Thursday, June 30, 2011

Loco Locals?

Like any self-absorbed blogger, I've been obsessing over my stats from day 1. I'm getting plenty of love from the U.S., U.K., Russia, Germany, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, and France. But what I'm wondering is whether I have any readers in my home state of Montana.

The reason I ask is that I'd love to create a network of Montana horror fans, specifically ones in the Helena and Bozeman area. My fantasy is that I could meet some like-minded individuals who could meet up whenever a horror movie gets a theatrical release, and make an event of opening night. As I've mentioned before, I've never been in a position to attend any conventions or horror-related events, so I thought I'd create my own events.

So, Montana readers, if you're out there, leave a comment and let me know. With all the horror flicks I find in local pawn shops, I know we've got some horror lovers here. We need to join forces and show this town we have some real culture (and yes, I define culture as watching trashy movies). Let me hear from you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Declaration of a New Scream Queen: Radha Mitchell

Try as I might, I haven't been able to find which horror blogger recently asked the question: Who are the new scream queens? (If anyone knows, clue me in so I can link to them) I'd like to submit one of my favorite actresses for your consideration: Radha Mitchell.

Take a look at this woman's filmography. She's been in movies with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington, and Johnny Depp, and yet she still comes back to star in horror movies, even ones based on video games. She imbues every role with a gravity that elevates the material, and she looks damned fine doing it. Here's her horror filmography so far:

Pitch Black (2000)
Okay, it's sci-fi, but it's creepy sci-fi. This is the movie that made Vin Diesel a star. Why didn't it do the same for Radha? Oh yeah, because although she's beautiful, she doesn't tend to go for glamorous roles, and she comes off as more of an ass-kicker than a sex symbol. Some guys just can't handle a tough chick.

When Strangers Appear (2001)
I haven't personally seen this one, but I know it's classified as a thriller (read: horror lite).

Silent Hill (2006)
This movie falters only when it relies too much on CGI. Otherwise, it's an intensely creepy little trip down the rabbit hole with some unforgettable imagery and some brutal surprises. Radha pretty much carries the whole film, and once again, she's one tough woman. She doesn't go all Milla Jovavich or anything, but her determination to find her daughter carries her through some pretty gnarly stuff.

Rogue (2007)
Again, I haven't personally seen this one, but it's about a giant crocodile. Radha vs. a giant crocodile, what's not to like? My money's on Radha all the way.

The Crazies (2010)
I thought this was one of the more effective remakes out there. It doesn't touch the social criticism of George Romero's original, but rather plays out as a straightforward humans-gone-savage-because-of-a-virus-type horror. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it serves its purpose well. And there's a reason the pitchfork has become the de facto image for the film: the pitchfork scene is one of the most unbearably tense scenes in recent horror. And who was there making it happen for us? You tell 'em Schnitzel:
Does anyone actually get this? Horror fans dig Cartoon Network, right?

Silent Hill Revelation (2012)
I saw this one when I was like twelve, and pissed my bed every night for the next decade. Oh wait, this one's not out yet. Um... well, I'm excited about it anyway. And I concur with Schnitzel. Radha Radha Radha indeed.

So, her horror credentials may not be rock solid yet, but she's working on it. Let me hear from you, though. Who would you elect as a next generation scream queen?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Complete Crap Alert: A Review of Live Feed

As a blogger, I try to avoid being negative and instead focus on films that I love. But I would be remiss in my duties as a reviewer if I didn't let you know when a movie bites nuts.

The cover of Live Feed (2005) looked pretty promising, and the synopsis, while sounding like yet another xenophobic tourists-in-trouble movie, didn't sound half bad. And it wasn't. It was only 99.9% bad.

The premise of the film is simple: 5 asshole Americans on vacation in China (at least I think it's supposed to be China. They never actually mention just where they are) watch a street vendor butcher a small dog, spill beer of a Chinese Mafia leader, are helped by a good-looking Japanese dude, then go to a porno theater to unwind. But of course, the theater is owned by said Mafia leader, who films them having sex in the couples room and the dirty-ass bathroom before sending in Andre the Giant to slaughter them so he can watch via his live feed (That's the name of the Show!)

Having summarized the movie, it still sounds pretty good. Puppy butchering...check. Sex...check. Beheading...check. Cannibalism...double check. What could have gone wrong?

First off, the movie lost me in the first five minutes when I realized all five of the "protagonists" were despicable, immature pricks and I couldn't wait for them to die. Sure there's a certain pleasure in seeing characters you don't like being offed one by one. But I prefer movies that make you actually like the characters before they get slaughtered. Call me a masochist, but honestly, how much tension could Carpenter have built if we were all waiting for Jamie Lee Curtis to die because she was an annoying little bitch. No, Laurie Strode is pretty much everyone's favorite final girl, so when Michael is just outside of that closet, we feel real fear. I always get very hushed during that scene, as if my silence will somehow keep Laurie safe. If it were any of the characters in Live Feed, I would have been giving Michael directions. "She's in the closet, dude! Stab her! Stab her! Slit her throat!"

Fear...negative. Tension...none. Characters you can give a shit about...Hells no.

Beyond that, the movie is xenophobic beyond belief. I give Eli Roth a pass for Hostel. I don't think he's saying we should all stay home because foreign countries are full of savages. I think most tourists-in-trouble films exploit people's fear of being in a country where you don't speak the language, you don't know the culture, and you can get yourself into trouble without even knowing it. Travel can be scary, which makes it the perfect situation for horror. Horror is about exploiting fears, no?

The difference with Live Feed is that every single Chinese person is made out to be a ruthless psychotic. The one person that helps the dumbshit Americans is Japanese and has a personal vendetta against the gangsters for killing his brother. Given the lingering animosity between the Chinese and Japanese, having the hero be Japanese strikes me as sort of racist. The hilarious thing is that all of the gangsters speak English, even when they're not in the presence of English-speakers. They just speak English amongst themselves. Some of them even have American accents.

The 0.1% of the film that is good is a scene that is so blatantly racist and stupid that it transcends both qualities and enters the realm of classic. Apparently, in addition to being a power-tripping, sadistic asshole, the Mafia leader (who leaves no part of the set without teeth marks) is also a cannibal. The puppy-butchering street vendor also happens to be in his employ to do the day-to-day task of human butchering. I'm not sure why he retains his street vendor gig-you'd think the mafia would pay pretty good. Nevertheless, he cooks up a couple of our tourists and serves them to the Mafia leader and his two girlfriends in their private theater where the slaughter videos are piped in. One of the girlfriends looks at the plate and gets this disappointed look on her face, then says, "No dickie rolls? I like balls and dickie." Then the other girlfriend chimes in, "Chinese girl eat white dickie roll."

I'm not kidding.

"Chinese girl eat white dickie roll," for fuck's sake!

Now I'm afraid I've convinced you to see this piece of crap, if only for that one line. Don't do it. It's not worth it, man.

In the end, the Japanese dude goes to the porno theater to rescue them, which is ridiculous because before they went in, he half-heartedly tried to warn them that the place was bad news. Think about it, he knew they had just pissed off the mafia, her knew the mafia owned the place, and he also knew if they went in, they were going to die. You'd think he would have tried a little harder to dissuade them from going in the first place, rather than have to come back 30 minutes later with guns.

From here the movie turns into a low-grade action flick. I'm sure the ending sucked balls and dickie too, but I didn't make it that far. I was spared by a blessed, drunken sleep.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lost Boys Love - Guest Post on From Midnight With Love

Hey all,

My column on The Lost Boys is up on horror guru The Mike's From Mignight with Love. Won't you check it out? Seriously. Go check it out.

It's one of my better posts and a movie I absolutely love. Here's the link:

P.S. - Blow up the comments board on this one. Show your love. We bloggers live for comments.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beauty in Brutality: A Defense of Laugier's Martyrs

Major Spoiler Alert
This post is meant to be an in-depth discussion of Pascal Laugier's Martyrs. If you have not seen this film, I urge you, nay, BEG you: do not read this post. You risk ruining one of the great horror films of our time for yourself. If you're unfamiliar with Martyrs, it is a brutal, harrowing film, not for the weak of stomach. Only watch this film if you feel you're ready. In any case, please experience the film for yourself before you read this discussion.

I call this post a defense of Martyrs, and you may well wonder why it needs defending when it is adored by so many horror bloggers. The first time I watched it, by the time the credits rolled, I was in complete, slack-jawed awe. Watching Martyrs isn't so much like watching a regular movie as it is having a profound, deeply-unsettling experience. I thought about it all night and into the next day, then I turned to the internet to see what other people were saying. To my (naive) surprise, this film is not universally loved, and those who dislike it seem to hate it with a vengeance.

One commenter suggested that Laugier should shoot himself in the head for having brought this film into the world. Another stated that not only Laugier, but anyone who actually liked Martyrs should be sterilized. It was called a worthless piece of torture-porn masquerading as an art film, a psuedo-intellectual piece of expolitation. And, on some level, I understand this reaction. Martyrs is a film designed to repulse, to provoke, and to digust. But this negative reaction was so counter to my own that I couldn't help but feel these commenters were missing something important.

If you were to characterize Martyrs in one word, what would it be? Devastating is an apt choice. Repellent? Yes, it is that. Cringe-inducing? Thought-provoking? All true, but the one term that came back to me again and again as I considered it, was Beautiful. A strange term for such an undeniably ugly film, but that is the purpose of this essay: to illustrate how at its core, Martyrs really is a work of beauty, one that uses a canvas of brutality to expose the beauty beneath.

Martyrs plays like two different films spliced together, yet doesn't seem disjointed. If nothing else, Laugier is a master of misdirection. The film begins as a straightforward horror film that along the way, morphs into an entirely different beast. When the film opens, we know that a young girl has escaped from horrible abuse, and has been taken in at an orphanage where she pushes everyone away. Everyone except for Anna, another abandoned girl whose gentle nature makes her the only one worthy of trust. We shortly find out that the abused girl, Lucie, is haunted by some sort of vicious demon-woman who inflicts bodily injury upon her when she's alone. This demon-woman reminded me of something out of a Japanese horror film, setting up expectations that Laugier exploits masterfully.

After the initial appearance of Lucie's supernatural tormentor, we flash forward 15 years into the home of a typical family with an 18-year-old on his way to college, and a high school daughter who is a star athlete. The scene is cozy and the family seems amiable, with the kids and their father verbally jousting over breakfast. A ring at the doorbell rouses the father from the table, and no sooner has he opened the door than Lucie has blown a foot-wide hole into him with a shotgun. She storms the house, gunning down the entire family. And the thing is, she barely looks at the parents to see whether they are indeed her tormentors from fifteen years ago. You get the feeling that Lucie is out of her mind, projecting her past abusers onto a perfectly innocent family. At this stage in the film, that is where the real horror comes from. Not only does Laugier explicitly show all the murders, he makes you doubt they are justified at all.

After the killing spree, Lucie rubs her hand in the mother's blood, then holds it up, saying, "I did it. Look. I did it," to appease her supernatural stalker. But she is not placated. She stages a ferocious, terrifying attack on Lucie, jumping on her back and slashing long, deep gashes into it with a straight-razor. Every scene in which this woman appears, naked, bestial, and utterly relentless, is flat-out terrifying, rivalling any scary movie I've seen.

Your first clue that Lucie might be delusional comes when Anna arrives to help her clean up the mess she's made. After fleeing into the woods, Lucie says, "She's in the house," referring to the demon-woman. Anna says, "I know," and heads straight into the house to see what's happened. She doesn't seem to even entertain the notion that the woman is real, but instead needs to witness what Lucie has done.

Even in the aftermath of this horrible scene, Anna is fully committed to protecting Lucie, dragging the bodies out to a pit in the backyard. It is revealed that Anna is actually in love with Lucie, when Lucie expresses her gratitude by repeatedly kissing Anna's face. Anna then kisses Lucie on the mouth, only to be pushed away. Lucie loves Anna, but not in that way.

It is in Anna's nature to help people. She's committed to helping Lucie get out of the horrible mess she has made, but when she discolvers the mother is still alive, she can't help but to try and help her escape. When Lucie discovers this, she goes batshit, smashing the place up and accusing Anna of never believing her. Once again Laugier's talent for misdirection shows itself. You start to think that the rest of the movie will be Anna trying to escape from this enraged, psychotic that she has befriended since childhood. But it doesn't turn out that way. Instead, the demon-woman makes another appearance, and this time Lucie seems to give in rather than fighting. The woman carves deep gashes along Lucie's arms and bashes her head into the wall. It is here that Laugier confirms what you may have suspected: that the woman is nothing more than Lucie's delusion. The film intercuts shots of what Lucie thinks is happening with what Anna actually witnesses: Lucie cutting herself, and slamming her own head into the wall. There are also flashbacks revealing who the woman is. She is the woman Lucie saw when she was escaping her torturers, but could not save. The hallucinations were borne of Lucie's own guilt. The first half of the film ends with Lucie slashing her own throat.

If Laugier had lengthened the first half of the movie to feature-length, it still would have worked. You'd get the twist that Lucie is delusional and harming herself. It would have been scary, brutal, and sure to be talked about and revered in horror circles. It also would have been pretty pointless.  That's not necessarily a bad thing. If a horror movie scares the crap out of you, it's done its job, right? This is why the second half of Martyrs makes it transcend the genre and turns it into something utterly unique. It is also why so many people hate the film, and why I love it.

At this point, the audience is wondering where the film could possibly go. I had the idea that perhaps there would be a second twist and it would turn out the woman really was a vengeful spirit and she would begin attacking Anna, and Anna would have to solve the mystery of who the torturers were and stop them before the spirit would leave her alone. Misdirection. Instead, Anna finds a secret stairway to a dungeon in which the woman from Lucie's past is still alive and being tortured.

Again, Anna is compelled to help the suffering woman. She brings her upstairs, bathes her, and painfully removes the staples that have pinned a metal blinder to her skull. But the woman is not a vengeful monster. She is a victim, utterly ruined by years of torture. And unsurprisingly, she doesn't want to live. She begins cutting her arms and freaking out. All the while, Anna is trying to calm and comfort her. Suddenly, a hole explodes in the woman's head as a team of professionals with guns invades the house. Clearly, they're not the police, and have something to do with Lucie's torture. They take Anna to the basement.

This is where, for me, the movie really got interesting. An old woman in a head-wrap and shades shows up and explains to Lucie what exactly is happening. They are an organization that has been systematically torturing young women for years in hopes of discovering a martyr. The Mademoiselle explains, "Anyone can be a victim. Martyrs are exceptional beings. They survive pain, they survive total deprivation. They bear all the sins of the earth, they give themselves up, they transcend themselves." Then she makes it clear that Anna is going to be the next subject in their grand experiment.

In countless horror films, innocent victims are tortured and mutilated for the perverse enjoyment of a psychopath. But Laugier presents a group doing no less dreadful things all for the betterment of mankind. Think about it. Their goal is to create martyrs to gain insight into what lays beyond death. With that knowledge, we would no longer just be floundering about, wondering how to best be spending our time and energy. We would know what we had to do to prepare ourselves for the next world. In this way, Martyrs ceases to be a straight-up horror flick and becomes something akin to a grail quest - the quest for transcendant knowledge. The ultimate goal is truly the meaning of life. As such, we can understand their motives much better than that of your garden-variety psycho. We may despise their methods, but we want the answers just as much as they do.

