Monday, December 7, 2020

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1988)

Arguably the greatest of all Starrcades, and ironically the first one not produced by Jim Crockett Promotions....

Starrcade '88 - Norfolk Scope - 12/26/88

The first Starrcade of the Turner Era was an unabashed classic.  Held the day after Christmas to avoid having to compete with Survivor Series, this show was the culmination of the year-long Ric Flair-Lex Luger feud, as well as the first Starrcade to not feature a single gimmick match (I was super pissed about this at the time; as a thirteen-year-old I thought gimmick matches ruled).

1988 saw a disturbing number of heel and face turns in the NWA.  It's pretty staggering when you think about it.  Lex Luger turned face, Barry Windham turned heel, Ronnie Garvin turned heel, The Midnight Express turned face, The Road Warriors turned heel, Ivan Koloff turned face, Rick Steiner turned face, Steve Williams turned heel.  That's gettin' to be a lot.  Anyway, the first match saw Williams team with his new manager Kevin Sullivan to challenge The Fantastics for the US Tag belts.  Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton had won a tournament for the vacant Titles due to The Midnight Express having given them up after winning the World Tag belts.  Sadly their World Tag Title reign was over well before new US Tag Champs were crowned.  What a gyp.  This opening contest was quite good, and the New Varsity Club captured the belts clean.

The second bout was one of my favorites, as The Midnight Express, Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane, faced The Original Midnight Express, Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose, managed by Paul E. Dangerously.  Prior to this feud I wasn't familiar with Dangerously, but I liked his heel manager antics right away.  These two teams gelled superbly and put on a tag team clinic, which Cornette's Midnight Express won with a Double Goozle after nearly 18 minutes.

The only throwaway match of the night was next, as Ivan Koloff teamed with NWA newcomer The Junkyard Dog, against former allies The Russian Assassins.  Not much going on in this one, and mercifully it was over in less than seven minutes, when one of the masked Assassins stuffed an object into his mask and headbutted Koloff.

The rest of this show was smooth sailin'.

Friday, December 4, 2020

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1987)

I know most people don't think this show has aged well, but I still love Starrcade '87....

Starrcade '87 - UIC Pavilion - 11.26.87

The 1987 edition was the first-ever PPV broadcast by Jim Crockett Promotions.  Crockett was expanding rapidly with designs on competing with the WWF, and moved into the non-traditional locale of Chicago for his flagship show.  Unfortunately Vince McMahon had designs on squashing the NWA's PPV hopes and ran the inaugural Survivor Series against it.  Not only that but he issued an ultimatum to the cable companies: Run Starrcade and you can't have WrestleMania IV.  The ploy worked, and only a handful of cable providers kept Starrcade, which meant it got destroyed by Survivor Series (which to be fair was an awesome PPV).

Starrcade '87 holds a special place for me, as it was the first one I ever watched all the way through.  I mail-ordered the VHS tape in 1988 after reading glowing reviews in Wrestling's Main Event magazine, and upon viewing it for the first time I was blown away.  The action was athletic, physical and intense, and at the time I loved that the NWA did so many gimmick matches (When you're 12 years old nothing is as cool as a Steel Cage match, except maybe a Scaffold Match).  Amazingly this show ran under 2.5 hours but it doesn't at all feel incomplete.

SC'87 was built around Ric Flair's quest to regain the NWA Title.  The Board of Directors wanted Flair to drop the belt to someone a few months earlier and win it back at Starrcade, I guess hoping to recreate the magic of SC'83.  The problem was, no one wanted to be a two-month lame duck Champion, and the only babyface who agreed to it was perennial midcarder Ronnie Garvin (who was a fine worker but no credible World Champion).  Garvin won the Title in a cage match that September and then announced he wouldn't be defending it until Starrcade.  Not much of a story for a PPV main event, but the match itself was pretty goddamn good.  Flair and Garvin beat the bejeezus out of each other, engaging in a war of chops and Figure Fours, and frequently using the cage as a weapon.  After 17 minutes Flair caught Garvin off the ropes and hotshotted him into the cage (in one of the least painful looking spots ever), and cradled him for the win and his fifth NWA Title.  Lame ending aside this was a pretty great match.

Garvin slaps on the Figure Four

The rest of the show was nothing to sneeze at either.

Three of the undercard bouts involved recently-acquired UWF talent, as Crockett had bought the former Mid-South territory from Bill Watts and staged a UWF Invasion.  Unfortunately he botched it completely by presenting most of the UWF wrestlers as far beneath his homegrown stars (a mistake Vince would repeat 14 years later after buying out WCW).

Still the invasion yielded some decent stuff on this show, starting with a pretty fun six-man opener pitting Larry Zbyzsko, Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner against Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, and a young facepainted powerhouse named Sting.  This was nothing amazing but it was a nice way to warm up the crowd, and Sting was already hugely over.  The match inexplicably ended in a draw; Sting really should've pinned one of the heels given how quickly they pushed him.

Second was the only bad match on the show, as UWF Champion Steve Williams defended against Barry Windham.  On paper this sounds fantastic, but when they're only given six minutes and the match ends with a cradle out of nowhere, you can't expect much.  Since the show ran so short this should've gotten at least five more minutes.

The show got a huge boost in the third spot, as the Skywalkers gimmick match was brought out again.  This time though The Midnight Express would face their greatest rivals, The Rock n' Roll Express.  The scaffold match is one of those gimmicks that sounds cool but is very difficult to execute well, given how dangerous it is.  Fortunately the Midnights and RnR delivered an entertaining little fight twenty feet above the ring.  As a kid I thought this match was all kinds of awesome, and it was actually much better than the previous Skywalkers Match.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2020 Preview & Predictions

NXT WarGames is this Sunday and I miss it being the night before Survivor Series so I could enjoy a whole weekend of team gimmick matches.  That was the stuff.  Back when I used to watch WWE....

Anyway, this year's lineup looks solid as usual, and as has been the case basically all year I have no real idea what's going on with NXT so I'm taking a stab in the dark with these predictions.  Let's go.

Tomasso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher

I know these two have been feuding for a while and that this match should be highly technical, and thus good.  I guess I'll pick Ciampa to win.

Pick: Tomasso Ciampa

Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes

Both of these names are terrible; I dunno who in WWE is in charge of picking the names they saddle these poor folks with, but that person should be canned immediately.  Dexter Lumis sounds like the dork in science class whose notes you cheat off of, on your way to a half-assed C-minus.  Cameron Grimes sounds like a spoiled trust fund baby who ties a cardigan around his neck and plays racquetball with his fiancee.  Neither of these names remotely inspire fear, or even curiosity.  Pick better names.

