Posted in Uncategorized on 17/02/2012 by Dave J. Wilson

Go here to read new articles from me on average twice a week at my new blog Cinematic Shocks.

Thank you all very much for reading,

Dave J. Wilson

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Posted in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) [Rod Taylor] with tags , , , , on 24/06/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

By the mid-80s, the Nightmare on Elm Street film series had cemented its place as the number one horror franchise for fans all over the world. From its humble beginnings with the original movie in 1984, which was a low budget independent feature that barely got off the ground, its screaming success single handily created a studio – New Line Cinema, and thrust horror directly into the mainstream. Freddy Krueger, the series’ villain, started out as a terrifying monster; the child murderer with the burnt face and knives for fingers that could invade your dreams and make sure you wouldn’t wake up. The concept by creator Wes Craven was a breath of fresh air to the horror community who were looking for something different, and once the first film became a hit the fans demanded more.

If Freddy were a recording artist, his career trajectory would go something like this. First album: all spit, snarl, and bite – a surprise debut from left-field, which surprised and shocked its audience with its brutality. Second album: similar to the first outing but has a nastier raw edge. Third album: the sound and identity is established combining the old with new bolder elements. By the time Krueger came around to his fourth adventure he was a fully-fledged star that had shaken off his underground beginnings and was performing with confidence. He owned the stage, had his audience going crazy, and had them eating out of the palm of his hand. Freddy Krueger, the man who had scared people the world over was now everywhere on t-shirts, posters, lunchboxes, and just about anything else that could have an image printed on it. He was performing in rap videos and appearing on popular music channel MTV, which would itself have a shameless plug during one of Part 4’s kill sequences. This huge popularity also begged a more pressing question: Is the “Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs” still scary now that he’s so well loved? The answer of course is a resounding no, but even though his spit, snarl, and bite had long disappeared, he was as wildly entertaining like never before.

After the massive success of ‘The Dream Warriors’ in 1987, New Line immediately began work on the next chapter in their growing franchise. Impatient fans could not wait for a fourth installment and they were expecting it to top the movie before it, and the studio was more than willing to oblige. Robert Englund again would find himself in the makeup chair playing Freddy, getting ready to stalk and slaughter unsuspecting teens in grotesque ways never before-seen in any horror film. Well, not since Part 3 that is. New Line, wanting to stay true to its independent roots, hired a relative unknown to direct their next installment. Finnish director Renny Harlin, fresh from his Hollywood debut with the  horror movie ‘Prison’, was brought on-board to helm ‘The Dream Master’. Being Harlin’s second only film he was more than enthusiastic to impress the studio with his outlandish ideas for the movie.

The plot of ‘The Dream Master’ follows directly on from ‘The Dream Warriors’, in which we see the surviving kids from that film, Kristin (Tuesday Knight, who took over the role from Patricia Arquette) and Joey and Kincaid (Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes reprising their roles), all now released from Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital and living normal teenage lives. The trio are attending Springwood High and Joey and Kincaid have moved on from past events, but not Kristin, who is unable to accept that Krueger has been vanquished; instead believing that he is lurking in the shadows waiting to strike. This paranoia soon turns into reality, and before you can laugh or cheer at a dog urinating fire, the Dream Demon is back and has his clawed hand in the stomach of Kincaid. Directly after that he’s paying a visit to Joey, and drowns and stabs the poor kid in his waterbed. With only one Elm Street kid left to kill and time running out for Kristin, Freddy Krueger has to come up with a plan to find more victims. Kristin has a gift that allows her to bring anyone into her dreams, and she passes it onto her friend Alice (Lisa Wilcox) once she meets her end in a boiler room furnace. It is now up to this shy and introverted red head to provide Freddy with “fresh meat”.

From then on we are treated to a series of demented set-pieces in which Freddy uses his powers to stalk Alice and her friends, and where she must confront Krueger in one of the most spectacular finales the series has ever seen. The pace is quick and there is no time wasted as Freddy Krueger moves from victim to victim, cracking jokes and appearing in some very unusual circumstances; his claw is turned into a shark fin in one scene. In another, after Alice is sucked into a movie screen, she winds up meeting her future self at the diner where she works, and Freddy is snacking on a pizza no one would want to order. Another sequence that is one of the more head scratching has Alice running around in circles on an endless loop, as she’s trying to save a friend from a particularly grisly demise. These oddities and bizarre moments add to the loopy tone of the film; the filmmakers certainly had a “more is more” approach when going into this movie.

