Freddy Vs. Jason



New Line Cinema/Crystal Lake Entertainment

Directed by Ronny Yu

Produced by Sean S. Cunningham/Robert Shaye

Written by Damian Shannon/Mark Swift

Based on characters created by Wes Craven & Victor Miller

It’s not supposed to be so much daggone fun to watch people getting killed in the most graphic and horrendous ways imaginable. It’s not supposed to be intoxicating to see so much blood gushing in all directions. But intoxicating fun is exactly what FREDDY VS. JASON is from start to finish. It’s a manic gorefest that hits the ground running right from the start and doesn’t stop. If you were to pause the movie for a minute and actually try to make logical sense of the events of the movie, you’d stop watching. But because the energy level of the movie is so high and you’ve got one wickedly brutal murder coming so fast on the heels of the previous one that the blood hardly has had time to dry, you don’t care. Well, let me put it this way: I didn’t care.

FREDDY VS. JASON is in the tradition of those great Universal movies in which they would team up their monsters. Movies such as “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man” “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula” threw together The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolfman scheming, plotting and battling each other. In this one it’s Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) who does most of the plotting but once Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) gets an idea of what’s going on, Jason comes back hard in his own fashion. After all, when you’re unkillable and indestructible you don’t have to be a strategic genius.

Freddy Kruger has lost much of his power due to the fact that over time, the adults of Springwood have suppressed any and all information about him. So the current generation of teenagers living in the town has never even heard his name and has no idea he exists. This leaves Freddy stranded in a sort of limbo between Hell and The Dreamworld. But he can cross between the two realms and he does so to find a pawn that he can use to regain his power. Freddy finds Jason Voohees in a state of suspended animation dreaming of slaughtering misbehaving teenagers and of his beloved mother. Freddy uses those dreams to manipulate Jason into resurrecting himself (how does he keep doing that?) Freddy then sends Jason after the Springwood teenagers, figuring that the killings will be attributed to him and the resultant fear and terror will feed him power.


Not a bad plan at all as far as plans go, right? But the problem is that Jason Voorhees is like the living incarnation of that Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up.” Once you get him started, he’ll never stop. Jason proceeds to decimate the teenage population of Springwood and Freddy realizes that if Jason does kill off all the kids that then he’ll be right back in the same predicament he was in at the start of the movie. So now Freddy has a vested investment in stopping his pawn. At the same time, a heroic band of teens have learned about Freddy and figure that the only way to stop him is for one of them to go into The Dreamworld and bring him back into the real world and force Jason to battle Freddy. As you might have surmised by now, this movie’s plot is built upon a lot of plans that go horrendously wrong.

But you want to know what’s really important: do Freddy and Jason fight? Yes, they do throw down not once but twice. The first fight is in The Dreamworld where Freddy has home court advantage and the second takes place in the real world. At Camp Crystal Lake, no less which is Jason’s turf. The battles have all the sophistication of a WWE wrestling match but they’re just as entertaining. Freddy and Jason hack and slash at each other with machete and razor-blade glove, rip limbs off of each other, send each other flying through the air with kicks and punches that could stun an elephant and get back up for more mayhem.


The acting is this one isn’t anything to brag about and forget about characterization. 99% of the cast is dead by the end of the movie anyway. The cast is there for only one reason, to be killed by either Freddy or Jason and they do their jobs admirably. But the three standouts would have to be Monica Keena as Lori, Our Heroine. Kelly Rowland as Our Heroine’s Best Friend and Jason Ritter (John Ritter’s son) as Our Heroine’s Boyfriend. Somebody really needs to work on getting Kelly Rowland into more movies. I’ve only seen her in this and “The Seat Filler” and both times I was struck dumb at how gorgeous she is on screen. And she throws herself into every scene she’s in with sheer gusto. She demonstrates a gift for comedy in the scene where she’s persuaded by her friends (some friends!) to give Jason mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Robert Englund in particular appears to be having the time of his life as Freddy. Not that Englund didn’t give it everything he had in all of his performances as Freddy. One thing Mr. Englund can never be accused of is phoning it in. But he seems to be taking a particular relish in playing Freddy as the behind-the-scenes manipulator/puppet master working the other characters in the movie. There isn’t much one can say about Ken Kirzinger’s performance as Jason because one really doesn’t need to perform as Jason. One simply needs to be big and intimidating and on that level, Mr. Kirzinger delivers.

