Saturday, February 27, 2016

Short Film: Un Chien Andalou / An Andalusian Dog (France, 1929)

We are continually surprised at how many people have not yet seen this film. Sure, everyone who's ever gone to art school or studied filmmaking has seen it, but if you get down to it, that's a smaller group than you might imagine. Indeed, recently we were at a table of film fanatics, and we proved to be the only one who had ever seen this early masterpiece of Surreal cinema co-written by Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (11 May 1904 — 23 Jan 1989) and directed and co-written by Luis Buñuel Portolés (22 Feb 1900 — 29 July 1983). (But then, we did go to art school in another life.) Though "the most famous short film ever made" (according to Roger Ebert [18 June 1942 — 4 April 2013]), it would seem that while masses of people out there may have heard of it, masses have also yet to see it. We would like to do our bit at correcting this hole in the education of the general film fan.
We won't talk too much about what the film is about, for despite all the possible interpretations, Freudian and otherwise, we have always tended to believe Buñuel's insistence that there is no meaning to be found in the string of scenes collected from his and Dali's dreams and imagination. As Buñuel once explained, "Our only rule [when writing the script] was very simple: no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why."
Assuming this is true and not a later reimagining of intention — similar, for example, to scriptwriter Joe Eszterhas's later ascertain that he meant Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls (1995 / trailer) to be as funny as it is — then at best the movie is an example of how anything can be interpreted and given meaning should one choose to. Above all, what the young Surrealists were doing back in 1929 was simply trying to aggressively attack the common form and structure of film. They did a good job, as you can well imagine that that which still shocks (in parts) today, was a full slap in the face in 1929.
Un Chien Andalou / An Andalusian Dog was the directorial debut of Luis Buñuel, whose other known previous screen credits are that of assistant director on Jean Epstein's screen adaptation of Mauprat (1926 / full movie, French subtitles) and Mario Nalpas & Henri Étiévant's Papitou / Siren of the Tropics (1927 / Joséphine Baker dancing), a co-scriptwriting credit on Epstein's later horror film, The Fall of the House of Usher (1928 / full movie, French subtitles), and a small acting part in Jacques Feyder's Carmen (1926 / from the soundtrack). Buñuel, who went on to be rather famous as a filmmaker, appears in the opening scene of this film as the macho smoker who slits the eye. The young Dali is also seen briefly in the film, as one of the two priests being dragged behind the two grand pianos laden with dead donkeys (he's at your right above).
Of the others who appear in the film: the actress playing the woman whose eye is slit, Simone Mareuil, killed herself at the age of 55 by self-immolation on a public square on 24 October 1954, while Pierre Batcheff (born 23 June 1907), the man dressed as a nun, supposedly died of an overdose of veronal on 12 April 1932. The other most notable face of the movie, the attractively androgynous woman on the street, is played by Fano Messan (1902-1998), a mostly forgotten woman sculptor who, like Marlene, liked to wear men's clothing; active in the Parisian cultural scene of late 20s, among other artists she posed for is one of our favorites, Kees van Dongen (26 January 1877 – 28 May 1968). That's his painting of her above.
In any event, enjoy this month's short film: An Andalusian Dog.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Teenage Caveman (USA, 2002)

In all truth, for the main gist of the following review, you can skip down to the final paragraph... but read on, should our normal meandering and verbosity interest you in any way.

