Tag: Wes Craven

Scream 3

by on Jul.09, 2010, under Daily Review

The difficult third film in the series. All bets are off. Anything can happen. These are the words offered to us from the now deceased (died in part 2) Randy Meeks, about halfway through the film from a VHS recorded, diary kinda warning for what is to come. Wes Craven once again offers us some stabbing action with the guy in the mask, terrorising and out for blood once more with Sidney top of the list.

The third encounter is set some time after the other two. Sidney (Neve Campbell) is living out in the country, false name under protection. A 3rd film is in production, Stab 3, the further adventures of the masked murder. Cotton (Liev Schreiber) this time has a guest appearance in Stab, but falls victim to yet another killer taking up the role in the mask. And so, a spree occurs once more, this time across the Hollywood hills and the set of the movie. Actors and those involved are slice n diced.

Craven and Krugar worked a clever trick with this film, taking the whole media explosion from the plot of the second film, and this time dropping the key ideas right into an actual film of the events from the first film. Actors playing characters from the first, who also star here. A fine twist and a good direction to take the film in. Unlike the previous pair, this is a very different film; more comical, less teen driven and to an extent, less soul, probably due to the missing Kevin Williamson on script duty. The predecessors have a real spark and magic which is a difficult task to capture, but here the magic is only a glimmer. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable as it’s still great and fun and popcorn horror to a fine degree, but a difficult pair to follow.

There is an interesting introduction of a back story for Sidney’s mother which works well and is totally unexpected. A few new blade fodder include Jenny Mccarthy, Deon Richmond and Emily Mortimer. Guest cameos from Roger Corman, lance Hendriksen and Jay & Silent Bob. This is all good. The stabbing and chases and mask wearing craziness all cool, but really lacking in magic. Neve Campbell is barely in this film also which is a damn shame as she is the star and reason for watching the Scream series. This time, the focus is far more on the romantic events of Dewey (Dave Arquette) and gale Weathers, (Courtney Cox) which all gets a bit repetitive. Will they won’t they kinda thing.

The last 20 minutes are back on track though with some serious slasher action with Sidney back in the hot seat.

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Scream 2

by on Jul.08, 2010, under Daily Review

The difficult second film. Craven makes it look simple and follows up the first film with this rocket of a movie. The film reflects it’s own existence through mirroring of dialogue via constant discussion of film sequels, Godfather, Star Wars, House, but also through the clever plot structure which introduces a film version of the actions from the first film and the whole media boom which follows.

The film is set a few years after the first. Sidney (Neve Campbell) is in collage along with her good friend, film fan and survivor from the first encounter, Randy (Jamie Kennedy). During a crazy screening of the film of the events from the first flick, ‘Stab,’ a costumed copycat murder cuts up a few teens, Scream style which brings all the attention and memories back to Sidney. It’s not long before the calls start and the girls in Sidney’s sorority start dropping like flies as the masked murder leaves his bloody calling card.

This is a fine follow up and continuation of the first film. A fresh new cast mixed in perfectly with some of the old favourites. Live Schreiber, Joshua Jackson, Rebecca Gayheart, Portia de Rossi and a great performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar (who also appeared in that years rival, IKWYDLS, also written by Kev Williamson)

Sharp, snappy, clean and fast moving. Great characters, great pace, brilliant looking and very, very enjoyable. The script once again keeps the viewer gripped with jokes, references and trivia to the industry.

One thing I forgot to mention in the last review for the first flick. The murderer in these films can be anyone. You wear the mask, grab the knife and make the call before going in for the kill. All you need is a motive. Thi8s 8is unlike any of the other classic gore films int eh genre. Freddy, Jason, Mike Myers, Pinhead. We know who they are. They have a mask or an outfit, but from the off, we know. In the Scream films, we have a slasher madman with a random reason or MO, but who could it be? Who knows? This makes the series stand out on it’s own pedestal from the rest, introducing a Hitchcock theme, questioning all characters actions and motives as the body-count amasses.