Pick: I'll go with Johnny Country Club over there, Cameron Grimes

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Top Ten Things: The Rocky Films, Ranked

Welcome to a special installment of Top Ten Things, here at!  This edition is so special in fact that we only have eight things to rank.  Don't ask....

Today I'm here to talk about the Rocky film series!  The brainchild of struggling actor/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone, Rocky came about as a fit of inspiration in 1975, after Stallone watched no-name fighter Chuck Wepner shock the world by going the distance with the legendary Muhammed Ali.  He found the story of a million-to-one underdog a compelling mirror of his own journey in the film business, and pitched the idea to producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler at an audition.  They were intrigued and asked him to write a script, which he hammered out on lined paper in the span of three days.  Stallone's inspiring tale of a club fighter getting a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the Heavyweight Championship instantly captured their imagination, and the film was greenlit.  Limited to a tiny $950,000 budget, the production was a whirlwind affair, shot over four weeks, and no one was prepared for the cultural milestone the finished film would become.  $225 million and a Best Picture Oscar later, Rocky the film was as incredible an underdog story as its protagonist, and it quickly spawned a series.  The Rocky franchise is now eight films deep including the Creed spinoffs, with no signs of slowing down, and more amazingly, possessing of some of the sturdiest legs of any film saga.  After 44 years and counting, you simply can't knock this franchise off its feet.

But which installments are the best?  Which are the worst?  How does one rank these stirring, inspirational films spanning over four decades?  Let's hit the heavy bag and see if we're ready to go the distance.  Too many boxing metaphors?

8. Rocky V

The much-maligned fifth chapter earned most of its derision.  One of only two Rocky films I consider bad movies, Rocky V unfortunately didn't even reach "so bad it's good" territory.  I respected the filmmakers' endeavor at something different after taking the "Rocky as superhero" thing as far as it could go in Rocky IV.  They tried to take the series back to its gritty roots, having Rocky lose his fortune (through one of the most convoluted financial plot devices in film history) and move back to his old Philly neighborhood.  Suffering brain damage after his grueling Drago fight, Rocky is forced to retire from boxing but instead becomes a trainer to up-and-coming fighter Tommy Gunn, who then ditches Rocky for a hotshot promoter and wins the championship.  Rather than build to an in-ring climax between Rocky and Tommy, the film instead has them fighting in an alley behind the neighborhood bar.  The attempt to eschew the Rocky formula while not really eschewing it just made for a muddy, uninteresting, drab film, and worse, at the time it seemed the Rocky franchise would go out with a rather embarrassing whimper (Originally Rocky was going to be killed during the street fight; thank god that didn't happen....).

Parents' Night In #49: Friends - The Ones About Thanksgiving

Kelly & Justin are doing things a little different for Thanksgiving.  We're on a break.....from movies!  And we're talking about our favorite Thanksgiving-themed episodes of the legendary sitcom FRIENDS!  We'll cover The One Where Underdog Gets Away, The One With All the Football, The One With All the Thanksgivings, The One Where Ross Got High, and our favorite, The One With the Rumor, guest starring Brad Pitt!  We'll talk about the episodes themselves, how and why we well in love with FRIENDS, how some of the show's humor would play in 2020, our favorite FRIEND, Matthew Perry's personal struggles, Elliott Gould's overenunciation, flavored potato chips, how FRIENDS was one of the first sitcoms to introduce flashbacks where the same actors played younger versions of their characters, Kelly's Thanksgiving song, and most importantly our new disgusting invention, The Fart Jar!  Seriously, you gotta hear this.....

Hang out with us, crack open a beverage, and have a bit of turkey and stuffing (and Justin's favorite, mashed potatoes), and let's talk about our FRIENDS!


Snippet of The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There for You" used under Fair Use Doctrine.
Parody lyrics:

This is PNI (You should Like and Subscribe)
This is PNI (As we watch and imbibe)
This is PNI (This is Parent' Night In)

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Disclaimer- Some contents are used for educational purpose under fair use. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

WWE Survivor Series 2020 Preview & Predictions

Well I may have cut the WWE Network cord back in April, but this Sunday is the one PPV of the year that actually tempts me to tune in, WWE Survivor Series!

If you've been reading my stuff at all over the last almost-seven years (Jesus, I need a life), you probably know that I have a soft spot for WWE's second-oldest PPV event.  Ever since the company announced in October of 1987 that their new supercard would feature teams of five going to war in elimination matches, I've been fascinated with the possibilities inherent in this format.  The first two Survivor Series events rank among my all-time favorite PPVs, and while sadly most editions since haven't even come close to being as good (2016 and 2018 got the job done), whenever there's a lineup featuring multiple elimination tag matches my ears perk up.

That said, it's high time WWE loses the Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry, at least for the elimination matches themselves.  While I do enjoy the champion vs. champion concept, which gives us the chance to see big matches we might not otherwise get, assembling teams of heels and faces bound by brand loyalty is and has always been utterly phony.  Does anyone watching actually buy the brand rivalry nonsense?  Why would good guys and bad guys set aside their differences simply because they're on the same show, especially when next year they may not be?  It makes no sense.  Instead how about if the babyfaces from both brands group together to stop their mutual enemies?  Wouldn't that be a much more compelling story?

Anyway, as has been the case the last four years, the 2020 Survivor Series looks plenty strong on paper.  The men's elimination match and the women's champions match in particular have the potential to be pretty great.  We'll see if they deliver.  

This being The Undertaker's 30th anniversary with the company, they'll have some kind of special tribute to him, which will probably take up way too much time and end with someone attacking him and starting a new feud.  It is once again telling that the poster for this event features the 55-year-old semi-retired Undertaker (a pic from ten years ago, mind you) and not any of the current stars.....

US Champion vs. Intercontinental Champion: Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

One match that has very little potential is this one.  I don't know why they took the belt off Sami months ago only to put it back on him the moment he returned from self-quarantine.  I like Sami a lot but he hasn't been presented strong at all.  There's zero chance he beats Lashley here either.  This will be a short near-squash.

Pick: Lashley

Tag Team Champions: New Day vs. Street Profits

This one actually could be really good, with all the athleticism involved.  I honestly have no idea who wins this, but the smart move at this point would be to give Street Profits a win over the legendary New Day, in order to get them over.  New Day doesn't at all need this win.

