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

Directed by Renny Harlin [Other horror films: Prison (1987), Deep Blue Sea (1999), T.R.A.X. (2000), Mindhunters (2004), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), The Covenant (2006), The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)]

Ah, The Dream Master, when the Elm Street series starts going bad. It’s a mild deterioration at first, though, because while The Dream Master is a far cry from Dream Warriors, it’s still a decently fun movie, but then it veers to some really goofy stuff that doesn’t really work for me, and leads to a conclusion that just wasn’t great.

Disappointingly, Patricia Arquette decided against reprising her role as Kristen, and instead Tuesday Knight played her. Knight’s perfectly fine, but given that the others from Dream Warriors returned (Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman), it felt like a loss. I do think Alice is a solid character, played by Lisa Wilcox, but more interesting was her brother, Rick, played by Andras Jones (though he had one of the weakest kills in the series). I didn’t care much for any of the side-characters though, such as Toy Newkirk (Shelia), Danny Hassel (Dan), and Brooke Theiss (Debbie). Nice seeing Robert Shaye (long-time producer of the series) as a teacher, though.

Robert Englund is about as good as he always is, though some of his material is a bit questionable. I didn’t think he needed to wear sunglasses, or suck someone’s soul out by kissing them, or much of what he did here. My favorite kill is probably one toward the beginning, with things kept simple as he just gut-stabs a character with a killer line. He’s not as cheesy here as he later becomes, but it’s in this film where it’s more noticeable (no doubt, he was a little silly in the third, but that just felt darker overall than this one did).

Some of the finale here doesn’t really work for me. I thought the time-reversal was a bit weak, and overall, things felt a bit more disjointed toward the end. Also, Freddy’s demise here didn’t wow me, largely because I don’t believe for a second he’s never encountered a mirror since becoming the lovable dream demon he is. Unless it only works if he’s in a church, or some stupid thing like that. The whole final confrontation here lacked the special feel that was present in the first three movies (yes, even the second), and Alice sort of had easy sailing. Flash a mirror, and boom, she’s pretty much fine.

Of course, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic in regards to this film. Obviously, I was born in the early 1990’s, so I never saw this in theaters, but I saw portions of this when I was a kid, and some of the scenes I liked then, I still think are special (such as the last moments of Kincaid, where the whole of the Earth seems to be a junkyard, which looked so fake, but still held appeal). Even so, this is when I believe the series starts losing it’s grasp on the subject, and if they had ended it here instead of embarrassing themselves with The Dream Child, perhaps that would have been ideal.

The Dream Master isn’t a bad film, but I do think it feels a lot more average than the three previous entries, and overall, I just find the film about middle of the road.

Just remember, tell ’em Freddy sent ya!

7/10

The Brain (1988)

Directed by Ed Hunt [Other horror films: Point of No Return (1976), Bloody Birthday (1981), Halloween Hell (2014)]

I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this film all that much (despite the fact that it’s long sat in a ‘want-to-see’ list of mine), but while I didn’t absolutely love it, The Brain was still a decently fun and enjoyable film, and not nearly as goofy as one might think.

It’s hard to say exactly why the film works better than expected. The story itself is somewhat interesting, true, and most of the main performances are competent, but even so, it lacks that flair that’d truly make it amazing. The fact that the film takes itself more seriously probably goes a long way to explain why I personally enjoyed it more than I initially thought I would, so there’s that.

Tom Bresnahan does well as the sympathetic main character, and Cynthia Preston, playing his girlfriend, does pretty good also. Preston, on a side-note, later appeared in Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, which I’ve yet to see, but thought it was worth mentioning. Otherwise, she’s not done that much for the genre. David Gale, however, well-known for his role in Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator, has both done a bit more for the horror genre, and more so, does pretty memorably in The Brain (though toward the end, his plot sort of runs thin). As a threatening presence, George Buza puts up a good performance.

There were a few issues I had toward the conclusion of the film regarding main character Jim’s actions, such as approaching his mother (in hopes, I guess, that she hadn’t been brainwashed somehow), something like ten minutes after criticizing another character for wanting to do the same thing. I was sort of expecting a Halloween III: Season of the Witch twist with Preston’s character, but one was never even hinted at, which felt off. Lastly, I got a slight sense that things were a bit anticlimactic, and while I sort of liked the final scene, it definitely threw me off-guard.

Where The Brain really shines is in their psychedelic hallucination sequences. The one that opens the movie is fantastic, and there are a few throughout the film that really show promise. In a way, it felt like watching some of the more trippy dreams from A Nightmare on Elm Street. It gives a very ‘what the hell am I watching’ feel to the film.