(Spoilers.) Way back around the turn of the century, the cheap horror movies of yesteryear suddenly became a source of new product for the American film industry. Dark Castle Entertainment, for example, was founded (initially) to make new versions of the films of William Castle (see: 13 Ghosts [2002 / trailer] and House on Haunted Hill [1999 / trailer]), while Platinum Dunes looked less far back in time and brought us updated versions of trash classics and semi-classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003 / trailer], The Amityville Horror [2005 / trailer], and others. The American cable channel Cinemax also followed suit (if with far lower budgets) and, in 2001, under the banner "Creature Features", broadcast a series of five extremely loose and cheaply made "remakes" of "classic" B movies that the great Samuel Z. Arkoff had originally produced for AIP in the 50s and 60s — the very films many a Gen Xer had grown up watching on their local creature-feature show. (The new versions were produced by Arkoff's son Lou Arkoff and, oddly enough, comedy starlet and former Playboy model Colleen Camp [below, in her prime].) All five TV movies were subsequently released on DVD, and while none enjoyed any great praise or popularity, this one here, Teenage Caveman was perhaps the most reviled.
We ourselves stumbled upon Teenage Caveman in a bargain-basement barrel, and while drawn to it only due to the inanity of the concept of such a remake, we probably would never have tossed down the 50 cents to buy it were it not for the name of the movie's director: Larry Clark. In the art world of the 70s and 80s, Larry Clark had had some success, fortune, and infamy as a photographer of the drug-, alcohol-, and sex-fueled naked underbelly of teenage America. And like a variety of other, more respectable art stars of the generation — e.g., Robert Longo (Johnny Mnemonic [1995 / trailer]), Cindy Sherman (Office Killer [1997 / trailer]), David Salle (Search and Destroy [1995 / trailer]) and Julian Schnabel — when given the chance to move into movie-making in the mid-1990s, he went for it and brought out the scandal movie Kids (1995 / trailer), which focused on the drug-, alcohol-, and sex-filled life of teens confronted with HIV. (And launched the careers of Chloë Sevigny, Rosario "Hot Stuff" Dawson, & Harmony Korine [the director of Gummo (1997 / trailer) and Trash Humpers (2009 / trailer)].) Since then, Clark remains, alongside Schnabel, one of the select few of the bigger art names of the 80s to still be regularly active as a filmmaker.
In any event, the concept of a cheap teen horror flick directed by a "name" ephebophiliac artist intrigued us enough to plop down 50 cents for the DVD and, three years later, to finally pop the flick into the DVD player. And we must say that although we had no expectations, we were disappointed by Teenage Caveman... even as we must admit that the cheap flick probably is in many way exactly what one might expect from a man obsessed with the sex and drug lives of teenagers: sleazy, and full of teens having sex and doing drugs and drinking. Just, the fixation on teenage sex and drug abuse is obsessive to the point of discomfort: the flick makes you, as the viewer, feel sort of dirty after awhile. Also, none in the cast of newbies really excels as a thespian, the jokes are few and mostly flat, tension is virtually non-existence, and the main bad guy (Richard Hillman [13 Dec 1974 — 27 June 2009] as Neil) overacts to the point of being almost unwatchable.
About the only thing that the 2002 version of Teenage Caveman has in common with the original 1958 version — directed by Roger Corman as Prehistoric World, released in England as Out of Darkness, and starring Robert Vaughn [of Unwed Mother [1958 / trailer], Starship Invasions [1977 / trailer], Battle Beyond the Stars [1980 / trailer], Killing Birds [1987 / trailer], Transylvania Twist [1989/ trailer], and much, much more]) — is the post-apocalyptic setting. But unlike in the original film, in which this fact is the film's final denouement, we know relatively quickly (with the movie's first and perhaps only intentional laugh involving a "no skateboarding" sign) that in Clark's version, the primitive world of the protagonists is post-apocalyptic.
At its onset, Teenage Caveman seems to hold some promise, despite its obvious threadbare budget and thespian inadequacies. Namely, the new world order back at the communal cave looks to contain the seeds of dramatic tension, and Clark's obsession with sex, not yet in visual overload, is instead reflected in an interesting plot point: Shaman (Paul Hipp), the leader of the tribe and father of our handsome hero David (Andrew Keegan), is a David Koresh-like, fanatically religious, hypocritical, and corrupt tribal leader who forbids sex within the tribe but reserves the God-given right to fuck all the young girls. (An underlying thematic point of the movie, though well hidden, is that of the corruption of power.) Shaman makes the mistake of deciding to bone his son's gal Sarah (Tara Subkoff of The Notorious Bettie Page [2005 / trailer]), and before you can finish reading a Penthouse Forum letter, Shaman is dead and David is tied to the stake outside the cave in an obvious homage to that gay icon of the religious martyrs, St. Sebastian. (Clark's camera loves his hairy armpit and man nipples.) But what are real friends for but to help you escape and leave the tribe in search of a better life? And thus the scraggly group of contumacious teens hit the road...
A radioactive rainstorm later, they awaken in the luxury apartment decorated with Jeff Koons art pieces belonging to Neil and his female counterpart Judith, (Tiffany Limos), and before the plot continues the movie stagnates for an interminable amount of time on the introduction of our innocent group to the wicked world of sex and drugs, for which they must pay dearly later. Make no mistake: Clark may wallow in nudity and sex and drugs, but this is an extremely anti-sex film. Much like in the slashers of the 80s, in Teenage Caveman having sex basically means you're going to die. But though Clark displays a desire to punish his innocents for their being corrupted, he wants to have his cake, too, and thus first casts a long, prolonged, narrative- and mood-crippling gaze on barely post-pubescent breasts of the young girls and the naked butts (or stuffed underwear) of the young boys. (Note: sex scenes as filmed by Clark are a perfect opportunity to get a new beer or empty your bladder.) Oddly enough, for all his fascination in the body of the barely hairy and cheap-looking store-bought underwear — Payless obviously survived the apocalypse — Clark lacks the cojones to do a full frontal of a male, though he does many of the girls.
For that, however, he does have the cojones to film perhaps one of the most audacious, transgressive scenes we've ever seen in a Pay TV movie: when Elizabeth (Crystal Celeste Grant) begins to suffer the after-effects of unprotected sex with the genetically modified duo, the "good" villainess Judith begins to masturbate — and then gets pissed when the young lady literally explodes prematurely. (Needless to say, Judith is no better a person than the main villain of the movie, Neil.) Why does Elizabeth explode? Neil and Judith are genetically altered super-humans, and much like HIV, their traits are transferred virally through body fluids. But most normal bodies cannot survive the conversion to superdom and self-destruct — not good.
Like so many badly made movies, in Teenage Caveman there is little tension felt as the  characters die one by one until there is but the final girl and final guy and main villain and the final showdown, which in itself might have been funny were the movie not so exhausting and repulsive to sit through up till that point. To give Clark justifiable credit again, however, he ends the movie in a subtly depressing manner that is at least 100% in line with his obvious anti-sex attitude and his less obvious theme of the corruption of power. But being true to a vision doesn't mean that the vision is any good, or worth your time watching.
Teenage Caveman, in short: An anti-sex and ultimately depressing film made by an ephebophiliac man who obviously prefers to punish the victim, the movie is hampered by bad acting, a low budget, a total lack of suspense, and terrible pacing. The gore ranges from well-made to cheesy, but despite a blood-drenched money shot or two, none are good or bad enough to make them worth waiting for — with the possible exception of the exploding belly & masturbation scene, which could really fit well in a Richard Kern flick. The sex and drugs scenes are alienating and dull, and oddly repulsive, sort of as if you have sudden insight to the sexual fantasies of the wanna-be paedophile next door. Neither the director nor scriptwriter evidence any real talent in their craft, and the themes and possibilities of the narrative appear and disappear indiscriminately. By the end of the movie the only thing one realizes, really feels, really knows, is that Teenage Caveman is one fucked up film and a total waste of time.
Not surprisingly, rumor has it that another remake is in the works.
Trailer to the original
Teenage Caveman (1958):

