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

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Part 4 is usually accepted as the moment this series started heading south in terms of quality. Well, those people are right, but the stuff which would become sort of unbearable in later movies is used well here, and the fact we’re watching yet another “whoops, we failed to kill the immortal indestructible baddie” movie is compensated for by a decent cast, and an occasionally excellent writer and director. I’m rather surprised they’ve all aged as well as they have, to be honest.

 

The one thing I’d forgotten about this one, though, is how long the cast from part 3 hang around. As aficionados of slasher cinema will know, if someone survives one of them, chances are you’ll see them getting killed in the first few minutes of the next – this is a classic of the “Halloween” sequels, for example. But Kristen (now played by the bet-she-regrets-that-name-now Tuesday Knight, as Patricia Arquette was pregnant), Kincaid and Joey make it to almost halfway, even as the editing and new characters lets us know they probably won’t be around at the end.

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Luckily, all three of the part 3 survivors are at the same high school, despite them not knowing each other before, and after an unspecified amount of time has passed (honestly, it could be a month since the end of part 3, or two years) Kristen starts having nightmares again, doing her trick of pulling Kincaid and Joey into them too. After Kincaid’s dog Jason (not the last in-joke in this movie) pees fire on Freddy’s gravesite, that’s all the encouragement our old friend needs to re-form his skeleton, pop his flesh back on, pick up his glove and hat and get back to doing what he does best. He does have an interesting wrinkle in this one, though, because there’s only three Elm Street kids left and he wants to carry on killing! I guess due to people still not knowing who the hell he is, he needs Kristen to bring in new people to her dreams, so Freddy can then go after them, and then their friends.

 

That brings in Alice (Lisa Wilcox), the sister of Kristen’s boyfriend Rick. Their Dad’s an alcoholic – although not because he had anything to do with torching Freddy, just because – and one gets the feeling their lives are sort-of dead end, even as teenagers. Anyway, the two of them team up when Kristen finally gets hers and they’re helped by a small group of friends, all of whom have a “thing”. We’ve got fitness nut Debbie (Brooke Theiss), nerd Sheila (Toy Newkirk, now much better known as a TV producer), and jock Dan (Danny Hassel), the eye candy for Alice. Oh, and Rick’s a martial artist too, which is sort of important. Although this uses the same idea as part 3, where people use their dream powers to fight Freddy, it’s spun in a new and interesting direction – after Alice is given Kristen’s “suck people into your dreams” power, she also gains personality traits and useful skills from her friends, after they die.

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The first enormous stroke of luck this movie got was hiring a young Renny Harlin to direct, pretty much fresh off the boat from Finland. This movie’s success got him “Die Hard 2” and then a decade or so of big-budget thrillers, even though a couple of big-budget flops in the late 90s (“Deep Blue Sea” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, both of which I loved) drove him from the A-list. Well, those flops and making rubbish like “Cliffhanger”, but you know what I mean. His skill is immediately apparent – the time-loop scene is a mini-masterpiece of editing, and while some of the dream sequences are a bit flat (the opening is all sound and fury, signifying nothing), I like the look of others. Plus, even if you’ve seen this movie before you can try and spot all the references to Finland and its Soviet past which Harlin slips into his movies – my wife spotted a book one of the high school kids was carrying, called “Soviet Psychiatry”.

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And the second was a future Oscar-winning screenwriter. Much like Full Moon Pictures got lucky and hired future “Dark Knight” scribe David S Goyer for their tiny-monster movies, New Line gave Brian Helgeland his first job. He wrote “LA Confidential”, “A Knight’s Tale”, and is no doubt about to win a ton more awards for writing and directing 2015’s “Legend”, the story of the Kray twins. He seems like a good guy (one of a tiny handful of people to voluntarily accept a Razzie award, to remind him of the quixotic nature of Hollywood), and given this movie has to have Freddy coming back from the “dead”, it’s done about as well as could be expected.

