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May 21, 2010

Horror's Cover Tunes of Our Favorite 80s Slashers

Editor's Note:  Last year, I wrote a FIRST LOOK a few days before the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake came out.  As I had seen a preview three days before its opening weekend, I had hoped to give readers a review before it hit the streets.  For whatever reason, Icons' last editor never got around to publishing it.  I put it aside, thinking I would post it as a DVD review, with added paragraphs about the extras.  I despised the movie so thoroughly, I shelved the piece, thinking it would never see the light of day.

And then ace staffer Aaron Pruner sent me his take on the new NOES.  His first paragraph echoed mine from the F13 piece.  And so I dusted off my piece and decided to make it a companion piece to his.  Read on as two of Icons of Fright's heavy hitters take on the remake craze in style (coincidentally, the same style).

--P.F.

 

A Cover Song On Remake Street
Pruner’s Take on A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

 

Freddy vs. Freddy

This past decade has been clouded with horror movie remakes.  I view remakes the same way I view cover songs.  I'm not a big fan.  Usually, they turn out to be crap and not live up to the original work.  Let's consider Scarlet Johannson's attempt at a Tom Waits cover album.  I really wanted to like that project.  I'm a huge Tom Waits fan.  When I heard the attractive actress was putting out "Anywhere I Lay My Head", I was excited.  Well long story short, the album was awful.   Sure, there are exceptions to the cover song rule.  For instance, Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" makes that song palatable to the ears again.  

I went to see A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET opening weekend with my best friend.  We were both really excited to see Freddy Kreuger back on the screen, even if it wasn't Robert Englund behind the makeup.  It seemed only fitting since my same friend introduced me to NOES back when I was 11.  If I was to see this movie with anyone, it'd have to be him.   

 


When the movie finished, I left feeling pleased.   He disagreed with me, exclaiming an overall sense of disappointment.  We stood in the parking lot of the theater for a good ten minutes comparing the original and the remake.  I found myself whole heartedly defending the remake.  Three weeks later, after sitting on my hands regarding any attempt at writing about the movie, I have to admit the movie is a disappointment.  It annoys me even to admit such a thing.  I realized I left the theater feeling the same way after seeing TRANSFORMERS. Besides robots, ‘splosions and Megan “toe-thumbs” Fox, that movie was a travesty.  I suppose nostalgia really is a powerful thing, and it’s got its hold on me.


Throughout the entire duration of NOES, I found myself doing the exact same thing I did during WATCHMEN and LITTLE CHILDREN; waiting impatiently for Jackie Earle Haley to come back on the screen.  He's a very interesting actor to watch, in my opinion.  However, taking on the role of Freddy Kreuger is much like that of taking on the role of Vito Corleone or Travis Bickle.  Those film characters are so embedded in our society's psyche, anyone else attempting to play them will suffer the wrath of comparison after comparison.  I give Haley credit that he put his own spin on the character of Freddy.  As an actor, one should bring one’s own truth to any role.  It would have been worse if he did his best Robert Englund impersonation.  That being said, Jackie Earle Haley was the best thing about the new NOES.

My main issue with this movie is Samuel Bayer's direction.  Mostly known for his work in commercials and music videos, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET looks to be his first attempt at a full length feature film.  Given that Platinum Dunes is involved, I can only imagine Michael Bay thought choosing him as a director would be a genius move.  I knew early on while watching the opening credit sequence that this movie was going to be different.  It seemed production quality outweighed the importance of dialogue and mood.  Granted, it's a tough feat to match Wes Craven in creating mood;  the opening credit sequence in the original NOES where we see Freddy's hands creating the glove is a great example of his genius.  Sadly, I saw no example of this in Bayer's remake.  Actually, there was no moment in the movie I felt scared.  Maybe it's because I knew what to expect regarding character and story. Or maybe it's because I didn't feel invested in any of the characters, though  I do have to hand it to Connie Britton's acting for making Nancy's mother way more likeable and believable than Ronee Blakley's horrid performance in the original.


Now what was up with the story choices here?  I honestly don't think it was necessary to evolve Freddy from child murderer to pedophile.  I believe if we all exercised our deductive reasoning skills, we'd come to the conclusion that he probably was both.  But taking that direction with the story, especially in a reboot of the series, I believe puts the cart before the horse.  One of the things that made Freddy Kreuger scary in the original NOES was the mystery behind who he was. Adding the nursery school/pedophile element I believe made Freddy less frightening and more of a disgusting creep.  
My other issue with the film was the makeup.  I'm not sure if it's simply the differences in facial features, but Robert Englund's face was another thing that made Freddy Kreuger scary.  It was in his eyes and smile, his goblin-like features and witch-like nose.  His face and personality was reminiscent of an updated character out of Grimm's Fairytales, a hobgoblin, if you will.  With Jackie Earle Haley, it was tough if not impossible, to even see his eyes.  As opposed to Michael Myers or Jason, it is an imperative that we as the audience see Freddy's eyes.  Eyes are the window to the soul, they say.  With Freddy, they're the window to his evil core.

With the bevy of remakes that continue to come down the assembly line, I'd have to say that NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET may blend into the ether soon enough.  Overall, I didn't hate the movie or love it.  With so many possibilities a director can take, Samuel Bayer seems to have taken the safe route that guaranteed the studio money. With a lack of risk and creativity, I'd have to give the movie a C.  Much like Scarlet Johannson's attempt to cover Tom Waits' classic songs, Samuel Bayer may have bitten off more than he can chew in taking on Wes Craven's classic.    


