The original masterpiece introduced Robert Englund as the iconic monster Freddy Krueger, spawned seven franchise sequels, turned New Line Cinema into a profitable new industry player, and launched the mainstream careers of its director and several cast members.

In 2010 a remake was announced, which surprised few as nearly every horror franchise was in the process of being remade. It attempted to establish new lore, Jackie Earle Hailey took over as Krueger, and it endeavored to re-launch the franchise as “true horror” rather than the comedy-horror many of the original series sequels tended toward.

Having main-lined the entire franchise I have to declare the remake to be an abject failure in its execution that, despite some very strong performances from its new cast, embodies every ounce of flawed thinking in Hollywood’s remake culture. To compare them I’ve tried to break down some broad concepts to analyze what works when it works and what completely fails.

Premise:

Wes Craven’s premise is simple enough to be summed up quickly: Teenagers from the Elm Street neighborhood in the town of Springwood are having nightmares that turn out to be fatal. The cause is determined to be a monster named Freddy Krueger, a child killer in real life who was burned alive by angry parents and now his evil continues to be visited on their children.

The remake premise is similar but added elements that strangely made it less effective. In the remake kids are having bad dreams that also turn out to be fatal. The cause here is determined to be that they all went to the same pre-school where there was a gardener, Freddy Krueger, who seemed to be good to the kids but several children claimed he was molesting them. The parents track him down based on the kids’ accusations and burn him alive in a factory. After he dying Freddy hunts down the kids from the pre-school who accused him and kills them in their dreams.

What makes Craven’s premise so effective while the remake falls short? Craven made some conscious choices on how he built his story. The town of Springwood was designed to be “pure Americana” essentially any suburban town USA. Elm Street was chosen as a ubiquitous street name (as Freddy says in Freddy’s Dead “every town has an Elm Street”). It’s remarkably effective because it makes the audience of mostly teens feel like it could be their street, their town, and any one of them. Furthermore Craven chose dreams as the killing ground because everyone eventually falls asleep. As much as you fight it you will sleep, you will dream, when you dream he’ll get you. Craven’s entire premise was universal and broad. It could be any of us.

The remake surprisingly narrowed its field of victims. It isn’t generic street and town USA, it’s a specific school and within that school a specific population. We see a photograph of the kids who are being killed in their dreams displaying who the victims are and will be. Since we all didn’t go to Badham Pre-School while Fred Krueger was there, this means the audience’s “fear” is based wholly on their attachment to the potential victims and they feel no subconscious threat to themselves. It puts a lot of pressure on the narrative’s characters…which is what is covered next.

Characters:

The four principle teens of Craven’s film in their first scene together. Through physical interaction and positioning in the frame you can tell a lot about each one and their relationships without dialogue.

Watching Craven’s Nightmare especially in the wake of Friday 13th and Halloween, it has a surprisingly low body count. Three kids and seemingly one parent. BUT, because of the way Wes Craven uses his characters we feel every death. We first meet Tina, a pretty blonde girl from a troubled home. Less than 5 minutes in we meet Nancy, her straight laced boyfriend Glen, and Tina’s roguish boyfriend Rod. These three characters are all introduced in one scene, relationships established through visual cues during plot-based dialogue revealing all the characters are having similar bad dreams. When, in a nod to Psycho, Tina dies in the first 15 minutes (still one of the most brutal deaths I can think of in a horror movie) we then follow Nancy as she shows resolve, courage, creativity, and self-sacrifice in fighting to keep herself and her friends alive; against parents who don’t believe her; and Freddy who haunts her dreams. As other characters die we feel their deaths. We’ve spent so much time with them, experiencing their development and their world we fear for them. When Nancy cries for Glen we’re there with her. When she faces Freddy we cheer for her. As for Freddy, what can be said? Robert Englund created what is probably the most famous and iconic modern slasher villain. Used sparingly by Craven, always in shadow or obscured, Freddy hunts his victims, stalks them, teases them…Freddy enjoys his work. We love his charisma as a villain but dread his sadism and applaud Nancy’s ultimate victory over him.

