Posts Tagged ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’

Before I Wake is a film that has been promising to come out since 2015. However the film’s distributor, Relativity Media, kept pushing it back and finally off the release schedule due to the company’s financial troubles and whatever decisions go on in Hollywood boardrooms. With only a promising trailer to go on, plenty of Americans were wondering if we’d ever see this film and if it would be any good if we did. However last year Netflix announced it had acquired the rights to the film, and this month they released it onto their streaming platform.

And as I’m sick today and didn’t feel like doing anything else, I decided to watch it and see if it would live up to my expectations (which was average at best).

*Sigh* I can see why it was taken off the release schedule by its cash-strapped distribution company.

Before I Wake is about Jessie Hobson (played by Kate Bosworth), who becomes a foster parent with her husband to young Cody Morgan (played by Jacob Tremblay) after their own son dies in a tragic accident. They soon learn that Cody’s dreams are able to manifest in the real world, and Jessie predictably starts using his powers so she can see her son again. However, Cody’s nightmares cause horrible things to happen, and Jessie must race to unravel Cody’s subconscious before it destroys everything around him.

And yes, I see the Nightmare on Elm Street influence, but let’s ignore that, shall we?

I’m not going to lie. This film was kind of disappointing. It does have its good points: Bosworth, Tremblay, and Thomas Jane as Jessie’s husband Mark have great chemistry. You really do buy Bosworth as a woman trying to fill the hole in her heart and sees Cody’s ability as a way to do that rather than Cody himself, and you also buy Mark as a man trying to be there for this kid and worried about his wife. And oh my God, is Jacob Tremblay some sort of prodigy? Because he is just amazing in this film. You really think he’s this earnest little boy who’s afraid of his powers.

And until we reach the last thirty minutes of the film, it’s decent.

But other than that, this film has some serious issues. The plot is kind of by-the-numbers despite the heartfelt emotions of the characters. The CGI monsters aren’t that terrifying after you get them into the light, and there’s more of a focus on this emotional connection than creating a scary atmosphere. And while I’m not opposed to focusing on a connection between characters, when you put more emphasis on that than on making a scary movie scary, you know you have a problem. Imagine if Carrie was less about a psychic girl using her powers to fix her life and then get revenge and more about two broken women trying to repair their relationship while psychic stuff happens around them and it’s still billed as a scary movie. You see my problem here.

And finally, that last half hour. That is my biggest problem of the film. Rather than trying to have a climax, it seems more like the film is concerned with wrapping up its story with exposition and trying to make us feel the warm fuzzies inside with a sappy ending. If perhaps they added an extra half-hour and tried to do some things different, maybe go in some darker directions, we could’ve had a better film. Instead we’re left feeling like the filmmakers got bored and just tried to finish up the film with an ending that sounded nice, rather than a good one.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Before I Wake a 2. Great emotional storytelling and a good premise, but the execution makes for a terrible horror movie. If you’re looking for something scary to watch on Netflix, I would highly recommend watching another film.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, I’m taking it easy while I continue to heal. Pleasant nightmares and have a good weekend.


Hollywood is stuck in this phase where the studios are obsessed with sequels and prequels and spin-offs and franchises and remakes and reboots and re imaginings and a million other things. I have mixed feelings on this culture. On the one hand, I love the Marvel movies and a clever re imagining of a classic story or stories (like what Once Upon a Time has done with some of my favorite fairy tales when I was young) is a great thing. Plus who doesn’t love a good adaptation of a beloved novel or comic book or even video game into a movie or TV series?

On the other hand, seeing all these stories continued or retold constantly encourages filmmakers ane viewers to seek out familiar stories that are sure bets to be successful rather than new material that they don’t know will work out for them, when there is new material. And plenty of these sequels/prequels/reboots/whatever, when they come out, they are just awful and you wonder how the filmmakers could do this to beloved properties (see my review of the Poltergeist remake or watch these two dudes review the Smurfs movie if you need further proof).

The horror genre has been a big part in this, for better or for worse. Since the success of 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (as opposed to 2013’s remake of the film), there have been a slew of horror remakes, mainly slashers but quite a few others, and they have been showing up with increasing frequency). I’m focusing on the slashers though, because of the horror remakes the slashers are often the ones I see the most advertising for (an exception being Poltergeist, but we know how that turned out), they have some of the most iconic characters in the horror genre (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, etc.), they’re notorious for putting out too many sequels of varying quality, even for horror, and they’re difficult to get right, because they rely on blood, guts, and gore to scare people rather than suspense and atmosphere.

