Tag Archives: A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Legacy of Wes Craven

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I like scary movies. As such, along with the majority of other like-minded individuals, I too would consider myself a fan of the legendary film director, writer, producer and actor, Wes Craven, who earlier today it was announced had sadly passed away. Back in June this year, when the news about Sir Christopher Lee‘s passing broke, we put together an article celebrating the great man’s work. Similarly, it would feel very remiss of me to not do the same for Wes, one of the most influential genre directors of our time.

With almost 30 directing credits to his name and a number of titles that his contemporaries often state that they wish they had made, a man who is adored by his legions of fans, today is truly a sad day for horror film watchers everywhere. His twisted sense of humour and ability to reinvigorate a whole sub-genre proved he was a visionary well ahead of his time. His skill and passion is what makes his films still scary to this day.

But before you go to sleep tonight and see him in your dreams, or try to work out which of your friends is responsible for his death and has hidden his body in the boot of their car, I’m going to run through five of his films in no particular that everybody should see, staring with…


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm streetYou’re all quite rightly expecting it to be on the list, so let’s get this one down and then move on. I love A Nightmare on Elm Street. The whole ninety minutes are exactly what a film like this should be; imaginative (especially with its creative death scenes and tonally dark concept), perfect characters for its story, with a few surprisingly decent performances too. Freddy Krueger is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable horror characters invented. Even when he hasn’t got to do much but extend his arms and scrape his glove along a wall, thanks to the way Craven depicts and shoots him, the atmosphere is so tense you could cut it with a bladed-finger. The nightmarish dream-like aura that Craven captured is amazing to behold and helps establish Kreuger as this brilliantly menacing villain. Even though the sequels became increasingly goofy and lame as they went on, Craven’s original can still be taken in isolation as a solid, bold and visually exciting horror. It’s quite possibly the greatest supernatural slasher film ever made and my personal favourite of his.

 


The Last House on the Left (1972)

last house on the leftOppositely to A Nightmare on Elm Street, the first feature film that Craven directed back in 1972 is the one film of his I truly despise. Its characters are appalling, unpleasant and horrific individuals who rape a couple of girls and torture a family. I found it more than a little misogynistic, with some truly terrible performances from the cast. However, it did cost peanuts to make, was primarily set to appeal to the exploitation crowd and that’s exactly what it achieved, grossing nearly $3m from a very modest $87k budget. Whilst audiences mature and tastes change – what was once considered frightening is perhaps diluted these days by the torture porn and high levels of graphic detail found in similarly low budget horrors – the fact that The Last House on the Left can still make you sick to the pit of your stomach is perhaps an indicator of just how talented he was at his craft. Craven knew how to make something that would have a lasting effect; it’s an exploitative, disgusting revenge thriller that has no moral compass. So, whilst I hate this movie (slightly less than its remake) it is a good example of how his keenly aware intelligence as a film maker set him in good stead for the rest of his career. And after all, it’s only a movie…


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

hills have eyseBelieve me, I was tempted to include The Hills Have Eyes Part II in this list purely for the scene where a dog has a flashback (yep, that’s a real thing and another example of Craven’s sense of humour) but truth be told, it’s an utter shambles of a film that Wes tried to disown. I’m also ashamed to admit that when I initially sat down to watch – and subsequently enjoyed – the 2006 version of The Hills Have Eyes, I had no idea it was a remake, let alone of a stone cold classic. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating its reputation slightly! Cult classic, perhaps. But Craven’s hill-billy-horror, about a bunch of ugly, deformed, incestuous cannibals preying on some unwitting souls whose caravan happens to have broken down in their patch of the desert, is still an entertainingly gruesome exploitation horror with a touch more nuance than in Craven’s previous outings. Released five years after The Last House on the Left, it’s got all the markings of a more confident and experienced director having much more fun this time around. It’s an over-the-top, slightly camp, grim and gory movie that shows off Craven’s flair for the dramatic.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

