Film Review: The Last House On the Left (1972)

Also known as: Bad Company, Grim Company, Krug & Company, Night of Vengeance, Sex Crime of the Century (working titles)
Release Date: August 30th, 1972
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: David Alexander Hess
Cast: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Martin Kove

Sean S. Cunningham Films, The Night Co., Hallmark Releasing, 84 Minutes, 64 Minutes (heavily cut), 91 Minutes (original cut), 82 Minutes (R rated cut)

Review:

“How’d we get into the sex-crime business anyway? My brother Saul, a plumber, makes twice as much money as I do and gets three weeks vacation, too.” – Fred “Weasel” Podowski

I’ve never liked this film. To be honest, I’m not a huge Wes Craven fan, even though A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. Outside of the Nightmare series, Craven just hasn’t resonated with me.

This isn’t a good film but hardcore exploitation and grindhouse fans like to convince people that this is some sort of masterpiece. While I don’t mind gore and horrible things and I actually like grindhouse movies, I’ve never been a fan of gore for the sake of gore or shock just to shock. These are cheap parlor tricks and without substance surrounding them to give them purpose or more meaning, these tricks really don’t mean anything.

The Last House On the Left is a rather pointless film that just uses its time to try to disgust you for no other reason than it came out in a time where filmmakers could really do anything that they wanted and young filmmakers, especially, had to push the bar as high as they could just to get noticed. But when everyone is doing the same thing, you’ve got to push the bar so high that the average person on the ground will never see it.

The film is comprised of two halves, which completely ignores a three act structure but hey, Wes Craven is the king or something.

The first half is a long drawn out torture and rape sequence that takes up more than half of the film. The second half is the parents of one of the victims getting revenge on the psychos. Somehow, these parents turn psycho themselves, instead of just calling the cops when these evil people are actually just squatting in their house.

Nothing in this film makes much sense. It’s supposed to freak you out by showing people just being psychotic for no other reason than psychos gonna psycho.

The acting is terrible, the camera work is worse than terrible and the film’s music almost made me go psycho.

Some people think that this is a classic. It’s far from a classic. It’s gratuitous and even then, I’ve seen much worse in that department. Most of all, the film is really fucking slow and boring. Maybe it was effective in 1972 but considering it only appealed to an audience of miscreants jacking off in rundown Times Square porno and grindhouse theaters, this probably was just a regular Tuesday for them.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other exploitation films of the era with a high emphasis on gore and horror: I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, The Hills Have Eyes, Cannibal Ferox.

Film Review: The ‘Scream’ Film Series (1996-2011)

*written in 2015.

I was a senior in high school when the first Scream came out. It was huge, especially due to kids my age. Well, mostly kids who were never really into horror or girls who were too terrified to watch something actually scary. This isn’t me taking shots at the film, it is just the reality of it.

Scream changed the horror genre forever. The problem, is that it essentially ruined it. I’ll explain more as I go on but let me get to my thoughts on each film.

Scream (1996):

Release Date: December 18th, 1996 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore

Woods Entertainment, Dimension Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Ghostface

I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it when it came out. I thought it was cheesy, not scary and full of too many recognizable stars. Although, everyone else in the theater seemed to be terrified when Drew Barrymore got murdered in the beginning. But then, the audience for Scream is not the real horror fan audience. At least not by 70s, 80s and 90s standards.

The problem with having recognizable stars in horror, as well as a decent budget, is that it feels less real and authentic. It is similar to the use of bad CGI for blood splatter and monster effects in horror now. It separates you from the film by constantly reminding you that you are watching a production. I’m going to feel more for some girl I’ve never seen before, who I have only witnessed going through the horror on screen, than I will some girl that was whiny and moody on Party of Five for several years before this movie came out. Or a cast member of Friends who I would’ve loved to see killed off, yet somehow she survived to be in all four films.

