The People Under The Stairs

Viewed – 08 November 2013  Blu-ray

I remember loving this entry in director Wes Craven’s admirable output several years ago … its clever idea of suburban hell and enough gore and creepiness to keep your nerves thread bare.  It tells the tale of ghetto teenager ‘Fool’ who with his mother dying of cancer, teams up with a petty crook (Ving Rhames) to break into the house of the local wealthy property owner and his wife.  Yet a seemingly straight forward plan as you can imagine goes horribly wrong, and they stumble upon a very macabre secret.


Genre king Wes Craven delivers again.  As the director of cult favourites A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, you can expect a degree of skill to the chills and frights, even if for the most part this plays out more like an adventure, with Fool transported into another world, that of the labyrinthine house and its many traps and secrets – its like he’s entered an episode of The Crystal Maze at times.  Playing the couple is Twin Peaks stalwarts Everett McGill and Wendy Robie who are both wonderfully nuts … and pretty much make the movie for me.  Also as their nervous daughter Alice, A J Langer is quite heart-breaking and very believable.  Yet Brandon Adams as Fool, a few corny lines aside is a revelation for such a young actor – did he go onto anything else?

This movie is quite silly in places, and sometimes its more funny than genuinely scary – but I’ll go on record as saying it remains one of the more inventive horror movies of the 90s, and for Wes Craven, possibly his most interesting creation.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is very pleasing.  The image is detailed and colourful (Ving Rhames’ hat in the van looks astonishing…) and although at times a little softness rears its head – overall I was very pleased.  Audio is acceptable in uncompressed 2.0 stereo and the many sound effects inside the house still work well.  Extras consist of a (moderated) commentary by Brandon Adams, as well as several featurettes and interviews.  Most interestingly we also get a collectable booklet and a reversible sleeve with specially created new art work.  An impressive package by all means.


(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Scream 4

Viewed – 04 October 2011  Blu-ray

It takes a brave man to make a sequel to one of the most satirised franchises in horror movie history, but that is exactly what director Wes Craven has done.  Re-teaming with original writer Kevin Williamson and much of the original cast (Courtney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette), we meet former slasher survivor Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who returns to her home town to promote a book about her getting her life back together.  Stopping with her cousin (newcomer Emma Roberts), she stumbles upon a new wave of murders that closely resemble those of her first encounter, as in the first Scream movie, and soon the nightmare is happening all over again.

Wes Craven is not a stupid man.  He knew that making a new Scream after quite a long break, (Scream 3 was back in 2000) was risky, but the script here is loaded with self-referrential quips and nods to Facebook and the online generation that certainly rings true, and the killer knows this too.  This time around, it isn’t about the rules of the horror movie, but more the rules of the horror movie remake, something Hollywood seems to be stuck in and this movie nails perfectly.  The kills themselves, whilst very bloody lack subtlety however but as the movie progresses they get smarter and more unexpected.  There’s also some alarming moments of character stupidity that seem less like clever nods to the genre, but more just lazy writing.  Yet I still didn’t guess the killer.

Perhaps the nods aren’t quite as assured as they once were, but at least the movie is trying, which can’t be said for a lot of horror these days, and looking at the franchise as a whole, it remains the weakest, mostly because it’s so damn familiar.  But this still has it where it counts, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Verdict:  3 /5

Movie musings 2011

This is the time of year when many of my viewing habits are of movies I missed out on seeing the previous year.  You can expect reviews of some of the summer blockbusters and lesser known releases of 2010, amongst new cinema releases.  This is one reason why an end of year top ten usually comprises of movies older than that year.  Something that has been of much deliberation to me lately considering that originally I had placed 21 Grams as my movie of the year, then thought better of it considering its age.  Yet that means classic movies such as The Sound Of Music will never qualify.  But you must have rules or else such an end of year list will have no comparison to other people’s end of year lists.