And for God’s sake, there’s just been so many of them:

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel (the former was good, the latter awful)
  • Halloween and Halloween II (same deal as TCM in terms of quality)
  • My Bloody Valentine (lacks all that made the original so awesome)
  • Black Christmas (awful murder-porn)
  • Prom Night (awful and nonsensical)
  • Friday the 13th (of all the Michael Bay shit movies, this one is the shittiest)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (I liked it, but others disagree with me)
  • Leprechaun (more of a re-imagining of average quality)
  • Texas Chainsaw 3D (I liked this too, but not everybody else did)
  • Evil Dead (fun and extremely bloody)
  • Scream (got rebooted as a TV series. Only saw one episode before leaving for Germany, but wasn’t impressed by what I saw)

On TV and in the movies at the same time. Like Kevin Bacon or Viola Davis.

And that’s just the ones that I know of that are out. And believe it or not, there are more on the way: Friday the 13th is getting a new movie as well as being re-imagined as a TV series for CW (haven’t heard anything on the movie, but what I’ve heard on the TV series sounds promising), Halloween is getting a new movie (also looks promising), Evil Dead is getting a TV series set years after the original films (excuse me while I skip it, because I’m not much of a fan of the franchise), and Texas Chainsaw Massacre is getting a prequel exploring Leatherface’s origins (I’m skeptical). There was also talk of a Hellraiser reboot, but there’s been no word in two years on that, so I’m going to say it’s been shelved.

So why are slashers being remade by the dozen? Like I said, they’re difficult to pull off, and they’re formulaic. Plus blood and gore is how they primarily scare you, and a lot of horror fans, including myself, find that distasteful. What makes them so appealing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the characters. Slashers have produced some of the most iconic characters in horror and in cinema: Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. Heck, Freddy Kreuger isso well-known that he’s made cameo appearances in movies parodying the 1980’s in one form or another. People love these characters as much as they’re scared of them, they love watching them in action and being terrified of them. They like to sit there and think, “What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do–AAAH!”

Studios are aware of that, as well as they are aware of how much people go back to see the old films (the better ones anyway) and see these beloved characters do what they do best. With huge fan followings like this, and how easy it is to make a horror movie under twenty million dollars with minimal special effects, they know people are going to come and see the films so they can see these beloved characters resurrected again and perhaps in a movie worthy of carrying the franchise’s name.

The problem with that is, these same studios may just be banking on the popularity of a franchise and its character or characters to draw in crowds. Take a look at Friday the 13th, or another horror movie that Michael Bay meddled in, Ouija (read my review here). Both of those sucked, but yet they still made money. I think the latter was because of very good marketing, but the former had the draw of the first Friday the 13th film in six years, and one not bogged down by sequels’ worth of mythologies. Problem was, they didn’t invest in a good story, like the first film did and most of the early films tried to do with varying success. Instead they gave it a passable story and then added in as much drugs, sex, nudity, swearing, and gratuitous death scenes as possible so that the audiences would stay interested.

The result was a waste of film that makes watching people defecate on public streets look more entertaining. And I’m very worried that these other films that are on the way will do the same thing. They’ll be made with just drawing in fans and their credit cards in mind and the results will be absolutely terrible. And no horror fan wants to see beloved characters treated that way.

Hoping for better films for all these guys, and more.

On the other hand, I like to imagine that some of these filmmakers are huge fans of the franchises and really are trying to give these characters the stories they should be in, stories that are worth investing seven dollars and two hours in. The Halloween movie supposedly has an interesting plot, and the one thing I’ve heard on the Friday the 13th sequel indicates it’ll take place in the 1980’s, when the series started and where most of the better films are set. Perhaps there is hope here.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see…and pray that along with better sequels/franchises/whatever, we get some new material too (*cough* Hollywood, call me *cough*).

All for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to get ready for the High Holidays tonight, so I’ll be busy for a while, but I’ll write again when I can.

See you next year, and Shanah Tovah (that means “Have a good year” if you don’t speak Hebrew).

Rest in peace, Wes Craven. You will be missed.

The word craven means “lacking in courage; cowardly.” I’m hard-pressed to find a man who embodied the exact antithesis of the meaning of his last man, and who instead managed to pass it onto the rest of us. Wes Craven was a filmmaking genius, a horror maestro who helped to create some of our most iconic movie monsters, including Freddy Kreuger and Ghostface. It is with great sadness that I have to admit that he passed yesterday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer at the age of 76.

