Monster Mondays: Freddy Krueger

One, Two, Freddy’s coming for you,
Three, Four, Better lock your door
Five, Six, grab your crucifix,
Seven, Eight, better stay up late,
Nine, Ten, Never sleep again….

That eerie rhyme remains emblazoned on our inner ear for good reason. It’s ingenious. Capturing everything wrong about dreams, warning even people who haven’t seen it what it’s about. Nightmare on Elm Street was an inescapable rite of passage for children of the 1980s and Freddy Kreuger’s shadow still draws a long, irregularly scratching line into our collective unawareness.

Our favourite dream monster, Fred Kreuger. With looks like these, no wonder he stays in our minds - and our Dreams.

Our favourite dream monster, Fred Kreuger. With looks like these, no wonder he stays in our minds – and our Dreams.

Freddy has lurked in the inner lives of 1980s kids since we first heard stories about his movies in the classroom. The Eyeball remembers listening to them with fascinated horror during ‘wet playtime’ (not nearly as much fun as it sounds), while we read Eagle comics in the corner. We strongly remember a nine year old boy with access to far too many grown up movies callously dissected the unpleasant final moments of the flesh puppet in Dream Warriors, and Johnny Depp’s final bloody gush in the original film. When we finally saw all the films in a lengthy marathon of low-res second-hand VHS vids, (in our teens, Freddy’s favourite age group) then we were hooked.

We didn’t even care that ‘the rest (allegedly) sucked’. OK, Nightmare 2 aside – which was still an unusual piece of film – they’re all exactly what we signed up for. They brim with weird, unnatural deaths, a properly unpleasant monster, and the heroines who we rooted for as they grew in confidence and took on the ultimate disgusting, predatory misogynist child molester. To wonderful, tough Nancy, and those that followed, we salute you.

Nancy Thompson Freddy Krugeur

Turn around and cast him out! (Image from Bleeding Dead Films – click to see their site)

But still, Freddy (formerly the more low-key ‘Fred’) has remained the real star attraction. He’s repulsive, he’s in love with hating the world, and he’s a fantastic bastard son of a thousand maniacs. There was something perfect about a dreadful tragedy that made sense to the storyteller in us. As they coated more layers of Freddys backstory onto the franchise, the dreams remained an exciting angle to watch it all from. It’s hard to hate any of the movies when they’re so clearly in love with weirdness, and symbolism (Jung that movie!). In a dream, anything is possible, and the Nightmare films used that to their advantage.

They provided an alternative type of horror to to Jason and, just compare them to the recent string of humourless, torturous Saw movies. Imagination, latent teenage sexuality, strong female characters and a mercilessly playful killer. Freddy will stalk you into the daylight. You can never be sure you’ve woken up – a point drawn out until it squeaked in the unlovable remake.

Nightmare on Elm Street Poster

The original Nightmare and it’s the best! Your mileage may vary, but you’re wrong, buddy….

So why does Freddy hold such a fascination, when he is clearly so very, very horrible? Most intriguing is that he’s based on a series of experiences and research by his creator, Wes Craven. Freddy was born in the creepy man glaring at Wes Craven from the street when he was a kid, and came to life when he read some real life stories where boys had refused to sleep, and when they did, they died without a known cause. Uncanny. The way Freddy’s popularity gets dealt with in the Final Nightmare is also clever, suggesting he’s really a demon who must be contained by the totem of Freddy Kruger.

He’s also absolutely bloody terrifying because:

  • His picture alone terrifies us, especially if it’s one where he’s grinning at the camera (see above – thanks a lot, Rob Englund!) and he does that a LOT.
  • In a continuation of the first point, even Pinhead doesn’t scare us as much as Freddy does.
  • He’s capable of beating up Jason! (Though we do reckon Pinhead could take him in a sequel)
  • Phone-licker. Eeeew.
  • That hat. Those greasy green and red jumpers. Finger gloves. Sartorially the chap’s already a nightmare.
  • Increasingly smug one-liners. Grrr.
  • The charming way he can snip off all his own fingers and have a big laugh about it.
  • You can’t sleep, so it’s an endurance test we can all relate to. The Eyeball would last about two minutes (tiiiired Eyeball, zzzzzzzzzzz-splat)
  • You might never wake up. Even if you think you have. Repeatedly.
  • He can make your family believe you killed yourself, or that you killed someone else.
  • The Police and your parents will NEVER believe you about him.
  • Your only allies are your best friends at school, and they’re being picked off like flies.
  • Or like cockroaches.
  • You can kill him in numerous ways. But be warned that a dog pissing on his grave is enough to resurrect Freddy so he can murder all the plucky survivors from the previous installment, so basically, if you ever run into Freddy, and think you stopped him…not so much. You’re still all gonna die.

