Tag Archives: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Fright Club: OH-IO Horror

We haven’t been able to leave home in months, which means that home has kind of turned into its own horror show. For us, that’s Ohio, so we figured, why not celebrate?! In honor of our own home grown horror show, we dug into the best horror movies set right here in OH-IO!

5. Scream 2 (1997): Windsor College, OH

Updating his celebratory meta-analysis of genre clichés, Craven checked back in on Sydney Prescott (Neve Campell) and crew a couple years later, as the surviving members of the Woodsboro murders settled into a new semester in the little Ohio liberal arts school of Windsor College. The movie Stab, based on the horrors Sydney and posse survived (well, some didn’t survive) just two years ago is already out and screening on campus, but has it inspired copycat killers?

Craven, working again from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson, goes even more meta, using the film-within-a-film technique while simultaneously poking fun at horror sequel clichés in his own horror sequel.

And in the same way Scream subverted horror tropes while employing them to joyous results, the sequel – funny, tense, scary, smart, and fun – manages to find freshness by digging through what should be stale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG0oUO4mK4A&t=29s

4. Tragedy Girls (2017): Rosedale, OH

Heathers meets Scream in the savvy horror comedy that mines social media culture to truly entertaining effect.

Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) are looking for more followers to improve their brand, and they have been doing a lot of research to make their content more compelling. The Tragedy Girls plumb their small Ohio town’s surprising death toll with more insight than the local police seem to have. Where do they get their knowledge?

Provocative.

Hildebrand and Shipp (both X-Men; Hildebrand was the moody Negasonic in Deadpool while Shipp plays young Storm in the franchise proper) nail their characters’ natural narcissism. Is it just the expectedly shallow, self-centeredness of the teenage years, or are they sociopaths? Who can tell these days?

3. The Faculty (1998): Herrington, OH

The film exaggerates (one hopes) the social order of a typical Ohio high school to propose that it wouldn’t be so terrible if all the teachers and most of the students died violently, or at least underwent such a horrific trauma that a revision of the social order became appealing. 

Indeed, in this film, conformity equals a communicable disease. Adults aren’t to be trusted; high school is a sadistic machine grinding us into sausage; outcasts are the only true individuals and, therefore, the only people worth saving. Director Robert Rodriguez pulls the thing off with panache, all the while exploring the terrifying truth that we subject our children to a very real and reinforced helplessness every school day.

Interestingly, the infected teachers and students don’t turn into superficial, Stepford-style versions of themselves. For the most part, they indeed become better, stronger, more self-actualized (ironically enough) versions, which is interestingly creepy. It’s as if humanity – at least the version of it we find in a typical American high school – really isn’t worth saving.

2. Trick ‘r Treat (2007): Warren Valley, OH

Columbus, Ohio native Michael Dougherty outdid himself as writer/director of this anthology of interconnected Halloween shorts. Every brief tale set in sleepy Warren Valley, Ohio compels attention with sinister storytelling, the occasional wicked bit of humor and great performances, but it’s the look of the film that sets it far above the others of its ilk.

Dougherty takes the “scary” comic approach to the film—the kind you find in Creepshow and other Tales from the Crypt types—but nothing looks as macabrely gorgeous as this movie. The lighting, the color, the costumes and the way live action bleeds into the perfectly placed and articulated moments of graphic artwork—all of it creates a giddy holiday mood that benefits the film immeasurably.

Dylan Baker (returning to the uptight and evil bastard he perfected for his fearless performance in Happiness) leads a whip-smart cast that includes impressive turns from Brian Cox, Anna Pacquin, Leslie Bibb and Brett Kelly (Thurman Merman, everybody!).

And it’s all connected with that adorable menace, Sam. Perfect.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Springwood, OH

Teens in suburban Ohio share nightmares, and one by one, these teens are not waking up. Not that their disbelieving parents care. When Tina woke one night, her nightgown shredded by Freddie’s razor fingers, her super-classy mother admonished, “Tina, hon, you gotta cut your fingernails or you gotta stop that kind of dreamin’. One or the other.”

Depositing a boogieman in your dreams to create nightmares that will truly kill you was a genius concept by writer/director/Clevelander Craven because you can only stay awake for so long. It took everyone’s fear of nightmares to a more concrete level.

The film was sequeled to death, it suffers slightly from a low budget and even more from weak FX that date it, but it’s still an effective shocker. That face that stretches through the wall is cool, the stretched out arms behind Tina are still scary. The nightmare images are apt, and the hopscotch chant and the vision of Freddie himself were not only refreshingly original but wildly creepy.