Saturday, February 13, 2016

R.I.P.: Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven, Part VI (2006-16) + Addendum (1976)

2 August 1939 - 30 August 2015

What follows is a look at some the projects he was involved in — actually and/or presumably. TV series are ignored.

Go here for Part I (1970-77)
Go here for Part II (1978-86)
Go here for Part III (1987-93)
Go here for Part IV (1994-99)
Go here for Part V (2000-05)

The Hills Have Eyes
(2006, dir. Alexandre Aja)

That it took Wes Craven so long to see the financial possibilities of having his older movies remade is almost inexplicably odd, considering the success of all the remakes of not-so-old movies prior to Aja's version of The Hills Have Eyes, ranging from crappy (e.g., Willard [2003] and Village of the Damned [1995] — but were either financially successful?) to fun but dumb (e.g., Thirteen Ghosts [2001 / trailer] and House of Haunted Hill [1999 / trailer]) to entertainingly effective (e.g., Night of the Living Dead [1990 / trailer] and The Blob [1988]) to excellent (e.g., Dawn of the Dead [2004 / trailer] and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003 / trailer]). But one day Wes Craven saw the light, and after watching Alexandre Aja's well-made but extremely questionable French horror movie Haute Tension (2003 / trailer) — which we saw and would've liked had it not been so lesbophobic — he pulled in Aja and his pal Grégory Levasseur to take over the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. And, damn! If they didn't manage to make a movie that is, in many ways, more effective and multi-layered (and gory and violent) than the original from 1977. Wow. (OK, we totally ignore the narrative fuck-up of the film: the bad guys don't kill the good guy before they put him in the fridge.)
Filmed in Morocco (but set in New Mexico), the cannibalistic family is now a mass of hungry mutants and far more dirty and scary, while the survivors are also far more delineated as characters and some actually grow during the course of the movie — particularly Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford), who believably goes from a wimpy nerd to a survivor willing to kill.
Trailer to
The Hills Have Eyes: 
Eat My Brains has the plot: "The extended Carter family are on their way to California but Big Bob Carter (Ted Levine of The Mangler [1995 / trailer]) is hell bent on taking the 'scenic route' through the desert. They run into a spot of trouble when their car falls victim to spikes in the road, laid there by the victims of US government nuclear testing — human mutants from an isolated mining community who refused to leave their homes when the government took over the area for research. The inhabitants of the area are now deformed versions of their former selves, preying on unfortunate passers-by who have taken wrong directions from the clan's only human link to the outside world, a gas station owner (Tom Bower of The Killing Jar [1997 / trailer] and Lady in White [1988 / trailer]). He leads the raw meat their direction and in return, receives valuable belongings of dead hill victims. The dysfunctional family unit react in their own individual ways to their attackers. Three in particular are forced to rely on their primal survival instincts if they are going to outfight and outwit the wrath of the mutants. [...]"
More and More by Webb Pierce —
The song played over the opening credits:

(2006, dir. Jim Sonzero)
Wes Craven and Ray Wright (who went on to help write the unsatisfying Case 39 [2009 / trailer] and the satisfying remake of The Crazies [2010 / trailer]) supplied the screenplay to the American remake of the 2001 Nippon horror flick of the same name by the productive director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Rumor has it Craven was set to direct but bailed somewhere along the line. A critical bomb, it nevertheless proved successful enough to "warrant" two direct-to-DVD sequels — are direct-to-DVD sequels ever truly warranted? — shot in tandem by Joel Soisson entitled Pulse 2: Afterlife (2008) and Pulse 3 (2008).
Trailer to
Foster on Film has a bare-boned plot description: "Mattie (Kristen Bell of Reefer Madness [2005 / trailer]) finds her boyfriend, Josh (Jonathan Tucker of Michael Bay's Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003 / trailer]), hanging from a telephone cable.  Soon other friends and strangers are committing suicide or disappearing and ghostly images are popping up on the internet.  Teaming up with Dexter (Ian Somerhalder), who purchased Josh's computer, Mattie tries to discover what is happening and if the code that Josh was working on can stop it."
Combustible Celluloid, like most, didn't like the remake: "Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo (a.k.a. Pulse) may have been the scariest movie of the past 10 years, but the new American remake is a soulless imitation, set in a ruddy blue-gray world with grimy bathrooms and poorly-lit libraries. Kurosawa's concept, having to do with loneliness and isolation due to technology, is now distilled into a plot in which evil ghosts use the Internet and cell phones to attack the living. Kurosawa used chilling, dreamlike imagery, but director Jim Sonzero substitutes loud noises and sudden, jerky movements to pull off his wretched scare scenes. Charismatic Kristen Bell goes a long way in easing the pain as a college student who discovers what's going on. The great, twitchy, rat-faced actor Brad Dourif has a small role as a doomsayer in a cafe."
Trailer of the original Japanese movie,

The Breed 
(2006, dir. Nicholas Mastandrea)
Here we have Wes Craven as the "executive producer" of the directorial début of the perennial second-unit director Nicholas Mastandrea, who's played second fiddle again ever since (Hamlet 2 [2008 / trailer], anyone?). And what do you know! A "Wes Craven Presents" that doesn't suck donkey dick! Or, at least, we didn't think it did, but like most people who have seen the movie, we also wouldn't call it a masterpiece, or essential, or really even a movie worth bothering with. (As the SciFiMoviePage says, "No doubt bonuses were paid out to all the actors who could play those scenes with a straight face.")
Trailer to
The Breed:
The Breed is one of many college-age horrors starring people too old to play teens or college students, one of a substantially smaller number but nevertheless not rare "nature gone wild" movies, and neither all that fun as a crappy flick or all that great as a not-crappy flick. We would assume that Michelle Rodriguez's participation was based more on her then relatively recent drug bust (and related loss of her part on Lost [2005-2010]) than on her appreciation of the script. The other in-the-meantime minor big name, Taryn Manning (of Zombie Apocalypse [2011]), wasn't even a C-name at the time — or was she? (Different names carry different weight over here in Europe.)
Sarah Hates Your Movie has the plot: "Wes Craven sullies his once-good name just a little bit more by 'presenting' another nonsensical horror movie. A group of obnoxiously well-off teenagers fly out to an island for a weekend of partying, only to find themselves being victimised by a pack of rabid dogs. And, that's it." Sarah really hated the movie.
The Breed has, of course, the typically stupid shock ending that defies logic and negates any concept of a happy end. (See: the ending of the original Nightmare on Elm Street [1984, Part II], which was of course conveniently ignored for Dream Warriors [1987, Part III] — as normal in teen horror flicks.)

Paris, je t'aime 
Wes Craven goes art film — he is one of 22 directors who worked on this anthology film, the 18 different short episodes of which are set in different Parisian arrondissements. (Long ago and in another life, we lived in the 9th — and loved it.) Two arrondissements, the 11th and 15th, oddly enough, are not represented in this 120-minute-long movie. Craven's segment is entitled Père-Lachaise, after the fabulously beautiful graveyard located in the 20th arrondissement where the segment is set. (Some of you out there might know it as the place where Jim Morrison is buried. He is but one minor name among many bigger.) Paris, je t'aime (2006) was later followed, so to speak, by New York, I Love You (2008 / trailer) and Rio, Eu Te Amo (2014 / trailer).
Imdb has the plot of Craven's segment: "William and Frances (Rufus Sewell [of Dark City (1998)] and Emily Mortimer) are a British couple staying in Paris on their honeymoon (although they've yet to marry). As they wander around the Père Lachaise graveyard, she half-jokes that William is always so serious and doesn't have any sense of humor or romance. He asks her why she's agreed to marry him, then. They come upon Oscar Wilde's grave. Frances is enthralled, but Williams unimpressed, calling the monument ugly. She gets upset and storms away. William gives chase, but trips and smacks him head against the gravestone. Suddenly, the ghost of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne) appears behind him. Oscar gives William some poetic advice about the meaning of love and loss. William, inspired, chases after France, apologizes and wins her back. He offers to take her back to his apartment and make love to her. She agrees and they leave the cemetery arm-in-arm."
Over at Oszus' World, Dennis Schwartz says the movie is: "one of those anthology films that seems like a good idea but never quite works because it lacks the vision of one filmmaker to put it all together. [...] It covers the range from drama, romance, comedy, mime, and even vampire movies. It's pretty much a stunningly beautiful 'postcard' view of a Paris that tourists might not usually visit, that tries to stretch the skits into something a bit heavier; especially, when it attempts to cover stories about a missing child, racial tensions, a woman dying from cancer and ticklish romantic situations, but the serendipitous narratives are too short to have power and almost all can be quickly forgotten. It remains of interest merely as an exercise in acting and filmmaking, but otherwise has little value."