--Aaron Pruner


FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
Raining Blood All Over Tori Amos

A Week after Next Friday

 


When I first got into Slayer a few years ago, I was astonished when I came across a cover version of their song “Raining Blood.”  The final song from pound for pound the heaviest metal album of all time, “Raining Blood” is a seminal masterpiece, a brutal and brilliant coda to their album Reign in Blood, which is an onslaught from beginning to end.  My shock wasn’t so much over the idea that somebody would cover the song itself (there are many Slayer worshippers out there), but that Tori Amos was the one covering it.  For those uninitiated to Ms. Amos, she’s a loopy singer whose catalogue probably best qualifies as experimental.  As I listened to her version of “Raining Blood” for the first time, I knew it was wrong.  Sure, the words were the same. Some of the notes were too.  I could see that she was trying, in her own slowly gloomy way, to capture the essence of the song.  But as much as it strived to be, this was not “Raining Blood.”  And it certainly wasn’t Slayer.


No, this is not, as you can tell from the title, FIRST LOOK: Tori Amos’ Raining Blood.  But much of what I said in my opening paragraph applies to the new remake of Friday the 13th.  Michael Bay and company have taken a much beloved slasher franchise and turned it into a mind numbing waste of time that tries to hit all the notes of the original, but fails as a Friday the 13th film.


To address the film, it’s important first to address the franchise that it so desperately wants to imitate.  Admittedly, the Friday the 13th films were never that good.  The first one stole the “important calendar date” from John Carpenter (whose classy, well-made Halloween director Sean S. Cunningham never strived to equal with his sleazy, in-the-backwoods film);  it then robbed most of its kills from Mario Bava’s superior Twitch of the Death Nerve, so much so that some of those deaths carried over into Part 2.  The film and its sequels were fraught with glaring inconsistencies, actors whose talents were generally well below the Quality Equator, and characters straight out of the Generic Stereotype Generator.  But for all that, the Friday movies always had one thing going for them:  Jason Vorhees.  The idea of a super strong mongoloid running around the woods slaughtering people in creative ways terrified me as a child, when I didn’t really understand just how poorly made many of those films were.  As an adult, with a full understanding, I still love most of the Friday films, even the later ones;   though their quality dipped further down the spiral with each, Jason was a zombie, and therefore infinitely cooler in my book.


Then along came the Platinum Dunes boys.  Intent on “reimagining” every seminal 80s slasher franchise, Michael Bay and his producers, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, hired music video/Texas Chainsaw Massacre “reboot” director Marcus Nispel.   With Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the writers of Freddy vs. Jason, on board, these men set out, as they claimed, to bring the series back to its roots and give the fans of the first three or four films what they wanted.  Instead, they hit all the notes, yet the tune is nowhere near the original.  Ms. Amos, take heed.


The first thing they did was to reduce the franchise’s Ground Zero to a glorified credits sequence.  Pamela Vorhees gives the cut and dried version of her speech from Cunningham’s film, just before meeting the same fate her character suffered 29 years earlier (when the film’s opening is conveniently set, because I’m sure Bay and Co. figured fans wouldn’t have it any other way).  Flash forward to six weeks before the Present Day (I can’t even make this stuff up, folks), to a group of teens hunting down a secret stash of weed.  Not realizing, of course, that they’re committing every sin an 80s teen can ever commit in a horror film, right down to the underage boozing and premarital sex, they then commit the cardinal sin of splitting up into three factions.  Seeing his prey is ripe for the slaughter, Jason kindly arrives and does his thing.


Several problems lie herein.  First, he last few sentences of my previous paragraph should have described the entire film.  Alas, it does not;  Bay and Co. have set up not one, but two prologues.  It’s blatant they shoehorned in Pamela Vorhees so the diehards of the Friday films would not cry foul.  Even forgiving that, the larger problem is that the second prologue’s group of teens is thoroughly more likeable than the protagonists/sheep for slaughter that are to follow.  I remarked in my review of Diary of the Dead that George Romero would have done his audience a favor by following the group of black militants, instead of his video toting college students.  In the same vein, the Friday remake would have done wise to stick with this first group of teens who, though one dimensional caricatures who spout dialogue no teen ever would, represent a much more appealing group.


And therein lies the next problem.  Though the Friday films have never been known for their profoundly forged characters, this second group of teens is so cardboard thin, I swore if they turned sideways they’d disappear.  I maintain that Nispel must’ve told his cast:  “Okay, folks.  Make sure to play these kids as the most stereotypical caricatures in the history of film.”  And it seems they complied.  Straight out of the Generic Stereotype Generator are:  the girl who just wants to have sex with the other girl’s boyfriend;  the black guy who only speaks like black guys in horror movies do (and on a side note, black actors have to stop accepting these roles, which are the modern day version of the Stepin Fetchit characters that should no longer exist in our more accepting times);  the Asian stoner whose every 2nd line is a quip;  the caring girl who’s with the jerk, when she obviously shouldn’t be, because, hey, she’s caring.  And then there’s Trent, who’s in a category all his own.  Trent’s the 80s rich kid whose jaw and every word tell you that he’s slumming with this group, and that he came out of not a Friday movie, but a John Hughes movie.  I kept waiting for Ducky to pop out, looking for Molly Ringwald.  Bottom line, I have never before waited in such anticipation to watch a cast of characters die.


And here’s a scary thought.  Jared Padalecki is the most talented actor in the cast.  Ponder that for a minute.
Padalecki wanders in looking for his sister, one of the teens from the first group.  He stumbles onto this ridiculous second group, and then onto Jason.  Even if you want to discount the victims (because they’re only victims anyway, as you’d rationalize it), Jason himself represents some problems.  I commend Derek Mears for doing an admirable job as what may be the largest Jason ever put to film.  But this is not the Jason of old.  Left to his own, Jason has become a survivalist, and this is another area in which the film falters.  This Jason runs like a cheetah, and lays traps.  Instead of a retarded mongoloid, he’s embraced his inner alpha male, and has become a much more clever beast than he ever was in the previous films.  As my friend X decried after we left the theater, “Jason doesn’t run!  He stalks!”  I have to agree.  Watching this stealthy, cunning Jason just didn’t do it for me.  Nispel does him no favors;  more than once, the director sets the camera low and in front of a character, revealing Jason behind him or her, where every self-respecting horror fan knew he would be.  Worse, Nispel often focuses his lens on some high powered machinery (a wood chipper, a table saw), and then abandons the weapon without putting it to use.  In fact, much of Jason’s work here is accomplished with simple tools, such as his machete or a screwdriver.  If Bay and Co. were so intent on emulating the first four films of the franchise (and if you know the earlier films, you’ll see Nispel stole many of his shot compositions wholesale), they could have improved this movie vastly by sticking with the spirit of those creative kills.  In fact, many of the murders are shot so quickly that much of the gore is hard to see, a sure reminder of Nispel’s earlier career in music video.  Other kills suffer from the “weapon slashes, but the camera cuts away” school.  In the post-Hostel age, these murders are unacceptable.


Having altered Jason for the worse, Bay and Co. also do harm by taking away one of the Friday franchise’s greatest strengths:  the Harry Manfredini score.  Though a little hokey, his music actually heightened the tension in the earlier films, making each kill an operatic moment of savagery.  Though the credits don’t really clarify just who created the new score, it’s generic work that adds nothing to the overall film.


If you’re a Jason Vorhees fan and you’re not crying foul by the time this film reaches its logic-lacking final sequence, I’d be shocked.  Much like Tori Amos’ cover of “Raining Blood” fails not only as a song, but as a Slayer song, Platinum Dunes’ Friday the 13th is not only a poorly made movie, but a bad Friday the 13th movie.  Cunningham might not have had high aspirations, but at least he made an enjoyable Friday the 13th, warts and all.  In their attempts to do the same, Bay and Co. merely made a pastiche that pounds out the same notes, but can’t even come close to carrying the same tune.


--Phil Fasso

 

May 16, 2010

Romero and Argento: Deep in the Red Together?

Some odd news coming out of Cannes yesterday, by way of Variety.  The trade reports that George Romero is in negotiations to direct a 3-D remake of Dario Argento's DEEP RED.  Apparently, Romero is gearing up on starting shooting this fall in Toronto.

Given his relationship with Argento-- who produced Romero's biggest hit, DAWN OF THE DEAD, which he brought Romero to Italy to write-- this would normally not seem so strange.  But look at the article, and things get a little weird.  Variety claims that Dario will have no part in this remake at all.  Would Romero really cut a close friend out of the loop, and risk losing a 30 year old friendship over a film?  Variety also states that Romero would start shooting this fall;  but in a number of recent interviews, both print and video, Romero has claimed he's quick to get back to work on his next two zombie films, to fill out his new quadrilogy.  He's also said that if he can fit it in, he'd like to remake his third film, JACK'S WIFE, also known as SEASON OF THE WITCH. 

So why this news, now?  Simple.  Movie mogul Robbie Little is pre-selling the film in Cannes.  From everything I've garnered, deals are discussed all the time in Cannes, with many of them never coming to fruition, and even more being nothing more than talk.  It's totally possible that Romero himself has no idea about this.  Or that he hasn't mentioned it in the press because it's only speculation.

 It would be nice to see Romero make a film that wasn't part of his zombie universe, as it seems he's been pigeon holed into making flicks about the undead.  Whether he actually remakes DEEP RED, only time will tell.

Read the Variety article here.  And take every rumor you hear coming out of Cannes with a one-pound bag of salt.

--Phil Fasso

Audio Interview with John Amplas

ROMERO RETROSPECTIVE EXCLUSIVE:  A Conversation with John Amplas

 

What better man to interview about the films of George Romero than conflicted vampire Martin, John Amplas himself.  John starred in Romero’s MARTIN, DAWN FO THE DEAD, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW, and DAY OF THE DEAD, five of the master’s works back-to-back.  Icons of Fright editor-in-chief Phil Fasso recently caught up with John at the Saturday Nightmares convention, where John spoke about his long partnership with Romero, and what he brought to his roles in those films.  Listen to our interview below.

 

And read Phil’s Saturday Nightmares convention report here.

 

 

 

 

Listen to Film's Most Conflicted Vampire Here

John Amplas as Martin

Audio Interview with Roy Frumkes

ROMERO RETROSPECTIVE EXCLUSIVE:  A Conversation with Roy Frumkes

 

Roy Frumkes has spent more than 30 years documenting the works of George Romero.  Now our editor-in-chief Phil Fasso has documented Roy.  Phil caught up with Roy recently at the Saturday Nightmares convention, where he discussed underground favorite STREET TRASH and his ever-evolving look at Romero’s career, DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD.  Listen below to hear Roy talk on these matters and his more recent work.