Fright Club: See the Original, Not the Remake

Horror movie remakes are legion – most of them needless, many of them abominations, one or two really work out well. The Ring – that’s a great one. Let Me In – OK, we will! But today, rather than crucify the sub-par remakes, what we really want to do is to remind you of the bloody good original you may have missed, or maybe saw years back and need to check out again. Here is our list of horror movies where you should skip the remake and seek out the original.

5. Diabolique (1955 v 1996

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s twisty psychological thriller with horror-ific undertones is crafty, spooky, jumpy and wonderful. Jeremiah Chechik’s 1996 remake capitalizes on the popularity of a post-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone and the moviegoing public’s spotty memory. If a film relies on a twist ending to work, why remake that film? You have to ask whether the film still works if the ending is apparent all the while. In all honesty, with the atmosphere of brittle dread Clouzot created, the answer could well be yes – although that bathtub scene is far scarier when you don’t know it’s coming. But Chechik – whose National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation hardly suggested he had instinct for tense, potentially supernatural horror – was not up to the task. Flat. Uninspired. Spook-less. Boo.

4. The Wicker Man (1973 v 2006)

Oh my God. What the hell?! The once-promising Neil LaBute and the once-talented Nic Cage turn that saucily blasphemous ’73 gem on Summerisle into an embarrassing battle of the sexes. In the early Seventies, Robin Hardy created a film that fed on the period’s hippie versus straight hysteria, and he did it with insight, humor, and super creepy animal masks. LaBute, characteristically, turns that primary conflict into male versus female, sucking all the irreverent humor from the story as he does. And he pulls his punch with the ending – so what on earth is the purpose of this?!!!

3. The Haunting (1963 v 1999)

Well, here’s another one that just pisses us off. In ’63, Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music – yeah, that one) took Shirley Jackson’s beloved haunted house novel to the big screen. True to the source material, The Haunting relied so entirely upon your own imagination that it garnered a G rating and still scared hell out of you. In 1999, Jan de Bont abandoned nuance entirely, embraced vulgar displays of literalism and wasted a cast that was actually perfect for each role. In somebody else’s adaptation, Catherine Zeta-Jones would have made the perfect Theo and Owen Wilson a delightful Luke, but the achingly missed opportunity is Lily Taylor. There is no better option to play Jackson’s repressed heroine Nell – Taylor couldn’t be a more perfect choice – and a blind de Bont understood his talent even less well than he understood Jackson’s novel.

2. Oldboy (2003 v 2013)

No surprise here. We honestly feel a bit bruised for poor Spike Lee, who endured so much Hollywood interference with his reboot of Chan-wook Park’s near-perfect Korean original that a decent product was out of the question. And yet, this abomination was released on an unsuspecting – or worse, optimistic – movie going world. And it sucked! Just sucked outright!! Gone were all the glorious bits of subversive genius, every punch pulled, every shock diluted. Park’s dizzying action sequences – ditched. And this seriously badass cast – Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel Jackson – wasted, while Sharlto Copley embarrasses himself. Awful!

1. Martyrs (2008 v 2015)

Pascal Laugier’s diabolical masterpiece Martyrs is a merciless film. It’s also one of the most impeccably written, directed and acted films in horror history. Co-directors and brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz underperform with their 2015 remake – pulled punches, heavy handed explanations, and a general lack of spine mark their work. The questions here resemble the same conundrum of remaking Oldboy – if you lack the guts to do the film justice, why do it at all? Why choose such a bold effort if your whole goal is to water it down?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Qx2dT-lUw





Fright Club: Best Slashers

Listen to the full FRIGHT CLUB PODCAST.

Senior Aussie Correspondent Cory Metcalfe makes a return trip, because he is a slasher junky and we needed the assist. Together we walk through the five best slashers in cinematic history, but first we had a couple of arguments to settle.

There are millions of potential films in this category, so we defined the term slasher for our purposes. Well, Hope defined it and George grumbled about it. Definition: A group is stalked in a neighborhood/woods (not a single, isolated location) by a seemingly indestructible killer with a blade of some kind. So, no Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, Maniac.

On to our second argument – one of Cory’s all-time favorites (and likely a film you expect to see here) did not make the list. Again, blame Hope, though Cory was a great sport about it.

With that out of the way, it’s time: Fright Club counts down the five best slashers!

5. Bay of Blood (1971)

Here is where you might have seen Friday the 13th, but won’t. In fact, nearly every campground slasher – The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, the wonderful new Belgian horror Cub – all owe a debt, not really to Friday the 13th, but to Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve).

