Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Director: Rachel Talalay (1991)
Starring: Shon Greenblatt, Breckin Meyer, Lisa Zane, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Freddy's back. Again. This time, in a post-apocalyptic future (1999) in which Springwood's children have all been eliminated. All that remains is John Doe (Greenblatt); Freddy's last hope at finding a bigger audience for his crap jokes and murderous intentions. He gives John a dose of amnesia, then chases the poor sap out of Springwood...

Right into the hands of Doctor Maggie (Zane) and her shelter for troubled youths. In order to treat John, she decides to take him back to Springwood in the hope that it might bring back a few memories. Also along for the ride: some more stabby-fodder for Freddy. Rich stoner Spencer (Meyer), deaf Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) and abusee Tracy (Lezlie Deane) hitch a ride, hoping to escape the shelter. No such luck. They find themselves in Springwood, where a certain Freddy Krueger has been eagerly awaiting their arrival...

Ironically, Freddy's Dead is at its most successful/scariest whenever Freddy isn't around. As soon as Englund prances onscreen, the whole thing becomes pantomime - exemplified in a scene in which Englund literally prances around behind a deaf Carlos, to cries of "he's behind you!" from the audience (I shouldn't complain - Carlos' death is the best in the movie). Some truly terrible moments ensue as Freddy goes all Wizard of Oz on a broomstick and kills hapless Spencer in computer game form.

But there are surprisingly good moments too. The cameos are really fun. Roseanne Barr, Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp all show up to amusing effect. As mentioned above, Carlos' death scene brings one genuinely uncomfortable moment - followed by another when Tracy is confronted by a dream version of her abusive father.

Even with the good stuff in mind, Freddy's Dead is impossible to take seriously as a Nightmare movie. There seem to be no set rules for Freddy's powers now - when the kids are asleep, they're able to defy the laws of physics. Spencer levitates up an imaginable flight of stairs. John falls through a table and disappears. Freddy's always been able to visit bodily real-world pain upon his victims, but now he can manifest flaming Pits of Doom and make the kids bounce around like cartoon characters. Much of the action resembles a Looney Toons animation.

Not content with making Freddy into the Ace Ventura of horror movies, The Final Nightmare pisses over his origins too. Now he was himself abused (by Alice Cooper, no less) and has a daughter, because why not. After these daft revelations, the movie skips into its 3D finale, for one of Freddy's more generic deaths. I really don't see what makes it any more 'final' than any of Freddy's other deaths - well, aside from some really, really (really) terrible snake monsters and a pipebomb. "They saved the best for last" goes the tagline. Hmmmms.

Like Porkhead's favourites, I Know Who Killed Me and The Wicker Man, this is a movie made all the more enjoyable through its sheer ineptitude. Unlike the lazier Dream Master and Dream Child, Freddy's Dead manages to show a little ingenuity and creativeness amongst the nonsensical toss. It's a movie that I can't help but love, even when I'm cringeing at the awfulness of it all. And for those reasons:


Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Director: Wes Craven (1994)
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Following his 'death' in Freddy's Dead, it's fair to say that the Dream Demon was at his lowest ebb. With all the shitty comic book tie-ins, rapping and numerous 'comedy' TV appearances, the market was not only over-saturated, but Freddy had become a cuddly, child-friendly phenomenon. Like I said earlier, not bad for a scabby paedo in in a Christmas jumper.

Enter Wes Craven and his New Nightmare. Whilst not the reinvention of the wheel that many claim it to be, New Nightmare certainly makes Freddy a force to be reckoned with again. It's set in the real world this time around. Heather Langenkamp (Langenkamp) plays Heather Langenkamp. Having starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Heather is now a fulltime mum, making an extra bit of cash from talkshow appearances discussing the appeal of Freddy and horror movies. Poor Heather, life after Elm Street ain't too good. Her child's a troubled crazy, she's being stalked by an obsessive fan, and her LA home is beset by earthquakes. All this, and she's having real bad nightmares... could nemesis Freddy Krueger have broken the boundaries from fantasy to reality?

Yes. Freddy's back, and it turns out that he's actually a demon; one that's taken the form of the fictional Freddy Krueger. To trap/placate the FreddyDemon, he needs stories told about himself. So he bullies director Wes Craven (Wes Craven) into making a new Nightmare film. And, like the Andrew Lloyd Webber of horror movies, Freddy needs his Nancy.

New Nightmare is an interesting little metafilm that stands up well both as an entry into the Elm Street series and as a standalone horror movie in itself. The premise is fun and funky, and came at a time when the market hadn't yet been totally overloaded with self-aware horror movies. All the main players are back (although a cameo from Johnny Depp surely couldn't have hurt), with the John Saxon making a neat little appearance and offering Heather a shoulder to cry on. FudgeDarn it, I wish I had a John Saxon was my friend. I also enjoyed Robert Englund (Englund) playing himself - and still managing to bbe a sinister bastich. He does bad guy duties as DemonFreddy too, and is the meanest he's been for years. It's great to see one of horror's greatest villains return to form as his proper, scary self.