Craven also spends time offering homage to his contempories as well as his influences. In the first film, we see a image of the mask, burning into the dead eyes of a victim, a nod to Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, whist here, the opening scene holds all the connotations of Argento’s Demons. A final note goes to the praise for Neve Campbell. Her screen presence is enormous, but her strength is in her eyes, which offer a whole world of emotions. She barely moves her face but the eyes say it all, there are very few actresses who can capture an audience with such subtlety. Brilliant.

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by on Jul.07, 2010, under Daily Review

A year after the murder of her mother, Sidney (Neve Campbell) receives a phone call from a killer on her porch. ‘Do you like scary movies?’ asks the voice. She’s attacked by a crazy guy dressed in a ghost/scream mask and black floaty robes. This time she survives, next time she might not be so lucky.

So this sounds like the same old story. Crazy madman in a mask, stalking girls, making crank calls, but this film changes everything. This was 1996. Wes Craven changed all the rules of film making and reinvented the horror film. A design classic as iconic as the coke cola bottle or the original bondi blue iMac. For Craven, this was by no means a fluke. His film making skills are exemplary, creating some of the finest films in the genre. Hills Have Eyes, Last House, Elm Street. All ground breaking and extraordinary. Scream is the icing on the cake and takes into account everything which has gone before. He builds on all the films he’s mastered and lifts heavily from many others too, creating a huge cauldron of horror goodness.

Craven’s signature, the girl next door taking the lead, empowering the female, especially in a genre so dominant with male leads, works perfectly here. Neve Campbell is a great choice with a perfect performance producing a whole range of emotions, creating a rounded likable character. Her supporting cast are brilliant. Skeet Ulrich, Kev Patrick Walls, Matt Lillard and a stunning performance from Rose McGowan. Craven, as always taking a chance on a young, relatively unknown cast, with the exception of Drew Barrymore who he cleverly massacred in the first scene of the film, (One of the greatest opening scenes i’ve even seen in a film) yet still used as the worldwide poster campaign. The acting is spotless.

Script wise, we have one of the best I have ever heard. It’s fast and clever. Written and scripted by Kevin Williamson, who has worked on the rest of the franchise as well as the first I Know What You Did film. It works on many levels. For being snappy in a teen sarcastic kinda way. Believable characters with depth. The dialogue between Courteney Cox and Dave Arquette is legendary. But the winning formula binds the film together; that of film trivia. Not a single scene goes by without some form of reference which is introduced in the opening scene, and carried through to the finale.

One of my favorite things about this film, is the pure cheek when using the score from Halloween to emphasis tension as characters creep around a house, waiting to be hacked up by the killer, whilst the movie plays in the living room. A real quality touch.

From a gore point of view, the film is filled with stabbings and that’s about it. It’s all it needs. There is an moment of inventiveness when Rose McGowan gets it in the garage, but apart from this singular scene, we have a solid knife massacre.

A final note. As the killer bounds from room to room, slaying as he goes, we get a pastiche of the stereotype who cannot be killed no matter what is thrown at them. Usually though, they take gun shots, knives, even machete’s to the head, but here, we see doors slammed in faces, bottles of beer hitting the head etc, more of a realistic scenario, yet still extreme and comic in moments.

This film is faultless. I was expecting this to be a situation of rose tints as I have fond memories of this film, but have seriously not been let down with this viewing. I could write so much more about this film, it’s a landmark in cinema to be studied.

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Summer of Fear

by on Apr.24, 2010, under Daily Review

A lesser seen early Wes Craven number shows all the creative style and essence which is signature to Craven’s movies. On a first look, this is a situation drama, made for TV. Solid filming with great strong characters and a story which works well for the mainstream and a low budget. This is the very beginning of Craven’s rational mainstream encounter, embracing a new audience in an attempt to win over the studios, gain higher budgets and calm his brutal reputation as the master of horror after his initial ‘Last House’ and Hills Have Eyes’. Following these two films is no easy challenge and it’s easy to see why this film would be dismissed as it could be seen as selling out.