As the series grew so did the ways in which Krueger would dispatch his prey. Having their stomachs slashed open or swallowed by beds and spewed out in a gushing torrent was no longer enough to appease his growing fan base. The death sequences had to be bigger, badder, and had to be more surrealist eye popping than ever before. If Part 3 had Freddy Krueger offing his victims in imaginative ways then Part 4 not only ran with that particular ball but also kicked it over the fence. Audiences were now expecting creative deaths and this film would deliver them.

The 80’s horror movement had become notorious for its use of special effects; heavily employed at the time were Dream Quest Images and Screaming Mad George. Their creations and effects were used in multiple genre movies including Freddy’s previous installment, but ‘The Dream Master’ would end up being their Sistine Chapel. A skeleton reassembling itself in a grave, Freddy bursting from a waterbed (an obvious nod to the first movie), miniature meatball heads on pizzas, Krueger sucking the air out of an unfortunate girl who is asthmatic, a girl transforming into a cockroach, and the wild over the top finale with the souls of Freddy Krueger’s victims bursting from his body. ‘The Dream Master’ is a crazed showcase of effects that still hold up today and is filled to the brim with sequences that had audiences gasping and cheering.  In terms of special effects ‘The Dream Warriors’ was inventive but Part 4 had taken an acid trip.

These are just the sequences that we actually got to see. During the 2010 documentary ‘Never Sleep Again’, it is revealed that one particular effect had Freddy clawing the breasts off one girl. It’s no surprise that this scene was dropped so the film could avoid the dreaded X rating, but it shows how far the filmmakers were willing to go in terms of violence and gore and giving the audience what they now expected. Fingers crossed that this scene someday sees the light of day.

Not only were the effects now a staple of the Nightmare franchise but so was Krueger’s dialogue. Depending on the death, Freddy Krueger was now expected to deliver a witty catchy one-liner right before or after the deathblow. This was nothing new as he had dialogue in his first two outings but there it was kept to a minimum. With each passing installment the clown act was amplified and purists began to scoff at the way the villain had become a dark joke, but Englund himself was instrumental in pushing Freddy in that particular direction. He was more than willing to experiment with the way Krueger talked and walked, and for the most part audiences went with it until the comedy act did what many died trying to do – it ultimately killed Freddy Krueger! Some argue that Renny Harlin was responsible for killing off the dark Freddy we saw in the earlier movies and replaced him with a comedian. This is untrue and unfair; the studio, the writers, and most of all the actor playing him all had a hand in what Krueger would become, and so did the audience. They were the ones who were turning out in droves to see Freddy Krueger acting like a wild man and cackling maniacally; the audience had inadvertently created the circus act themselves.

Reviews for ‘The Dream Master’ upon its release in August 1988 ranged from mixed to positive. As expected it became an instant number one hit taking its studio and everyone else by surprise by easily outranking the previous three installments, becoming the franchise’s top performing film; still to this day, it sits in the number one slot as the highest grossing Nightmare. After the release, Freddy mania had reached gargantuan levels; now well in the mainstream Krueger had sold out and gone commercial. Kids were buying plastic versions of his razor glove and wearing his grotesquely burnt face that you could find in show bags, staging nightmares of their very own. That’s right, kids! People now worshiped the child murderer the very same age of his original on screen victims. He was no longer the dark and brooding underground performer but a bright and in your face showman, and like most showman, fatigue would start to set in and the party would come to a halt. After his biggest success would be his biggest failure.

Rod Taylor

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.



Snowtown (2011)

Posted in Snowtown (2011) [Rod Taylor] with tags , , , on 20/06/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

Snowtown, Adelaide, Australia; a spot on the map, a blink and you’ll miss it kind of town. The sort of place where not much happens, but on the 20th May 1999 this small sleepy village would have its reputation changed forever when local Police walked into a disused bank vault and uncovered unspeakable horrors; horrors that would change the face of Snowtown and Australia. What they found inside would soon become known as “The Bodies in the Barrels” case, where once the full details emerged would horrify an entire country, and became the basis of a startling feature film debut from filmmaker Justin Kurzel.

