Archive for Wes Craven

Body Bags (1993) Review

Posted in Body Bags with tags , , , on September 5, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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BODY BAGS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Zip Yourself in Tight

Release Date- August 8th, 1993

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Billy Brown & Dan Angel

Director- John Carpenter& Tobe Hooper

Starring- Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher

Body Bags, which aired on Showtime back in 1993 was meant to be a pilot for a new horror series, which would rival Tales from the Crypt, which was a big success on HBO. But a TV series never came to be and instead Body Bags would end up being a TV movie. 13-years after Body Bags, Showtime would find their horror series called Masters of Horror, which ran for two seasons. Body Bags is an anthology with two segments directed by John Carpenter and one directed by Tobe Hooper. I’ve always liked the concept for anthologies, but to be quite honest more often than not I find the films ok with a couple of exceptions and Body Bags is one of the exceptions. Even when I like the stories I sometimes feel as if more time was needed, but here I thought each story ran at the proper length where they didn’t wear out their welcome nor did they feel too short.

Body Bags as mentioned was directed by Carpenter and Hooper and in 1990 Dario Argento and George Romero teamed up for Two Evil Eyes, which like Body Bags was meant to be a TV series and like Body Bags, Two Evil Eyes never became a series. When you team up two popular filmmakers expectations are bound to be quite high and perhaps Body Bags doesn’t fully live up to, but at the end if the day its a solid effort. Starting in 1976 with Assault on Precinct 13, which was John Carpenter’s 2nd feature film he went on one of the greatest runs for a filmmaker in my opinion. From 1976-1988 Carpenter made some truly great films and perhaps films that might a be weaker were at least above average. The only film I didn’t really connect with was Prince of Darkness, which is a film I need to be in the right mood for, but outside if that I thought all the films Carpenter made from 76-88 were great or again the very least above average. The 90s is when many felt Carpenter started a decline, which really isn’t true. While a lot of his work in the 90s may not be personal favorites I enjoyed them for the most part, but I can see why some would dismiss them when compared to his 70s & 80s work. Body Bags in my opinion is one of Carpenter’s best from the 90s maybe even my favorite of his work from that decade. When it comes to Tobe Hooper I’ve never really been a huge fan of his work whereas Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers. I loved Texas Chainsaw Massacre and would rate it as the most terrifying film I’ve ever seen. TCM 2 was a solid effort and I quite liked it and to some degree I enjoyed the Funhouse, but it pretty much ends there, oddly enough though Hooper’s segment Eye was my favorite of the three stories.

Before and after each part there is a segment called The Morgue, which features John Carpenter as the Coroner, which is sort of like the Crypt-keeper from Tales from the Crypt. Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold also appear briefly in the final part of the segment.

The screenplay by Billy Brown & Dan Angel was quite strong and unlike other anthologies I felt each story ran at the perfect time. First up is The Gas Station in which Anne (Datcher) is starting her job at the gas station working the night shift. She comes across a couple of eccentric, but harmless people, but soon finds herself stalked by a psychotic killer. Brown & Angel write a solid story with a couple of mentions of Haddonfield, which of course was the setting for Carpenter’s Halloween. Characters are entertaining and overall its a fun segment.

As director Carpenter crafts a well paced segment with some decent suspense. Don’t expect anything like Halloween, but The Gas Station was highly satisfying.

David Naughton appears in a small role with cameos from Wes Craven and Sam Raimi.

The 2nd story is Hair. This time Brown & Angel write a more campy script and it sort of reminds me of an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Richard (Keach) is losing his hair and is quite depressed about it. He pays a visit to Dr. Lock (David Warner) and Robert’s wish comes true and his begins to grow back, but like the old saying be carful what you wish for. This segment features some fun writing with a nice twist you probably won’t see coming.

John Carpenter crafts a fun segment that’s high on camp value and through its duration he always keeps Hair a lot of fun.

Deborah Harry appears as a nurse and Greg Nicotero has a cameo.

The final segment Eye is the more serious of the segments with Brent Matthews (Hamill) a career minor leaguer on the verge of a call up, but his dreams are ruined after getting into a car accident, which costs him his eye. He ends up going through with an eye transplant, which is a success, but his happiness is short lived as he begins to have horrible visions until he’s on the brink of madness.

Eye I found the best written of all the segments and despite the short running time Brown & Angel get the most out of things and develop the characters well and do a solid job on Brent’s breakdown.

Tobe Hooper makes like I stated my favorite segment in Body Bags. Eye runs at a strong pace and has a nice mysterious and eerie tone going for it.