I remember the first time I watched the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I was somewhere in my teenage years, and I was in my dad’s basement watching it on DVD. From the very beginning the movie set itself apart from other horror movies I’d seen in the past. The small box displaying Freddy preparing his trademark clawed glove, as if he were coming out of a long retirement to start some marvelous work again. That first dream sequence and death, and everything that came after it. Nightmare was visceral, it was scary, and at the end you wondered what was dream and what was reality, or if maybe they were all one and the same. For a guy who hadn’t had that much exposure to the horror classics of the 1980s (I might’ve only recently turned seventeen at that time and gotten access to my library’s collection of 80’s horror, most of which was rated R), it knocked me off my feet and made me want more.

You see, horror is my drug, and the Nightmare movies were really good blow. In Wes Craven, I’d found a powerful dealer, someone who could give me what I needed when I needed my horror fix. I would later find terror when I saw the Scream movies, and quite a few more (I really liked what he did with the North American remake of Pulse). You could go to him and usually he could provide the goods. Occasionally Craven produced some bad stuff—every filmmaker does occasionally, and in horror bad stuff is pretty common—but on the whole he did great work.

And how did Craven feel about these many fans, these people who saw him as a person who fed their inner desires for terror and probably gave more than one child nightmares for the rest of his or her life? To use his own words, “I come from a blue-collar family, and I’m just glad for the work. I think it is an extraordinary opportunity and gift to be able to make films in general, and to have done it for almost 40 years is remarkable…If I have to do the rest of the films in the [horror] genre, no problem. If I’m going to be a caged bird, I’ll sing the best song I can…I can see that I give my audience something. I can see it in their eyes, and they say thank you a lot. You realize you are doing something that means something to people.”(1)

Indeed Mr. Craven. You did something to many people. You gave us iconic characters like Freddy or Ghostface to haunt our dreams. You helped launch the film careers of Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis (no seriously, he did). And you inspired generations of horror fans, from your protégé Nick Simon, whose new movie The Girl in the Photographs will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, to me, a self-published novelist who, while not exactly famous yet, is working hard to create his own stories that maybe one day will scare people far and wide.

So while you may no longer be with us in Mr. Craven, you are very much alive. Like one of your creations, you haunt us in our imaginations and our dreams, making those you inspired take to their pens or computers and create their own wonderful nightmares. And as long as people fear Freddy or Ghostface or those Hills that have Eyes, you will continue to walk among us, leaving your mark wherever you go and giving us our fix when we ask for it.

So tonight, I will raise a toast to Wes Craven, a man with a vision, taken from us when we didn’t want him to go. I will get online and see if I can get a fix from one of his movies. And then soon, possibly tomorrow, I will get to work on my next terrifying creation and hope your ghost whispers in my ears while I do.

Two months ago, I published a post about problems only horror fans have and understand. Since then, I’ve thought of more problems that face the horror community, so I’ve decided to write a post about those problems and try being funny as well as educational. And I’ll probably fail miserably while I’m at it.

And now you’re thinking, “He’s going to try to be funny and educational and fail at it too? EEEK!” I wish you wouldn’t think that, I put a lot of work into this blog post!

1. Not enough Slender-Man media. If you live under a rock, Slender-Man is an Internet meme I’ve visited before on this blog, a faceless being with a tall body and long, lanky arms wearing a suit. The myth varies depending on who’s telling it, but usually he lives in the woods, occasionally has tentacles, and likes to kidnap/scare/sometimes even kill children. It started as a couple of photos made for a contest on an Internet site and has since grown and become a modern piece of Internet folklore.

Sadly, Slender-Man’s copyrighted, and not by the guy who originally created him (who is fine with any adaptations as long as they’re good), but by a third party whose identity is unknown to the public. So if you want to make a for-profit work based on good ol’ Slendy, you need to find this third party and ask them for permission. Which sucks because how can you negotiate a deal with someone you can’t find? Such is the quest to make Slender-Man merchandise.

2. We’re getting our IT adaptation…with a catch. Last time I wrote about this, I mentioned how Cary Fukunaga’s two-part adaptation of the Stephen King classic was cancelled because Fukunaga and New Line couldn’t see eye-to-eye over budget and creative directions. Well, good news, looks like New Line is still trying to make the adaptation. Just two problems: one is it’s probably going to be a single movie. Really? This is a thousand page book! Even a three hour movie will hardly get most of what made one of King’s scariest creations very good.

Even worse, the guy being courted for director is Andy Muschietti, who directed 2013’s Mama. Now a lot of people found that movie scary, but I felt that it was overall not very good. Started out great, but got slow and cliched near the end. So you can see why I’m a little hesitant over this directing choice, especially with only one movie to work with.

Seriously, why not two parts? The Hobbit got three, and it’s one book! And when Peter Jackson adapted the LOTR trilogy, it was a big, risky move. Look at how that paid out!

