Archive for the Wes Craven Movies Category

Transmissions to Earth: DEADLY FRIEND (1986)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Cyborgs, Family Secrets, LL Soares Reviews, Medical Experiments!, Morgue Hijinks, ROBOTS!, Trasmissions to Earth, Twist Endings, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by knifefighter


Review by L.L. Soares

It’s no secret that I’m not much of a fan of the SCREAM movies by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson. And I think their collaboration, CURSED (2005), is even worse. But I wasn’t always down of Craven’s films. There was a time when I was actually a fan. Just not lately.

He started out his career with one of the most intense and disturbing horror flicks ever made, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), which remains one of my favorite horror films ever. This one had a real edge to it that made it one of the high points of 1970s horror. And after that, Craven made some other solid movies, like the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), which isn’t perfect, but was, as we now know, influential as hell. It gave the world Freddy Krueger.

But once Craven drifted into the mid-to-late 1980s and the 90s, his output wasn’t that impressive. This was the time of movies like SHOCKER (1989), THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), and NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), which a lot of people thought reinvigorated the Freddy series, but which I didn’t care for, and then, of course SCREAM (1996) and its sequels.

I can’t say all of his output from this period was awful. I am a big fan of his 1988 voodoo movie THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. But for the most part, I just stopped being that interested in what Wes Craven was putting out anymore.

Somehow, I completely missed DEADLY FRIEND (1986), when it first came out. And rediscovering it now, so many years later, I find that it is pretty dated, especially since its plot has a lot to do with computers and robotics. And yet, it has a kind of creative spark and charm to it that is lacking in most of his later films.

Based on the novel “Friend” by Diana Henstell, DEADLY FRIEND is the story of computer nerd Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux, probably most famous before this as Albert Ingalls on the TV series LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE), who moves into a new neighborhood with his single mom, Jeannie (Anne Twomey). Even though he’s the age when he should be in high school, Paul is a genius who has skipped a bunch of grades and has just enrolled in the local Polytechnic Institute. And he has already built his first robot, a clunky, goofy bucket of bolts named BB, which he claims has the power to learn. He even calls it an “A.I.” which is pretty amazing, since he’s a kid who built a robot in his basement, and major experts in the field of computer science have not figured out how to give a computerized brain the ability to think on its own.

But hey, that just goes to show you how smart Paul is. Not only has he built a fully functioning robot – which is an achievement on its own – but his can think!

Loveable robot "BB" is fun, playful, and he has a fully functioning mind!

Loveable robot “BB” is fun, playful, and has a fully functioning brain!

Right away, moving into their new house, Paul makes a friend: the local paper boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett), who sees the robot and asks what it is. So much for computer nerds not being social. Paul and Tom hit it off right away, and Tom tells Paul all about the neighborhood he’s just moved into. Other local highlights include the spooky, gated house of the reclusive Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey, who also played Mama in THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, 1987) who clearly doesn’t want any visitors, and Samantha Pringle (Kristy Swanson, also in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, 1986), who goes by Sam, and who lives next door to Paul with her drunken, abusive father, Harry (Richard Marcus).

So Paul seems to fit in right off the bat. Not only does he immediately find a buddy, but he gets the pretty girl, too. Sam comes over with a housewarming gift of store-bought donuts (explaining that her father wouldn’t let her bake something), and you just know where that’s headed. Paul spends a lot of time with Tom and Sam, but it’s clearly Sam he’s most interested in, and who can blame him. She is the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992) after all. And Sam seems more than eager to spend a lot of time hanging out at Paul’s house, since it gets her away from her creepy dad, who’s always drinking and shouting, and who comes into her room late at night (we never really see him do anything to her, and she tells him to get out when she wakes to find him hovering over her bed, but, well…).

Then things start to go bad. It begins on Halloween night when they get BB to open the gate to Mrs. Parker’s house, so they can play a prank on her. She comes out with a shotgun and blasts poor BB to kingdom come. So much for Paul’s revolutionary robot. Maybe he should take better care of his toys! Especially if they are scientific marvels!

Then, during an especially drunken binge, Harry Pringle berates Sam for sneaking out of the house on Thanksgiving (imagine that! She would rather have a normal Thanksgiving dinner with Paul and his mom than cower in her room while Daddy drinks and shouts at the television!). He slaps her, and she falls down the stairs, hitting her head against a wall, and dies. Harry tells the police that she tripped.