Rachel (Linda Blair) is a young privileged teenager, whose nose is put out of place by her beautiful cousin, Julie (Lee Purcell), coming to stay. She soon suspects her cousin is in cahoots with the devil, dabbling with the occult.

Is his the moment of Craven’s enlightening of a bigger audience? Again, we have all the signs of the masterpiece he is aiming for, although restrained here with budget and rating. Linda Blair is the master stroke here; with real screen presence she ignites the screen with charisma and charm and a brilliant natural ability. The role Blair takes is the usual Craven focus, being girl next door type seen over and over in his films. Scream, Elm Street, Blessing. Even his other films show strong female leads, Friend, Hills, Last House etc, but here, Blair leads the way for the role of Sidney and Nancy in later films.

Apart from this strong historic documentation, what else does Summer of Fear have to offer? Blair is outstanding with hair which is mesmerising, but acting ability which really has been wasted since. She’s so natural and that’s the films winning point. The plot is interesting and the pace works well with the subject. Purcell is great in the role of the cousin and when she does turn into super witch, she’s amazing, but the rest of the cast are an obvious TV collective which Craven inspires into a better than average performance. There are some beautiful scenes, and camera shots which express Craven’s ability and show an eagerness to capture an emotion and create a film far more ambitious that production allows.

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Deadly Friend

by on Apr.21, 2010, under Daily Review

Another odd event this. Deadly Friend is of a time and place and if you are willing to go back there, its quite a good place to be. Films are not really made like this any more.  For the most part, it’s a situation teen drama, with some comedy and quirkiness, but there are some dark undercurrents, reinforced with some very good performances.

New kid on the block, Paul (Matthew Laborteaux), is a compute and bionic wiz. He has a pet robot and teaches brain surgery at college. Not bad for a young lad who should have still been at school. After a brief romance with the cute chick from next door, she’s attacked by her crazy abusive father and ends up brain-dead. Paul steps in, to turn Samantha (Kristy Swanson) into an android with deadly results.

I think Wes Craven was looking at moving into a more mainstream market after his early success in the horror genre, he probably struggled to find funding in a time when ‘Horror’ was not really the popular. As always, Craven looks for a new direction to experiment with cross genre fields with a young cast, once again, Swanson takes the favourable lead female, girl next door role which Craven champions. Swanson is a great choice from the John Hughes stable; she later took the lead as the original Buffy in the movie (prior to Sarah Michelle Gellar). Its great to see Craven working as always with a cast of semi unknowns and getting great results. Swanson and Laborteaux carry the film with brilliant performances, supported with some great veteran actors: Richard Marcus and Anne Ramsey. The film is a success for what it is, as I say, it’s from a time and place which needs to be respected. The film also carries with it some great dream sequences (or should I say, Nightmare sequences as many are terrifying) and many scenes which look dreamy, obviously something working subliminal for later creative input.

When the gore comes, it’s pretty damn impressive too. The famous basketball scene is the highlight, which stands up against Scanners in its execution.

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by on Apr.20, 2010, under Daily Review

No more Mr Nice Guy!

I hadn’t seen this film since it’s release back in ’89 and my memories were not good. It’s a good job I’ve revisited it as it’s far better than I remember. Made on a shoe string budget, unknown cast, Craven attempts to recreate the magic and success he conjured with Elm Street and although the film has some strange plot direction it works and actually stands up better after 20 years than it’s more successful sister movie, Elm Street.