 

And read Phil’s Saturday Nightmares convention report here.

 

Listen to Phil Documenting Roy Here!

Roy of the Dead

May 15, 2010

CONVENTION REPORT: Chiller Theatre April 2010

CONVENTION REPORT:
Chiller Theatre, April 16-18

Great Expectations (Yes, I Know It’s a Horror Site, Not an English Class)

While perusing the user comments on Icons of Fright yesterday, I saw that my Monster-Mania report from this past March had a new comment on it.  I like getting feedback, even when it’s negative, as long as it’s valid and makes me think.  This particular fan was actually making his second comment about how I had no right to review that con, because I have set expectations on the show.  What he neglected to understand was that those expectations are set on prior experience.  I continue to go to New Wave Seafood, for example, because the food’s been excellent there for 3 years.  I don’t like Monster-Mania because it’s a mediocre show with niche guest lists, since Monster-Mania 2, the first I attended.  For Chiller, however, I’ve always had the highest expectations.  Even when it turned a few shows back to more mainstream celebs, I found plenty of horror stars in the nooks.

And then October came.  If you’re a devotee of this site, you’ll have noticed I didn’t write a review of the last Chiller.  That’s because I was thoroughly unimpressed with it, so much so that X and I were only there for about 2 hours.  On Halloween.  If you’d have described it to me that way a few years ago, I never would have believed you.  Sure, I was splitting the weekend between the Living Dead Festival and this show, but that would only have gotten me more jazzed in the past, not less so.  Evidence of my level of excitement:  I got a sum total of 2 guests’ autographs last October.  From a show where I usually average around 10.

Looking at April’s guest list, I would certainly say I had adjusted my expectations.  Hollywood had invaded again, as Rita Moreno and Richard Chamberlain signed for the weekend (On a personal note, I have to admit that if my mom were still alive, I would have gotten Chamberlain to sign an 8x10 from SHOGUN for her;  she loved that mini-series and watched every time ABC showed it).  A few regulars of the circuit were on hand to represent horror, such as Alice Cooper and Jeffrey Combs.  And there were some new faces to the show, many of them from the works of George Romero.  None of this really got my blood pumping.  The biggest problem for me was that there were no big names from my favorite horror flicks.  Cooper was the headliner for horror fans, but he’s made his living off 40 years of music.  Where were the big time directors and actors?  Look around, and apparently they were at other conventions:  Monster-Mania was sporting Dario Argento all the way from Italy;  Saturday Nightmares had Romero at its very first show;  Texas Frightmare this month sported John Carpenter.  Chiller?  Nope.      With no big names, there was very little to get fired up about.  Every time I looked at the guest list, it left me empty.

“Empty” is also a good way to describe the show on Sunday.  X and I only went for one day, because we both had decided the show only merited that much.  Apparently, plenty of other fans also had decided that, because though there was some traffic, it wasn’t anywhere near the level I’ve seen it at past shows.  Recently, I’ve blamed the recession for low turnout at horror conventions;  with this Chiller, I think it was just because the show wasn’t that good.

In my brief time at the show, I did have some fun.  So many Romero guests had attended Saturday Nightmares, and it was nice to see Chiller complementing them.  Terry Alexander from DAY OF THE DEAD was one cool dude, and he was impressed to the point of laughter when I had him write, “You’re being punished by the creator” on the 8x10 I bought. 

David Early and David Crawford both signed a shot of them from DAWN OF THE DEAD, with some guy giving Crawford’s character the bunny ears (and Crawford, God bless him, only charged $15 for that item off his table). 

And Michael Gornick, Romero’s cinematographer for a number of films, signed a pic of the CREEPSHOW comic, and wrote “Stay Creepy,” his loving response to Romero’s standard, “Stay Scared.”  And there you have it.  Most of my business was done in 10 minutes, in one room.  One quick shot around the cavernous vendors room that always has the same sellers, and a short visit to my friend Mike Baronas, and my day was done (The Italian Invasion II focused mainly on CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST this time around.  Not my cup of tea, but clearly Baronas gives American fans the very best the Italians have to offer in 1980s horror).    Add in a BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR shot that I had Combs sign, and there’s my entire show.  Notably, as a long time Raiders fan, I passed on Ben Davidson, because I forgot he was there.  As I also forgot to get a picture with Gornick.  Clearly my head was not into the show.

 

I’ve been going to conventions for 6 years, since my very first Chiller Theatre in April ’04, the show that got me so jazzed about cons in the first place.  So to have to report that this Chiller didn’t come close to meeting the expectations that those earlier shows had set saddens me more than a little.  I take this as a sign that it’s time to take some time away from the circuit.  Shows have stopped dazzling me lately, and I’m more than a little burnt out.  I didn’t even attempt to get any interviews this time around.  As for Chiller, it’s now become a show-to-show on whether I go or not.  The guest list will determine whether I’m there in October.  I hope for my sake and the sake of a multitude of horror fans that it surpasses my expectations.

 

--Phil Fasso

GRUESOME GAMER: ALIENS vs. PREDATOR

ALIENS vs. PREDATOR Review

 

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

 

 

I’ll start this review by boldly attempting to introduce a new phrase into the video game review lexicon: “Crippling Potential”.  Making a game about Aliens, Predators, and Space Marines on a modern console is the Golden Ticket for any game developer. All the properties are established, popular, and, well, badass.

 

So why are my fingers slowly applying controlled pressure to the wing-grips of my 360 controller, wondering if my concentrated rage and disappointment can finally snap this sucker in half?

