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Tron (1982)


Some movies set out to make history, and fall flat on their face. Other movies set out to just make a good story, and succeed brilliantly. Yet other movies set out to push the limits of cinematic techniques of the day, and not only do they succeed, but they also make a parmanent place for themselves in the ranks of film classics. Here’s what happened when one man set out to tell a good story with movie tricks that were unheard of in the day, and would not even have been considered by a crew with a lesser imagination. Not bad for a film originally inspired by Pong.

Tron is a sci fi film written and directed by Steven Lisberger, inspired by the nearly universal fascination with video games that had developed during the early 80s. It stars Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Barnard Hughes, and David Warner, each in dual roles as human characters and avatars of the programs they have created.

In the mainframe of the software company ENCOM, a war is being fought on two fronts, each side unaware of the other except in vague concepts. In our world, a young and gifted hacker software engineer named Kevin Flynn is trying to gain access to the mainframe to find evidence that senior executive Ed Dillinger stole his code an presented it as his own, leapfrogging him into the upper tiers of the company, but Flynn finds himself blocked on every side by the Master Control Program that regulates access to the mainframe. When Dillinger tightens mainframe security in response to Flynn’s probes, Flynn convinces two ENCOM employees, Alan Bradley and Lora Baines, to get him direct access to forge a higher security clearance for Tron, a security program Bradley has created. Meanwhile, in the computer world, MCP is an oppressive overlord, trying to quash the programs’ almost religious belief in their users while at the same time absorbing all useful programs into itself to increase its own power, and trying to gain access into all parts of the network. Tron is a constant thorn in MCP’s side, and it has given the task of finding and derezzing this troublemaker to Sark, a control program who captures wayward programs and trains them for gladiatorial games in the Grid. When Flynn gains physical access to the terminal on the mainframe, however, MCP must act quickly to eliminate this new threat to its supremacy. Taking control of an experimental laser being developed for “quantum teleportation”, MCP digitizes Flynn and abducts him into the Grid. Lost in this strange world, Flynn is forced to learn the laws of the Grid, and then use his powers as a User (and a seasoned hacker) to bend these laws in order to free the denizens of the Grid from MCP’s iron-fisted rule.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as CGI specieal effects. Moviemaking technology that we take for granted today simply didn’t exist – until Tron. Pioneering this new technique – and doing it the hard way, mind you – opened the door to new ways of portraying things in the movie world that simply couldn’t exist in the real world, like a whole virtual world inside a mainframe. Of course, only a relative handful of FX shots were actually CG, due to the insane difficulty in rendering them; the rest of the techno-world was portrayed using methods that would seem stupidly simple today: monochrome film, backlit animation, and of course the actors simply imagining this virtual world on an otherwise blank soundstage. There are no shots where live actors interact with the CG items, or are even in the same frame (hooray for rotoscoped animation), but despite the extreme limitations of CG at the time, the effects hold up really well, mainly because they aren’t trying to portray anything that’s “real”, or trying to make things that the actors must touch or manipulate on camera.

The plot of Tron is decently simple, serving as a means to get human Kevin Flynn inside the digital world and give him something to do while there, but the plot doesn’t have to be complex to make a good movie. The plight of the programs, virtual though they may be, is genuine both from a human point of view and a computer security point of view. While MCP’s ever-expanding grasp calls to mind how ridiculously easy it was for Matthew Broderick’s character to hack into NORAD in WarGames, this fit the perspective of computer security of the day – systems weren’t sophisticated enough to independently react to threats, and there was still the fear of the megalomaniacal A.I. that seemed to lurk in the perpetual near future. MCP works as an antagonist in a different way than his spiritual cousin, HAL 9000, in that despite being a computerized creation his roots as a chess program give him the ability to learn and strategize, analyzing available data and devouring the resources it finds useful. HAL only turned murderous as a result of a logic bomb in his programming, but MCP seems to be deliberously malicious, possibly striving for virtual world conquest. His right-hand program Sark serves to give a face to the threat, a “real” entity that we can hate rather than a nebulous control program whose face bears a striking resemblance to the Biship of Battle in John Carpenter’s anthology Nightmares.

Tron was made when CGI was still in its infancy (and indeed helped give birth to it), but it still holds up today as an enjoyable movie. The effects don’t seem dated at all, and the story is still engaging in its simplicity. I recommend Tron to all sci fi fans.