Overall, I don’t think The Brain is amazing, but I do think it’s a pretty fun slice of wild, 80’s horror, and probably worth at least one look-see, because I think that this would make quite a few fans of the genre reasonably happy.

7/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this below.

Maniac Cop (1988)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992), Uncle Sam (1996)]

This is a film I’ve seen before, and my initial positive feelings I had after first viewing it haven’t much changed. It’s not an amazing movie, but it’s a very solid late 80’s slasher with supernatural underpinnings.

My biggest complaint with the film is that some scenes strike me as oddly cut, as if there was supposed to be a bit more to them. Nothing story-wise is missing, and it mostly only happened during the first thirty minutes, but it was certainly noticeable. Another thing is story-based – while I enjoy movies focused around revenge, I generally like having some sense of sympathy for the individual seeking revenge, which was entirely lacking here.

I’m not much a fan of police, given the history of their brutality toward various minority communities (at least in the USA), not to mention outright murder and other sickening, indefensible acts, so when there’s a cop who is thrown into prison for police brutality, as the killer cop in this film was, and he ends up getting attacked in prison, I can’t help but cheer for the prisoners. Many cops are bad enough, but the violent, zero tolerance officers, as Cordell seemingly was, are certainly not worth sympathy.

Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps and Halloween III: Season of the Witch) does well here, though I can’t say I overly care for where his story takes him. More interesting is Bruce Campbell (of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II fame), who is fun to see here. He doesn’t necessarily blow the roof off the building, but his character was pretty interesting. Laurene Landon isn’t a name I know, but she does fine here, thought she’s nothing overly special. Someone who is special, though, is Robert D’Zar, with his imposing physique that totally makes the character of Matt Cordell the memorable killer that he is. Though he has little dialogue, D’Zar really steals the scenes he’s in.

There are some great death scenes in the film, and also a solid use of flashbacks. For the kills, perhaps the breakout sequence, along with the St. Patrick’s Day scenes, are my favorite, but most of the deaths here, even the strangulations, are solid. I did enjoy the flashbacks, giving us more meat to the story, and certainly never boring (which is something that could really be said for most of Maniac Cop, as it consistently keeps up a good pace). Also, while it was somewhat quick, I enjoyed the conclusion also.

As the movie stands, Maniac Cop isn’t amazing, like I said. It’s certainly a lot of fun, and I love how Cordell’s character has a consistent aura of mystery around him (such as obscuring his face until the finale), but it’s not a film I’d rate nearly as high as some other 80’s classics. This all said, Maniac Cop is a good viewing, and a solid rewatch, certainly one that I’d recommend to anyone interested.

8/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it and having fun.

The Blob (1988)

Directed by Chuck Russell [Other horror films: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Bless the Child (2000)]

Often considered one of the better remakes of the 1980’s, I’d only seen The Blob once before, edited on Chiller, prior to seeing it again. It certainly holds up better than what I remember, and all-in-all, it’s an enjoyable film.

There’s a little unpacking I have to do first, though. The original Blob, from 1958, is one of my favorite horror films. It’s a movie I grew up on, and I’ve watched my VHS copy so many times, I’m surprised the tape’s not frayed. When I first saw the remake, edited as it was, I went in with the idea nothing could match up to the original, given how much I loved it, and with that frame of mind going in, it didn’t. I didn’t hate the film when I first saw it, but I didn’t think it was particularly good, either.

I now see that The Blob is a good movie, though the 1958 version is still my go-to.

The effects in the film are probably the best of the 1980’s, and there’s a lot of gruesome body melting here, all of which is appreciated. I preferred the simpler look of the Blob from the original, but this is still okay. The multitude of deaths in the film, many of which are rather violent, certainly make the film even more memorable. Also, the conclusion as a whole, though somewhat expected, was still a lot of fun.

Shawnee Smith (best known, perhaps, as her role of Amanda from the Saw films) does solidly here as a kick-ass cheerleader. Kevin Dillon (who is a guy I’ve never heard of before) also did great job in his anti-authority teen role. Perhaps most disappointing here is Jeffrey DeMunn, who is an actor I really like, having appeared in Storm of the Century, The Green Mile, and The Mist. He’s great here, make no mistake, but I feel they could have done a lot more with him than they did. Lastly, both Joe Seneca (who played an utterly detestable character) and Art LaFleur stood out positively also.

