61 Days of Halloween: A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Series Revisited

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Each year, since I’ve started doing 61 Days of Halloween anyway, I’ve selected a long-running horror series to view in its entirety in rapid succession. I’ve already done Halloween, Friday the 13th, Children of the Corn, Hellraiser and Final Destination. Now, whether I spawned write-ups or not on each individual film has varied, what it does serve is to track the trajectory of the series, to follow certain narrative threads, concepts and plot points through the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a series I should’ve done earlier. There is a a slasher trinity in 80s, it just stands as a fact whether I like it or not. I’d peg the Nightmare on Elm Street series 3rd overall, and I still do having seen it all. Essentially, what it boils down to is that it’s a great, great concept that’s never executed to it maximum effectiveness.

One issue that always plagued the series as a whole is the rendition of Freddy Krueger. In Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a film which does great things with simulacrum and reflexivity, there is a great joke where Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) is confiding in Robert Englund (also playing himself) that she’s having nightmares about Freddy. Englund responds something to the extent of “What, like, me as Freddy?” Heather responds, “No, scarier.”

It’s a wonderfully perceptive joke by Craven. Over the course of the original series, Craven only is involved in the first two, Freddy becomes more frequently a vehicle for one-liners and clownishness. It ends up being the situation, and whether or not we have any sympathy or identification with the characters, that determines whether or not we’re involved. Freddy does have an arc in the series, which is gravitates towards comedy. Jason and Michael Myers stay virtually the same, we may learn more about them, but they as symbols do not change; they don’t speak, they rarely if ever show their face and they haunt in their same way.

Perhaps the best thing about the Nightmare series consistently is that it does come of with very creative ways to have Freddy attack anew, or to explore a new aspect of the Dream paradigm. In a similar manner to the Children of the Corn series, the second Nightmare film is perhaps the most unfortunate and furthest removed from the intentions of the tropes established in the first. In this one, Freddy is able to lodge himself in his victim’s mind in his sleep and he bursts forth with a body anew whenever he takes over. It’s a symbiotic, quasi-Dark Half oddness that doesn’t befit the rest of the series.

Similar to the Halloween series which follows Jamie Lloyd for a few films, there are the Alice Johnson movies in this series. Some under-served ideas occur in her films in both Dream Master and The Dream Child wherein you have very interesting concepts that don’t get the kind of films that live up to how fascinating the ideas folded into it are.

Aside from New Nightmare, which flips the script literally, Dream Warriors is the best new ground covered. It reintroduces Nancy years later in a pretty great evolution of her character becoming a mental health professional with a unique insight to her young patients’ nightmares.

Now, as I mentioned above, in ranking the iconic 80s-started series, I put Halloween above Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I would do so anyway, but having the two other series involved in the farce that is Freddy vs. Jason doesn’t help. And, of course, the way that film ends, even taking it for what it is, didn’t please me in the slightest.

So, the concept is great and was original upon its inception. In horror movies the “it was only a dream” escape was always a cop out. Here, in this series, there’s nothing more dangerous than dreaming. It’s not only a dream. That above all is most refreshing.

Now, this film, like the other two iconic franchises of the 80s, has been re-imagiend for the 21st century. I already wrote plenty about it in my initial review, but it did find a new avenue to make sleep attack when you least expect it. It was also a set-up part one that could’ve been improved upon in part two. However, the good news/bad news is that apparently the pie is split too many ways to make a sequel financially desirable; so for the time being Freddy’s dead anew. If and when he’s resuscitated let’s hope his persona leans towards the remake, and that the film makes no apologies for his villainy and the dream concepts are fully enforced.

61 Days of Halloween- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Now that I am into all new selections, meaning that they are both new to me as a writing experience and as a post to this site, I do want to step back a bit from typical review format when possible. Spoiler Alert: I will be analyzing the film with some detail.

Themes have a way of evolving. Initially the idea was to watch a horror movie every day during the lead-up to Halloween, typically a new one. However, now I watch enough horror films as a rule that seeking out new doesn’t always win out over revisiting what definitely works.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a film I first saw in a horror/sci-fi class in college. I signed up to get many weekend screenings and see some mandatory titles. The first time I saw it is something I’ll never forget. It was the 20th of 20 screenings, and aside from the fact that our professor had an uncanny knack for programming double- and triple-features, it was the the most memorable ‘lights up’ after the film. It was dead silent, like the the first moment of calm after a bomb went off. We all looked around at each other checking each other’s level of unease.