*Sigh* I really hope I’m surprised by this movie if it comes to be.

3. “Why not a happy story?” This actually happened to me today. I was talking to my boss and we were discussing an ice cream truck that passes through the base every day. I was trying to think of a short story involving an ice cream truck with an original and scary twist. She just looked at me with this funny face and asked, “Why can’t you write a happy story?”

Who says horror stories can’t have happiness in them? Seriously, some of them do end with the monsters gone and the main characters still alive and actually stronger for their struggles against evil. Yeah, some of them end in tragedy. But there are happy endings.

And besides, would a happy story really be that interesting? Once upon a time a bunch of schoolchildren went to play in the flower fields. They picked flowers, and one of the ones they picked turned into a handsome prince. The prince said a witch had turned him into a flower after he refused to marry her, and he would’ve died with the first frost if the kids hadn’t plucked him among the flower fields. So the prince made them all honorary princes and princesses and they were forever allowed into his castle to eat ice cream and ride the horses and learn how to dance like they do at Viennese balls.

I think I might vomit if I don’t fall asleep from boredom.

4. “But don’t you get nightmares?” Another one from my boss (in her defense, I think she ordered a copy of Reborn City today, so at least we know she’s got good taste). Yes, I do get nightmares occasionally. It’s estimated that all adults get at least two nightmares a year. Rarely do I get them from the movies I watch and books I read, though. And I’m willing to risk the possibility that one day I’ll be scared in my dreams because of one of those books or movies. Just means someone’s doing their job in making something super-scary, right?

I’ll even dream about him if it means a good scary story!

5. Horror’s so cliched. Actually, no it’s not. True, a lot of horror stories do have their tropes and conventions that appear a lot: the virgin girl, the slutty girl, the campground, the sin factor, etc. But hey, have you seen people who get upset over Bible films if there’s even a single deviation from even the most obscure text? They want the same story every time! Now that’s a lot of cliches.

And horror doesn’t always rely on cliches. There’s a lot of originality in horror, if you care to look. It Follows, I Am a Ghost, Carrie, Dracula, Interview with a Vampire. All of those were very original, thank you very much.

6. Horror has no depth. Oh, so there’s no depth in a ghost or heads getting cut off? Really? Well, where’s the depth in comedies with fart jokes? Or stories where we all go in knowing the hero and heroine will eventually hook up and that’s the only reason why we paid money for this? Where’s the depth in that?

You’d be surprised how deep a horror story can go. Anne Rice’s early Vampire Chronicles are known for their poetic philosophy and imagery. Some, including the author, has described them as “the agnostic’s search for the truth” (this is a rough quote, I may have phrased it wrong). IT, which I discussed above, deals simultaneously with the loss of childhood innocence and the rediscovery of childhood belief. And don’t you dare tell me that The Shining doesn’t explore the struggle of personal needs and desires versus the good of the group! Think about it!

7. No, I’m not sex-starved and that’s why I enjoy horror. Yeah, horror sometimes is dirty. Doesn’t mean we’re making up for something. Unless you’re the filmmakers behind the Friday the 13th remake, in which case you packed in as many boobs as possible because you wanted people to see the movie AND it was a dry spell (Ooh, new slam on that shitty movie!).

And why are you wondering about our sex lives? It’s none of your business, you perverts!

Yeah, I like these guys. So what?

8. Ghost hunting. Okay, this might just be my problem, but just bear with me, because it’s related. Plenty of people believe in ghosts, interest in horror or not. Some of us believe that it is possible to find out about ghosts using modern-day technology, which is why we support ghost hunters and even watch some of the ghost-hunting teams that have their own TV shows.

So what’s the problem? Some people think ghost hunters are snake oil salesmen and make fun of them and their shows whenever the subject comes up. For those like me who believe in ghosts and maybe even base our ghost mythologies on what ghost hunters may uncover in investigations, it’s hurtful.

Yeah, this isn’t strictly a horror problem. But it’s a problem nonetheless.


Did you identify with any of these problems? Did I miss any? Was I funny? If not, did you at least learn something?

Well, hope you enjoyed this whatever your reaction. Just thought I’d get out another list. Hopefully I won’t find any more reasons we horror fans have it tough. Have a goodnight, Followers of Fear!

The wait till DVD…oh dammit!

