Category Archives: 30Hz Cinema

The 30Hz movie-related ramblings

31 Days of Horror: A Nightmare on Elm Street

nightmare on elm street

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Overdue rewatch / Unseen sequel / Unseen sequel

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1980’s
Franchise



 

#22. A Nightmare on Elm Street

 

nightmare on elm street poster

 

 

Two 31 Days of Horror a go (so, like, 2014), I caught the second half of A Nightmare on Elm Street on a cable movie network in HD. The image blew me away. Let me qualify that last statement. I hadn’t seen the film since I first watched it in a friend’s basement when his parents thought we were playing video games. In other words, like how many teenagers smoke pot. We watched a VHS tape on one of those 13″ TV/VCR combo jobbers. My baseline for this film: tiny and square.

This year, I decided to put this movie to bed, so to speak. I’d never properly seen A Nightmare on Elm Street or any of its sequels except, oddly enough, for New Nightmare, which came out on video at roughly the same time I first started watching Italian horror. Very loose causal connections at play.

 

With proper viewing conditions, A Nightmare on Elm Street remains an effective horror experience, despite the ways in which the formula has been ripped off and regurgitated throughout the 30+ years since its original release. I won’t suggest that Nightmare provides an experience in pure terror. The story undermines its own ability to terrorize by playing fast and loose with dream logic and Freddy’s ability to reach beyond his dreamscape. By doing so, the Elm Street flicks fostered Freddy as a monstrous personality, rather than a slasher figure as innately terrifying as Leatherface or Michael Myers. If Michael Myers is a Tom Brokaw, Freddy Kreuger is a Ryan Seacrest.

(I’m honestly not sure about that above analogy, but I think it works so I’m moving forward.)

a_nightmare_on_elm_street-_sd1

 

Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978) had set the table years prior with straight-up psycho slashers. A Nightmare on Elm Street landed at theaters rather late in the 1980’s teenage pop-culture slasher cycle to be just another slasher film.  Wes Craven understood that his monster needed more personality, that Freddy Kreuger needed to be something a little off center and a little self-aware. A Nightmare on Elm Street never properly breaks the 4th wall (Craven saves up all his proper nudging and winking for the Scream series) but Craven certainly tests the waters with Freddy.

In addition to Kreuger’s slice of self-awareness, Craven further inserts a twist in the Kreuger mythos. Freddy Kreuger assumed the role of “boogie man” because the community parents had tracked down the serial child murderer and burned him alive. Everyone on Elm Street became complicit in the murder and mayhem. When the film plays the “parents just don’t understand” card to cater to its teenage audience, this makes sense because the parents have already been established as a source of negative energy.

The primary conflict isn’t actually “Teenagers vs. Freddy Kreuger,” but rather “Teenagers vs. Parents.” Freddy Kreuger serves as the physical manifestation of teenage angst and anxiety. The burden of escalating sexuality, pending assignation of adulthood and the teenagers’ inability to confront their parents with mature conversations about their fears. The teenagers lack the maturity to palatably present these concerns, and parents, well, lack the maturity to address their teenagers as near-adult human beings rather than children.

The communication divide is Freddy Kreuger.

Now, let’s move on to those sequels.

 

 

a nightmare on elm street

 

 

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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a nightmare on elm streetAvailability: The A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection is available everywhere, including your dreams. Or not. This is Freddy Kreuger. He can do what he m’f’ing wants.

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2

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31 Days of Horror: Tremors / Tremors 2

tremors 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Long overdue rewatch on Blu-ray / Unseen sequels

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1990’s
Crazy Animal Movie
Franchise


 

#20. Tremors (1990)

 

tremors poster

 

I hold Tremors up as the pinnacle of modern creature features. After watching Komodo last weekI felt compelled to conclude the “Crazy Animal Movie” requirement of the Hooptober Challenge with this old favorite. I’ve owned the Tremors Attack Pack Blu-ray release for a few years now and I’ve failed, despite my intentions, to watch Tremors each of the past two Halloweens. I’d had it up to here with lackluster animal movies. Killerfish, Day of the Animals, Komodo — all of these films have only reinforced my aggravation over lazy savage animal movies.

I couldn’t decide if fictional animals counted towards the requirement, but I decided I didn’t care either. These were animals. They were crazy. Bring on the big ass worms.

 

31 days of horror tremors

 

Tremors works because it embraces the historical absurdity of the animal attack genre. Giant Leeches. Slugs. Killer shrews. You name the creature, it’s attacked people on cinema. With an eye on a retro-brand of filmmaking and a nod toward self-awareness, director Ron Underwood downplays terror in favor of spectacle and humor. In the place of exposition or a brief origin story, Tremors substitutes ecological wonder. Characters marvel at the existence of the Graboids, their physiological adaptations that have allowed them to exist undetected in the earth for millions of years.

They might want to eat you, but by god that’s an impressive specimen! Check out those independently operated tongue snakes! And spikes that allow them to push themselves through the dirt!

Impressive creature effects only carry a film so far. The tone of the film must reflect the creatures themselves. First, the creatures cannot be the joke. While the face-value of Tremors suggests otherwise, (giant carnivorous worms!) the Graboids never become the punchline. The high-concept narrative allows the tremendous, entertaining collection of character actors to act and react to a preposterous scenario. An isolated Nevada town under siege by subterranean monsters. A pair of mostly capable handymen, a geologist and a right-wing gun nut hold the fort.

 

tremors 31 days of horror

 

Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire and Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) buy in completely. (Though, Kevin Bacon has confessed that at the time he felt the film represented a career low.) With the worms presented as the Abbott to the humans’ Costello, the creatures can afford to just be monstrous. The rest of the humor comes naturally.

I might be blinded by irrational love for Tremors because it’s really not actually quite that good… but I’d be lying if I gave it anything short of five Hertzies.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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So what would happen to this balance when the sequel loses its director and goes direct-to-video six years later?

 

#21. Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)

 

tremors 2

 

The film carries on.

The budget has been noticeably downgraded. The worms lose their independently operating snake-tongues and most of the special effects involve fountains of exploded worm goo. The actors outside Ward and Gross barely passed the “acting their way out of a paper bag” test. Chris Gartin replaces Kevin Bacon with a less mature version of Bacon’s already immature character and he’s only mostly annoying. Gartin comes around by the end of the movie but still reminds me of a low-rent Justin Bartha. Michael Gross inflates the NRA survivalist persona, filling up some of the personality vacancy.

 

tremors 2 31 days of horror

 

Fans of the original will find enjoy #2. Aftershocks finds new creative ways to attack with worms. Recommended. Even the wife got into this one. Extra half star because reasons.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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Tremors blu-rayAvailability: All four Tremors flicks can be had on the cheap. No excuse.

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo

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31 Days of Horror: Komodo (1999)

komodo 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unseen DVD

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1990’s
Crazy Animal Movie


 

#19. Komodo (1999)

Komodo poster

 

 

I’m entertained by the subtle ways I change the format of these posts. Each and every change I’ve made over the course of 19 posts wouldn’t even be noticed by the average reader. Hell, forget the average reader. If some person existed that made a sick point to read every one of these 31 Days of Horror posts, even they wouldn’t notice the differences. Give up? I centered the film title and poster. Swell, huh? (Help me. I’m losing my mind.)

But about Komodo.

Komodo belongs to the animal attack subsection of the horror genre. More specifically, the sub-sub-genre of animal attack movies where the attacking animal manifests as something innately toothless. The creature itself doesn’t have to be toothless, though that certainly solidifies its sub-sub-genre status. See: Slugs, Swarm, Night of the Lepus. You get the picture. Komodo falls into this category despite having a potentially monstrous killer creature.

 

komodo 1999

 

Komodo dragons rule the isolated ecosystems in which they live — the tippy top of the food chain. They’re believed to be ancient lizards, dating back almost 4million years. The only species of these giants left on the planet. It was once believed that the komodo caused sepsis in its prey due to saliva highly concentrated with bacteria; however, recent studies from 2013 have shown that the bacteria resembles the saliva of just about any obligate carnivore. Myth in this instance proves more potent than fact. Even though the movie takes advantage of this sepsis/paralysis myth, it fails to render this trait — something that could have been used to foster some legitimate terror — as anything more than a footnote.

The film arrived in 1999 as part of the straight-to-video glut of creature features that took advantage of newly inexpensive CGI effects. Considering the film’s budget, the komodo effects — a mix of practical puppetry for close ups and CGI — become the movie’s one legitimate strength. Director Michael Lantieri (Jurassic Park‘s creature creator) has a good sense to withhold a full appearance of the dragons to maximize later utility. Though here’s the rub. Despite the komodo’s size and supposed paralytic saliva, they’re really not an inherently frightening animal. In order to turn them monstrous, Komodo‘s komodos become killing machines as a result of experimental hormone therapy.

The PG-13 rating prevents much bloodletting and discourages brutality that could have better established these hormone-laden killing machines. Even without knowing Lantieri’s connection to Jurassic Park, viewers will note a number of regurgitated setpieces and scenarios refashioned on a smaller Komodo/direct-to-video scale.