Why I go back to my initial reaction to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is because typically when you take a film you’ve viewed and put it in rarified air, you can start to nitpick. Whether or not you consider TCM to be one of the greats here are some things you have to agree with:

This film is post-Psycho and pre-Halloween and bridges that that gap. It takes the quantum leap and amplifies Bate’s mommy-fixation to a family affair. However, it also, on a mass consumption level, creates a faceless (for most of the film) killer.

Clearly, many of its motifs, whether original to the film or not, have become favorites: incessant, brutal noise followed by shocking dead silence; the sound of a flashbulb; the faceless killer; lack information about the antagonist amongst others.

Perhaps the most important thing is not listed above: “Why me?” as it pertains to the pursued in a horror film is still a question that many films feel the need to answer. It was films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that made identity, pathology and reason behind these killers less necessary than ever. In fact, the issues in long-running series are introduced by reason. You’ll recall that Michael Myers history was discussed in Halloween but Laurie Strode being his sister was only added as a plot element in the sequel. In the first film, we just assume he chooses her because he sees her and his psychosis is enough reason. The very fundamental fear of it could be anyone, even you, makes it a universal fear.

Bringing it back to Chainsaw what it does is flirt with overt and obvious set-ups and discard them: Yes, the the hitchhiker’s crazy but they jettison him. There’s no short-cut missed, there’s no getting lost. They break down but are not found at random. It’s their choosing to go to the wrong place that crosses them in the wrong path.

In a way it takes you back to a similar idea in Psycho: if Marion Crane drives on, or is allowed to sleep at the side of the road, the movie ends up being about her trying to get away with the money. There is minimal “Oh my God, that was so dumb!” in TCM. Mistakes are immediately punished, and on two occasions Sally flings herself through a window to escape. The fact that you can fault little of what the protagonists do once found, or even in order to be found, makes it that much more immediate and palpable, as insane and unnatural as the family dynamic, psychosis and actions may seem.

It’s a master class in tone that starts from the read-aloud title crawl that haunts you, and then very normal things unfold slowly and get weirder and weirder.

The sound design of the movie barely incorporates music, and relies on the chilling nature of the sounds of the story: the screaming, the buzzing of the chainsaw, the insane cackling of the family, the blunt thuds of blows.

And flipping the vague antagonist on its side, it’s a film that becomes about its victims and trying to survive. You may not like all of them, and that’s fine, but you know who they are; and to me it passed a crucial test which is I want these people to survive ultimately, some more than others.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also the rare horror film that leaves you more unsettled after its over than you were before it started. Going into a horror film you’re amped. You’re hoping you’ll be scared, amused, entertained greatly; it bumps your adrenaline in anticipation. What this film does brilliantly is that it leaves a sole survivor, but her laughing hysteria at the end combined with Leatherface’s grostesque chainsaw ballet make for a chilling conclusion. The cherry on top in essence, this film just scared the hell out of you, it gives you one survivor, but he’s still out there and just as insane as ever.

61 Days of Halloween- Trick ‘r Treat

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Trick ‘r Treat

Last year was the first time I saw Trick ‘r Treat. I had heard about it long ago and was looking forward to it. Frankly, the fact that it was pulled from theatrical release has always been a bit disappointing. What I didn’t fully understand at the time was that it was cold feet caused by content not quality. Regardless of that it made it hard for me to see that year.

The good news is that whether it was a theatrical release or not it was still likely to find its niche on home video. I finally saw it last year and it was one of my favorite discoveries among films of older vintage. This year I revisited it, and boy did it ever hold up.

As I recently alluded to in another piece, I’ve seen quite a few horror anthologies this year. While I bristle a little at the notion that this is “merely” and anthology; it is the best categorization. What makes me bristle is that unlike many it’s not divided, it’s virtually seamless; it uses something closer to interrelated vignettes.

The tales occur over the same night, characters cross paths with one another, Sam is present in all of them (although he only reveals himself and purpose at the end), it holds together, things feed off one another and connect to one another.

Come December I will be writing about why the 24 Hours of A Christmas Story works, and having recently learned that FEARnet will do the same with this film, it makes sense for the same reasons. With the way the respective narratives unfold with connected, unified tales that are both seasonal and anecdotal. They both encompass and embrace the season in such a way that lends itself to repeat viewings. Furthermore, once one knows these narratives well, as I do with A Christmas Story and am starting to with Trick ‘r Treat, it is also conducive to partial and repeat viewings.

