Analysis: “A Nightmare On My Street” vs. “Are You Ready For Freddy”

tn_freddysongsspecialpresentationOh shit you guys, did you notice it’s Halloween already? I feel like the season is just getting started, though. Next week I’m gonna have more horror reviews for you, plus other stuff.

But today instead of another review I thought I should do something different, a Halloween special if you will. Something great and beautiful and timeless that really captures the traditions and atmosphere and feelings of the holiday, like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the world’s only animated tribute to sincerity. Good cartoon in my opinion. I should totally do something like that if I’m up to it. Or maybe I could write about the Freddy Krueger rapping, that might be something more appropriate to my level of expertise. I guess I’ll do the second one.

In the late 1980s, a period when horror sequels were a major part of pop culture, there were two songs by popular rap acts that were inspired by the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET saga. Let’s take a look at them both.
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Death Spa

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This one isn’t exactly a slasher movie, but I didn’t know.

tn_deathspaWow, DEATH SPA was not what I expected from a movie about a spa of death. This is a much more professional and imaginative movie than its Fitness Horror forefather KILLER WORKOUT. Sure, it’s completely ridiculous, because it’s about a whole bunch of spectacular deaths at a health club run by a supercomputer. But it’s a little more credible than that sounds, in my opinion. A little.

It opens with a long, show-offy tracking shot in which some of the letters on the STARBODY HEALTH SPA neon light go out so it spells “D   EA TH SPA”. And then the first woman we see practicing alone in the dance studio (Brenda Bakke, UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY) seems to have a screen presence and beauty of a caliber much higher than required. I actually thought damn, she should be the lead, but she’s about to get it.

Actually she survives, but is hospitalized for a while and then wears bandages over her eyes. (And remember, Eric Bogosian threatens to burn her eyeball in US2. Coincidence? Yes.) The lead-lead is William Bumiller (LAST RESORT), who has not gone on to canonization in a Seagal film, but who also seems better than the material needs. As spa owner Michael Evans (not based on the actor from Good Times as far as I can tell) he projects rugged, capable, but not dumb. He gets a call about what happened and rushes there in his Porsche between quick flashbacks of somebody on fire. So right away we know he’s got a fairly noteworthy past. (read the rest of this shit…)

Killer Workout

slashersearch14tn_killerworkoutKILLER WORKOUT is low budget fitness club horror made by fringe action auteur David A. Prior, so it has by far the most punching I’ve ever seen in a slasher movie. I gotta respect that, at least. Prior did this between KILLZONE and DEADLY PREY. Unlike his horror debut SLEDGEHAMMER it’s not shot on video, which means it meets my rigid standards of a slasher movie I am willing to try to watch.

When a muscley blond guy (Ted Prior, HARDCASE AND FIST) starts working at Rhonda’s Workout the musclier brunette guy (Fritz Matthews)  jumps him in the parking lot and they have a bare knuckle brawl. Then it happens a couple more times. Lots of old cowboy style ducking and swinging and getting tossed and knocking over furniture. The blond guy is clearly up to something, it seems from our viewpoint like he must be undercover, but other people suspect he’s there to stalk and murder them.
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Slaughter High

tn_slaughterhighslashersearch14I almost turned this one off during the April Fool’s Day flashback prologue, when the popular kids prank “that stupid dork Marty” (Simon Scuddamore) by making him think he’s gonna lose his virginity to the hot girl Carol (Caroline Munro, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, MANIAC)  in the girls locker room showers. Instead he finds himself naked in front of ten popular kids filming him, poking his ass with a pool stick, electrically shocking him, chanting “Where’s the beef?” and having two dudes pick him up by his thighs and dunk his head in the toilet. Real Abu Ghraib shit.

Since the coach breaks it up they come after him again when he’s staying late in the chemistry lab. They trick him into smoking a bad joint and mix up his chemicals so that they explode, which ends up causing a fire and dumping a big jar of acid (unwisely left open on the edge of a high shelf) on his face. All that is fine except the acting (especially by the nerd) is Troma-broad, without the content being as crazy, and if they’re not gonna take this at least half serious I’m not sure it’s worth my time. But when we skip to the present day it straightens up and starts acting like it’s a real horror movie, so I stuck with it.

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John Wick

tn_johnwickI never figured Keanu Reeves would become an action hall-of-famer, but here we are. Of course he stars in the great POINT BREAK, but we can’t lie, we all kinda chuckle at his FBI surfer dude Johnny Utah in that. And then he was good in SPEED, but would that be enough? If that was enough Matt Damon would be an action legend. Of course, playing Neo in THE MATRIX trilogy sealed the deal, Reeves learned to do all that kung fu and that hadn’t really been done by a normal actor like that before and those movies and those fights hold up today. Still, it seemed like an anomaly in his career. He would always be Neo to the world but that would be it for Action Keanu, right?

Nope. Because he directed last year’s martial arts gem MAN OF TAI CHI and played the villain, creating and performing some more classic fight scenes. When I saw that I realized it was time to acknowledge his greatness. 47 RONIN put a little bit of a damper on that though because it was so boring I never even wrote a review. If I had it would’ve said “Some of the monsters are cool” and that’s about it.

