- Nightmare on Elm Street thoughts from Ben, who's watched the first several movies in the series. He seems to have cooled considerably on the original movie:
Not really scary, anymore...a bunch of jump scares is all that's left. Although I can see how this movie could have been really scary when it first came out. I think Freddy may have been the first "Supernatural Monster Demon" slasher. The modern audience is so steeped in the tropes and concepts of slasher movies now that the concept isn't frightening anymore.It's an interesting point: Context matters. I have to wonder if audiences today would be as terrified of the movie as I was... I ended up writing rather lengthy comments in response (and, uh, just blabbing about the movie), which I will excerpt a bit here (I suppose it's kinda tacky to post a quote of my own comments, but whatever):
I was terrified by the first NoES when I was a kid, and I think there is still some residual terror there for me. The thing that really scares me is the inescapable nature of the plot. How do you hide from something that gets you when you sleep? Also: Some of the best and most creative death scenes in all of slasherdom.Ben also covers part 2 and part 3 in his post (including an interesting bit about dysfunctional families - I'm in Ben's boat when it comes to that discussion)... I had planned to cover more of the series in this year's 6WH series, but got stuck at part 3, as Netflix was stuck on "Very Long Wait" (and it appears to still be there). I've seen bits and pieces of most of the films, but I've only seen a few of them from beginning to end, and one that I really want to catch up with is New Nightmare. That movie is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, Wes Craven returns to the series he created and puts a new spin on things (and I like Craven's style). Second, it was apparently Craven's first attempt at a sorta post-ironic slasher... an approach he would score with in his later film, Scream. It should be interesting to see what the upcoming Elm Street remake brings to the table as well (at the very least, I bet we can expect a nice new edition of the original on Blu-Ray, right? That's one big benefit of the recent horror remake trend...)
One of my favorite things about the series is that it takes a common trope and crutch of the horror genre - the dream sequence - and really explores it in a unique and interesting way. Normally dream sequences are used (and overused) as a sorta false scare. In NoES series, they ARE the scare. Then there's the way that Craven plays around with the perceptions of waking life and dreaming, sometimes implying one when the other is what's really happening. It's a movie that invites more intellectual engagement than most slashers, which again separates it from the pack.
The other notable component about Freddy is that he's got a personality. The other classic slashers like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are almost robotic in nature. They are implacable and yet almost predictable. Freddy's personality certainly isn't pleasant. He's a vicious sadist with a wicked sense of humor, but that's something that is missing from the grand majority of slasher films (indeed, most slashers don't even talk, and even when they do, they don't say much).
- Friday the 13th: What’s it all about, Jason?: Justin Zyduck watched a few Friday the 13th movies in preparation for Halloween, and he seems to have a very common reaction to the series (at least, among folks my age): "It’s my favorite horror series, and I’m not always sure why." Heh. Indeed, this sort of feeling seems to be common amongst all horror films, leading to similar statements about all sorts of other movies. I suspect it has something to do with the irrational nature of fear. Not that I'm immune or anything. For instance, I have often professed my inexplicable love of Phantasm and earlier this year, I revisited all the Friday the 13th movies even though I have no idea why I enjoy them so much. Anywho, Justin eventually settles on Jason as the reason he likes the series so much:
He’s not a character, he’s a big scary guy who walks around killing whoever he comes upon. Jason is a gimmick - and I say that as someone who loves Jason. A good gimmick is still a gimmick, and Jason as a horror icon owes everything - everything - to being a fantastic visual; there’s no reason in the story or thematically why he should be wearing a hockey mask, but it works to create a haunting image.It's a good post. He also mentions His Name Was Jason, a fluffy little documentary covering the history of the franchise. It's a decent watch, but I found it lacking for some reason. I think it's missing some of the outside perspective of the films, instead focusing in on those who actually made the films. Maybe that's a bit harsh... I just wish Wes Craven and John Carpenter interviews were in every horror documentary.
- On Army of Darkness: Kelson celebrated the holiday by watching the Evil Dead movies, and in a little bit of horror blasphemy, mentions that his favorite of the series is actually Army of Darkness. He also makes an excellent observation about the series:
I also started thinking about what sets the Evil Dead trilogy apart from other 1980s horror series: instead of focusing on the villains, the later installments are all about the hero.Brilliant. To me, the other interesting thing about this series has always been how it encapsulated the trajectory of the horror genre throughout the 80s and into the 90s. The Evil Dead was made in 1981 and was an excellent low-budget horror film. It wasn't perfect, but it was an earnest effort and it's primary purpose was to establish tension. Evil Dead II was made in 1987, and here you see pretty much the same story as part 1, but with more comedic overtones. There were still some scares, but you also saw elements of slapstick and other physical comedy. By 1992, the series had morphed into outright comedy. There were a few horror elements in Army of Darkness, but more than anything else, the purpose of that film was to make you laugh. Horror was not doing so well as a movie genre in the 90s, in large part because it had become laughable. No one was scared anymore. This also went for series like Nightmare on Elm Street, which stopped being scary somewhere around part 4 (though I'm not sure, as I haven't revisited yet:) Freddy's once creepy and sadistic villain became a caricature of himself, relying a little too much on one liners and silly jokes. I don't mean to imply that the Evil Dead movies caused this or that they're bad or anything, I just think they encapsulate the phenomenon rather well (and in just 3 movies made during the 10-11 year span).
Friday the 13th? All about Jason. Nightmare on Elm Street? Freddie Kruger. Hellraiser? Pinhead and the Cenobites.
Evil Dead? Ash. Hail to the King.
- Socialists and Zombies: Not sure if Fledge was watching zombie movies for Halloween, but he has some interesting musings about:
...an allegorical film where zombies attack a town in the usual fashion, and are killed off by shotguns by the usual rouugh types, but for some reason everyone in the film never uses the word “zombies”, instead they call them “socialists” - and instead of brains, the zombies go looking for wallets.It's perhaps a bit too blatant for my tastes, but then, that's part of the reason I don't care much for zombie movies. The socio-political statements are always too obvious. Of course, as with any metaphor, you can twist it to mean something else if you try hard enough. To me, zombies could almost always be read as representative of socialism. There is no private ownership in zombie society. They allocate resources (i.e. food) as they find it. You don’t see zombies hoarding resources, nor do you usually see zombies eating a body by themselves. The limiting factor seems to be how many zombies can physically surround the food. There is no greed, there is no hierarchy, there is no emotion, hell, there is no money in zombie society. There are no poor or rich - all are equal. Even in George Romero's original Dawn of the Dead, you could read the zombies that way. The film would still be a scathing indictment of consumer culture and capitalism, but those elements are captured very well by the humans in the film. In any case, I still don't care for zombies. They're just too easy to map fears onto.
So I finished up my yearly horror movie marathon on Halloween last week, and it seems that while most bloggers didn't partake in an entire 6 weeks of horror movie watching, many did fire up their DVD players on Halloween weekend... their posts have been hitting all this week, including people who watched many of my favrorite series. Here's a few links: