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The best Nightmare sequel, hands down.
Truth be told, the Nightmare series would have done well to end as a trilogy. We would have gotten two great films, and one mediocre film (part 2) which at least had potential, and was decently thrilling and interesting. Nightmare 3 was almost perfect, aside from perhaps a TOO comedic tone in certain areas, and some CLEAR camp aspects which otherwise blotch up an outstanding entry to the series.
With that, I can't lie. There's times you'll be watching this, and thinking: "God, could it get MORE 80's cheesy?" Unfortunately, Nightmare 3 dates itself in that regard. However, even with its flaws, it's still a good entry, and definitely worth a viewing.
Nightmare 3 is the direct sequel to the Nancy Thompson storyline, as Nightmare 2 isn't connected to that plot at all (it only alludes to it). Nightmare 3 continued the development of Freddy Krueger in more than one way. Not only did we get more of his backstory, we also got a broader expansion on a key part of his character development: The bogeyman terrorizing an entire town. Nightmare 2 didn't really do either of these things, it only (briefly) retold the events and backstory of the first film. While it was focused on Freddy's terror, it was more centralized to the main characters. Nightmare 3 began to show the effects that Freddy was having on an entire town worth of children, and with that, it connected Nancy Thompson to this next series of victims admirably.
It was no longer a small group of friends coping with the bogeyman of their nightmares, now it was strangers having to come together. Strangers who could never get the adults in charge to understand that it wasn't just suicidal teenage melancholy, the terror was real. Freddy started to really reach out his razor claws and touch the whole of the population. And all it took was a few of these adults to believe in them before they could make progress. The film really moved the series forward in a respectable way, and that's the key part of why it's a must-see.
Freddy establishes a respectable body count in part 3, with more creative and interesting deaths as well. This is honestly both good and bad. Good in the sense that they are fun, and prove that Freddy personalizes his power based on whoever he is killing. Bad in that as the series chugged on, the deaths just got very silly. There's nothing wrong with a wisecracking Freddy, it's the incarnation of the character that we've all grown to know and love. However, moving the series in to that direction really hurt it, in my opinion. It made it much easier for bad writers to cheese out the remaining films in the series. Although, that's just another reason why I feel that Nightmare on Elm Street should have ended as as trilogy. It was a funny Freddy done well. He still presents an actual air of terror without turning completely in to a cartoon character.
So laugh at a few cheesy scenes, a few thin points of dialog, what have you. Overall, you'll agree that this was the best Nightmare film since the first one. Unfortunately, it's the only one (aside from a couple of spin-offs) that was really any good. But good it was. Nightmare 2 may have had a darker Freddy, but Nightmare 3 was a better film by far.
Why should I even try to write a review when no one ever TRIED to make this a decent film!?
Quick, what's the worst Nightmare film? If you said Nightmare 2 or the reboot, you're wrong. Both of those films still had their merits over this one. Freddy's Dead screwed up spectacularly. There isn't one single likable feature of it. And it sucks, because we could have been given so much. There was so much potential in the backstory, so much potential for the supposed grand finale that Freddy's Dead could have been the best film in the series since the third one. The Nightmare series limped along to its death, and Freddy's Dead served to prove that it deserved it.
Freddy's Dead gave us visual depictions of Freddy's backstory, and that should have been awesome. It really should have. There was so much to work with, here. Even the reboot provided better cinematography and emotion in the backstory than Freddy's Dead had. This entire film reeks of "we don't care anymore", and it's apparent with how short-sighted it is. How wooden and meaningless the backstory scenes are. It provided nothing new, but it didn't have to. We watched because we wanted to see just how well it could be presented to us. Did it give us any "wow" factor? Did it arise emotion within us? Did it help solidify the development of the characters? It's as if the writers and director didn't want to make a scary or thrilling film. Like they felt the entire series was just a parody of itself, and that Freddy's Dead was just the mercy killing at that point. And perhaps that's true. However, I would certainly expect better of the entire development team than to ACT that way.
