Thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most recognisable titles in cinema – as is it’s villain, and star, Freddy Krueger. I felt the urge to re-watch this film after my recently-formed gaming obsession with Dead By Daylight. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that much of the film still holds up to modern viewing.

What is A Nightmare on Elm Street about?

Behind the scenes on A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows four high-school kids, who are all experiencing almost identical nightmares. Nightmares about a mysterious burnt man in an old jumper and hat with knives for fingers. This figure is none other than one of cinema’s most charismatic antagonists – Freddy Krueger.

Freddy has long been dead, but has since returned to feed on children’s fear within their dreams in order to kill them. While alive, Freddy was exclusively a child killer – and possibly worse in the originally draft – which makes him one of the most despicable of his contemporary killers. Yet, perhaps intentionally, this is juxtaposed with his bouncy, playful actions and the fact that through the course of his films people have come to regard Freddy as a “cool character”.

It isn’t long until one of the children Freddy is hunting, Nancy, takes it upon herself to stand up and fight back against him. This ultimately leads to a showdown where you’ll want to throw your fists up and shout “Fuck Yer, Nancy!”.

A Nightmare on Elm Street artwork

The Effects still hold up

When the Matrix came out in 1999 it blew most people away with its cutting-edge, computed-generated, effects. Less than ten years later and those effects sure did start to look dated – more so now. However, with films that focused on created actual physical effects, this dated effect is lessened quite substantially in my opinion.

A Nightmare on Elm Street, although cheesy in parts, still holds up strongly with its physical effects. Especially those bedroom death scenes from both the start and end of the film. R.I.P. Johnny. And Freddy is every bit as menacing and full of charisma as I’d remembered from watching it years ago.

Nancy in the bath
Nancy in that famous bathtub scene

It’s great when modern films take a leaf out of the books of films like this one. You really can’t beat the authenticity of good-old physical effects. Especially in horror.

A personal favourite favourite of mine of all the film’s effects, is when Nancy is asleep at Tina’s house. Freddy can be seen pushing his way through the over-arching bedroom wall from the other side. And although it’s not too difficult to work out how this could be achieved it is still effing terrifying and highly effective.

Freddy is still rock n roll

Nancy and Freddy

Freddy Krueger is one of those pop culture horror icons who sits beside all of the greats. He sits with characters such as Michael Myers; Pinhead; Jason and Leatherface. He was played so perfectly by Robert Englund and like Doug Bradley for pinhead, will always be tightly linked to his seminal role.

Interestingly what differs Freddy from many of his contemporaries, is his sense of humour and playfulness with his victims. Michael Myers was a silent shape in the darkness; Jason too was silent; Pinhead spoke only in a deep, almost poetic manner. But Freddy just toys with his victims in his cheeky, tormenting way.

Freddy has been a really fun villain to revisit and I’m looking forward to re-watching the other films too. This includes one I’ve never seen before – Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. I’ve heard good things about it so will get a hold of that when I can.

In Summary

A great horror film that I think still holds strong today. Wes Craven unknowingly created an icon that would go on to become a household name – like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Coca Cola.

If you’ve never before seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, I urge you to give it a watch. Yes there are some aspects of it that will be dated, such as the fashions and the acting in places. But this really is an important horror film like all of the top films lists repeat. You wont sleep easy till you watch this film.

Thoughts on the film “Neon Demon”

With its gorgeous visuals and pulsing soundtrack, Neon Demon is a film that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The majority of the story felt to me like it was floating in and out of the conscious mind, with an increasing level of abstract as it went on.

What’s The Neon Demon about?

Elle Fanning as Jesse in The Neon Demon
Elle Fanning as Jesse in The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon follows fresh-faced, 16-year-old model Jesse, played by Elle Fanning, as she enters the harsh world of fashion modelling. We follow her from her first demo photos – featured in the poster above – to her quick rise to fame. With her sudden rise she attracts enemies within the business and even some avid admirers.

By the film’s final scenes I found myself slack-jawed, not quite believing what I was seeing; you could say it left me slightly haunted.

Bold and beautiful visuals

The fact that this film has such an easy to follow story, allowed me to get completely caught up in the rich atmospheres that the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, put together. Neon Demon felt almost like a dream for the most part. In fact even some moments that were grounded had elements of a dream / nightmare in them (the scene with the mountain lion for example). The colours throughout were so refreshing to me as well. The vibrant purples and blood reds gave my eyes a real treat with the bold shots they created.