Anyway I digress.  In the coming months there are many movies I am looking forward to seeing, be it at the cinema or more than likely on Blu-ray.  Of the movies that have got me most excited, Zack Snyder’s ballistic looking Sucker Punch is much-anticipated.  Scantily clad babes with guns & samurai swords in a fantasy action adventure?  Where do I sign?  Also David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of those movie’s that just can’t fail – especially with Fincher at the helm.  Wes Craven returns with the unexpected but no less appreciated Scream 4, a franchise I recall loving to bits, and hell, aren’t we in need of a clever-ass slasher movie after all the countless remakes we’ve endured?  Consider my seat booked.  It also has to be said, the Harrison Ford / Daniel Craig vehicle Cowboys and Aliens looks heaps of fun, and with Iron Man director John Favreau at the helm, all the ingredients are in place.

Movies I’m less looking forward to but could be worth seeing none the less are Cars 2, which knowing Pixar will be entertaining and look the biz, and this time with a secret agent storyline, may well be more interesting than the fish out of water plot previously.  Having not seen the last Pirates movie, At Worlds End I wont be rushing to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides until I have got myself up to date – but the trailer does look like it will be great entertainment.  Also Kung Fu Panda 2 is fairly assured entertainment even if it’ll be on the back burner compared to a few of the other big hitters.  Oh and the idea of Transformers: Dark of the Moon fills me with dread after the mostly abysmal last movie, but then again the first Transformers in my opinion was superb, so it could go either way.

To conclude though, 2011 looks like being a great year for the movie industry with some great looking stuff coming our way.  Colour me excited!!

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Viewed – 22 May 2010  Blu-ray

Warning: May contain spoilers

In the wake of the remake of this 1984 horror classic, watching it now with somewhat jaded horror-fan eyes is certainly a different experience to when it first freaked me out on VHS all those years before.  Wes Craven’s third movie is arguably one of the more imaginative movies of the eighties horror boom that spawned countless Friday the 13th sequels and rip-offs, and here we have a boogeyman like killer (the legendary Robert Englund) stalking teenagers in their dreams, wearing a red & green striped sweater and a dirty old fedora.  His weapon of choice?  A rather sickening glove with razors on the fingers.  Shudder.  Nancy Thomson (Heather Langenkamp) is the plucky school girl who watches her friends fall victim to this grisly menace and gradually figures out a way of stopping him, aided by her Police Lieutenant father John Saxon.

The dreamy atmosphere, the eerie music, that jump rope song and the presence of an actually scary Freddy Kreuger all come together to create a memorable and unnerving experience that with set pieces such as the murder of Tina with her being pushed up the wall and across the ceiling to the murder of a young Johnny Depp by being pulled into his own bed, followed by an eruption of blood – still shock and amaze to this day.  With some stylish camera work, believable performances (bar some cranky dialogue) this is still leaps and bounds above the remake that although trying to offer something new, never matched what this did right in the first place.  With the advent of torture flicks like Saw and Martyrs this does feel a little tame bar the above mentioned moments and the Nancy-turns-D.I.Y action hero ending always seemed a little silly, and it’s hard not to smirk at those eighties hair styles.  Meaning that yes, the movie has aged.

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you … the Blu-ray boasts a detailed if slightly soft image quality but the colours and the close-ups all look a mark up from previous releases.  The dark scenes seem a little fuzzy in places and lack some of the detail evident in other scenes, but overall this is a very pleasing HD performance.  The soundtrack, so important in this kind of flick really impresses with lots of detail and clarity and the dialogue is mostly clear if a little echoey in places.  I did notice some lip-sync issues when played back on the Playstation 3 but this doesn’t seem to be something that rears its head on all players.  Thankfully the original mono soundtrack isn’t effected.  Extras consist of two commentaries featuring cast and crew, and also we get three featurettes, the best being the Never Sleep Again: Making Of A Nightmare On Elm Street which has plenty of interviews and unseen footage.  Add to this a trivia track and Blu-ray focus points and this makes for a quality package for a deservedly classic movie.

Verdict: 4 /5