Charles Napier has a bit part with Twiggy as Cathy Brent’s wife and the legendary Roger Corman appears as Dr. Bregman.

Overall Body Bags is an excellent anthology with three excellent and fun stories. I often wonder how Body Bags would have turned out if it did become a series. Regardless Body Bags is a fun film and comes highly recommended.

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Scream 4 (2011) Review

Posted in Scream 4 with tags , , on February 28, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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SCREAM 4

**** Out of 5

Release Date- April 15th, 2011

Tagline- New Decade. New Rules

Running Time- 111-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Kevin Williamson

Director- Wes Craven

Starring- Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Corteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Rory Culkin

In 1996 when Scream was released it reinvented not just the slasher film, but the horror genre as a whole. I love Scream, but regardless of what anybody thought of the film its influence is right up there with films such as Halloween and the Exorcist. When Scream was released the horror genre was probably the weakest its been in quite a while and even though there were some good films, horror wasn’t nearly as marketable. 15-years after the original film Scream 4 was released and a lot had changed in that time.

Scream 3 was billed as the final act and I don’t think it’s a huge shocker that ended up not being the case, but I am a bit surprised it took so long for Scream 4 to be made (11-years). In my opinion Scream 3 was the weakest and I think that movie proved Kevin Williamson was the real success of the series and his loss was very much felt. Also by the time Scream 3 came out even though only 4-years removed from the original the Scream formula was wearing thin as from Hollywood films to low budget films copied its formula. The first two Scream films made over 100-million and Scream 3 while down to about 80-million was still a big hit. I don’t think anyone expected Scream 4 to make the same impact as the original in terms of influence or the same impact in the box office like the previous 3, which it didn’t and the film broke even and wasn’t and I’m not sure what expectations were though I’m sure Dimension probably expected a little more in ticket sales. I think the time elapsed since the 3rd and by this time while the influence of Scream could still be seen on the genre horror films were taking a little darker approach again with films like Saw and Hostel (well once you get past the first half that is). I was super excited for Scream 4 since I loved the first two and even happier one of my film idols Kevin Williamson would be returning to write since again I felt his not writing the 3rd film hurt. By the time 2011 rolled around its been a while since Williamson had a hit and his last couple of film productions I wasn’t overly fond of, but as I watched Scream 4 all my fears were erased and my excitement for Scream 4 proved warranted. The Scream films are often labeled satires, which is only half true as they’re also legit horror films. Ghostface can be playful one moment and cruel the next, but in Scream 4 while the same could be said again, but Ghostface seemed a little meaner than playful.

In many ways Scream 4 mirrors the original film and I think the best way to put it if Scream was released in 2011 rather than 1996 Scream 4 is more or less the film it would have been. Scream 4 returns to Woodsboro (2nd was Ohio, 3rd Hollywood). Its been 15-years since the original murders and Dewey (Arquette) is now sheriff and married to Gail (Cox). Sidney (Campbell) recently wrote a book on her life and during the book tour she returns to Woodsboro. But she once again finds herself in danger as someone is out to do a real life remake of the original murders.

The screenplay was written by Kevin Williamson however Ehren Kruger who wrote Scream 3 and was an executive producer was brought in to do rewrites. Some reports are major rewrites with other reports say minor rewrites. However only Williamson is credited. I’ve seen every film Kevin Williamson has written and honestly this feels like his style for the most part. Regardless of that fact, Scream 4 is cleverly plotted and written and has fun with the cliches of the films when this was made. As I mentioned Scream 4 has a slightly darker tone at times. Like the past 3 this one is fun and satirical, but Ghostface isn’t quite as playful as past films. Even though Ghostface could be both playful and cruel within the same scene there just seems to be something a little more sinister. The characters are solid and while they aren’t as interesting as the original characters they still have their own identities and each character adds a little something to the film and Kirby (Panettiere) is my all time favorite Scream character. As I stated before the events and characters mirror that of the original and Scream 4 is more or less the film Scream would have been if made in 2011. As for the core of the cast of Dewey, Gail and Sidney, I still very much love these characters and I’m glad they were back, but they don’t impact the story as they once did and that would really be my only complaint as with a few changes the film could have worked without them. Overall the screenplay is terrific as its smart and clever with one twist at the end I could honestly say I didn’t expect.

The previous year in 2010 Wes Craven directed My Soul to Take, which in my opinion was his worst film so I was a little nervous, but I also believed Wes could still deliver another great film and he sure did just that. Scream 4 is excellently paced with some excerpt suspense and tension and like past films in the series quite exciting. Wes perfectly balances the light and dark tone with an easy transition between the two. The death scenes are well staged and are a little more extreme than the previous 3 as again even if Scream 4 is fun it’s also a bit darker. The death of Olivia was actually quite brutal and just might be my favorite death scene in the series. Wes Craven delivers an excellent film and Scream 4 is my 2nd favorite of the series and was for me the best horror film of 2011.