Australia has a bloody history of creating movies that deal with horror and the dark side of cinema. From the Ozploitation boom of the 80s with such genre films as Road Games, Razorback, and numerous sequels to The Howling, to more current fare such as Wolf Creek, Dying Breed, and The Loved Ones. Now comes along Snowtown, a confronting and harrowing portrait of innocence lost and the evil manipulation and destruction of an entire community at the hands of a true psychopath.

What makes Snowtown such a frightening piece of cinema is that everything on display is so genuine. For a moment, you actually forget you’re watching a movie and instead think you’ve sat down to take in a grotesque documentary. Filming took place under a veil of secrecy in the exact same locations where the real life murders took place, and locals were used to pad out the cast. This authenticity drags the viewer in by the throat and never lets them go. Salisbury North is an area of the city of Adelaide that you wouldn’t want to visit let alone live there. Housing project hHHell coupled with high unemployment, its suburban fringe dweller residents live their lives in front of poker machines, eating cheap take away, and watching junk TV; just letting their lives rot away. It’s in this environment in which paedophiles go about their grimy business and in which a man manages to twist and corrupt the vulnerable into vicious killers.

Jamie Vlassakis is one of these unfortunate citizens, who lives with his mother, his brother, and half-brother; who sodomizes Jamie regularly. Vlassakis’s mother is friends with a local man who she gets to babysit for her, and he abuses her three young boys. Through a local transvestite, Barry Lane, this man’s actions are uncovered, and the charismatic John Bunting soon runs him out of the neighbourhood. Bunting and his friend Robert Wagner, who happens to be in a homosexual relationship with Lane, soon take it upon themselves to rid their neighbourhood of people who they perceive to be gay or child molesters, all with scarce evidence or just none at all.

Soon enough, locals, friends, and even family members start “moving interstate”. Unknown to everyone, those who have “moved interstate” have been buried in the backyard, or are rotting in the shed in barrels filled with acid. Young Jamie, who has taken a shine to Bunting,  seeing him as somewhat of a father figure (Bunting is in a relationship with his mother), is slowly drawn into his and Wagner’s murderous world, and begins to take part in the torture and deaths of several people, including Vlassakis’s own half-brother and stepbrother. It was Jamie turning Crown Witness, which finally put an end to the carnage perpetrated by Bunting, Wagner, and a third man, Mark Haydon. Haydon’s wife unfortunately became one the victims.

What these men did is nothing short of unspeakable; the methods they used to torture their 12 victims to death are sadistic and cruel, and thankfully, the audience is spared the full extent of their crimes. As the movie is shown from the point of view of Jamie, we see what he sees, so director Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant slowly and subtly feed us titbits, and it is up to us to piece together the events to work out the sheer horror of what is going on. As Vlassakis becomes more aware so do we, until we find ourselves just like him – fully immersed in the spree. This approach adopted by the filmmakers makes the film work better and the tension slowly cranks up to an unbearable level. A gore fest this is not, and what makes the events even more shocking is that they evolve in such a banal manner.

Horror fans will notice strong similarities with another movie based on a real life serial killer, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Like Henry Lee and his partner in crime, Otis, Bunting and his cohorts kill out of the need to do something; they are bored – the death of the innocent that makes these monsters feel alive. Victims are chosen while Bunting and Co are eating dinner and driving around the streets, and motives and reasons are discussed in the same way someone would talk about making a cake or deciding what film to watch. Because of the material, the number of victims and the methods used to dispatch them, Snowtown could have easily been a Saw-esque torture porn feast, but instead we get a slow burn descent into a world that thankfully most of us will never encounter.

Daniel Henshall and Lucas Pittaway are absolute revelations as John Bunting and Jamie Vlassakis respectively. The former, at first appears to be someone who you could like, the typical man next door, the guy who would stop you in the street and ask how your day is, but underneath the façade lurks a cold and calculating demon whose hatred for his fellow man knows no bounds. Henshall brings these conflicting personalities to vivid life like a true professional, much like fellow Aussie Eric Bana, who received great reviews for his portrayal of Chopper Reid, he doesn’t just play John Bunting but completely becomes the man – this startling performance truly captivates the audience. The same can be said for Pittaway, the 18 year old who failed drama at high school, but has turned in a powerhouse portrayal of an abused child who becomes the abuser. These two men deserve all the praise that comes their way for inhabiting the skin of two very different but damaged people. For many other actors, playing these people would not have been easy, but Daniel Henshall and Lucas Pittaway pull it off effortlessly.

Snowtown was recently in competition for the Critics Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival; met with rave reviews it won a special award. That’s because it’s a special film, one of the most extraordinary and disturbing movies ever to come from the land Down Under . Yes, we’ve come a long way from making throwaway Howling sequels. Snowtown has been picked up for distribution in the US and Britain, so keep your eyes open for it and take the trip if you dare.

Rod Taylor

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.


Maniac (1980)

Posted in Maniac (1980) [Dave J. Wilson] on 11/06/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

Click here to go directly to this article at its new home at Cinematic Shocks.



CRAWLER’S CHAOS: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

Posted in Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) [Creepy Crawler] on 28/05/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

It’s quite well known that William Shatner dabbled here and there in horror early his career, and more recently in American Psycho 2. In that early part of his career, The Devil’s Rain and this gem are the two that spring to mind. I saw this as a kid watching the Deadly Ernest Horror Show, and it really stuck with me until I managed to grab a copy on the Shout Factory label (please ignore the dodgy 23rd Media release from a few years ago). I am happy to relive this childhood memory and share it with you all.

We’re in proper open range and mountain America territory for this film; horses and cowboy boots are available for all to purchase in 1977. Two farmers, Walt Colby (Woody Strode) and his wife Birch Colby (diseased widow of Sammy Davis Jr., Altovise Davis), with big smiles let a young calf out to graze on the field. They get on with their work and so does the calf. Suddenly we have three alternative camera views from the angles of small fast things in the grass, and they’re approaching the calf. Meanwhile, William Shatner is Rack Hansen, the small valley vet. We meet him lassoing livestock, and a girl, as cowboy valley boys do. He’s called out to the calf that’s been totally paralyzed from bites. “Ain’t that a crock,” says Walt as the calf dies (This guy must be related to Scatman from my previous review of The Rats).

Across town, a mechanic comes across one hell of a big spider whilst picking webs off tyres in his storeroom. He spits on it and walks off. As he shuts the door, the spider gives chase. The Mayor is quite concerned due to Walt’s calf and the chance of quarantine, because the county fair is due soon. Meanwhile, Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) arrives in town from the university due to samples Rack sent over for testing; he’s discovered that spiders bit the calf. She catches Rack’s eyes straight away. Back at the farm as Hansen and Diane arrive, Walt and Birch’s dog is found dead (although the dog is still breathing – he he!) and they find a huge spider hill filled with maybe a thousand or so right near the farm. Diane takes a venom sample from a spider and sends it off, then kisses Dr. Hansen for a while. That night they decide to burn the hill and discover Walt’s bull coated in spiders. As the hill burns, some spiders have an escape tunnel a few feet away.

The next day as Walt is driving spiders attack him all over his face; when he’s found in his crashed truck, he’s in a cocoon. Further back in the fields there are now twenty or so spider hills – Oh ohhh! The Mayor sends up the Baron, a fella with a crop-spraying plane to wipe out the hills. The Baron draws a really stupid sketch of a spider on the side of his cockpit, which looks like a hairy skittle, then does a few circles over the fields before he finds himself covered with spiders. A high explosive crash follows.

The spider armies rampage through the valley, into town and all over. Shatner throws spiders around with a priceless expression, which reminded me of the infamous Star Trek episode, Trouble with Tribbles. He rescues his niece, who for a five or six year old wears very worrying short dresses. He takes his niece and Diane and hides out in a lodge with the Sheriff and a few others, whilst everyone else is cocooned in the invasion. The small group have to defend themselves from the mass of creepy little bastards.

Its a fun movie that actually uses real spiders, and a lot of them! The characters are plastic and predictable, but carry the film well enough. William Shatner is a competent actor as a rugged ranch cowboy vet of sorts. As I said earlier, it’s best to seek out the Shout Factory DVD; extras include features on spider training and a Shatner interview.

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.



The Ward (2010)

Posted in The Ward (2010) [Dave J. Wilson] on 27/05/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

Click here to go directly to this article at its new home at Cinematic Shocks.

I Saw the Devil (2010)

Posted in I Saw the Devil (2010) [Dave J. Wilson] on 22/05/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

Click here to go directly to this article at its new home at Cinematic Shocks.



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