Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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Was there ever a better casting job than whomever hired Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Robert E. Howard classic character, Conan the Barbarian?

The Cimmerian Conan searches for revenge on a cult leader (James Earl Jones) for the death of his parents and much of his village when Conan was but a young and impressionable boy.  On the path to vengeance, Conan encounters battles with men and monsters as well as encounters with the world’s females, including his great love, Valeria (Sandahl Bergman).

There is an epic feel to Conan the Barbarian and it helped to launch the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The shots and images of the lands were beautiful and helped to infuse this with more than just a story of swords and sorcery.

Sure, Schwarzenegger has limited dialogue, but his physical performance is top notch and brings Conan to life.  Truthfully, every other chance to bring Conan to the big screen has not been successful.

The score of the film is remarkable too.   Basil Poledouris was brought on by his friend, director John Milius and the soundtrack makes the lack of dialogue less important.  The music stands out here.

It is also weird to see James Earl Jones appear as the villainous Thulsa Doom, but he brings a certain gravitas to the film, as does Max von Sydow as King Osric.

This film has its moments and may not be the greatest film made, but it owns some of the wildest quotes around.

“Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women!

What else can you need?

classic

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The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The final night of October means Halloween and, for EYG, the final night of the October Horror Binge.  And we end the month with a trend setting film from 1999 called The Blair Witch Project.

One of the eeriest aspects of The Blair Witch Project was the speculation that this was more than just a movie.  The set up of the film made it feel like it could be real, and that made things all just a little bit creepier.

Of course, the film is not real.  It just was one of the films that helped to start the “found footage” craze.  The film looked to have been filmed by the characters themselves on a hand held camera which increased the suspense and the psychological terror as we see and hear what these three student film makers would go through.

The story was that these three young filmmakers went into the woods of Maryland to shoot a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch.  As they head into the woods, they begin to have major problems. They get lost.  They get hungry.  And eventually, thy start turning on each other as they appear to be stalked by something in the woods.

We follow the attempts of the trio to find their way home, all the while knowing that they would never be found again.  There were some extremely successful scares in the film considering there was almost no gore or any clear shots of the witch.  The film builds its tension inside the heads of the three filmmakers and slowly drives them into a state of psychological terror.

There may be too many scenes of the characters just yelling for each other, but it certainly lent an uneasy level of realism to the project.  The conclusion of the film is as nerve-wrecking as anything you will see and yet you may have no idea what you are looking at.  It is a well done third act to a film that had many iconic moments.

While the concept may not have supported the length of film that it was, The Blair Witch Project succeeds much more than it does not in creating what feels like a wild fantasy in the woods of Maryland.  It is just real enough to make you wonder.. could this be true?  The marketing of the film is one of the greatest of all time and that is why, twenty years later, people still know The Blair Witch Project.

Thus ends the October (which actually started in September) Horror Binge.

classic

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Army of Darkness (1993)

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I had no idea what Army of Darkness would be.

I watched it and I am still not sure exactly what Army of Darkness was.

All I know is this is the Ash Williams that I fell in love with during Ash vs. the Evil Dead TV show in all his over-the-top, campiness, weird comedic humor goodness.

The character of Ash has come a long way since the original Evil Dead film.  Along the way, he became a kick ass hero with a chainsaw, a robotic hand and a boomstick.  All the while being played with a cheeky goodness by the one and only Bruce Campbell.  I said it before, but Bruce Campbell is the only actor that could get away with this kind of role.

Ash, at the end of Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, found himself transported to a different time and plopped down in the middle of a war with humans and the Deadites where he must retrieve the Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon, in order to get back home.

Sam Raimi had changed this trilogy from a cabin in the woods horror film to a horror/comedy that appeared to owe a lot of its inspiration to the original Clash of the Titans.  The effects looked very much like the 1981 sword and sandals monster fest which was a personal favorite of mine as a youth.

Ash now is the character that I knew from Ash vs. the Evil Dead TV show from Starz.  This was where I was truly introduced to Ash and it was interesting watching how he developed over these three movies into that character.

Groovy.

While this is more of an action/adventure sci-fi epic than horror, there are still traces of the horror genre in Raimi’s third film of the trilogy.  It is ridiculously funny and silly much of the time, but it is intended to be this way.  I am not sure how I would have felt if I had not seen Ash vs. the Evil Dead first and then went backward to the trilogy, but, after already loving this character, Army of Darkness is a awesome end to the film series.