But after JOHN WICK, Reeves’s strong connection to Badass Cinema cannot be denied. This is a fun, violent, straight-ahead revenge action movie. Reeves did not direct it, but his stunt double from the MATRIX movies, Chad Stahelski, did*. So it’s probly a style of directing too dangerous for Reeves to perform. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Purge: Anarchy

tn_purgeanarchyThat movie THE PURGE was a little better than I expected. You gotta accept a completely asinine premise (that 12 hours of “all crime is legal” free-for-all every March 22nd would virtually eliminate crime, unemployment and poverty) but I like Ethan Hawke’s dedicated performance and the subtext about living a comfortable life distanced from the savagery we benefit from. These people say they don’t believe in killing, but they believe in The Purge because it’s the American way. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Now lo and behold part 2 is better than the first one. Not any smarter, but better put together. Okay, we’ve accidentally bought into this world where The Purge happens, now let’s have a more entertaining story about it. They ditched the home invasion/siege format and deal with people moving through the city trying to evade the mayhem. It’s shot in kind of a digital age noir style with solid yellows and reds often highlighting the spaces between dark shadows. As you drive through the city you pass serious beatings on the side of the road, things on fire, gun battles. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nightmare

tn_nightmareslashersearch14I guess I should’ve known about this one, but I didn’t. 1981’s generically titled NIGHTMARE (sometimes called NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) is apparently pretty notorious due to getting banned in the UK as a “Video Nasty.” That’s not the same as being good. But it has a sleazy, unhinged feeling to it that makes it stand out. It feels like it is definitely not made by slick professionals, but possibly by actual crazy people.

It begins, appropriately, with a guy dreaming he wakes up in his underwear with a woman’s severed head in a pile of guts at the foot of his bed. This will be our killer, George Tatum (Baird Stafford), an often sweaty, always confused mess of a man constantly in agony because of his extremely messed up sexuality. He’s haunted by childhood memories of walking in on his mom (or a mistress or hooker, it seems like, but the credits say mother) in a corset on top of his tied-up dad, slapping him. And then he remembers Mom getting decapitated.

Not surprisingly this is a problem in George’s daily life. For one thing, he likes to go to the Times Square peep shows to jerk off, but he keeps seeing head stump flashes and falling to his knees in anguish. Ruins the whole night, I’m sure.

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The Initiation

slashersearch14tn_initiationTHE INITIATION is yet another sorority-themed slasher movie (see also HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, SORORITY ROW, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE I and II, KILLER PARTY, BLACK CHRISTMAS, BLACK XMAS), but it’s toward the high end of that list as far as quality. “Introducing Daphne Zuniga” as Kelly (although she had already been in THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD), one of a group of new pledges beginning their Hell Week at a college in Dallas or Fort Worth while somebody possibly connected to her is going around stabbing people, mostly with a 3-pronged gardening tool.

It’s got a little bit of HALLOWEEN and a little bit of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The HALLOWEEN is in the section that takes place in an insane asylum where the inmates all get loose at night and mob a nurse’s car. She gets stabbed, but we don’t see who did it, and none of these witnesses are gonna be able to explain it. They just giggle uncontrollably, suck their thumbs or flick their tongues like lizards. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Burning

tn_burningTHE BURNING is a slasher movie I like, and I can acknowledge that it’s not great but it just fits into my wheelhouse (you know, the house where I store all my wheels as well as some of the movies I like). Something about those FRIDAY THE 13THs and SLEEPAWAY CAMPs just engrained the summer camp of the ’80s into my mind as a perfect place for a slasher. By day it’s canoes and pushing people off of docks and wearing those gym socks with the stripes at the top. Then at night you realize you’re out in the middle of the fuckin woods! What the fuck are you gonna do if (let’s be honest – when) something happens? Where are you gonna go? Deeper into the dark, quiet woods?

But actually Jason and these guys are scarier when they strike in the sunlight. The sanctity of the summer paradise invaded by machetes and improperly used spear guns. Lens flares and dripping blood. (read the rest of this shit…)

Species

tn_species“Don’t go. Please! I want a baby.”

SPECIES is one of these movies of the ’90s that isn’t very good but that represents a weird enough collision of influences to be interesting. It’s a studio genre movie so it has an all-star cast. Ben Kingsley (PRINCE OF PERSIA, BLOODRAYNE) leads the government monster hunt, and his team of specialists is Forest Whitaker (BLOODSPORT), Michael Madsen (BLOODRAYNE), Alfred Molina (PRINCE OF PERSIA) and Marg Helgenberger (FIRE DOWN BELOW).

Behind the scenes they got a couple of legit horror technicians in the mix: composer Christopher Young, whose eerie score is very similar to what he did for HELLRAISER, and monster designer H.R. Giger does his biomechanical thing like in ALIEN, but this time with bonus eyes and boobs. This was the first time his creatures got the computer animation treatment, an exciting development in those days. It was only two years after JURASSIC PARK and just doing everything digitally was still in the future, they had to put in some effort to do it so it was usually a big deal. The digital parts look almost charmingly crude now, but luckily they got puppets and costumes in there too, like you did back then. (read the rest of this shit…)