 

Aliens vs. Predator plays like a game that excels at whatever it is you aren’t currently doing. The uneven combat of the campaign modes surely must suffer because the game’s strong suit is its multiplayer (it’s not.) The impossible stealth missions feel like necessary toils for the later reward of fantastic in-your-face melee and gunplay (they aren’t, it never happens.) The levels are filled with trigger-able booby traps and elevated sniper’s nests, but enemies come all at once, horde style, so you start a level fighting for your life, then awkwardly trotting through numerous empty rooms noting, “This location would have been fun.”

Admittedly, the developers were brave to re-introduce the O.Y.D. (Oops You’re Dead) Engine™ from sidescrollers of the 80’s. Playing as a Colonial Marine, an Alien, or a Predator, you can be at full strength, shield, cloak, or chutzpah and still be killed with one random hit by the enemy.  Each level is so set in it’s goal to kill you that the game becomes more of a memorization challenge, like Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace, than a great combat game like.. well.. Aliens vs. Predator for the PC back in ‘99.

 

To answer the most important questions, no, it’s not fun playing as the Alien or as the Predator. The Alien’s controls are a complete mess, and even worse, unresponsive. This is a problem when you’re expected to move quickly, stick to walls, then strike. Instead, I often found myself sticking to the wrong surface, trying to right myself, then getting unceremoniously shot in the face. And when I chose to play an acid spitting xenomorph, I didn’t sign on for numerous boring stealth levels, ala Splinter Cell. Admittedly, I’ve never seen Sam Fisher shove his crenulated tail through an enemy’s eye socket, but the tedious waiting around still seems beneath the Aliens. Playing as a Predator means memorizing a non-intuitive button layout, and having to choose between shooting a cool laser, once, or maintaining a life-saving shield, as they both drain from the same battery. Switching into thermal vision mode is clunky and unhelpful, and cloaking seems to have little effect on enemies. They always know where you are. More to the point, I never felt like I was playing as an Alien or a Predator. I felt like I was fighting bad controls against overpowered AI.

 

Finally, let me weigh in as a horror nut. When you’re playing as a Marine, the game is constantly going for “startle scares” via loud noises and random blaring soundtrack stings. This is a game with ALIENS and PREDATORS; it’s far scarier to know you’re in a quiet room with something just out of sight, patiently waiting to disembowel you. In this game, you get 3 loud noises, an Alien attacks, then you hear spooky music with children whispering. Really? Really?! And when playing as the Alien, you get the same musical jump scares. You’re the Alien! What exactly are you supposed to be afraid of?!

I wanted this game to be great. We all did. And casting Lance Henriksen as Karl Bishop Weyland gave me hope. But it simply wasn’t enough. Part of me wishes they had just bribed Bungie to make Alien and Predator skins for the HALO engine. The end result may have lacked the necessary scary, but at least it would have been fun.
 

Good:
·        The first ten minutes of the Marine campaign fulfilled a fantasy I didn’t even know I had: fighting Aliens in a techno club while a stripper version of Cortana dances for me. Naturally, everything after that was a letdown.
·        The first time you take a human trophy as a Predator.
·        The movie-perfect sound effects of a motion detector and the Predator’s thermal vision.

Bad:
·        Alien controls were invented by a 16th century Inquisition sadist.
·        NPC Marines have exactly one line of dialogue: “Don’t relax just yet, Marines.” After the ninetieth time you hear this, the words don’t even make sense any more. They might as well be saying, “We have to fight, Marines. For our right. To parrrrrrtyyyyy.”

Nitpicky:
·        When your Marine character takes a stim to regain health, he sounds exactly like the beginning of this clip. Which is more than a little unnerving: http://speecyspicybrokeback.ytmnd.com/
·        If your game has a collection mini-game where I have to find hidden items in each level, don’t program your NPCs to yell at me for taking the time to collect them.
·        No in-game instructions for online multiplayer; you’re left to the tutelage of fellow Xbox Live players. You can guess how well that turns out.

--Jack Conway

Our New GRUESOME GAMER Section

Icons of Fright is proud to open our new Gruesome Gamers section.  Our new ace staffer Aaron Pruner brought hardcore gamer Jack Conway to our attention, and after a rigorous tryout, we've welcome him aboard to do video game reviews for the site.

Jack runs his own blog and does video features on Fearnet.  We thank Fearnet for their permission to take him on as our resident video game guy.

Jack hits the ground running with his review of the new AvP game.  If you live for horror and have a controller strapped to your hand, give his review a look!

May 09, 2010

PLEASE DON'T LET YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR

A NEIGHBOR You Don't Want

 

Please Don’t You Be My Neighbor
Last week, I was lucky enough to find a link through a news site I follow on Twitter.  The link I read said to show up Friday April 23rd at midnight to The Cinema Slaughter Horror Fest and be "treated to an upcoming, anticipated horror flick."  My brain immediately went to convincing my body it was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  That's upcoming and anticipated!  I jumped on this right quick, thinking I was onto something.  I promised Mike C and Phil Fasso a story about this event. I was amped! This was, of course, before I thought to do a little more research, which brought me to realization this was a screening for the movie NEIGHBOR, written and directed by Robert Angelo Masciantonio.  I found the trailer online and immediately kicked myself in the face for agreeing to go to this.  This movie looked exactly like the type of film I would wholeheartedly go out of my way to avoid.  
I have a pretty big bone to pick with horror films that use gore as a gimmick. This is similar to the bone I have to pick with hip hop music that uses auto tune and every recent movie that's been in 3-D.  Damn gimmicks, all of them! There are exceptions for each, of course.  If the use of gore in a horror movie is justified by the film's story, I'm all for it.  However, if your movie is relying on the gore to keep it interesting, then I'm put off and annoyed.  This mindset might very well have tainted my usually unbiased nature upon going into this movie.