What Trick ‘r Treat does best is that it combines and connects various types of stories about Halloween in a natural and wonderful way. Many of the narrative threads when analyzed will seem very like a (sub)urban legend but rarely, if ever, does it seem to be blatantly so. The narrative unfolds without the patterns and possible connections revealing themselves before they’re necessary.

The most satisfying thing about revisiting this film was that very little luster wore off the impactful moments, whether just before or just after certain incidents I was thinking to myself “Oh, yeah, I remember this” and always the rediscovery was gleeful.

Trick ‘r Treat, so far as I can tell, has already achieved something of a cult status, but as time goes on I only see that growing, as more and more people will come to discover it.

61 Days of Halloween- Girl vs. Monster

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Whenever there is a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) that I am reviewing I always feel the need to remind people that my rating scale pertains to how well the film accomplishes its objective, as opposed to comparing it to things it is not and not trying to be. This is not to say that even in the microcosm of DCOMs that there aren’t films that have fallen flat on their face. Some have landed amongst the worst of the year.

Usually the key to success is being seasonal or based on a show, rare are the out of the blue High School Musical success stories. Getting back to the seasonal aspect of the film: it had been a few years since Disney did anything both Halloween/horror-related and released prior to the day, add to that the fact that it’s the first non-sequel (a la Halloweentown or Twitches) in a while and there was great promise here.

The talk of sequels brings us to the most glaringly unfortunate aspect of the film. There is a liberal bit of borrowing, mainly from Ghostbusters, that goes on. References to other works that are far more conscious and meta come in later, but that one never gets joked about. Thankfully, there are enough twists, differentiations and its own goofy brand of humor that it minimizes the encumbrance of that fact. In the end, these hunters are more like actual versions of the bogus ones on reality TV.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that the CG quality varies wildly, at time the lower-end is intentional, but the tenor of the film forgives a lot of it.

However, Girl vs. Monster is ultimately a very successful horror/comedy which targets a more innocent sensibility of Halloween that is the purview of projects designed for TV and younger audiences. It’s an effective tone that when well-executed takes me back. The film does well to focus, when appropriate, on comedy such that the film is always entertaining.

This film, like many latter-day DCOMS, also features music, but in a more organic way than most. A bonus is that the songs are pretty good and catchy and as opposed to many DCOMS not over-produced to Glee-like proportions, and allow Olivia Holt and Luke Benward to showcase their voices.

The story does seem like it’ll take the typical routes through Disney tropes but it does throw a wrench in enough to keep it interesting and less predictable than most. The casting is also better than most recent films. Granted Disney Channel will spin-off a star from a show into most of, if not all, these films, but the choice to not only choose Olivia Holt (Kickin’ It) who is of lower-profile than most of the current Disney stable helps this film and the viewers because she’s more quickly her character in this film, and it’s less like a star vehicle. Especially when you consider she’s flanked by a great supporting cast, only some of which are frequently seen on the networks, featuring Brendan Meyer and Kurt Ostland  (Mr. Young); Katherine McNamara, Adam Chambers, Jennifer Aspen and Brian Palermo.

Girl vs. Monster is a really enjoyable, funny and quick-paced film, which delving even further into microcosm falls just behind Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire in terms of best Halloween DCOM. Recommended for both fans of DCOMs and those who like variety in their Halloween-related viewings.

8/10

Mini-Review Round-Up September 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases will get full reviews, or another kind of write-up as per my recent shift in focus.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

Note: Apologies for this post being late. Also, I am weighing what a cut-off should be for films that have has no US release date past. As for now they are all eligible. Some films viewed last month are listed here instead.

[REC] 3: Genesis

This is a prime example of having to go where the movie takes you and not judging it based on what you wanted or expected it to be. I have already expressed how much I love what [REC] 2 did for that series. When you hear that this one is going to be a prequel you assume, “Great, it’ll be about the patient zero.” The connection is more tenuous than that. However, what you do get in this [REC] tale is humor, great horror, action, effects and gore and more theological blanks filled in than before. Whether or not part 4 can, and will, be the conclusion this series needs/deserves remains to be seen, but this film is what it wants to be: a very strong, fairly stand-alone piece that contributes to a larger narrative.