Ghostface, the slasher in these films, is not scary. Maybe he was to the teen audience of 1996 but being a teen at that time, I thought he was shit. The mask is goofy, the cloak looks like it was stolen from the Spencer’s Halloween display and the wavy knife looked like something gimmicky that came with a 80s G.I. Joe toy.

The film was too polished, and just looked too Hollywood. Craven, before this, had been known for his grittiness.

The slasher genre and horror, in general, were pretty much ruined when the characters started discussing the rules of slasher films. The film parodied the genre it was in and put on blast the unspoken rules of horror. Maybe perceived as smart and cool at the time, and maybe it was just Craven’s way of saying “fuck you” to his competition, this approach killed horror going forward. Yes, Wes Craven, a guy who modernized horror in the 70s and 80s, killed it in the 90s.

Due to its success, Scream went on to kill horror even further. It was mimicked by every studio, horror was now free of sex, gore was minimal, it became PG-13 to pull in more teens, known stars were cast, budgets swelled and the rest is history.

Today, I don’t hate Scream. Even with how it altered everything, it is better than the modern horror films we’re stuck with. While Scream was the start of something bad, year after year, that bad has gotten worse. And that wasn’t Craven’s intention. I think he was really just focused on an idea and a concept. That concept ended up bringing an end to his own career, other than pumping out Scream sequels that got worse as time went on.

Scream 2 (1997):

Release Date: December 10th, 1997 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gayheart, David Warner, Omar Epps, Portia de Rossi, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes

Review:

Scream 2 was a step down from the original but I like that Liev Schreiber got to be a bigger character. I was also glad they killed off Jamie Kennedy. And Aunt Jackie from Roseanne is in it.

The problem with Scream 2, which is made more than obvious in the opening scene, is that it feels like it has to compensate for its lack of black actors in the first film. In fact, the first film really featured no black actors and was thus, accused of being another “whitewashed” slasher picture.

Some people have criticized Jada Pinkett’s monologue about race in slasher films but I enjoyed it. She wasn’t wrong. And at least Craven put it in there to address some of these issues that were brought up after the success of the original film. Although, it did feel like overcompensation.

The film isn’t as good as the first. The reveal of who the killer is this time, is pretty underwhelming. The formula ran it’s course in the first movie and we were stuck with a picture where we were treading the same water without any new scenery. The ending brings with it a twist but it is more of a head-scratcher than a shocking reveal. It also starts the trend of building up a bigger backstory that isn’t necessary.

Neve Campbell’s mom was a slut and her sluttiness is a key factor into why her daughter and her friends have to suffer. And in the third film, her legacy of sluttiness goes back even further.

Scream 3 (2000):

Release Date: February 3rd, 2000 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton

Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 117 Minutes

Review:

The third film ended the trilogy. Well, it was supposed to be a trilogy, where the fourth film years later, was to be the start of a second trilogy. The second trilogy never happened, so we ended up with a single quadrilogy. But, at the time, this was treated as the third and final act.

This was also, by far, the worst movie in the series. It takes the parodying itself shtick to the max. It takes place mostly on a Hollywood set where it gives you a movie within the movie, which is a tactic that is more annoying than clever.

Scream 3 adds the awful Jenny McCarthy to the cast, the typically cool Patrick Dempsey and the indy sweetheart Parker Posey. I almost feel bad seeing Posey plying her trade in this shit picture.

The killer reveal is stupid. It fleshes out the backstory more than anyone needs in a slasher film and the bad guy’s motivations are recycled horror trope schlock. There is nothing imaginative or original about any of this.

This film also loses sight of its whole purpose. In trying to be a clever series in constantly referring to the rules of horror, this one breaks its own rules – or it just doesn’t truly understand them. Especially in regards to what they say about the final film in trilogies, Scream 3 proves that these films have no balls. This is obvious when characters establish that “all bets are off” and “no one is safe”, yet for the third consecutive film, every major character survives. Additionally, the horror gore factor it tries to sell in the film is minimal, the sex factor in horror that this film constantly makes reference to, is nonexistent and everyone who understands the rules, continues to make the same dumb mistakes.