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So should you see FREDDY VS. JASON? Absolutely. It’s without a doubt an extremely well made movie, one of the best in the series. Everybody throws themselves into it with a great deal of enthusiasm that more than makes up for any plot holes and director Ronny Yu knows how to keep the story moving with not so much as slowing down for a minute. And there’s a lot of neat little callbacks to elements from both the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” series. I love a horror movie (or any movie for that matter) that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be and succeeds at being that. Enjoy.

Oh, and P.S.: while this movie is the last of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, when I re-watch the series every October I leave “New Nightmare” for last for reasons I’ll go into in my review of that movie. But I recommend that you do that also.

97 Minutes

Rated R

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare



New Line Cinema

Directed by Rachel Talalay

Produced by Michael De Luca, Michael N. Knue, Robert Shaye and Aron Warner

Screenplay by Michael De Luca

Based on a story by Rachel Talalay

Based on character created by Wes Craven

By the time we get to FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, Freddy Krueger has been around for eight years now and he’s simply no longer scary at all. How could he be? By this time Freddy has appeared in rap/music videos, hosted his own horror anthology TV show and his face appears on lunch boxes, kid’s pajamas (which shows you how loopy merchandising can get since Freddy Krueger is a killer of children) T-shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, tote bags, bumper stickers, oven mitts in the shape of his famous bladed glove…I think you get the point. By 1991 Freddy Krueger has been marketed up the yin yang and Robert Englund is appearing on award shows and talks shows as Freddy joking and clowning, breakdancing and riding skateboards. So when you no longer take a horror icon seriously anymore, what’s left to do? Turn him into a live action cartoon, that’s what.


Peter Jackson wrote an unused screenplay for this movie in which Freddy Krueger was now perceived by teenagers as not being a threat at all and treated as a joke. In fact, his script had kids taking sleeping pills just so they could go into the dreamworld and beat up on Freddy. That would certainly have been better than what we got in FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE which for most of its running time is more Looney Tunes than Wes Craven.

Set ten years after the end of the previous film, we’re told that Freddy Krueger has killed off every last child and teenager in Springwood, Ohio and the remaining adults who still live there have pretty much gone insane from grief. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty depressing opening for the movie as what’s happened is that clearly Freddy has won. None of the battles, sacrifices and deaths of the characters in the previous movies have meant a thing because ultimately, Freddy got what he wanted. But now he needs to get out of Springwood and he needs one more very special child to do so. That child just may be John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) who wakes up in a youth shelter with nothing but caffeine pills and an old newspaper clipping of a missing woman named Loretta Krueger.

John comes under the care of case worker Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and dream specialist Doc (Yaphet Kotto) who also work with other troubled teens such as Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) who was physically abused by his mother so badly he lost his hearing one one ear. Spencer ( Breckin Meyer) is a pothead. Mainly to piss off her control freak father. Tracy (Lezlie Deane) uses boxing and martial arts as a way of controlling the rage stemming from the sexual abuse she suffered at her father’s hands. Maggie herself has her own issues in the form of recurring nightmares about Springwood and that, along the article John Doe suggests to her that they should take a trip to the town to get some answers for both their problems. Carlos, Spencer and Tracy hide in the back of the van and all of them end up in Springwood where Freddy awaits with the secret of who the final Springwood child is and reveals his master plan to escape Springwood and kill more children because as he puts it in the movie’s only chilling line: “Every town has an Elm Street…”

This is the one that everybody remembers mainly because of the cameo appearances by Elinor Donahue, Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper (as Freddy Krueger’s abusive stepdad) Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr (who are billed in this movie…no lie…as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Tom Arnold’) and it’s a shame because Lisa Zane’s (Billy’s older sister) performance is really good and deserves to have a better movie to be in. She, Yaphet Kotto and Robert Englund are really the only performances to watch out for as they commit to the material and give it all it’s worth. Even though here Freddy Krueger is definitely a cartoon character (the scene where he kills Spencer by video game is cringe worthy) Robert Englund is obviously trying his best to work with what he’s got.