 

What “Dream Master” does have is a lot of touches that make you realise lots of smart people worked on it – New Line and producer Robert Shaye seemed to both listen to fans and be genuinely interested in making good movies, not just churning them out (although I’m sure they were helped by being very profitable). So there’s the time loop scene, the “Greetings From Hell” postcard, and the way Alice’s mirror is used as a metaphor for her increasing power and centrality to the movie – as she blossoms, you see more of her. When you’ve sat through entire slasher series where smartness is on the level of remembering a character’s name from one movie to the next, this stuff is important.

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I’m almost beginning to gush here, and writing about it has made me think more about it and realise just how much fun it was. Although I’ve not even talked about Freddy yet – Robert Englund is top-billed in this one and relishes every moment on screen, enjoying his work even if the quips are, if we’re being honest, pretty awful – “how’s this for a wet dream?” being the best/worst. As a further attempt to beef up Freddy’s powers and give him a reason for wanting to carry on killing kids, there’s a plot idea about using the power of dreams, and how there are gatekeepers to both the good and bad side of them. Freddy has clearly assumed the role of bad gatekeeper, although good gatekeeper appears to be vacant; and while I appreciate them trying to give the story that meat, it honestly feels a bit under-done. There was a writer’s strike at the time, meaning Helgeland was unavailable for rewrites, which might explain some of these oddities.

 

It’s a movie that succeeds despite itself. The basic structure had to be there – Freddy comes back from the dead and kills kids in their dreams – and it’s sort of “oh, this again?” if you think about it. But, two enormously talented people at the beginning of their careers chose to use this as a calling card and almost forced it into being a horror classic – it’s still miles ahead of just about every slasher movie you could name. With, essentially, two casts, some of the supporting people feel a smidge under-done, as there was no real reason to bring Kincaid and Joey back, or at the very least have them survive for the first five minutes. And they called the house “Freddy’s house”, when he never lived there. It’s Nancy’s house, dum-dums! But this is small potatoes. Oh god, part 5 is going to suck, isn’t it?

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Rating: thumbs up

 

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A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Revenge on who? Isn't the first movie his revenge?

Revenge on who? Isn’t the first movie his revenge?

Once your eyes are opened, some things come into a wonderful new focus. As a kid, I watched “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2” and thoroughly enjoyed it, a different turn from the “hey, Freddy is after some other group of kids this time” that I’d been trained to expect from slasher movie sequels. Then, after watching the excellent documentary “Never Sleep Again” about the series, which said outright “it’s about homosexuality” I was like “oh, of course!” It’s slightly embarrassing that I didn’t notice it before, how obvious it was, but you, dear reader, will not have that problem thanks to this review.

 

Star Mark Patton has had an interesting life. He was an out gay man while living in New York early in his career, but when he moved to Hollywood found it a very homophobic place – some of the stories are terrible (like certain agents posting people in gay bars to get blackmail material on up and coming stars with other agencies); and was forced to largely go back in the closet, despite playing a gay character in “Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” and…well, more on his character in this movie later. He found the homophobia so bad that he quit acting altogether, becoming an interior decorator, but since appearing in the documentary “Never Sleep Again”, has started making appearances at conventions and discovering how beloved this movie is with the LGBT community. Well, some of them, it’s sort of ridiculous to say “all” LGBT people like anything. He’s been living with being HIV+ for some time, too, but is controlling it and is healthy and well.

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Patton plays Jesse, a teenager whose family move into Nancy’s old house on Elm Street (she’s still alive but has gone insane). Five years have passed since the events of the first movie, apparently, but it’s sort of stupid to say part 1 was set in 1981 as there’s posters for stuff which happened after that on everyone’s walls. Still, nowhere near as stupid as the Friday the 13th timeline! Anyway, he develops a relationship with Lisa (Kim Myers, “Heavy Metal Summer”), who he drives to school…despite her living in a gigantic house which is presumably nowhere near Jesse’s normal suburban home. I never understood that bit.  Anyway, Jesse starts being plagued by bad dreams, featuring that burned child murderer we’ve come to know and love – Freddy must have been weakened or something by Nancy in part 1, as he needs Jesse to kill for him.