new nightmareTwo years before Scream, Craven had a stab (excuse the pun) at the meta-slasher when he returned to the New Line Cinema franchise and the monster that he created ten years prior, way back in 1984. Although New Nightmare is technically not considered canon (i.e. a part of the existing timeline), it revels in its freedom to mock and modernise a rapidly failing series that lost touch with Craven’s original vision. With a vicious metal-claw-gloved slap across the face of those who went before him, Craven re-invented the character of Freddy Krueger, the child-molesting nightmare-invading demonic-killer back from beyond the grave. No longer was Krueger a creation portrayed by Robert Englund, but he became real entity, terrorising the actors from A Nightmare on Elm Street including ol’ Wes, who starred in New Nightmare as himself! Most crucially of all, he brought the horror back into the series, something that the garbage that was Freddy’s Dead forgot to do entirely. It may have had a similar level of awareness to Scream, but it took Craven another couple of years to really perfect the technique so expertly.


Scream (1996)

screamI would wager that almost everybody has at some point in their life been affected by one of Wes Craven’s movies. I can remember being at school when Scream came out. I was 10 years old in 1996. Such was its notoriety that even though I didn’t see it personally until a couple of years later, I was still aware of Ghostface. The mask was iconic and (from what I remember) was what every kid around our way wore for Halloween the following year. I eventually watched it on VHS a couple of years later at a mate’s house and can still remember us both being a bit giddy with excitement. We used to watch all kinds of dodgy horror movies back then after school (or on …extended… lunch breaks); Witchboard, I Know What You Did Last Summer, It, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead and of course A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although the call-backs and nods-to other slasher films flew right over my head back then, re-watching it for the first time as an adult back in 2012, it was like watching a whole new film. There are plenty of references dotted throughout to keep supplying that thrilling feeling whenever you spot a new one. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore alone in the house, being threatened by a stranger in a mask, is simply an outstanding opening to a movie and sets the tone early on. It’s just a fun, incredibly clever and always entertaining horror movie made by a horror movie fan for horror movie fans. We will miss Wes Craven like we’d miss any of our own.

Advertisements

Frightfest 2014 Preview Part 2: Change and sleepy queues

By Mike Shawcross (@shawky1969)

FrightfestSaturday usually boasts a strong line up and this year, it’s got some decent looking films and even a Party! Films in the main programme during the day include All Cheerleaders Die, Starry Eyes and Dead Within.

All Cheerleaders Die is from the director Lucky McKee (The Woman) and Chris Siverston (The Lost). An All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and The Craft mash up, it sounds quite a bit of fun and one I’m disappointed to be missing; though it has a DVD release in September.  Starry Eyes is a film from directors Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer and starring relative newcomer Alex Essose. A story of selling your soul for your dreams, as a desperate actress will do anything for her major break in Hollywood. Yet another one that sounds worth a watch. The Harvest starring Michael Shannon, Peter Fonda and Samantha Morton and directed by John McNaughton sounds a very strong film indeed. Boasting a solid cast and a something in the basement premise this really does sound worth seeing. I may have to rethink my Discovery Screen choice for this one.

In the discovery screen and playing against The Harvest for me is Dead Within; from director Ben Wagner. A couple struggle to stay alive in a remote cabin in the woods after surviving a pandemic; not only fighting the dangers from outside they soon have to fight their own paranoia from within. Not high on my watch list; over in the other Discovery screen is Bad Milo, a film I was up for seeing but may change my mind! Directed by Jacob Vaughan and starring Ken Marino (We’re the Millers) about a bloodthirsty creature living in the lower intestine of Duncan (Marino) and emerging from his rectum to eat anyone that is annoying Duncan. Sounds bizarre and ridiculous and just the sort of Discovery film that will generate a lot of buzz! I think I may watch The Harvest.