Kris, Jesse, and Nancy in the 2010 remake. It’s hard to find an image of the principle teens together as they never share screen time.

The remake attempted to follow many of the same concepts but made several serious mistakes. Kris, a character reminiscent of Tina, is the one we follow and invest in at first but for one third of the film, instead of ten minutes. When she dies thirty minutes in the audience now must re-invest in Nancy, with whom we’ve spent meager time as she’s had to split so much screen time with Kris. We meet Nancy in the opening scene but know little about her character since we’ve spent so much time establishing the original lead. Based on their interactions we don’t even know the relationship between Kris and Nancy. She works at the diner. Has had some bad dreams. She’s an artist. We know the kinds of things that might appear in an obit, but nothing about her personally. And with an hour to resolve the story we also have to establish why we need to care about her struggle. We also have Quentin (who through several lines of dialogue and a few scenes is established as having feelings for Nancy, these filmmakers really need to learn how to tell a story visually…) who we also meet early but then have to establish as well over the film’s last 45 minutes to an hour. Then we have Freddy. He’s darker and “scarier” supposedly but in making him more menacing they’ve sucked all his personality away. Jackie Earle Hailey does a phenomenal job with the character he has, but he lacks the foreplay of Englund’s Freddy. He doesn’t toy with you with the same glee or mind-bend your reality like Craven’s Freddy. They made him far closer to the characters Craven and Englund actively tried to avoid. By breaking up the story amongst so many “leads” Kris, Nancy, Quentin, Freddy, we never fully establish whose story we’re telling which is the final point.

Whose Story is this?

Looking back young Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy is one of the most admirable of all final girls. She’s smart, resourceful, a natural leader, and possesses an incredible will to survive.

Film historian Michael Jeck is fond of asking “who are we in this movie?” It’s a very effective way to analyze a story and see if a narrative works. So who are we in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street? It’s easy. We are Nancy. It is her story. Even introduced after Tina, we understand Tina relies on her for courage and strength. Glen comes to her for leadership. Rod comes to her for trust. Nancy’s parents are troubled; her mom starts out in denial then drinks heavily once her admission of her role in creating Krueger. Her father is protective but distant and also has to wrestle with his role in murdering Freddy. So we identify with, follow, and admire Nancy’s narrative. As for Freddy? He’s a dark menace. His story is told so quickly and so late we never bother to ask how or why. What he can do and who he is has been established through earlier action so he’s a mysterious boogeyman and his backstory provides just enough information to make us hate as well as fear him.

“This is god…” Englund as Freddy Krueger.

Who are we in the remake? I actually don’t know and this is a major, major flaw in its narrative and design. First we’re Kris, searching for facts about her friend Dean’s killer. Then we’re split between Nancy and Quentin. Then we are told in depth Freddy’s backstory via flashback and narrative. So we as the audience are Kris, Nancy-Quentin, AND Freddy (the villain stripped of his all mystery) all at once. The result is a mess of a story with NO anchors for the audience. Its protagonists seeing things, describing the things they just saw or did, and repeating the premise concepts endlessly. Dare I say, the filmmakers had the seed of a courageous new direction and balked at the last minute. I remember seeing this film and theaters and thinking, “wow what if Freddy is innocent?” It would turn it into Freddy’s story as the character you identify with, the one taking his vengeance on the kids who falsely accused him and the parents who brutally murdered him. But when we reveal the kids were telling the truth, that he was a despicable molester…we definitely cannot identify with his story, so we’re yo-yoed back into Nancy and Quentin, whose characters lack so much conviction and mettle we don’t really want to be them either. Would I have liked an innocent Freddy? I’m not a purist so maybe/maybe not it would have depended on the execution, but it would have at least justified the remake…

Jackie Earle Hailey is an excellent performer and makes for a menacing Freddy, but his character is written with no additional traits beyond his rage.

Why Remake?

Iconic and eerie, achieved through practical effects Freddy stalks Nancy through the walls.