8/10

Spud

This is a South African film of some acclaim, which I sought a foreign region DVD of since its US distribution is more doubtful the further from its initial domestic release we get. Spud was nominated for six South African Film and Television Awards (the foreign award is something I may touch upon in November) and an adaptation of a famous novel series. The film stars Troye Sivan (most well known from YouTube or Wolverine) and John Cleese. The film sets as a backdrop the momentous events of 1990 and the release of Nelson Mandela, but what it focuses mainly on is a funny, occasionally touching, tale that’s a dawn of awareness, and coming out of one’s shell. It’s an appropriately episodic tale, that moves well for the most part and features great, surprising and fitting songs as well.

7/10

V/H/S

Yes, any anthology film by its very nature will have its ups and downs. You as a viewer will connect more with one piece or another, one section or another will be more well-executed or intriguing, especially if there are different writer(s) and/or director(s) handling each portion. This year I’ve taken to watching a lot more anthologies, which proliferate in horror more so than most genres. It has moments which are few and far between, set-ups are too long making it structurally askew in segments and in toto, acting is scarce; the frame of the story is fairly poor. This dereliction of pace and structure makes the two hour total running time seem nearly double that.

For a frame of reference here are brief comparisons to other anthologies so you know where I’m coming from: From a Whisper to a Scream has a stand-out segment, this does not; Creepshow has a brilliant frame, this does not. V/H/S seems to seek a unified tonality and aesthetic that it doesn’t quite achieve, Tales from the Hood does. Theatre Bizarre is wildly inconsistent, this is fairly consistent in its terribleness.

1/10

Amors Baller

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Amors Baller, aside from the way that it handles the Swedish/Norwiegian dynamic, is that it puts football (soccer) out front as the key to a boy (Kåre Hedebrant, Let the Right One In) winning over his new crush. While the junior tournament plays a major part, it’s a setting that doesn’t take up as much screentime and the results doesn’t factor in as much towards the end as you might expect. It ends up being more about relationships and friendship. It’s a funny, heartfelt and quick-moving film.

7/10

The Hidden Face

What is most interesting about The Hidden Face is what it does structurally. There’s an inventiveness to a surprising revelation made that allows for it to play with perspective and narrative point-of-view in very creative ways. There is a bit of steam it loses in trying to amplify every single odd moment that needs clarifying after the break, but it remains a very haunting, odd and twisted horror tale. It’s one that is definitely worth seeking out.

7/10

Nimmermeer

One of my first thoughts upon seeing Nimmermeer was how is Toke Constantin Hebbeln, the director of this film, a name I only now have just heard. Now, granted since this 2006 hour-long film he’s made other shorts and just last month released a feature called Shores of Hope in Germany. Regardless, it’s not only the narrative but the cinematography, the staging and the penetrating emotion of this film, which oozes magical realism, that really makes it standout. It’s told like a fairy tale replete with narration but in a context that is very real and immediate. Odd things happen and are not explained away. The story is what it is and it’s at the service of its protagonist and its audience in dramatically, beautifully rendering its message. Leonard Proxauf, who later starred in The White Ribbon, is great in this film.

10/10

Penumbra

What Penumbra attempts to do is something I can definitely appreciate. How it goes about trying to do it is what I really have a problem with. It overplays its hand in some regards and is a bit too broad in the portrayal of its protagonist, her dialogue a bit too blunt; not to mention the scenes that set-up the gotcha ending that only play more annoyingly once everything is revealed. It’s an interesting examination of the Spanish-Argentine dynamic but many other recent co-productions layer horror, colonial antagonism and modern Latin America’s socioeconomic climate better than this does, combine that with its failings as a horror film and it becomes quite bothersome indeed.

4/10

Vorstadtkrokodile 2 and Vorstadtkrokodile 3: Freunde Fur Immer

Perhaps one of the most interesting things that one can start learning or realizing when you obtain films from other regions is that various film industries world-wide are not too different from Hollywood, for better and worse. What we in the US get in art houses are the more erudite, obviously artistic films from overseas. If you look at trades when they report on international bureaucratic/business-related controversies art versus commerce comes up. Essentially, we get the independents from overseas. Next time you watch a foreign film pay attention to the credits and see how many production companies, governmental agency logos and other corporate logos pop up in the opening credits. But the major studios have presences overseas, and even without that each country has its own brand of genre cinema, which is generally made for domestic consumption. Subtitles aren’t found on all foreign-made DVDs and many times only languages of neighboring nations apply.