Paul can’t accept that she’s dead. So when she is taken off of life support, he sneaks into the hospital and performs some quick surgery on her corpse, imbedding the memory chip from good old BB into her brain. He and Tom take her away and put her in the shed behind Tom’s house.

Sam comes back to “life,” but at first she’s little more than a zombie, with big circles around her eyes and limited responsiveness. She has to learn to sit up, stand, and walk around, all over again. Then she sees her father through the shed’s window and learns something new – the desire for revenge. It’s not long before people start turning up dead, starting with dear old Dad and moving on to that cranky old bitch, Mrs. Parker (the scene where Sam kills Elvira Parker by throwing a basketball at her head, and squashing it like a melon, has become a classic). The police are baffled as to who is doing these things, and Tom threatens to go to the cops (he can’t live with the knowledge anymore), but it’s not long after that that the secret is out, and the police are tracking down the resurrected Sam in a parking lot.

You can tell she's the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes.

You can tell she’s the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes… oh and the stiff robotic movements!

There’s a lot about this movie that is pretty goofy, from the robot BB in the beginning (it’s so cutesy-looking, it looks like a refugee from the movie SHORT CIRCUIT, 1986) to the fact that Sam’s abusive father, Harry, seems more quirky than scary. He almost seems like a comic relief character until you realize exactly what he’s doing to his daughter when the lights are off. Imagine how much more effective this movie could have been if his character was played by an actor who could actually make him as serious and disturbing as he should have been?  You think that maybe the filmmakers here were too uncomfortable to show Harry for what he really was – and then you realize – this is the guy who directed LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT!!

The science in this movie is pretty laughable, and the computer talk is outdated and just plain silly at this point. But somehow, the movie is still very watchable. The acting, for the most part, is pretty good in this one. Matthew Labyorteaux is goofy but likable as Paul, and he’s believable as some boy genius who’s emotionally stunted. Anne Towmey is equally likable as Paul’s mom, and Michael Sharrett is fine as Tom Toomey.

The real reason to see this one, though, for me anyway, is Kristy Swanson. I’ve always liked her, and her character Sam is extremely likable here, with an awkwardness that comes from constantly hiding family secrets from the outside world. When Paul first meets Sam, he notices a bruise on her arm, which immediately defines her for us, and I was actually bummed out that Sam and Paul never really get to go “all the way” before Sam’s untimely death. Their relationship maintains a kind of odd innocence throughout.

I just wish that the rest of the movie was up to the performances. The script by Bruce Joel Rubin (who also wrote the incredibly sentimental GHOST, and the much more interesting JACOB’S LADDER, both from 1990) is lighter and a bit sillier than it should have been. A little bit darker, and more serious, take on this this subject matter would have helped this become a much more substantial movie. And the light touch Wes Craven uses with the direction doesn’t help. You can tell that this was made during the same decade as THE GOONIES, 1986, and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL). By this point in time, too, you could already tell that Craven was much more interested in making easily-accessible commercial films than the hard-edged movies of his youth (that harder edge would have actually made DEADLY FRIEND much more effective).

I liked DEADLY FRIEND much more than I expected to, and I recommend that fans of 80s movies seek this one out, but I’m also disappointed that it wasn’t handled better. It just seems like a missed opportunity, which happened a lot in Wes Craven movies around this time (which makes THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW all the more fascinating, because it stands out so much from his other films of this period).

Oh, this one also has a “shock ending” which was pretty typical of horror movies from the 1980s. I almost hate to spoil it here, but it’s so damn silly, I have to mention it. After poor Sam dies a second time, Paul goes to find her in the morgue. He pulls out the drawer she’s in and looks down at her, and she grabs him. But it is then revealed that an evil version of the robot BB is underneath her skin and pops out.

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end...

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end…

What the hell?? There is absolutely no logical reason for this ending. I would say it was a crazy dream, but there is nothing to show us Paul is dreaming. How would imbedding a microchip into a corpse’s skull transform it into a complete robot underneath its human skin? This has to be one of the stupidest endings of all time.