Bathroom scene from The Neon Demon
Bathroom scene from The Neon Demon

The film reminded me quite a bit of italian giallo films – those ones that are really unsettling to watch – like “Suspiria” or “Cat O’ Nine Tails”. Just something about them isn’t quite right – some kind of horror that is sitting just beneath the film’s surface. The music only served to enforce this for me and felt somewhere between Giallo and Synthwave – a great combination.

In Closing

As with Mother! from last week, Neon Demon is another one of those films that defies an easy grouping. There are elements of horror, thriller, very black comedy and even touching on very *taboo subjects. However, those elements are woven into the fabric of the film to create a single, altogether unique viewing experience.

I was thinking about this film still days after I’d watched it. Proceed with caution and an open mind.

*(I can’t really mention the taboo subjects without giving away key events. What I can say is that they aren’t for the faint of heart.)

You’ll die if you try – Thoughts on the film IT

I will always remember the original TV mini-series of IT with fondness and nostalgia; it was the first thing I watched that scared the crap out of me. I was extremely wary, I might even say pessimistic, about the new theatrical version to come out this year. However, after deciding to give it a chance I found that I came out of the film very happy.

From what I’ve gathered, this newer version stays closer to the source material than the aforementioned TV series. This isn’t really of any importance in my enjoying of it as I’ve never read the book, but thought it was worth a mention.

I personally found the jump scares to not have too much of an effect on me. What did leave an impression on me were the relationships between the main characters – the losers club, and the absolute creepiness of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise.

The Losers Club

The actors and actresses playing the losers club did an awesome job and had great chemistry on screen. It was good to see the blossoming, and sometimes damaging, of their friendships before ultimately coming together for the final showdown against Pennywise.

The Losers Club
The Losers Club from the film IT

But aside from the kids versus clown, the story also did well in telling the group’s stories as a coming-of-age tale – these aren’t just a bunch of one dimensional characters; these are fully-realised people who are all dealing with the stress and anxiety of growing up, as well as added parental pressure. Never mind the killer clown that wants them dead.

Pennywise the dancing clown

Speaking of Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård was so frickin’ awesome in this part. Even though I knew the story and knew the general series of events, he still creeped me the fuck out from the get go. His eyes that weren’t quite right; the subtle shifts from being a friendly clown to showing the expressions that betray his underlying motives; the downright terror that ensues when his real self comes to the forefront.

It was genuinely scary to just see him talking in the opening scene – the opening scene that goes further than most other popular horror films do. Even though I knew what was coming in that scene, I still found myself sitting there, anxiously awaiting the climax.

Chapter 2…

I thought it was interesting to only see the events of the group’s childhood; leaving the adulthood and final showdown to its own film entirely. I don’t think it would actually be possible to cram the whole book into one film – at least not without cutting huge chunks out.

I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of IT sometime in the near future, all being well with all of the same writers and creators.

Thoughts on the film mother!

I had zero knowledge of ‘mother!’ when I went in to see it, other than it was directed by the same guy who had made Black Swan (which I love). This is always my preferred way of experiencing a film – without knowing what it’s about. Little did I know I would be led down the garden path into the ever-increasing darkness.

Mother! is a film that I find defies classification. I think if you’re going into it expecting a horror film, as some have, you may be disappointed. Similarly if you go in expecting romance, or thriller, you may also be disappointed. Instead, remain open-minded; think of ‘mother!’ as being a unique story that slowly unravels; keeping its cards close to its chest.

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem posters for Mother!

When I watched it I didn’t quite know what I was seeing. I mean, yes it’s a seemingly straight forward narrative about a couple in the early stages of dissolution of their relationship, but the narrative is a veneer for a whole slew of metaphors – I’m just not smart enough to have spotted them. All I know is that I enjoyed the journey I was taken on, the mixed feelings it conjured up, and the challenges it often presented me.

There were some moments in the film that were quite difficult to watch, with the mother having an increasingly bad time as the story progresses. But I think that’s what films should do – challenge us; confront us with things we wouldn’t normally experience; shock us out of the rhythm of everyday life and give our brains something new to process.

It’s great that we live in a world with directors like Daron Aronofsky, who just have a story and they tell it, staying true to the original kernel of the idea. They don’t pander to any pre-decided notions of what a particular story should or shouldn’t be, or even what a story should be, they just do their thing; everyone else is just along for the ride.