Not all's great (I hate the child, the pacing is a bit slow & it could've used a bit more in the way of classic Nightmare imagery), but along with the first 3 in the series, Wes Craven's New Nightmare stands as a beautiful little bookend to what might be the most imaginative, intelligent horror franchise of the 20th century.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Director: Stephen Hopkins (1989)
Starring: Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

With all the artistic consideration of a Saw movie, The Dream Child was rushed out only a year after Freddy's last cinematic outing. Alas, Alice (Wilcox) is back, but this time she's slightly less irritating than she was in The Dream Master. She's got a son now, and he's got similar dream powers to his mother. Yay, magic children. Every franchise should have magic children. Magic fucking children definitely aren't annoying. Every great horror icon should be beaten at least once by a fucking magic fucking child. Although don't feel too bad, Freddy. Jason got himself killed by Corey Feldman. And not even a magic Corey Feldman. Just regular, annoying Corey Feldman.

But before he gets his ass whupped by Alice (again) and a child, Freddy acts like a ten-year-old with ADHD himself, turning into a motorbike and a superhero to kill a few cannon fodder teens. Yes, Freddy Krueger turns into a motorbike and a superhero in The Dream Child. There are one or two cool deaths too, but the line "faster than the bastard son of 100 maniacs" makes my ears cry every time (although it does make another - more embarrassed - side of me smile too). Robert Englund is the best thing about the movie, even when he's shamelessly overacting. Although you knew that already.

The Dream Child scores itself a lowly 2/5 screaming Scream Queens because it has Freddy Krueger pursuing his victims on a skateboard. Let the stupidity of that sentence sink in, then shoot over to the next review for Freddy's all-time (so far) stupidest movie. Freddy's Dead. No, not quite. But by the time you've finished with The Final Nightmare, you'll wish he was...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Director: Renny Harlin (1988)
Starring: Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Kristen returns, although she's not played by Patricia Arquette anymore. Tuesday Knight (HA) steps into Patricia's shoes for long enough to accidentally resurrect Freddy and get herself killed. Fellow loony bin inmates Kincaid and Joey return too, albeit only to get offed within the first half hour. Poor Joey. Although he can speak now, his libido gets the better of him again and he ends up suffering the movie's most entertaining death. And, as soon as you see the setup, you'll guess the punchline. WET DREAM. GET IT, BECAUSE IT'S A WATERBED. AHAAAA HAAA.

But before Freddy kills her, Kristen manages to pass on her abilities to schoolmate Alice (Wilcox). Handy that, since Freddy now has his sights set on Alice and the various other youths of Springwood. But see, Alice is a zany daydreamer type (read: annoying goon). With every death, Alice grows stronger and stronger and gains more abilities, making her the titular 'Dream Master'. Eventually, the stage is set for an epic showdown between the Dream Master and Freddy Krueger himself. Disappointing dullness and an irritating lead character make this the weakest Nightmare until the next one.

Freddy is in full-on cartoon mode now, and is but a caricature of his original self. He makes lame jokes, his jumper is brighter than ever and he prances embarrassingly around the screen like he were the fucking Leprechaun. Still, Robert Englund is always a watchable presence, and it's hard to fault the man, even when he's making a joke of his best character.

There are a few fun deaths to be found within The Dream Master, including one which sees a girl turned into a cockroach, Joey's 'wet dream' (GET IT), a pizza-related kill, and a particularly cruel one with an asthmatic girl. Freddy's demise too, is perhaps his finest and amongst the most memorable in the whole franchise. This review is full of spoilers, in case you hadn't noticed.

But, after the glorious lunacy of the first three Nightmares, this fourth entry feels tired and just a little average. Freddy is starting to suffer from signs of overexposure - he's a serial killer, not a fucking standup comedian - and the 'Dream Master' storyline really grates, thanks to a whimsical, limp lead performance concentrated on an irritating central character. There's no sense of menace in the movie at all; one senses that Renny Harlin really isn't suited to horror movies. Although by this point, it seems they weren't really trying to make 'horror' as we know it. Krueger's too familiar to be scary now, so why even try?

Ultimately, The Dream Master isn't really that bad of a movie - Freddy's worst days were yet to come - but it's nowhere near as good as its predecessors. And that, for a Nightmare on Elm Street, is just a damn shame.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Director: Chuck Russell (1987)
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The first Nightmare may have been the best; the second is the strangest; the third, however, remains my personal favourite so far. Heather Langenkamp's Nancy returns to the franchise to do battle with Freddy for a second time. But we're no longer in residence on Elm Street. The action switches to Westin Hills, a psychiatric hospital for young people (fun fact: we'd return to Westin Hills in Freddy vs Jason, to find it filled with annoying arseholes who deserve to be bloody locked away). Lead loony is Kristen Parker (Arquette) a girl with the unique power to pull others into her nightmares. With the help of Nancy, dishy Doctor Neil (Wasson) and her fellow inmates, Kristen hopes to put Freddy to rest once and for all...