There's sequels which don't do the series justice, but at least they TRY. The writers TRY to develop something interesting, the director TRIES to implement a vision that is gripping and powerful. Freddy's Dead had none of that. It's as if the development team had never actually SEEN a Nightmare film before. It drifts from phoned-in scene to phoned-in scene with no emotion, no directorial vision, and no interest in the subject matter. It's one big exploration of vapidity. In turn, the audience became completely detached as well. If the development team didn't care, why should we?
Perhaps it's too much to ask for a more scary/thrilling Freddy, like we had in the first film. Okay, make him campier like in the sequels. But that doesn't excuse the half-assed writing or emotionless directing. If it weren't for the gore and language, you would swear that this is a made-for-TV film directed towards adolescents. I say that because we're all familiar with that style of writing, directing, and acting. It's never deep, because why should it be? Nobody ever takes made-for-TV movies seriously, and that includes the development team.
That's what this entire film feels like: "Here's a made-for-TV blowoff that I have to crank out before they let me direct a real film." I guess it's a hard pill to swallow for what was at the time, meant to be the final chapter for one of horror's most endearing icons.
Not even Robert Englund could save this one. I hate this film, and I can't imagine why anyone would ever like it. It's not just a bad Nightmare film, it's a bad film in general.
Scream 3 (2000)
An outstanding end to an outstanding trilogy
I really loved this movie, and I don't get the hate for it. If you want to look up sequels which are just expansive enough to round out the brand, but not over-the-top enough to ruin it, then Scream 3 is an great example.
Probably the strongest reason I love this film is the story, and how well I think it's told. Sure, it involved some light retconning, but nothing that HONESTLY changed what the previous films stood for. That may be the case if we're dealing with an eternal killer (ala Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers), but Scream has had disposable killers behind Ghostface each time. Just as Scream 2 connects to the first one, Scream 3 connects to them all. And it does it beautifully. Are people upset that it changed the way they viewed the first film? Sure, but at the same time, it's the dynamic of a disposable killer, vs. an eternal one (read: How Michael Myers mystique was destroyed in the Halloween remake).
Scream 3 didn't make the mistake of going so big that you just wished it would go home. Yes, it expanded the Scream universe. Yes, it got bigger in virtually every way. But it did it SENSIBLY. Aside from a lot of action and suspense, Scream 3 did a GREAT job of telling a story. With that, it did a great job of developing the chief players. A key theme of the entire Scream story are the sins of the past, and Scream 3 gave up a great plot which lined up all of the ducks in a row. Aside from a solid script, this film really shines for its mystery and suspense aspects. I loved the cat-and-mouse game between the protagonists and antagonists more than the previous films, because the script had REALLY put me in the position of feeling that this plan was even more masterfully constructed than those.
Despite Neve Campbell's decreased participation in this film (due to wanting to avoid typecasting), her scenes are still prominent and memorable. Especially the psychological torment of her life experiences so far, heightened by the killer's own torment. With that, the typical support characters get an even bigger chance to shine, and I feel that this really shifted the entire dynamic of the film to match its larger atmosphere, and rounded it all out as a whole.
Maybe I just loved the confrontation between protagonists and antagonists, and loved the motive. That scene really did it for me. But I guess many fans didn't dig the whole perceived "Scooby And the Gang go to Hollywood" vibe that they felt. Which I don't get. Perhaps if they made it campy and humorous, like later Nightmare films. But it's the same old cat-and-mouse that we've come to know and love, just on a bigger (and better scale). Admittedly, they couldn't stretch the premise much further, which is why I also felt there never should have been a Scream 4.
Scream 3 is a lesson on how to finish off a trilogy. It's a lesson on how to expand your universe, how to build a great story which will complement, but not destroy your previous works. After this film, I said to myself "It all ends perfectly, please no more". Unfortunately, no one listened. Why do people hate it? I guess it's "too Scooby Doo". Which is ironic, as I despise Scooby Doo, and love this film. I thought it honored its franchise far more than most horror sequels do.