But go I did.  Upon getting home from work, I attempted a nap to be rested for this midnight screening.  Yes, I am now an old man.  This movie had me up past my bedtime.  Don't look at me like that! Damn kids...

On my drive over the hill into Hollywood, I noticed a brand new Chipotle Mexican Grill in my neighborhood.  I almost decided to go spend my money there.  Have you had their burritos?  Seriously.  I'm sure this would have been a neighbor I'd have been happier spending my money on.  But, a commitment is a commitment.  
Anyway, the website for The Cinema Slaughter Horror Fest advised to get to the theater early because "it will sell out".  I got there an hour early.  AN HOUR!   So there I was, standing outside of the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theaters at 11:00 pm with ticket in hand.  It was unnaturally chilly for Los Angeles that evening, so I not so unnaturally went to enter the building.  To my dismay, I was stopped by the girl with the vampire eyes and black bob haircut and her gothy coworker in the priest collar.  They both told me they weren't letting anyone in the lobby until 11:50.  How excited I was to find out I had fifty minutes to kill, in my least favorite part of Hollywood: The Sunset Strip.  The Sunset Strip on a Friday night is where all the meathead chucklenuts and whore-ish girls with daddy issues go.  That's my take.  What, me jaded?  I had some serious egg on my face for taking the website literally.
I spent the next fifty endless minutes running my iPhone battery dead by playing Bejeweled Blitz.  When I almost fell asleep on the weird wicker seating they had outside, I even found the courage to brave the stretch Hummer limos and krunked up club goers and walk across the strip to the gas station to get some coffee.  Mmmm, coffee from a gas station.  It's like gourmet coffee, if the word gourmet meant crappy.

Getting back to the theatre, I finally received word I could enter the theater lobby.  I was getting pretty tired of overhearing the stereotypical conversations about what script someone was writing and what movie someone just acted in.  Just because it's Hollywood, doesn't mean you all need to fit the damn stereotype!  So, in the theater lobby I went.  There were two tables set up for this "Horror Fest".  One was for Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine (http://www.famousmonstersoffilmland.com/).  These guys were cool and had free promotional posters and calendar magnets to give away.  CALENDAR MAGNETS, PEOPLE!  The other table was for Girls And Corpses Magazine (http://www.girlsandcorpses.com/).  These guys freaked me out.  Hot girls and dead people.  I'll take the first and leave the second, thank you very much.
For some reason, it took a bit longer to let us in the theater, and the clock had reached the bitching hour (meaning midnight; I was annoyed).  There was a crowd of Hollywood style douchebags who seemed to get off on their mere existence.  I proceeded to blame them for everything wrong with the evening and started fantasizing about my sweet, sweet Chipotle Mexican Grill.  And just when I was about to punch random necks of random people, they let us in the theater. 

No sooner than I sat down, a neighbor moved into my row a few seats down who looked just like Lo Pan from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.  Except this guy was wearing thick bottle neck glasses and smelled sulfurous.  A few minutes later, a group of people sat down in front of me, including one girl who would not stop texting throughout the entire film, and a tweeked out girl who was dressed in what looked like a cheap female vampire Halloween costume one might get in the clearance section at Target.  Welcome to Hollywood.

It was at this point that Adam Gierasch introduced the movie.  A brief video from the director showed before the movie started.  In it, Mr. Masciantonio claimed this movie was not to be taken too seriously and one is to laugh at the gore.  Oy vey, isn't it a bit redundant to state a movie is for entertainment to the audience that came to said movie to be entertained?  I get it.  Apparently, the film's own editor vomited from viewing some of the footage of the movie.  I think if a movie needs the director to tell the audience how they should react to his piece, then something is wrong.  Regardless, I did my best to be entertained and to laugh.  Sadly, I was far from either.

Long story short, this movie is about an attractive crazy girl played by America Olivo who goes from random person to random person, torturing and killing.  We are introduced to the character of Dan, played by Christian Campbell.  The character development of him and his band mate friends was a nice change of pace from other torture porn style films I've seen.  However, the story didn't seem to flow right.  One thing leads to another, and the crazy girl whose actions seem similar to those of The BTK Killer, finds Dan and tortures him and his friends.  The most interesting aspect of this movie were the gory scenes, and I hated every one of them.  Whether it's the cutting off of the knee cap or the penis rape scene, none of this seemed justified, which is a sad statement, because I realized this gore was the glue that held this movie together.  Without it, this would have been one really boring, unstructured film.  With this glue, this was one really gory and ridiculously annoying film.  The one character they forgot to develop was the crazy girl.  I found nothing about her frightening.  Maybe it was the acting.  Maybe it was the writing.  I can list other maybes but once we reached the penis rape scene and out of the corner of my eye caught Lo Pan entertaining his own penis, I was done.  

