Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Book Review: Master of Salt & Bones by Keri Lake

I know they say not to trust a book by its cover but I always assumed they meant the... you know, picture, not the blurb. When I read the description for Keri Lake's Master of Salt & Bones, I mistakenly took it a little too literally and was expecting actual curses and monsters. 

I've been on a fantasy kick lately. Guess I can't shake it. But the cover was just so pretty and magical and...

Oh, right. I'm doing it again. 

There aren't any merfolk or sirens in Master of Salt & Bones (honestly, I don't know why I thought there would be) and no knights or literal curses. It's surprisingly mundane and gritty. All realism here and no fantasy - and that's actually okay. 

Although Master of Salt & Bones wasn't what I was expecting, I was captivated by the story from the start. It's told in a back-and-forth style that maintains a good pace as each chapter moves from local girl desperate to avoid the dreaded small town trap, Isadora, to filthy rich recluse, Lucian’s, points-of-view. It moves easily from past to present, revealing everything at just the right moment, with a plot that never stops turning. Happily, the surprise twist at the end actually came as a surprise (which is a nice freaking change for a jaded old bitch who lives and breathes horror.) 

Master of Salt & Bones is, at its heart, a romance, but it's really  so much more than that. It deals with issues of mental health, childhood and sexual abuse, addiction, loss, secret societies, class divides, and the desperation that drives humans to their very lowest points. 

It's no light read, that's for sure. 

As someone who can, unfortunately, tick more than a few of those boxes, let me tell you that Master of Salt & Bones hits hard (and can be all kinds of triggering so be aware.) This is not a nice, happy romance that leaves you feeling all warm and fluffy at the end. It drags you through the gamut and leaves you to pull yourself to your feet all alone at the end, raw and a little weepy, but satisfied. 

There really isn't a nice way to say it so I'll just put it out there: most of the characters in this book are fucked. Up. Surprisingly, they kind of... stay that way. Don't expect this massive healing journey because that is not what you're going to get from Master of Salt & Bones. What you will get is something more realistic: two characters who accept that they're fucked up but that they can make it work. 

And that... works. 

I went into this one expecting fantasy and came out loving the brutal realism of it, which is a credit to Lake's ability. She writes beautifully, even when dealing with ugly subjects. In Master of Salt & Bones, she manages to craft a deeply disturbing yet erotic love story that's as savage as it is haunting. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Halloween (1978)

With a classic like Halloween, it’s hard to know where to start…

Why don’t you tell me about the first time you saw it?

I was about 11 or 12 years old. It would have been about 1980is. My friend’s dad might have had it on video… Halloween II was due so, it had to be about late 1980/1981. It might have been have recorded off television, but it could have been a video. My friend’s dad would record the Friday night horror films and on Monday, we’d pile down to his house and watch them. We wouldn’t tell our parents, of course, we’d just go and do it.

Like ya do…

What do you remember most about it? Wait. A room full of boys…

The boobies, right? It was the boobies.

Believe it or not, the thing that I remember most about Halloween was the music. I couldn’t get enough of the music. I’d never heard anything so sinister and terrifying. It was the start of my collecting horror movie soundtracks. I think Creepshow came next. I loved that one too.

You were pretty young… was it very scary at the time?

Well, one of my friends could hear his mum calling for his tea, which was a sure sign that the movie was frightening. We were all there to watch horror films so I never understood the boys who couldn’t handle it.

In all fairness, I think Halloween was one of the films that scared my friends the most, second only to The Evil Dead, which was an event.  It’s funny how it's different when you watch a film like The Exorcist. We were messing around so when the scary bits came up we didn’t really care. But with Halloween, it got us right from the beginning. You knew a film was good if everything went quiet. It meant that it had gotten our attention.

A room full of boys. That is asking something!

It seems an inane thing to do because everyone knows Halloween, right, but I have to ask you to give me a synopsis of the movie.

It’s pretty simple. A child kills his sister and spend the next however many years in an asylum. He gets out and goes back to his hometown to carry on his rampage. It was clever when they did the sequel because you found out that Laurie was his sister.

I know you’re a big fan of John Carpenter’s…

I am.

Do you want to talk about his work on Halloween?

Carpenter was working on a shoestring when he made Halloween. He’d had a couple of films but hadn’t hit the big time yet. Assault onPrecinct 13 was out, and it did okay, but he hadn’t become the powerhouse he would be yet. After Halloween, he couldn’t do any wrong. For the next decade, he was prolific.

You were saying that this was the best time for his music…

It was. The later stuff wasn’t as good. Carpenter’s music suffered without Alan Howarth. I’d never heard synths used in horror films the way Carpenter was using them then. It was a unique and distinctive sound. Without Howarth, it all got very same-y.

We were talking about some of the potential casting choices for Loomis and about how glad we were that Donald Pleasance landed the role. Do you want to go back to that?

I’m glad it wasn’t Christopher Lee because he would have been way too pompous. It would have been nice to keep him in the public gaze, though. He sort of faded for a while during that period.

Peter Cushing could have been amazing. He had the ability to poke fun of himself, which Christopher Lee never really seemed to be able to do but Donald Pleasance made the role his own. I mean, you’re talking about a Bond villain and yet the thing people remember him for is Loomis. That’s to be admired.

Some actors get pretentious and complain that it’s all they get remembered for, but Donald Pleasance said he’d play Loomis as long as he could.

When we were talking about Halloween II, you said that Loomis, more than Laurie Strode, was the face of the Halloween franchise. Do you want to elaborate?

Don’t forget, Jamie Lee Curtis was only in the first two movies. Loomis was the continuity in Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. Anyone could be Michael but only Donald Pleasance could be Loomis. They even had him in the new ones, thanks to CGI. It was a nice touch. Even though he’s been dead for so long, they were able to bring him back to be part of the new trilogy.

We’ve spoken a bit about timelines about how the new timeline takes Halloween II out of the picture. If you do that, you lose a lot of the Loomis stuff afterward.

Yeah, you do… but it’s not a total waste. The problem with anything after Halloween II – you knew they’d bring Michael back because he was such a big money spinner – was at the end, Loomis blown them both to bits. Except, after that, he’s got a few scars but this explosion that would have turned anyone else to cinders, he and Michael have both survived quite well, thanks very much. The lack of damage was just unrealistic. So, I dunno, maybe rebooting that timeline wasn’t a bad thing.

We could probably talk about Donald Pleasance all night – we’ve done it before – but we should probably talk about the rest of the cast too.

I suppose we’re looking at the likes of Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, and Charles Cyphers in particular. Some of them are back in the sequel. There were a few years between the original and Halloween II. Carpenter didn’t want to be involved but Moustapha Akkad did. His son, Malek Akkad, is the one doing the new films, which is nice.

P.J. Soles was a minor scream queen but never a terrific actor. Nancy Kyes did this and The Fog but she didn’t do much else, which was a shame because she was the better actor of the two.

What about Jamie Lee Curtis?

Halloween is the film that made her. She’d had little bits, but Halloween was her first big break. It was brave of Carpenter to cast an unknown. I don’t know how old she was at the time, but she was young to carry the whole film on her shoulders. It had to help that she came from an acting family. Janet Leigh is probably the original scream queen. Twenty-something years later, Jamie Lee Curtis is the most famous of her time.

This is where we usually talk about the ending…

It left it open. You knew Michael (or The Shape, whatever you want to call him) was some kind of evil force after Laurie stabbed him and he kept going. And Loomis did keep calling him evil. You can hear that breathing as he watches. It’s ominous.

It’s weird that Carpenter is the one who left it wide open because he doesn’t like doing sequels very much. I don’t know why he would have left it open like that if he didn’t want to return to it. I’m glad he did, though.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Sick Slashers: Halloween II (1981)

Before we get started, can we just agree that when I talk about the other Halloween movies, I’m only talking about the real Halloween franchise? I refuse to acknowledge White Trash Halloween as canon.

Oh, I dunno… there were bits in them I liked, and the casts were superb. It’s a who’s who of horror.

Then how were they so fucking awful?

Because Rob Zombie directed it?

Well, I can’t argue with that.

There are people who love his films, but I don’t. I don’t get the attraction. With the exception of the first Halloween, I just don’t get anything Rob Zombie has done.

Okay, so… we’ve been talking about timelines because of the new Halloween movies. The new timeline eradicates Halloween II completely.

Which, for me, is the best of them all. It’s my favourite Halloween film. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, it carries on from the same night. Plus, the music was much darker. It’s like they took the original music and put it on steroids. There’s a richer sound in the theme for the second.

The other thing that made it much more sinister for me is that The Shape moved differently in this one. He was slower and more deliberate. More methodical, which made him much scarier.

What about that timeline, though? Even though the new movies – I keep wanting to call them reboots – take this movie out of the picture, you did still like them, didn’t you?

Yes, I did. But it wasn’t a reboot, it was a continuation. What appealed to me most was that Carpenter came back as a producer and to give input. I understand why he didn’t want to do more Halloween movies back in the day, but I wish he had – especially back then, when he was on fire. From ‘76-‘86, he was on another level. If you look at the films during that time, it’s a tour de force of ‘80s horror. He was smack in the middle of the video boom and he owned it.

What are your thoughts on the new movies, then?

It’s a clever reimagining. The franchise is a bit like Friday the 13th… it can get a bit ridiculous. I feel like they could have easily included Halloween II in the reboot, but they didn’t They kind of played down Loomis’s role as well, which I thought was unnecessary. He’s such a big part of he franchise, even in the ones that he wasn’t alive for. You still hear his voice in a lot of the movies. Loomis was in them until, what, number six? He was Halloween.

Which timeline do you prefer?

That’s a hard question. After Halloween II, Halloween 4: TheReturn of Michael Meyers and 5: The Revenge of Michael Meyers were okay, but it had gotten a bit long in the tooth. I loved when they brought Laurie back in Halloween H20.

Same. It’s one of my favourites.

As far as timelines go? Honestly? I preferred just the first two. That was enough for me. I do kind of like the new timeline, even though it takes Halloween II out of the equation because the story continues. You’ve got the same characters back, all those years later. You get more of their stories. It carries on.

I can’t remember if I asked you why Halloween II over Halloween? If not, why?

Well, with Halloween II, there’s a kind of nostalgia to it. I suppose we were about 9 or 10 when we watched Halloween II and we’d just had our first video player. There weren’t any real certificates rules at the time so you could rent anything you wanted. They didn’t really care if it said “18” on the box. No one was enforcing it. It was just a pound a night to rent it and you took it back the next day.

How did you see the first one? You were a bit young to go to the cinema.

I watched Halloween at my friend’s house because he was the only one with a video player. Back then, you rented TVs and video players because they were too expensive to own. Having seen Halloween, we couldn’t wait to see Halloween II. Mind you, I’ve never been so disappointed with a film as I was with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. You could hear the music but then we got in and there was no Michael Myers.

Wait. You love Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Of course I do. Now. But this was back then. I was so pissed off. The music we heard was them showing the trailer for Halloween in the pictures. So. Pissed.

Hah. Okay, so why was Halloween II so scary for you?

I’ve never liked hospitals anyway but having escaped from a hospital in the middle of the night, I’d had first-hand experience of just how creepy they could be. Halloween II made it that much worse.

Okay, but like every movie is nostalgic for you because you’ve seen like every movie. You’ve gotta give me more.

Up until Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Halloween was the most successful independent film of its time. The film poster with the pumpkin and the knife was very iconic – and, of course, there’s the music. It’s fuller and has more bass. It’s a better sound. I know I keep coming back to the music, but it really does play a massive role.

Most people would probably argue with me about Halloween II being better than Halloween and I understand why. It’s literally just my preference. A lot of it comes down to The Shape, which was much more menacing. Something they did well was just show The Shape just a little. Just barely light him enough that you know he’s there. The fact that he was so slow and deliberate made him feel like he was unstoppable. Like he didn’t have to chase you because he knew that hew would catch you.

Have you thought about your favourite death scene? One of the things that makes Halloween II stand out in my memory is the scene in that damned tub. *shudder* It still creeps me out.