And the sole black character is reduced to a caricature but at least they didn’t “whitewash” this one after meeting their quota in part two.

Scream 4 (2011):

Release Date: April 11th, 2011 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell

Corvus Corax Productions, Outerbanks Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

Oh, there’s Emma Roberts! Why’s she in every thing horror-esque, lately? I don’t dislike her but I’m getting tired of seeing her play the same roles again and again. She’s actually okay and I’m certainly not as sick of her as I am of her Aunt Julia.

Anyway, here we go, years later. The main cast is still alive. Surprise, they live through the end because again, the Scream franchise has no balls.

There’s a bunch of false curveball beginnings to the film, all movies within the movie, which has gotten tiresome with the Scream series. I mean, fuck, has Wes Craven completely run out of ideas? Hire new writers, bro.

This film tries to establish the “new” rules of horror, as it takes place a decade after the previous film. Except, everyone knows that the new rules post-Scream are horrible and the genre has gotten awful.

The killers are predictable. More so than previous films, actually. The two killer formula has been used to death in this series and was only somewhat effective the first time around.

Also, from what I remember, no black people in this one. But there is the reference to gay people surviving horror movies and then a bad in-movie joke where a character being stabbed to death, claims he’s gay in hopes of getting a free pass. I’m not standing on a politically correct soapbox here but Craven isn’t doing himself any favors trying to branch out beyond his audience of straight white teens. I get the attempt at humor but it was juvenile and not that funny.

I’m getting tired of talking about these movies now.

In the end, this film sucks. Although it doesn’t suck as bad as Scream 3.

Film Review: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Release Date: November 1st, 1991
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: Don Peake, Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Ving Rhames, Kelly Jo Minter

Alive Films, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, and maybe the President will make me Secretary of Pussy.” – Leroy

People Under the Stairs is a movie that I did not like when it came out in 1991. In fact, as much as I loved a few of Wes Craven’s films, the majority of them were like this, just weird and uninspiring without much to care about.

Having seen this film for the first time in a long time, I still don’t like it. However, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. But it was still weird and uninspiring, as well as boring and pointless.

I don’t understand what this film was trying to be. I guess it’s part horror, part comedy, part social justice, I don’t know. It’s a confusing mess and adding in two cast members from Twin Peaks doesn’t give you the license to be bizarre for the sake of being bizarre. It also doesn’t excuse a stupid picture.

No, actually, the more I think about it, I still hate this picture.

I hate it because its ugly, lame and insulting. Wes Craven is way better than this unless A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Serpent and the Rainbow were just flukes.

The monsters are awful, the psycho people are awful, the characters are awful, the plot is awful, the acting is awful, the direction is awful, the whole damn film is awful.

Yes, this is getting put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. Well, what we have here is a “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.”

Film Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Release Date: April 27th, 2010 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Samuel Bayer
Written by: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven
Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes

Review:

This film has been out for seven years and I really didn’t want to see it. I’m a massive fan of the original film and some of its sequels. More importantly, I am a bigger fan of Robert Englund and how he has played the character of Freddy Krueger over his 19-year and 8 film span. Englund was Freddy and Freddy was Englund.

However, if you absolutely had to recast the role, which they didn’t have to, Jackie Earle Haley isn’t a bad choice. The thing is, this was a role doomed for failure because it belonged to Robert Englund.

The character had also become increasingly more funny and campy, as the original series pumped out yearly installments. While Haley’s Krueger has a good one-liner or two, it just doesn’t have the impact and hilarity of Englund’s infamous one-liners. But that isn’t Haley’s fault. This was just a stupid film, that similarly to the Friday the 13th remake, a year prior, didn’t really understand the magic behind its predecessors.

