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Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and 3, A (Blu-ray Combo Pack)

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and 3 Blu-ray Combo PackStarring Freddy’s Revenge: Mark Patton, Robert Englund, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager; Dream Warriors: Patricia Arquette, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wesson

Directed by Jack Sholder (Freddy’s Revenge) and Chuck Russell (Dream Warriors)

Distributed by New Line Home Video


It’s been a while since New Line released the hi-def version of Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street so I feel like I’ve been waiting for almost forever to see a similar Blu-ray treatment for the sequels that followed. This week some progress was made as both Freddy’s Revenge (NOES 2) and Dream Warriors (NOES 3) were released in a Blu-ray Double-Disc Edition, and while I’m happy to finally get better quality movies, I’m sad to say that I found the handling of the bonus features pretty abysmal, making the overall presentation of these classics feel rather average.

I’m sure if you’re reading this review, then you already know the lowdown on what happens during both Freddy’s Revenge (Krueger uses the new teenage resident of 1428 Elm Street as his own killer puppet in real life) and Dream Warriors (a new group of “Elm Street Children” are brought together through their admittance to a treatment facility after each of them become stalked in their dreams by Freddy) so I won’t necessarily take much time in breaking down each plot. Suffice to say if you’re over the age of 18 and a horror fan, then chances are you’ve seen both flicks, probably multiple times to boot. On the offhand chance you haven’t seen either film, then I would say that the Blu-ray release is a great way to experience both of them for the first time ever.

When it comes to Freddy’s Revenge, there’s no denying that it is indeed one of the worst sequels of the entire franchise- a terrible script, taking Freddy out of the dream realm, shoddy editing, just to name a few things. But despite its many flaws, I still have a lot of love for Freddy’s Revenge for several reasons, including poor lovable Mark Patton doing his damnedest to try to make Jesse a likable character.

Unfortunately for Patton, David Chaskin’s script never allows the talented actor to do much in the sequel except mope, complain, cry or scream- and don’t even get me started on the scene where Jesse’s dancing around in a hysterical “room cleaning” montage that seems better suited for a flick like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun than a movie about a dream demon stalking teenagers in their sleep. It’s sad because Patton himself is incredibly likable in real life, but the character was just written (or edited in the final cut) very poorly and never was allowed to become a convincing hero of the franchise.

Another thing that I always loved about Freddy’s Revenge are the practical effects used in the flick, especially when Freddy (Englund) bursts through Jesse’s chest in the film’s third act. Designed by Mark Shostrom, the gag wowed me back in 1988 when I finally saw it on VHS for the first time, and it still wows me to this day (hi-def definitely doesn’t take anything away from the effect either). I’ll always be a proponent of practical over CG visual effects whenever possible, and while I wasn’t a fan of Freddy Krueger’s make-up design in this sequel, the rest of the special effects remain top-notch even after almost 26 years now.

So while Freddy’s Revenge is definitely in my “bottom two” list of Nightmare sequels, I would have to say that Dream Warriors is definitely in my “top two” list of Nightmare follow-ups (the other being New Nightmare), and finally getting this flick in high-definition is something I’ve been waiting for ever since I bought my Blu-ray player a few years back.

The complete opposite of the awkward spectacle that was Freddy’s Revenge, Dream Warriors is no doubt in the upper echelon of horror sequels released during the 1980s- not only did it cleverly find a way to bring old and new casts of characters together seamlessly (a feat many other sequels usually struggle with), it also expanded on the original movie’s mythology by making the entire storyline of the Freddy Krueger character come full circle with establishing the new crop of teens as the “last of the Elm Street” children- a reference to the group of parents who torched child killer Krueger in real life after he was mistakenly released during his trial on a technicality.

What I also loved about Dream Warriors is the inclusion of a “funhouse” that now exists for Krueger to chase his intended victims around in (all contained within the walls of original heroine Nancy’s house), which both elevated the twisted humor of a character like Freddy Krueger and also managed to provide some truly terrifying and creepy moments as well.

For me it’s hard to pick which of the funhouse scenes is the most memorable; after all, there are so many moments to choose from, including the giant phallic-shaped Freddy worm gobbling on new “final girl” Kristen (Arquette), the room filled with bodies swinging from the rafters, Taryn’s (Jennifer Rubin) back alley knife fight with Krueger, the hallway of gooey blood or the roasted pig snarling at an unsuspecting Kristen from the dining room table being just a few of the more notable ones.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Dream Warriors is just all around brilliance from some of the best minds working within the genre today still (Wes Craven and Frank Darabont being two of them) that created some of Englund’s best pop culture moments ever as the playfully demented dream demon now delivered catch phrases while torturing and murdering his victims (“Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!” “Let’s get high!” “What’s a matter, Joey? Feeling tongue-tied?”).

So is the Freddy’s Revenge/Dream Warriors Blu-ray Combo worth getting? For the asking price of $15 or less, I would have to say that this a decent release to add to your home collection, but keep your expectations low because the bonus features are nothing to write home about.

On the disc they name off several “featurettes” that they’ve included for each movie (Freddy on 8th Street, Heroes and Villains, The Male Witch and Psycho Sexual Circus for NOES 2 and Burn Out, Fan Mail, The House That Freddy Built, Onward Christian Soldiers, Snakes and Ladders, That’s Show Bizand Trading 8s for NOES 3), which all sounds rather impressive, right?