 

Jesse is an interesting character. The initial dream sequence has him looking like kind-of a sad sack, the sort of character who’s the terminal outsider; but during the movie, he takes no crap from anyone, befriends jock Grady (Robert Rusler), attracts Lisa and seems a bright, outgoing sort of chap. He does get on the wrong side of sadistic gym teacher Coach Schneider (ultimate “that guy” actor Marshall Bell), and the way Grady just off-handedly remarks about how the Coach is gay and goes to S&M bars is the first really big clue that there might be something bubbling under the surface here. But he’s basically powerless to stop Freddy, relying on Lisa to save the day with good old heterosexual love, so…er…who knows?

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Director Jack Sholder was presumably the only guy available (although he did make the fun “The Hidden”). Everything’s nice and tight here, even if there are a few bits where you wish there was a bit more explanation; but perhaps we ought to blame scriptwriter David Chaskin – who apparently worked in the New Line advertising department – for that. He absolutely packs the movie with gay subtext (my favourite line, Jesse talking about Freddy: “He’s inside me, and he wants to take me again!”) which allegedly the director was unaware of…but there’s just no way! It can’t have escaped his notice that every time Jesse gets close to Lisa, he starts hallucinating Freddy or an attack happens; or that Jesse walks through town barefoot to have a beer, and just by accident ends up in the leather bar. To his shame – and according to IMDB, so this might be apocryphal – Chaskin blamed Patton for playing the part “too gay” when the movie started attracting notice and denied putting any subtext in there, although he finally admitted to it during “Never Sleep Again”.

 

Wes Craven wanted no part of this sequel, because he didn’t want it to become a franchise (and indeed pushed for part 1 to have a happy ending), but it’s head and shoulders above any slasher sequel. It’s certainly not without its problems – first up, I don’t understand why Jesse and Lisa are friends in the first place, if he’s just moved to town; and then there’s a bit where Freddy attacks a pool party full of teenagers, while they’re all awake. Heck, no-one dies in their sleep in this movie at all! Freddy appears to be able to manipulate reality, which when you think about it makes no sense at all. Well, even less sense than the average movie of this sort.

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There’s also the ending, which I guess is just another dream in the mind of the presumably hospitalised Jesse. It seems like a happy ending, but how is that even possible? Jesse killed those people, whether or not he was having a Freddy-inspired psychotic break, and there’s no way they’d just bandage him up and let him go back to school. When you have dreams and reality butting heads in movies like these, there’s a tendency to just handwave away weird plot holes as being dreams, but I think that’s a cop-out. Ultimately, it’s just too confusing.

 

It’s a fascinating movie with a number of fairly hefty problems. Like “Carrie”, it uses the confusion teenagers feel about sex as a driving force, but with the gay themes pushes way further than “Carrie” ever did; it has lots to like (and not just because of my youthful crush on Kim Myers) but it’s all so muddled as if they established a set of rules but kept ignoring them – which I suppose, taking part 1 into account, they did.

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Rating: thumbs in the middle

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (2015)

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The great Satan that is “Sharknado” has sort of spoiled B-movies. For ages there, it was a fun little world, full of stupid monsters and movies that at least pretended to take themselves seriously, with former stars rubbing shoulders with people from sci-fi TV shows. Now, of course, everyone has to be in on the joke and the threat must be hybridised – there’s a staggering amount of “Mega X vs. Giant Y” movies either released or in the pipeline.

 

A couple of years ago, I’d have at least tried to cover them all, but there’s no point, as they sort of defy analysis. They’re not made to be good, they’re made to get people on Twitter mocking them, to provide a few cheap “look at this garbage” laughs and make a few dollars. The theory of indifference, as I christened it a while back.

 

The reason I picked this one to cover is due to its sequel status to “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”, which we reviewed a while back. Ah, “final chapter”, when are you not a lie? Apologies if I get one of the names wrong, but Black Lake is where all the bad stuff happened in that movie, and the action in this one moves to Clear Lake, a distance down the road. Returning are Yancy Butler as Reba, now the Sheriff of Clear Lake; and Robert Englund as poacher Bickerman, who keeps getting bits bitten off himself but carries on.