However, globalization is here and many films are seeking to attain some popularity in the home video market abroad by including more and more subtitles.

Which brings me around to the Vorstadtkrokodile movies. Or as they’re called in English The Crocodiles.

This version is a recent German trilogy based on a popular children’s novel, which I believe was even translated to English at one point. Not unlike American trilogies this series raced to the multiplexes with releases in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Such that the second installment feels a little flimsy and all over the place. There’s some cool fantasy elements, some good jokes but the characters seem to be in stasis. Also similar to American movies, a musician-turned-actor is in the mix; Fabi Halbig drummer from the popular band Killerpilze was recruited to play one of the main roles. Also, not unlike American films Nick Romeo Reimann, one of the latter additions to Die Wilden Kerle (The Wild Soccer Bunch) goes immediately from that series and takes the lead in this film.

Now, all that commentary may sound cynical but they’re just facts. What occurs in the third film is a very pleasant surprise. The story is far more unified. It starts light and frivolous and gets serious. There’s great comic relief and it connects back to the first film. It closes a circle and consciously concludes the series. Just taking a few series by example at the very least these series come fast and furious and know when it’s time to close. It’s a warm and heartfelt conclusion that takes some outlandish plotlines to real and honest places emotionally and give the trilogy great closure.

Reimann, now moving on to other projects, seems destined to continue finding work and may even transition seamlessly into adult roles. It’s a bit early yet, but considering his steady participation in two series, totaling six films, with increased emotional demands in each successive film; drawing a parallel between him and Daniel Radcliffe is not far-fetched.

4/10 and 8/10

Pan Negro

Francesc Colomer in Black Bread (Massa d’Or Produccions) Spains Official Selection not yet distributed in the US.

This was a film that featured previously on The Movie Rat during last year’s post about the Oscar Foreign Film Submission Process. It was a gutsy choice to submit this film over the likes of Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, but I applaud gutsy choices such as Dogtooth. That and the fact that Villaronga is a director I’ve seen and like previously made me intrigued by this film.

One thing that’s a double-edged sword about it being Spain’s submission last year is its indigenous nature. It’s a film set in the the Catalan region and deals greatly with the Spanish Civil War and the aftermath thereof. It layers in horror elements, legend, drama, politics and coming-of-age with deft and not much bluntness. One’s familiarity with the vaguest aspects of the conflict will be aided greatly in viewing it.

The story divides itself neatly and the section whose title alludes to a later scene is the strongest.

7/10

Asterix and the Vikings

Asterix and the Vikings (M6 Films)

This is a movie that I have a rather unusual relationship with. I actually didn’t know about this fairly recent animated rendition of Asterix until I was in Orlando earlier this year. In Epcot, there was a book of the film and I got it. The book renders the movie fairly well and considering that I as a fan of Asterix was fairly disappointed in the live-action version I was excited.

What it really goes to show is that putting production elements in place: music, dialogue, voice actors, the different animation techniques and effects employed made the movie so much more immersive than I imagined. From the book it seemed like standard fare: fun bordering on cute. The film that the book represents is a very fully realized version of the tale and is highly recommended to fans of this beloved character.

10/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Final

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Final

This is the kind of movie I like to talk about. Immediately upon tweeting my reaction I got two very disparate reactions from others who had also seen it. In either case, I could understand the reactions from both of my Twitter compatriots who expressed differing views on the film. Essentially, I only took the tweet discussion so far because I knew I’d have enough characters here, not there, to explain why I come out on the positive side of the film.

Starting off on the negative end: this film has a rocky start. However, it epitomizes why I am very hesitant to give up on a film. The film has serious, serious issues in establishing its characters. A lot of the early set-up, mainly of the bullies in tale, falls into the stereotype realm and does come off as either overly-blunt or tin-eared.

So while The Final very quickly squanders its opportunity to be truly great, it does build its characters and works towards a set-up that is highly effective. Thankfully for the film the running time is not long, and the first act mounts steadily towards the turn in events such that the cumulative effect, even if uneasily handled, is a desired one. The goal of the protagonists is not only easily identified, but understood and anticipated.