But it sure did make me laugh out loud.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares



Friday Night Knife Fights: TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM! – Part 1

Posted in 2011, Friday Night Knife Fights, Garbage, Horror, Psychos, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, Slasher Movies, Vampires, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS- Free-for-all Cage Match
TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series?
By Michael Arruda and L.L.  Soares


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTSTonight we have a special Free-for-all Cage Match.

L.L. SOARES:  You mean we get to be in a cage, and I get to clobber you to a pulp?

MA:  No, it means rather than having two subjects battling it out, tonight we have three.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:  Which one of the three is the WORST series?

LS:  Damn!

MA: What? You don’t like this topic?

LS:  No.  I just wanted to bash your brains in.

MA:  Oh well.   You’ll just have to settle for trying to do it in the figurative sense, although be prepared to have your figurative brains spread all over this arena.  (smiles)

LS:  This means war.

MA:  Then, let’s have at it.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM.   Which one of these series is the absolute worst?

(LS hands MA a club, and he’s holding a large pick-axe.)

MA:  What are we doing with these?

LS:  I just have to do this to get this out of my system.  Feel free to join me.  (Dumps a heap of film canisters at their feet, and he begins to smash them to smithereens with his pick-axe.)

MA:  Are those what I think they are?


MA:  I think I will join you.  (They smash the film canisters into tiny bits and pieces.)  That felt good.

LS:  Too bad we have to talk about these clunkers now.  Can’t we just tell people the films stink and go home?

MA: No, we have a bout to decide.  We have to determine which one of these three series is the worst.  To that end, here’s the first question for tonight.

Which one of these series is doing more harm to the horror film industry right now?

LS:  All three franchises are guilty of putting out crappy product that makes the genre looks lame. But I don’t think the SCREAM movies are important enough to have much bearing anymore, and the SAW movies are supposedly finished.

MA:  I hope so!

LS:  The TWILIGHT movies don’t really count, because they have their own niche audience that has nothing to do with horror fans.

MA:  You can say that again.  I always thought TWILIGHT fans were young teenage girls, but at least in my neck of the woods—.

LS:  And you mean that literally, because you do live in the woods!

MA:  I don’t live in the woods!  Sure, I live in a rural community, but it’s not the woods!  Anyway, as I was saying, when I’ve seen these movies, the theaters have been packed with adult women, many of them middle-aged, and—even stranger— adult couples, as if these movies are good date movies.  Very strange that the teen girls have been outnumbered.

I don’t think any of these movies are truly doing harm to the horror film industry, either.  I don’t give these films that much credit or power.

I think SAW gives horror a bad name because it’s the kind of movie that people who aren’t horror fans point to when they complain about all that’s wrong with horror, and in this case, I’d have to agree with them.  I know a lot of horror people who also think the SAW movies are pretty bad.

TWILIGHT,  I think , is mostly laughable. The true fans like these movies because they love the books, but the rest of us see them for what they are: pretty boring love stories masquerading as vampire tales.  They are the most boring films I’ve seen in many years.

I know in the past you’ve pointed to SCREAM as a franchise that has hurt horror, saying that SCREAM led to a bunch of weak horror movies that had teens for characters and were played for laughs, and you’re not the only person I’ve heard say this.  I just don’t think SCREAM was ever that influential, and as far as having teens for characters, horror movies have had teens as main characters going back to films like HALLOWEEN (1978) and way, way back to the 1950s with films like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) and I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

But you’re right about there not being a whole lot of good horror movies during SCREAM’s heyday, but I think this is more a coincidence than a result of SCREAM’s influence.

LS: Well, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. Even if it’s wrong.

MA:  So, of these three series, which one do you think is the best?

LS:  SAW is better than the other two because at least it tries to be interesting in creating different, elaborate ways to kill people.

MA:  And I completely disagree!

LS:  So what? You already had your say.

That said, the SAW movies are repetitious and predictable as well. Even though Jigsaw is dead, his disciples keep things going (and with flashbacks, it’s like Jigsaw never left). So it’s pretty much the same thing every movie. Basically, the SAW movies are just as bad in their own way— except they don’t annoy me as much as the SCREAM or the TWILIGHT movies.

MA:  If I had to pick one I think is better than the others, I’d go with SCREAM.