For my money, this is where the Nightmare franchise hit both its stride and its peak. Nowhere to go but down. Freddy, despite getting a few more wisecracks this time, is still scary and menacing; the kids are likeable and (mostly) non-annoying; The John Saxon returns to the fray; and a young Larry Fishburne moonlights as hospital orderly Max. The deaths are grisly, memorable and apt. As with the best Nightmare deaths, each individual kill manages to fit the character perfectly. My favourite: tied between either the puppeteer death or the girl who gets her head shoved through a TV screen. Most satisfying: the Harry Potter kid in the wheelchair. Whoever said Freddy wasn't an equal opportunities killer?

It also rounds off Freddy's origins with perhaps my favourite bit of backstory, ever. Dream Warriors is where we meet Amanda Krueger and hear her "bastard son of 100 maniacs" story. It's brilliantly grotesque and a great background for everyone's favourite killer. The overall tone is a little lighter than Craven's original movie, and Freddy's showing signs of softening up, but is still crucially a harsh bastich. The pace snaps along nicely, with a couple of genuinely shocking moments in store for the movie's final beat.

Dream Warriors is my favourite of the Nightmares. All the classic Elm Street elements are there; Krueger at the top of his game, The John Saxon, Nancy, disturbed kids, cruel death scenes and a few chilling dream sequences for good measure. Ignore the laughably 80s' subtitle, Dream Warriors is a franchise at the peak of its excellence.

A Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy's Revenge

Director: Jack Sholder (1985)
Starring: Mark Patton, Lisa Webber, Robert Rusler, Robert Englund
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Freddy makes his first comeback in this, the first and perhaps most unfairly maligned of the Elm Street sequels. Whereas most slasher sequels tend to simply replay the events of earlier movies, Freddy's Revenge does its own thing - with varying degrees of success. One thing's for sure - Freddy's revenge sure is sweaty. And gay.

After the events of the first movie, Jesse Walsh (Patton) and his family move into Nancy's house. Soon, Jessie begins experiencing terrible nightmares. And who should show up in these nightmares but the dream demon hisself, a Mister Freddy Kreuger. Freddy's working under a different Modus Operandi this time, and uses Jesse as a vessel for real-world murders. All of this is punctuated with a lot of homoeroticism and scenes of a shirtless Jesse waking up covered in sweat. A lot of sweat. This movie is sweatier and more loaded with nudity than that bit in the sauna with Viggo Mortenson in Eastern Promises.

And such glorious nudity. It's like Twilight crossed with Brokeback Mountain. Jesse spends as much time nearly-naked as he does clothed; and usually drenched in sweat too. To be fair though, the 80s' wardrobing is hideous, so your eyes will probably be glad for a respite from all the terrible, terrible shirts on show. Early in the movie, he tussles with classmate Ron Grady (Rusler), and ends up with his pants around his ankles as they fight/undress one another. Then there's PE teacher Mr. Schneider (Marshall Bell) who trawls S&M clubs at night and forces Jesse to shower. The homosexual undertones in Freddy's Revenge aren't hard to miss. If I were at university still, I might theorise that Jesse's struggles with Freddy represent his coming to terms with his own burgeoning sexuality. Thankfully, I'm not at university anymore, so I don't have to say shit like that no more. Such things aside, Freddy's Revenge is undeniably the most interesting of his Nightmares. And it comes at a period in Krueger's career where the man is still a damn scary prescence. Even when he's towel-whipping a man's ass, Freddy is terrifying.

That said, I can see why a lot of people have problems with Freddy's Revenge. I'm not entirely sold myself on Freddy committing real-world crimes, and Jesse as a protagonist just doesn't have the same appeal as Nancy. But it's really a very solid entry into the series, and not just a lazy rehash of the first movie. Just look at the Friday the 13th series - every episode is exactly the same (well, save for perhaps the last few). Even the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise would itself devolve into repetitious nonsense (to this day, I have trouble telling the fifth and sixth entries apart). Freddy's Revenge is original, interesting, well-made and sweaty. Very, very sweaty.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Director: Wes Craven (1984)
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, The John Saxon
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Gary Glitter take note. Sometimes, screaming hate mob Daily Mail justice can do wonders for your career. From the twisted mind of Wes Craven comes his Nightmare on Elm Street, an asparational film for paedophiles. Fred Kreuger (Englund) was but a mild kiddy-fiddler; fond of murdering children every now and then, but nothing special. One night, mob justice comes-a-callin' and soon Fred is sipping molotov cocktails, courtesy of Sheriff Thompson (The John Saxon). Being a little more ambitious than your average pervo, Kreuger resurrects himself as a Dream Demon, and begins stalking his victims as they sleep. And so a bona fide horror icon is born.