 

komodo 1999

 

Final Thoughts:

Is there a reason to watch Komodo? No. Not really. Creature feature aficionados usually skew towards the more kitschy variety of films produced in the 1950’s and 60’s. Late 1990’s CGI with an $11million budget doesn’t generally wind their clock. With this kind of sub-sub-genre toothless creature attack DNA, Komodo needed to be less competent to be truly notable.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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Komodo dvdAvailability: Get your Komodo fix. 

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko

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31 Days of Horror: The Unknown

the unknown 1927 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Didn’t-think-I’d-seen-it-but-I’d-totally-seen-it Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1920’s
Silent


 

The Advance Word: It was on the DVR and Joan Crawford.

#17. The Unknown (1927)

the unknown 1927 lobby card

I’d planned to rewatch Jean Epstein’s La chute de la maison Usher for the “silent movie” requirement of the Hoop-Tober 3.0 Challenge but one night I was in bed, skimming the DVR for a movie to watch and I found that I’d set this to record from TCM. I often watch silent or foreign movies in bed at night because I can keep the volume down so not to disturb Mrs. 30Hz — who actually likes going to sleep at a relatively reasonable hour. The Unknown checked off a couple of CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober challenge boxes so I ran with it. I actually don’t own any unwatched silent horror films. Hurray for small victories.

Oh, hey, by the way… you’ve seen this movie before, knucklehead.

This brand of shame turned out to be something entirely different. I have a weird vault-like memory for recalling exactly when and where and with whom I first saw a movie. I assume this vault is taking up space that could have been helpful during high school trigonometry or that Java class I almost failed in college. The Unknown, true to title, escaped cataloging.

the unknown 1927 joan crawford

One should remember Lon Chaney throwing knives at 22-year-old gypsy Joan Crawford with his toes. Even once the trace memory kicked in, I kept watching. I couldn’t look away. Lon Chaney’s performance in The Unknown is haunting. ‘The Man of a Thousand Faces” created a pitiable villain of disarming obsession and enviable passion.

Chaney plays Alonzo, a double-thumbed murderer hiding among circus “freaks” by pretending he has no arms. He falls in love with the gypsy girl Estrellita. Estrellita, however, is also coveted by Malabar the Strong Man. She cowers at his musclebound touch and laments the men that always want to touch her.  Malabar’s not a bad guy; he’s just a broheim that’s clumsy with affection. Meanwhile, Alonzo waxes Estrellita’s father when he uncovers Alonzo’s true identity. Estrellita turns to Alonzo for comfort, the man without arms and without groping paws. She repeatedly talks about how amazing it would be to love a man without hands.

Alonzo tries to raise his hand. To say “ME!” ME, PLEASE!” but of course his hands are tied… our at least bound in a corset. To get that close to Estrellita, to embrace Estrellita he’d need to do away with those pesky appendages once and for all.

So he does.

the unknown lon chaney

 

Maybe that doesn’t sound especially unnerving. Maybe that sounds like a bunch of silly silent movie hyperbole… but in the hands of Tod Browning, that silly little slice of hyperbole left me unsettled all over again. I’d forgotten about the amputation. Consider the special brand of obsession that must incite someone to remove body parts. Lon Chaney lays bare every ounce of Alonzo’s emotional anguish and moral ambivalence.

The choice to amputate perfectly good arms, as it does, backfires. When Alonzo returns to the circus, he finds that Estrellita has fallen in love with the hamfisted Malabar and he’s arrived just in time to attend their wedding. Alonzo snaps and plots his final revenge.

 

triple facepalm

The Unknown serves as a direct precursor to Browning’s more famous outing: 1932’s Freaks (which also includes the love triangle between a circus freak, a beauty and a strong man). The thematic reliance upon circus and carnival acts was no happenstance. Browning himself ran away to join the circus at 16. During those early years in show business, he worked a carnival “talker,” performed in his own act billed as the “Living Corpse,” and clowned around with Ringling Brothers. Not until he met D.W. Griffith at a variety theater in New York City, did Tod Browning venture into filmmaking. (He’s an extra in Intolerance, by the way.)

While Freaks is perhaps more unsettling in its own visceral way, The Unknown proves to be the more successful film overall due to Lon Chaney’s singular performance. Contemporary reviews likened the film to “a visit to the dissection room at the hospital.” Undoubtedly, Browning’s film ventures into uncomfortable territory but our modern sensibilities should be sturdier than that of a 1927 cinema critic.

While Browning’s story maintains that same disturbing sense of macabre drama, our 2016 sensibilities will be drawn (and quartered — you’ll understand if you watch the film) to the early notions of gender politics and sexual harassment. The love triangle where the “hot” girl chooses the insensitive “jock” over the “weird” guy remains timeless social dynamism.