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Before we get cracking with the trademark ISCFC half-remembered recap of the movie, a word about Yancy Butler. She had a pretty rough time of it for a few years there around 2003-2008, in and out of drug treatment facilities, pretty heavy alcoholism, and lots of trouble with the law. While the roles have slowed down somewhat since then, it’s always fun to see her, and I hope she’s turned herself around.

 

Bickerman has taken Beach (Steven Billington) and some scientist guys to Black Lake (remember, despite being the title of the movie, there hasn’t been an actual Lake Placid in this series, ever) for reasons of evil science. Sarah Murdoch (Annabel Wright), evil CEO, is funding all this for a good old fashioned monster movie reason – eternal life! DNA from one of the super-evil crocodiles, injected into a gigantic anaconda, and from the eggs of the snake will come CROCOCONDA!!! I guess these guys will have something in their blood that Murdoch thinks will do the trick but, of course, humans are stupid and you know those creatures are getting out!

 

Much like the previous Lake Placid movie, it’s divided into three sections, I’m guessing to save money as you only need to pay one group of actors at a time. You’ve got Sheriff Reba, Fish & Wildlife guy Tull (Corin Nemec, sadly not playing his role for laughs), and their people; you’ve got Bickerman, Beach and Murdoch, doing their evil science; and the largest group with the most time devoted to them, two cars full of girls who are pledging to a sorority. Most of them are just meat for the beast, but there’s a core of excellent actors with properly set up personalities. Bethany (Skye Lourie) is Tull’s daughter – traditional for one of these sorts of movies; goth-ish Margot (Ali Eagle), who’s pledging so she’s got material for her psychology class; Tiffany (Laura Dale), the super-bitchy chief sorority sister, a magnificently monstrous performance; and Jane (Heather Gilbert), the sad-sack who gets mercilessly picked on.

Okay, this bit was great

Okay, this bit was great

Talking of actors, you may notice while watching this that there’s a heck of a lot of dubbing going on. Scrolling further down that cast list, you’ll notice that pretty much everyone who doesn’t survive has an Eastern-European name – filmed in Bulgaria, the home of low-budget US cinema since the late 90s, they must have saved money by just using anyone they could find who could speak English (so the lips roughly matched) and then dubbing them afterwards. A bit off-putting, to say the least.

 

This movie is really a lot of fun, though. You know what’s going to happen – crocodiles are going to fight giant anacondas – and they give it to you, with blood being thrown about like it’s going out of fashion. Crocodiles eat the smaller snakes, but the bigger ones just wrap themselves around the crocs, squeeze and rip. When you’ve got a croc with a nubile teenager in its mouth at the same time? Gore, and lots of it. Plus, for those of us used to the more chaste world of SyFy Channel movies, there’s a heck of a lot of nudity in this movie too – you don’t hire Eastern European extras for them to keep their clothes on, one would presume. Or SyFy were told they were allowed to have nudity in their movies now and leapt in with both feet, as it were.

 

Quick note about the special effects: they’re all terrible. If that’s your thing, avoid this like the plague. But if you’re drunk enough, you won’t mind!

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I think it’s important to keep mentioning this when it happens, on the off chance that the critical mass of voices will be reached, and movie companies will stop doing it – it’s the blatant double standards. One scene, on a speedboat, the male driver is wearing shorts, a t-shirt and a jacket, yet not only are the two women in the scene wearing tiny bikinis, one of them takes her top off pretty much just because the driver asks her to nicely. The two of them stood together is everything that’s wrong with recent B-movies, in a nutshell. I don’t accept that I’m being a prude, or that feminism is a dead cause, or any of that. No-one, absolutely no-one, watches a movie called “Lake Placid vs. Anaconda” to get turned on, and it’s sleazy middle-aged male producers, directors and distributors that insist on it. Lord knows why. I feel like society has moved on but low-budget movies seem almost to be moving backwards in some of their attitudes.

 

After the Deputy proves himself too stupid to live (yet somehow survives) and we get an ending which is just drenched in blood and guts, that’s it for another low-budget bit of monster fun. And I know I’ve just spent a chunk of this review criticising it, but that’s more the background noise that so many movies exist in these days than anything terribly specific to this one. It’s got a cast packed with dependable old hands, two low-budget royalty (Butler and Nemec), and a lot of really good new female actors who ought to go on to bigger and better things – I could absolutely see Heather Gilbert in a major network sitcom, for example. But let’s keep our fingers crossed this modern sci-fi portmanteau monster trend dies off soon so we can get back to the classics. I miss a good werewolf movie.