(LS screams)

MA:  SCREAM is better than the other two because I liked the first SCREAM movie better than any of the movies in the other two series.  I actually liked the first SCREAM a lot.  I thought it was clever, funny, and scary.  The series just gradually went downhill from there

I didn’t like any of the SAW movies, and it goes without saying, I didn’t like any of the TWILIGHT movies either.

Moving onto our next question, if you were allowed to improve one of these franchise, which one would you like to improve, and just how would you improve it?

LS:  The way to improve these movies is to simply stop making them.

(A gargantuan cheer erupts from the audience, and suddenly LS is receiving a standing ovation.  Even MA stands to give him a hand.)

MA:  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

LS: Thank you, thank you.

(Audience continues to cheer as camera pans away.)


TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series?


Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, Ghost Movies, Supernatural, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2011 by knifefighter

by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The scene:  A suburban neighborhood, just like the ones in the movies POLTERGIEST and E.T. (both from 1982).  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES walk along a sidewalk and stop in front of a decrepit, spooky looking house.)

MA:  Let me guess:  the house where you were born.

LS:  Nah.  It’s not scary enough.  Where I was born people didn’t break into your house.   They broke out.

Anyway, we’re here in front of this haunted house because we’ll be kicking off April with a review of INSIDIOUS, the new haunted house horror movie by director James Wan, the man who directed the original SAW (2004).

MA:  Ugh!  That doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Take a good look at this house, folks, and where it’s situated:  in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by other houses.  I hope that the house in INSIDIOUS is located in a similar place.  So many haunted house movies have the house in the middle of nowhere, it has grown very tiresome.

INSIDIOUS was written by Leigh Whannell.  He wrote the screenplays for SAW, SAW II (2005) and SAW III (2006).  This is not making me feel good at all.  It stars Patrick Wilson who played Nite Owl in WATCHMEN (2009).

LS:  Wilson was also good in the movies HARD CANDY (2005) and LITTLE CHILDREN (2006). This one could go either way. I’ll reserve judgment til I see it.

MA:  The trailer for this one didn’t do anything for me, so I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it.

I’m actually more intrigued by SOURCE CODE starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which also opens April 1.  We’ll have this one covered for you by John Harvey.

The following weekend, April 8, we’ll be reviewing two movies.

LS:  We’re just busy little beavers here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.

MA:  John Harvey will be back with us again, as he and I will be reviewing the new thriller HANNA (2011) starring Cate Blanchett.  This one looks kind of weird, as it’s about a young teenage girl who happens to be an assassin.  It looks like Hit Girl from KICK-ASS (2010) meets the BOURNE movies.  I have to admit, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

LS:  Yeah, that looks okay. While you guys are seeing that one, I’ll be reviewing YOUR HIGHNESS, the new fantasy/comedy starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman. It’s a tale of two princes in medieval times who go on a quest. I like the cast, especially McBride. I’m a huge fan of his HBO show, EASTBOUND AND DOWN. So I’m hoping this one is pretty good.

MA:  Then, on April 15, we’ll be reviewing SCREAM 4.  I know how much you’re looking forward to this one!

LS (feigns vomiting):  I’d rather eat broken glass than watch SCREAM 4.  Originally I was going to try to duck out of seeing this one, but it looks like I’ll get dragged into it.

(Guy with the SCREAM mask runs up behind LS and grabs him by the arm, trying to drag him away.)

LS:  Let go of me, you freak, before I chop off your head!  Say, that’s not such a bad idea!  (suddenly lifts an axe over his head.)

MA:  How is it you always seem to have a sharp implement handy?

LS:  I come prepared!  (chases the SCREAM guy down the street.)

MA:  Hey!  Come back here!   We have a column to finish!  Oh well. I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough. Where were we?  Oh yes, SCREAM 4.

It looks like the usual suspects are back for more screaming.  Wes Craven’s back directing, and L.L.’s  favorite screen writer (not!) Kevin Williamson wrote the screenplay again. It also features Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette back in the cast again, reprising the same roles they’ve played in the first three movies.

(LS returns, his axe dripping with blood.)

MA:  Does this mean the SCREAM movies are finished?

LS:  I doubt it.  His last words were “I’m just the stand-in.”

MA:  Oops.