What follows is 20+ minutes of isolation, cruelty, and torture, all performed as Mademoiselle says, "methodically, systematically, and coldly." Daily beatings are delivered not by maniacs, but people who don't enjoy what they're doing, yet believe in the cause. This phase of the movie is what really gets to people. Even commentors who reported liking the film admitted having to fast forward through some of this sequence. Some say that Laugier went overboard with this seemingly unending series of beatings, but I disagree. The repetition works in the film's favor, forcing the audience to vicariously experience the horror with Anna. It is also important in that you witness Anna's stages of dealing with her suffering. She begins by fighting it. Screaming. Tugging at her chains. But by the time it's over, she has resigned herself to her fate and ceases to fear anything they can dish out.

In The Power of Myth, Jospeh Campbell explains that the only way for God to become lovable was to take on human form, because as a human, he is capable of suffering. And it's true. It is precisely those times of suffering and loss that we really feel our compassion for others. Many Christians report seeing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as one of the most moving religious experiences of their lives. Basically, that movie is a biblical torture-porn, showing every stroke of the lash and every harrowing moment of the crucifixion in graphic detail. It is easily as brutal as Martyrs, and was a huge hit among ultra-conservatives. I'm not a Christian, but I've always dug Jesus and was very much moved by Gibson's (admittedly anti-Semitic) film. Why? Because here was the gentlest man who ever lived, who preached a doctrine of "love thy neighbor as you love thyself," and he was made to suffer the most horrible death imaginable. It was the first time I ever felt I understood the notion of "He died for our sins." His sacrifice should have made all true believers shun the very idea of violence and stirred the most compassionate part of themselves, leading to an unwavering commitment to peace (of course, we all know how that worked out).

The point I'm trying to make here is that when I say Martyrs is a beautiful film, what I mean is that by creating this saintly figure, then putting her through the most atrocious torture imaginable, Laugier has made it possible for us to really feel her suffering. When Lucie commits her murders, we feel it is justified by what they did to her. We feel sympathy for their children, but it only goes so far. By contrast, when the hero of the movie becomes the victim, we feel compassion for her character, a compassion we can only feel fully when witnessing her destruction. This is what makes the film a beautiful, if painful, experience.

Some people have accused Laugier of tacking on a cop-out ending to Martyrs. After Anna is skinned alive, thus bringing about her martyrdom, she passes her transcendant knowledge on to the Mademoiselle. On the eve of passing the message on to her followers, the Mademoiselle tells her assistant, Etienne to "keep doubting" the existence of the afterlife, and shoots herself. After my first viewing, I defended the scene as the only possible way it could have ended, since Laugier clearly doesn't know the meaning of life. But since then, I've come to realize that what the Mademoiselle was really doing was sending a message to her followers, in the most certain of terms, that we are not meant to know the answers.

She makes it clear that she has received the message, it is clear, it is precise, and "it admitted of no interpretation," and then refuses to pass it on. She is telling her followers to abandon this quest for answers. There are many ways to interpret her final remarks. It could be that Anna told her there is no afterlife, and that knowledge was so disappointing that her life lost all meaning. Or perhaps Anna told her God is real and that her blindly ambitious and ruthless pursuit of power would lead to her eternal damnation. Considering her love for Lucie, and her kindness toward everyone, it is possible the meaning of life is love and kindness, qualities that the Mademoiselle clearly does not possess. But Laugier doesn't supply the answers, instead leaving the ending ambiguous and letting the questions linger in the audience's minds. I know that I couldn't stop thinking about this movie for weeks, a sure sign that Laugier did something right.

Ultimately, Martyrs asks the question: How far would you go to have all the answers? How far is too far? Clearly, the Mademoiselle's methods are too far. The knowledge kills her, which is a roundabout victory for Anna. If Mademoiselle's followers heed her message and abandon their pursuit of martyrs, then Anna's sacrifice is the salvation of countless young women who might have shared her fate. At the closing credits, we see images of Lucie and Anna as children and are reminded of their love for each other. For Anna, love is the meaning of life, and no one needed die for her to know it.

