Freddy’s New Nightmare

May 4, 2010


Caught the Nightmare on Elm Street remake today and, much like the remakes that have come before it, I find myself liking some things and not caring for others. When Nightmare 2010 was trying to be its own thing, it did pretty well. When it was trying to walk in its forefather’s footsteps, however, it tripped.

Robert Englund as old school Krueger circa 1984.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen some of the iconic moments the new version tries to recreate from the original, such as Freddy’s gloved hand emerging from Nancy’s bathtub…while Nancy is also in the tub. That’s a straight lift from the original, as is the scene where a ghostly Krueger bends a wall to his will. Neither of these is executed as well as they were in the original, and were really unnecessary to begin with – there are some clever nods to such scenes later in the film (remember Freddy’s tongue licking Nancy through the phone? This time he does it in person, and it’s even ickier than the first time) that work better because they aren’t exact duplicates.

The movie does play with Freddy’s backstory a little more, and while I like what they were going for – hinting that Krueger may not have been guilty of everything his killers believed – it was brought down by ham-handed execution. The kids quickly jump to the conclusion that the accusations they made against Freddy when they were little were made up, and then just as quickly discover that, no, the parents were right and Fred was a perv. That could have been drawn out a little longer and been more effective.

Jackie Early Haley as Freddy 2.0.

Those things aside, though, let’s talk about Freddy. I was worried about anyone other than Robert Englund wielding the glove…until they hired Jackie Earl Haley. Haley brings a sick, twisted sense of sleeze to the character that Englund was just too charming to manage. Don’t get me wrong, Englund still owns the part, but Jackie has brought us a new version that I hope to see a lot more of.

That’s right. I liked this enough to want more. While it was, like all the Platinum Dune remakes thus far, maybe a little too slick and polished to really capture the spirit of the original, I think this one has come closest so far. The nightmares could be a little more surreal, the characters a little more fleshed out, and there could be less reliance on the jump scares, but all in all this new Nightmare holds its own against a pretty tough standard.

(For the record, the movie geek in me really got all fired up when a character named Quentin used a needle full of adrenaline straight to the heart to wake up another character – just like John Travolta did in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Nice.)

Looking back, looking ahead

April 2, 2010

Been a busy couple of months – not busy updating this website, obviously, but busy nonetheless. I’ve been itching to get back here and write about some of the stuff coming up that I’m looking forward to, but haven’t had the time. I don’t really have the time today, but I couldn’t stay away another minute longer.

So, indulge me if you will as I give you a whirlwind tour of what I’ve been doing, what’s coming up, and a couple of things I’m anticipating.

I’ve been slowly building the content over at my Spec Fiction blog for – some cools interviews recently with guys like Jonathan Maberry, who recently adapted the remake of The Wolfman in novel form. I’ll be adding those links to the nonfiction page over the next couple of days. Also, I’ve joined the staff of Horrorworld as the site’s interviewer. I’ll be talking with a new author each month, beginning in April with Roger Ma, author of The Zombie Combat Manual. I’ll make a not here as soon as that one goes live.

As always, new reviews are going up regularly at Dark Scribe, including a belated look at Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I’ve got several in the pipeline there – and will have a look at King’s just-announced surprise novella, Blockade Billy, appearing there as soon as my review copy arrives.

Movie-wise, I finally saw Black Dynamite after months of anticipation, and had a ball with it. I’m looking forward to the upcoming remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, although not as much as I’m looking forward to the Blu-ray edition of the original, which comes out April 6. If the HD format does for Nightmare what it did for the original Halloween and Friday the 13th, then I’ll be a happy horror fan.

Here’s the trailer for the new Nightmare, just to whet our appetites:

From everything I’ve read, the people behind this remake are looking to take Freddy back the real (and surreal) horror of the first film, and away from the wisecracking anti-hero he eventually became. I hope they get it right, and I hope that the actual movie isn’t simply the exact replica of Wes Craven’s original that the trailers suggest it might be. Jackie Earl Haley seems the perfect choice to fill Robert Englund’s shoes, though.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully it won’t be two months before I’m back again.

Dracula’s Soul Brother

February 2, 2010

I just finished my first viewing of Blacula, and I had to share the love. This is one of those great ’70s flicks that provides both unintentional laughs and a few effective scares, all wrapped up in one great, camp-filled package. William Marshall owns the screen as Mamuwalde, an African prince from the 1800s who seeks out the original Count Dracula’s help in ending the slave trade. Instead, he discovers that the Count is all but a card-carrying member of the KKK. Dracula offers to buy Mamuwalde’s wife, then turns his minions loose on the prince and his bride. Just before sealing them into a vault, Dracula bites Mamuwalde and curses him with both an eternal lust for blood and the nickname “Blacula” in a scene you can see in the trailer below:

Naturally, Mamuwalde is resurrected years later, and pursues a woman who appears to be his reincarnated wife. With a name like Blacula  you might expect a heaping helping of crude stereotypes, but with the exception of a couple of gay antique dealers, that’s mostly held in check. What you will find is a movie that’s surprisingly effective in places. Marshall is an intense, intimidating presence on screen, and when he goes into full vampire mode his eyebrows rival those of fellow ’70s stud Dean Stockwell. All in all I had a great time with this flick, and can’t wait to hunt down the sequel, Scream Blacula Scream.