Scream 4 was plagued by some trouble during production with actors dropping out and rewrites and more often than not these problems sink a film, but Scream 4 excels. Williamson’s script is fantastic and Craven makes his best film since Scream 2. Scream 4 may not have redefined the genre like the original, but its still a great film and is a great companion piece to the original. Scream 4 is fun and suspenseful and the best since the original.

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Scream 3 (2000) Review

Posted in Scream 3 with tags , on February 27, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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SCREAM 3

*** Out of 5

Tagline- Welcome to the Final Act

Release Date- February 4th, 2000

Running Time- 117-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Ehren Kruger

Director- Wes Craven

Starring- Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Parker Posey

Scream and Scream 2 were excellent satires on the horror genre while also being legit horror flicks and after the success of Scream the horror genre suddenly became accepted by Hollywood. Back in the 30s horror films were big releases and Universal led the way, but in the 40s they started to be seen as B-movies and that mostly stuck with horror through the years. Horror was sort of the dirty little secret of Hollywood there was a huge fan base, but the studios never fully accepted these movies, but after Scream Hollywood for some reason really took notice and now popular and actors with a little name value were doing these movies whereas prior it was either washed up actors or before they were famous.

In my opinion the real success of the Scream movies were the clever writing by Kevin Williamson and as much as I like Wes Craven I honestly feel odds are a good horror director could have made a solid even if not as good film due the writing by Kevin Williamson and that isn’t meant to discredit Wes Craven who is one of my favorite filmmakers and he brought a lot to the films, but I still feel a good horror filmmaker could have made these films enjoyable due to the writing. Dimension films decided to go in a different direction with Scream 3 and Williamson was replaced by Ehren Kruger (kinda fitting a guy with the last name Kruger worked with Craven), but this in my opinion proved to be a major mistake.

The script by Ehren Kruger attempts at being witty and clever, but it ends up being anything, but that. After the success of Scream every writer (even non-horror) tried to channel their inner Kevin Williamson and a majority of them failed. Unlike the first 2 movies the characters here are rather faceless and shallow and just not very interesting. Jennifer Jolie (Posey) is the only character that is memorable and her scenes with Gail (Cox Arquette) are actually quite amusing and that’s the only thing that really saves Scream 3. Even Sidney (Campbell) and Dewey (Arquette) fail to add much to the story this time around and feel as if they are here for the sake of it even if the story does revolve around Sidney.

Scream 3 is sort of a satire on Hollywood and sort of a satire on the Scream films as well in many ways, but all of this is handled rather sloppy in my opinion. As most franchises go on there always seems to be some kind of backstory that comes, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Freddy’s Dead and Jason Goes to Hell all came up with a backstory never mentioned in the previous films and I suppose there really is only so many times the same movie can be made, but this is when the franchises really lost their edge as they became overly complicated and as Randy said in Scream there’s a very simple formula. Ehren Kruger creates a silly backstory and it sort of changes history, which is my biggest problem with the movie. Slasher films have a rather simple formula and Kevin Williamson was able to have fun with that and not simply rehash past films, but Scream 3 strays too much from the slasher movie formula and like past sequels of other franchises once you stray and things get overly complicated you lose the target audience. Maybe Ehren Kruger should have paid more attention to the first 2 Scream films.

In the original Scream when Randy (Jamie Kennedy) gave the rules of surviving a horror film it was really funny and here Randy appears in a video flashback explaining the rules of a trilogy and these movies had nothing to do with the horror genre and more importantly this time around instead of being funny it’s just idiotic. The script does have some fun moments, but overall it lacks the clever writing of the first 2 and Ehren Kruger delivers some fun moments, but the movie is clearly lacking the smart writing of Kevin Williamson. With that said by no means is Scream 3 poorly written as it does have plenty of fun moments, but unlike the first 2, which had a natural flow, Scream 3 just felt a bit forced.

Wes Craven does the best he can with the material, but Scream 3 proves the success of this franchise was clearly Kevin Williamson. Craven keeps the pace moving at a solid pace and despite the flaws Scream 3 is never boring, but lacks the suspense and fun of the first 2 movies. Like I said it seemed as if Scream 3 was sort of a satire of the first 2 movies and this isn’t handled well with the script or direction as Scream 3 has too silly of a tone to ever take serious at all. People forget yes Scream & Scream 2 were meant to be satirical and funny, but they were also meant to be legit horror films. The direction just lacks that energy of the first two and while Wes Craven still delivers an entertaining film in my opinion it wouldn’t rate as one of his best films though it wouldn’t be among his worst. If anything Scream 3 is a middle of the road film in Craven’s career.