The film is horribly acted, completely lacks suspense and has no originality. This remake steals all the cool shit from the original 1984 film and does it all over again with shitty CGI and unimaginative execution. Watch the original film’s scene where Freddy starts to come through the bedroom wall and then watch that same scene in this 2010 version. One is terrifying and feels real, the other feels like an unfinished cutting room floor scene of the Sandman from Spider-Man 3.

Kate Mara’s always depressing sister plays Nancy and completely lacks everything that made Heater Langenkamp great in that role. The kid who plays the Johnny Depp role is useless and pointless, Black Canary form Arrow essentially plays Tina from the original but they changed her name. Her death scene also treads the exact same water as the original but does it poorly and doesn’t add in anything new.

Also, Freddy, in this film, is a straight up child rapist. While that was implied in the sixth film (Freddy’s Dead) of the original film series, I never really accepted that after it took six films to make that point. Plus, Freddy’s Dead was mostly atrocious and added a bunch of crap to the mythos that didn’t need to be there, ala Jason Goes To Hell.

This movie is garbage. It brings nothing new to the table and it’s execution and creativity don’t even come close to the original Wes Craven directed masterpiece. Pretty sad, considering this film had a much larger budget to work with and the future of the franchise was riding on it being successful.

In the seven years since, there has not been a sequel and talk about Elm Street is nonexistent. Granted, it will eventually get rebooted again. I just hope that the next attempt isn’t soulless crap like this was.

Film Review: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Release Date: August 15th, 2003
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Based on: characters created by Wes Craven, characters created by Victor Miller
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Ken Kirzinger, Katharine Isabelle

New Line Cinema, Crystal Lake Entertainment, 97 Minutes

Review:

I have now reviewed all of the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street films, excluding remakes. I have finally gotten to the end of the ride, where the big main event that everyone always wanted to see, finally happened. The showdown of the immortals! Freddy vs. Jason!

For some reason, this film disappointed fans of both franchises. I’ve never really been sure why, other than complaints about the use of CGI having less of an effect than the practical effects of the 1980s used in Freddy’s dream sequences. Yeah, it does feel less organic visually but the spirit is still there and the emotional tone was perfect.

The plot is pretty well done, as it brings together both of these worlds and merges them into one thing. Freddy Krueger gets into Jason’s mind while he is wandering Hell and poses as his mother, telling Jason to go to Springwood to start killing the teenage population. If the teens live in fear, Freddy can manifest in their minds once again. Pretty good setup and it created an interesting scenario that saw Jason stalking teens in Freddy’s neighborhood.

I wasn’t a fan of Kane Hodder not being cast as Jason Voorhees. Ken Kirzinger did a solid job as Jason but the character was missing those Hodder mannerisms that became iconic over his four film run as the character.

Robert Englund was fantastic as Krueger, especially after a nine year hiatus following the more serious New Nightmare. This was Freddy back at his comedic and sinister best. And even though he only has one kill in this entire movie, the comedic effect of Jason beating him to the punch with kills was entertaining and added a cool dynamic to these horror icons’ relationship.

Monica Keena is fucking gorgeous in this movie and she was a good lead. She overacted in some scenes and screamed ridiculously too often but she was one of the better teenage characters out of any of these films. Jason Ritter was okay but it was cool seeing John Ritter’s kid get a shot in Hollywood. Kelly Rowland was atrocious as Kia, the nerd kid was boring and the rest of the supporting cast were ripoffs of popular actors of the time, most notably a poor man’s Jack Black and a horrible wannabe Jay from Jay & Silent Bob fame. Also, there was a heroic deputy that knew about Jason Voorhees. His character was a wasted opportunity where they could have brought back Tommy Jarvis from the fourth, fifth and sixth Friday the 13th films. It would’ve been cool to see Jason finally get his revenge on Tommy.

