Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Wes Craven

Scream – Manipulating Expectations

Films which make the strongest impression on us make that impression for a reason. Sometimes that reason might be a slight one: you were in the right mood, you had nothing else to watch, everyone else liked the film and you can see exactly why. However, as you continue to study films, you will soon discover that the movies you remember the most typically have one thing in common: the story structure is solid.

As this thorough video essay by Cristobal Olguin points out, Wes Craven’s films are perfect to study for their structure. His films teach us that within any scene that truly frightens you, there are numerous relationships and correspondences that produce that feeling of fear. If one is missing, the entire effect might be lost.

Many of these elements are bound up in storytelling, in the little tricks Craven uses to move his tale along. This video takes a close look at a couple of the techniques Craven uses in Scream, written by Kevin Williamson.

[Spoiler alert twenty-one years later: this video reveals whodunnit in Scream.]

By the time you find out who the real killer is in Scream, you might not care. The movie has become less about suspense and more about how to tell a story. Using traditional story techniques in new and interesting ways can give your story a unique structure, such as Craven achieved from Williamson’s script for Scream.


Wes Craven teams up with Steve Niles

The-Disciples_Steve-NilesWes Craven, the iconic horror director behind Last House On the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, is partnering with 30 Days of Night co-creator Steve Niles, to adapt Niles’ upcoming comic The Disciples, drawn by Christopher Mitten, a sci-fi horror story set in space. Reported by The Hollywood Reporter HERE

Universal Cable Productions, which produced shows such as “Being Human” and “Defiance”, is in the process of picking up the rights to the title, which is due to hit stands in May from Black Mask Studios.

Craven, who is not writing or directing, will exec produce along with Sara Bottfeld of Industry Entertainment.

Here’s a description of the debut comic:

Dagmar, Rick, and Jules, intrepid private eyes/bounty hunters, have been hired by a high ranking Senator to retrieve his teenage daughter who’s run off to join a mysterious religious cult.

This is no ordinary cult though. In the near future of “The Disciples,” the ultra-wealthy have become true Masters Of The Universe by colonizing moons throughout the solar system. Billionaire industrialist McCauley Richmond is one such colonist: he’s built a new society on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, where his flock of cultists can have the religious freedom to worship him.

But when the team reaches Ganymede in their Starship Venture, they discover something has gone horribly wrong…

This ghost story in space reunites comics’ king of the macabre Steve Niles with his longtime collaborator Christopher Mitten, whose stylish mix of grit and flow matches Steve’s sharp characterizations and taste for screams.


Friday the 13th & the Birth of Jason Voorhees

Sebastian Twardosz interviews Friday the 13th creator Sean S. Cunningham to talk about everything from  how the film started out as only a title to the creation of the infamous hockey mask.

  • 00:30 — Introducing Sean S. Cunningham.
  • 00:45 — How Friday the 13th started as just a title.
  • 03:35 — The making of Friday The 13th.
  • 06:00 — Creating the soundscape of Friday The 13th.
  • 09:00 — Expectations after releasing the film.
  • 11:15 — What it’s like working with the same people on multiple projects.
  • 12:50 — Creating the grudge match Freddy vs Jason.
  • 15:00 — How did Jason Voorhees’ mask become part of the character?
  • 16:30 — Cunningham’s change of heart and decision to not be a doctor.
  • 21:15 — Raising funds before Kickstarter existed.
  • 22:05 — Early film projects of Sean S. Cunningham.
  • 24:25 — Bringing The Last House on the Left into being with Wes Craven.
  • 27:00 — Kids sports films; Here Come the Tigers and Manny’s Orphans.
  • 30:50 — Spring Break.
  • 33:50 — House and My Boyfriend’s Back.
  • 37:00 — Watching a screening of Alien with O.J. Simpson.

Not only dose Cunningham share information about how the franchise (originally not intending to be one) was formulated, but he shares some keen wisdom on filmmaking as well. For instance, he shares a story about when he first screened Friday the 13th for Wes Craven and was told that it was boring and slow. However, when he screened the final cut with all the audio, music, and sound effects added, reactions completely changed. Cunningham expresses how large of an impact the right soundtrack can make on how your viewers respond to your film emotionally.


Common Shiner – Social Mediasochist

Chicago pop rock band Common Shiner have released the most horror icon-filled music video ever AND made it entertaining at the same time! In their slasher romance video for “Social Mediasochist”, which was directed by Zoran Gvojic of LowCarbComedy, a teenage Jason Voorhees and his pal Freddy Krueger, who attend Wes Craven’s Slasher High School, try to get Jason hooked up with the school beauty, who is seemingly the only “normal” person in the whole video.

It’s just one horror reference after another, with “cameos” from Jigsaw, Candyman, Leatherface, Pinhead, Leprechaun, and a whole slew of other familiar faces! There are also several scenes that are direct references to the scenes from the original films as well, such as Leatherface slamming the door shut after Jason gets pulled into a room.


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One Two, Freddy’s Coming for you…

Freddy Kreuger_Child_A Nightmare on Elm Street


LEGO – Freddy Krueger


A Nightmare on Elm Street – Poster Art

Cool A Nightmare on Elm Street poster art… Happy Birthday Robert Englund.