Devil's Advocate (1997)
Solid film, CLOSE to what it should have been
I liked this film more the first couple of times I saw it in my teen years. But watching it again later in life, I've knocked it down a few pegs. The thing is, it's almost a great horror-thriller film. It has an interesting plot which I think is cohesive, well-paced, and exciting, UP TO A POINT. And that point is: The Climax.
The climax of The Devil's Advocate successfully manages to halt a speeding train dead in its tracks in order to allow the deer to cross its path. Let's use "deer" as a metaphor for "motive". Everything that this film built up to seems to be discarded as it awkwardly stumbles through a slow-moving, disengaging climax which serves to explain motive, but doesn't serve the rest of the film at all. It's the few bottle rockets after the grand finale of 4th of July fireworks. This is somewhat repaired towards the end of the climax, as the film DOES indeed finish out nicely. But only after having pushed the audience away emotionally. There's too much uninteresting and useless dialog contained (again, as an attempt to build motive), and it gets straight goofy at a point where the antagonist turns from menacing evil to "let's have a party" supervillain. All-in-all, it totally muddles it, and leaves you waiting for it to become interesting again.
It's a shame, as I could rate this movie a couple of points higher had they simply managed to handle the climax better. Re-write it, shorten it, what have you. But it killed the thrill and suspense that it spent the previous 130 minutes or so building up to.
Another flaw in this film is that you see that Keanu Reeves isn't a very good actor. He's OKAY to mediocre in this film. I would have hoped that a main character dealing with such volatile circumstance could have been portrayed by someone with better emotional range. Be it Reeves or someone else. He's not even consistent, really. One scene, he does well in showing anger and frustration. Then another comes along, and it's clear he's trying too hard NOT to be wooden.
The film has some saving graces, so that's not to say that it isn't worth a viewing. Al Pacino is a class act, and could carry this film all on his own. As I mentioned previously, I still think that the rest of the movie is well-done in regards to storyline, pacing, and execution. It builds up the characters well, especially Reeves character, of which we're given a glowing indication of his priorities. It's not really unpredictable, as this is a film where the "twist" is heavily implied in the advertising as it is. But you don't only watch a film to keep guessing, you watch it for HOW the story is made in to cinema. The Devil's Advocate ALMOST got to where it should have been going.
I give the film a 7, and perhaps that's being generous. I do have to admit that I enjoyed it, for the most part. But that climax really stopped me from giving it at least a couple of points higher. You may want to check it out, as it's not a blatant waste of 144 minutes. Just a waste of 20 or so.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Absolute horror perfection
Pet Sematary did it all right. It's simply an incredibly chilling, engaging, and SCARY movie. Even King himself admits that the book scared him (although that's probably partly due to the real-life circumstances which inspired him to write it).
As of this writing, Pet Sematary is 25 years old, yet it doesn't feel dated by Hollywood standards of horror. Take a film like Psycho. A masterpiece of it's time, yet it simply doesn't scare people anymore. But Pet Sematary? If it doesn't freak you out, YOU might be dead. It can hold a candle to any film released today in regards to overall scariness.
I've heard people complain about some of the acting, but I can't even hear those complaints-The rest of the film by far overshadows it. The screenplay was magnificently adapted from the novel, the direction, pacing and cinematography are all outstanding. This film is hard to stop watching because the build-up, execution, and climax are all well-done, and quite scary. It keeps you involved, wondering what comes next, it's not lagged or bogged down. It's not over-the-top or cartoonish, considering the themes.
Provided, the source material for the film was excellent. However, we all know all-too-well what can happen when short-sighted directors and sloppy screenwriters get a hold of a good product. As Stephen King wrote the screenplay as well, that fear is eliminated. And Mary Lambert did an outstanding job of putting it all together. You would have to think that King (being greatly connected to the film adaptation) wouldn't allow her to butcher it even if she could have! The film is gory, but not ridiculous "oh here we go" types of gore. Rather, it's appropriate for it's form, and well-placed when and where it's needed to top off the darkest scenes of the film. This way, it actually COMPLEMENTS the film, instead of dragging it down and making you roll your eyes in disgust.