Now, we’ve featured him on the Eyeball today because it was Robert Englund’s birthday last week (June 6th) which makes Mr Englund a highly respectable 66 years old. Happy belated birthday, Robert! It’s amazing how Freddy has taken over his life in so many ways, and he’s never quite escaped the character’s razored grip. It seems odd, but in the early 1980s, Englund actually used to play nice characters! Luckily, Englund seems to love that he’s a horror movie legend, and to the Eyeball and millions of other fans, he always will be.

If you want to know more about Elm Street and Kreuger, then the Eyeball very strongly recommends the awesome 2009 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.

Are you off to bed now? Then…grab your crucifix….and don’t have nightmares….

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Monster Mondays: Doctor Who’s Whisper Men

At the Eyeball we have a soft spot for Doctor Who, even though the increasingly convoluted plots and two Doctors on a perpetual sugar rush have led to more of a ‘dipping in’ strategy when it came to actually watching it.

However, once we heard that a certain horror icon was guest starring, we tuned in this time. We won’t spoil who that was here, as the whole internet can tell you what happened – or watch it on the BBC iPlayer if you can. The episode was stronger than earlier ones with a leisurely start that perfectly laid out what was at stake, with an impressive group of female heroes setting the scene.

But what we’ve come to comment on were the gloriously nasty new monsters known as the Whisper Men.

One of the Whisper Men

The Whisper Men are sinister henchmen for an ongoing Big Bad, played with sneery superiority by Richard E Grant. Incidentally, wasn’t Grant a former Doctor in a parody or web cartoon version? He keeps the Whisper Men around and has a nifty trick of morphing his consciousness into them if one of him gets destroyed. There’s a reveal of this that’s rather like The Invisible Man, revealing only hollow air inside his face before taking over another Whisper Man. Shudder.

Whisper Men corner the Doctor

Whisper Men corner the Doctor

So what else is impressive about them? If they stick around we hope they’ll do more, but they did manage a fair amount of menace in this one appearance:

  • Cadaverous, sharklike grins.
  • Those broad top hats, undertaker chic taken to extremes.
  • Faceless monsters. Can they see you, or are they just gonna sniff you out?
  • Their whispering nature. They seem to stalk you with words as well as appearances.
  • They can also reach into your chest and stop your heart on a whim. Yuk.
  • They can corner the Doctor!
  • The way they morph into Richard E Grant and look vaguely annoyed by the process.
  • The pale faced, towering humanoid is a foolproof horror classic, going right back to Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.

whispermen

The Haunted Eyeball figures that this makes a change from referencing Daleks and Cybermen when it comes to Doctor Who. Also, we’re quite looking forward to when the show returns at the end of November 2013. Please, writers of Who, cut down on the sugar for once, and it might even be watchable, just like this one.

Monster Mondays: Ray Harryhausen’s Skeleton Warriors

We were all saddened to hear that Ray Harryhausen had passed away last week, and here on the Eyeball we’d like to pay homage to some of his most famous monsters, created with the painstaking technique of stop-motion. Using real life sculpted models. Animators and monster fans, we have lost a great artist in film-making and the Eyeball would like to dedicate this Monster Monday entirely to him.

However, the great man left us many fantastic beasts to choose from. After a brief Twitter poll earlier today, and a little searching on YouTube, the top Harryhausen monster, the Eyeball has decided that the finest creation of them all are, unquestionably, the relentless animated skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts (1966).

Technically outstanding even today, the only way our hero can even escape them is by throwing himself off a cliff! They dispatch Jason’s two companions with leering grins on their faces. These meatless monsters really love their job.

Why do they work so well?

  • The leering grins and mocking squint of their hollow eyes.
  • That synchronized stalking movement, like a hideously emaciated boyband.
  • Superb swordsmanship.
  • They repeatedly get knocked down by the Greek heroes, but boy do they get up again. And again. 

Also, on a meta note, the design of these frightening warriors has been borrowed in numerous films ever since.

They lurk within the gleefully evil faces of the Martians in Mars Attacks (1997).

Harryhausen, Mars Attacks, Tim Burton, fresky skulls

Mars Attacks Martian – originally these were going to be stop motion

They inspired Sam Raimi to more or less do his own stop motion version, with a ferocious Deadite army, in the sublimely silly Army of Darkness (1993).