Pick: Profits

Midsommar: The Trauma of Passive Horror

Welcome to a special movie review where Justin breaks down what makes Midsommar so traumatic.  Ari Aster's sophomore feature about a group of Americans who visit a strange Swedish commune and experience grisly rituals touched a nerve with audiences in 2019.  With an emphasis on off-putting visuals and ever-escalating dread, Midsommar eschews modern horror tropes and instead takes on the feeling of a bizarre nightmare, sticking with you long after it's over.

But why?  What is it about Midsommar that's so upsetting?  Join Justin as he hypothesizes from a different angle than most analyses to date....



Excerpts of Bobby Krlic's score included under fair use.

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Disclaimer- Some contents are used for educational purpose under fair use. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Parents' Night In #48: Singles (1992), the 90s Grunge Rom-Com

Grab your flannels, Doc Martens and mom jeans, it's time to set the Wayback Machine for 1992 as Justin & Kelly talk Singles!  Directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick and a host of Seattle grunge bands, Singles is an ensemble rom-com about finding love against the backdrop of the early 90s' hottest rock n' roll movement.  Join us as we discuss the film, our failed first attempt at watching it together, Justin's teenage love life, some bad dating experiences, our unbridled love for Chris Cornell (Justin does an acoustic Cornell tribute on the side), Where Is Bridget Fonda Now?, and much more!


Shoutout to Pearl Jam tribute band Five Against None, whose show that night (which I sat in on) inspired me to select Singles for this episode!  Check 'em out at and!

Also check out Justin's Chris Cornell acoustic tribute at

Intro music snippet: "Outshined" by Soundgarden, written by Chris Cornell
Parody lyrics:

This is Parents' Night In
With Kelly and Justin
Talkin' 'bout Seattle
And how much it sucks dating

(So watch our show) Click Like and Subscribe
(So watch our show) And get notified

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Disclaimer- Some contents are used for educational purpose under fair use. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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Monday, November 9, 2020

AEW Full Gear 2020: FTR vs. The Young Bucks was EPIC

AEW has done it again.  Their sixth PPV offering, Full Gear 2020, was another strong showing for the upstart company, featuring a handful of good-to-excellent singles bouts, another wacky Deletion match, and an all-time tag team classic.

The big news coming out of Full Gear is that we have new Tag Team Champions, a new TNT Champion, and a new number-one contender, and for all the WWE loyalists claiming AEW is only pushing ex-WWE talent, none of the aforementioned came from WWE.  All Elite Wrestling is finally moving past the stage where they feel the need to draw viewers in with established names, and will now begin building around their own, homegrown talent.  If only for this reason, Full Gear was a significant step in AEW's growth, but there's a lot more.

The show opened with a spectacular PPV-quality match, as former partners Kenny Omega and Hangman Page faced off in the finals of the Eliminator tournament to establish a new top contender.  This match would've been right at home on a G1 Climax show; a lean sixteen minutes of furious action.  The story of the match, after the initial flurry, became Omega's knee.  Omega went for You Can't Escape, but failed to stick the landing on his kip-up, and seemed to ad lib a knee injury to cover for it.  If so, this was a bit of genius, as both guys ran with the knee for the rest of the match.  Kenny then had trouble executing some of his signature offense, but eventually fought hard to hit the One Winged Angel for the win.  It will now be Moxley vs. Omega II at Revolution, and I can't freakin' wait.  This was fantastic.  ****1/2

Next up was Orange Cassidy's revenge match against John Silver, who cost him in his second bid for the TNT Title.  I was ready to dismiss this as a throwaway, but this match was a whole lot of fun crammed into nine minutes.  Cassidy did his usual lazy man shtick at the beginning, which Silver sold with great annoyance.  From then it was a full-on sprint, with both guys hitting really crisp offense.  Cassidy is so much fun to watch and I'd love to see him get the TNT Title eventually.  After several reversals and counters, Cassidy hit Orange Punch and Beach Break to win.  Fun stuff.  ***1/4

Cody, now legally sporting his last name Rhodes, defended the TNT Title against Darby Allin in a classic veteran vs. underdog story.  Cody played the heel, bullying, biting, taunting, and at one point threatening to use his weight belt.  Allin fought from underneath, narrowly withstanding a top-rope CrossRhodes when his arm was under the ropes during the pin.  Cody later kicked out after a Coffin Drop and went for another CrossRhodes, but Allin countered with a cradle, leading to a series of traded nearfalls until Allin scored the three-count.  Cody sold frustration after the match, teasing a heel turn, but ultimately raised Allin's hand and gave him his moment in the sun.  This was a very good match and a big step for the company as they crowned the first homegrown male champion in AEW history.  ***3/4

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

NJPW Power Struggle 2020 Preview & Predictions

This Saturday brings a double-shot of wrestling goodness, as not only is AEW Full Gear happening, but also NJPW Power Struggle!

It's an abbreviated lineup this year, with only six matches on the card, but some of these bouts have the potential to be great.  Moreover we'll get a clearer picture of the impending WrestleKingdom 15 lineup coming out of this show.  So let's get started....

King of Pro Wrestling Trophy No Corner Pads Match: Toru Yano vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

This KOPW trophy is a pretty goofy idea if I'm being honest.  It's like those WWE Championship Scramble matches but stretched out all year.  Whoever ends up with the trophy on December 31st each year is the KOPW Champion for that year.  Given how silly that is, it's fitting then that Toru Yano is the 2020 champion.  But Zack Sabre is challenging for said trophy for some reason, despite being an actual title holder along with Taichi.  This will be the usual Yano stuff, now with no turnbuckle pads.  I guess there isn't much point to have this match if the trophy isn't going to change hands once or twice before year's end, so I'll go with ZSJ.

Pick: ZSJ wins the trophy and loses it back later

Kazuchika Okada vs. Great-O-Khan

Okada's looking for some revenge after being screwed out of the G1 Final spot, and Will Ospreay's sidekick is The Rainmaker's first obstacle on the way to the inevitable Dome showdown.  I know nothing about O-Khan's in-ring ability but as a dojo graduate I'm sure he'll do fine here.  It seems counterintuitive to have him lose his first major bout, but it is against Okada after all, and Okada losing to Ospreay's right-hand man wouldn't be much of a way to build to Okada-Ospreay.  So we'll give Kazuchika the duke.

Pick: Okada

Monday, November 2, 2020

AEW Full Gear 2020 Preview & Predictions

Oh man, AEW has put together a lineup.  This Saturday is the second annual Full Gear PPV event, and on paper it's one of the company's strongest cards to date.