That was pretty nasty. It was a gruesome death, no doubt. There were a few that were nasty but you didn’t see them, like the doctor with the needle through his eye.

*shudder*

Favourite moment? Maybe the nurse, when she sees Laurie and The Shape comes up behind her and stabs her from behind and picks her up off the ground is one. Oh, the other one was with the cop. Loomis told the cop not to go near Michael, but the cop doesn’t listen and of course Michael kills him and it’s like, “You were warned, dumb ass!”

This is the last movie on our countdown and it’s time to wrap things up. Go.

Halloween is considered one of the great horror masterpieces and I’m not arguing with that. I just found Halloween II scarier – maybe partly because it was in a hospital, which scared me anyway.

It’s a darker, more atmospheric. The music was more sinister, which helped enormously. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was a proper Carpenter film. It’s got the look and feel of a Carpenter film. It’s got the stings in all the right places. It’s hard to believe Carpenter wasn’t at the helm of this one.

I’m glad we’re finishing with this one. Thanks for letting me pick your brains this month.

What are we doing for Halloween? There’s a whole day we haven’t covered…

Ah… that’s a surprise.

Friday, 29 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Sick Slashers: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Sometimes, the Friday the 13th movies can blur together a little bit because there are so many of them and it’s all basically teenagers getting killed. Honestly? I’m glad we rewatched these because some of the stuff I thought happened in the first movie actually happened in this one.

It may sound like I’m slagging the series off, which I’m not. I love the Friday movies – but they can kind of blur.

They can blur together. It was very much a format of the 80s. Teenagers, sex, drugs, slaughter…

And not all of the movies in the franchise were good. The second one was excellent, though.

I’m glad you brought it up. You gave me a good place to start. So… why Friday the 13th Part 2 over any of the others?

I think it’s the scariest of the Fridays. Although… that could be down to the age I was when I first watched it. It’s definitely in part because of the jump-scare at the end with the dog.

I was expecting that one, but he got me earlier when he came through a window.

Hah. I know.

It’s kind of funny… we’re two movies in and we still haven’t seen Jason.

What do you mean?

Well, not the Jason, the one we think of when we hear “Friday the 13th.” In the first one, you’ve got his mom killing people. In this one, it’s Jason but he’s wearing that weird bag over his head. He hasn’t started wearing that mask yet and we’re already two movies into the series.

No, not until the third movie. It’s probably the most iconic mask in the history of horror. Now, you see a hockey mask and the first thing you think of is Jason Vorhees but you’re right, he doesn’t pick up that mask until the third movie, which might surprise people who haven’t seen the series before.

Do you think the franchise would have been as successful if he’d kept the sack, instead of the mask?

I don’t know if it was an accident or not, but when he picked up the mask in the third one, it started something. It spawned, what, another ten movies? It was a moment in horror movie history.

Why Part 2 over the first movie?

Well, I suppose the difference between the first and second is that the first was sold on the name. They had the name first and needed a script. It was a big success, so they had to have a sequel. It’s one of those rare occasions where the sequel was better than the original. Part 2 is a nastier film, for sure.

I like that it starts with Adrienne King's Alice, the only survivor from the first movie.

Yeah, it was a good way to bring Jason back into the story, that he’s getting revenge because Alice beheaded his mother. It was a nice touch. It wrapped up the end of the first one and led into the second one, finally making it about Jason.

You get the recap and then it carries on and he’s getting rid of Alice, from the first movie. Because Part 2 did so well – the sequel was even more successful than the first one – you knew damned well the series would continue.

I guess this is a good time to ask you about the many sequels?

The sequels did get silly in parts. Part III was okay. The fourth one, The Final Chapter, was very good. It was a good introduction to Corey Feldman as well. It was called The Final Chapter because it was supposed to be the end but, of course, that’s not how these things go.

Part 5: A New Beginning, Jason wasn’t even in it. He comes back in Part VI but that’s where they start to get silly. I enjoyed the eight one, Jason Takes Manhattan, but wasn’t fussed on the next one, Jason Goes to Hell, because Jason was a slug that got into people’s bodies like a slug. Jason X was a very good film, though. It brought the franchise up to date.