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The Thing (1982)

03/26/2011 2 comments

When you’re stuck in an Antarctic research base over the winter, the only people you can really trust to help you if there’s trouble are your fellow researchers. But what if there’s something there that can imitate anything perfectly? If that happens, you can’t trust anyone… even yourself.

The Thing is a science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, ostensibly a remake of The Thing from Another World but actually a more faithful adaptation of the original novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., and serves at the first part of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (followed by The Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness). It stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Charles Hallahan, Donald Moffat, and some stomach-churning monster effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston.

The Year: 1982. The Location: an American Antarctic research station, manned by a small team of scientists. As the researchers are getting ready to batten down the hatches for the coming winter, they are accosted by a scientist from a nearby Norwegian station, trying frantically to kill a fleeing dog. The Norwegian is hysterical and disoriented, shooting wildly, and the Americans are forced to kill him for their own safety, and adopt the dog. When they investigate the Norwegian camp looking for an explanation, they discover the place is trashed, its personnel variously missing or dead, with evidence that the Norwegians had found something bizarre under the ice. Analyzing the uncovered remains, the research station’s medical examiner comes up blank, except that the hideous, inhuman creature possessed a complete set of humanlike internal organs. It is not long, though, before the researchers discover that the creature is not completely dead, and possesses the ability to assimilate and imitate any living creature it encounters. Remember the dog? Yeah. It soon becomes clear that with this shapeshifting alien on the loose in their station, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell who is an ally, as the harsh Antarctic winter closes in on all of them…

Paranoia fuel FTW! This tale of unknown malevolence closing in on an isolated group of individuals is further proof that John Carpenter is a genius of horror. The story is tight and nerve-wracking, building the tension as the hours of increasing uncertainly creep by, until you can’t even be sure if MacReady (through whose eyes we largely view the story) is not the Thing. The idea that close friends, family, or even colleagues might have been seamlessly replaced by this malevolent creature whose motives are impossible to guess is the ultimate in paranoia, used in movies ranging from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Terminator 2, but The Thing offers a claustrophobic twist: you are trapped there with this creature, and it is trapped here with you. Such unrelenting uncertainty leads to desperate reactions to flush out the traitor, the imposter, the Thing pretending to be your friend, until ultimately you reach a “nuke it from orbit” solution: destroy everything and hope it is destroyed too.

The creature effects in this movie are striking and well-done. Created in an age long before CGI was even plausible, the animatronics and puppetry required to bring the Thing to life were designed by Rob Bottin, celebrated master of body horror, with the dog-Thing created by Stan Winston, celebrated master of just about every other kind of monster. The effects are visceral, meaty, and cheerfully gooey, nauseating and terrifying audiences with the mishmash of barely-recognizeable shapes forming in an amorphous pile of Thing – maybe this head reminds you of a dog, or that face reminds you of one of your colleagues, while this limb might almost be a batlike wing. On the other side of the coin, three effects that really stand out are the chest-mouth, the spider-head, and the exploding blood (which is likely to make even the most jaded horror-hound dump his popcorn in a neighbor’s lap). The acting is exemplary as well, considering how many key plot points are dependent on in-universe uncertainty, and a number of scares and twists were kept hidden from the cast until the “boo” moment to allow them to react genuinely.

If you like your horror movies paranoid, your settings claustrophobic, and your aliens weird and pissed off, absolutely grab a copy of The Thing. Watch it with friends and with the lights off.

12 Monkeys (1995)


James Cole is almost sure he isn’t crazy. He might not be able to reconcile his memories and visions with his current surroundings, but he is almost sure he’s not crazy. The trouble is, if he is crazy, everything will be fine. If he’s not, 5 billion people are going to die, very soon.

12 Monkeys is a sci fi film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by the short film La jetée by Chris Marker. It stars Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Jon Seda, David Morse, and Christopher Plummer.