But it’s scenes like this and where he shows up as The Wicked Witch of The West that neutralizes the good ones such as where he replaces Carlos’ hearing aid with one that amplifies his hearing to the the point where the dropping of a handful of nails sounds to poor Carlos like explosions going off in his head. That’s the old sadistic Freddy we used to know and love at work there. Or the one where Carlos is dreaming he’s opening up a road map and it keeps on opening and opening and opening until he’s suffocating from the road map filling up the entire back of the van.

And it’s surprising to me that Rachel Talalay directed this one in such a slapdash silly manner as she’s been associated with every “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie from the beginning as a producer. One would think that she would know the character inside and out and come up with a truly knockout “last movie” in the series. But she obviously was more interested in the getting to the 3D sequence that is the climax of the movie complete with “dream demons” that supposedly explain Freddy’s supernatural powers and were undoubtedly pulled outta the same hat George Lucas got his “midichlorians” to explain The Force.


FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE is the one movie I would truly point at as being the real clunker of the series. I can only recommend it being watched if you’ve already watched all the other movies in the series already. Fortunately, despite the title, it wasn’t the last and the next two Freddy Kreuger movies would more than make up for this one.


89 Minutes

Rated R

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge



New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Jack Sholder

Produced by Robert Shaye

Written by David Chaskin

Based on characters created by Wes Craven

When discussing the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series with others, the question always comes up as to just why has this movie franchise managed to still be popular and successful even after so many years. Fans of the franchise such as myself faithfully rewatch the series every Halloween and it’s continually picking up new fans who weren’t even born when the series was in the theaters.

Me, I think it’s because unlike other franchises such as “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th” which pretty much told the same story over and over and over again, one movie after another, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies honestly tried to do something different with every new entry in the series. Whether it be in terms of actually advancing the terrifying story of Freddy Krueger or doing special effects work that really were outstanding and cutting edge at the time (the scene with the chick who gets turned into a cockroach and crushed in a roach motel in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” still freaks the shit outta me) the creative folks involved truly did try to do something different with each movie. The “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies don’t become one big blur as other franchises where it gets hard to remember what the plot of different movies were. You name a specific “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie to somebody and I’m willing to bet that they can pretty accurately describe what the plot was.

And that brings us to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE which truly is about as different a horror movie you’re going to find. Why is it different? First, there’s Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) himself. For some unexplained reason, Freddy has decided to manifest himself in The Real World instead of safely killing Elm Street kids in their sleep. To this end he’s picked Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) as his host body. Jesse’s family have moved into the former home of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp doesn’t appear in this one, though. We don’t find out what she’s been doing until the next movie, “Dream Warriors”). Jesse takes Nancy’s old room for his own and immediately begins having dreams of Freddy Krueger who demands that Jesse kill for him. Jesse even finds Freddy’s old razor bladed glove in the basement of the house and his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finds Nancy’s old diary in his closet.


While Jesse struggles to understand what’s going with him with the help of his friend Ron (Robert Rusler) Lisa does research into the background of Freddy Krueger and the series of mysterious killings that took place on Elm Street five years ago.

And now here’s where the movie goes off into the direction it’s best known for: the homoerotic subtext that supports most of the movie. I myself think that the movie’s director and writer messed things up when they had Freddy plainly be seen by other people as they had a pretty interesting psychological angle going, with Freddy representing Jesse’s repressed homosexual feelings for Ron. There’s two scenes in the movie where it could be interpreted that Jesse has had sex with men and unable to deal with this aspect of himself kills them and blames the killings on Freddy, hallucinating that he sees him. Want more evidence? There’s a great scene where Jesse is making out with Lisa at a pool party and suddenly panics due to Freddy manifesting himself in Jesse and he breaks it off, running to Ron’s house, sneaking into his room in the middle of the night. Ron gets in the best line in the movie here: “Now let me get this straight…she’s waiting for you in the cabana. And you wanna sleep with me.”