Jason X is my favourite movie of the whole franchise, but I’ve said that before. It’s futuristic, it’s funny, and you’ve still got old-school Jason beating the crap out of campers. Win.

What about Freddy vs Jason?

I loved Freddy vs Jason. The fact that you’ve got two horror icons duking it out was perfect. I thought it would be the start of them doing lots of pair-ups, like the old Universal movies. I know it was rumoured, but I don’t know why it never happened. Such a shame…

It was a clever story, to send Jason there to get them talking about him, to give him power again. And then, at the end, you had Freddy’s head wink at the camera. Some of the deaths and some of the violence in the film was superb.

Then, you’ve got the reboot, which encompasses the first three films. I enjoyed it and Jared Padalecki was a good choice for the lead. There are still talks about a sequel, but I think it’s been in development hell. I’ll check…

Yeah, there is a new film on the way, in 2023. A new reboot. There hasn’t been a Friday movie in over a decade now, which is a long time for them.

One of the things that’s pretty consistent through the series is how dark the Friday the 13th movies are. You can tell the age of Part 2 because it’s a bit grainy and the film quality is a little lower. Does that affect the experience?

Not on this one, no. It’s lit enough that you can tell what’s going on. I’ve seen modern movies that were much worse, like Aliensvs Predator: Requiem. Ugh, with that one, even if you turned the tv brightness way up, you couldn’t tell what was going on.

Part 2 was well done. There were a lot of fake outs and it kept you jumping. They weren’t shy of showing Jason – but they didn’t linger on him, either. And, of course, there’s the fact that he kept his mother’s head, which was gruesome.

Kind of a creepy homage to Psycho, maybe?

Maybe, but I think it was just for effect – and it’s very effective. It’s even more effective when you see it in Alice’s freezer than when you see it in his makeshift cabin.

There are some outstanding death scenes in this one. My favourite is when he stabs the lovers through with the spear – which you knew was going to kill somebody the moment you saw it. (It’s one of my favourite kills in the game too.) Did you have a favourite death?

I felt sorry for the guy in the wheelchair, Mark (TomMcBride). I mean… come on, he can’t get away! The other one that’s kind of shitty is Scott (Russell Todd,) the guy who’s hanging upside down. He’s fucked too. Give people a chance to fight back, Jason!

I dunno, I think maybe Scott deserved it... 

Remind me to keep the sharp, pointy things away from you!

My favourite death was definitely Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney.) He was in the first one, if you remember. I was surprised they killed him but glad too because he was annoying.

We have to wrap this up so if you have any other thoughts about Friday the 13th Part 2…?

As far as cinematography goes, Friday the 13th Part 2 was very much of its time. I know I say this a lot, but cameras are a lot more advanced now. Steadicams really started with Halloween. Three years later, and the photography is quite good. Forty years later, if you want a sweeping shot, you just use drones. Back then, you would have had to use a helicopter. Hell, your phone is more advanced than some of the cameras they were using then.

They probably had a reasonable budget but think about the upcoming movie. I bet you the production cost of an entire scene wouldn’t pay for one actor in the new film. They never really used big celebrities or ones that you’d recognise. Obviously, Kevin Bacon became huge, but he was no one at the time. There’s a charm in that, in just letting actors be their characters instead of bringing this huge Hollywood persona with them into the movie.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Sick Slashers: Satan's Little Helper (2004)

Okay I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. Satan’sLittle Helper is all kinds of fucked up. I love it and I know you do too. Tell me what drew you to this one.

It’s just one of those stupid films that gets you. There’s nothing that stands out, but the idea is original and works well. It’s funny and entertaining.

This one flew under the radar a bit. Give me a quick synopsis for people who missed it.

There’s this serial killer that’s supposed to be reformed – but he’s not. He’s out having a bit of fun on Halloween, and he happens across a kid who sees him as a character in his video game. The kid idolizes him, so the killer lets him tag along while he goes on a murdering spree.  

Wanna touch on things like cinematography or production value?