Next in the Discovery Screens are White Settlers and The Short Films (Part 1). Over the years I’ve come to enjoy the short film showcase usually sponsored by the Horror Channel; some have been exceptional, but this year it is tucked away in the Discovery screen and I will be giving it a miss. White Settlers directed by Simeon Halligan (Splintered) and starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) set in the Scottish Borders as a young couple move into a remote farmhouse and are terrorized by a group of masked intruders. Sounds a typical house invasion film, but I’m hoping for something different. I know Simeon; he runs the Grimm Fest film festival in Manchester so I’ll be supporting this film anyway.

Mitch Jenkins directs an Alan Moore penned film; Show Pieces in the Discovery screen 1. A trilogy of stories written directly for the screen by Moore and which sounds fun; I like anthology films, and I do like most of Moore’s adaptations so I’ll be seeing this one.

Saturday evening’s main films are Life After Beth, directed by Jeff Baena in his debut feature and with a stunning cast; Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C Reilly, Anna Kendrick and Molly Shannon.  A zombie rom-com with a twist it sounds a blast and I will be not be missing this one. The Babadook is one which has already gained quite a bit of buzz on twitter this year, and a film I’m looking forward to seeing. Directed by Jennifer Kent in her first film and starring Essie Davis (The Matrix sequels), Daniel Henshall (Snowtown) and Noah Wiseman. The story of a widow looking after her son while his fear grows that there is a monster in the house, she starts to feel a sinister presence around her.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For needs no introduction or build-up; this is the biggest film at the festival this year. The original Sin City was a festival favourite and I’m sure the sequel will play very well; but it’s actually a film I’ll be missing. It opens nationwide a week later plus it’s playing in the midnight slot for the Horror screen so I’m off to a Frightfest party instead. (NB – This has now moved to the opening night)

In the evening discovery screen 1 we have a TBC, Digging up the Marrow and Creep. Digging up the Marrow is a film of two halves. Literally. Opening as a documentary exploring Monster Art it then becomes a horror film as the documentary makers investigate a so called “real” monster. Sounds quite appealing and I do like Adam Greens films, but against The Babadook it has no chance. Creep directed by and starring Patrick Brice alongside Mark Duplass in this improvised film. Taken from a 10 page outline, Duplass and Brice make it up as they go along. I’ll be at the party!

In the Discovery Screen 2 there is The Mirror, a UK production from director Edward Boase and starring Jemma Dallender (I Spit On Your Grave). Based on a so called true story of a haunted mirror reported by the Daily Mail and Huffington Post, I think I’ll be waiting for the DVD.

The following two events in the discovery screen are from the Duke Mitchell film club. Coherence directed by James Ward Byrkit is showing first followed by a Film Party in the final showing of the day. Both events should be worth a visit, though I’ll be attending the Party over the film.

The Sunday line up in the main screen looks very good and I’m only straying into the Discovery Screen for House at the End of Time in the evening session. Discovery screen 2 is showing some retro films for the day, they include The Visitor from 1979 and directed by Giulio Paradisi.  A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund is in attendance at the festival. Nekromantik from 1988 directed by Jorg Buttgereit and The Shining from 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick. The final film of the day is a new film; Another from director Jason Bognacki. Sounding like a giallo/hammer hybrid I think I’ll stay in the main screen.

Open Windows directed by Nacho Vigalondo and starring Elijah Wood, Neil Maskell and Sasha Grey; who all have had previous films play at the festival before, comes this new cyber horror film. One I wasn’t interested in until I read the synopsis. Worth a look. In the Discovery screen 1 there is  Expedition; while it sounds good, I’m not sure I want to watch a dinosaur found footage film.

Faults starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing prequel) and directed by Riley Stearns, his first feature looks an interesting look into the effects that a cult can have on people and their families; really looking forward to this one. In Discovery Screen 1 there is the documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, a look at the life and art of Drew Struzan, it does sound a decent documentary and one I’ll pick up on DVD.

Among the Living from the directors of Livid and Inside; Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo and starring Beatrice Dalle comes this coming of age horror film. I am looking forward to this one. Playing alongside this is Doc of the Dead, another documentary about surviving a zombie apocalypse; I’m not really a zombie fan so I’ll stay in the main screen.