Not enough for you? There’s the high school gym teacher that is killed in a pretty blatant S&M fashion after he encounters Jesse in a gay bar. Most of the victims Freddy terrorizes and/or kills are men. Mark Patton himself in interviews lays claim to being the first male Scream Queen and he gets my vote. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where the lead male role does so much screaming. In fact, most of the men in this movie are ineffectual, with Jesse’s father Ken played by Clu Gulager leading the way. This cat is so much of a brain dead blockhead he borders on being a sitcom dad. It’s the women in this movie who are level-headed, sensible and have steel in their spines. Taken just on that level of traditional male/female roles in horror movies being reversed and the homoerotic subtext, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE makes for intriguing viewing.


But how does it rate purely as a horror film? I liked how the movie takes its time introducing the characters and making sure we know who’s who and what they’re all about before the mayhem starts. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as violent or as blood-soaked as some of the later films. But it manages to showcase a couple of really nice sequences. The major one being the scene where Freddy tears his way out of Jesse’s body. And the pool party scene is redeemed by that terrific shot of Freddy haloed in flame proclaiming to the terrified teenagers; “You are all my children now.”

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But you really can’t get around the fact that when you look at the movie objectively, it’s not a Freddy Krueger movie. Supposedly Freddy has exactly thirteen minutes of screen time. In a movie that runs eighty-seven minutes, that’s not a lot. The movie’s not about Freddy Krueger at all. It’s about a young man confused and conflicted about his sexuality with Freddy as a supporting character in his own movie. Now some may call this the weakest “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie but me, I’ll still take A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE over “Freddy’s Dead”

87 Minutes

Rated R

The Purge: Anarchy



Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by James DeMonaco

Produced by Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sebastien Lemercier and Michael Bay

In the interest of full disclosure I should be upfront and say that I had no interest at all in seeing THE PURGE: ANARCHY. I had seen “The Purge” at home about two months ago and thought it one of the most brain dead movies I’d seen in quite a while. Don’t look for a review of it here as I quite honestly wasn’t in the mood that day to rack up wordage on a movie I disliked. But if you do want to read an excellent review of it then I highly recommend you check out Mark Bousquet’s review of “The Purge”

So why did I go see the sequel of a movie that I didn’t like? The theater is why. Patricia and I used to go to a theater on Linden Boulevard here in Brooklyn. But we’ve switched to the Broadway Multiplex Cinema in Hicksville, out in Long Island. Why go all the way out there to go to the movies you ask?

Two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners. That’s why.

We have so fallen in love with the seats in this theater we ended up going to see THE PURGE: ANARCHY even though neither one of us were exactly eager about seeing it. And yeah, I found it just as brain dead as the first one. But I was comfortable as hell while seeing it.

For those of you who didn’t see the first movie (give praise for that) here’s the background. The United States is now administrated by The New Founding Fathers of America who have established The Purge, a 12 hour period taking place annually on March 21/22 from 7PM to 7AM. During this period all crime is legal. Citizens can rob, rape and kill with no fear of legal reprisal whatsoever. The New Founding Fathers insist that The Purge is necessary to give citizens a chance to release their negative and destructive urges. But it’s actually a form of population control as the poor and homeless are usually the victims of The Purge. The rich are rich enough to wait out The Purge in safety in homes that are more like fortified bunkers.


Diner waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) hurries home to barricade herself in her apartment along with her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and terminally ill father (John Beasley) Married couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) stop at a market to get some groceries before heading to the house of Shane’s sister to spend the night. Police Sergeant Leo Barnes quietly assembles an arsenal of guns and assault rifles before strapping on his body armor and climbing into his armor plated car. He plans on a very special Purge.

Through a complicated series of horrifying events these five people find themselves thrown together, trying to survive the night. They lose the car and are forced to take to the streets, avoiding hordes of bloodthirsty Purgers. During the course of the night they learn that The Founding Fathers have been sending out their own death squads to increase the body count by killing off the lower classes. And if that weren’t enough, the Big Rich have been hiring their own squads to kidnap people and bring them to secure locations where the Big Rich play The Most Dangerous Game. They hunt people, Purging in complete safety as they have weapons and their prey doesn’t.