James Cole is a convict living in a future where humanity has been ravaged and forced underground by a deadly virus, believed to have been released by an extremist group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. In order to earn a pardon, Cole is sent on a number of missions back through time in order to gather information of the virus and the Army of the Twelve Monkeys and if possible, to gather a pure sample of the virus so a cure may be engineered. However, his explanations about the virus and the grim future it causes are dismissed as the deranged ramblings of a schizophrenic, and he is sent to a mental institution. It soon appears that other “crazy” people might also be temporally displaced individuals like Cole himself on similar missions, and Cole desperately recruits his own psychiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Railly, for help in saving a future he is starting to believe might not exist…

Ah, Terry Gilliam. One of the founding members of the Monty Python troupe, Gilliam has gone on to direct some of the trippier movies in the spec fiction genre. Like Tim Burton, Gilliam’s movies tend to have a dark fairytale vibe to them, and 12 Monkeys is no exception. Messing with the viewer through the eyes of its protagonist, this movie explores themes like insane prophet vs. harbinger from the future, and whether the viewer can fully trust the POV character’s own observations, or if, as many of the 1996 characters believe, they are just delusions. The post-virus future is disorienting and trippy itself, to the point that it is logical for Cole to start believing it is only the product of an insane mind.

Of course, the film would fall flat without the superb acting of its principal cast. Bruce Willis (who worked for free just to get the chance to work with Gilliam) switches genres again, from action to drama, in effect playing an anti-badass here. Yes, he kicks ass when pressed, but most of the time he doubts himself, doubts his perceived mission, doubts his own perceptions of reality. Madeleine Stowe as Dr. Railly acts as his grounding force, trying to link him with the present even as she finds evidence that he might not be delusional, first fearing him but then wanting to help him find some sort of closure, either in fulfilling his mission or simply finding a place to be. Blurring the line between sanity and insanity is the inclusion of Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines (whose twitchy mannerisms were induced by simply taking away his cigarettes during filming), a genuinely(?) crazy character liked to the Army of the Twelve Monkeys whose own ramblings mirror Cole’s desperate attempts to warn the people about their impending near-extinction.

If you’re looking for a movie that messes with your head, you want to see Bruce Willis playing against type, or you’re just a fan of Terry Gilliam, check out this movie. It’s a delightful little Inception-lite puzzle that will hold your interest as you watch everything come full-circle.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)


H. P. Lovecraft knew a long time ago that there was a fate worse than death. However, this was not, as many believe, insanity. In the world envisioned by Lovecraft, everyone must remain slightly deluded in order to protect themselves from the more horrifying truths of the universe, and from truly comprehending our own place in it. Therefore, in Lovecraft’s universe the only fate worse than death is stark raving sanity.

John Trent is just looking for a few answers. He is about to find them… whether he wants to or not.

In the Mouth of Madness in a horror film directed by John Carpenter and written by Michael de Luca. The third film in what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy (following The Thing and Prince of Darkness), this movie stars Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, Frances Bay, John Glover, and Bernie Casey.

Insurance investigator John Trent is very good at his job, winnowing out the truth behind would-be insurance scams. When hideously-popular horror writer Stephen King Sutter Cane comes up missing, with his latest book still pending, Trent thinks finding the reclusive author will be a snap – a publicity stunt meant to drive up demand for the expected book. These books are already wildly popular, but can cause sanity-shredding effects in readers who might not have all their marbles to start. Trent doesn’t believe the hype, but when he starts reading Cane’s books to find out what all the hoo-ha is about he starts to suffer vivid nightmares of monsters and deformed humanoids. He also finds that the cover art of Cane’s paperbacks contain strange red-lined shapes that when lined up properly, form a map of the state of New Hampshire, pointing to a town that only exists in Cane’s novels – Hobb’s End.

Sensing a possible lead, Trent goes looking for this town with Linda Styles, Cane’s editor, sent along to assist Trent. Unexpectedly, he does find Hobb’s End – populated by the fictional characters and storylines from Cane’s books. However, little does he know that his terror is only beginning, as he discovers that Hobb’s End lies far outside the comfortable reality he knows…

Throughout the 80’s, John Carpenter became known for some really kickass horror movies, and In the Mouth of Madness is no exception. Starting off as a mystery, in the style of many of Lovecraft’s short stories (and if you know Lovecraft’s stuff, you already have a fair idea how Trent’s journey will end), the story soon starts down a very dark tunnel that will have you wondering how “real” Trent’s world is, and for that matter whether Hobb’s End is more or less “real” than the “real world”. Numerous authors have since played with recursive reality in this way, like Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but this is really damn hard to pull off in visual media. I am happy to say the Carpenter nailed it, with the budget and resources of an 80’s horror movie. There is no CGI, and truthfully you don’t see many monsters (and what monsters are on screen are dimly perceived at best). However, it is still clear that Hobb’s End infects those who live and visit there, until the veil of sanity is finally clawed away from Trent’s eyes, showing him the true nature of things.