It’s quite slick and very well done. It doesn’t have a massive budget but it’s not particularly low budget, either. If the value had been any less, it wouldn’t have worked.

For me, Satan’s Little Helper was made seeing Katheryn Winnick as the older sister, Jenna Whooly. I recognized the name, but it took me a while to realize it was Lagertha from Vikings because she looked so different. In this, she’s one of the first people to realize something’s not right with the guy pretending to be her boyfriend.

The baddie – Satan Man, I think he’s called – is what makes Satan’s Little Helper for me. That mask is outstanding, and I love the silly little gestures like the thumbs ups. What did you think of him?

The mask is awesome, but the enthusiasm is better. And the fact that he keeps changing costumes at the end, but the kid is so fucking stupid that it keeps working. He didn’t fall for it once. Or twice. He fell for it three fucking times. That kid…

That freaking kid, Douglas (Alexander Brickel,) is fucking insane. Like, there has to be something clinically wrong with him insane. How does he not realize that people are actually dying? Or is he just that stupid?

You fucking hope not. He thinks it’s all make-believe. I guess up to a certain age you can see a kid not understanding the difference, but that kid was definitely old enough to know better. It makes you wonder if he was that naïve about everything and why his parents didn’t sort him out.

It was nice to see Amanda Plummer in this. I love her as an actor. What did you think of her performance as Mrs. Whooly?

She’s a brilliant character actor. So many women are judged on their looks but that’s never been Amanda Plummer. She’s always relied on her ability, rather than her looks and she’s got tremendous talent. She’s a supporting character but often steals the scene in movies like Pulp Fiction and Needful Things. She’s very believable and natural.

I can’t get over the way everyone thinks Satan Man is just messing around. That it’s all just a joke…

You would, though, wouldn’t you? We live in an age of internet pranks and have become so blasé about things. Your first thought would be, ‘This can’t be real,’ especially if you’ve got someone like Douglas telling you that’s exactly what it is.

Satan’s Little Helper is quite a humorous film. Even the deaths are pretty funny. Did you have any favourite moments or deaths?

There are a couple of really good death scenes, but they’re all overshadowed by Satan Man’s enthusiasm. He’s just so into it. It’s brilliant.

I think one of my favourite bits is after they leave the supermarket without paying. They’re running people down – even a baby – and the kid’s just racking up points for each one. That’s so messed up you’ve gotta laugh about it.

Part of me is like “Who the fuck came up with this movie and what drugs were they on?” The other part thinks it’s this really clever jab at all those people who insist that video games make kids violent. Which do you agree with?

There is a social commentary there, you know. People have been claiming that video games cause violence almost from the time video games were created. It’s just a way of passing the buck. You don’t want to admit you’re a crappy parent so what can you blame? Video games are an easy target because they can’t exactly fight back.

Except for in satirical movies like this?

Exactly.

Any other thoughts on Satan’s Little Helper?

It’s one of those movies that flew under the radar. There was no advertising. I can’t remember why we watched it, but it was a great surprise. It couldn’t have had a massive budget, but it worked so well.

You have to put it down to the kid. His total hero worship of this video game character is so well played. The Satan Man plays along with so well it becomes a fucked up buddy movie.

Would you have liked a sequel?

No, I’m glad they left it at one. As good as it was, it didn’t need a sequel. It works as a stand alone movie.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Sick Slashers: Scream (1996)

I’m not going to ask you what you didn’t like about Scream because I know you don’t find Wes Craven films frightening so, instead, I want to ask if there was anything you did like.

Oh, it’s slick and it’s entertaining. As an entertaining film, yeah, definitely, it’s a good film. It’s more of a thriller for me, though.

I could point out that we had this discussion about Jaws, and you insisted that Jaws was horror. Scream’s literally got people being “sliced and diced” by a ghost-faced killer… if that doesn’t earn it horror status, I don’t know what does.

I suppose you’re right, it’s just because I don’t find it at all frightening. Like I said, it’s not that I hate the film, it’s just not my cup of tea. I watched them just to say I’d seen them. You can’t call yourself a horror aficionado if you don’t watch it all, right?