David Hess – R.I.P.

American horror film actor and songwriter, David Hess, 69, died Saturday of a heart attack.

Hess is best remembered as Krug Stilo, the leader of a gang that kidnaps, rapes, and tortures two teenage girls in Wes Craven’s classic slasher film “Last House on the Left” (1972). The actor’s intense performance as an unrepentant serial killer in a small, idyllic town shocked audiences with gory, on-screen violence.

The actor’s official facebook page was updated with a note from his children reading: “It is with great sadness that we have said our last goodbyes to our beloved dad and friend to all. David passed away peacefully last night. The Mad Hessian lives on in his family, friends, and all of his devoted fans. Sing a song in celebration of his life.”

Hess was born in New York City on Sept. 19, 1942. He began his professional career as a songwriter for Shalimar Music in 1957. He composed “Start Movin'” for Sal Mineo and “Rockin’ Shoes” for the Ames Brothers. He wrote songs for Elvis Presley through the 1950s and 1960s, including hits “Come Along” and “Sand Castles.” In 1963, Hess wrote and recorded “Speedy Gonzalez” for Pat Boone, which became a #6 hit single in the U.S. and a #2 hit in the UK.

Hess became head of A&R at Mercury Records in New York in 1969. At Mercury Records he met John Corigliano, the Western classical composer, and together they wrote the Grammy award-winning rock opera, “The Naked Carmen.”

In 1972, Hess dived into the film industry debuting in his starring role as Krug Stilo in Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left,” for which he also composed the soundtrack.

Hess had a number of other film credits to his name, including: Craven’s “Swamp Thing,” Ruggero Deodato’s “House at the Edge of the Park” and “Body Count,” and Ulli Lommel’s “Zodiac Killer” and “Zombie Nation.” His last film was “Smash Cut” in 2009.


My Soul to Take **

In the town of Riverton, a psychopathic killer with split personalities is shot after killing his pregnant wife and is about to kill his daughter. En route to hospital he attacks the Police (again) and the ambulance crashes, his body is never recovered.

16 years later, seven teenagers born on the night of the ‘Riverton Rippers’ demise gather at a yearly ritual to ward off the evil spirit of the ripper who may want to kill them as they just might be hosts for the souls of his victims, released into their newborn bodies the night he died. The kids are a check-list of high school personalities, there’s the bullying jock Brandon (Nick Lashaway), pretty girl Brittany (Paulina Olszyinski), religious girl Penelope (Zena Grey), quick-witted geek Alex (John Magaro), Asian Jay (Jeremy Chu), blind black kid Jerome (Denzel Whitaker) and weird quiet kid Adam ‘Bug’ Heller (Max Thieriot). Bug has suffered more than most of the other kids; he was cut from his mother’s womb after she and Bug’s father were killed in a fatal car wreck. Bug has also suffered migraines, blackouts and hears voices, his older sister Leah/Fang (Emily Meade) doesn’t make his life any easier either, she spreads gossip and lies about Bug at school, convinced that her life was ruined the night Bug was born.

Now Bug is seeing visions of the teenage victims and taking on each of their odd affectations after they’re killed by the ripper. Is Bug absorbing their souls? Is he committing the crimes? Did the ripper survive and come back to wreak revenge? Who really cares..?

My Soul to Take is not one of horror guru Wes Craven’s better movies. The man who brought us ‘The Last House on the Left’, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Red Eye’ and ‘Scream’ has made another movie that has more in common with his lesser works ‘Shocker’ and ‘Cursed’. Not one of his better efforts then…

The script has a fairly simple premise. Can the souls of a killer and his victims survive within other bodies and can that killer’s soul exact revenge on his victims again? However Craven attempts to over complicate things as the movie nears its end, having characters extrapolating on the curse, their souls, the ripper and the real origin of Bugs grisly birth. The young cast are all fairly believable, proving yet again that Craven can elicit good performances from young actors better than most in the genre.

The ‘ripper’ isn’t one of Cravens better killers. The man who invented Freddy Krueger can do so much better than this; even the kills are all fairly tame and unimaginative.

Not as bad as I’ve made it out to be, but I expect more from Craven. Rent one of his better movies.

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars


Last House on the Left *****

I thought another list was overdue and wanted to do something slightly different. So over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a review of one of the five major groundbreaking horror movies of the late 60’s through early 80’s. The movies on the list are: The Night of the Living Dead (1968); The Last House on the Left (1972); The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); Halloween (1978) and The Evil Dead (1981). These movies set the templates that have been used to make and remake hundreds of horror movies of varying quality for the last 30+ years.

The first movie reviewed is The Last House on the Left. For no reason other than I lent my copy to a mate at work and when he gave it back to me I watched it again on the weekend.

On the eve of her birthday, Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassell) and her friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham) borrow the family car to go to a concert in New York. They head to a seedier part of the city to score some marijuana before the show and it’s there they meet Junior (Marc Sheffler) who says he has some back at his apartment. The girls agree to go back with him. At the apartment Junior introduces the girls to his father Krug (David Hess), Weasel (Fred Lincoln) and their apparently shared partner Sadie (Jeramie Rain). Krug and Weasel are escaped convicts, dangerous and sadistic; they abuse and rape Phyllis in front of Mari.