The Samurai, a German film and one I really know nothing about. I was hoping to jump into the discovery screen but they don’t really interest me. The Shining, and Lost Soul. So I’ll stick with The Samurai – it might surprise me. Lost Soul is another documentary and doesn’t really draw me in, though it gets good feedback, but may be another I’ll pick up on DVD.

The House at the End of Time, is a debut film written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo. The first horror film from Venezuela to be shown internationally, this sounds a promising feature; a much better option than Stage Fright in the main screen or Another. Stage Fright, directed by Jerome Sable and starring Minnie Driver and Meatloaf is a musical, a mix of Friday the 13th and Glee, and while that sounds a strange mash-up, it’s not one that’s caught my imagination.

The final film of the day is Home. There is nothing playing against this film. From the director of The Pact, Nicolas McCarthy, Home stars Catalina Sandino Moreno in a story of demonic horror. I prefer the new title of At the Devil’s Door. Sounds a good end to Sunday.

The final day is a mix of main screen, discovery films and tiredness and of course the after festival drinks at the Phoenix Club.

Alleluia, directed by Fabrice du Welz and starring Lola Duenas and Laurent Lucas. The 2nd film in the Ardennes trilogy, the first film being Calvaire. Worth a watch if the first one arrives in time from Amazon! In the discovery 1 there is Altergiest from director Tedi Sarafian, writer of Terminator 3, which put me off a little. This horror/sci-fi thriller is Sarafian’s directional debut and is based on true events, which put me off again. Deadly Virtues from director Ate De Jong, sounds a run of the mill home invasion film, though my 2nd option if I’ve not seen Calvaire before the festival.

Nymph has me in 2 minds; a killer Siren, a Nazi concentration camp and featuring Franco Nero (Django) this doesn’t sounds too bad. Directed by Milan Todorovic and starring Kristina Klebe, I might change my mind. At the moment my plan is to see Lemon Tree Passage in Discovery 1. An Australian urban legend and directed by David Campbell. We’ve been here before with a group of non-believers wanting to disprove the legend, and of course things are never what they seem. Blood Moon from Jeremy Wooding, who directed The Magnificent Eleven (which was alright!) comes this werewolf western starring Shaun Dooley.

Xmoor directed by Luke Hyams and starring Melia Kreiling and Nick Blood comes this UK creature feature. One I’ll be avoiding. The Jessica Cameron Truth or Dare which she co-wrote, directed and stars in alongside Ryan Kiser and Heather Dorff, is my draw in Discovery 1. The film has had a fantastic run on the festival circuit and one I’m looking forward to seeing. Extraterrestrial sounds excellent, from director Nacho Vigalondo, who gave us Timecrimes (which was also excellent) comes this sci-fi romantic comedy. This is one I’m gutted to be missing.

VHS Viral, the 3rd outing in the VHS franchise and one I’m really looking forward to watching, after really enjoying VHS 2 and not really liking most of VHS 1, this one boasts a decent line up of directors including Nacho Vigalondo, Gregg Bishop and Marcel Sarmiento; could be a highlight of the festival. The Remaining plays in Discovery 1, directed by Casey La Scala is a religious-slanted horror film. Playing on the biblical end of the world scenario it’s one I’ll be avoiding. In Discovery screen 2 the 2nd part of the Shorts will be shown, with one short, The Tour starring Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff, a real coup for Frightfest’s own Damon Rickard in his first short.

The final film of the festival is The Signal, starring Breton Thwaites (Oculus), Olivia Cooke and Laurence Fishburne. Directed and co-written by William Eubank this sounds an interesting film to end on and one I’m looking forward too.

Following the final film will be drinks in the Phoenix bar, where Mike Shawcross will be attending to celebrate and dissect what has been and gone over the previous 5 days – and of course have a well-earned pint or two!

FrightFest will be running from 21-25 August 2014. You can keep up to date with Mike’s reactions here, on our Twitter page (@FailedCritics) or by following him at @Shawky1969