This is one of two movies I’ve seen where Sam Neill’s character goes batshit crazy, and he does “insane” well. He doesn’t overact it, not even at that moment where you realize… yup, his cheese has officially slid off his cracker. Trent and Cane are the only two characters that get any sort of fleshing out – but that’s the point. The whole premise relies on taking writing conventions and batting them all over the floor like a cat with a toy mouse. The people in Hobb’s End are simultaneously fictional and real, in ways that cheerfully stretch the fabric of this movie’s universe, until something has to give. And if that isn’t mindbending enough, several characters even discuss their own fictionality, especially when they do weird things because “that’s how he (Cane) wrote me”. Of course, by the end the fourth wall is gleefully shredded, and… well, there’s a reason why this is the third movie in the Apocalypse Trilogy.

If you like a good, trippy horror movie that messes with your perceptions of “real” and “fictional”, check this movie out. John Carpenter ably pays homage to Lovecraft’s work in ways that few directors have been able to do before or since. And remember: Reality is only what we tell each other it is.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


In 1968, Stanley Kubrick directed a little sci fi film that remains one of, if not the hardest science fiction film ever. Based largely on “The Sentinel” by Arthur C. Clarke (whose day job was in astrophysics), 2001: A Space Odyssey deals with topics such as the evolution of man, technology, artificial intelligence, and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, though a lot of theatergoers of the day generally just snuck into theaters to drop acid during the last act. Today, critics consider 2001 to be one of the greatest films ever made, even though they can’t agree on what the hell it all means.

The film is divided into four sections, each labelled with a title card. “The Dawn of Man” centers around a troupe of ape-men who, after being defeated and driven away from a prized watering hole by a rival troupe, encounter a mysterious black monolith that kick-starts their evolution, allowing them to discover tools and weapons, allowing them to drive off their recent conquerors and become hunters. This segues into “TMA-1”, set on a space station where Dr Haywood Floyd arrives for a layover on his trip to Clavius Base on the Moon. Rumors abound of “odd events” on Clavius, leading to speculation about an epidemic, but Floyd declines to answer any questions. At Clavius, Floyd heads a meeting of base personnel, stressing the importance of the secrecy surrounding the real mission: investigationg a recently discovered artifact that appeared to have been deliberately buried four million years ago – another black monolith. The visitors investigate the monolith and attempt to take a picture of it, only to discover that it doesn’t appreciate flash photography. Eighteen months later, we get to the “Jupiter Mission” segment, probably the section that most people know about. Aboard the American spaceship Discover One we meet two astronauts and scientists, Drs. Frank Poole and David Bowman, along with three other scientists in cryogenic hibernation (to be thawed out upon arrival at Jupiter), and the ship’s computer, HAL 9000. In a televised interview, HAL makes it clear that the 9000 series is foolproof, completely incapable of error. However, when HAL reports a malfunction in a device that turns out to be just fine, Bowman and Poole grow concerned, especially when HAL insists that he could not possibly in error. The two humans adjourn to a pod to discuss possible remedies if HAL has indeed slipped a disk where HAL can’t hear them, but HAL reads their lips and decides to take matters into his own hands, killing Poole when he goes out to replace the “faulty” unit. Bowman goes out to rescue him, only for HAL to terminate the life functions of the remaining three crew while he’s out, and refusing to let him back in with Poole’s body, stating that the decision to deactivate him is jeopardizing this mission. Bowman deactivates him anyway, in one of the spookiest segments in the whole movie, and only then discovers a prerecorded message informing him of the real purpose of the mission: the Moon monolith was completely inert, save for a signal being beamed at Jupiter. Yay. The fourth section, “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite”, is the stoner bait I mentioned earlier. Bowman travels into yet another monolith found in orbit around Jupiter, and after that I don’t know what the hell is going on, though everybody has a theory.