I count four potential show stealers on the Full Gear card, and as it should be with any good wrestling show, they're all going to be very different matches.  

Not that I want to turn this into a "bash WWE" piece, but I realized last week that it's been roughly seven months since I cut the cord on the WWE Network, and I haven't regretted it in the slightest.  Yes there a handful of matches I've missed that I'd like to watch at some point - Balor vs. O'Reilly, Sasha vs. Bayley, etc. - but reading and listening to the reviews of RAW and Smackdown feels like talking to a mutual friend about how badly my ex is doing since the breakup.  Walking away was the right move.  

And that brings me to AEW, which is by no means a perfect product.  But I actually have fun watching Dynamite.  When they have a segment or match that's a miss, it doesn't drag down the whole show because it isn't one awful creative choice after another.  Their booking is logical and clearly designed to get over as many stars as possible.  Even when it doesn't work, at least I can see that they're trying their best, as opposed to an obvious act of sabotage, which is what happens on a regular basis in WWE.  AEW doesn't make me feel like I've wasted my evening.  That's the big difference.

But enough about that, let's pick some winners....

Buy In: Orange Cassidy vs. John Silver

Welp, Mr. Cassidy had a couple disappointing weeks, coming up short in two consecutive TNT Title bids against Cody.  The first was a time limit draw, the second was a Lumberjack Match loss.  So this is just a way for him to get a win back, against one of said lumberjacks who cost him the match with Cody.  Should be fine, if forgettable.

Pick: Cassidy

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: A Parents' Night Mini - The Great Pumpkin is Finally Revealed!

We're back with another Parents' Night mINi-episode movie review, where we discuss the OTHER classic Peanuts cartoon, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!  We'll talk about our history with this TV special, some of our earliest Halloween memories, the awful Halloween costumes we wore as kids,  how disappointed we were that we never got to actually SEE the Great Pumpkin, the origin of the phrase "trick or treat," and more!  Stick around to the end, because THE GREAT PUMPKIN IS REVEALED!

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Snippet of the Peanuts theme by Vince Guaraldi.
Parody lyrics:

Parents' Night mINi is back for
Halloween time
Linus and Sally are missing
Tricks or treats
Wait....who says that?

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Disclaimer- Some contents are used for educational purpose under fair use. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.       

Top Ten Things: Scary Movie Moments

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Since it's October I thought I'd do a Halloween-themed list, so today I'll be talking about truly frightening or disturbing moments/scenes in some of my favorite scary films.  I generally don't scare very easy when watching a film; I've seen so many in my lifetime, and coming up with new ways to shock audiences becomes more difficult with each passing year.  But there are some cinematic scares that have endured for me, either because of a visually harrowing moment, or because of the sheer genius of a scene's construction.

10. The Shining: Bear Suit - This first entry isn't terrifying in the traditional sense, but I've included it more because it's such a strange and upsetting image.  In this scene from one of the all-time horror classics, Wendy Torrance is running through the halls of the haunted Overlook Hotel trying to find her son.  She stops in her tracks and the camera abruptly zooms in through the open doorway of one of the rooms, on a ghost dude in a bear suit pleasuring another ghost dude in a tux.  The novel provides an explanation for these supernatural shenanigans, but it's so much more effective as an unexplained cinematic bit.  This visual is so traumatic, so bizarre and disorienting, for both Wendy and the audience, particularly since neither of these men is supposed to be there.  It's like something out of a nightmare that you can barely remember; one of those dreams where you can only recall fragments of out-of-context imagery that stay with you for weeks.

Seriously, what the hell's goin' on?

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Pointing - The 1978 remake of this sci-fi classic (in my opinion the best version by far) ends with the entire city of San Francisco being taken over by human-impersonating pod people.  The protagonist Matthew Bennell has seemingly escaped without being assimilated and is spotted by his friend Nancy, one of the few humans left in the city.  As she approaches him, he turns and lets out the signature body snatcher screech, revealing to us that he's one of them, and alerting the other pod people to Nancy's presence.  It's a truly terrifying conclusion to the film, and the visual of Donald Sutherland pointing at her accusingly with this inhuman facial expression is an iconic horror moment.

If you ever suspect someone of anything, just point at them like this
and I guarantee they'll own up to every shitty thing they've ever done.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Awesomely Shitty Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 - The Dream Master

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I pick apart the finer and lesser points of a piece of escapist cinematic entertainment and usually end up pissing someone off.  Following up our last installment about A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, let's take a look at its sequel, the Renny Harlin-directed romp, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master!

Nightmare 4 is the only episode of this series I saw in the movie theater, it having been released just before my thirteenth birthday.  I was old enough to convince my mom to take me to see it, and surprisingly she was pretty entertained by it.  My initial take was, "best of the series."  I loved the mix of horror and humor, I loved the idea of Freddy meeting his match in the dream-superpowered Alice, I loved the stylized look and special effects.  This film was everything a thirteen-year-old Freddy fan could want.

The fourth film in the series picks up a year after Nightmare 3.  The three survivors from that movie, Kristen, Joey and Kincaid, have been released from their group home and are back in high school, seemingly having moved past their shared trauma.  But Kristen begins dreaming once again about Freddy's house and boiler room and is convinced he's returning.  Joey and Kincaid don't agree, and begin to resent her for continuing to pull them into her dream.  Of course Freddy does return after being resurrected when Kincaid's dog pees on his grave, and he swiftly gets revenge on the last three Elm Street children.  But before her death, Kristen bequeaths her dream gifts onto her friend Alice, whom Freddy uses to pull other kids into her nightmares so he can continue killing.  Alice then must absorb the personality traits of all her friends and become a Dream Master so she can go toe-to-toe with everyone's favorite burned dream murderer.

By this point in the series things had become quite outlandish and comic booky, with Freddy's exploits leaning more toward dark comedy than pure horror.  This film doesn't quite veer into camp, but it definitely completed a four-film tonal shift from the original, before the fifth film returned to a darker feel.  On one hand you have to respect Renny Harlin's gleefully cartoonish take on this material, on the other hand you do miss Freddy being actually scary.  Let's take a look at what holds up and what doesn't, about Nightmare 4....