And the October Horror Binge rolls on…

classic

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Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

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I came late to the greatness that was Starz’s series, Ash vs. the Evil Dead, but once I found it, I watched every over the top minute of the blood soaked, cornball horror series.  So with the October Horror Binge having one week remaining, I decided to revisit the movie origin of EYG Hall of Fame character Ash Wiliams.

And while Ash made his first appearance in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, the character whom would eventually become the Ash we know and love truly took shape in the sequel to that movie, Evil Dead 2:  Dead By Dawn.

Evil Dead 2 is truly a mix of horror and comedy, unlike anything seen before.  I remember not being the greatest fan of the original Evil Dead movie, this sequel really takes the genre and turns it upside-down.  There are some expertly designed scares here, but also some amazing campy moments that seem to work beautifully together.

Of course, everything with Ash depends on the unbelievable Bruce Campbell.  Campbell brings a devilish, overextravagant style with which he has become synonymous.  This material simply does not work without Campbell’s over expressive facial features and his ability to deliver silly lines of dialogue with complete sincerity.

This is the film where Ash loses his hand, gains the chainsaw and starts becoming the monster fighter that he is in the epic series.  And that is just great.

The ending of this movie is a huge cliffhanger that leads directly into Army of Darkness, Raimi’s next in the Evil Dead trilogy.  He had successfully taken the gore-fest of the original Evil Dead film from cabin-in-the-woods horror genre to comedic horror effortlessly.  Few characters worked better in this surroundings as Ash Williams.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is a lot of fun and it knows what it is.  It is a serious story that knows how to not take itself too serious, which is something that many movies cannot accomplish.

classic

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The Frighteners (1996)

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I needed a palate cleanser after watching The Exorcist today, so I watched Michael J. Fox’s horror/comedy The Frighteners for the October Horror Binge.  Do you know what?  That film was way creepier and more intense than I remembered it being.

I always liked The Frighteners even though it was considered one of Michael J. Fox’s less successful films after his huge trilogy with the Back to the Future films.  It did not make a lot of money, but the special effects for the time were quite well received and hold up today.

Fox is former architect Frank Bannister, whose wife was killed by a vengeful spirit and he gained a psychic ability to see spirits.  His wife’s death sent Frank on a spiral, to the point where he was using his ability to scam people as an exorcist of evil spirits.

However, the same dark spirit that killed his wife has returned to town and has begun killing again, making it look as if perfectly healthy people were falling over dead with heart attacks.  Frank, though, begins to see people with numbers on their foreheads, indicating who is the next victim.

I had not known that Peter Jackson, famed director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy,  had directed this little gem.  It showed what Jackson could do with CGI ghosts and battles before the jaunt into Middle Earth.

Some of the humor of the film felt a little forced and the tone of the movie did bounce around some.  The character of the FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) seemed to be a strange addition to the storyline.  He was a twitchy Fed who did not really serve to do anything much to push the story along.  I would have liked to see that character re-imagined and added into the mix in a different manner.

And the eventual killer was pretty obvious, but there was a neat little twist at the end that worked, for the most part.

This was a fun film that worked more than it didn’t and contains the always charming Michael J. Fox in a role slightly different than we are used to seeing him in.  I enjoyed The Frighteners more than most.

funtime

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The Exorcist (1973)

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Bringing out the big guns now.

Perhaps one of the scariest, most iconic horror movies ever made is next in the October Horror Binge, and it is one that I am happy I watched in the middle of the afternoon.  I can only imagine what this would be like watching in the dark at night.

The Exorcist is one of those movies that everyone knows about and has transcended the genre of horror into the lexicon of pop culture.  There are so many scenes in this movie that have been parodied or imitated that it is somewhat difficult to watch the original without thinking about these examples.  To illustrate, when finished with The Exorcist, I pulled up the clip from Whose Line is it Anyway featuring the Scene to Rap on the Exorcist.

This movie became the first horror movie to be nominated for a best Picture Academy Award and has been the top grossing horror film of all time until recently when it was unseated by It.

This is the story of a young girl Regan (Linda Blair) who become possessed by a demon and her desperate mother (Ellen Burstyn) tried to find someone who would help them.  After exhausting the medical community, she turned to the church and Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller).  He brought in another priest Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) who has more experience in the ritual.