When it got to this part in the movie where our five heroes are on the run on foot I realized that the writer/director wanted so bad for this to be a John Carpenter movie as the situation was one that sort of reminded me of Carpenter’s classic “Assault On Precinct 13” turned on its head. But THE PURGE: ANARCHY is so determined to be So Serious and Say Something Profound About America it’s really not that much fun or that interesting to watch. The movie could use a whole heap of social satire ala the original “Death Race 2000” or “The Running Man”

It also doesn’t help that the characters are so thin that I really couldn’t get interested in what happened to them. There’s an attempt to generate some sympathy for the married couple who have agreed to separate but since I don’t know these people, why should I care if they separate or not? And I really can’t get with a movie that wastes the extraordinary talent of Michael K. Williams. He plays Carmelo, leader of an army of resistance fighters determined to bring down The New Founding Fathers and end The Purge. But for most of the movie we see him ranting and raving on a TV screen and he doesn’t show up in the flesh until near the end of the movie when it’s far too late for him to save it.


And maybe it’s just me but I simply can’t buy that on a night where any and all crime is allowed, everybody turns into a homicidal maniac bent only on slaughtering everybody in sight. Me, I’m either robbing a bank or looting a Costco, a Wal-Mart or a Target. None of this is shown, except for the super of Eva’s building who has rape on the brain. Apparently everybody in America waits for this one night just so they can go blood simple.


So should you see THE PURGE: ANARCHY? If you liked the first movie then you most likely have already seen this one. But if you haven’t, stay away from it and wait for it to show up on Netflix. It’s not even worth matinee prices.

Unless of course, your theater has two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners.

103 minutes

Rated R

Danger Word



Dark Dream Productions/Little Light Productions

Directed by Luchina Fisher

Produced by Zainab Ali

Co-Produced by Allo Greer and Alma Greerr

Executive Producers: Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due and Luchina Fisher

Written by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due based on their short story “Danger Word”

It kind of tickles me to no end that back in the 1950’s, 1960’s and even well into the 1970’s we pretty much took it as a granted that the world was going to end in a nuclear catastrophe of one kind or another. Either by accident or a deliberate act of war. Now, in the year 2014 that doesn’t bother us any longer. Now we’re all fairly certain we’re going to have a Zombie Apocalypse and that’s going to be our end. And thanks to movies such as the George Romero “Dead” series, “28 Days Later” “28 Weeks Later” “Shaun of The Dead” “Zombieland” “Pontypool” “World War Z” and the hugely successful TV show “The Walking Dead” we’re all properly prepared for it. You’ve got a frightening number of folks who are even hoping it comes as they’ve turned their basements into survival bunkers. But as DANGER WORD teaches us, survival in the Zombie Apocalypse comes down to something as simple as being prepared to do what you have to do. And even that may not be enough.

Grandpa Joe (Frankie Faison) and his 13 year old granddaughter Kendra (Saoirse Scott) are living in a cabin in upstate New York. Grandpa Joe is teaching Kendra the skills and more importantly, the mindset she is going to need in this new world. Some of the lessons are heartbreaking. But necessary. And Kendra is forced to put those lessons to the test when a routine visit to the nearest trading post to get her a birthday present goes horrifyingly wrong.


You wouldn’t think that a movie could build atmosphere, characterization and plot and a rising sense of horror in just 20 minutes but DANGER WORD pulls it off. And a large part of that is due to Frankie Faison and Saoirse Scott. They effectively and wonderfully create a loving bond between their characters that we understand and take into our hearts almost immediately. And they do with without forcing it on us or overstating the obvious.