Overall Scream 3 has its moments, but it again lacks the clever writing by Kevin Williamson and this comes across as nothing more than as just silly cash in. The cameo by Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) is idiotic and kills any credibility Scream 3 had and this is yet another reason it’s hard to take anything serious here even the horror elements as well. The only cameo that was any good was the brief appearance by B-movie legend Roger Corman. My review might sound negative, but I do enjoy Scream 3, but its just far inferior to the first two and while it has its moments it just felt too forced.

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Scream 2 (1997)

Posted in Scream 2 with tags , , on February 26, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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SCREAM 2

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Someone Has Taken Their Love of Sequels One Step too Far

Release Date- December 12th, 1997

Running Time- 120-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Kevin Williamson

Director- Wes Craven

Starring- Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Jerry O’Connell, Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant and Laurie Metcalf

After the massive success of Scream almost exactly 1-year later saw the release of Scream 2. In general most sequels fail to be as good as the originals and in the case of the horror genre that is even truer. As far as horror sequels go Scream 2 isn’t exactly Bride of Frankenstein, but it isn’t Jason X either. We’ll all have different opinions, but I think Scream 2 is one of the rare sequels that actually lives up to the original even if as a whole it isn’t as good. Scream 2 is pretty much the same as the original in terms of the basic structure, but yet still feels fresh enough that it doesn’t feel like a rehash.

Scream 2 is a set a year later where the survivors of Woodsboro are trying to put the past behind them, but when a series of murfers begin to happen and someone is attempting to create a real life sequel. All bets are off and everybody is once again a suspect.

After the success of Scream it launched the career of writer Kevin Williamson who is one of my film idols. Williamson’s script is funny and clever filled with interesting and well developed characters, which is something very rare in slasher films and I really can’t think of many slasher films with as many memorable characters as Scream & Scream 2. What I liked so much about Williamson’s script is in reality just about any of the main characters could have survived since they were developed enough. It isn’t exactly difficult to figure, which characters will meet their demise, but again just about anyone could have survived. Williamson clearly understands the horror film and slasher film and never does anything seem forced. Like the original the writing is sharp, clever and often funny, though the only real downside is its fairly obvious the identity of the killer or killers.

When looking back at 90s horror it was a very mixed bag and in my opinion it was a middle of the road era. There were some truly fantastic films, some not great, but highly entertaining films, but there seemed to be more subpar films than past decades as most filmmakers were unable to make the transition from the 80s to the 90s and the newer filmmakers to come along mostly failed at brining anything really memorable, but Kevin Williamson redefined the horror and slasher film with Scream and Scream 2 and when people look back at horror in the 90s Williamson will be the first person people think of. The script for Scream 2 has some flaws most of, which come about in the final act when it does get a little over the top and I didn’t really love the reasons behind the murders, but for the most Williamson delivers an excellent and well written movie in a sub-genre not known for the writing and that could be said about even the better slasher films with some exceptions. After Scream from 1997-1999 Kevin Williamson besides writing Scream 2 also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer (released the same year as Scream 2), the Faculty and was also a producer on Halloween: H20, created Dawson’s Creek and was involved with the first 2 seasons before leaving and wrote and made his directorial debut with Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Even though I felt Scream 2 was well written as I mentioned the final act does get a bit messy and there are some minor flaws here and there, which can be due to the amount of films Williamson was involved in and or script leaks on Scream 2 led to rewrites. However any complaints aside I just loved Williamson’s style and he’s greatly impacted my writing.

Director Wes Craven delivers a mostly well-paced movie with some solid suspense and tension and also delivers a movie that is quite fun and exciting. Scream 2 features a little more action than the original since in the first Scream the opening and closing act where is a bulk of the action took place, but Scream was so well written and made it didn’t need to rely on action. This time the added body count was a little more needed despite also being well made and written. Scream 2 runs at 120-minutes, which is quite long for a slasher film as most run between 85-92-minutes. The scene when Sid (Campbell) has a discussion with the director of the school play, than rehearsals and than the scene with her boyfriend right after are kind of pointless and really make no impact on the overall story and this sequence does slow the pace down. There are also some other small issues with the pace, which has nothing to do with Craven’s direction or Williamson’s writing for that matter, but with a little more editing to tighten up the running time, which again at 120-minutes is a little overly long I think Scream 2 could have been just a notch below the original. Outside of that, Craven delivers an excellent film. Wes is one of my favorite filmmakers and while he can be hit or miss at times he makes a fantastic film with Scream 2, but I will say again like I did in my review for the original Scream this is very much a writer’s movie. Wes Craven does bring a lot to Scream 2, but like I said I still feel it was Williamson’s sharp and clever writing, but regardless Wes Craven delivers an excellent movie that is both funny and suspenseful and is one of the best horror films of the 90s.