For our ASM article about Nightmare 3, click HERE

The Awesome


Probably the best thing about Nightmare 4 is the newly introduced character of Alice Johnson, in a dynamic, robust performance by Lisa Wilcox.  Unlike most horror protagonists she's given a real dramatic arc, going from mousy and awkward to confident and resilient, as she assimilates her friends' abilities after they die.  Alice is the daughter of a widowed, domineering, alcoholic father, who's trampled on her for so long she's all but retreated into herself (One nice touch is the use of Alice's mirror - she has it completely covered with photos of her friends because she doesn't like to look at herself, but at the end she takes all the photos down and embraces who she is).  But throughout the movie she keeps gaining strength, standing up to both her father and Freddy (metaphors, man).  This arc actually feels very relevant in 2019 and I couldn't help noticing how ahead of its time it was.  While the choice to totally shift to a new main character was jarring, they found in Alice a very relatable character with some nice dramatic substance to explore.  Her growth into the moniker of Dream Master also put Freddy on the defensive for the first time in the series, and Alice went on to be the only protagonist to survive two films.  As Sandra Bullock so eloquently quipped in Demolition Man, "He's really matched his meet.  You really licked his ass."

You go get him, Alice!

Nice Kids

One thing I found really refreshing about Nightmare 4 is the fact that the group of kids (with whom we actually get to spend some real time before everything goes to shit, unlike in Nightmare 3), despite being very different social types (Alice is a shy doormat, Rick is athletic martial arts enthusiast, Debbie is a fitness freak rocker chick, Dan is a football star, Sheila is an asthmatic science nerd), they all genuinely like each other.  There's no stereotypical high school bullying or cliques in this movie.  While that might not be the most realistic approach, it's something different for a movie about teenagers and since they're all likable we care what happens to them.  Nice people are more fun to spend time with.

The kids are alright.  In this movie.


Where Nightmare 3 was directed by a first-timer without much confidence or visual pinache, Finnish director Renny Harlin had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do, and a keen eye for dramatic, unique visuals.  He's really more suited as an action director, as his later work in Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight would illustrate.  But his unconventional approach allowed Nightmare 4 to look and feel different from its three predecessors, giving the film a sense of kinetic visual excitement Nightmare 3 lacked, and taking the comic booky aspect of Dream Warriors to the next level.  Harlin also contributed to last-minute script changes, as the film was produced during the 1988 Writer's Strike; considering the scrambling most of it turned out pretty well. 


Like Nightmare 3, the special effects here look great, even more polished thanks to a considerably bigger budget ($13 million compared to $5 million).  Freddy's resurrection is one of the film's highlights, as his skeleton literally grows muscle and flesh before our very eyes (think Toht's melting face in Raiders of the Lost Ark but played in reverse).  Another is the nod to David Cronenberg's The Fly, when Debbie's human form molts off her body and she turns into a cockroach.  Still another is Freddy's ultimate demeez, when the faces and hands of the children he's murdered reach out of his body and begin tearing him apart from the inside.  These are all fantastically well-executed effects that further add to the series' pedigree.

Dream Sequences

Along those same lines, the dream sequences are creative once again.  I'd say Nightmare 3's nightmares were overall more imaginative, but this stuff is nothing to sneeze at either.  The three aforementioned moments are all great, as is Alice's scene in the old-time movie theater where she gets pulled across the auditorium and into the screen.  There's also Sheila's death scene, where Freddy literally sucks all the air out of her body, and Joey's death, wherein the sexy model from one of his posters transports into his water bed before morphing into Freddy and pulling him under, after which Joey's mother then finds him drowned inside the waterbed.  So while the Freddy scenes aren't quite as neat as in the previous film, they're still pretty creative and fantastical.  The one real miss is Rick's karate-themed death, where he has to fistfight an invisible Freddy (a last-minute change from an elaborate elevator sequence which was cut for budgetary reasons).  But they can't all be good, can they?

Freddy doing his impression of a Dyson....

Robert Englund

As with every good Nightmare movie, Robert Englund is one of the reasons this one works.  The role of Englund's career, in this film almost bordering on anti-hero, is the claw-wielding maniac with the burned-up face.  The screenwriters veered a little too far into Arnold-esque bad comedy in this film - Freddy's dropping bad jokes like an unfunny dad this time - but Englund as always brings it to life with a mix of menace and levity.  Oh, and unlike in Part 1 and 3 his vocal timbre is consistent throughout!

Dat's a spicy meat-a-ball.

Alright I've said enough nice things.  Time to complain about some shit....

The Shitty

Tuesday Knight

Sorely missing from this film is Patricia Arquette as Kristen Parker.  Arquette was offered a handsome salary to reprise her role as the main protagonist from Nightmare 3, but turned it down because she wanted to avoid being typecast in horror roles.  Unfortunately she was hastily replaced by an actress who looked, sounded and talked nothing like her, in Tuesday Knight.  Knight's performance isn't so much bad (though she has some amateurish moments) as it is distracting.  Never once did my brain accept her as the same person Arquette played.  She was just some other teenager with the same color hair and the same friends.  Recasting a major character is tough; if you're gonna do it you have to make sure the performances match, and this one doesn't.

Who the hell are you and what did you do with Kristen??

Soft Reboot

One thing I've never been a fan of in sequels is when a character (or in this case three) survives a horrific ordeal in one film only to be neatly and efficiently killed off early in the next (see Alien 3).  It strikes me as near retconning; why did we watch Kristen, Joey and Kincaid muscle through Nightmare 3 if they'd all be dead in the first thirty minutes of this movie?  The first act of this film too often feels like we're rushing to get the old characters out of the way so we can get to Alice.  I get that we needed to transition to a new main character, but couldn't it have been handled more gracefully?  Or couldn't Lisa Wilcox simply have been cast as Kristen and gone through the same arc Alice did?  What if Kristen is now mousy and shy after spending months at a psychiatric ward and nearly being killed by a dream boogeyman?  And then her last two friends from that ordeal die, along with the new friends she's made, and she's forced to grow from Dream Warrior into Dream Master (They could even have her absorb the other Dream Warriors' powers like she takes on the traits of her new friends)?  Wouldn't that have worked just as well?  She'd still have the power to pull other people into her dream and inadvertently expose the new characters to Freddy's shenanigans, right?  Then it wouldn't feel so much like the producers were just starting over with this franchise and it would tie more closely into the events of Nightmare 3.