Wrong.

All of the “featurettes” are just interview snippets presented individually where you actually have to go back and forth between the menu for each one just to watch them (talk about repetitive). And these interviews were all filmed back in 1997 (oddly enough, they’re NOT the ones included on my DVD box set from 1999) so they’re all incredibly dated and just disjointed all around. Bummer summer.

What was a saving grace in terms of bonus features for the Blu-ray Combo release of Freddy’s Revenge and Dream Warriors is including the Dokken music video for NOES 3, which features both Robert Englund and Patricia Arquette having some fun with the hair metal rockers. That’s almost worth the price of the disc alone as it’s hard to not have a smile on your face while watching that video. (Who knew Dokken haunted Krueger’s dreams? Must be the sequined jackets!)

Overall, the only real reason I’d see not to pick up the Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3 Blu-ray is if you’re holding out for a box set down the road. Seeing how they skimped this time around, it doesn’t seem like New Line’s really invested in these releases anyway so I suspect this is the best we’re going to get for a long time. But the transfers look really vibrant and should definitely appease the biggest Krueger fans out there.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Film

2 1/2 out of 5

Special Features

2 out of 5

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Film

4 out of 5

Special Features

3 out of 5

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The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

Directed by Guillermo del Toro


“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?

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Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva

Directed by Goran Spoljaric


Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.

Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.

It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?

Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.

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Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date

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Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, and Cameron Britton.

Directed by David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm.


A few weeks back Netflix premiered all ten episodes of David Fincher’s new serial killer series “Mindhunter” on their streaming service. Being that Fincher is one of our favorite directors we added the series to our queues as soon as possible. And this past week – after recapping and reviewing all 9 episodes of “Stranger Things 2” – we were finally able to sit down and enjoy the (much) more adult thriller series.

What did we think? Find out below…

First off we should get a few things like plot and background out of the way. “Mindhunter” is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was optioned by none other than David Fincher and Charlize Theron and quickly thereafter snatched up by Netflix. The series is executive produced and (mostly) written by Joe Penhall.

The plot follows a young FBI agent played by Jonathan Groff who, after an incident in the field, is set to be a teacher at Quantico. Kinda boring. Especially for a guy under thirty. Quickly, however, the young agent joins forces with a seasoned pro, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club) in a star-making performance, and together the two tour the country educating local police on the proper protocols established by the FBI.

That is, until the day that our young agent gets it in his head that he wants to interview Ed Kemper. Yes, That Ed Kemper. From there the series becomes the story of the FBI and its very beginnings of psychological profiling. The series even goes so far as to lay out the tale of how the term “serial killer” was first coined.

In the hands of any other filmmaker, this semi-procedural thriller would have, most likely, not been our cup of tea. But in the hands of master director David Fincher, “Mindhunter” is quite possibly the most riveting police procedural to ever hit the small screen. Hyperbole, we know. But come on, have you seen Fincher’s Zodiac?

Yeah, now picture that motion picture spread out over the course of ten glorious hours and you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how much fun(?) it was to spend the better part of our free time last week in the grips of such as series.

First off special mentioned needs to be thrown at the killer cast of “Mindhunter.” Each actor is phenomenal. From our hero agents played by Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv, the series only gets better with powerhouse after powerhouse performance hitting us from the likes of Jack Erdie as Richard Speck, Adam Zastrow as a lonely (possible) rapist, and Joseph Cross and Jesse C. Boyd as a pair of (possible) ladykillers.

Oh, and Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper. Oh, boy. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.

I could spend this entry review telling you guys about how chilling, disturbing and utterly riveting Cameron Britton’s performance as Ed Kemper (aka The Co-Ed Killer) is, but you really need to see it for yourself to get the full picture. The series has more than it’s fair share of spine-chilling moments, to be sure. But none are so chilling as any and ever given scene which features Britton as Kemper. Give this man all the awards. Today.

Given the tight performances by the entire cast – including solid turns by the lowest day player – “Mindhunter” would be a crowning achievement for Netflix. But add in some of the top directors working today (including, in addition to Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm) and beautiful 2:35 cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst, and you have a series so jaw-droppingly cinematic, you’ll be amazed this never played in theaters. And was never meant to.

Overall I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new Netflix original series.

Well, maybe one thing: Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford is a dull character. This is not a jab at Gross as an actress. But her mostly one-note, under-developed character is forced to spend the majority of her screentime merely portraying “the girlfriend.” Which in a series like this means she merely functions, for a majority of her screentime, a receptacle of exposition once our hero returns home after a long day.

But other than that one aspect, this Netflix original series is top quality from end to end. From the spooky pre-credits insights into the growing storm that is Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer to the season’s finale sequence set in Kemper’s ICU room, “Mindhunter” is a chilling – and frankly scary series that you won’t be able to shake for months.

And most, if not all of the scares, come courtesy of long dialogue scenes – which are anything other than boring.

In the end, Mindhunters is a series that we cannot wait to see continue forward come season two. Fincher has reportedly stated that Charles Manson will play a pivotal role in the second season, and we are actively counting down the days until we can visit that character… From the comfort of our Netflix account.

“Mindhunter” is a must-see. Get ahead of the game. Watch the series tonight.

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