I don’t think that Ronny Yu was the best choice for director. He wasn’t bad but some of the action sequences were too Hong Kong and just felt weird and out of place. There were lots of shots where things would go into a strange slow motion pace with the visuals blurred and obscured – probably to hide things and keep the budget down. It wasn’t a style consistent with either film series and it became distracting.

As far as the Freddy vs. Jason battle, it happens twice in the film: once in the dream world and another in the real world. The ending is also open ended and ambiguous. You could argue that either monster won and in the end, they both survive anyway.

Unfortunately, there were no sequels after this for a joint film or solo films for either monster. Years later they both got remade with inferior films. It’d be nice to see them get a good reinvention in the future or to just pick up these films where Freddy vs. Jason left off. Although, Robert Englund says he will never play Freddy Krueger again, as he is a lot older than he was when he started in 1984.

Film Review: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Release Date: October 14th, 1994
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Miko Hughes, Tracy Middendorf, David Newsom, Fran Bennett, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, Marianne Maddalena, Sam Rubin, Sara Risher, Nick Corri, Tuesday Knight

New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a sequel of sorts to the original series but it is also a standalone film. Reason being, it is supposed to exist in the real world, as Freddy Krueger evolves from being a monster on the screen to manifesting in the real world to terrorize Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the first and third films in the series.

The film is a reinvention of the Freddy Krueger mythos. This is why I am reviewing it as its own thing.

Freddy enters our world, after being killed off in the film series. He needs fear to exist and if no one is making movies, he will evolve beyond them. The premise is bizarre but it gives the franchise a bit more originality and energy to give the audience something compelling and new.

For some reason, Freddy has evolved physically, as well. His scars are very different, he sometimes wears a trench coat and he no longer wears a glove, as his claws have grown organically out of his hand. Additionally, he now has a razor on his thumb. He looks more primal overall but I’m not a big fan of the trench coat.

The film also feels more serious than any of the previous chapters. The ante is upped creatively and it brings more realism to a horror fantasy.

Langenkamp was great, playing herself and having to deal with her child being terrorized and her husband being murdered. Her husband in the film was played by her real life husband.

As for the kid, Miko Hughes was stellar. He was a good child actor in a time when many weren’t. Also, he is the youngest potential victim Freddy has ever gone after on screen.

There are less deaths than normal but the real world feel adds more to those scenes. There is just something sinister and wrong in the scene where the young kid sees his babysitter dragged across the ceiling and gutted by Krueger. Robert Englund as Freddy, was at his evil best.

Watching Heather have to protect her very young son from a monster she unknowingly helped create, is more interesting and emotional than watching another slasher film full of mostly unlikable teens getting slaughtered for the umpteenth time.

I don’t know if a sequel to this could have ever materialized and been as good. It was best that this formula only lasted for a single film. And ultimately, it was a really good film.

Ranking the Films of Wes Craven

Director Wes Craven died recently after a battle with brain cancer.

He was a pretty visionary director in his early days. While I wasn’t a huge fan of his later work, he is one of those directors that holds a special place for me, as he made one of my favorite films of all-time, which then spawned my favorite horror franchise of all-time, A Nightmare On Elm Street. He also made my favorite voodoo-centric film The Serpent and the Rainbow.

His earlier work was pretty original, mesmerizing and truly frightening – especially for its time. In fact, most of those earlier films have been remade over the years.

To honor Wes Craven, I figured that I would rank his films.

1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (original)
2. The Serpent and the Rainbow
3. The Hills Have Eyes (original)
4. Swamp Thing
5. Last House On the Left (original)
6. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
7. The Hills Have Eyes Part II (original)
8. Scream
9. Red Eye
10. Deadly Friend
11. Scream 4
12. The People Under the Stairs
13. Shocker
14. Scream 2
15. Cursed
16. Scream 3
17. Deadly Blessing
18. Stranger In Our House
19. Chiller
20. Music of the Heart
21. My Soul to Take
22. Invitation to Hell
23. Night Visions
24. Vampire In Brooklyn