I think some of the negative comments about the Scream series stems more from what came afterwards; after the success of Scream it seemed every filmmaker attempted at recreating Scream and studios now embraced the horror genre more than ever and casting often included some TV star from a teen show in most cases and a lot of up and coming actors who never would have done these films back in the 80s, but I think it’s unfair to dislike Scream because of what it started because in that case why not hate John Carpenter’s Halloween for all the poor knockoffs that came after that? Scream 2 wouldn’t make my top 50, but it’s an excellent horror movie and provides enough fun and scares and easily rates as one of the best of the 90s and if I were to rate my favorite horror films of the 90s odds are both Scream & Scream 2 make my top 5 (the original just might take my top spot of the 90s). The original Scream was a massive hit and proving it wasn’t a fluke, Scream 2 was also a big hit with over 100- million in the US. Scream 2 is clever and fun and like the original works as a satire and legit horror film.

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Scream (1996) Review

Posted in Scream with tags , , , on February 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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SCREAM

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Someone’s Taken Their Love of Scary Movies One Step too Far

Release Date- December 20th, 1996

Running Time- 111-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Kevin Williamson

Director- Wes Craven

Starring- Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker

When Scream was released in 1996 the horror genre was in a slight funk and while there were still some good movies coming out as a whole this was probably the weakest the genre had been in quite a while and the slasher film was long dead and even the franchises were failing to make much of an impact. While there were still some slashers made most were DTV and as a whole I think the problem the horror genre was having is it sort of lacked an identity.

The great horror filmmakers of the 70s and 80s were losing their edge and making some of the weakest films of their careers and the new filmmakers to emerge were unable to bring anything new to the genre, but that all changed when Kevin Williamson wrote Scream. Kevin Williamson very much redefined the horror film and slasher film and have the 90s an identity. Back in the mid to late 80s a lot of slasher films started to take a lighter approach with some such as Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives taking a more satirical approach so Williamson wasn’t the first to try this, but Scream had a style all of its own and makes for a great satire, but also legit horror film, which for some reason people tend to forget. Scream started off slowly and seemed it would be another forgotten horror film than suddenly box office numbers started to grow and Scream became a massive success and even though Scream wasn’t the first horror film to become a massive hit for some reason Hollywood took notice and embraced these films more than ever. Scream also had a cast of TV stars and up and coming actors, which was quite a stray from past horror films since in most cases it was actors who are on the downside of their careers or actors who were unknown at the time. Scream would rate as my favorite horror film of the 90s and even though I didn’t really like the trend it started I won’t hold that against the film and in my opinion Scream is one of those films that became an instant classic.

Sidney Prescott (Campbell) is still dealing with the death of her mother from a year ago when she begins to get phone calls from a killer out to create a real life horror movie.

The screenplay by Kevin Williamson is terrific as he writes a clever satire and a legit horror film. Unlike the good portion of slasher films, Scream is very well-written filled with well-developed and likable characters that are able to carry the movie when there isn’t any action. While there are slasher films with likable characters I really can’t think of many that each character greatly adds to the film and aren’t there to simply be killed off. The characters are quite fun and entertaining and from a plot side of things Scream is excellent as its driven by characters and plot. Kevin Williamson started the self-aware characters, which is something that has hurt horror films in the years following, but Kevin Williamson however makes it fun and it feels natural whereas other writers have tried this and failed miserably. In most horror films it seems like no one is aware of horror movies, but Williamson actually mentions other films and some of the characters are horror fans and sort of laugh at the silly clichés until they are themselves are caught up in the same situation. Kevin Williamson’s script pays tribute to past slashers, but rather than feeling like a rehash it feels fresh and new. Scream is pretty much a horror movie coming to life and at every turn Williamson has fun with the clichés that brought these films down by the late 80s and he’s able to put his own twist on a tired style of film. There were slasher films in the past that had solid writing as films like the original Halloween and Black Christmas come to mind, but as the slasher film went on the writing got quite subpar even if the films were good and sadly the audience accepted that and sure these films don’t need to have a great screenplay to work, but that still isn’t an excuse for lazy writing and Williamson shows a slasher film can indeed be well written. Another thing I loved about the writing is how one moment Ghostface can be kind of playful and the very next become quite sadistic in their taunting of the would be victim and Williamson manages to balance both to perfection.