Wes Craven’s original Nightmare on Elm Street is about as classic as you can get; up there with such genre might as Halloween, Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (I actually prefer it to Halloween). Indeeds, they actually showed it as part of a film module on my university course. Many sequels and a VS movie later, Freddy Kreuger is as much a horror giant as the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll/Hyde. Not bad for a scabby paedo in a dodgy Christmas jumper.

Reviewing such classics are always hard, since so much of it has been said before. The central idea is an incredible one; a universal fear of the boogeyman that stalks one's dreams. It's well acted, well written and directed by one of the genre's masters. It has Johnny Depp dying one of slasherdom's best deaths (second only to the same movie's first kill). It has the John Saxon. It's full of iconic moments - the glove in the bathtub. The girl being dragged across the ceiling. The face emerging from the wall. Hell, it spawned Freddy vs Jason; this fanboy's wettest of wet dreams. I don't want to live in a world in which Freddy vs Jason never existed.

Sure, it hasn't aged as well as some (the scene with Freddy's elongated arms ain't looking too sharp these days) and Langenkamp isn't quite as likeable or fun as her co-stars, but it manages to capture that universal fear matched only by the very best horrors out there. And it has Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger - arguably the finest boogeyman of the 20th Century.

I’m looking forward to the remake, but there’s no way that it can possibly match its predecessor. I’m sure Jackie Rorschach Haley will make a great Freddy Krueger – and Lordy knows, the character needs returning to his scary roots – but no-one can possibly do it quite like Craven and Englund. Freddy would return a multitude of times after his first Nightmare (and then some), but for a blast of sheer scary unadulterated slasher goodness in its purest form - that first Nightmare is always the scariest.

Freddy's Dead: a comic book adaptation.

The very worst of the NOES movies (to date) becomes the very worst NOES comic in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, a comic book adaptation that's truly terrible even by those already terrible standards. I'd like to say that this is the worst comic book adaptation I've ever read - but then, I own Jason Goes to Hell too - and nothing can beat that particular turd. The best comic book adaptation of a movie, incidentally, is Northstar Comics' Leatherface. Unlike most, the team couldn't give a fuck about the movie and just basically make up their own last half. It's demented, poetically scripted, disgustingly violent and just plain beautiful. Stop reading this review, and go hunt down Leatherface instead.

Freddy's Dead is completely faithful to the movie's plot, which is perhaps the comic's biggest mistake. Everything is as you remember it, only depicted via the medium of terrible artwork. The characters look weird and half-finished; the colours are garish and completely unsuited to the subject matter. Admittedly, movie Freddy was hardly scary himself by this point, but his comic book self is even worse - all primary colours and no menace whatsoever. Like the movie, the final issue is presented partly in 3D. And it's done just as badly as everything else so far. As soon as it switches to 3D, all the colour is drained out and the whole thing is illustrated in blue-and-white. Freddy's 'final' death is not only still shit, but now completely drained of colour. Little wonder he was pissed when he came back in New Nightmare.

"Fucking ebay. The seller didn't even send the 3D glasses. Look, I had to buy my own. Fucking ebay. They should have pictures of Freddy Krueger on the side, but I had to buy stupid fucking white ones that don't even match the comic I'm reading. Fucking ebay."

Because the medium has changed, everything that was good about the movie has been completely stripped out. The lack of Robert Englund's performance strips the story of its soul, and the cameos from Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp are gone. The kill scenes are ruined - with decent, scary artwork, they might have come into their own - and all that remains are the considerable faults of the source material.

Innovation Comics filed for bankruptcy shortly after the publication of Freddy's Dead, which goes to show that even in the 90s', people still had a modicum of taste. Life ain't all bad though - for some decent Kreuger comics, seek out some Wildstorm work ('Copycat' is particularly good), or Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. If you have any respect for your eyes, you won't bother looking for Freddy's Dead, since it really, really isn't worth your money.

Maneater (or: GARY BUSEY vs TIGER)

Being broadcast on Sky3 and the Sci Fi Channel, a movie called Maneater could only ever be about one of four things (in order of likeliness) - a killer shark, alligator, bear or tiger. To its credit, Maneater goes for the least obvious of those four, and makes its central nasty a killer tiger. Still, such is the movie's locale and general tone, you'll keep forgetting that it's a tiger they're all so worried about. Even as I write this review, I keep describing it as a "killer bear" movie. To re-iterate, there are no killer bears in Maneater, although it'd make more sense for there to be one.