I mentioned earlier that Freddy was rewritten here as a pun and slogan machine, and unfortunately his penchant for lame jokes undermines his value as a horror villain.  It was Renny Harlin's mindset that after three films audiences wouldn't be scared of Freddy anymore, and in fact they'd sort of be rooting for him because he's such an entertaining character.  But I think they took that philosophy a bit too far in giving him a cheeseball one-liner every time he murders someone.  Some of them are Schwarzenegger in The Running Man-bad.  Just before Freddy kills Kristen and dares her to bring a friend into her dream - "Why don't you reach out and cut someone?"  When he meets Alice for the first time - "How sweet. Fresh meat."  When he shows up in Debbie's basement as she's lifting weights - "No pain, no gain."  When he traps Debbie in the roach motel - "You can check in but you can't check out."  When he confronts Alice in the diner - "If the food don't kill ya, the service will."  It's too much, jokester, tone it down.     

Freddy's Downfall

As I said before, it was very cool to finally see Freddy tangle with someone who could go toe-to-toe with him.  However I feel like Alice had it too easy.  They have a brief physical tussle, Freddy gets the upper hand, and then Alice remembers the Dream Master rhyme about evil seeing itself and dying, grabs a broken piece of stained glass window, and shows Freddy his reflection.  This causes the souls of all the children he's killed to rip him apart from the inside.  As I mentioned, I liked the effect of the arms pulling out of him, a very cool visual, but it felt like Alice arrived at this solution too quickly, and the idea of showing evil its own reflection is never built up to.  This rule is just introduced at the last minute.  Just seemed like this moment could've felt more earned.

Freddy's soul inbox is full....


-As cool as Freddy's resurrection sequence is, something about it doesn't make any sense.  At the end of Nightmare 3 Freddy's physical remains are physically buried in a physically-consecrated grave, causing the nightmare version of Freddy to disintegrate.  But then in this movie Kincaid falls asleep and in the dream finds himself in the junkyard where Freddy's buried, and his dog Jason (hardy-har) pees on Freddy's grave, which resurrects him.  Umm, if Freddy's bones are buried in the real world, shouldn’t the dog peeing on the grave have to happen in the real world for Freddy to come back?  He's still buried in hallowed ground in real life, right?

-Did Kristen and her mom move to a new house in the last year?  Her room doesn't look a thing like it did in the previous movie.

-Wow Kristen’s mom is an insensitive bitch huh?  At dinner Kristen isn't eating and her mom goes "Something the matter with the cuisine?"  Kristen replies "When two of your friends die in the same day, let me know what it does to your appetite," and mom goes "You're just tired."  Really ma?  Literally every friend this girl has ever had is dead, and your response is to tell her she's just tired?  Know your audience, ya douche.  Under the circumstances I think Kristen's holding it together like a fuckin' miracle.

-The classrooms in this film are lit like a film noir.  I ain't never been in a classroom like that.  Do they allow smoking and crooked fedoras in this school?

-Debbie's death scene is one of the best in the movie, but there's just one problem.  Debbie isn't asleep when Freddy shows up - she's working out.  So how does anything in this scene even happen?  Did Debbie fall asleep mid-rep?

Who falls asleep while weightlifting?

-Near the end of the film Alice and Dan go after Freddy in Dan's truck, and Alice rams him.  But it turns out that was just in the dream, and in the real world they collided full-speed with a tree.  Dan is rushed to the hospital but somehow Alice is totally fine.  Umm, they'd both be fuckin' vegetables after that crash with no airbags.

-Anyone catch the references to Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow or James Cameron's Aliens?  Freddy's first line after being resurrected is "You shouldn't have let them bury me, I'm not dead," and late in the movie Alice says to Freddy "Get away from her, you son of a bitch!"  Not a nitpick, just a nice pair of Easter eggs.


The first four movies in this series are hard for me to rank definitively.  I like aspects of all of them but parts of each don't hold up so well in retrospect.  If you took the best bits of each film you'd have a damn near perfect Nightmare movie.  But I guess that's what's so fascinating about this series - every film is different.  Like the Alien movies, each director put his own stamp on the material, and since Freddy is a surrealist villain the rules are whatever you make them.  Nightmare 4 is the film that made Freddy almost an action-adventure villain, tossing out one-liners and relishing his own evil.  Renny Harlin's kinetic signature style is handled with such unapologetic confidence it's easy to get wrapped up in it and overlook the elements that don't work so well.  This film is a horror comic book, not scary but exhilarating, and features maybe the most interesting lead protagonist of the series.  Alice is a unique invention in the pantheon of slasher films, a young woman who goes from mousy pushover to badass hero, defeating the demon all on her own and getting the hot, popular jock at the end.  If nothing else you have to respect how ahead of its time this film is.

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Top Ten Things: Hell in a Cell Matches

Hey there, and welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  

Today's list is all about the most demonic of wrestling gimmick matches, Hell in a Cell.  Introduced by the WWF in 1997, HIAC expanded on the traditional Steel Cage match by surrounding the entire ringside area with the volatile mesh structure.  They also covered the whole thing with a roof, trapping the combatants inside but giving them enough room to utilize the numerous unforgiving surfaces and weapons found outside the ring.  The result was one of the most brutal recurring stipulations in the history of the business, where only the most personal and heated of rivalries would be settled.  2009 saw the creation of a Hell in a Cell-themed PPV, which undermined the severity of such a gimmick match by making it an annual tradition instead of a feud-ender.  Regardless of its recently history though, Hell in a Cell still remains one of the most intriguing special attractions in WWE.

Here are my picks for the ten greatest HIAC matches of all time....

10. Batista vs. Triple H - Vengeance - 6.26.05

After two rather lackluster efforts at WrestleMania 21 and Backlash, Hunter and Big Dave finally delivered a classic inside the hellacious cage.  This was a bloody, grueling fight that ran over 26 minutes and finally solidified Batista as Triple H's conqueror.  These two made innovative use of weapons, as well as the ol' cage walls to create a shockingly good Cell bout.  When it was over, the torch had finally been passed to Batista, who along with John Cena became one of the faces of the company.

9. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - Hell in a Cell - 10.26.14

After multiple years of underwhelming HIAC matches two young, hungry stars took the gimmick back up a notch at the 2014 event.  Mortal enemies Ambrose and Rollins followed up their unruly SummerSlam Lumberjack match with this brutal, chaotic fight that kicked off atop the structure.  After about ten minutes of crazy brawling leading to both men falling through announce tables (the first spot like that since the Mick Foley years), the match officially resumed inside the cage, and 13 minutes later Rollins took advantage of Bray Wyatt's (hokey) interference to win the bout.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WWE Hell in a Cell 2020 Preview & Predictions

What is it with Hell in a Cell PPVs nowadays?  This is the second year in a row WWE has only announced four matches as of a few days before the show.  And we all know how that went last year, don't we?  What the fuck, with this company....