Last night as I was dropping off to sleep and feeling happy about setting up that new blog of mine (thanks to everyone who’s already signed up to follow that, by the way), my mind started to wander, as it usually does right before I fall asleep. This time around my mind went to horror stories (yeah, it does that quite often too), and I started to ponder character depth and development in horror stories. At some point I realized that in horror, you often have either characters who are very well-rounded and developed, or you have characters that are little more than archetypes, e.g. the Skeptical Dad, the Final Girl, The Psychic Child, The Expert, etc. And you know what else I realized, what made me get up out of bed and write this revelation down before I fell asleep and forgot? Sometimes these stories require different level of character development, depending on what the story is.

Let me explain. In certain scary stories, such as Stephen King’s The Shining (the book, not that poorly adapted Kubrick film), the characters are more than just archetypes and we get to know them very well. This is because their inner conflicts are just as important to the story as is the outer conflicts happening with the hotel. Jack Torrance is trying to keep his cool and be a good husband and father for his family after so many screw ups, while also fending off his desire to drink and the mental assaults of the hotel. His wife Wendy is trying to keep her family together while also keeping an eye on Jack in case he reverts to bad habits. And Danny, psychic and wise beyond his years, is trying to stay strong and endure the hotel’s attempts to kill him because he knows a lot is riding on his father taking care of the hotel through the winter. How they react to situations and grow as characters is just as important as what is happening within the hotel, so King makes sure they are well-developed.

Part of the terror (in the book, anyway), comes from the conflicts these characters wrestle with inside themselves as well as the ones the hotel sends them.

Meanwhile other stories don’t need as much character development. Take Insidious 3, for example (yes, I’m using the third entry in a horror film series, but bear with me). Besides main character Elise Rainier, most of the characters in the film do not get much character development. In the Brenner family, who are experiencing all these supernatural happenings, you don’t see much beyond the roles they play in the story: Quinn is a pretty girl with dreams of acting and is being victimized by a spirit, her dad Sean is the scatter-brained parent trying to keep his family together through grief and tragedy, and the annoying younger brother Alex is…well, the annoying younger brother. Despite not getting a lot of characterization though, these three characters do actually get some growth in the story: Quinn’s car accident and the spirit attacking her causes her, her brother, and her father to get out of their own little worlds and come together as a family to save Quinn’s life.

And of course, there are those stories that require little or no characterization or growth at all. This is common in slasher films, where the characters are often reduced to archetypes or roles (anyone who’s seen Cabin in the Woods knows what I’m talking about). This also happens in a short story I had an idea for recently (and that I might write as soon as I finish editing Video Rage). In this story, I decided that I wouldn’t spend time going over why the protagonist’s younger brother is a bratty kid or why the antagonists are as freaky as they are. The reason I decided this is because the events of the story are where the terror and intrigue come from, not from any inner growth. This is usually the case with slasher films as well: the events of the story are where we get our terror and excitement from, so more attention is pointed towards telling the story than going over any inner conflicts of the characters.

Half the fun of this show is seeing these two interact with each other.

What I’m driving at here is that how much character development is required from a story depends a lot on where the excitement and fear is coming from and how essential developing a character is in order to keep a reader or viewer invested in the story. In the case of a Nightmare on Elm Street film or the story I mentioned above, we’re reading or seeing the story because we know that the story’s events is where we’re going to get the excitement we paid to read/see. In the case of stories like The Shining or most episodes of Hannibal though, a major reason why we’re investing time into the story is because of the characters, not just what’s happening around them. This is especially so in Hannibal, because most of the conflicts and intrigue comes from the characters, their psychological states, and how they play against one another. We’re there not just because Hannibal Lecter is a famous and charismatic serial killer, we’re also there because we like seeing how Will Graham’s relationship with Lecter changes and evolves over time.

And knowing how much to balance of these two elements–character development and story-focus–is very important. Look at the remake of Poltergeist that came out recently. It was an awful film, and one of the many problems it had was that they tried to insert character development near the beginning of the film and failed miserably. Early on it focused on the dad losing his job and trying to find a new one, as well as mentioned something about the wife being a writer. I think the filmmakers were trying to translate this into an arc where the family tries to stay together and come together through rough circumstances, but ultimately the whole thread of the dad looking for a job and the parents trying to keep the family together fails to really get resolved or come together and ends up feeling unnecessary to the story. You’d think that it would just be enough to say the dad got promoted or transferred or a new job and leave it at that!

So whether it’s a zombie flick, a novel about a haunted house, or a psychological horror TV show, knowing the balance between character development and story-focus is just as important as creating a memorable and creepy villain or writing the story in such a way so that the story actually remains scary rather than goofy or just plain stupid (*cough* Friday the 13th remake *cough*). If you do, you’re more likely to write a good story worth remembering than you are to write garbage that horror fans sift through trying to find a nugget of gold.

I’ll certainly keep the balance in mind with the next story I write.