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Rating: thumbs up

The VRAs – Dead And Buried (1981)

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This is our ongoing series about films that were banned by the British government, using the Video Recordings Act of 1984. You have the right-wing gutter press and a few Christian pressure groups to thank for these films becoming more famous than they had any right to be (in all but a few cases), and the fact they’ve now virtually all been re-released, uncut, while the law remains in place, tells you more about moral panics than it does about the content of the films. See the VRAs “mission statement” here.

Part of the fun of these films is trying to figure out why they were banned, and without looking it up I’d honestly have no idea about this one. Is removing peoples’ will to live a reason for banning something?

The first thing to notice is this is appreciably higher-budget than any of the VRA films we’ve covered so far. A whole small town is used and the special effects, by Stan Winston, while occasionally terrible even by the standards of the time, are often excellent. There’s also a decent cast assembled, with many future TV stars and dependable character actors early in their careers. But enough of that!

A photographer has driven to the small town of Potters Bluff to take photos of the beach, apparently. After being entranced for what would pass for a beauty in small town standards, he’s tied up by a bunch of mean-looking locals, photographed repeatedly and then burned almost to death, which brings in Sheriff Dan Gillis. He’s a solid guy, but the same definitely can’t be said for the rest of the inhabitants of Potters Bluff – the woman serving him coffee was one of the people present at the burning, and a few others around him look a bit suspicious too.

The photographer is visited in the hospital by a nurse, who drives a needle through his remaining good eye and walks off, no-one thinking of stopping her even though the guy starts screaming and the Sheriff definitely sees her leaving his room seconds before. But the rest of the murders are almosty equally un-subtle – hitch-hikers, families passing through, a drunk fisherman – all are fair game for the locals, and the bulk of the film is a sort of cross between “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “The Wicker Man”, with the Sheriff gradually suspecting more and more while the town’s remaining friendly inhabitants meet grisly ends.

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This film was co-written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, who also wrote “Alien” a few years previously. O’Bannon is one of those guys who just seemed to not give a damn, and had a fascinating career – friends with John Carpenter at film school, and he wrote and co-starred in “Dark Star”; special effects work on “Star Wars”, was attached to the Alejandro Jodorowsky version of “Dune” before it fell through; wrote and directed “Return Of The Living Dead”; and wrote “Total Recall” among many other films. Sadly, it appears his contribution to this was name only, as Shusett asked him to attach his name to it to make it easier to sell, promising to make some changes from the rather crude original draft which ended up not happening.

The thing that’s surprising about this video nasty is that it’s not that nasty. With a few seconds of trims, this could easily qualify for a 15 certificate in the UK of today, and the best guess anyone has it that it’s the special effects, including some fairly unpleasant autopsy scenes and a “live” burial which were the reasons for its banning (it had already enjoyed a fairly successful cinema run in the UK).

There are moments where you want to shout at the Sheriff – hey dum-dum! In a town as small as this apparently is, why aren’t you noticing the new people suddenly doing menial jobs? but, to be fair, the ending has a decent crack at explaining all that. While not the most surprising conclusion in the world, it’s done well and provided you aren’t too squeamish about endless facial scarring, and can tolerate that peculiarly slow-paced horror which was in vogue at the time, you should enjoy “Dead & Buried”. Up to now, this is by a mile the best of the VRA films we’ve covered, and probably the only one which would be remembered now with any degree of fondness.

Rating: thumbs up

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012)

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“The Final Chapter” when it comes to film titles is almost always a lie – take Friday the 13th (which has had 7 films since its final chapter), Saw, The Omen, Puppet Master…okay, “Amateur Porn Star Killer 3: The Final Chapter” (a real film, apparently) is the exception to the rule. But you get the idea. It’s a marketing ploy, pure and simple, to get people who enjoyed the first film in a series back on board. And given I’m writing this, it worked on me.