Why even do a remake of an iconic film? It’s a valid question considering how much of the industry relies on them. Modern remakes typically seem to be done to make money off the name, which is fine especially when given to writers and directors who realize what made the original successful and incorporate this into their own version. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 this was its greatest failure. It doesn’t have any idea why Craven’s film was successful and scary. It was about characters we identify with and care about fighting a monster from which there is no escape. It’s told with deft visual style, frame-filling narrative, iconic scenes, and uses every single second of its 90 minute running time.

CGI Freddy stalking Nancy through the walls moves too much, animates too much, and loses the simple sinister edge of the original. It’s hard to be viscerally afraid of a cartoon.  A perfect analogy of everything wrong with the remake.

The remake only seems to focus on a killer in dreams and telling his back story. It establishes no characters we believe in, no iconic scenes save for those from the original gruesomely updated with CGI or severely hobbled by nonsensical construction (a nightmare in the bath ends up in the snow?!), and muddles the villain’s backstory with over-exposition and ambiguous motivation for his victims to remember him. It took a tight, focused narrative and turned it into a chaotic, careless monstrosity. If nothing else it helps prove why Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street will stand as the magnum opus from one of the masters of horror and the 2010 remake a mere shadow of its effectiveness. Will the 2010 version ever achieve the same level of success and appreciation as Craven’s? Only in its dreams…

My Bloody Valentine: Original vs. Remake

Happy October, everyone! We’re excited to bring you our annual Halloween-themed posts for the month. For 2015, original and remade horror movies will go head-to-head, and we’ll try to pick a favorite. We hope you enjoy the reviews, and comments are always welcome!

My Bloody Valentine: Original (1981) vs. Remake (2009)

Photo: denofgeek
Photo: drafthouse.com
Photo: denofgeek
Photo: denofgeek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the remake came out, I remember several bad reviews because they changed nearly everything. I can understand how purists would argue it’s terrible because so much changed. However, I think you have to look at it like a re-imagining, much like Zombie’s Halloweens, which is not always easy. With that in mind, I love these movies, and they deliver delightful horror fun in different ways.

Similarities:

I was surprised by how much I loved the original My Bloody Valentine. It has a solid story, strong characters, and is shot very well. The laundromat scene is probably one of the best kill scenes during this time period. The camera work in this scene has a monster-movie feel to it and increases your heart rate a little. The remake of My Bloody Valentine is just good slasher fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and when you watch them back-to-back, I don’t think the remake was supposed to. They did not intended to outdo the original, just modernize it for a new generation.

There really aren’t a lot of similarities. Sarah’s character is the same. They both use Axel’s name, and the Harry Warden story line is used. Both slasher movies are set around Valentine’s Day, and we can assume the killer gets away. That’s about it.

Differences:

These are what set the movies apart. The stories are completely different: they reversed the two main characters, the killer is different, etc. Here’s a breakdown:

  • The original focuses more on the “curse” or urban legend surrounding the holiday. For example, if the kids have the Valentine’s Day party, people will die. The killer moves the hearts upside down when he kills, and we see way more extracted human hearts. In the remake, the holiday is more of an aside, and the movie could take place any time of year. This allows the original to have more purpose, whereas the remake feels almost like a senseless revenge film.
  • Both take place in a small town, but the original has more of a close-knit feel. In the remake, the characters don’t seem to like each other. They back-stab, allow adultery, and just put up with one another. In the original, the adults hang together and watch out for the younger adults, and the YAs party together. There’s also an even mix of both age groups in the original, and you get to know the town. In the remake, you only get to know the younger adults, who act like their 50 instead of 25.
  • The remake is more scandalous. I’m sure this was done to appeal to 21-century audiences, and it works. As much as I love comradery, I enjoy watching Irene (Betsy Rue) chase the trucker down while completely naked. Tom (Jensen Ackles) locking himself in the cage is pretty ingenious. Sarah (Jaime King) trying to save the little skank sleeping with her husband is touching. The remake was also meant for 3D, which does not add a lot, but it adds a more fun element.

So, how to I rank them? It’s a tie for me. Both My Bloody Valentines entertain and rank high in my slasher movie cannon. For a solid film, watch the original; for a less serious treat, watch the remake. Either way, both are tons of bloody fun!