Overall, I think The Blob is a good film, and a very enjoyable piece of 80’s horror. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original, but it’s an enjoyable film all the same, and though I don’t agree, I can certainly see why many prefer it to the original 50’s classic.

8/10

This was covered on a Fight Evil podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)

Hard Rock

Directed by Dominick Brascia [Other horror films: Evil Laugh (1986)]

I don’t really know how else to describe this movie but ‘fun.’ It’s not overly cheesy, nor is it particularly gory, but I had a blast watching this flick, which is part-werewolf, part-something else.

A lot of the music in the film is sort of generic hard rock, but whatever, it worked and kept me engaged. The characters, while nothing special, all brought a little something to the film (be it nudity, in the case of Annie Mikan, or just a fun personality, such as Tom Shell). There’s also a lot of fun to be had with just the opening scene (that grandfather had me breaking out laughing twice in the first two minutes), and a dream sequence later in the film was just so bizarre, it’d be hard not to laugh.

Much of the cast was fun too, even if they weren’t particularly good. Susan Grillo was cute, as was Lisa Guggenheim. Annie Mikan did really well as the bitch of the group. Couldn’t stand her, but she did her role as it was meant to be done. Troy Donahue at first is a bit generic, but toward the end, his acting was a blast to behold, in the most ridiculous way. Greg Joujon-Roche was decent as one of the leading characters.

As for the twist at the end, I have to imagine it would turn some people, maybe a lot of people, away. As for me? Threw me for a loop, and I loved it. What helped was Troy Donahue’s utterly over-the-top acting during the scene, and it made that finale something special.

Directed by the same guy who did the slasher Evil Laugh (Dominick Brascia, who really only did these two horror films before moving onto other pastures), a film I recall rather liking quite a bit, Hard Rock Nightmare might not quite end up being what you’re expecting. I had a lot of fun with it, but then again, my taste in movies is somewhat eclectic. I just know that I enjoyed the hell out of this despite the lack of gore. Solid, if a bit low-budget, film, and one I’d definitely watch again in the future.

8.5/10

Demon Warrior (1988)

Demon Warrior

Directed by Frank Patterson [Other horror films: N/A]

This will be a bit shorter than other reviews I’ve written, because I can’t think of that much to say about this somewhat obscure flick.

Filmed in Texas, this late 80’s movie is pretty cheesy, with a demon in the guise of a Native American going around killing a group of friends who came out to some cursed land for hunting. The kills themselves are moderately fun, if a bit astylistic, such as some individuals getting shot with arrows, an okay scalping, and a pretty decent car crash (especially for a movie of this low-budget nature).

The problem is that there’s far more drama among the group of friends than there is action, or even anything mildly interesting. I was somewhat taken in some of the friend’s ongoing problems, but at the same time, boy, was it a grind to get through. There was a bit of nudity at the beginning, which was welcomed, but for much of the film, it’s just not that engaging.

Actors and actresses throughout did about as well as you might expect. There weren’t any truly awful performances, at least, but the main characters, played by Wiley M. Pickett and Leslie Mullin, weren’t dripping with amazing ability either. John Garrett’s character had some funny lines now and again, but nothing to praise that much.

I’ve wanted to see this one for some time now, and I’m not exactly surprised by the fact it’s not great. Late 80’s horror can be quite a bit hit-or-miss. Still, Demon Warrior may not be a bad watch if you’re a fan of 80’s cheese (and that ending was a good example of how much cheese this movie has). I caught a VHS rip of the film, which allowed a very retro feeling to it. I sort of doubt this hit DVD, so it’s one you might want to look out for. That said, I wouldn’t expect a classic if you do give it a shot.

6/10

Nightmare Sisters (1988)