 Repeat:  This Is Only a Really Bad Movie...Taken straight from the Synopsis section of the movie's website: "NEIGHBOR is one of those films that will have even the most jaded audiences squirming and screaming by the 30-minute mark. If you couldn’t handle the last act of Miike’s AUDITION, this isn’t the film for you. Nearly the entire second half is an astonishing, Grand Guignol series of extreme sequences that seriously push the envelope—character-driven, mind you, and nothing like the so-called ‘torture porn’ wave, this is smart, freaky stuff."
Nothing like the so-called "torture porn" wave?  Are you kidding me?  This is EXACTLY like that.  I will give the writer/director credit for some of the witty dialogue and attempt to add twists to the story.  But beyond that, I call shenanigans.
But what about the "treat" that news site referred to?  Well, the audience was to stay through the duration of NEIGHBOR   to view a clip from an upcoming and anticipated new horror film.  At 1:45 am, as the movie ended (with people clapping, to my surprise) Mr Gierasch got back on the microphone and announced he would be showing a clip to his new NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake.  Of course, he announced this to two thirds of the audience who were now leaving because it was ONE FORTY FIVE IN THE DAMN MORNING!  So, sorry dear readers, I did not stay to see the clip of this new anticipated horror film which he wrote.  In fact, it  looked like only ten people stayed.  Just how hardcore some people can be.

All in all, the movie to me was a waste of time.  I feel that the gore was definitely a gimmick to get people in the seats.  If it wasn't, they would not have pointed out in the synopsis on the film's website (http://fearyourneighbor.com/synopsis.html) how the film's editor himself puked from viewing the material in the film.  For anyone who appreciates story, plot, and character this movie is not for you.  For everyone else, have at it.  I'm just one grumpy, burrito loving man who was gullible enough to follow a Twitter tip.  
And if anyone who works at Chipotle is reading this, I'm hungry.  Send me a chicken burrito, stat!
-- Aaron Pruner

 

May 08, 2010

Gary Klar Audio Interview

DAY OF THE DEAD EXCLUSIVE:  An Interview with Gary Klar

Fans of George Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD love Pvt. Steele, the brash strong arm of Joe Pilato's Capt. Rhodes.  Gary Klar, the actor who played Steele, recently sat down with Icons of Fright's editor-in-chief Phil Fasso at the Saturday Nightmares convention to discuss his long career (and because he was sitting next to Pilato, Joe chimed in more than once).  Gary talks about his college football career, work in films such as LEGAL EAGLES and Kim Paffenroth's Gospel of the Living Dead, a look at Romero's zombie films.  And he gives us his inside look on what motivated Steele.

Listen to our interview with Gary, or BANG! YOU'RE DEAD!

 

Listen to Gary Klar's Interview Here

Nice Hat, Asshole!

Joe Pilato Audio Interview

DAY OF THE DEAD EXCLUSIVE:  An Evening with Joe Pilato

 I Said Sit Down!

Choke on 'em sucka!  Loud.  Brash.  Funny.  Witty.  Intelligent.  Inebriated.  Joe Pilato encompasses all those words and more.  DAY OF THE DEAD's very own Capt. Rhodes was kind enough to give Icons of Fright's editor-in-chief one Hell of an interview at the recent Saturday Nightmares convention.  Listen to him discuss his early work in Pittsburgh on the movie EFFECTS, as well as his relationship with George Romero on DAY, and his Youtube sensation, the "Rave from the Cave" series.

So strap yourself in and remember who's running the monkey farm!

 

Listen to Joe's Icons Rave Here!

 

Choke on 'Em!

May 07, 2010

Thom Mathews Audio Interview

This guy always has problems with the undead!  Recently, Thom Mathews was kind enough to give editor-in-chief Phil Fasso an audio interview for Icons of Fright.  Thom battled legions of the undead and a naked Linnea Quigley in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and went on to fight Jason Vorhees himself in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI:  JASON LIVES.

Listen to what Thom had to tell us and enjoy!

 

 

Listen To Thom's Interview Here!

Thom Mathews

May 03, 2010

Bruce Abbott Audio Interview

Bruce Abbott, the man who essayed Dr. Dan Cain in Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR, was kind enough to speak to Icons of Fright editor-in- chief Phil Fasso about his most famous role opposite Jeffrey Combs' Dr. Herbert West, as well as other roles from his career.  Give it a listen below.

<-Click Here To Listen To Our Bruce Abbott Interview!

 

 

 

Bruce Abbott as Dr. Dan

May 02, 2010

FIRST LOOK: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

FIRST LOOK:  A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)NOES 2010 Poster


In the Fatal Foursome of 1980s iconic slashers, Freddy Krueger was always my least favorite.  Jason Vorhees was a giant who would slice a teen with a machete as soon as look at him;  Michael Myers wore a demented William Shatner mask and was the Boogeyman personified;  Leatherface... well, he carried a chainsaw.  And he would eat you.  Lagging far behind those three heavy hitters was Freddy Krueger, a wisecracking, razor-gloved burn victim whose tagline with each subsequent sequel seemed to be, “Can I get a little yuk-yuk with my snik-snik?”  Freddy would bounce out of a TV, turn a teen into a cockroach, then make an addict’s track marks open up and speak to her, all the while making Z-grade jokes that would have gotten him thrown out of any halfway respectable comedy club.  There was nothing scary about this clown at all, especially compared to his franchise brothers.  Those guys were all massive, silent killing machines, who went about their dark slaughtering with no sense of joy at all.
 