And with that I’ll move on to some actual Watch Pile shame. Time is running low, and these movies aren’t watching themselves.

 

the unknown 1927

Final Thoughts:

Joan Crawford at 22 doesn’t come with the crazy eyes. Who knew? (Well, technically I did… because I’d seen this before, but that’s beside the point.)

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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lon chaney collection dvdAvailability:
 The Unknown can be found on TCM’s Lon Chaney Collection DVD set. 

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals

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31 Days of Horror: Day of the Animals

31 days of horror day of the animals

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Scorpion DVD Blu-ray

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Animals Gone Wild


 

The Advance Word: The narrow sub-genre of “conservation horror” offers a narrow bandwidth of thrills. I expect animals to attack people and people to react like idiots.

day of the animalsday of the animals

#16. Day of the Animals (1977)

 

The challenges for El Cinemonster’s Hoop-Tober 3.0 included watching three “Animals Gone Wild” movies. It’s not my favorite genre, but maybe I just haven’t seen the right flicks. Unlike the laundry list of werewolf movies that disappoint me at every turn, I’ve only seen a couple of films belonging to this sub-genre of horror. The Blu-ray.com forum switchboard lit up when Scorpion announced Day of the Animals on Blu-ray. I get sucked into these vortexes of nostalgic appreciation and therefore ordered my own copy.

What am I missing, folks?

day of the animals
I’m unaware if the vultures are killing this woman or the chroma-key technology.

The basic tenent of the sub-genre —  humans are horrible creatures that can’t help but destroy nature and now nature is taking its pound of flesh — makes perfect sense. I see these films as the global warming equivalent of Godzilla (1954). Godzilla came to be in the wake of nuclear fallout. Day of the Animals came to be in the wake of conservation awareness. Who got the short end of the stick here?

City folk go camping, become the prey for mountain lions, bears, vultures, snakes, hawks, etc. Hardly any difference between this and a healthy bit of slashing… except for one main aesthetic issue. Most of Day of the Animals takes place in daylight. And it’s not scary. Okay. It’s not even, like, tense. In fact it’s sooooo not tense that it’s funny, right down to its simple shots of bloodthirsty critters staring off in the distance and absorbing all that excess UV light that’s making them violently aggressive. When Day of the Animals first showcased some vultures staring down with obvious ill intent, I just couldn’t…

Low budget horror films embrace darkness. Darkness provides cheap thrills and masks sparse sets, cheap costumes, crappy gore effects, and so on and so forth. That Day of the Animals takes place predominantly during the day means that these special effects, like matting and forced perspective have nowhere to hide.

Day of the Animals
Hey, girl.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m down with crappy movies. So down. Day of the Animals, however, presents itself straight, no chaser. In fact, at one point, it almost convinced me that its aim was higher than that of the B-/C+ student that giggles at penis jokes in math class. I blame Lalo Schifrin. I don’t get to say that very often because Lalo’s a sonic f’ing master of cinematic jams. Sample “Frances’ Theme” from the Day of the Animals:

A solid score legitimizes bad cinema. If you have someone like Lalo Schifrin scoring your film, you have expectations. The $1.2million budget also suggests expectation. And I’m forced to ask: What’s your ambition, Day of the Animals? Your animal attacks offer high comedy, not suspense. All these humans are terrible. Good riddance. We’re rooting for the animals. Is that the thrill? Animalistic role playing? Are we actually embracing our inner Furry?

The inarguable climax of the movie takes place when shirtless Leslie Nielsen wrestles a bear… with fifteen minutes left in the film. This is the reason to watch Day of the Animals. Something less than 30 seconds of cinema. I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t I need the character development? The turn of events that leads to this moment?”

No. You don’t, so don’t clutter the image with backstory.

You just need to know that a shirtless Leslie Nielsen gets charged by a bear… and he charges back… and then the combatants embrace in a battle to the death. I’m forced to consider whether modern audiences have embraced this film more so than contemporary critics due to the incongruous appearance of Leslie Nielsen as an executive/hiker/rapist/bear brawler. Certainly fans weaned on his later-career comic films would find this sort of absurdity anomalous.

day of the animals leslie nielsen

Final Thoughts:

Progressive 1977 notions of global warming and conservation aside, Day of the Animals succeeds in offering little more than ironic entertainment (that vulture attack, tho!) and the reinforcement of my own personal belief that camping really sucks.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

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LESLIE NIELSEN FIGHTING A BEAR! Rating:

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day of the animals blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict: I might keep it as a curiosity, but I feel bad depriving a Day of the Animals lover of their right to own this excellent Blu-ray release.

Availability: Scorpion’s Day of the Animals Blu-ray is Out of Print, but a DVD version remains available.

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Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter

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