Director Wes Craven delivers a well-paced and fun movie with legit moments of suspense and tension. Scream isn’t exactly action packed since most of the action is confined to the opening and closing acts, but Craven still delivers an entertaining and highly suspenseful movie, which moves at a nice pace, which not only has to do with Craven’s direction, but the writing and acting. What I really love about Wes Craven is his ability to take every day normal settings and make them something terrifying and while Scream isn’t the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, Craven is able to take the setting and make into something dark and creepy. As great as Craven does with Scream I still think the main reason for the success was Williamson’s writing. That’s not to say anybody could have made Scream and Craven does bring a lot to the movie, but really when all is said and done the real success behind Scream was Kevin Williamson.

The opening scene with Drew Barrymore perfectly sets the tone for the movie as it plays off fun, but yet suspenseful and dark as well and Williamson and Craven really set the tone perfectly for what’s to come; some people rate it as the best opening scene in a horror film and while I wouldn’t go that far it is however one of the best and really hooks the viewer in.

Overall Scream works great as both a satire and legit horror flick and never does anything feel out of place. Scream is smart and clever that features a terrific cast with an iconic director and a writer in Kevin Williamson that would also become an icon in the genre. Outside of the films written by Kevin Williamson I can’t say that I loved the direction 90s horror took, but like Halloween and Friday the 13th, Scream was a game changer and in my opinion one of the best the genre has to offer.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) Review

Posted in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- If You Think You’ll Get Out Alive, You Must be Dreaming

Release Date- February 27th, 1987

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont & Chuck Russell

Director- Chuck Russell

Starring- Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette with John Saxon and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

Released in 1987, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is considered by many fans of the franchise as the best of the series and for those who favor the original cite this as the best of all the sequels. Dream Warriors is kind of an interesting film since in some ways, Freddy (Englund) is at his cruelest as he uses the fears of his victims against them, but in other ways this is sort of what he in a sense became the hero and some people myself included labeled Freddy in some of the sequels as a homicidal Bugs Bunny and that sort of started here (more so in Part 4). Dream Warriors is a solid film, but its never been among my favorites of the series. While I understand why Dream Warriors is beloved by Elm St fans I very much prefer the original and I also liked New Nightmare more and I’d even favor part 4. I grew up with the Elm St films, but honestly I’ve never been a massive fan with the exception of the original and New Nightmare while I don’t dislike the others, but I don’t love them. But I can easily understand why Dream Warriors is so popular. This one also started the big F/X scenes and while the previous two had many F/X, Dream Warriors is when the series became very Hollywood as Freddy became a pop culture icon and starting here they sort of became CGI films before CGI. What I find interesting is people blast modern horror films for being Hollywood, filled with big F/X and made for the MTV generation. That’s exactly what Dream Warriors can be described as and if anything the MTV generation would be the 80s into the 90s. Robert Englund appearing as Freddy made many appearances on MTV. It’s interesting to me because people blast modern films for this and praise Dream Warriors. It’s a little hypocritical. Of course Hollywood at this time was still going strong and Hollywood releases at the time are far superior for the most over those now, but that isn’t the point.

Typically as a franchise goes on they tend to drop in popularity. The later Friday the 13th films while still making a profit weren’t as financially successful but Jason seemed to become a bigger pop culture icon. With Elm Street, the first two were highly successful though the 2nd wasn’t as well revived and is by many considered the weakest of the series and even at the time of its release many felt it was far inferior to the original, but than came along Dream Warriors, which made 43-million dollars, which basically doubled the money made by the first 2 and by far making it the highest grossing of the series (part 4 would edge it out the following year than Freddy Vs. Jason). And not only would the films grow in popularity, but again Freddy would become a pop culture icon. Very rarely does a series grow in popularity as it goes on and of course there will be exceptions, but with Dream Warriors and Dream Master (part 4) the Elm Street series just seemed to grow and grow in popularity rather than declining.

The screenplay was written by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont & Chuck Russell and from what I can gather Craven and Wagner wrote the first draft and Darabont and Russell did the rewrites. The script is actually quite strong and while not my favorite of the sequels it is the best written. In my opinion the Elm Street series often featured strong characters and from a character standpoint this was probably the best of the series. All the characters I found likable and easy to root for and they’re also strong enough to carry the film when there isn’t any action. This took the series in a different direction and also offers some insight in the origins of Freddy, but it doesn’t fully stray from the concept either. Freddy is a lot more powerful here and this is sort of when he started getting comedic as well and while it worked it also made him too likable and, which was a little unfortunate since it also slightly takes away from the characters, which again were in my opinion the best of the series. Overall the script is quite strong and and at least offers something a little different rather than being a rehash like most sequels.