Now, from a bonafide ’70s success to one that appears to capture the look and feel of what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite film decades. I’m posting a trailer for a movie that I’ve just recently heard about, The House of the Devil. Set in the ’80s, the film apparently uses film techniques and technology from the late ’70s/early ’80s, and is played as straight-up horror. It’s out on DVD this week, and I can’t wait to see it. Here’s a taste:

‘The Wolfman’ cometh

February 2, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write a post for several days now, but things have been busy. I’ve been wanting to let you know about the new short story I’m writing, and about the new reviews (Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Vol. 3, Under the Dome) that’ll be popping up over the next couple of weeks, about the interviews I’ve been running over on my blog, but there’s just been no time. I’ll get to all that, but not today.

Today, inspired by the interview I’m working on with Jonathan Maberry, who has written the novelization of the upcoming remake of The Wolfman, I thought I’d share the movie’s trailer with you. So here it is:

The Wolfman somehow became the battleground over the last year or so for the practical effects vs. CGI argument that’s been raging ever since Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I’m typically a pro-practical guy, but I’m not against the careful use of computer graphics to augment the final effect. But all of that is beside the point – what I want from The Wolfman is a taste of good old-fashioned Hammer-style horror, with a dash of the contemporary thrown in. I plan on seeing this one as soon as I can, and I’ll let you know if it fills my particular bill.

“…and today is his birthday….”

December 6, 2008

The new trailer for next year’s Friday the 13th remake is out.

I love the return of the “death count.”

Halloween (2007)

October 28, 2008

This is one of those remakes that, when it was announced, everyone groaned. “Halloween doesn’t need to be remade,” they said. And they were right. The original Halloween is as classic as a slasher film can be. The haunting score, the cat-and-mouse game in which John Carpenter wisely keeps his killer in the shadows, both literally and, when it comes to motivation, figuratively. We don’t know until the sequel that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is Michael Myers’ sister. All we know is that an insane killer is loose on the streets, stalking an innocent young girl.


In his revamp, re-imagining, or whatever you want to call it, Rob Zombie brings Michael Myers out of the shadows in the first frame of film. Within minutes we see that the young boy is deeply troubled (he takes to his pet rat with a knife), and we see at least part of the reason why: he’s growing up in a white trash hellhole, a sharp contrast to the quiet suburban upbringing we glimpse in Carpenter’s original. He’s bullied at school, verbally (and maybe physically) abused at home, and the only hint of compassion he shows is toward his mom and baby sister. For them, he desperately wants to be a good, normal little boy.


It’s not to be, however. In one of the biggest miss-steps of the film, it’s suggested that the pain of being ditched on Halloween night by his older sister, who prefers treats with her boyfriend over trick-or-treating with her weird little brother, is what finally sends him over the edge. Michael goes on a brutal rampage, slaughtering his stepfather, sister and the hapless boyfriend while his mom is working a late shift at the neighborhood strip joint. He spares the baby and his mom, but faces a lifetime of institutionalization for his actions.


We get a little more young Michael story, including his final tip into the abyss, before jumping ahead 15 years. Michael’s alone at this point – Dr. Loomis has given up on him, his mom checked out – and he’s grown into the silent, hulking menace who spends his days in his room making masks. It’s not long until he breaks out, and Zombie moves into familiar territory with the actual “remake” portion of this Halloween.


As good at Zombie is at capturing the white trash aesthetic, he still lacks some skill in building suspense. Zombie is at his best when he’s staging all-out assaults, such as the quick scene in which Michael takes out Laurie’s parents (or, as we all now know, her adoptive parents). Unfortunately, that’s not what Halloween is all about. If Zombie had made a movie about an original serial killer, this approach would have been fine. The problem is, we all associate Michael Myers with the deliberate, patient and emotionless approach Carpenter introduced him with. Zombie’s Myers is fast and angry, and while it makes for some jarring scenes, it just isn’t Halloween.


While the characterization of Michael Myers may have been a calculated approach Zombie took in order to put his own stamp on the character, I can’t imagine the same can be said for his version of Laurie Strode. Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis gave us a heroine who was strong and courageous; someone who loved her friends even though she was light-years ahead of them in maturity. Zombie’s Strode may be smarter than the average high schooler, but she seems content to hide her intellect and take on the giggling, foul-mouthed personas of her unlikeable friends. To me, this was the biggest disappointment of Zombie’s film – there was no one there to root for.


If you can cut loose the baggage that the name Halloween brings with it, there’s some enjoyment to be found in this “re-imagining.” Zombie makes a good-looking horror movie with a few effective scares scattered throughout. While it will never replace the original, it’s an okay companion piece. And, unlike all the sequels, they at least got the mask right.

Friday the 13th: The Remake

October 24, 2008

The trailer for the shiny new Friday the 13th remake was released today. While I’ve always enjoyed the F13 series, I don’t mind that it’s being remade – there is definitely room for improvement. If nothing else, we know this version – shot by Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake helmer Marcus Nispel – will be nice to look at. It opens up in February ’09 – on Friday the 13th, if I’m not mistaken.