William Friedkin directed the film, based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, which was based on the last known Catholic sanctioned exorcism in the United States.  Many of the specific details were changed, but much of the story is represented well in the movie.

No doubt, The Exorcist shook up the movie going public when it was released in 1973 and it has been creating a stir ever since.  It is as iconic a movie as you are going to find.

vintage

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Alligator (1980)

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I was listening to Critically Acclaimed podcast the other day.  Critically Acclaimed features movie critics William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold.  I do not agree with them that often, but I do enjoy listening to them as they bring an intelligence to film criticism that was unlike others.

This episode, they were speaking about the career of recently deceased actor Robert Forster and Bibbs mentioned that one of his favorite performances of Forster’s career was in Alligator.  I had never heard of this movie before, but I really enjoyed this year’s Crawl, which was about killer alligators so I thought this would be a good lazy Sunday feature to continue the October Horror Binge we are doing here at EYG Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed.

If you were to describe this movie as Jaws with an alligator, you would not be too far off.  There is even a musical score that sounds pretty familiar when the alligator is coming up on a victim.

Robert Forster played David Madison, a police detective with a tragic past, who encountered a giant alligator in the Chicago sewer system.  The alligator had been flushed years prior and had been exposed to an experimental growth hormones and had grown to a massive size.  The alligator began feeding on more than disposed carcasses of laboratory test animals, causing a panic among the public.

This is clearly a B-movie, and it is full of cheesy moments and silly situations.  All the crummy characters the film introduced find their way into the gaping jaws of the alligator, making you almost cheer for the creature.

There is even one scene, set at a wedding of all things, that makes me think about scenes from the old 1980s TV show The A-Team.

This alligator is able to make his way around Chicago really well.  One scene he is in the swimming pool of a child’s party and the very next scene, he is in an alleyway ready to eat up big game hunter Brock (Henry Silva) in a scene reminiscent to the eating of Quint in Jaws.

The script is witty at times and does go out of the way to develop the character of Madison more than these types of movies usually do.  The film tosses oddball characters at Madison throughout the film that seem to play up the cliches of the genre.

In the end, it is a silly movie, but undeniably fun.  Forster gives a solid performance and the special effects are, for the most part (with the probably exception of the A-Team scene) pretty decent.

Honestly, the similarities between this and Jaws are strong.  See them both.   Jaws is better.

funtime

Gremlins (1984)

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We are continuing the October Horror Binge here at EYG Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed and now we come upon a horror/comedy classic from the early 1980s, Gremlins.

When inventor Rand (Hoyt Axton) purchases a cute, fuzzy creature called a Mogwai from a Chinatown store, he is given strict advice.  “Don’t expose him to bright light. Don’t ever get him wet. And don’t ever, ever feed him after midnight.”

Well, it is not long before Billy (Zach Galligan) has broken all three of these rules and the result?  The Mogwai, that the family has called Gizmo, starts to multiply.  And the results are not near as war and fuzzy as Gizmo.

My memory of seeing this movie originally when I was young was that I was not very thrilled by it.  In fact, I seem to remember even not liking the movie.  It has probably been over thirty years since I saw this movie and, while my opinion sometimes varies on some films, unfortunately, I had the same reaction to Gremlins that I did when I first saw it.

I was unimpressed.

I will say that I liked the practical effects of the movie.  There is no way we would get something like this today.  Today’s version would be full of CGI and special effects that would make the Gremlins feel more real and less special.  The cuteness of these little creatures more than made up for any lingering problems with practical effects.

The rest of the film was not great.  There was a forced story for side characters, including Phoebe Cates.  There was a horrific role for Polly Holliday (Flo from the Alice TV show) who appeared to be playing the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz.

Hoyt Axton did voice over at the very beginning and at the very end of the movie and it felt out of place after seeing the entire film.

Sure there were some cute moments and the Gremlins are imaginative, but the human characters are lacking and the story itself is simplistic.  I found myself bored by much of the movie and it reinforced my first impressions of Gremlins all those years ago.

overrated

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Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

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I had not intended on doing this film, but as I was flipping around the TV, I came across Halloween H20: 20 Years Later on AMC.  So I decided to watch it as part of the October Horror Binge.

I know this movie has been expunged out of existence by the most recent Halloween (2018) that was a direct sequel to the original film.  All other Halloween movies are tossed aside into the world of non-canon.  That was probably a wise choice.