If you are looking for something different and are open-minded to be taken on a different kind of journey, you should check out mother!

Terminator 2 Re-release in 3D

When I was eight years old Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released at the cinema. I remember it vividly. Not because of my going to see it, but because of the evening my parents dropped me off at my Nan’s house whilst they went to watch it.

Now, Twenty Six years later, I finally had the opportunity to see it on the big screen myself.

I was initially skeptical

When the announcement was made about the retro fitting of 3D for its re-release I was disappointed. I’ve never been much of a fan of 3D cinema and simply wanted to see this film as it was originally. I grew up watching this all the time; memorised all the lines; and even played out the scenes with friends in junior school. I was obsessed to say the least. This is one of my favourite films, if not my actual favourite film, and was worried it would somehow tarnish my love of it.

However, if this was to be my first chance to see Terminator 2 on the big screen I was gonna take it.

I was not disappointed

As soon as the film began I was immediately blown away. The Terminator’s skull coming out of the fire at the end of the opening credits was so spectacular-looking and was completely terrifying. The moment had finally came – I was about to see Terminator 2 on the big screen.

All throughout the film I found myself noticing more of the background details, probably through a conscious effort to absorb the full 3D effect. Even in the T-1000’s arrival, I would be noticing all of the wrecked cars and debris in the underpass. I got even more wrapped up in this world than I had previously done.

Everything I loved about this film was magnified up on the screen.

The Special Effects still hold up today

Twenty six years after this film released, then ahead of it’s time, the special effects still hold up strongly. The highway chase between the police van and helicopter still looked great – greatly due to the fact it was all filmed for real. No C.G. shots back then, kids. Even the nightmare hydrogen bomb scene, even more horrifying at a huge size, still had all the power of its first outing. In fact I couldn’t help get more of an emotional connection to this in the light of recent threats and actions in the news by certain heads of state douche bags.

Thank you, Jim

A big thanks to James Cameron and all of the people who went into making this re-release a reality. Let’s hope there’s enough interest to warrant the possibly-next-planned remaster, Aliens.

Ear, ear – Changes in acceptable cinema violence

Back in 1992 Quentin Tarantino released his directorial debut : Reservoir Dogs. Although this is considered a modern classic of cinema, and rightly so, many people lost their shit when this film came out.

The most notable reason for the hostility towards the film was the infamous ear-cutting scene performed by Michael Madsen’s Mr Blonde on Kirk Baltz’s Marvin Nash – even though the act itself is performed off-screen.

Last night I went to see a recent film release: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (don’t judge me), which itself had a scene with somebody getting their ear cut off. The cutter even talks into the severed ear just as Mr Blonde does. King Arthur, however, is rated as 12A and I bet it wont be denied a video release for three years.

What does this say about modern cinema, or about us as people?

Now I’m not somebody who has any complaint about cinema violence – I bloody love it. It’s fun to watch and unless you have trouble differentiated fantasy from reality, or have an already-existing mental condition, is not going to make you want to replicate violence in the film. If you do find yourself wanting to act out certain scenes, please seek medical advice (I mean this sincerely; I’m not trying to be funny).

I’m not a student of Psychology or Film, but I did find it interesting – when watching that film last night – just how the levels of acceptable graphic content have changed in twenty five years. I think we have generally become a lot more decensortized to graphic content in films – I would make the assumption that it’s due to the inherently graphic nature of the world around us. Also the abundance of visceral imagery shared on social media as shocking events and atrocities occur across the globe.

Let’s face it – the modern world is a great deal more horrifying than any film that could be released (All the ones I have seen at least).

It’ll be interesting, perhaps even scary, to see where those levels are in another twenty five years.

We don’t do friends round here. Round here it’s Brotherhood

I have been a big fan of both Kidulthood and Adulthood for a while now. I got really excited when I saw a bus drive past me recently with a big picture of Noel Clarke on the side. The only word I could make out as the bus sped past was “Brotherhood”.

Realistic and brutal with some tasteful comedy

Tonight I went to see “Brotherhood” and I was not disappointed whatsoever. This film was terrific – often grimey; always believable; and even occasionally really funny. There is a great scene in the film regarding a phone conversation and Sainsbury’s. That’s all I’ll say, but the whole cinema screen was in stitches at this bit.