The Hills Have Eyes 2
(2007, dir. Martin Weisz)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) remake was a hit — so exactly a year later, the sequel hit the market, supposedly once again written by Wes and his son Jonathon. The German director Weisz, who had previously made the German "based on a true story" exploiter Rohtenburg (2006, aka Grimm Love, trailer) replaced Aja, in what was to be Weisz's last movie until 2014, when he released the direct-to-DVD unknown Squatters (trailer). The Hills Have Eyes 2 was critically panned; we actually began watching it one late night but fell asleep, so we cannot say anything about it — but we are sure it is much, much better than the very first The Hills Have Eyes 2 (1984, see Part II).

Reel Talk has the plot: "Set two years after the events in the first movie, The Hills Have Eyes 2 focuses on a new group of individuals who will end up as the victims of cannibal mutants living in an area of the New Mexico desert. This time, a handful of green National Guard trainees, made up of such stock archetypes as the Slow Fat Guy and the Dangerous Hothead, are serving themselves up for the cinematic slaughter. Assigned to help out a team of scientists at a desert base, the soldiers arrive to find the place abandoned, with someone apparently trapped in the surrounding hills seeking help. Some investigate while some stay behind, but soon, all of the troops fall under attack by the deformed derelicts who call the area's caves and old mines their home. One by one the soldiers are killed off, forcing the survivors to band together, save what little ammunition they have, and do whatever it takes to stay alive."
Blood Brothers says, "This remake franchise is completely baffling. The initial remake of the Wes Craven classic was a sleek, brutal, and intense leap that proved French director Aja was a legit new force in horror cinema. Everything about its theatrically released sequel [...] is as bad as the first entry was good. It's completely illogical, it's by the numbers in many of its aspects, and the execution for the film can be downright jaw dropping in ineptness. It leaves one a bit speechless."

Diary of the Dead
(2007, writ. & dir. George Romero)

Actually, to even include this flick here is sort of a joke, as all Wes Craven does is give his (uncredited) voice as an newscaster — as do Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Simon Pegg, and Guillermo del Toro. Diary is the fifth of the to-date six "living dead" films written and directed by Romero; our favorite remains the first one, Night of the Living Dead (1968). For Diary, Romero jumped on the "found-footage" bandwagon — first practiced in Cannibal Holocaust (1980 / trailer) but made popular by Blair Witch Project [1999 / trailer] and then used by way too many other movies — to present his typical zombie flick as a social metaphor narrative.
Romero-fan Final Girl, who admits "I really disliked it", has the plot: "A group college kids are off in the woods filming a no-budget mummy movie when they hear reports on the radio about a few dead people returning to life and making with the chomp-chomp on the living. The kids are unsure what to think, but they decide to stop filming and head home. They pile into a Winnebago and have various wacky and gross zombie-laden adventures all caught on camera by mummy-movie director Jason (Josh Close), who can't put down the camera because he is the voice of truth!"
The voice of truth is not good, according to Notes of a Film Fanatic: "Using the video diary form first practiced in The Blair Witch Project,* Romero strives for the same kind of you-are-there authenticity but botches the effort by allowing his didactic, ham-fisted social commentary, conveyed via thudding mouthpiece dialogue and overblown voiceover narration, to overshadow the zombie horror. [...] Romero is delivering a sermon about media responsibility in this age of 24-hour cable news channels, digital video, YouTube, etc., but when the zombie apocalypse really does come down (and it will, oh, it will), the last thing I'll need is a lecture from a painfully out-of-touch old fuddy-duddy. I will need guns — lots of them — in order to do battle with the rampaging zombies. But until then I need a gun for another reason: to put a bullet in the head of Romero's zombie franchise."
* Here we must say they are wrong: that honor belongs to Cannibal Holocaust (1980).

The Tripper
(2007, dir. Deputy Dewey)

"No hippies or Republicans were harmed in this film."

Aka President Evil. Deputy Dewey from Craven's Scream franchise, otherwise known as the former Mr. Courteney Cox or, on occasion, as David Arquette, directs a horror film! The Tripper is actually on our "To See" list, but we haven't gotten around to it yet. According to some sources, Wes Craven makes a non-speaking cameo in the movie as the (old) hippie wearing a top hat. Deputy Dewey co-wrote the movie with Joe Harris, who few years previously was involved in the not-so-hot horror flick Darkness Falls (2003 / trailer).