Nightmare Sisters

Directed by David DeCoteau [Other horror films: Dreamaniac (1986), Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), Murder Weapon (1989), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Blonde Heaven (1995), Skeletons (1997), Shrieker (1998), Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), Talisman (1998), Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), The Killey Eye (1999), Witchouse (1999), Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999), Totem (1999), Retro Puppet Master (1999), Voodoo Academy (2000), Prison of the Dead (2000), The Brotherhood (2001), Final Stab (2001), The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (2001), The Frightening (2002), Wolves of Wall Street (2002), The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003), Leeches! (2003), Speed Demon (2003), Ring of Darkness (2004), Tomb of Terror (2004, segment ‘Evil Never Dies’), The Sisterhood (2004), Possessed (2005), The Brotherhood IV: The Complex (2005), Killer Bash (2005), Witches of the Caribbean (2005), Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn! (2005), Beastly Boyz (2006), Grizzly Rage (2007), The Raven (2007), House of Usher (2008), The Brotherhood V: Alumni (2009), The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (2009), The Pit and the Pendulum (2009), Nightfall (2009), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), A Dream Within a Dream (2011), 1313: Wicked Stepbrother (2011), 1313: Actor Slash Model (2011), 1313: Boy Crazies (2011), 1313: Giant Killer Bees! (2011), 1313: Haunted Frat (2011), 1313: Bigfoot Island (2011), 1313: Cougar Cult (2012), Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012), 1313: Night of the Widow (2012), 1313: Frankenqueen (2012), 2: Voodoo Academy (2012), Immortal Kiss: Queen of the Night (2012), Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013), The Dead Reborn (2013), 3 Wicked Witches (2014), 666: Kreepy Kerry (2014), Devilish Charm (2014), Knock ’em Dead (2014), Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper (2014), 90210 Shark Attack (2014), 3 Scream Queens (2014), Evil Exhumed (2016), Sorority Slaughterhouse (2016), Asian Ghost Story (2016), Bloody Blacksmith (2016), Swamp Freak (2017), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 6: Zombie Lust: Night Flesh (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 5: Psycho Sideshow: Demon Freaks (2018)]

This movie is wholly too goofy for me to get into. I’m not entirely averse to silly horror movies – when I saw Terror Toons (2002) perhaps five years back, I sort of liked it. But there’s a line to how much I can take, and Nightmare Sisters went far, far past it.

There’s some appeal to the movie, to be sure. Linnea Quigley’s a big name in horror, for good reason, having appeared in such classics as Graduation Day (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), and Night of the Demons (1988), and she’s a treat to see. Some of the other actors/actresses were decent, such as Brinke Stevens (perhaps the most attractive of the three girls) and William Dristas.

But Nightmare Sisters went overboard with it’s comedic style. The beginning fortune-teller portion overstays its welcome (“Hokey smokes, that’s a lot of ashes,” I admit, did get a slight chuckle), and then it takes something like fifty minutes until we’re given something resembling suspense. The somewhat famous bubble bath scene was okay, but again, after a few minutes, it doesn’t really add anything to the movie aside from more skin, which we really didn’t need.

I first saw this October 2017 during a horror movie challenge, and I was looking forward to it. What exactly I was expecting, I’m not sure, but I was disappointed then, and with a second viewing, I’m disappointed still. It may be a piece of 80’s cheese, and I know that it has it’s fans, but it’s far too cheesy for me.

4/10

Nightmare Sisters was covered on Fight Evil’s eighth podcast, and you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk about this below.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

hellraiser-ii-e1558485223431.jpg

Directed by Tony Randel [Other horror films: Children of the Night (1991), Amityville: It’s About Time (1992), Ticks (1993), Rattled (1996)]

As much as I enjoy this sequel, there’s no denying it lacks a bit of cohesiveness. Maybe a lot.

Immediately following the first movie, the first thirty minutes or so are decently fine (though I’ve never been a big Julia fan). But after a certain point, the movie takes a moderately odd turn once Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) enter the labyrinth. It feels a lot more disjointed, and some of the things that occur, I just don’t get (for instance, why does Channard immediately become the most powerful Cenobite there? – seems a bad idea, truth be told).

Which isn’t to say that Hellbound isn’t an enjoyable movie – it is. The special effects are fantastic, as are the multiple set pieces (the labyrinth, overall, looks damn cool). Some great ideas (though not fully developed) and badass lines (“We have an eternity to know your flesh,” not to mention, “Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell”). It’s a fun, occasionally mindless, 80’s horror flick, so what’s not to love?

Elements feel, as I mentioned, underdeveloped. The whole idea that Cenobites were once humans themselves doesn’t really seem to mean much, and Channard’s power level seems off the charts, which seems a bad design for a newly-created Cenobite. What exactly Leviathan is, from my understanding, is never made clear, nor is what happens near the end (all you had to do was mess around with the puzzle more, and you destroy hell?). And then at the end, the pole popping up from the bed showing the tormented faces of Pinhead, Channard, Julia, etc, means what, exactly?

Visually-speaking, this movie is fantastic. Story-wise, it’s okay near the beginning (though not using Kirsty’s boyfriend from the first film certainly seems a noticeable weakness). Kenneth Cranham can be a little campy as his portrayal of Channard, and William Hope’s Kyle doesn’t really seem to have a point, but overall, most of the actors and actresses did fine. It’s just the lack of coherent plot that pulls it down a bit.