LS:  Anyway, I know you were joking around before, but I want to make this clear:  I am not looking forward to SCREAM 4.

MA:  I can’t say that I’m looking forward it either.  While I actually liked the first SCREAM (1996), that was it.  I wasn’t a big fan of the second one, and the third one was even worse, so we may both hate this one.

LS:  April 22 will be a surprise weekend, as we most likely will be bringing you a DVD review.  APOLLO 18 was originally supposed to open this weekend, but it’s been pushed back until next year!

MA:  That’s right, supposedly this one won’t be released now until January 2012!  Which is too bad because the trailer looked good.  I’m looking forward to it, whenever it arrives.

We’ll be finishing April with a review of DYLAN DOG:  DEAD OF NIGHT, which opens April 29.  This horror comedy, about a private eye who fights vampires and other supernatural monsters, sounded pretty stupid to me when I first heard about it, but the trailer doesn’t look half bad.

It stars Brandon Routh (SUPERMAN RETURNS [2006]) in the lead, and he looks pretty natural playing Dylan Dog.  Routh also appeared in a small role in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010), and he was funny in that, and so it’ll be interesting to see if he can be funny in a comedy of his own.

I can’t say that I’m excited about DYLAN DOG, but I’m not dreading it either.

LS: April’s going to be a weird month, and I might not be able to review this one with you, but it does sound interesting. And I like Routh. I even liked SUPERMAN RETURNS and thought it was much better than most reviews gave it credit for.

MA:  So, that’s it for April.  Not a bad line-up.

LS:  I disagree.  With SCREAM 4 smack dab in the middle, it’s not a good line-up!

MA:  Well, it’ll still be fun, anyway.  Okay, folks, we’re out of time, and it’s starting to get dark so L.L and I have to head back home.

LS (to MA):  What’s the matter? You can’t stay out after dark, or something?

MA:  No.  It’s just that the house behind is rather spooky looking, that’s all.

LS:  Wimp.

MA:  Besides, it’s dinner time.

LS:  Well, that’s a different story altogether!  Let’s get the heck out of here!  I can hear that dinner bell clanging all the way from here!

MA (to audience):  If you want to see something truly scary, watch him eat.  Anyway, that’s it for now.  We’ll see you this weekend with a review of another new movie.


Friday Night Knife Fights – December 2010 – Part 2

Posted in 2010, Friday Night Knife Fights, M. Night Shyamalan Movies, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Colleen Wanglund

This month’s debate:


Last Friday, LL, Colleen Wanglund, and I were discussing WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, and we were attempting to answer the question, which of these two directors is in the worst slump?  Tonight we conclude the debate.

Of the two, which one do you want to see get back fastest to making good horror movies again?  And if you were this person’s agent, what advice would you give him to help resurrect his career?

COLLEEN WANGLUND: I’d really like to see Wes Craven right the wrongs he’s done, because, again, he’s made some really great movies and still has the potential to get back to making good movies.

The advice I’d give him is to stop taking scripts for crap like CURSED (2005) and MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) and to STOP WITH THE SEQUELS ALREADY!!  Maybe if Wes went independent he’d do a better job.

LL SOARES: I think I consider them both lost causes at this point. If I was Craven’s agent, the first thing I’d tell him is to stop working with people like Kevin Williamson. Williams might have given Craven some hits, but he’s also been responsible for some of his worst films. Secondly, to get back to his roots and try to recapture the edge of his early work. Seeing how many of his early films have been remade lately, there’s definitely a market for more edgy horror.

As for Shyamalan, I’d tell him to hire a decent writer and stick to just directing. His scripts have been getting increasingly awful over time. And annoyingly preachy. No one likes to be preached to (the movie DEVIL (2010), which he only wrote the script for, was guilty of this as well). Since writing seems to be Shyamalan’s Achilles’ heel, it seems rather silly that he’s started a project called THE NIGHT CHRONICLES where other directors direct scripts he’s written. Hopefully the poor reception DEVIL received will kill the project before it continues.

MA:  I want to see Shyamalan get back to making good horror movies again, since I liked his work better in the first place.  If he could make other movies with the precision and care he seemed to show when he made THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), he’d be enjoying a helluva career right now.  Just because THE SIXTH SENSE had a knockout twist ending, he seemed to believe that was why the film was good, and suddenly all his movies had to have twist endings.  The problem is, THE SIXTH SENSE’s twist ending belonged in that movie.  It was an integral part of the story.  It wasn’t tacked on as an afterthought in the mistaken belief that “my movies need twist endings.”