To finish this point on stereotypes: is it lazy writing? Yes, but I feel they do melt away to an extent as you see the characters react to an extremely stressful situation. Also, when there’s the anticipated role reversal there is good conflict and illustrations of just how far these characters are willing to go. There is also the point that is difficult to deal with in art, which is that these types exist for a reason. I’d even go so far as to postulate the possibility that the exaggeration of types was a conscious choice to make the audience more readily become immersed in an outlandish and hard to deal with situation.

The rendering of the situation alluded to in the synopses for the film is what makes it work. What clinches it as very enjoyable is the the interpretation of events thereof, and what elevates it to about the heights it can hope to achieve, considering some of its issues, is that fairly adept commentary and the mirrored frame. The performances of Marc Donato and Lindsay Seidel are the strongest and most compelling.

In the end, The Final overcomes its inconsistencies to be a fairly impressive situational horror piece with built-in commentary on many subjects, whether it be bullying or school violence, that’s not overly-augmented by the characters. It’s a film that builds identification of type such that there’s a connection to torturous scenes besides mere voyeurism.

It’s a film you’re likely to fall on either side of. If you look at the synopsis and can handle it; I’d recommend it.

61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Damned

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Children of the Damned

One thing I must admit is that I will not slam on a sequel as a rule. One needs only look at some previous posts I did in this serious such as those on latter-day Halloween, Friday the 13th or Children of the Corn series to know that I at times will be taken aback by a later follow-up. I also do appreciate a thoroughly examined through-line, a sequel which either adds to the myth-building or tries against all odds to reconcile disparate elements that seemed hastily added in a prior installment.

What this sequel does is that it cuts straight for incident. However, there’s a lack of moral compass in this film as compared to the last one. While there is only a thematic tie to the original, since it is government agents devoid of attachments to these kids the impetus is eradication makes sense but is reached far too quickly.

That’s fine in a vacuum, since in this series we know that these children aren’t innocents. However, the issue then becomes extrapolating more information about their other-worldly abilities, which this film also fails to do. There are great scenes between David (Martin Stephens) and Gordon (George Sanders) prior where there is a prodding back and forth: Gordon is seeing how much the children know and the children are deciphering how much Gordon knows. In this film, the children hardly speak and for the most part are devoid of personality. The best part of them in this version is that they are more diverse. This film picks up on the notion that similar occurrences and births took place all over the world such that there is a British, Indian, Chinese, Nigerian and American child with the ability in this version.

I can grant that the IQ testing would reveal these children as gifted sooner, as random as the reasoning for the tests is, but the assumption of bad intentions is still fast. Even in making such a quick assumption this film has less incident and more running time than its antecedent.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience is in the early-going you can see how films like these set the stage for things like The Omen to come about. However, as a standalone piece Children of the Damned falls woefully short.

61 Days of Halloween- Village of the Damned (1960)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Village of the Damned (1960)

The original Village of the Damned is an exercise in dealing with a lot of story with quick, precise strokes and keeping the pace moving. If one were to contrast it to its remake, what this film does it keeps a lot of the mystery about why these children are gifted and terrifying for as long as possible.

It examines aspects of mob mentality but addresses its central issue mostly with a few characters only. Its implications are far-reaching but it never gets bogged down or spreads itself too thin. Similar incidents elsewhere are alluded to in dialogue but not touched upon and the moralistic struggle, is rendered with the same tautness as the horrific concluding struggle is.

This film also excels in using the mind, mind-control and telepathy as its fear factors. The possibilities that it allows story-tellers are nearly endless and it set the stage for many other tales of the like to follow suit. The clandestine nature of the killings: the odd circumstances combined with the unproveable assumption of the children being responsible, are what give the film a lot of its drive.

The compromised nature and moralistic quagmire that the protagonist finds himself is aided not only by the fact that he is the man who knows the case of these mysterious simultaneous births, and supernaturally gifted children so well, but one of them is his own child.

George Sanders plays the lead and is perfectly sympathetic in this scenario. We see him as a man, husband, scientist and patriot; be challenged. He’s a man of reason, which allows for the situation and its ramifications to be debated intelligently and for his uncovering of the fact, those he does get to hit home harder and to make his battle that much more engaging.

The Village of the Damned does a lot with not much in terms of effects, techniques and outlandish production value. Its biggest boon is the successful and fully wrought implementation of its ideas in a brisk, efficient manner.