Common consensus, at least from my view, puts this movie around being just as good as the first one, and by-and-large, I don’t think that’s wrong. The first movie had a more streamlined plot, but I did like the almost epic feel this one had, or at least was aiming for. Despite my concerns, it’s still a solid movie. Just not as solid as the first.

7.5/10

Phantasm II (1988)

Phantasm

Directed by Don Coscarelli [Other horror films: Phantasm (1979), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), John Dies at the End (2012)]

While lacking much of the dreamy atmospheric feel that the first film possesses, Phantasm II makes up for it with both all-out action and fantastic special effects.

In many ways, this flick comes across as a buddy road trip movie, with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and Michael (James Le Gros, replacing Michael Baldwin) attempting to track down and kill The Tall Man. It’s a fun romp, and seeing Reggie with his chainsaw and Mike with his makeshift flamethrower searching through desolate buildings carries with it a lot of appeal.

Even with this film coming out nine years after the original, Reggie Bannister still does a great job with his character, and though I’d have preferred Baldwin to be recast as Mike, Le Gros doesn’t come across as too out of place. Paula Irvine does a pretty good job as Liz (Mike’s love interest), and Samantha Phillips, while lacking in screen-time, has a strong presence also. Needless to say, Angus Scrimm continues to dominate as The Tall Man, and does a fantastic job as a threatening, powerful, unknown force.

Like I said, the movie mostly lacks the dreamy, somewhat incoherent feel of the first film (though it does pop up now and again throughout the movie), and instead replaces that by-and-large with an action/road trip, which, while at times fun, doesn’t quite have the same effect. It felt more Hollywood, in short. Which isn’t to say the movie still doesn’t stand out, but the feel of the movie is certainly far removed from the first.

That said, the action sequences (chainsaw fight, for example) and special effects (Tall Man’s scenes near the end) were top-notch, and highly recommended to any fan of horror. Much like the first movie, Phantasm II also leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions, which has it’s pros and cons. The beginning and ending both seem a bit of a jumbled mess (really makes us question what the reality of the first and second movies really were), but while somewhat annoying, it has it’s charms too.

Phantasm II isn’t as good as the original movie, but it is still a very strong film, and undoubtedly more fun than the original, but probably, in the end, less memorable. Certainly worth watching still, as this series really is one that has to be seen to believe.

8.5/10

Child’s Play (1988)

Childs Play

Directed by Tom Holland [Other horror films: Fright Night (1985), Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘King of the Road’), The Langoliers (1994), Thinner (1996), Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales (2014), Rock, Paper, Scissors (2017)]

This classic flick gets many things right, and very little wrong. Despite the nature of the movie, believe me, it’s not at all as silly as you might think (or what later sequels would lead you to believe). I won’t have a lot to say on this, so bear with me.

The story is pretty fun and captivating throughout, not to mention original. Certainly didn’t really feel like other movies around the time, and still stands out to today (despite some not so great sequels, such as Bride and Seed). Both tense and well-paced, everything seems to work out fine in this department.

The acting is pretty top-notch all-around, also. Catherine Hicks does a fantastic job as a mother worried sick for, at first, the mental health of her child, and then about a doll trying to take over her son’s body. Hicks has never been a big name, but she does beautifully here. Chris Sarandon, as a police detective, does a fine job also. It actually took me until this re-watch to realize he’s also in the 1985 classic Fight Night. Big duh moment then. He was a fun character though, and certainly got his licks in.

Despite being a young kid, Alex Vincent does extremely well as Andy. The scene in which Chucky’s coming for him while in the institution is perhaps one of my favorites in the film, and Vincent shows very strong acting both there and pretty much throughout the film, all without turning into an annoyance, which I appreciated. And need I mention Brad Dourif? His voice makes Chucky the memorable mofo that he is, and really helps the movie stand out from it’s peers.

As aforementioned, there’s more than a few kills that aren’t great (keywords: window, house), but others make up for it, such as that voodoo scene. The car scene too, with Sarandon, was a fun ride (for us, not Sarandon), with Chucky trying to stab him through the seat (another scene that’s stuck with me since I was a kid).

There’s very little that Child’s Play doesn’t get right. I suppose at times Chucky could be a bit much, but really, that’s part of his nature, it seems. The movie doesn’t waste any time, and just throws us into the action, which I always appreciated. It never really lets up, either. A solid movie all-around, Child’s Play is one that, if you’ve not yet seen, you no longer have an excuse to avoid.

8.5/10

We covered this classic on Fight Evil’s third podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the movie, and you shouldn’t be surprised by how much both of us enjoy it.