This movie will probably turn off most sci fi fans. It’s slow, with minimal dialogue, and not a whole lot is explained to the audience, particularly in the fourth segment, which is symbolic to the point of surrealism. The film and novel were written in collaboration between Kubrick and Clarke, and if you want backstory and explanation, I highly recommend checking out the novel. The third section is the strongest, plotwise, and easily stands alone as a decently tense short thriller, with the infinitely calm voice of Douglas Raines as HAL setting the standards for psychotic AIs thereafter. The rest, though, seem more like thematically related vignettes rather than parts of an overarching storyline (especially since part one starts a couple million years before the others), but it works together, art-wise, progressing to what is less a climax and more an art major’s orgasm.

The acting is subtle and understated. This movie is more about philosophy than action, about concepts than action sequences. In particular, Bowman’s outward calmness in the face of the discovery that the AI that controls the entire ship might be going berserk is easily matched in real-life astronauts (“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” anyone?). Because astronauts are badass, that’s why. Additionally, the effects are very well-done for 1968. With only one minor flub (the crew of a lunar shuttle pours coffee from a pitcher into an open mug – something that would have disastrous consequences in zero-G), the antigravity and artificial gravity effects are well-done and realistic by even modern science, and the models and sets possess an impressive level of detail (including a funny moment where an astronaut who apparently has to pee is stopped in his tracks by the novel-length instructions for using a space toilet), because Kubrick has historically been a bit of a nut about that.

In conclusion, if you want an action-packed sci-fi-film, definitely walk away. If you want a movie where everything is explained to you, look elsewhere. But if you want a beautifully detailed, subtle narrative about human evolution’s past and potential future, try out this classic, and just sit back and relax.

Cube (1997)


You wake up to the sensation of metal pressing against your cheek. You have a slight headache, and you can’t remember what happened last night.

>look

You open your eyes to find yourself in a 14-foot cube crafted of cold metal, lit with blue lighting. There is a door in the center of each face. You see a pamphlet lying on the floor nearby.

>read pamphlet

Cube is a Canadian psychological thriller movie directed by Vincenzo Natali, presenting a Kafka-esque situation: seven strangers separately find themselves trapped in a cubical device made of thousands upon thousands of identical rooms, some of which are rigged with deathtraps. It stars David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Nicole de Boer, and Nick Guadagni. Despite its minimalist plot and simple premise, Cube was a successful product of the Canadian Film Centre’s First Feature Project and achieved minor critical success upon its initial release.

I first saw this movie on the Sci Fi Channel one afternoon, and while I expected the channels usual fare of bad acting, stupid plot, and shitty special effects, Cube was actually a damn good little movie. Its cast was primarily obscure unknowns, through Stargate SG-1 fans will recognize David Hewlitt as a proto-Rodney McKay. (He gets the crap beat out of him. Twice. You’re welcome.) The plot is presented only in its broadest strokes, and while the outside is referred to, it is never shown except as fathomless darkness between the rooms and the outer shell, or as white light when the exit is found. Later installments in the film series do little to clear anything up, and instead the storyline raises more questions than it resolves. Instead, as the movie progresses and their situation starts to look hopeless, the inevitable happens: one of the prisoners snaps out. If you’ve seen any of the Saw films, you will expect this to happen. The acting is decent, given the distinct lack of details they have to work with, though I have some minor issue with Holloway’s non-profanity of “Cats! Holy, holy cats!” Not because I was offended, but because it was a damn goofy way to avoid swearing.

Now for an issue that would be minor were it not a plot point. Leaven, one of the two resident math experts, must figure out whether the room coordinate numbers are prime, indicating “safe” rooms. Some of the numbers are obvious non-primes, like two numbers ending in 5 and 2 – very simple. Also, figuring out powers of primes is apparently not as “astronomical” as Leaven claims, though probably only the bigger math nerds would have known the methods of figuring out three-digit primes or the powers thereof without a calculator on hand. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract too much from the movie.

Cube is an obscure little treasure from Canada that will probably please fans of Kafka-esque plots or sci-fi thrillers. Keep an eye out for this one in your local video store.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

When Wes Craven was growing up, a classmate of his with whom he shared a paper route frequently bullied him. His name was Fred Krueger.