The sole reason I watched Maneater is because it stars Gary Busey and has him fighting a killer tiger. They should've called it Gary Busey vs a Tiger, because I'm sure they probably missed out on a larger audience by not advertising the Busey better. He's the sole reason to watch Maneater, since the tiger itself is fucking weak, y'all. It's is neither genetically modified nor particularly big. In fact, in one scene it looks bloody tiny. It's just your standard no-frills tiger, trapped in smalltown America. And yet it kills as many people as Jason Voorhees or Leatherface in their latest outings. Although to be fair, it's a dab hand at stealth kills and hiding corpses. Like Sam Fisher crossed with Jaws. Or Aliens. At one point, the tiger kills a whole military squad, offing them one by one. Maneater is basically a slasher movie with a tiger. And Gary Busey.

But not nearly enough Gary Busey. You'd hope that a movie which features GARY BUSEY vs KILLER TIGER would be 90 minutes of Busey wrestling with a tiger. Fuck scripts and CGI, just dope him up on cocaine and lock the man in a cage with your tiger. Tis gold, I tells thee. Sure, Busey gets plenty of screentime as Maneater's small town Sheriff, but most of the tiger-hunting duties go to a silly English white hunter type. It should be a comedy/horror, but Maneater really really isn't. In fact, I think the writers genuinely believe that all English people sit in tents drinking tea and growing curly moustaches. The white hunter character plays like a Monty Python sketch, except without a punchline. To be fair, it doesn't look like much work was put into the script at any point, so at least they're consistent. This is a movie in which missing person reports are filed by such evidence as "he left his favourite gun behind. He'd never leave that gun behind" or "he has to be missing. He'd rather die than be late". In addition to such idiotic writings, we're also treated to a weird child character who sees outlandish creatures where there are none. On the whole, Manhunter contains far too much bizarre, shoddy nonsense, but not nearly enough bizarre Busey nonsense.

To be precise, not enough of this:

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Director: Mark Hartley (2008)
Starring: Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Hopper
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

It's a documentary. But give it a chance - Not Quite Hollywood is really, really good. Strewth, and other stereotypical hijinks, throw another shrimp on the barbie, crack open a can of Fosters, (sentence deleted because of epically unfunny probably racist bullshittyiness) slam Not Quite Hollywood in your DVD player and prepare for the most entertaining and most interesting documentary since the sex(y) ones they used to show you in school. Who gives a shit about Michael Moore and his high horse? This movie is full of tits and stories about Dennis Hopper getting shitfaced and banned from Australia.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! documents the history of a subgenre that this British idiot didn't even know existed before: Ozploitation. Despite not really being aware of it before, many a horror/sci-fi fan has probably happened across Ozploitation in his time. Most recently, the giant croc flick Rogue, the cult gem Razorback or likely, through its most famous export - Mad Max.

Not all of it covers horror, but any fan of cinema will be entertained throughout. The documentary starts off with a bit of smut (with the cinematic debut of Dame Edna Everage, no less) and a few bawdy sex comedies. It may not be horror in the least, but there's plenty of boobies on show, some truly bewildering sleaze and a man puking off've the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it harkens back to a time when Dame Edna Everage wasn't a reason to turn off your television. I particularly enjoyed its vision of a wet, grey Britain covered in dogshit.

The real meat, however, follows with the doc's action and horror sections. Film fans beware, Not Quite Hollywood often plays like something of a shopping list: there wasn't a movie covered that I wouldn't be interested in owning. In particular, Fair Game, Mad Dog Morgan, The Man from Hong Kong and The Survivor (I do love me some James Herbert). It's all depicted with a raw enthusiasm that only the truest film geek can muster. With that in mind, it's only apt that head honcho film geek Quentin Tarantino should lead the interviewees. Tarantino is unsurprisingly the most vocal of those interviewed, but by no means the most interesting. There are some great stories here from stuntmen, directors, critics, actresses and actors alike. It's almost a testament to more innocent times, with tales of Dennis Hopper destroying graveyards and an ex-James Bond being set alight. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore.

There's only one truly bad thing about Not Quite Hollywood. Several of the movies amongst its number are either rare or out of print, and that makes me feel all sad inside. I just know that my life will never be complete until I get to see The Man from Hong Kong in all its glory. Here's to the next 20-odd years of me hunting down Fair Game. Another 20-odd years of me getting all excited when I find the DVD on - and then cursing the name of Baldwin when it turns out to be a William Baldwin 'movie' of the same name. Why must you Baldwins constantly mock me?

Oh, fuck off William Baldwin

Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock take note. This is how a documentary should be made. NotQuite Hollywood is something that any self-respecting film fan simply needs to see.


Director: Bruce McDonald (2008)
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Semi alcoholic shock-jock Grant Mazzy (McHattie) is DJ at a radio station in the small Canadian town of Pontypool. It's a position where he's utterly wasted; spending his days reporting on missing cats, fluff theatre pieces and weather alerts. Whenever he gets a little too provocative (suggesting that the town's police force are all alkies, for example) he's torn a new asshole by his weary producer, Sydney (Houle). They have a nice little House relationship going on. Also present is ex-military squaddie turned technician Laurel-Ann (Reilly). It's so fun watching the three bicker and argue that it's almost a shame when the zombies turn up.