Perhaps Laugier's message is that the meaning of life is not knowing. The uncertainty we feel is what leads us to construct our own answers and meaning. Or perhaps I'm projecting my own views onto the film. So be it. The message is only half of communication-meaning only comes about from the receiver's interpretation of the message. The only certain thing about Martyrs is that it will make you think. It's easy to dismiss Martyrs as pseudo-intellectual torture porn, but what other horror film makes you think about the meaning of life itself?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Revisiting Old Friends: Re-viewing A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 3 & 4

Hey spelunkers,

Sorry I've been away from the cave for so long. I have no excuse. I'm just an asshole.

I have been writing, however. For those who don't know, this is Eighties month over the the venerable The Mike's blog, From Midnight With Love, and I volunteered to write a column for him to post while he's on vacation next week. In it, I shamelessly drool all over The Lost Boys. That should be up on Wednesday, and I'll post a link for you then. In the meantime, I thought I'd continue my personal Eighties revival with a re-viewing on two entries from my favorite horror series from that golden(ish) age: A Nightmare on Elm Street parts 3 & 4.

A little history: After overcoming my intense fear of horror movies by totally falling in love with The Lost Boys, I decided to challenge myself by watching what I imagined to be the most terrifying horror film imaginable (aside from the Exorcist, which at the time was out of the question). My friends and I had been talking about A Nightmare on Elm Street for awhile. None of us had actually seen it, but we had heard things from people who had. We knew the story and had seen Freddy all over the place. Oddly, I can't recall my first viewing of Wes Craven's greatest film, but I do remember its effect on me. While The Lost Boys turned out to be not-so-scary, NOES freaked my shit out. And I liked it! It was the first time that I had experienced the sensation of pleasure at having been scared, and I was hooked.

The next time I went to my local video store's used movie sale, I talked my mom into buying me the first three Elm Street videos, took them into the basement, and reveled in the glory. I thought part 2 was still pretty scary, but not nearly as good as the original, but I thought part 3 was the greatest thing I'd ever seen. Iwatched those three videos on a near daily basis for the next few months. Part 4 hadn't come out yet, but my mom taped a behind-the-scenes special for me that I watched over and over again. I knew practically every scene of the film before I even got to see it. To this day, every time I watch it, I can't help but see the face of effects wizard Screaming Mad George grinning and explaining how he did everything.

Screaming Mad George

Bored yet? Alright, alright. I'll get to the movies (but I can't promise to be any less self-absorbed).

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors

I loved this movie so much as a teenager that I was almost afraid to watch it. Thinking back on it, it always seemed a tad ridiculous, and I'm not going to argue that it isn't, but I'm happy to say that the magic is still there.

First off, the characters are awesome. Patricia Arquette reminded me why I fell in love with her for her fantastic portrayal of the character Kristen, giving all of her scenes an autheticity that is lacking in too many horror movies (especially second sequels). And my two longtime favorites, Taryn and Kincaid, were as appealing as I remembered them.

"In my dreams I'm beautiful, and bad."

The main draw, back in the day, was of course the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. While Langenkamp's performance isn't flawless by any means, my lifelong crush remains intact. As for John Saxon, why isn't he being cast in every movie that comes out. He's been working, but I haven't seen him since Dario Argento's Master of Horror episode, Pelts, and From Duck Till Dawn before that. Seriously, every second this man is on the screen is a second God doesn't subtract from the span of our lives. However, on this viewing, I was taken with the perfection the is Laurence Fishburne's tough but kind and supercool Max. God actually adds minutes to the span of your life for every second he's on the screen. Elm Street 3 boasts a truly impressive cast. The man played Othello for God's sake.

"Shee-it, That's what keeps people alive."