Without having seen parts 2 or 3 (I’m okay with that life choice), it would seem that this one starts the instant that part 3 ends, with Yancy Butler (remember her from “Witchblade”?) waking up from a seemingly fatal encounter with a croc, finding it still alive and shooting it again. She’s a poacher turned gamekeeper, literally, and the events of previous films have led to the main croc lake being entirely surrounded with an electric fence. We also get British former soap star Paul Nicholls playing…you know what? I must have not been paying attention when they said what his job was. He’s not the Sheriff, he’s not the gamekeeper, maybe he’s in charge of the fence? He’s there, and he’s eye candy, and he can carry a gun, and that’s all we need to know. The Sheriff is played by Elizabeth Rohm, formerly of “Angel”, a few years of “Law and Order” and a bunch of other things, including my dreams J She’s lovely, and despite being far too glamorous-looking to be the sheriff of some rural town, performs like someone who’s not aware her career has hit the “part 4 of giant monster franchise” level.

Yancy Butler strolls round, being a wisecracking badass and doing a terrible job of it (while she can do physicality well, the quips and one-liners do not suit her at all), and the crocodiles stroll round being almost entirely silent. Not even the sound of them disturbing the undergrowth is heard as they sneak up on their prey, and they’re also apparently mostly invisible (even if you’re looking fairly close to where they are, you won’t see them until they try and carry you off). If the idea of giant lumbering creatures being almost invisible and making no sound is okay with you, you’ll do fine with this film.

There's maybe a reason his most famous role had him wearing a full mask all the time

There’s maybe a reason his most famous role had him wearing a full mask all the time

After all this delightful setup, the film then breaks down into three different parts, presumably for budget reasons (the three groups don’t meet up again until right at the end). We have the kids first – the Sheriff’s daughter, Nicholls’ son, and their schoolmates, off on a camping trip to a different lake with a different beach. I need to relate this bit as it’s so brain-buggeringly stupid – the bus driver, possibly in the film to remind us of the first one’s Oliver Platt, is a bit of a rubbish pervert, watching a woman in her underwear gyrate via his phone while driving. After almost crashing, he puts the phone away…for about a minute, then just goes back to the least erotic erotica, completely missing his turn and driving through the accidentally opened gate into the realm of the crocodiles. Now, I can just about believe he missed it. Whatever. But no-one went “hey, driver, why did we go through that gate that said NO ENTRY?” As a method to deliver the cannon fodder to the scene of their death, it’s pretty lame.

We then get the poachers, the least of the three parts. Robert Englund and his pals are hunting crocs for some reason, and are absolutely the worst shots in the world. They inevitably get attacked by a big ‘un, and while it pauses for a few seconds they all shoot at it from maybe 20 feet away. Do any of them hit? Do they heck! But this incompetence is not just limited to the humans, as we get a croc POV shot. The croc kills someone, but is seen to move past one of the hunters to get one further away. Did the first guy smell bad?

The grownups have all sorts to do – try and calm down the locals, unconvincingly flirt (Nicholls and Rohm, for two such attractive people, have zero onscreen chemistry, and Nicholls is maybe the weirdest kisser I’ve ever seen on camera) and eventually go back to the lake to look for their missing children. The three storylines eventually merge again, and the only thing left to wonder about is who’s going to die before the final wisecrack is issued over the final corpse of the final croc (apart, of course, from the one who appears right at the end, as they always do in films like this, just to let everyone know this series will go on as long as there are people willing to pay to see it).

The bit in the middle, where the humans are trying to avoid the crocodiles, is just boring. The CGI animals have no weight to them, and can neither be heard nor seen til its too late, robbing every scene of any drama or tension. The film itself doesn’t seem that bothered, with continuity errors aplenty and one scene where our heroes are rescued by a boat and a harpoon gun, manned by three people we’ve never seen before and don’t see again (I can only guess they’re stunt doubles who they were expecting would be further away from the camera). Yancy Butler makes a reference to “Lake Placid”, despite the fact none of the films in the series are actually set on Lake Placid, it was just a cool title for the first one. Someone is eaten by piranhas at one point, it would seem, despite…you get the idea. Two of the main cast (Nicholls and Caroline Ford) are English, but speak with American accents, despite there being another character with an English accent in the film.