Director Chuck Russell delivers a well made and often exciting film. Pacing is generally strong and really my only complaint is it does lack suspense and tension and at times the tone of the film feels more like an action film rather than a horror film. While there are some decent moments of suspense if anything Russell aims to make a film built around more excitement and F/X rather than horror. When all is said and done though Chuck Russell does deliver a very entertaining film that does slightly stray from the concept, but not enough to feel out of place and with that Russell does his own thing rather than try and copy Wes Craven.

Overall Dream Warriors is a highly entertaining film and while its a little too Hollywood, but this also came at a time when Hollywood was going strong. I prefer the darker Freddy and the simplicity of the original, but Dream Warriors is still a lot of fun that changed the direction of the series for better or worse. While Dream Warriors isn’t one of my all time favorites its still a great watch.

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Last House on the Left (1972) Review

Posted in Last House on the Left with tags , , , , , on September 3, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating It’s Only a Movie

Release Date- August 30th, 1972

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Wes Craven

Starring- David Hess, Sandra Cassell, Lucy Grantham, Jeramie Rain, Fred J. Lincoln, Marc Sheffler, Gaylord St. James, Cynthia Carr

Released in 1972 The Last House on the Left was the feature film debut for Wes Craven and while from a pure filmmaking standpoint this may not be his best film, but it is his most powerful and quite honestly its my favorite Wes Craven film. While there were films that pushed the envelope in cinema prior to Last House, Wes however goes one step further and regardless of how you feel about this movie Wes Craven changed horror filmmaking by pushing the limits for onscreen carnage. Last House on the Left is raw and brutal and you never know just how far the movie will go next and due to the low budget and inexperience of Craven, Last House is a bit rough around the edges and that’s where the power of the film comes from. It almost feels as if you’re watching a documentary rather than a film. If Wes Craven made Last House on the Left later on in his career I’m not sure if the movie would have worked as well as it does.

This isn’t an entertaining movie by any means; watching two girls humiliated and sexually assaulted isn’t fun, but Craven sets out to shock the viewer and he very much succeeds at doing just that as this movie is shocking and disturbing and quite honestly Last House is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. A lot of people think they understand the horror genre, but some of these people are kind of clueless. Wes doesn’t try to scare you the same way he does with say A Nightmare on Elm Street. While Elm St. was a scary movie, but at the end of the day Freddy isn’t real whereas all you need to do is pick up a newspaper and sadly there are people like Krug (Hess) in this world and that’s what makes the movie so scary since the idea of two girls abducted, raped and murdered is sadly something that happens far too much. Last House on the Left doesn’t feature a killer that cannot die, but rather has real people doing these horrible things to another.

The screenplay by Wes Craven was overall far better than given credit for; the characters are actually fairly decently developed. We don’t spend a lot of time with Mari (Cassell) and Phyllis (Grantham) before their abduction, but the scenes prior to it I felt Craven did enough to give you an idea on what these two girls are like. Both Mari and Phyllis have this naïve innocence to them and Mari is coming into her own and while Phyllis might be seen as the bad girl, there is toughness to her and sweetness as well. Mari & Phyllis are young and think they’re more mature than they actually are and what happens to these two girls is humiliating and just really sad and I almost found myself wanting to turn away since I felt so bad for Mari and Phyllis and there are very few movies that get that kind of reaction out of me. I took a liking to both characters since they feel like real people and some say they weren’t developed enough, but I totally disagree.

The villains are downright ruthless and vile and never does Wes Craven make them likable. Early in the film perhaps Krug and his gang are a little likable as their kind of goofy, but as the film goes on they get sadistic and after that any likable factor they had is gone and you wanna see them pay for their crimes. My biggest problem with these movies is sometimes the villains are too likable and it’s weird to like people who commit these horrible acts, but even though we spend a lot of time with the villains they always remain just that and Craven never makes them likable, but at times he does show a human side of them. The villains truly deserve everything that they get and the leader of the group Krug is one of my favorite villains if not my all-time favorite. Krug isn’t likable, but he is charismatic and you might even be drawn to him and David Hess delivers one of the all-time great performances; as I stated Krug is charismatic and you cannot help, but be drawn to the character as he’s quite interesting, but he’s downright evil and sadistic as well.