Three, four, better lock your door…

Several newspaper articles printed in the L.A. Times told of a group of Cambodian refugees from the Hmong tribe who had died in their sleep.

Five, six, grab your crucifix…

In each case, the men would suffer terrifying nightmares, and then refuse to sleep for as long as possible. When they would finall succumb due to exhaustion, they would wake up screaming, and then fall dead.

Seven, eight, gonna stay up late…

It is still widely debated whether dying in a dream will kill you in real life.

Nine, ten, never sleep again…

A Nightmare on Elm Street is an American slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven and produced by Robert Shaye. It stars John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund. It was distributed by New Line Cinema.

Tina Gray (Wyss) has a nightmare of being stalked through a shadowy boiler room by a mutilated man with razor-sharp blades for fingers. As he catches up to her, she wakes screaming, only to find four slashes in her nightgown, identical to those in her dream. The next day, she learns that her friend Nancy (Langenkamp) is dreaming about the same menacing figure, but Nancy is convinced that it’s nothing more than that – a dream. Tina is uneasy sleeping alone in the house after her nightmare, so she invites Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Depp, in his first major role) to sleep over and keep her company. Tina’s boyfriend Rod (Corri) crashes the party, and they shag like horny teenagers in an 80’s horror movie. However, that night Tina’s nightmare finally catches her, and Rod is awakened to find her being attacked by something unseen in the real world. He is helpless to intervene as he watches her slashed again and again by invisible knives, dragged up the wall and across the ceiling by her spectral attacker. When she finally drops, dead, onto the bed, Rod flees, certain he will be blamed for her murder. And, you know, he is.

Nancy starts having recurring nightmares of the razor-gloved figure, and she decides to talk to Rod about what he saw in the bedroom on the night Tina was killed. While he didn’t see her attacker directly, he did notice that it was like she was being slashed with four knives at once, and he recalls that he has also been having nightmares of the razor-fingered man. After Nancy has another dream of the nightmare figure attacking Rod in his cell, Rod is found dead, hanged with his own bedsheets. The police think he committed suicide, but Nancy isn’t so sure. However, her mother is concerned that Nancy isn’t getting any sleep, and takes her to a sleep clinic. During a nightmare there, Nancy returns to reality with a souvenir: a battered fedora with the name Fred Krueger written in it. She learns that Krueger was a child murderer who avoided conviction on a technicality but was killed when a vigilante group of parents burned down his hideout with him in it. But now it appears he has returned to stalk the teenagers of Springfield through their dreams – but how can Nancy fight a nightmare?

A Nightmare on Elm Street is widely regarded as a classic slasher, with the sinister Freddy becoming one of the iconic figures of the genre. In his initial appearance here, he is genuinely sinister and threatening, rather than the master of black-humored one-liners he became later in the series. The dream world is his realm, to do with as he pleases, and if you don’t know how to fight him there (and even if you do), you’re pretty much screwed. The nightmares here are surreal and frightening, with typical being-chased-by-an-unknown-menace imagery interspered with weird shit like a sheep coming out of nowhere for the early cat scares. The special effects were well-done, considering the era and the budget, with the only obvious fake coming in the form of an obvious mannequin getting pulled through the window at the very end.

The acting was pretty good, considering what I’ve come to expect in slasher films, and to my surprise the 80s doesn’t burn quite as bad as it does in films from the second half of the decade. The performances are solid, and they don’t act quite like the brainless victims one might find in lesser imitators. And the adults, while useless, are at least logically so – they would prefer that this chapter of their lives stay behind them, and to be honest, if your teenager told you that somebody in a nightmare was trying to kill them, would you believe them? On the other hand, if they started talking about someone they had no logical reason to even know about, I might sit up and listen, but it appears that Nancy’s parents were divorced and her mom had turned to alcoholism to cope with the horrors of the past. Depp as Glen doesn’t play a huge role in the plot aside from emotional support for Nancy, but his death is pretty damn spectacular.

Nightmare is a nice look back into Wes Craven’s early work and the first incarnations of Freddy Krueger, before the executives warped him into a simple marketing tool for New Line Cinema. It pours on the paranoia fuel of a completely inescapable killer (after all, everyone has to sleep sometime) and pokes at our primal fears to tweak up in ways only a nightmare can. Slasher fans will enjoy this one.