Saturday, March 19, 2011

Freddy's Nightmares Review: Part Two

Well loyal readers, it’s time to head back to Springwood again. Are you ready for Freddy? Well too damn bad! I’m continuing my trek through the Freddy’s Nightmares series and it’s certainly been an interesting trip so far. We've met a new villain, the evil Jill Donner. We've witnessed Krueger's revised origin. We "Stuck that in our VCRs and sucked on it." Well, maybe not that last one. Sorry Freddy. Anyway, since our last excursion into dreamland I acquired episodes 5-8, so we’re back in order. How do these episodes stack up? Read on…

Episode 5: Judy Miller, Come On Down

Decent episode, if this wasn’t supposed to be a horror series. Here’s the gist; Judy Miller, who is putting her husband through school and living with her in-laws, hates her life. Her only escape is an addiction to game shows. When she finds herself on a nightmarish episode of Beat the Reaper, she’s playing for a million bucks, and the lives of her family. The game show scenes are fun in an absurdist dark comedy way. The cheesy host, the canned audience, it all has a good surreal dreamy quality. The pendulum gag with her husband is cool, but the “eaten by ants” demise her in-laws get is oh so lame. Overall, the first half isn’t bad. In the second half, Judy has won the money, shipped her in-laws off to Florida, and life is good. Then her future self, in the guise of a maid, shows up to tell her that tragedy will befall her if she doesn’t give away the money. This reminded me of a way below average Twilight Zone episode. If I wanted that I’d watch Tales from the Darkside. Siobhan McCafferty is pretty good as Judy, but all of the other actors seem like they’re either sedated or as bored as I was watching it. The final shot, which is supposed to be the “shock” ending, is predictable and poorly executed. Overall, the game show portion of the episode is worthwhile for a few twisted laughs, and the rest isn’t really bad, just boring. Feel free to skip this one.

Episode 6: Saturday Night Special

Oh man, this episode is half glorious mess, half plain ‘ol crap. Where do I start? I’ll just run down what happens, and you’ll get the idea. Lonely loser Gordon dreams about dating Lana, played by Shari Shattuck, who also starred in the gloriously cheesy flick Death Spa. He decides to go to the Rendezvous Dating Service, where he is encouraged to lie in his video, saying that he is a wealthy former pro hockey player. Then a huge Freddy eats the building. Yep. The next morning, Lana calls him to ask him out. At dinner, Gordon keeps having visions of the Waitresses dying by champagne cork and meat skewer. Then they go ice skating. What follows is the highlight of the episode, a great sequence where Lana, clad only in lingerie and a hockey mask, shoots pucks at him, before running him over with a zamboni as she poses seductively on a couch attached to the front of the machine. This is where the episode really goes haywire. Suddenly Gordon is in the parking lot looking at the Rendevous sign. Then the sign suddenly reads Carnall’s Meat Packing. For some reason, Gordie and his car are now magically in the middle of the road. Out of nowhere, a car hits him. We cut to Freddy, who carves a piece off of a side of beef, tells us that “When it comes to flesh, the first cut is always the deepest,” and throws it on a grill. Um, WHAT? I can’t make this stuff up. She isn’t in the credits, but I could swear Jill Donner is writing this crap. She has to be. Damn you Jill Donner. The second half of the episode is a dumb morality tale about a plain girl who has plastic surgery with disastrous results. Along the way there’s head chiseling, metal boobs, really bad dialog, and a body whose neck is untouched as the paramedics say that her jugular has been cut. Trust me, none of that is remotely as entertaining as it sounds. The first half of this episode is so wacky and bizarre that it winds up being quite entertaining. Nathan says check it out, but turn it off when Freddy throws another one on the barbie.

Episode 7: Sister’s Keeper

Here’s another interesting idea that you don’t see a lot in anthology shows; a sequel. Sister’s Keeper is a follow up to No More Mr. Nice Guy, the pilot episode. We follow Lisa and Merit, who are the twin daughters of the officer who torched Freddy. Freddy is tormenting Merit in her dreams, but since she was Freddy’s “one that got away” and spent time in mental institutions, no one believes her. When Lisa sees him too, the girls team up to try to rid their dreams of Krueger. I’m seeing a trend developing here. The episodes that feature Freddy as a character (Mr. Nice Guy, Tricks and Treats, and this one) are the best in the series so far. This seems to be for two reasons. Number one, they more closely resemble a low budget, less gory version of the Nightmare movies. Number two, so far both of the Freddy episodes since the pilot were directed by Ken Wiederhorn (Shock Waves, Return of the Living Dead 2). Hili and Gry Park are good as the twins. Robert Englund is great as always, although that jump/kick thing with the guitar was, well, special. This episode, with more time for the story to develop and a much higher body count, could actually be a Nightmare flick. It also has an outstanding downer of an ending that I absolutely loved. Definitely one of the best episodes to this point.

Episode 8: Mothers Day

Reversing the trend, the first half of the episode is average and the second half is good. In the first half, Billy and his mom move in with her new husband, who is a real prick. Then he meets Barbara, played by Jill Whitlow from the classic Night of the Creeps and the god-awful Twice Dead. He dozes off and dreams that she invites her friends over, they trash the place, his step dad attacks him, and he knocks him head first into a bear trap. In reality, Barbara is trying to help him get some rest when Billy falls out of the window, dying and making step dad die of a heart attack. Like I said, average stuff. In the second half, Barbara’s mother, a radio show psychologist, gives a caller bad advice and he ends up shooting someone on the air. A series of well done dream sequences follow, including her being accused of being an accessory to murder, a blood spewing mic, her being chased with a meat cleaver by the man’s wife (who looks a lot like Norman Bates in his Mother getup), watching herself hang herself in her cell, and hearing herself talking to herself on the radio. Did you get all that herself stuff? Ok, good, took me a minute too. There’s a fine line between using NOES style “dream logic” and just making no damn sense. The former involves using the conventions of the universe the stories exist in to play with the audience, keeping them on their toes and wondering what is real and what is a dream. The latter is just lazy script writing, justifying an incoherent script by saying it’s all in a character’s head. Whereas episodes like Deadline just make no damn sense (have I mentioned that I want the head of Jill Donner on a silver platter?), Mother’s Day is a good example of what can happen when this story device is used effectively. I think this is tied with Killer Instinct as the best non-Freddy episode to date.

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