Anyway, Hell in a Cell 2020 is in four days, so I guess let's pick the winners for the half-card they've been gracious enough to announce.  There's really only one match on this show I'm interested in and that's the three-years-in-the-making Bayley vs. Sasha match.

Jeff Hardy vs. Elias

So as I understand it, Sheamus attacked Elias backstage but framed Jeff Hardy for it, and now Elias wants to fight Jeff.  Even though we know for a fact that it was actually Sheamus.  Is that right?  This has gotta be the stupidest-ever basis for a feud, and I was around in 1995 when Jean-Pierre LaFitte stole Bret Hart's jacket (that his mom supposedly made for him, because moms are good at fashioning leather garments...).  At least that feud yielded two really good matches.  This isn't gonna be that.  Elias stinks and Jeff is beyond irrelevant in 2020.  Who gives a turd?

Pick: Jeff wins I guess?

Universal Championship Hell in a Cell: Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso

This is one of two Cell matches where the challenger has already lost to the champion.  So therefore let's have a rematch in the most brutal gimmick structure.  Makes sense.  Man do I miss the days when Hell in a Cell was about settling a blood feud and not "Hey, it's October again!"  Anyone who thinks Jey Uso has a snowball's chance in Guatemala, I have several bridges to sell you.  In Guatemala.

Pick: Anyone with brains knows Roman Reigns retains

Awesomely Shitty Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 - Dream Warriors

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies column here at, where I take another look at a childhood favorite and talk about why parts of it don't hold up and in some cases make me cringe.  Some of you will probably hate me...

It's Halloween season, so I'm watching a lot of horror movies, and today I'm revisiting a classic of the cheesy 80s horror genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors!  I came by this series just as this film was being released in early 1987; a friend in junior high school was a slasher film fanatic and used to bring in issues of Fangoria for me to read (Goddamn, that magazine ruled).  I'd heard of A Nightmare on Elm Street and its first sequel from my older siblings but knew zero about them until my schoolmate showed me pictures of the burnt guy with the finger-knives.  Immediately I was fascinated - what kind of an imagination came up with this creepo??  My friend also had a copy of the novelization The Nightmares on Elm Street, Parts 1, 2 and 3, as well as the Nightmare on Elm Street Companion coffee table book (which I still have).  I rushed out to buy both books, having never seen any of the films, and dove in head-first.  I soon rented the first movie and loved it, rented the second and just sorta liked it, and couldn't wait to see the third once it dropped on VHS (Being under 17 I didn't have a parent/guardian available/interested in accompanying me to the theater for this movie/film).  Another friend eventually bought the third movie, so I watched it at his house, and it blew my goddamn fuckin' mind.  The nightmare sequences were way more elaborate and fantastical, the teenagers now had dream powers, and Freddy was crackin' jokes the whole movie.  It was like a slasher movie crossed with a comic book, and at 12 years old it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen.

This book is the TITS.

Tangent time: That summer I fashioned a Freddy claw out of an old leather glove and some Tinker Toys (they didn't yet have the licensed Freddy glove), and my mom bought me an official Freddy mask to go with an old red-and-green-striped sweater my parents happened to have in the house.  I obviously went as Freddy for Halloween that year and was proud as fuck of my costume.  'Course looking back now it seems borderline inappropriate for a 12-year-old to dress up as a serial child murderer, but the 80s were a strange time.

Anyway, back to the movie.  Nightmare 3 was considered a more faithful sequel to the original (after a second installment was made against Wes Craven's stern objections, throwing out some of the rules established in the first, as well as lightening the tone and injecting a love story).  Nightmare 2 was quite successful at the box office, but critics and fans were disappointed with how far it strayed from Craven's original vision.  So for the third movie Craven was brought back in to shape the story, Nancy Thompson returned to the fold, and while still slightly comedic, the movie restored somewhat the original's darker tone.  Freddy was now dream-stalking a group of troubled, suicidal teenagers, but said teenagers had also learned to develop special skills to fight back.  Armed with a more robust budget, the filmmakers poured everything they had into the set pieces and effects, creating a crowd-pleasing horror entertainment that handily outgrossed its two predecessors.

Hey, nothing wrong with that, but watching it now there is some stuff that doesn't hold up for me.  Before we get to that though, let me heap some praise on this esteemed bit of slasher escapism...

Monday, October 19, 2020

NJPW G1 Climax 30 Recap: Ibushi Does It Again!

The 30th G1 is now behind us, and while not the all-time classic tournament the last three editions were, the 2020 installment provided us with plenty of good wrestling, some big news, and a clear direction for next year's Tokyo Dome double-shot.

One usual G1 trope that was magnified this time around was the disparity of match quality from one block to the other.  While there's almost always a slight imbalance in that department, this year almost all of the great matchups took place in Block A, while Block B too often suffered from matches either going too long or featuring too much interference.  Evil's bouts in particular frequently became tiresome thanks to constant Dick Togo shenanigans.  Between Evil, Kenta, Yano's usual antics, and Jay White in A Block, this G1 must've seen the most outside interference of any edition to date.  I'd say it's time to curb this stuff; Evil and especially Jay White are capable of excellent matches but the constant chicanerie on the outside has made me not look forward to watching them (Jay's matches usually still deliver though).  In past tournaments Evil has provided multiple highlights.  Not so much as a Bullet Club member.  White on the other hand was able to muster some pretty great showings despite Gedo's tomfoolery.  But overall the BC stuff is wearing thin for me, and so many tainted moments throughout the tourney took away from the one big angle NJPW presented (More on that shortly).

By contrast though, another traditionally heel stable forwent the bullshit and got down to some great business in the G1.  I'm talking about Suzuki-Gun.  Minoru delivered multiple excellent matches, Zack Sabre was true to grappling spider monkey form, and perhaps the man who grew more than anyone in this tournament, Taichi actually became fun to watch.  No valets, minimal cheating; at age 40 (I had no idea he was that old) Taichi seems to have finally gotten serious about good wrestling matches.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Parents' Night In #47: The Exorcist (1973)

It's our third Halloween-themed episode of 2020 (and our 20th episode of the year), and we're back to discuss The Exorcist, a yardstick in horror cinema, directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, and Max Von Sydow!  We'll talk about the film's extraordinary production stories, its profound cultural impact, its Oscar-nominated performances, Mercedes McCambridge's legendary voiceover work, why the theatrical cut is superior to the extended cut, and why Justin doesn't think much of Lee J. Cobb's character, Lt. Kinderman.  The Exorcist is just as powerful, visceral, shocking, and endlessly fascinating now as it was upon its release, so join us for some fun and terror!