I preferred Scary Movie, a parody of Scream.

I hated the Scary Movies. They’re just all gross out humour and nothing else.

Yeah, but I love those movies.

I’ve seen Scream a lot (like, a lot, a lot,) so I had the chance to watch you watching it and I noticed you roll your eyes a few times at the different references to other movies and franchises. Were there any that you thought were cute or did they all annoy you?

It was unnecessary. That was what the Screams were, a cliché. As a result, they use every trick in the book. The references were clever, I suppose. The “Wes Carpenter” one stood out.

And the Fonz’s jacket in Principal Himbry's (Henry Winkler) office? You pointed that one out straight away.

Hah. Yeah, I did like that one. It was a nice touch.

I think my favourite one was around that time. It’s when the principal runs out into the hallway and there’s a very Freddy-esque janitor there.

That was a cringe reference for me. I was just like, “What the fuck is Freddy doing there?”

Scream did beat a lot of good slashers like PromNight to make this list. Tell me why you think it deserves its spot. I just want to point out that we didn’t even argue about it. It just went straight to the list. Why?

Because of its popularity. It’s like when you go to see a comedian, just because I don’t get the joke, doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just preference. Scream isn’t my preference – but I know it’s yours.

It is mine. Scream was kind of a generation defining horror film. I’m not saying it’s super terrifying because it’s not. It’s a lot of fun, though. The fact that people are still dressing up as Ghostface should tell you something.

That they lack imagination?

For my generation, Scream is a who’s who. What did you think of the casting? Did you have a favourite character?

Scream really was a tour de force of its day for actors that you might not know well then but you would. I think it was the first time I was really exposed to Matthew Lillard. You can’t beat Matthew Lillard. He’s such a kook.

I hated Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox!) You’d have bitch slapped her ass straight away.

Well, technically…

Right. Hah.

Anyway, it was ballsy, having Drew Barrymore in the beginning and killing her straight – the rest of the movie just didn’t live up to that intro.

Because Scream is one of my all-time favourite movies, I’m not sure I can pick just one favourite moment. I have a least favourite moment (Rose McGowan's Tatum getting caught in the cat flap. Der.) but picking a favourite is too hard. Do you have a favourite moment?

That was one of the best moments in the film! I love it mostly because of the way they parodied it in Scary Movie, though.

It’s funny rewatching Scream now because of the technology. I had to laugh at the one cellphone because it was so freaking big. (We totally had one of those.) And the computer was massive as well. The technology that’s become part of our everyday lives has become so advanced in such a short time it really is incredible.

That’s the only think that dates it. Fuck me, a video store! When was the last time I saw a video store?! Ten years ago? Fifteen? And, even then, it was all DVDs.

I loved our local video stores growing up. We spent a lot of time and a lot of money there. I’m glad Scream features one for that reason. It really does sum up being a teenager at that time.

You were around for the death of the video store. I was there for the birth. It is a very generational moment.

You're right. 

Scream is my era. It’s my teenage years. It’s as familiar as my childhood home. Like you said, you’re a different generation. What was it like for you? Does it change the viewing experience?

Of course it changes the way I see it. I didn’t go to the pictures to see Scream. I was pretty drunk through most of the mid-90s, mind. It’s one of those times that reminds me that there’s a huge age difference between our ages.

Like with any half-decent horror movie, Scream has a lot of sequels. (Maybe too many?) Were there any you liked?

No. It’s like A Nightmare on Elm Street. The first is by far the best. I haven’t seen the TV series either.

I watched the first season when it came out. It was good. Very different, but entertaining. It wasn’t so good that I just had to watch the other seasons, though.

There have been a lot of old horror movies turned into tv shows lately. I think that pretty much sums up most of them. I kind of wish they’d just stop.

We just watched the trailer for the new Scream movie. What did you think of it? You ready to be dragged to the cinema?

Sigh. I can see why it would be nostalgic for you but I’m not excited about it. Don’t give me those eyes, of course I’ll take you.

Anything you want to add?

Scream really is an entertaining film. I didn’t see that there were two killers. I’d pretty much sussed that it was Stuart, but Billy (Skeet Ulrich) seemed too obvious. Like I said, it used every cliché in the book but in a tongue-in-cheek way.  