Pet Sematary isn't just about the horrifying supernatural, rather, the darkness of man (a theme in many King works) is ever-present as well. What drives the film in the direction that it goes is how far a man (Louis) would go to cope with his grief, and to spare his family the same. When he oversteps a sacred boundary between life and death, it becomes visible that he's opened Pandora's Box. Yet, his grief STILL drives him back to that same solution.
On either side of Lois are the living and the dead trying to influence his decisions. Both with the same message, but one (admittedly, you must be familiar with the book to have picked up on it) seemingly controlled by the evil forces attempting to control Lois in the first place. Like giving a child candy and telling them not to eat it, just so you can punish them once they do.
And that leads right in to part of what makes it so horrifying: That this movie is also very sad. There's no happy ending, no resolve for the good guys. It's self-destruction at it's finest, leaving no stone unturned. There's no bright spots in this film, because everything came crashing down in the worst way in both the living and the supernatural. It makes it a film which one can find scary for more than one reason.
If you want to see a film that will TRULY give you chills, you must watch Pet Sematary. Truth be told, I put it above my beloved slasher flicks. Because I think that while those films have their merits in style and story, Pet Sematary succeeds far more at being a truly terrifying experience. I might sooner let a young child watch Nightmare on Elm Street than Pet Sematary, and that's saying a lot! It's films like this that make me understand that while I'm not in Stephen King's books, I see WHY he is hailed as a horror mastermind.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Blood-splattered slasher flick brutality at it's (almost) finest
Freddy vs. Jason only stumbles on a couple of platforms. Otherwise, we have an excellent, fast-paced, smoothly executed crossover that should have appeased not only fans of the two classic series, but slasher fans in general.
Let me add that of the classic slashers, Jason Voorhees is not among my favorites. I like a few Friday the 13th films. But Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers are on a platform above Jason, if you ask me. Jason was a little too low-rent overall. However, for the sake of such a crossover, I think they put together a perfect pairing.
Why did it work? It was FUN. Like the Friday the 13th films, it sacrifices class for brutality. But it does an outstanding job at it. I wasn't getting bored with any lull, I wasn't rolling my eyes in disgust. Freddy vs. Jason really was just about what I expected. It can get away without having any class.
So of course, the reason for admission: The fight scene. Outstanding, outlandish brutality. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy the fight scene as much as I did, but it was awesome. They definitely didn't short-change us on Freddy and Jason's showdown.
My only complaints are that as a Freddy fan, I wanted a different ending, and a higher body count for the man. However, the latter is focal to the story, and it's made clear that Freddy is generally the more terrorizing one. They still gave him his due in the ending as well. So it's not as if I was outright disappointed.
Another big complaint is the dialog. It's as if the writers really thought they were speaking to a bunch of rocks with how Freddy needed to reaffirm the entire premise throughout the movie. Not only was the premise inferred after the opening monologue, better writing would have forgone the need for such point blank "this is what's going on" dialog. Clarification is just fine, but they're breaking it down barney-style here. It's as if they didn't have enough faith in their writing to think that the audience would have understood. Better writing would have fixed that. It's pretty lazy, and honestly, how stupid do they need to treat us?
Friday the 13th gurus are also disappointed with Kane Hodder not being re-cast as a role that he's played well in four Friday films. For me, that doesn't matter. It's not the same as having a different man playing Freddy. But perhaps this is someone who's not the biggest fan of the Friday series speaking. So I get the discontent that said fans had with that decision.
What's the verdict overall? It's not perfect by any means. Flimsy dialog hurting it the most for me. But otherwise, I can't recommend this film highly enough for anyone who wants a solid 97 minutes of action. Whether a fan of either series, or just looking for some simple slasher fun, this move is it.
Slow-paced, uneven execution hampers what would have been a solid sequel
I can deal with the premise. I can even deal with the homoerotic undertones. What I can't deal with is the fact that we wade through about 40 minutes of this film before Freddy even gets his first victim. And the action didn't even get intense until the last half-hour or so.