A lot of (US) Americans seem to dislike this movie, but then, a lot of (US) Americans are think Donald Trump is viable presidential material. The title, The Tripper, is obviously enough a play on Ronald "The Senile" Reagan's nickname, "The Gipper". Typical of the negative comments would be those of Movie Censorship, which says: "David Arquette's political backwood slasher The Tripper is a barely entertaining movie with a handful of well-known actors, a quaint killer, and quite a few heavy splatter scenes. Apparently, amateur film makers are not the only ones who go out to the woods with a couple of friends to make a little horror flick — Hollywood stars are in for it, too."
Crimson Quill, however, is less critical of the movie:  "[...] An homage to the exploitation flicks of Craven and Tobe Hooper set against the backdrop of a free love festival in mother nature's back yard, Northern California. [...] Slashers in the eighties were often lambasted for their moral bankruptcy with their outlook and one could be forgiven for believing that The Tripper has a very strong political agenda. [...] There is plentiful political subtext, none of which is implemented with any kind of subtlety whatsoever, but it was never Arquette's sole intention to school our asses. [...] That's the strength of it, no deep hidden meaning other than that of equal rights for one and all, his movie was only concerned with entertaining the pants off its audience and, on this count, it performed rather well indeed. [...] Being an equal rights commentator, Arquette ensures that we are given ample naked flesh of both sexes and seasons his treat with lashings of delectable grue as Ronnie (Christopher Allen Nelson) dispatches with gay abandon using his woodsman's axe to chop up any deadwood en route. Limbs are relocated, arteries spray and there's more than enough grue to sate all but the most ferocious appetites."
Behind the Couch has the plot: "A group of free-loving, pot-smoking, acid-dropping hippies attend a music and camping festival only to find themselves stalked and brutally butchered by an axe-wielding psychotic killer wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. Aided by his faithful killer dog, Nancy. Naturally." The Final Girl, "Samantha", is played by Jaime King (of My Bloody Valentine 3D [2009]).

Last House on the Left 
(2009, dir. Dennis Iliadis)
David Hess, 19 September 1936 – 7 October 2011, (of the original version) was offered a cameo but said no.
It's hard to ask "Why bother remaking this movie?" when the first version itself was a "remake" of another movie, The Virgin Spring (1960). Nevertheless, why bother remaking this movie?


According to some sources, Wes Craven was inspired in part to produce this watered-down, better-budgeted remake of his first shocker of the same name from 1972 because of the lack of success of the rip-off version from 2005, Chaos. The success of the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes probably also added fuel to the fire — money is money is money, and one never has enough it. Craven produced, Craven presented, the remake was a commercial success, Craven made money. But much like the likewise similarly unneeded and mercenary remake of I Spit on Your Grave (2010 / trailer) which came a year later, we haven't seen bothered watching Last House on the Left — though we are sure that on a technical level, both remakes are probably better made than the originals.
Music used in the movie —
Sweet Child o' Mine by Taken by Trees:

Ancient Slumber has the plot, which "is essentially the same as the original with a few minor cosmetic changes, but for those who haven't had the pleasure it goes something like this — John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter) Collingwood go to their lakeside summer house with their teenage daughter Mari (Sara Paxton of The Innkeepers [2011]). After arriving Mari takes the family car and visits her friend Paige (Martha Maclsaac of Dead Before Dawn [2012]), who works in the local convenience store. Overhearing the girls talking about smoking pot, a teenage boy called Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) invites the girls back to his motel room to indulge in a little narcotic usage, but just when Justin, Paige and Mari are starting to enjoy themselves they are interrupted by Justin's escaped convict father Krug (Garret Dillahunt), his lover Sadie (Riki Lindhome) and his brother Frank (Aaron Paul), and they're not happy. Not wanting to risk being caught, the gang kidnap the girls, steal their car and head out into the country where Krug and his cronies proceed to torture and rape the girls before heading off the seek shelter from an oncoming storm. Unfortunately the house they choose to seek shelter in belongs to the Collingwoods, and once John and Emma twig what has been happening, the fun really starts…"

Chuck Norris Ate My Baby liked the movie, pointing out: "What works about the film in comparison to the original, is the fact that it is a glossy and well-crafted update. [...] I've already seen a grimy and grungy version of The Last House on the Left, so seeing the story with a different pallet actually gives the film its own identity. To be a successful remake, there needs to be a separation form the source material and to go with a stylistic and well-crafted version is a major departure from 72's Last House. [...] While I love Craven's Last House, and consider it an exploitation classic, it is certainly not without its problems. Two that immediately come to mind are some of the dialogue scenes between the parents as well as everything involving the two police officers. Overall, in this update, the dialogue is solid and mostly natural for all the characters, including the teenage girls, the rents and the gang of psychos."
More music used in the movie —
Sweet Love for Planet Earth by Fuck Buttons:

My Soul to Take
(2010, writ. & dir.  Wes Craven)