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Castle Vanian Halloween Special: Sick Slashers: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

You’ve never hidden the fact that you’re not a massive fan of the Nightmare films. With that in mind, tell me why you got behind A Nightmare on Elm Street making the top 5 list.

It’s not that I dislike the series, really. I just find WesCraven a little overrated. It’s not fair to write A Nightmare on Elm off just because I’m not his biggest fan. I did like some of Craven’s films but things like this and Scream, I wasn’t a fan of. They weren’t scary, just okay. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the fact that it was a major slasher film for you and a lot of other people.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a much, much darker movie than you’d think at first glance. They just call Freddy Krueger a “child killer” but the original script was clear that he was a paedophile, and the remake overtly calls him a paedophile. I don’t think there are many themes darker than that. How does such a horrible character become such a beloved villain in the horror community?

It’s kind of fucked up, isn’t it? The honest answer is, I don’t fucking know. It’s sick.

But you still love Freddy, right?

Well, luckily, they had someone like Robert Englund playing him. He’s a real personality. There was a lot of humour, too. I think without that humour, there’d be nothing redeeming about his character.

I didn’t realize until literally today that the characters were supposed to be 15 and that’s really fucked with my head because of the whole bathtub scene, mostly. I mean… sexualising a kid that young is just yucky – but fitting for a movie about a paedophile.

Hollywood has always cast much older people as high school kids. And it’s never seemed to have any problems sexualizing children and young women. It’s not right, but it’s not surprising, either.

I think the most striking thing about A Nightmare on Elm Street is how impressive it is visually. The use of shadows and angles create an eerie, twisted kind of feel. Agree or disagree?

I agree. It creates a kind of nightmare feel.

I will give Wes Craven credit for creating films that were crisp and sharp. It’s like M. Night Shyamalan. I don’t like his films, but they’re well shot.

Before I get to the rest of the actors, I have to say that Robert Englund is superb as Freddy. It’s a role he just got better and better at. What did you think of his performance?

I knew Robert Englund from V, which was a great series. Funnily enough, he played a good guy in that one, so A Nightmare on Elm Street was a big change.

He really grew into the role of Freddy. Englund is quite outrageous the first time you see him. It’s like the Pink Panther in that way. Freddy was just a part in it but, by the next one, it was his film.

And now for the rest of the cast…?

John Saxon had been around for a long time and Rachel Wyss went on to do a lot of films. Heather Langenkamp hasn’t done much, which isn’t a huge shame because her acting, although it’s gotten better since A Nightmare on Elm Street, still isn’t great. Then, you’ve got Johnny Depp – Hollywood A-lister, Jonny Depp – who got the role that was supposed to be Nicholas Cage’s.

I’m really glad Depp got it and Cage didn’t.

I think most people are, lol.

The real shock is seeing Lin Shaye. It would be another twenty years before she got her time in the spotlight.

I love that she became a scream queen as an older woman.

That’s exactly right.

There are some wild, gruesome, fucking weird moments in A Nightmare on Elm Street. What’s your favourite scene?

A lot of people say it’s when he runs his hands along the walls. I didn’t like that much. The thing that stuck with me was the rhyme. Psychologically, it’s worse because I’ve heard kids singing it. It really stays with you.

I think one of my favourite scenes is the end, which was so funny and nasty. What did you think of the end?

It was leaving it wide open for the sequel, wasn’t it? Which is the problem. If you get a successful horror film, you’re gonna do it to death. And Nightmare has been done to death.

I can’t say that I cared much for the reboot. What did you think of it?

I didn’t like it at all. It just didn’t work and there was no need for it. The guy was trying to be Robert Englund and that was never going to work. Plus, I’m sick to death of reboots.

Any last words? Lol.

Regardless of whether I loved or loathed the film, Freddy, more than any other horror character, has imprinted on culture. I think it’s because he had such a big personality. Everybody loves him. Like you said, you’ve got this really dark character that absolutely should not be idolized but you always see Freddy at conventions. What does that say about society?