So the plot involves a crazy cable, TV repair man, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) who has a savage hobby, massacring young women. Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg) is the local jock, on the football team, who seems to have everything. Beautiful girlfriend, (Camille Cooper) nice house, even a cool waterbed (super 80’s) but in his mind, he’s disturbed by crazy visions of Pinker murdering folks. He can contact the psycho in his dreams and act and contact, but soon wakes up. It’s all a bit odd. So Pinker gets caught, preys to the got of cable shouting ‘Give it to me’. TV demon says ‘You got it baby!’ After the electric chair, Pinker survives, escapes and has the power of electric and other weirdness, including possession of other people.

I know, it sounds nuts, but it’s actually enjoyable. It looks and feels like a real ‘80’s TV film, but it’s vicious in dialogue and some nasty gore sequences. Craven films in a solid style with dream themes dropped in all over the place so the viewer is unsure what’s real and what’s not. But it’s the credence of Craven which propels this affair which could have easily fell flat.

Pileggi is the start of this film. Is performance is stunning and although he’s had a steady career mainly in US TV, he’s never had anything as meaty to get his teeth into since this role. Legendary. I’d like to say the same about Peter Berg who’s mainly lame throughout, interesting though, if this role went to Johnny Depp, (Who started in Elm Street) how different the film could have turned out.

It’s a crazy and fantastical horror flick, which can provoke some negativity, but stick with it and take it at face value as to what it is. It’s pretty damn good.

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The Last House on the Left (1972)

by on Apr.18, 2010, under Daily Review

This is a shocking film, even by today’s standards. (I still cannot believe this can be bought in ASDA, how can it not still be on the DPP list?) It’s harsh and brutal in cinematic style, content and delivery. Hideous even. So why would you actually want to watch this and why is it respected throughout the cinematic world, as one of Wes Craven’s finest moments? I’ll try to explain.

The plot involves two girls, heading into town for a night on the tiles. The parents are concerned letting their daughter lose on her 17th birthday and they’ve got every reason to be. There are a lot of weirdoes out there. It’s 1972, and America has gone through some changes. Summer of Love is over and a darker feeling has filled the country with a sinking feeling, the rise of murder, killings and abuse, and the search for the American Dream. So we have four dropouts, looking for fun and fighting against the system. Mari and Phyllis (Sandra Cassell and Lucy Grantham) fall into the wrong company and things start to go terribly wrong.

The psychos, Krug, Weasel, Sadie and Junior (David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain and Marc Sheffler) are a nasty bunch, creating a realm of terror through humiliation, depravity and violence, but this is carried through dramatic performances, realistic, shocking and horrific which is one of the films strengths. It’s a film of characters, good and bad, but brutally real and at the time, this would have been ground breaking stuff.

Further strengths are the cinematography. Beautiful framed scenes, some which depict shocking images. The moment on the lake as Mari takes a gun shot to the shoulder is stunningly well filmed and edited with perfect music. The score is also a winner here. A mixture of American folk, Hillbilly and Psychodelia works well with the subject matter. Incidentally, the music was composed by the amazing David Hess, famous mainly for his brutal crazy character in this film, and also Deodato’s ‘House on the Edge of the Park’. He also wrote Speedy Gonzales. But it’s interesting, as within all of this extremity, aggressive characters creating highly disturbing viewing, we find ourselves watching the parents, and this is why this film works so well. The films aim is to focus the viewer on the uncomfortable situation that John and Estelle (Gaylord St.James and Cynthia Carr) find themselves in, dealing with unprofessional Police, the emotion of a missing daughter and later, facing the threat in the cold light of day and dealing with a revenge situation. This is their film and the performances are perfect.

There is also an odd balance here between the comic, quirky characters of the Sheriff and his Deputy, something of Russ Meyer feeling here, especially with the scenes with them hitching a lift. It’s a perfect balance against the brutality of the rest of the film. Lastly, let me point out the groundbreaking use of the chainsaw. This is two years prior to Chainsaw Massacre and what an impact it has on this film. Also, on that point, would that make this film the first in its class, paving the way for Chainsaw, Hills etc?

Brutal, harsh, ground breaking and totally mesmerising with charm. This is Craven’s masterpiece.

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