Excerpt from Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," 1973, Atlantic Records

Parody lyrics:

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Monday, October 12, 2020

George Romero's Living Dead Trilogy: Day of the Dead (1985)

Welcome to the final part of my Living Dead Trilogy retrospective.  If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, check 'em out.....

Dawn of the Dead was such a success the distributor, United Film Distribution Company, signed Romero to a three-picture deal, provided that one of those three films would be a sequel to Dawn.  Romero, fearing that if said sequel wasn't a hit he'd lose the chance to direct the two non-zombie films, opted to save it for last.  His next two movies were Knightriders, a Renaissance faire drama which flopped due to poor distribution, and Creepshow, a horror anthology which was a modest hit but by no means a smash.  As a result, UFDC hedged their bets with the Dawn sequel, only willing to adhere to the original $7 million budget if Romero released it as an R-rated film.  Up to this point George had planned for Day of the Dead to be a massive, sweeping zombie epic, "the Gone With the Wind of zombie films," but refused to compromise the intended violence and gore for an R rating.  Thus the budget was slashed in half and Romero was forced to completely overhaul the project.  The resulting film was initially seen as an underwhelming, depressing letdown after the thrill-ride of Dawn, and made most of its money overseas and on home video.  Amazingly though, Day of the Dead has developed an enthusiastic cult following in the thirty-odd years since, in many ways becoming just as influential as its two predecessors.

Day of the Dead takes place a considerable time after Dawn, when the human race is all but wiped out, and only a few pockets of civilization remain, mostly underground.  The story centers around a small military/scientific contingent occupying an abandoned mine, hoping to find some sort of solution to the zombie infestation.  Living conditions are nearly unsustainable and the scientific team is at the mercy of a crazed Captain, who is uninterested in studying the zombies and simply wants to destroy them.  What follows is a power struggle and clash of ideas between the two factions that actually contains more thematic human drama than any other film in the series.

This guy's a whackaloon.

One of the main plot threads concerns the lead scientist, Dr. Logan (a compellingly demented Richard Liberty), who has begun experimenting on zombie specimens, hoping to "tame" them.  His most promising subject is a ghoul called "Bub," who seems to understand/remember how to work basic tools and appears almost civilized.  This subplot exploits a fascinating story element: that the zombies are no longer the bad guys.  Zombies simply act according to their instinctual nature and the only evil left in the world is that which is perpetrated by the survivors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Parents' Night In #46: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Our Halloween-time coverage continues with one of the greatest film remakes in history, Philip Kaufman's 1978 adaptation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum!  Where the original novel and 1956 movie version were steeped in 50s Communism paranoia, the 70s update smacked of that era's "Me Generation" self-importance, distrust of the government in the wake of Watergate, and conspiracy theories run rampant.  We'll talk about the film, its continued relevance in today's political climate, its stars, 70s decor, rotary phones, mud baths, and that terrifying "pod people" squeal!  Come and hang out with Justin & Kelly for another episode of Parents' Night In!


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Awesomely Shitty Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 - Freddy's Revenge

Welcome to yet another installment of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I examine uneven films and try to separate the good from the bad.  Today I'm talking about A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge!

Click HERE to read about Nightmare 3 and HERE for Nightmare 4...

In 1984 fledgling film studio New Line Cinemas scored an unexpected monster hit with Wes Craven's weird little movie about a burned-up guy who kills teenagers in their dreams.  The studio had literally mortgaged its future on the project, and when it turned up a tidy $22 million profit, they were eager to follow it up with something equally successful.  The only problem was, Wes Craven (who as a condition of New Line's agreeing to finance the first movie had signed it away as his intellectual property) had no interest in making Nightmare a franchise and declined to participate in a sequel.  Instead director Jack Sholder and screenwriter David Chaskin were brought in to helm the project.  Sholder later confessed he wasn't a fan of the first movie (odd choice to have him direct this one then) and wanted to take the material somewhere else, while Chaskin loaded up the sequel with unusual social subtext for an 80s popcorn movie.  One gross early miscalculation on the part of the filmmakers was the idea that they didn't need a proper actor to play Freddy - since Robert Englund demanded a raise from his Nightmare 1 salary to return, producer Robert Shaye attempted to keep the budget low by casting a stunt double in a Freddy mask.  They got as far as one scene before realizing he was terrible, and wisely agreed to Englund's terms.

Picking up five years after the events in Nightmare 1, this film centers around the new tenants of Nancy Thompson's former address, in particular a teenage boy named Jesse Walsh.  Jesse is haunted by nightmares about Freddy, who asks permission to use Jesse's body as a vehicle for murdering people in the real world.  What follows is a battle of wills, as Jesse struggles to squash the evil growing within him.  The premise is simple, but the thematic choices and execution are what's really intriguing about this often-maligned movie thirty-plus years later.

So let's detach the good and the evil surrounding A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, shall we?

The Awesome


A few cheesy and awkward moments aside, the principle performances in this movie are strong, at times some of the most credible in the series.  Mark Patton brings a tortured sense of sexually confused teen angst to the role of Jesse, unsure what to do with both his budding physical maturity and his nocturnal hauntings.  Kim Myers is sweetly nurturing and warm as the beautiful girl-next-door Lisa.  Robert Rusler is the meathead jock you can't help but like as Ron Grady, who initially bullies Jesse but ends up becoming his friend and confidant.  Veteran actor Clu Gulager is cluelessly stern as Jesse's unsympathetic father, insensitive to the changes, both Freddy-related and otherwise, his son is going through.  And of course there's trusty Robert Englund as Freddy himself, who comes off possibly more malicious here than in any other film.  Freddy just seems especially hostile this time around, almost as though Englund resented not being asked back in the first place.  Or maybe I'm reading into things...

Freddy's Look

Original Nightmare makeup artist David Miller was unavailable to return for the second film, so 23-year-old Kevin Yagher was brought in for his first of three Nightmare films.  Yagher had nothing to go on in recreating Miller's makeup design except clips from the first film and a few photos, so he mostly started from scratch, making Freddy's prosthetics thinner, bonier and more witch-like, adding to his menacing look.  Another wonderful touch was giving Englund red contact lenses to further enhance his demonic appearance.  Yagher's makeup really established the exaggerated, shiny, "classic" Freddy look.  Of the entire series, this is my favorite execution of Freddy's makeup.