It  was X who pointed out to me that it hadn’t always been this way.  “Go re-watch the original,” he said.  “You’ll see Freddy isn’t so much of a clown in it.  He’s actually pretty scary.”  I disagree with X about films all the time, but he’s a smart guy.  And he was dead right on this one.  Going back to the beginning with the 2-disc DVD, I found that Freddy used humor in a few spots, but in a grim sort of fashion.  And he was mean.  He was mean like he was in THE NEW NIGHTMARE, the only NOES sequel I really enjoy, specifically because Freddy is angry in it.  Going back to the original, I learned a lot about Freddy the way Wes Craven intended him to be.  Thanks, X.
 

When the Platinum Dunes people decided to pilfer their next horror franchise from the 1980s, they apparently decided to go back to the original as well.  And going back, they made a satisfactory NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, with good scares, an angry Freddy Krueger, and the broad, rich world of nightmares.  Therein lies the reason it works as a perfectly satisfactory horror movie.  And therein lies the reason it fails to be anything but a retread of the original.
 

I’ll spare you the normal plot synopsis, because if you’ve seen the original NOES, then you already know where this is going (and if you haven’t seen it, please don’t see the remake first, as you owe it to yourself to see Wes Craven’s vision prior).  Though it changes many of the minor details and character names, it follows the overall plot from start to finish.  What you really want to know is what works and what fails.  So have at it.

What works: 

  • Jackie Earle Haley.  No, he’s not Robert Englund, so get over it.  But he is an accomplished actor who’s vastly adept at portraying dark characters with an edge, as he proved in WATCHMEN.  He’s right at home in Krueger’s skin, and stands up behind the makeup, bringing a creepy quality that Englund had in the first film.  I’m not fond of his Krueger voice, though.  It’s sluggish, which was an inspired choice, given he sounds as if he’s not fully awake.  But Krueger would have been that much more frightening if it didn’t sound as if each sentence should be followed by a yawn.
  • The dream world.  Sure, much of it’s cribbed from Craven’s original, down to specific scenes that are shot-for-shot (the glove in the tub, particularly).  But if I dug down into the darkest parts of my unconscious id, I know it would look a lot like this.
  • The music.  Again, much of it is Craven’s.  But the new themes and motifs blend in nicely and don’t sound out of place.  It’s uniform and creepy.
  • The tone.  Forget all those sequels where Freddy was showing up as the meatballs on a pizza and the son of a hundred maniacs was shooting seltzer down his pants.  This is Freddy at Ground Zero:  a malevolently angry pedophile with sharp fingers and an attitude Hell bent on revenge and suffering.  The kids are in peril from the opening credits, and the movie has its audience by the throat, heading along full throttle toward the big showdown between Nancy and Freddy.

What fails:

  • The first 1/3 of the movie follows Kris, who is essentially the Tina character from Craven’s film (she even dies the same way).  For the opening 30 minutes or so, Nancy qualifies as a minor character, as the film uses Kris to set up all the exposition, when we already know she’s not the heroine.  More time spent on Nancy upfront should have been a prerequisite (as should be an explanation of why Nancy works at a diner on a lonely highway, a conceit the film drops after its opening scene).
  • Rooney Mara as Nancy.  I think she misunderstood it when director Samuel Bayer said, “Staying away from sleep is important to your character.”  She thought he said, “Play your character for the entire film as if she’s asleep.”
  • Kyle Gallner as Quentin.  This kid’s been in more than one film, but he only owns one expression:  maudlin depression.  Johnny Depp he’s not (in acting ability or in checkbook).
  • A few silly implausibilities, such as:  a character who commits a spectacularly violent suicide in public, then gets buried on holy ground after the last rites from a priest;  a character who jumps to Freddy’s defense after a dream where only Freddy’s claims of innocence would suggest he wasn’t guilty;  and the idea of micro-naps, in which the insomniac falls asleep every few seconds while on a sleepless bender.  As a Catholic, a logic thinker and a card carrying insomniac, I can attest that things just don’t work in those ways.  But these are minor contrivances, in a film that pretty much sticks to the logic of its world.

And then there’s the new NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s greatest sin.  The sin of repetition.  Many people, myself included, railed against the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake for being so far afield from the original that you may as well have not even called it FRIDAY THE 13TH.  NOES goes in exactly the other direction.  It tells the same story with basically the same characters and provides exactly the same scares.  It doesn’t go as far as Aja’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake or Van Sant’s shot-by-shot PSYCHO, but it’s on the same track.  The real shame is that the NOES remake stays comfortably at home with the abstract, general idea of nightmares, when 25 years out, it could have dealt with a whole new world of things for kids to fear.  Think of all the possibilities:  Internet stalking, the post -9/11 world at war with a crumbling economic job structure, even Meagan’s law.  All are developments that didn’t exist when Craven conjured up Freddy, and all were ripe for the picking.  Commenting on any of these would have spoken to the contemporary audience.  Instead, NOES chooses to cleave ever so closely to its predecessor, adding absolutely nothing new to the mix.  In remaking this film, the people behind it squandered the opportunity to do anything fresh, and instead produced a slight variation on the original with different actors.  Which brings up the question I gather many of us older fans will ask:  If you’re not going to do anything with the original idea, why remake this film at all?

For passing entertainment, the remake of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET works.  It’s a pretty good horror film, with some decent scares, and one very good performance of one very bad character.  But for all of us who outcry against horror remakes, this is one more shining example of just how much our beloved genre is in a rut.  The reason Wes Craven, Romero, Carpenter and the like are so loved today is because they had original visions.  If you want proof of that, go back and watch Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, where Freddy Krueger holds up not only Jason, Michael and Leatherface, but to the weight of his creator’s genius.

--Phil Fasso