If he were making quality horror movies, the horror genre would be stronger for it.

If I were his agent, what advice would I give him?

There would be three things.  First, like I just said, I’d advise him to ditch the twist endings.  That’s not why THE SIXTH SENSE was such a good movie.  It was such a good movie because he did such a good job with the entire package.

I agree with LL that Shyamalan shouldn’t write his own movies, that he’s a much better director than a writer.  So, that would be my second piece of advice.  Let someone else write the screenplay.

And my third piece of advice would be to get off his high horse and get out of the limelight for a while.  He should stop advertising his movies with his name in front of the title, as in “M Night Shyamalan’s DEVIL” or whatever.  It’s too presumptuous.  It’s so bad movie audiences are laughing at his name.

Instead, he should just direct his movies to the best of his ability— and don’t hype that it’s HIS movie—and then, if it does well, people will give him credit.  Right now, the last thing he needs is movie audiences knowing in advance that he’s behind the camera.  This information might actually keep people away from the theater.  Ultimately, if the movie is good, people are going to like it regardless of who made it, so if he makes a good movie, it’s not like people aren’t going to like it because he made it.

Moving on to our next question, right now, which one of the two is doing more damage to the horror industry?

LS:  Craven is doing another SCREAM movie soon. So I’d say him.

MA:  You really give SCREAM (1996) too much credit.  Come on, it didn’t ruin horror.  That being said, the world doesn’t need another SCREAM movie.

LS:  The first SCREAM movie thought it was so damn clever by pointing out all the clichés of the genre (which everyone who’s a fan of horror ALREADY KNEW).  SCREAM made horror a joke. Ironically, one of the movies that let people take horror seriously again was Shyamalan’s SIXTH SENSE.

MA:  I don’t understand why you say that, why you think SCREAM made horror a joke.  It was a horror movie with a sense of humor.  What’s the difference between SCREAM and ZOMBIELAND (2009)?  Did ZOMBIELAND make horror a joke?

LS:  You don’t understand my comment. ZOMBIELAND was a horror film with a sense of humor, and it worked. There’s nothing wrong with humor in a horror movie. SCREAM pretty much ridiculed the horror genre – the laugh was on us. The way to make better horror films is not to make the genre a laughing stock – but rather to stop making crap and make good movies. Which is why THE SIXTH SENSE was one of the films that lifted horror out of the funk that it settled into post-SCREAM.

The SCREAM movies also started a trend where almost every horror movie for a few years had to star kids (who looked like models) and no adults, which was abysmal. Shymalan never hurt the genre as a whole. He just made a lot of stinky movies.

CW:  The most damage?  It’s hard to say.  Shyamalan is still wet behind the ears and should maybe actually WATCH some horror movies to get a better understanding of the genre.  He seems to have at least made an attempt to make suspenseful films, but they fall apart with some really bad endings.

Wes Craven has been around longer and did at one time know what he was doing.  You know, maybe Craven is doing more damage because he’s helping Hollywood to churn out the lousy cookie-cutter crap they call horror movies.

MA:  I don’t think either one is damaging the horror industry.  I don’t give either one of these guys that much power.  The industry is full of talented people working in it right now.

That being said, I think Shyamalan’s movies get more press, but he’s starting to become a joke these days, so if he keeps this up, eventually people are just going to quit watching his films.  It’s not like people go to the movies these days to see one of his movies expecting it’s going to be a classic.  People know now that the guy’s not producing quality stuff.

I don’t think Wes Craven is even in the mix anymore.  Among today’s moviegoers, I don’t hear his name mentioned at all.

LS: Oh yeah? If the new SCREAM sequel is a big hit, that will change.

MA: These guys are both in slumps, but I don’t think they’re hurting the industry.

Alright folks, it’s decision time.  Time to pick a winner.  WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN –which of these two directors wins today’s booby prize for worst director?

CW:  I give the booby prize to Wes Craven because he really has fallen farther from grace in the last two decades.  I think he’s gotten lazy and very sloppy.