Funded by donations from friends, family and strangers, DANGER WORD is an encouraging example to black filmmakers to show them that they don’t have to look to Hollywood to bring their stories to life, especially ones that feature People of Color in major roles. Although “The Waking Dead” has had (emphasis on had) its black characters who have been and continue to be pivotal players in the drama, the history of black characters in zombie movies (or most horror movies for that matter) has been a woeful one. Which has always puzzled me to no end because I don’t know too many black people who aren’t fans of horror movies. You’d think that Hollywood would have long tapped into that the same way they did back in The Blaxploitation Era. In most horror movies the black characters are usually the first to die and even if they manage to last past the first 30 minutes of the movie, that’s because they’re the comic relief. Two notable exceptions are: “The People Under The Stairs” and “Anaconda” which to me is doubly remarkable because not only is the token brother (Ice Cube) still alive at the end of the movie but so is the token Latina (Jennifer Lopez)

But the underrepresentation of blacks in any genre of film is nothing new. We all know that. But films like DANGER WORD is yet another step in the right direction and everybody involved in the production of the film has produced an emotionally strong and satisfying short horror film that they can be proud of. And you can watch it for yourself on YouTube right here:

Tananarive Due

Dar Kush: The Home of Steven Barnes

Jenny Ringo and The Cabaret From Hell

Jenny Ringo amended



A Chris Regan Production

Directed by Chris Regan

Produced by Andrea Regan

Screenplay by Geraint D’Arcy

When we last left our heroine at the conclusion of “Jenny Ringo and The Monkey’s Paw” she was trapped in her own existential personal Hell, her reward/punishment for sacrificing herself to save her friend and flatmate Gavin (Lukas Habberton) from the curse of The Monkey’s Paw. When JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL begins we see that Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) is back in London, once again sharing a flat with her slacker/stoner BFF and none the worst for her harrowing experience. Which means of course that now I will have to unmercifully pester Chris Regan until he comes across with the story of how Jenny escaped from Hell as I’m sure it’ll be a doozy.

If you haven’t seen “Jenny Ringo and The Monkey’s Paw” yet, I strongly urge you to do so as it gives the background about Jenny’s magical powers (she’s a Wiccan) which she uses in this short film to switch bodies with Gavin. Not that she planned to, you see. But in order to get the money they need to pay their rent, Gavin (in Jenny’s body) has to get a job as a singer in a local cabaret. Naturally it turns out that the cabaret and it’s sinister MC (Andromeda Godfrey) are not what they seem and it’s up to Jenny and Gavin to sort things out.

Like the first Jenny Ringo adventure, this one is a goofy mix of horror and comedy with a pair of delightful leads. Rosie Duncan is again wonderful as Jenny. She’s not as sarcastic or as snarky in this one. Maybe’s Jenny’s sojourn in Hell has made her kinder and gentler. She’s still no less the take charge, no nonsense Jenny I fell in love with in the first film.


Lukas Habberton is a bit off his game in the first half of the story when it seems to me that he’s trying too hard to “act” but he redeems himself in the second half when Gavin and Jenny have switched bodies. The both of them do some really fine work with their respective body languages that convinced me more than anything else that the characters had actually switched bodies. Andromeda Godfrey makes the most of the screen time she has to create a creepy and credible antagonist for our heroes.


As in the first one, there’s a musical sequence and I liked this one better than the one in the previous film since it’s performed by Lukas Habberton and Rosie Duncan and it’s a musical sequence that isn’t dropped in just for the sake of having one but it’s tied into the story’s resolution. This film doesn’t look as polished as the production looks to have been done on a smaller budget than the first one but it’s just as much fun. The ending gives a hint of further adventures for Jenny and Gavin and I hope so. JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL is a well-paced, fun and entertaining 30 minutes and while watching it I felt like I was catching up with a couple of friends. It’s well worth your time. Enjoy.

JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL is available for viewing online at Vimeo for those who bounce on over to and sign up on the mailing list.

The Serpent And The Rainbow


Universal Pictures

Directed by Wes Craven

Produced by Doug Claybourne and David Ladd

Written by Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman

Based on “The Serpent and The Rainbow” by Wade Davis

People who know me and know what I look for in horror movies say that I’m way too critical and demanding of them. Maybe so. But I’ve never been one of those who excuse the downright stupidity of the majority of horror movies simply because my friends say I’m supposed to turn off my brain and stop thinking while watching. The best horror movies and the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that do engage my brain and encourage me to not only feel but think about what’s happening up there on the screen.