If you’re familiar with Bava (and you should be), it’s probably because of his more romantic, visually lovely films like Black Sunday, but in ’71 he made his bloodiest film and created nearly every gimmick we’d soon see across the slasher subgenre.

The story is basically nonsensical. There’s a murder early on that sets up a fight for an inheritance; meanwhile four nubile youths stumble into the same inheritable bayside cottage, where they have sex, skinny dip, die, etc. You will notice entire scenes lifted directly for use in Friday the 13th, but the film is also fun because, as it predates the genre, it often feels like it’s somehow veered off the path (because there was no path yet). So Bay of Blood gets the nod because it did it first.

4. Black Christmas (1974)

The other foundational work in the genre, like Bay of Blood, Black Christmas created the architecture for the slasher. Fun trivia: director Bob Clark made two Christmas-themed films in his erratic career, including the iconic A Christmas Story (You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!). Black Christmas is remembered less well.

Sure, it’s another case of mysterious phone calls leading to grisly murders; sure it’s another one-by-one pick off of sorority stereotypes; sure, there’s a damaged child backstory; naturally John Saxon co-stars. Wait, what was different? Oh, yeah, two things. Maybe three. The story veers off on a red herring chase that’s utterly ludicrous. Also, the actors – Margot Kidder, in particular – show more commitment than you’d normally see in this kind of film. Most importantly, the phone calls are actually pretty scary. There’s something unseemly about them, unsettling.

Why the girls remain in the sorority house (if only they’d had an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!), or why campus police are so baffled remains a mystery, but Clark was onto something with the phone calls, as evidenced by the number of films that ripped off this original convention.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Teens on suburban Elm St. share nightmares, and one by one, these teens are not waking up. Not that their disbelieving parents care.

Depositing a boogieman in your dreams, creating nightmares that will truly kill you, was a genius concept by writer/director Wes Craven because you can only stay awake for so long. It took everyone’s fear of nightmares to a more concrete level.

Plus, Craven had plenty of iconic kills and images up his sleeve. That face that stretches through the wall is cool, the weirdly long arms out behind Tina are still super scary. The nightmare images are apt, and the hopscotch chant and the vision of Freddie himself were not only refreshingly original but wildly creepy. All of that plus an iconic villain, brought to glorious life by Robert Englund’s darkly comical performance, and you have a real keeper.

2. Scream (1996)

A dozen years after recreating the genre with Nightmare, Wes Craven did it again. When Scream hit screens in 1996, we were still three years from the onslaught of the shakey cam, six years from the deluge of Asian remakes, and nearly ten years from the first foul waft of horror porn. In its time, Scream resurrected a basically dying genre, using clever meta-analysis and black humor.

What you have is a traditional high school slasher – someone dons a likeness of Edvard Munch’s most famous painting and plants a butcher knife in a local teen, leading to red herrings, mystery, bloodletting and whatnot. But Craven’s on the inside looking out and he wants you to know it.

What makes Scream stand apart is the way it critiques horror clichés as it employs them, subverting expectation just when we most rely on it. As the film opens, Casey (Drew Barrymore) could have survived entirely (we presume) had she only remembered that it was not, in fact, Jason Voorhees who killed all those campers in Friday the 13th; it was his mother. A twisted reverence for the intricacies of slashers is introduced in the film’s opening sequence, then glibly revisited in one form or another in nearly every scene after. It could be the wryly clever writing or the solid performances, but I think it’s the joyous fondness for a genre and its fans that keeps this one fresh.

1. Halloween (1978)

No film is more responsible for the explosion of teen slashers than John Carpenter’s babysitter butchering classic.

From the creepy opening piano notes to the disappearing body ending, this low budget surprise changed everything. Carpenter develops anxiety like nobody else, and plants it right in a wholesome Midwestern neighborhood. You don’t have to go camping or take a road trip or do anything at all – the boogeyman is right there at home.

Michael Myers – that hulking, unstoppable, blank menace – is scary. Pair that with the down-to-earth charm of lead Jamie Lee Curtis, who brought a little class and talent to the genre, and add the bellowing melodrama of horror veteran Donald Pleasance, and you’ve hit all the important notes. Just add John Carpenter’s spare score to ratchet up the anxiety. Perfect.





Fright Club: Top 5 Midnight Movies

We are beyond thrilled that 6-time Emmy winner Fritz the Nite Owl and his director/producer Mike McGraner joined us this week to talk about the five most popular films from thier live midnight movie Nite Owl Theatre. Fritz hosted a late night movie show in Columbus from ’74 to ’91 and in 2010, he and McGraner took Fritz’s particular brand of entertainment to the public and online. Here we talk about the 5 films that got the best fan reaction over their years together.

5. Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

No horror filmmaker could do more with a buck than Roger Corman. Back in 1960, he was still directing a lot of the shoestring budget flicks he produced, and the shiniest and most unexpected gem was this ode to bloodthirsty horticulture. In ’86, Frank Oz would make a campier film version of the stage musical , but the original is a spare, zany black comedy.

Clumsy, lovestruck Seymour (Jonathan Haze) just wants to impress his florist boss with the plant he’s growing at home in a coffee can. Unfortunately, that plant – Audrey, Jr. – is an unholy Venus Flytrap hybrid thirsty for human blood.

The comedy is broad and dated, relying on more than a few stereotypes for laughs, but the unique premise and memorable performances – especially Jack Nicholson’s cameo – keep it fun.

4. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Back in ’07, Columbus native and screenwriter Brian Dougherty – hot off a couple well-received superhero screenplays – made the leap to directing with this comic-book inspired collection of related horror shorts.

The visually stunning effort follows holiday revelers in a homey small town. Brian Cox, as a “get off my lawn!” style old coot, is tormented by a small trick or treater. Meanwhile, Anna Paquin’s Red Riding Hood costume carries mean symbolism and Dylan Baker plays a more indecent character here than he did in Todd Solondz’s Happiness.

Dougherty’s fluid camera work, glorious use of color and sense of darkest humor combine in what amounts to what may be the very best anthology style horror movie.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

You know the drill – teens on suburban Elm St. share nightmares, and one by one, these teens are not waking up. Not that their disbelieving parents care. When Tina woke one night, her nightgown shredded by Freddie’s razor fingers, her super-classy mother admonished, “Tina, hon, you gotta cut your fingernails or you gotta stop that kind of dreamin’. One or the other.”

Depositing a boogieman in your dreams, creating nightmares that will truly kill you, was a genius concept by writer/director Wes Craven because you can only stay awake for so long. It took everyone’s fear of nightmares to a more concrete level. Plus, it introduced the world to Johnny Depp.

The film suffers from a low budget and weak FX that date it – not to mention Heather Langenkamp’s weak performanc – but it’s still a great movie. That face that stretches through the wall is cool, the too-long out arms reaching out behind Tina are still scary. The nightmare images are apt, and the hopscotch chant and the vision of Freddie himself were not only refreshingly original but wildly creepy.

2. Alien (1979)

After a vagina-hand-sucker-beast attaches itself to your face, it gestates inside you, then tears through your innards. Then it grows exponentially, hides a second set of teeth, and bleeds acid. How much cooler could this possibly be?

Director Ridley Scott handled the film perfectly, emphasizing the tin can quality of the futuristic vessel. These people are simply not safe – they probably were in danger before bringing the afflicted John Hurt back on board. It’s dark in there, decaying and nasty – just like some moldy old mansion. The trick here is that these people- unlike the inhabitants of a haunted house – truly cannot go anywhere. Where would they go? They’re in space.

Much ado has been made, rightfully so, of the John Hurt Chest Explosion (I loved their early albums, before they went commercial). But Scott’s lingering camera leaves unsettling impressions in far simpler ways, starting with the shot of all those eggs.

1. The Shining (1980)

What more can we possibly say about this movie?

The hypnotic, innocent sound of Danny Torrance’s Big Wheel against the weirdly phallic patterns of the hotel carpet tells so much – about the size of the place, about the monotony of the existence, about hidden perversity. The sound is so lulling that its abrupt ceasing becomes a signal of spookiness afoot.

Jack Nicholson outdoes himself. His early, veiled contempt blossoms into pure homicidal mania, and there’s something so wonderful about watching Nicholson slowly lose his mind. Between writer’s block, isolation, ghosts, alcohol withdrawal, midlife crisis, and “a momentary loss of muscular coordination,” the playfully sadistic creature lurking inside this husband and father emerges.

What image stays with you most? The two creepy little girls? The blood pouring out of the elevator? The impressive afro in the velvet painting above Scatman Crothers’s bed? That freaky guy in the bear suit? Whatever the answer, thanks be to Kubrick’s deviant yet tidy imagination.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7Ju035-8U

Hear the full conversation with Fritz on our Fright Club podcast.

Check out Fritz’s schedule, grab some episodes and merch at fritzlives.com You can also like him on FB @ Fritz the Nite Owl and on Twitter @niteowltheatre.

Nite Owl Theatre shows the 4th Saturday of every month at Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43201.