 

The bar in Pixar’s Monsters Inc (20001) is sort of a shout-out, if by ‘shout-out’ you mean ‘foghorn announcement’.

And finally…’ wouldn’t it be cool if the 300 (2005) Spartans had faced THESE guys instead of the so-called ‘Immortals’? (Well, c’mon, wouldn’t it….? Walks off muttering about Watchmen…)

So, the skeleton warriors were highly inspirational, technically incredible, and the entire scene still holds its own today, amidst a tidal wave of flashy CGI gods and monsters and, er, remakes. They’re elegant and deadly, and that’s how the Eyeball likes its monsters.

And good gods, they’re mean little bastards.

Harryhausen skeletons, stop motion, jason and the argonauts

Harryhausen’s terrifying skeleton warriors

And so, Ray Harryhausen, we on the Haunted Eyeball salute you. You lived an amazing life, brought many crazy mythological creatures to life and inspired generations of Rest in Peace.

A superb video here featuring every one of Harryhausen’s marvelous monsters

Also, the owl was cool.

Monster Mondays – The Thing (2011) Awesome beasts

Monster Monday

The Thing (2011)

John Carpenter’s 1982 ‘The Thing’ was an eye-popping mix of tension and gory special effects which were mind blowing at the time, and are still effectively shocking today. So when word of the remake or prequel started to come through, it seemed ridiculous, nothing could top it.

And now this remake (or, ok, officially a prequel) has been out for a couple of years, and I still haven’t watched the whole movie, let’s just make that clear now. However, I have peeked at the shiny innards of the film, having grown curious about the way they treated the iconic, shapeshifting alien which so troubled Kurt Russell and Keith David back in 1982.

And you know what? I was pleasantly blown away by the new movie’s monstrous effects. I was expecting much ropier CGI than this, and they’ve brought us a beautifully horrendous and importantly a very SOLID looking monster. Im only going by a youtube copy here, so can’t say for absolutely certain that it’s flawless. But neither is it a SyFy channel lame duck, there’s no unconvincing SharktaPus rubbish for this remake. The new Thing has some quality nasty going on. And arms…with teeth,,,and merging with your face and…and….dissolving and spearing and…owch. Wow.

I really didn’t think it would be any good, but this is pretty twisted. Yes, the Dead Space movie could get made, and if we’re lucky it’d look half as good as this.

The video below contains spoilers, but if like me you don’t want to tarnish the memory of the original film (which, yes, I am well aware was ALSO a remake of a quality black and white ‘man in a rubber suit’ extravaganza from RKO in the 1950s) then this is an excellent way to taste of the meat of the latest version. Weirdly, it’s now a lot likelier I will look at this once it pops up on Netflix, or becomes very, very cheap on blu ray. Or if I win it in a raffle…

Although it could be argued that this gives away all the good bits, if the remake is any good at all it should survive that. In the mid-1990s, Lenny Henry ruined the surprise of the SFX in the 1982 The Thing. I foolishly watched a documentary he presented about monsters in movies, shortly before ITV network (UK) was broadcasting the whole ‘Thing’ movie. Still loved it to pieces.

So if my appreciation of the 1982 movie remains unaffected by seeing all the goodies ahead of any narrative, maybe the prequel isn’t going to be so bad after all. Let’s remember that high tension and relatable characters made the Carpenter version vastly rewatchable. Perhaps this new attempt has nailed it as well. Perhaps.

Generally, though, a prequel is stuck in its own dead end of time, doomed to copycat whatever enthralled viewers of the originals, whilst charging boldly through the motions like a soulless running zombie. What happened to the Norwegian team, who the US research team tried to help, was already quite evident during the scenes when Macready checks out what remained of their camp. I keep calling the prequel a remake because John Carpenter pretty much nailed the interesting part of that story, and all its lovely Lovecraftian elements as well. Frankly, the prequel looks like more of a ‘look what we can do now’, which is fine, but not necessarily as intriguing. Of course that could be age talking, too…

What would be interesting to see is an actual sequel to the John Carpenter movie, with Macready and Childs stopping the Thing in another setting. Or at least something that moves the story along, or tries it from a fresh angle. The logical progression would be to move it to the desert. Right? A ‘Thinged’ camel would be pretty awesome….it already looks like a camel spider. Gulp.

On a final (heavhanded?) note, the Thing monster is endlessly transforming and adapting to survive its new environment, and the blockbuster industry could definitely learn a thing or two from that.