It’s not all bad, though. Despite my monster-sized Rohm crush, most of the eye candy in this film is of the male variety, a refreshing change. Actually, looking back through my notes, that’s pretty much the only positive I can find. Plenty of acting talent wasted (including Caroline Ford, one of the teenagers, who did a lot with the little she was given) on what I now hope is the end of the series.

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2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams (2010)

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by Ian Shearer

I came up against a rather unexpected obstacle when I joined the International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics: my local Poundland didn’t have any B-movies. Neither did the Poundland in the city centre. I decided I would have to bend the rules slightly and just go to a normal DVD shop and seek out a bargain. Since I wasn’t relying on a bargain bin to narrow my selection, I decided it had to be either a horror or martial arts movie. If I was going to forego quality in the name of the project I sure as shit was not going to compromise on the violence and/or titties.

I skimmed the horror section, filtering anything that didn’t have a bright pink £3 sticker on it. Not quite as fun as getting a movie for a quid, but still not breaking the bank. I landed on 2001 Maniacs (*1) and almost skimmed on, since I already have that movie. This one had a different cover, though, so I stopped and, alas, it was actually 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams. A sequel! Perfect. And since the original 2001 Maniacs is one of the most batshit horror movies I have ever seen, I felt the £3 outlay was more than fair. I scanned the back of the case and was disappointed to discover that Robert Englund had not reprised his role, but heartened to find that his shoes had been filled by none other than Bill Fucking Moseley. Boobs, blood and Bill Moseley had been a winning trifecta for House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, and I truly believed I had lucked onto the proverbial diamond in the rough. As I was paying I also thought the cute girl with the nice rack smiled at me, so in hindsight that was two things I was dead fucking wrong about.

The story is that when people stop showing up at the maniacs’ civil war re-enactment park, they take their show on the road. This at first appears to be a completely arbitrary plot point, since it has no bearing on the story whatsoever, but then you realise that the reason for it is simply that they clearly did not have the budget to recreate the town from the first film (*2). Fodder for the maniacs comes in the form of a television crew which is on the road shooting what is absolutely, positively, not a piss-take of The Simple Life. At first I thought it was, but I checked the disclaimer at the end of the credits and it turns out any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Anyway. The film crew has van trouble and decides to shoot some scenes at the maniacs’ makeshift camp. What should follow is a series of hilarious and bloodthirsty murders, punctuated by – or even better, combined with – a few silly sex scenes.

What actually follows is a series of embarrassingly uninspired murders dotted through a story that is closer in content to spoof than anything else. The sheer gratuity of it should be fun, but is so contrived it just comes off as boring. The dialogue is at best a forgiveable attempt at horror-movie-cornball and at worst a string of poorly judged race jokes. Worst of all is the nuts and bolts film-making. The costume, set design and special effects are all haphazard, with none of the love or attention one would expect from a horror film crew, and the sound is just fucking terrible. Several scenes obviously had sound issues and were dubbed – poorly – which is just plain annoying. The inattention to detail makes me wonder whether the people who made this piece of shit really like horror movies at all, and makes me feel bad for the cast members like the aforementioned Bill Moseley, and also Lin Shaye and Christa Campbell, who were in the first movie and were totally let down by the script and the production of this one.

The first 2001 Maniacs was fucking bananas. Gory, sexy, hilarious, and it had Robert Englund doing his thing. This movie doesn’t even deserve to be part of the same franchise. Had I managed to find it in a £1 bargain bin, I would still feel ripped off. A truly, truly shitty movie.

* 1 – It strikes me now that this movie should have been at the very start of an alphabetical assortment.  It is not impossible, though, that it was deliberately hidden by some good Samaritan.

* 2 – If I had to say where that budget went, I’d say it was used to pay John Landis to give the following quote for the DVD cover: “One of the rare sequels that surpasses the original.”  Fuck off.

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams on IMDB
Buy 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams (Extreme Edition) [DVD] [2009]