I thought this film was better the first few times I saw it. Watching it again, I've re-evaluated my position on it. They could have had a hit here. The formula for a stellar sequel is right in the plot. But it's so unevenly distributed and short-changed that it's hard to get excited.
The character development is just fine. That is, Jesse morphing in to Freddy to bring him in to the real world. The problem is that they didn't present enough payoff throughout this particular plot point to really make the buildup worth it. Hell, the uneven pacing could have been forgiven had there really been a payoff towards the climax. We could write off a slow start had the latter half of the movie really wowed us. It too fell short.
Also, when I say "uneven pacing", I'm not just referring to the events of the plot. I'm referring to the fact that some of the scenes themselves have too much idle time in between character interaction. There needs to be a little less staring. If they were attempting to build suspense, it didn't really work. I just got that they slowed the scene down and made it harder to suspend disbelief.
It could have been saved too, had it a great ending. But this is easily one of my least favorite endings to any of the Nightmare films. Now, the absolute final ending is okay. But Freddy's demise simply seemed to weak for me, not particularly believable.
Nightmare 2 has some great points, too. The pool scene was, for the most part, excellent. A few bones to pick, again with the execution. But overall, it's excellent. And the cinematography when Freddy delivers his immortal line "You are all my children now" was also terrific. The problem was, it was over too soon. Not enough action, and not enough payoff when we finally received it.
I have to also say that I like that they were ambitious, and strove to move in a different direction. That didn't bother me. It was still only the second movie in to the franchise. I also like that Freddy is still dark in this film, as opposed to wisecracking and campy (which he became in later films). But it all came down to how it was executed, and Nightmare 2 just falls short in that regard.
Thankfully, Nightmare 3 was a much better movie. It also involved the Nancy Thompson storyline (which is only referenced in Nightmare 2). Thus, it's unaffected by this movie. This is a film only for the hardcore Nightmare fans (like me) who just have to see every movie. Otherwise, feel free to skip it. It's not the worst in the series (Freddy's Dead takes that by a long mile). In fact, I still prefer it over the more action-packed Nightmare 4. But it's one that lukewarm fans of the series could do without.
Solid premise that's mutilated by a horrible plot
Siskel & Ebert really tore this film up top to bottom. Largely, they're absolutely right. But they also have at it in regards to the premise, and I would disagree with that. I actually think this is a pretty good concept for a family film. The writing is where this movie falls flat on it's face.
There's nothing wrong with a fantasy-comedy film about a boy who sets out on an world trip to find the "perfect" parents. Nothing at all, unless it's this movie.
North has got to be one of the most culturally insensitive, factually inaccurate, and stereotypical films I've ever seen. The entire problem with how the different cultures are depicted is that they're written as if this is a parody film. No, this is a FAMILY COMEDY (we'll use the word "comedy" pretty loosely here). Not a parody film. Big difference. This movie in no way purports to be a parody, nor does it attempt to draw that type of audience. That Rob Reiner would have released such a film really shocks me.
These are the biggest problems, the inaccuracies and cultural insensitivity. Not for this type of film, not for it's intended audience. It's actually pretty appalling. Sure, I get what the writers were trying to do, the direction they were trying to go in. But that's not enough. Not when the end product is a cold-hearted insult to several different cultures. It's as misguided and stereotypical as a minstrel show.
On top of that, this movie simply isn't very funny. Again, you get how they were TRYING to be funny. But you see it fall absolutely short.
I have no beef with the concept at all. Had this movie been written in an entirely different manner, they'd have had a solid film here. It even has some solid star power. Nothing holds this back from being good more than the absolutely atrocious script. A script which seems to think that it's an entirely different film for an entirely different audience. And that leaves this movie with very little to make it worthwhile.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Definitely has it's problems, but it's a solid film overall
One thing I need to make clear before I go any further is this: I don't believe that the Amityville Horror is a true story. I'm just as much of a paranormal guru as the next guy. But that doesn't mean that I will believe any story that comes down the pike. There's simply been too much legitimate criticism of the story for me to believe that it happened. This, coupled with subsequent owners claiming no paranormal activity in the house, lead me to believe that it was a very fascinating, but fictional story. And it's a damn good one.