Although they don't, really. Turn up, that is. And they're not even proper zombies. Like the War of the Worlds radio play, you never get to see any of the action. There's a massive zombie apocalypse at hand, but literally none of it is shown onscreen. Nope, it's described through news reports and via the station's "eye in the sky", Ken Loney. Ken describes violent, chilling scenes, all of which are made more powerful because we never get to see any of it happening.

Some might find this aspect frustrating, but when you watch Pontypool, you'll understand that the reliance on description is entirely the point: Pontypool is all about the power of words. And, as an English degree student, just that idea in itself makes me climax in my pants. Ahem. Unlike your more conventional zombie horror, the virus in Pontypool is spread through words. It's explained (unfortunately rather cack-handedly, by a convienient doctor character) that the English language has become 'infected' and the use of certain words induces a zombie-like state of hysteria and lunacy. As a concept, it's closer to The Crazies than it is Dawn of the Dead. Much as I enjoyed the recent Crazies remake, it would've been nice to see it handled a little more intelligently like this.

Much of Pontypool's success is owed to the casting of Stephen McHattie as Mazzy. If he really did have his own radio show, I would blatantly listen in every day. He has a wonderful, gruff, gravelly voice that makes me feel things that I'm really not comfortable with. There's a joke about Mazzy having a face for radio, but it's actually perfectly suited to film. Just look at the DVD cover above: McHattie's facial expressions in this movie are awesome. He has a good supporting cast and everything, but I wouldn't have minded just McHattie sat on his own in the recording studio for two hours.

That said, the final quarter of the movie isn't quite as compelling as the preceeding parts. The introduction of a doctor feels forced and overly convenient, whilst there seems to be a lot of melodrama for melodrama's sake. I wasn't overly sold on the tone either, which veers between comedy, horror and dead straight. Still, Mister McHattie makes it all eminently watchable, and it's all so very original that it's hard to complain too much.

Pontypool is one of the most intelligent, tense and well-acted movies I've seen in recent years. And it has a wonderful title that I could sit and repeat for hours on end. Pontypool, pontypool, pontypool. Shit, I think I've been infected.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Director: Tim Burton (2010)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, Some Girl. Johnny Depp
Find it online: IMDB

Tim Burton's shonkiest movie since Planet of the Apes. And I'd probably rather watch that than I would Alice in Wonderland again. Ultimately, this movie is saved only by some half-amusing visuals and good performances from talented actors.

First off, and most notably, Burton's Alice in Wonderland is not an adaptation of the book by Lewis Carroll. It's a completely independent sequel, and is a bit like Hook in this respect. It's less shmaltzy, and not quite as good - but it follows the template as set by Spielberg pretty rigidly; Alice has all growed up, and forgotten about her adventures in Wonderland. She's on the verge of marriage, at a Pride and Prejudice style social occasion, when she notices the White Rabbit, dashing about in typical hyperactive style. Alice runs off and falls down a rabbit hole; back into Wonderland. Here she is dragged into a battle between good and evil - and must face off against her old foe, the Red Queen. But first she must rediscover herself, and remember just who she is. And then, because poetry is proper boring, she has to dress up in a suit of armour and defeat the evil Jabberwocky. Just writing that shit makes my brain leak.

As an avid fan of Burton, Depp and a scholar (well, I read it) of Carroll's original novel, I really did want Alice in Wonderland to work. But alas, right from the get-go, I knew it'd probably disappoint. Early trailers suggested an overreliance on Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter - who, incidentally, does nothing for me in this movie. The makeup is atrocious, and Depp's performance is like a dodgy mix of his most popular characters to date - there's Sweeney Todd's psychopathic side, Jack Sparrow's bohemian flouncing and a dash of Willy Wonka's quiet sad craziness. Dare I say it, it's wearing a bit thin, and every moment Depp is onscreen, I found myself cringing. They should've just called it Johnny Depp in Wonderland and have done with it.

Most everyone else does fine. Exceptional, even, when you consider the poor quality of the material they've been dealt. As Alice, Mia Wasikowska is good, if underused. Matt Lucas is fantastic as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whilst Alan Rickman plays Alan Rickman (not a criticism) as only Alan Rickman can (this time disguised as a CGI caterpillar). Babs Windsor is annoying as a doormouse, whilst Stephen Fry is his usual engaging self as the Cheshire Cat. More of that and less of Depp would've been nice. Anne Hathaway somehow manages to out-Depp Johnny Depp with a peculiar, flouncy little role as the White Queen. It's odd, but it works. And she's got a cute little Lady Gaga vibe going on, which I dig. Top marks, however, must go to Helena Bonham Carter, who puts in a right nutty show as the Red Queen. She's the movie's trump card, and every moment she's onscreen is a more bearable one.