There were other elements of comedy now and again that offset the serious drama really well. Never cheesy or fake, in fact it was like a light cushion to soften the blows of the harsh world that Sam Peel lives in.

This harsh world of West London gangs and crime was represented really well. I mean, I have zero knowledge of the world that the characters live in, but there were never any points that felt forced or fake. Every scene felt believable and was at times very brutal.

I left feeling uplifted

Despite the brutality of some of the film’s scenes and emotional turmoil that the characters went through, I left the cinema feeling uplifted. And speaking about emotional turmoil, Noel Clarke’s performance in particular was impressive. He plays as both vulnerable and as a bad ass during “Brotherhood”, and in both his performance is stand out.

It’s probably worth mentioning that there were no bad performances here. All were great, I just don’t want this write up to be massive, as it would be if I was to give all praise to where praise was due.

How this film got a ’15’ certificate I’ll never know. The C-bomb got dropped and I lost count of the amount of times I saw full-frontal nudity – men and women. I guess things have changed since I was a lad…

… gosh did I just say that?

Anyway, “Brotherhood” is an awesome film to be enjoyed as both a final chapter to the “hood” trilogy (Kidulthood, Adulthood, Brotherhood), or even as a film on its own. It’s been at least two or three years since I saw the previous two films and I still thoroughly enjoyed this one.

I enjoyed the new Ben Hur film

It’s always a risky undertaking when trying to re-make a classic film such as Ben Hur. I don’t have many memories of the original, in fact I only watched the first two thirds of it. I guess I never got round to finishing it.

The original Ben Hur was a full-on epic, clocking in at a little over three and a half hours. Because of this, and the sheer scale of the film for its time, it will always stand out as a classic. The new remake, however, didn’t really have the epic feeling of its original. It didn’t even feel like anything that special. What it was though, was an enjoyable two hour film that will hopefully make you more forgiving to your fellow man / woman.

This remake has a lot of good messages to take away from it and I thought the acting was pretty good too. Just don’t be expected to be taken on a three and a half hour epic journey. I don’t think most of today’s audiences would have the patience for three and a half hours of film. In fact I’ve found that people can’t go ten minutes without checking their bloody phones.

Idiots. Rant over.

If you’ve not seen the 1959 classic I think you’ll enjoy it. If you have seen the original, and have a certain fondness for it, you may leave feeling slightly deflated. But as I always say, go and see for yourself.

Life On The Road with David Brent

Last night I went with a friend of mine to see David Brent : Life on the Road. I think we both had mixed feelings about it initially – on one hand it’s great to see this character again, while on the other it chances hurting the mythology. I am happy to say that this film was everything I hoped it would be and more.

An Underrated Actor

I have always thought of Ricky Gervais as being an underrated actor. People always seem to say things like “The Office was good, but that David Brent does make me cringe”. It seems no-one remembers his performance when he was made redundant. Or better yet, Ricky’s monologue in the Big Brother house during the Christmas special of Extras. Both really powerful, and this film he seems to work that magic again.

The film seemed to highlight the tragedy of David’s character instead of fitting in too many gags. It really did feel like a man’s last ditch effort to make it to what he thinks his perfect life should be. The jokes are often at David’s expense, and while often very funny, still managed to make me sympathetic towards him. This is what good comedy should be – exploring a wide range of emotions with the comedy cleverly weaved throughout.

Music to back the story up

Life on the Road is a story of David’s attempt at a music career and tour, and with it there are real songs performed. These aren’t crappy throwaway jokey songs either; they are genuinely well-written from the perspective of a slightly miss-informed Tampon rep. Some songs you will recognise from being mentioned / performed during The Office TV series. Others will be brand new to you, like ‘Lady Gypsy‘ and ‘Aint No Trouble‘.

Another great thing to see as well, was how the world around David has drastically changed. I remember hearing Ricky Gervais talking about how it’s the cut-throat, dog eat dog world that David now finds himself in. With people who are influenced by “The Apprentice”, trying to get one over on the next person. David just doesn’t seem to quite fit in that world – and good for him.

Hats off to the Doc

I also have to mention Doc Brown’s return to the world of Brent as rapper Dom Johnson. Doc Brown is another one of those genuinely talented people who seem to be able to work in a few different art forms. He features on three of the songs of David Brent’s and performs an original song of his own (Dom’s own) during the film, and absolutely kills it.