So with that, I think it's imperative to understand that what's wrong with this film is just what's wrong with previous Amityville media: That it purports to be based on a true story. Since I believe this to be a lie, I judge this solely as a work of fiction.
So what exactly is so much different from the book, or even the first film? George Lutz turning in to John from "The Shining" was largely invented for this version. And Jodie (the invisible ghostly friend of the daughter) being revamped in to the ghost of a DeFeo family member, and trying to trick Chelsea (her name in this film) to kill herself on separate occasions. And the dog dying. So three things that change, one of them working with the source material considerably. Read the synopsis' for either of the former media, and tell me what else is so much different.
Now, are these big differences? Well, some of them do drive the plot, and that turns it in to a different film in a lot of aspects. I can understand the criticism. It can be enough to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the purists, sure. For instance, read my review of Rob Zombie's Halloween. Otherwise, they included a lot of the elements of the previous Amityville stories in this film. The red eyes, green slime, flies, sullen attitudes, 3:15, Native American deaths, etc.
Escaping that, how does the rest of this movie fare? Honestly, pretty well. The execution, writing, acting, visuals, I think they're all pretty solid. I think Ryan Renolds played his character particularly well, and it's the standout of the entire film. I don't feel like there was anything that left me shaking my head. Well perhaps, that there was more to the story that they could have utilized. But it's not as if there already wasn't a lot of meat to it.
So it all comes down to a few plot changes, ranging from significant to insignificant, all depending on how you personally view it. That's all perfectly understandable. For me, it wasn't particularly bothersome. This is a pretty good movie. But you won't like it if you're looking for a more accurate re-telling of the original story. Just a few changes that can irritate you.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Unique, Intriguing, Suspenseful
Maybe I don't get the critics of this movie. I think we can all agree that by the late 1980's, the horror genre was beaten to death. Scream eventually came along in the mid-90's and gave it the shot in the arm that it needed. However, soon after the genre was flooded again with much lesser films cashing in on Scream's success.
So what was the Blair Witch Project? A very different horror film indeed. While not the first of the found footage genre, it made a much larger impact than previous movies of the sub-genre had. And like Scream before it, it gave something fresh and original to the horror film scene.
Isn't that what we wanted all along? By 1990, slasher flicks were a dime a dozen. Same in 1999 with the films that followed Scream. Blair Witch went in to an entirely different direction. Sure, it was proposed before Scream (and filmed the following year of it's release), however, it came at a great time. Just as horror movies were yet again becoming tired parodies of themselves.
I don't even know why we need to put spoilers, seeing as just about everyone whose heard of the film knows how it ends. But know this: If you're expecting a bogeyman to jump out at you, then you'll be disappointed. If that's what you must have in a horror film, then keep going. Blair Witch operates largely on the elements of intrigue and suspense. Suspense, intrigue, both important elements to any great horror film (like Halloween). But unlike many of these films, there is no bogeyman on screen. Everything is left open to interpretation, with the general idea being the same. You clearly see these things happen in Blair Witch, but you have no real idea why they're happening, or who's responsible. You're not given an answer, you're not given violence and gore, you're not given big, on-screen effects, you never even see the antagonist's face. But you are given clues, ways to connect the dots.
But THAT is just what made this film great. It was a solid, original idea that was executed remarkably. It didn't follow a typical formula, but why should that matter? If this film couldn't be enjoyed for what it was, then it's not the fault of the film. Because it's simply not a bad movie. To dislike it because it wasn't well-written, executed, or interesting, I can understand. But if that's what you think, then are we even talking about the same film here?
It doesn't have the typical ending, or the typical "bad guy jumps out at you" moment. But it's a sure horror thriller, and the rhyme and reason is all made obvious if you've paid attention throughout.
The Blair Witch Project is a classic. A movie that laid the groundwork for mainstream acceptance of it's sub-genre, and became a masterpiece of it's main genre in it's own right. This is a must-see for any horror fan.