For the first time since Freddy's New Nightmare (1994, Part IV), Craven directs his own script again! And he also goes 3D — 'cause, like, it's cinematic art. In any event, despite the 3D and despite major reshoots and rewrites that delayed the movie's release, My Soul to Take bombed. It received a Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination for "Worst Film"; we were unable to find out to which film it lost. We sort of want to one day see both flicks.
Love Horror has the plot: "Abel Plainkoff (Raúl Esparza) is a man with multiple personalities (one of which is particularly evil) who turns out to be a serial killer, which is news to him. As he realises this and calls his therapist for help, the dark side of him takes full control and attempts to kill his pregnant wife and young daughter. Police arrive just in time to save the little girl, but the mother isn't so lucky. Abel gets shot and sent to hospital, restrained (because he just won't die), but somewhere along the line he escapes and disappears. 16 years later, and a large group of teens gather at the spot where the killer vanished. Seven of the group share a birthday, which happens to be the anniversary of when Plainkoff's killing spree was put to an end. But their taunting and trivialising of the event seems to awaken something, and the following day it looks like the psychopath is back from the grave to continue his murderous rampage, starting with the 7 kids who were born on that same fateful night."
365 Horror Movies is of the opinion that "The two things that the film does have going for it are 1. It's an original horror movie and 2. The teens actually look like teens. No 40-year-olds with five o'clock shadows at 6am. Oh, and the condor scene in the classroom is pretty awesome. It's not supposed to be the scariest scene, but, in fact, it's easily the best scene in the film by a mile, which pretty much says everything ones needs to know about this film."
Birth Movies Death, however, offers a description that makes My Soul to Take sound like our kind of movie: "His worst movie, My Soul to Take, is perhaps one of the all-time great bad movies, a train wreck of monumental proportions that is incredibly entertaining and watchable and should, frankly, be a cult classic."

A Nightmare on Elm Street
(2010, dir. Samuel Bayer)
Another Craven film gets rebooted, but for a change Craven was vocally opposed to it — perhaps because the producers decided not to use him as a consultant or co-producer or in any way that might have lined his pocket more than as just the creator of the original characters? We personally weren't of any strong opinion regarding the remake: Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company did, after all, do one of our favorite remakes — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003 / trailer) — but, in turn, also did one of the major fuck-ups of reboots, Friday the 13th (2009 / trailer). And it isn't exactly as if there was any integrity left to the character after all the "funny" nightmare movies, so a "serious" take that remembered that Freddy was a child-fucking killer didn't sound too bad. We already began to lose interest, however, when we saw who was writing the movie — Wesley Strick wrote The Glass House (2001), fer Christ's sake — and how old the cast was (indeed, considering the real age of the Elm Street kids and how old they actually looked, we couldn't help but think that they should have re-set the movie in a college). Thus, A Nightmare on Elm Street coming so close on the heels of the turkey that is 2009's Friday the 13th, we ended up skipping the flick. It seems to have been a hit, though.
The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review, which is of the opinion that "Most of the Platinum Dunes remakes disappointingly fail to hold any kind of candle up to their predecessors – [...] this new A Nightmare on Elm Street is no different", has the plot, in case you didn't know it: "In a diner, Dean Russell (Kellan Lutz) abruptly slashes his own throat after not having slept for several days. A group of his friends from high school realise they are all having dreams about a sinister figure wearing a glove of steel claws. When the figure kills them in their dreams, each of them dies in the real world. As they desperately try to stay awake and stop themselves falling into dream, Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara) learns that the dream figure is Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley of Damnation Alley [1977 / trailer] and Dollman [1991 / trailer]). She uncovers that Freddy was the janitor at their preschool when they were five years old. Believing that Freddy was molesting the children, their parents pursued and set him on fire. Though their parents have made every effort to cover this up, Freddy has now returned to take revenge against the children in their dreams."
Kindertauma saw the movie and experienced what we feared we would: "I don't BELIEVE this new polished and skinned version. I don't believe that girl is in high school, I don't believe she dresses and wears her hair like that, I don't believe that's her house, her mom, her friends. I REALLY don't believe that a preschool would hire a creepy guy like Fred Krueger to be their live-in gardener (?) and to room in the school's basement (?) and that he would have private access to the children. This is a universe that doesn't play by any of reality's rules and yet the entire plot hinges on the destruction of such rules but yet they don't even exist in the first place… [...]. I just watched THE ENTIRE Elm Street series back to back and never once did I feel bored. I may have laughed at how crappy some of the later ones now seem but I never wanted to take a nap instead of finishing one. I've never fallen asleep in a theater either, I think that's an insane thing to do but while watching this recent redo of N.O.E.S. I actually felt sleepy and BORED. [...]"

Scream 4
(2011, dir. Wes Craven)

Aka Scre4m. Ain't no such thing as beating a dead horse as long as it's still breathing. Fifteen years after the first movie, and 11 years after the last, the Scream trilogy becomes a quadrilogy. Exciting. The four main characters were back for the ride, as was scriptwriter Kevin Williamson (who unofficially sort of got eased out of the project and had his script re-written). A hit, as to be expected, sadly enough it is also the last movie that Craven was to direct before the Big C got to him.
Urban Cinefile has the plot: "A decade has passed and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell of Wild Things [1998 / trailer]), has got herself together and is now the author of a self-help book. She returns home to Woodsboro — the last stop of her book tour — where she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette of Ravenous [1999 / trailer] and 8-Legged Freaks [2002 / trailer]) and Gale (Courtney Cox of 3000 Miles to Graceland [2001]), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately, Sidney's appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface (voice of Dane Farwell), putting Sidney, Gale, and Dewey, along with Jill, her friends, and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger."
Daily Dead is of the opinion that Scream 4 "is a direct sequel and you won't appreciate this film as much if you haven't seen the first three movies. On top of referencing other horror films, there are many references to past quotes or events in the Scream series that will be lost to someone only watching Scream 4. [...] I'm happy to say that the film continues to build over the second and third act into a really strong sequel." This positive attitude seems to be shared by the majority of those who have seen the movie.