Throughout the viewing, I was happy to find myself remembering damned near every line and reciting them along with the cast, using their same intonation and all. What I didn't expect was some actual chills during the film. I'll admit that I was only half paying attention, listening more than watching while I reorganized the personal hellhole that is my sons' room, but the movie would catch me off guard and bring back that old feeling of dread. In particular, any scene with Sister Mary Helena (aka Amanda Krueger) was just haunting. She give me the same kind of vibe I get from watching Maria Ouspenskaya in The Wolf Man (coming from me, this is high praise indeed, as Ouspenskaya's is one of my favorite performances in all of horror). The one that really got me is the unofficial group therapy session in which Nancy explains to the kids who Freddy is, and why he is doing what he is doing. I don't know quite what it was, but the combination of the original Elm Street score with the dialogue just did it for me. It reminds me of the scene from the original where Nancy's mother finally admits to her what is going on. "Fred Krueger is dead, because Mommy killed him." Freakin' awesome.

Mother of a son of a hundred maniacs.

I was impressed by the atmosphere of the movie too. The dreamscapes are all drear and decay, and the presence of children reminds you just how sick the character of Freddy really is. This is, of course, the film where the Elm Street series really took the step into fantasy horror and Freddy dispatched his victims in all kinds of creative and ridiculous ways. But somehow it works in this movie. Where things start to fall apart is in Part 4.

A  Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

I'm not going to lie: I still love this movie out of pure nostalgia, and it's a damned sight better than the pure crap of Parts 5 and 6, but if today was the first time I'd ever seen this movie, I'd think it was garbage.

The thing is, Part 4 is a natural extension of Part 3, repeating everything that made the previous film work, and rendering it ridiculous. In Part 3, Freddy takes the teens' individual fears and turns them against them. For example, in Part 3, Taryn is a former junkie who turned to dope to escape her nightmares. After she gets clean, her biggest fear is relapsing and succombing to addiction again. When Freddy shows up, his fingers turn from claws to syringes and he offs her with a heroin overdose. I always loved that. But fast forward to Part 4, and they set up each character to have some preposterous fear or weakness, specifically so Freddy couls exploit it. Case and point: Debbie is repulsed by bugs. So Freddy turns her into a cockroach and squashes her in a roach motel. Dumb.

"Let's get high."

Part 3 was also where the kills got creative. Instead of just using his talons to slash his way through teenagers, Freddy turns into a giant worm and tries to swallow them, he grows out of a television set and smashes the aspiring tv star's head into the set, and slashes the puppet-maker's arms and legs, and pulls the tendons out to manipulate him like a puppet. In that last case, the effect is gruesome and honestly pretty scary. Fast forward to Part 4, and you've got Freddy kung fu fighting, turning people into bugs, literally sucking the life out of an athsmatic girl after grabbing her face with some weird robo-claw, and eating meatballs off a pizza that are actually human heads. Honestly, writing that down just now, it doesn't seem like there's much of a difference. I guess it's the tone of each film that makes them different in my mind. Renny Harlin's entry into the series just seems so slick and Hollywood, while part three retains a sense of grimy, low-budget, ugliness.

"Rick, you little meatball."

The atmosphere in part 3 is fantastic. Creepy, dimly-lit old houses and labyrinthian boiler rooms seem firmly in Freddy's territory. Whereas Part 4 has killings occurring in brightly-lit classrooms, serene asian-stlye dojos, and one in full sunlight on the beach. Freddy has to wear sunglasses. Fucking sunglasses!

Fucking Sunglasses!

Then there's the question of what each film adds to the Freddy mythos. Part 3's Amanda Krueger/son of a hundred maniacs angle adds real depth to Freddy's backstory, and is revisited again in subsequent films. But Part 4's nonsense about the Dream Master and guardians of the gates of dreams was just plain ill-conceived. That said, I had a blast watching it. I liked most of the characters, and I knew all the dumb shit in advance. Guilty pleasure? Absolutely.

Only time will tell if I can bring myself to rewatch Parts 5 and 6, which I hated even as a teenager (yet I own anyway. It's the completeist in me). Perhaps I'll just skip to New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason. That or watch something from this century.