Here, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to her role as Laurie Strode, now living under a pseudonym and working as a dean of a northern school.  She is drastically over protective of her son (Josh Hartnett) who is getting tired of the family boogyman.  Unfortunately, it is Halloween and Michael Myers is back with his knife.

It was weird hearing Laurie call Michael her brother, as this was one of the twists in the series that had been expunged by the reboot.  That is a wise move as all of that connection felt very forced.

Then, this movie could not have crammed any more jump scares into the film’s run time.  There were jump scare after jump scare and most of them were simply the music getting louder and someone jumps out and surprises the character.  In other words, fake outs.  These may work once in a while, but I swear the first half of the movie was nothing but fake out jump scares knitted together with a thin connective tissue.

Jamie Lee Curtis is great as always. There is actually quite an impressive cast here as the cast included Michelle Williams, Adam Arkin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LL Cool J, Janet Leigh, and Josh Hartnett.  Nobody gave their career best performance here though.

Michael Myers showed up in the third act and stomped around and really did not do much more than kill a few supporting characters.  It was not very well done.

I am not sorry this has been removed form canon.  It deserved to go.

meh

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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With the October Horror Binge in full swing, I decided to take a step into the world of psychological thrillers with horror elements.  And what better film to fall into that category than the classic Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins?

Has there been a more terrifying and intense performance than Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter?  It is why he was able to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for the role when he only actually appears on screen for a little over 16 minutes.

Jodie Foster brings the goods in this movie as Clarice Starling, a young FBI cadet who is sent in to see Lecter in an opportunity to pick Lecter’s brain about another serial killer, ‘Buffalo Bill’ (Ted Levine), who skins his victims.  Lecter takes a strange liking to Clarice and leads her to clues on the case.

While the leads get a lot of the well-deserved attention, Ted Levine does not get the credit he deserves for creating one of the most disturbing and frightening serial killers that we have sen on screen ever.  Some of Levine’s moments are absolutely menacing and horrifying.  It is unbelievable that the actor Ted Levine who played Buffalo Bill is the same actor who played Leland Stottlemeyer on Monk.

Director Jonathan Demme is masterful in the creation of suspense and tension. The shots are both disturbing and beautiful all in one.

If you have not seen The Silence of the Lambs, this is the ultimate film of suspense and tension.  The film contains a bunch of outstanding performances and some of the best direction you will ever see.  It is an all-time classic and worth the re-watch any time.

paragon

 

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Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

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After the frightening horror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I was ready for a change in the October Horror Binge.  So I went back to a couple of old friends:  Abbott & Costello.  This time, the comedic pair are meeting up with the Mummy.

The final of the Universal films featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meting up with Universal monsters.  They had met Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and then the Mummy.

The film contained all of the typical Abbott and Costello bits, including a take on the famous “Who’s on First” routine using the word “Mummy.”  Another bit that made its way into many Abbott & Costello films was Lou seeing something, being scared, running to Bud only to have the thing disappear by the time they returned.  It was a routine they did regularly, and it appeared here many times.

In fact, the repetition shows how the duo has started to slip.  The comedy of Abbott & Costello was losing steam after a long stretch of success and in Abbott & Costello Meets the Mummy, you can see the strain.

And yet, looking back there are funny moments.  I have loved Bud & Lou for years and this, albeit not their strongest work, was a nice palate cleanser after the insanity of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Underwhelming

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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The October Horror Binge continued tonight with what many consider one of the most influential horror films of all time.  The film that helped create the genre of slasher films that included giant, faceless hulking beasts as killers:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre featured the killer known as Leatherface and a severely creepy film that is listed as “based on true events” though that it not actually true.  I mean, the story is fiction, but Leatherface himself is said to be based on serial killer Ed Gein.

The film has a realistic feel to it as it does not seem to be a studio movie.  The actors feel as if they are just kids coming across this monstrous killer and the whole film has a documentary type vibe going down.  That creates even more terror than something that is slick and perfect.

What is even more frightening is that this is something that could happen.  Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers are all characters that have some kind of supernatural/mystical binge to them, but Leatherface is basically a crazed cannibal in a mask with a chainsaw.  That is something that could happen.