Final Girl, who likewise thinks that "much of that enjoyment stems from an affection for earlier entries in the series" but also opinions that "Cash-grab, by the way, smells a bit like Aviance Night Musk by Prince Matchabelli for Women" and that is a semi-exception: "Scream 4 is so self-referential and meta (even dropping hints about, say, the real-life marital discord between Cox and Arquette) that it's become a mobius strip, and ouroboros feeding off of its own history and cleverness. At times, it almost sinks into the realm of complete parody. There is some seriously broad overacting going throughout, the type better suited to Scary Movie than a scary movie. [...] Though the cast is full of red herrings and the violence is vicious and brutal, the film quickly falls into a pattern: phone call, oh no!, die. I suppose, perhaps, that was always the Scream formula, but here it just seems like a journey from beat to beat. There may be jump scares, but there's not much tension. It's capable, like all Wes Craven movies are. After it was over, I began thinking about that — what makes a Wes Craven movie a Wes Craven movie? Does anything? Scream 4 could have been directed by anyone who knows what they're doing behind the camera and the results wouldn't be much different. It's just sort of there and you like it well enough even though things slide into JUST END ALREADY-land once the killer is revealed, know. It's enjoyable, if rote."

The Girl in the Photographs
(2015, dir. Nick Simon)

Wes Craven is credited as an executive producer of this independent horror movie. The Hollywood Reporter likes it, and says: "A creepy and quirky suburban slasher whose prosaic script is boosted by a playful sense of style, not to mention a welcome sense of humor, The Girl in the Photographs marks an amusingly gory sophomore effort from writer-director Nick Simon (who co-penned the screenplay for Fox's The Pyramid [2014 /trailer])."
The usually forgiving Arrow in the Head, however, does not, and says: "Being that The Girl in the Photographs bears the name of the late Wes Craven as an executive producer, I wish I could tell you that the last film to have the maestro's seal of approval was something that would please his legions of fans. Despite having been chosen to play the Toronto International Film Festival's prestigious Midnight Madness genre selection, The Girl in the Photographs is a mean-spirited, vacuous genre effort that's little more than an extended exercise in style with barely a thimble of content to sustain it."
More Horror has the plot: "It's the story of young South Dakota resident and grocery store clerk, Colleen (Claudia Lee). Colleen's rather lackluster life is turned upside down when a mysterious photographer begins to stalk her, leaving bloody, grisly photographs for her to find, each depicting the aftermath of what appears to be astonishing violence. After the photographs are dismissed by the police as fakes, they wind up going viral online, eventually catching the attention of renowned Los Angeles photographer, Peter Hemmings (Kal Penn of Dementamania [2013 / trailer]). Hemmings, who immediately notices the unmistakable influence of his own work in the gory photographs, decides to roll into town to investigate the situation. He brings with him his assistant, Chris (Kenny Wormald) and several of the models with which he works, one of whom is his girlfriend. He also meets and is intrigued by Colleen and her wholesome good looks. Eventually, Colleen's deranged stalkers cross paths with Hemmings and his Hollywood entourage, of course. Suspense and slayings aplenty ensue as one might expect."
By the time you read this, there might be a trailer out there — but there wasn't the day we uploaded this blog entry.

And an Addendum:
The Opening of Misty Beethoven
(1976, dir. "Henry Paris" aka Radley Metzger)

And lastly, an addendum: another film project that fits into Craven's early days in the film business, the period looked at in Part I.
The Rialto Report, that fabulous and continually interesting website dedicated to the historical documentation of "adult movies", dug up a release form (see below) for Radley Metzger's The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), a classic porn movie from the day and age when they still tried to be serious movies. Misty Beethoven's working title was "Society", and Craven signed on to play a character named "Michal". You see him? We didn't — but we enjoyed the movie anyway.

10K Bullets has the plot: "Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) is a sexologist who believes that he can transform Misty Beethoven (Constance Money), a second-rate whore, into the next Golden Rod Girl. Seymour with the help of his friend Geraldine (Jacqueline Beaudant) have to work at a feverish pace with Misty in order to have here ready for Lawrence Layman a vane magazine publishers next high-society party."
Basically, a sexed-up version of the Pygmalion story which, despite all the sex, is actually less sexist than that earlier version, My Fair Lady (1964 / trailer).
 Short clip with theme song:
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