However the screenplay isn’t perfect; the comedic element with the two cops does slightly hinder the movie. I get what Craven was attempting and in many ways it works and I suppose it also helps even if it hinders the movie. At times Last House on the Left can really be hard to watch due to what happens to the two girls and the comedy at least gives you a break from the pain and humiliation the girls go through, but it does sort of feel out of place with the rest of the movie. But besides this problem I think Last House on the Left is far better written than people give it credit for. Wes Craven wrote a great screenplay and I urge people to take a closer look at it.

The intentions Wes Craven had while directing was to make the movie to look like a documentary and rather than cut away show everything as if it were a documentary and Wes Craven delivers one of the most shocking films ever made that to this day still holds up as a powerful and depressing movie. The villains as stated are vile and disgusting and never once does Wes Craven ever glorify them or their actions. Last House on the Left is far more than just an exploitation film and I almost hate to use that term when explaining the movie since exploitation films have this stigma about them that they have to be bad, but fun movies; and in many ways that does dominate the sub-genre, but if you think that’s all exploitation flicks are either you haven’t seen much or the movie is going over your head.

As I stated earlier I think the inexperience of Wes Craven is part of what makes this so great. Craven does a solid job with the characters and really creates characters that feel real and the movie itself also feels real, which adds to the power of the movie. It almost feels as if you are watching a documentary and thus it makes these graphic scenes even more graphic. The Last House on the Left isn’t the most graphically violent movie, but the raw power of the film makes it feel so real that in a sense it is more graphic than most other horror flicks. Movies like Last House on the Left aren’t for everybody, but Wes Craven truly did push the envelope and while the movie may not be held in as high regard as some of Craven’s other work or even a movie like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Last House on the Left however truly changed horror filmmaking regardless if you wanna accept that fact or not. One of the things I love most about the film is how what is happening to the girls are just a couple of minutes away from Mari’s house and she’s so close, but yet it feels like she and Phyllis are on the other side of the world.

The most powerful scene is right after Krug rapes Mari what follows are some of the most powerful scenes in any movie. As Mari gets up and begins to walk away, Krug, Sadie and Weasel have this awkward silence and for a moment it almost seems as if there is a little bit of regret and even they seem repulsed by what they just did and we see the blood all over Krug’s hand and this moment in the film stands out more than any other film of any genre I can think of. Just the look on the faces of Krug, Sadie and Weasel is a moment that will forever stick in my mind and this scene doesn’t only feature great filmmaking, but great acting as well. It’s like they all realized this went way too far. Afterwards they proceed to go into the water and wash away the blood and again these moments are some truly powerful filmmaking and acting.

Wes Craven keeps the pace of Last House on the Left moving at a nice speed and while the 2nd half when the revenge scenes come into play the pacing can get a little sluggish perhaps, but Craven always keeps an uneasy feeling and the revenge scenes are downright brutal and extremely fitting.

The performances are far better than people give the actors credit for. David Hess as Krug always gets his respect for his performance and rightfully so. Hess delivers an amazing performance and even though he’s such a vile character you cannot help, but be drawn to him as well. Quite honestly David Hess as Krug easily rates as one of my all-time favorite performances. I really can’t even put into words how amazing his performance was. Jeramie Rain as Sadie is almost if not more ruthless than Krug. Sadie takes part in the sexual assault and how another woman can not only watch, but take part is truly disturbing. Fred Lincoln has this great sleazy presence and Junior played by Marc Sheffler is quite an interesting character since in many ways he’s almost as much as a victim as Mari and Phyllis. Krug got Junior hooked on drugs as a way to control him and while Junior did lure Mary and Phyllis when in need of a fix people do bad things. Even though he never makes a real effort to help the girls he’s also terrified of Krug and he does try to help like suggesting Mari and Phyllis make it with each other, but his intentions weren’t to humiliate them, but he’s a drug addict and scared and in trying to help only escalates the situation.

Sandra Cassell and Lucy Grantham are great in their roles and no matter how many times I see this film it never fails to bother me what happens to them. It’s only a movie it isn’t real, but that’s how powerful the performances are that for that 80-plus minutes its ways to forget you’re only watching a movie. As I said David Hess gets his credit for the film and he’s very deserving, but the rest of the cast is also great and deserve far more credit than they get.

I think one of the things that really stands out here is the music, which was written and performed by David Hess. Besides being a terrific actor, Hess was also a truly brilliant musician and his music in Last House on the Left was epic and quite honestly a major reason why this film is what it turned out to be.

Last House on the Left is one of my very favorite films and one of my biggest influences as well. I can watch this film once every ten years and not forget one single frame. Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is a masterpiece of filmmaking with great acting and one hell of a great soundtrack. This film forever changed the horror genre and for my money the best film in Wes Craven’s career.

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