The next day they put both girls in the car boot and head off to the country. They take the girls into the woods where their ordeal is about to get much worse. They dehumanise the girls, making them strip, soil themselves and touch each other, then they murder and dismember Phyllis. Krug cuts his name into Mari’s chest before he rapes and murders her.

The killers head to the nearest house under the guise of a family on the road, they say that their car has broken down and they need somewhere to stay. The house belongs to Mari’s parents (Gaylord St James and Cynthia Carr) who discover what has happened to their daughter… they wreak savage revenge on the gang one at a time.

Last House was directed by Wes Craven who went on to make ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Scream’ and was produced by Sean S. Cunningham who made the original ‘Friday The 13th’.

The reason that this movie retains such a reputation almost 40 years after its release is not only due to the savagery of the violence but the way it is portrayed. Craven said that he wanted to represent violence in the movie the way that he was seeing it on the TV news in shocking footage from Vietnam. The violence therefore is shot in a documentary style without any score, it looks and feels real. Craven then intercuts the violence with blissful  scenes of the parents preparing Mari’s party and comedic scenes of two hapless policemen (Marshall Anker and Martin Kove) looking for the missing girls. The gang are shown enjoying the violence then becoming bored by it. The movie is also accompanied by an odd late 60’s style score by actor David Hess; it lyrically tells the story as it unfolds and throws those scenes off kilter with the feel of the rest of the movie.  None of this should work, but intercut together in the verite style it combines to make the violent shots feel worse… and it works.

The movie is brutal, shocking, disturbing, sickening, depressing, sadistic, intense, tragic, and legendary and of course it’s groundbreaking. To avoid fainting keep repeating, it’s only a movie… only a movie… only a movie… only a movie.

The best DVD version is the UK 3 Disc Ultimate Edition. It contains 2 uncut versions of the movie and some excellent documentaries: Celluloid Crime of the Century and Krug Conquers England as well as outtakes and trailers. The real bonus is the 3rd disc which contains Going to Pieces: The Rise & Fall of the Slasher Film, a feature length documentary on the slasher film genre.

Quotes from the documentary: “It was a film very much on the edge” Wes Craven; “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” Sean Cunningham; “What you’re seeing in her face is real fear” Fred Lincoln; “It never gets so bad that it’s funny, it’s just so bad” Jeramie Rain

 5 out of 5 stars


Scream 4 ***

Scream 4 opens with a parody of a parody of a parody… of itself. It sets its store out early to leave us in no doubt as to its intentions; this movie is all about the sequels. From the opening movie within a movie shots, lampooning the ‘Stab’ movies, the movies of the events from Scream 1, 2 and 3 (try to keep up…) while constantly firing barbs at countless horror franchises, Scream 4 doesn’t let up. 

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in Woodsboro for the first time in ten years. She’s back to promote her self-help book, a riposte to all the hype that has surrounded her since the killings years before. In Woodsboro, Dewey (David Arquette) is now the town Sheriff and Gale (Courtney Cox) is now retired from journalism as a result of her hugely successful books about the Woodsboro murders. However Sidney’s appearance in town seems to have brought about a copycat ‘Ghostface’ killer.

Sidney stays with her sister Kate (Mary McDonnell) and niece Jill (Emma Roberts) who is receiving calls from the killer, the calls say that Jill and her friends (Hayden Panettiere etc) will be killed next. Within minutes her next door neighbour Olivia (Marielle Jaffe) is killed before their eyes. They all receive Police protection but as expected that only leads to the Policemen’s deaths, preceded by a humorous interchange about cops on protection duty dying in movies. Cue a steady stream of killings by Ghostface.

Just in case we’re not getting it, there’s the obligatory horror geeks explaining how the rules have changed, in sequels there have to be more killings, in more inventive ways, there has to be a party for the finale, but in the sequel this is a premise to the real finale… this aspect of the movie although fun in a nerdy way becomes a little tedious and I must admit I was willing these guys to be killed next.     

After the dreadful Scream 3 this particular franchise seemed to be dead. The horror genre had moved on, ‘girls locked in basements and torture porn’ were in vogue, slasher film fare was old hat and unfortunately the awful ‘Scary movie’ series seemed to be where the kids were getting their horror laughs… although for the life of me I can’t fathom why.

The original cast members all slip back into their roles easily and the new kids are all fairly good, particularly Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts who is good in her best role yet.

Kevin Williamson is back as scriptwriter and does a good job throwing all the clichés in there and making them work; he and director Wes Craven are obviously having fun deconstructing the genre again.

Not great but better than Scream 3 and the slew of awful horror remakes and other franchise sequels we’ve had thrown at us by the studios over the last decade. A good laugh, this is more of a black comedy than horror movie but still contains enough decent slasher moments to keep horror fans happy.

Quality: 3 out of 5 stars

Any good: 3 out of 5 stars