Everything else, though, is utterly shoddy. The CGI veers between horrible (the scene in which Alice falls down the rabbit hole stinks), bearable (the Jabberwocky fight) to really good (Tweedledum and 'Dee/The Queen of Hearts look excellent) although it never really gels. Alice in Wonderland rarely feels like a Tim Burton movie - but always feels like a substandard mess.

Worst thing about the movie, hands down, is the atrocious plot. The joy of Carroll's original work is in its relative formlessness. All this has been replaced here, with a shockingly bad Narnia-esque fight between Good and Evil, complete with dragons, suits of armour and um, fight scenes with the Mad Hatter. The finale is amongst the worst I've seen in recent years. It speaks volumes that one character says "enough talking" during the ultimate showdown. Anyone who's even remotely aware of Carroll's original work will know that there's no such thing as too much bloody talking. The original Alice books, whilst relatively formless, revelled in their use of language, poetry, nonsense and rhythm. Here, the script's only flashes of competence arise only occasionally from a titbit of Carroll's original prose.

Alice in Wonderland is an unforgiveable mess made by people who should've known better. It's probably not as bad as I've made it sound, but it really is an exercise in missing the point. It's a pointless, lazy, even boring movie that no-one involved seemed to really give a shit about.

An Easter Special: The Passion of the Christ

Spoiler: he comes back at the end.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is the Aussie actor/director’s first foray into the area of torture porn. In fact, whilst many might credit Eli Roth with reinventing the subgenre for a modern, mainstream audience, Passion is proof that Mel got there first. And whereas Roth only had an annoying stereotypical gaggle of idiot teenagers being tortured, Gibson went and murdered head honcho Jesus himself. Talk about ambition. You gotta respect a man for that.

Still, and I digress. It’s wrong on so many levels to call The Passion of the Christ ‘torture porn’, since I you’d have to be a serious sadist Devil-worshipping motherfucker to get off on the torture of Jesus. Like I said, talk about ambition. And Gibson wisely manages to avoid most of the subgenre's overfamilar tropes. For one, there's no ballgags. And the bad guys aren't shady European types, but authentic Roman soldiers (or Jews, depending on how you take the movie's hard-to-miss inferred subtexts).

But whilst it may have Romans and the prolonged torture of a Mister Jesus Christ going for it, Gibson’s Passion is an otherwise pretty dull movie. There’s no plot, and it’s a story that’s been told many times before. Aside from some intense, cringeworthy gore, it’s hard to see what this movie could offer anyone. There’s not even any titties. Eli Roth would’ve included some titties. The Passion of the Christ is thoroughly lacking any decent titties, whilst there’s far too much male nudity. Who wants to see scrawny hairy Jim Caviezel in his posing pouch? They could’ve at least hired a looker like Timothy Olyphant. The Passion of the Christ is full of missed opportunities. They have a prostitute played by Monica Belucci, and she doesn’t even fuck anyone. Just what is the point? You'd expect a movie by Mel "sugartits" Gibson to be a bit more sleazy than this is.

And talking of missed opportunities, the hero here is supposed to be the son of God (and as such has a bunch of superpowers and can't die). The movie opens with him facing off with Satan before being betrayed by Judas (really? Gibson has his betrayer character called Judas? That shit’s nearly as lazy as ‘unobtanium’) and violently tortured/left for dead by the Romans. The stage is set for a Steven Seagal style showdown. Only not. Jesus just lets the fuckers torture and kill him. There’s no vengeance, no fight… nothing. What sort of message is that to send out to impressionable viewers? It's nihilistic and irresponsible. For proper handling of such themes, go watch Martyrs instead.

The Passion of the Christ isn’t all bad, just mostly so. The acting is good. Jim Caviezel and Monica Belucci can always be relied upon to give a good performance, and it’s no different here. And kudos to the pair of them for doing the whole thing in Aramaic (although Caviezel’s lines consist of little more than variations of “ow” and “aaaaaagh”, which is a bit of a cop out). Mel Gibson also gives a pretty good performance as a pair of hands, nailing Jesus to the cross. You really can’t tell that it’s Gibson, thanks to the fact that he’s not groping any boobs or clutching a vodka bottle at the time. It’s perhaps his best role to date.

But despite some good acting and groovy, gory special effects, The Passion of the Christ is really not worth getting exited about; let alone building a religion on. And as a remake of that Monty Python flick, it all out sucks. It gets 3/5 Screamers simply because it helped invent the modern 'torture porn' genre. And because Gibson had the sheer bollocks to do it with Jesus Christ himself. Happy Easter everyone.