And then it becomes so bat shit crazy that the horror really grips you.  The whole Grandpa bit was about as creepy as I could stand.  I had never seen this movie before and the portrayals of these crazy villains were not what I had expected.  Even Leatherface was one of the more original creatures you would ever see.

And all of that screaming.  And those extreme close ups.  Man, it is an unnerving film and I can see why it was controversial.

I found it somewhat unsatisfactory at the end because I was invested in seeing this weirdo family get what was coming to them and I only got a little of that.  Again, it is very much like other horror movies that do not end with a happy ending.  And truthfully, there was a survivor.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a film that I would want to watch on a regular basis, but I did appreciate seeing the classic film during this binge.

classic

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Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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We are diving way back to the late 1960s for our next October Horror Binge as one of the iconic films, Rosemary’s Baby, was released.  Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological thriller/horror film directed by the infamous Roman Polanski featuring Mia Farrow as Rosemary, a young woman whose pregnancy may be more than it seems.

Rosemary and Guy moved into a new apartment despite the fact that their friend Hutch attempted to dissuade them from taking it considering the questionable past of the building.  Their neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet, immediately thrust themselves into the couple’s lives.  When Rosemary and Guy decided to have a baby, the Castvets got involved even more with special drinks and foods.

On the night when Rosemary is planning to be impregnated, she was drugged and raped by a demonic force.  She became pregnant.

When Rosemary believed , she became desperate to try and find out the truth.

The film was very tense.  Even though we saw the rape scene, the film built it as if Rosemary was paranoid and crazy.  There was always a slight doubt.

The movie is creepy as heck and the whole Satanic stuff works in the horror genre.  This is more subtle than you think and developed a really thrill ride that makes you desperate to cheer for Mia Farrow.

It is one of the great horror movies of all time.

vintage

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The Shining (1980)

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Next up on the October Horror Binge is one of the great horror movies of all time in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  The Shining is based on a Steven King book, however, King was not a fan of the adaptation of this film, which is odd considering how amazing the film is.  The sequel to this movie/book, Doctor Sleep will be released later this year.

Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson), a former teacher and current writer, moved his family, wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), to the Outlook Hotel where they are hired to take care of the hotel during the winter when it was shut down.  The isolation and frustration begins to get to Jack as he struggled to write.

Danny has a mental power known as The Shining.  Scatman Crothers played the hotel’s chef who reveals to Danny that he too has the gift.  However, Danny begins seeing flashes that suggest that there is more to the Outlook Hotel than has been revealed.

The Shining does a masterful job of creating moods.  The Outlook is a wonderful setting that not only feels massive and extensive, but also isolating and claustrophobic.  One could understand how someone could go mad from the loneliness.  Although there are some implications that Jack may not have been the ideal husband/father even before the move to the Outlook.

Jack Nicholson is tremendous as Jack Torrence and his dynamic with Shelley Duvall is creepy.  When Jack starts going off-kilter, he is scary as can be.  While the ghost tale parts of The Shining are fine, they are meant to give reason for the breakdown.  Yet, I do not think I need anything supernatural to explain why Jack flipped out.

There are some truly disturbing imagery in The Shining and the entire “redrum” stuff is what nightmares are made of.

The Shining is frightening and filled with tension.  You are never quite sure what is going to happen and that is a great thing.  This is one of the best films in the genre.

paragon

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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The first Saturday evening in October 2019 and I am continuing the October Horror Binge that I started last week while the calendar still said September.   Now that it is officially the All Hallow’s Eve month, we can resume watching those scary stories from the big screen.

Last week I had watched, for the first time, Freddy Krueger’s debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This week, I skipped over #2 and went right for what is, arguably, the best film of the franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

I was a fan of the title song by Dokken, and, I have a slight memory of renting the VHS when I was younger.  This came out the year I graduated from high school and I was not a slasher film fan, but I remember renting it.  However, as I watched the film tonight, there was little about it that I remembered so it is possible that I did not pay too close of attention to the movie when I watched it back in the late 1980s.

I watched it closer tonight and I enjoyed it much more than the first time.  It was fun with the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) from the first film.  There is a group of new young characters, led by a young Patricia Arquette.  Some of the acting was questionable, but for a slasher movie, they were fine.

Freddy Krueger continues to be the man when it comes to creative kills and you can see why he became an icon in the world of horror.  I’m not sure if I am going to watch any of the other Nightmares, but Dream Warriors is great.

classic

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