MA:  I’d have to go with Shyamalan.  It’s almost as if his troubles are in his head, as if he’s lost his way.  He reminds me of a baseball player who’s a lifetime .300 hitter but is stuck in an awful hitting slump and can’t bat .200 to save his life.  His mechanics are all there, but he can’t buy a hit.  He just has to stick with it and work through it.

I think with time, Shyamalan will come around and make good quality movies again.

I think Craven is just old.  No, seriously, based upon his recent movies, I’d have to guess that he doesn’t even care anymore.  His films look like they were made by someone just going through the motions.

LS:  I’d say it’s a tie. They both are pretty awful at this point in their careers. And I dread seeing either of their movies. I wish they’d both go away.

MA:  A tie?  Interesting.

That gives us one vote for each, plus a tie, which puts us at 1 ½ for Craven and 1 ½ for Shyamalan.  Fittingly enough, tonight’s bout ends in a draw.  Both these guys are in a funk, and it seems these days neither one can make a good movie to save his life.

Therefore, tonight we award two booby prizes to both these directors.

On that note, go out and see a movie directed by someone else!

Well, folks, that all we have time for tonight.

LS:  Thanks, Colleen, for joining us.

CW:  It was a pleasure, guys.

MA:  This has been the last FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS for 2010. Good night everybody!


Friday Night Knife Fights: WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN

Posted in 2010, 70s Horror, Aliens, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror, M. Night Shyamalan Movies, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2010 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Colleen Wanglund



MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome to this month’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Tonight, LL and I are joined by the Geisha of Gore herself, Colleen Wanglund. Welcome, Colleen.

COLLEEN WANGLUND: Happy to be here.

MA:  And how are you doing tonight, LL?

L.L. SOARES: I’ve been better. I mean, we’re going to be talking about Wes Craven and M. Night Shyamalan tonight. How good can I be?

MA:  That’s right, tonight on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS it’s WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. We’ll be answering the question, which of these two directors is in the worst slump right now?  Let’s get started. First of all, do you agree that these two directors are in a slump?

CW:  Absolutely!

Both of these directors are in a huge slump. Wes Craven actually used to make really good movies….back in the 70s and 80s. And M. Night Shyamalan was touted as a potential movie-making genius with so much promise.

MA:  How quickly fates change!

LS:  Both directors have had periods in their careers where they were doing some terrific work. Neither has done anything of value for at least the last ten years. So yeah, they are definitely in a slump. They’re both awful examples of horror directors.

MA:  I agree. I don’t see how anyone can argue otherwise, unless of course you’re a die-hard fan of Shyamalan and think all his movies have been great. I’m sure Dan Keohane would argue this if he were here.

LS:  You hear that Dan?  You’d better be here next time!

MA:  Nothing like pressuring the guy!

LS:  He can handle it. I thought he’d jump at the chance to defend his hero, M. Night. I’m surprised he didn’t show up for this one.

MA:  Maybe he was afraid he’d be outnumbered.

CW:  Which he would have been.

MA:  Okay, so, who has fallen further from grace?  In other words, which one was making movies at a higher level when he lost his way and got his head stuck in a toilet?

LS:    I guess I’d have to go with Wes Craven, because his early films were fantastic. I think LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) were like these iconic, influential classics. Even people who don’t like them have to admit how they left indelible marks on the genre.

MA:  I don’t like those movies, and I don’t have to admit that they were influential. I think they’re minor movies. They didn’t do anything to shape the horror industry, except maybe give people the false perception that horror movies are mindless violent trash, which is not a good thing. I don’t want people thinking horror movies are mindless violent trash.

LS:  As usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about. You claim to be a horror guy, but you’re such a wimp you can’t appreciate anything with any kind of real edge to it.

MA:  THE EXORCIST (1973), HALLOWEEN (1978), ALIEN (1979)–these movies don’t have an edge?  They do, plus guess what?  They actually were made well!

CW:  Sorry, but I have to agree with LL here. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES are horror classics. I also loved SWAMP THING (1982), THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988) and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).

LS: SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is actually really good. It might be the last good movie Craven has made.

CW: I think Craven started to lose his way with the ELM STREET sequels. If there’s one thing I hate more than a remake, it’s a sequel. Although there was also the absolutely awful THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991).