Director: Matthew Vaughn (2010)
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moertz, Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Find it online: IMDB

Kick-Ass opens with a scene in which an Armenian fella in a superhero outfit jumps off’ve the roof of a high-rise building. As generally happens when people jump off’ve high-rise buildings, the Armenian fella ends up decidedly quite dead. This is all brought about by the existence of the titular Kick-Ass; a regular Joe student who decides to become a superhero.

Through the Daily Mail’s unbiased, apolitical eyes, we’re led to believe that Kick-Ass the movie will inspire a whole bunch of people jumping off’ve high-rise buildings. Kick-Ass, says the Daily Mail is “shamelessly irresponsible.” Because the cinemagoing public are little more than a flock of sheep idiots, expect to see masses of superheroes wandering the street. Apparently, those who enjoy Kick-Ass are incapable of differentiating fantasy from reality. As I write this review, I’m wearing spandex.

Back up a minute. Dave Lizewski (Johnson) is your typical high-school geek. He enjoys comic books, masturbating and hanging around at the local comic book store. He has friends, but goes largely unnoticed by the world. Inspired by his comic books and his own loneliness, Dave decides to become a superhero. Hey, we’ve all thought about it, right? As generally happens when one takes up such activities in the real world, Dave promptly gets his ass kicked and ends up in hospital. Way to glorify superheroing, Kick-Ass.

After getting thoroughly mashed up, Dave ends up with metal plates in his head and a bunch more fitted to his skeleton. Because Dave’s the consummate nerd, he immediately makes the Wolverine comparison. His nerve endings are fried too, meaning that Dave can take a hell of a beating before he finally drops. And over the course of Kick-Ass, Dave takes a great many beatings. Anyone who watches Kick-Ass and is inspired is an idiot. Kick-Ass and his imitators are all idiots, and the movie hammers this point home with every set piece. Anyway, Dave manages to save a chap from gang related violence and becomes a Youtube sensation, which sends his career into overdrive.

As the movie progresses, Dave meets more 'heroes' like himself. Namely, Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit Girl (Moertz). Like Batman & Robin crossed with the Punisher, Big Daddy and Hit Girl are everything Dave wants to be: the real deal. He also forms a sort-of alliance with Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Red Mist. With such role models as Nic Cage and Mintz-Plasse, it’s little wonder the Mail are worried. Kick-Ass might just bring about an apocalypse of Nic Cage and McLovin imitators.

Despite the fact that Kick-Ass is the most evil movie ever made, it's my favourite comic book film since The Dark Knight and my favourite movie of 2010 so far. The story resembles the first two Spider-man flicks, but without any of the sequel's crushing dullness. The characters are all likeable and well-realised, so much so that you're behind Dave every step of the way. It's helped no end by a funny, witty script and excellent performances from most of the actors involved.

Yeah, I said most. Now, I'm a massive Nic Cage apologist, but his performance in Kick-Ass does nothing for me. He's channelling Adam West's Batman in his scenes as Big Daddy, but it never seems to really gel. Perhaps it would've made more sense to have him deliver a more gruff, Christian Bale style performance, since Big Daddy resembles that more than he does the West era Batman. Whatever, it's still worth it for his bizarre screaming and Wicker Man style hollering during the final half.

That said, I love his relationship with Hit-Girl as it's presented in the movie. Unlike Millar's comic, you get a genuine sense of father/daughter love, and it's this cute characterisation throughout that makes the movie work as well as it does. Even the ostensible bad guy (played by Mark Strong) is equal parts family man and tough guy.

Kick-Ass is such an awesome movie that I could write much more than I already have on how much and why I love it. The soundtrack is wonderful; reminiscent of a Tarantino production, and the cinematography is excellent. I love the costumes. I love Big Daddy & Hit Girl's origins segment. The fight scenes are masterfully done. I love the multitude of comic book references and geekery. I want to adopt Chloe Moertz. To be fair to the Daily Mail, Kick-Ass did make me want to become a superhero: but then, I'm an idiot.

If I have any quibbles, then it's with the way the final quarter or so is handled. It's one of the craziest and frenetic gunfights I've ever seen, but the realism aspect kinda goes out the window, and there's less emphasis on character than I'd have liked. But it works in its own way, and it leaves things open for an entirely welcome sequel.

That said, Kick-Ass is the most evil movie ever made and should definitely be banned. After all, it glorifies paedophilia (because every paedophile's fantasy is a foulmouthed gunslinging 10-year-old girl who carries a samurai sword), encourages people to jump off've buildings and probably mugged your nan to help cover the budget. I'm sure it was indirectly responsible for getting Princess Diana killed too. Just go read their review. It's infinitely more entertaining than anything I could ever hope to write.

You should definitely watch Kick-Ass now. And pay for it too, you torrent streaming cheapskates. Firstly, because I want that sequel made. But most importantly, because Kick-Ass pisses the Daily Mail off.