The horror movies of Wes Craven are among some of my favorites. Although he has made some hideously bad movies such as “Shocker” “Vampire In Brooklyn” and “Cursed” he has also made some spectacularly good ones as well. The original “Nightmare On Elm Street” “The People Under The Stairs” the “Scream” series and what is probably my favorite Wes Craven horror movie and one people just don’t mention a lot and that’s a damn shame they don’t; THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.

Anthropologist/Ethobotanist Dr. Dennis Alan makes a good living going into remote jungles and coming back with rare herbs and ritual drugs from native tribes that he then sells to American pharmaceutical companies. He’s extremely good at his job which is why he’s asked to go to Haiti to investigate the voodoo society and see if there’s any truth to the myth of there being some sort of secret powder that creates zombie. Alan’s mentor Dr. Schoonbacher (Michael Gough) thinks that this could lead to the secret of where the soul is located. Andrew Cassedy (Paul Guilfoyle) the head of Boston Biocorp thinks it could be the ultimate anesthetic. Cassedy claims to have proof of a man in Haiti who was poisoned with this powder, buried alive, dug up and revived as a zombie.

With the assistance of the gorgeous and brilliant Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) and voodoo priest Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield) Dr. Alan attempts to find out if this powder does exist and if zombies are actually real. His quest brings him into conflict with Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae) the head of the feared Tonton Macoute who is also a voodoo practitioner of frightening power. As Dr. Allan goes deeper and deeper into the truth behind the zombie legend he has to navigate between the political unrest and civil turmoil of a Haiti ruled by ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier and the horrendous hallucinations tearing his mind apart placed there by the power of Peytraud. Hallucinations so overwhelming that he can no longer distinguish what is real and what isn’t.


There are a whole lot of reason why I love THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and why I always recommend it.  Along with “The People Under The Stairs” it’s one of the few horror movies with a predominantly African-American cast that is believable and treats the characters as human beings and not plot devices to be killed off to make the Caucasian heroes look good. Cathy Tyson is a wonderfully beautiful actress who isn’t in the movie just to fall in love with the hero. She has an interesting backstory of her own as well. There’s a really nice scene where Mareille talks about how she does not divide her faith and her science but makes them work together.

I also like the political subtext in the movie. Set during the reign of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier there’s always the threat of the secret police in the background, always reminding us that not all of Dr. Alan’s enemies are supernatural. Ah, but are they? I think it’s masterful how Wes Craven plays not only with Dr. Alan’s head but ours as well, challenging us to figure out what is real and what isn’t. Is Dr. Alan hallucinating or is what is happening to him actually happening? Is Peytroud a black magician or just really good at messing with Dr. Alan’s head?


THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is also excellent at showing voodoo as a legitimate religion and way of life for the people of Haiti. There are a lot of scenes that are almost documentary in nature, such as the wonderful scene of a pilgrimage where a huge image of The Virgin Mary is taken to a holy grotto. Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m no expert of voodoo but I can’t think of another horror movie where voodoo is treated with the respect of it being a religion/way of life as it is here.

And the hallucination/dream images in THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW are just as good as anything Wes Craven did in his “Nightmare On Elm Street” movies. And the scene where’s he’s buried alive is without a doubt one of the most frightening in horror movie history.


The acting is top notch. Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson and Paul Winfield are all nothing less than believable. Zakes Mokae is an appropriately formidable bad guy while Theresa Merritt as a voodoo priestess and Brent Jennings as a con man who may or may not know how to make the zombie powder do solid work as supporting characters.

So should you see THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW? Absolutely. It’s that rarest of creatures I always look for and treasure so much when I find it: a believable horror movie. The motivations of the characters make sense and they don’t act like idiots who are plainly being manipulated by a brain dead scriptwriter more concerned with his plots twists than telling a story. THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW makes a great double feature with “Angel Heart” in that for me, they are both horror movies in which the main character seeks the solution to a mystery that ultimately turns out to be more horrifying than the mystery itself.

98 minutes

Rated R