LS: Oh God, you’re right. THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is horrendous!

But, as for Craven’s career, you could tell as soon as he started getting big he really wanted to have a commercial/mainstream career, and he abandoned his more edgy sensibilities early on.

MA:  I didn’t like any of these movies, except for the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The last movie that Craven made that I liked was SCREAM (1996).

LS:  Yet another example of your lack of taste. SCREAM was crap.

MA:  I have to cut you off here, because we have to move on to Shyamalan.

LS:  Fine.  I’ll come back to SCREAM later, because I’ve got more to say about this smug little piece of —.

MA:  I’m sure you do.  Anyway, moving on to Shyamalan, the last movie that he made that I liked was SIGNS (2002), so in my book Craven’s been in the longer slump.

LS: You must be sniffing glue again. SIGNS was horrible. It’s illogical, badly written, and not scary. It’s a movie about aliens so stupid they invade Earth – a planet that’s like 80% water – and guess what their only weakness is? Yep. Water! I think these must be the stupidest aliens in film history. Since we’re mostly water, too, what the hell were they planning to do with us once they took over? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

MA: Yes, but it works!  It is scary, and I totally bought into the emotional plight of Mel Gibson’s character.  That being said, you’re dead on about the aliens.

Still, I enjoyed SIGNS and THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) better than anything Craven has ever made. I guess I’m not much of a Craven fan.

So, in my estimation, Shyamalan has fallen further from grace since THE SIXTH SENSE is a classic of the genre, and SIGNS, while flawed, captivated me much more than anything in Craven’s canon of work.

LS:  I thought Shyamalan’s best films were THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE (2000). I really liked both of them. However, I don’t think either one was as important as Craven’s early films. So I say Craven has fallen further.

CW:  It’s tough to answer this one. Shyamalan made one great movie in THE SIXTH SENSE and seemed to fall off from there. It was as if he believed the hype, that he probably couldn’t make a bad movie (but keep in mind his idol is Stephen Spielberg who is another iffy one for me).

So, I don’t know which one has fallen further. They both have fallen pretty far.

LS: I think that Craven has made better films than Shymalan. But Craven’s worst films are also worse than Shymalan’s worst.

MA:  Hold that thought, because that’s my next question.  Which of the two has made the worst movies of late?  Whose recent movies have you disliked more?

CW:  Of late?

In my opinion, Shyamalan hasn’t made a good movie since THE SIXTH SENSE (1999). And Craven hasn’t made a good movie since THE EIGHTIES!  I thought he was starting to mend his ways with SCREAM (1996) but then he just HAD to go and do sequels again.

MA:  So, you liked SCREAM?

CW:  Yeah, I liked the first one.

MA:  At least I’m not the only one here who liked that movie.

LS: I think you’re both high!

CW:  I have to say I probably dislike Wes Craven’s movies more because he’s been making movies longer and really should know better.

LS:  I think they’ve both been pretty awful. They both had career highs and they both have wallowed in the sewer for awhile now.

MA:  Wes Craven’s MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) and CURSED (2005) were horrible. In fact, a friend of mine actually walked out of MY SOUL TO TAKE.

LS: I wish that friend was me. I had to sit through the whole thing and review it. Talk about torture porn! It was TORTURE sitting through that movie!

MA: Shyamalan’s recent movies haven’t been any better. Consider DEVIL (2010)— I know he only wrote this one, but I still count it as one of his movies—, THE HAPPENING (2008) , and the worst of the worst:  THE VILLAGE (2004).

LS: THE VILLAGE is a work of genius compared to THE HAPPENING and SIGNS. At least it started out really good.

MA: It may have started out well, but where it went afterwards was abysmal.

THE VILLAGE actually annoyed the hell out of me. I was really into it and really enjoying it, and then Shyamalan goes and ruins it with an idiotic revelation half way through the film which absolutely killed any and all suspense the movie had taken so much care to build up. So, I was already outraged long before the film’s ridiculous unnecessary twist ending.

LS: Frankly, the fact that THE VILLAGE annoyed you so much makes me like it more than I originally did. If it irritated you that much, it can’t be all bad.

MA: I think you secretly wrote the screenplay.

Whose recent movies have I disliked more?  Hands down, Shyamalan’s.