Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)

"All aboard that's going ashore!"

Who would have thought that a simple commercial would turn into a line of successful films?? Certainly the guys at Geico thought so...

Back in the late 80s and early 90s Jim Varney shot to stardom just from some commercials he made. Ernest P. Worrell was a commercial star who hocked pretty much anything. Before anyone knew it, he was a movie star. "Ernest Goes to Camp" was the first in a long line of Ernest films to be released. Jim Varney, of course, starred in the Touchstone Pictures film. In this film Ernest finds himself at a camp as a handy man, but he wants more, he wants to be a camp counselor. When a group of "Second Chance" kids come to the camp, the counselors decide to allow Ernest to take them under his wing. Hilarity ensues. In the meantime, a construction group is trying to buy the land the camp is on so they can build on it.

In my opinion this is the best Ernest film. It was the first and the best looking (being the only one of them shot in scope [2.35:1]). The jokes in it are very much like those in the other films. Varney had a knack for playing this character and he evidently loved it (he supposedly was filming an Ernest film when he died that was never finished or released). Being the first in the series it's missing a few things that became staples of the following films, mostly Varney playing numerous goofy characters and speaking directly to the camera. The film also has a moment that is not to be seen ever again in any of the other films, that scene being a small musical number from Varney. It's a touching song towards the middle of the song, but it feels very out of place in the movie.

Overall it's kind of hard to explain the impact of the character and the movies to current day audiences. The films were a very big part of my childhood. Five of the films (Goes to Camp, Saves Christmas, Goes to Jail, Scared Stupid and Rides Again) were theatrical films, while four of the films (Goes to School, Slam Dunk, Goes to Africa and In the Army) were direct to video films. Nonetheless the films remained funny though the last 2 lost something along the line. But everything comes back to "Goes to Camp". The Ernest character was so big that he had his own Saturday morning TV show ("Hey Vern, It's Ernest!").

"Goes to Camp" was funny enough to spawn more sequels though the films weren't incredibly successful. For their budgets they were successful but never broke any records. Nevertheless, without these films Jim Varney may have never had the career he did and we would have never had Slinky Dog in "Toy Story".

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

"How sweet, fresh meat!"

As stated earlier, New Line Cinema was so eager to cash in on Freddy Krueger that they seemed to not care about the quality of the script or the film to even care. They knew Freddy was big money and they were ready to make some big bucks off of him. Dream Warriors grossed over $44 million, more than the first and second film alone. It was the highest grossing Nightmare movie, so another sequel was inevitable. But with little preparation, they began work on The Dream Master.

The Dream Master is a direct continuation from part 3. With the three survivors of the film, Kristen (Knight), Kincaid (Sagoes) and Joey (Eastman). They are now back home and finally rid of Freddy....or so they think. Kristen is still paranoid about Freddy, and because of her paranoia she brings Freddy back. He quickly kills off the three, but not before Kristen can pass on her power of pulling people into her dreams onto her best friend Alice (Wilcox). Thus begins a continuing, and surprisingly interesting storyline in the Nightmare world. It’s up to Alice and her group of cliche friends to stop Freddy.

The Dream Master was an interesting yet somewhat stupid movie. I very much enjoyed the whole story idea of passing on this odd power to another person. I did not like how they recast Patricia Arquette with Tuesday Knight, who I personally think is a very bad actress. But, I would assume that Arquette did not want to return and with good reason. How exactly did Freddy go from dragging people up the wall and killing them on the ceiling to turning people into giant roaches? A lot of the deaths in this movie are stupid and just seemed like a way to use special effects in a time when special effects were coming into new light. There was an interesting death scene in which the character of Rick (Jones) has to fight an invisible Freddy. I don’t know if that was the way it was meant to be, or if something happened to prevent Robert Englund from being there that day, it doesn’t matter, it was still a very interesting scene.

By this time Freddy had become a gigantic star, spawning his own TV series Freddy’s Nightmares, which was basically a lower budget Twilight Zone series that Robert Englund hosted, as Freddy of course! But, because he had become a star and because New Line Cinema wanted more and more money, the once good series of films was beginning to suffer. Even though this is not particularly one of my favorite horror films, this movie is actually the highest grossing Nightmare on Elm Street film (not counting Freddy vs. Jason), grossing $49 million domestically. So of course, this was even more of an excuse to get another sequel out as quickly as possible, which turned out to be not such a great idea after all.

Day of the Dead (2008)

After 2004’s decent remake of Dawn of the Dead, I’m sure everyone was expecting a remake of 1985’s Day of the Dead. Well, it took 4 long years, but it finally happened. And, boy, do I wish it hadn’t. This movie started out…terribly, and it stayed that way all the way through. Granted, I did watch the whole movie, but to be honest I completely lost interest in the movie after the first hour and I wasn’t paying attention anymore. So I have no idea how it ended or anything like that, but nothing could save this terrible piece of trash. George A. Romero must be kicking himself for giving up the script for this movie, although I’m sure he was happy with his check.

This movie is extremely loosely based on the 1985 original. And when I say loosely, I mean the only thing that stuck was that it was all about the military. They tried to make it like Night of the Living Dead with no one knowing exactly what is going on, they don’t know anything about the zombies. Which makes absolutely no sense in this realm of remakes. If this is a remake of Day of the Dead then by all logical it should be a sequel to 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, so everyone should know about the zombies and everything, but no. Another thing that makes no sense is Ving Rhames is back in this movie, fine he escaped at the end of the first film, but he’s not playing the same character. In fact he is playing a character who was the main villain in the original film, but Rhames is in the movie for all of 10 collected minutes and is not a villain. So, why would you have the guy from the first film back simply to play a different character that gets killed immediately? Was this their sad attempt at getting a cameo by a previous Dead actor? If so, it was pathetic.

When I first saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead I was not happy either. But, with time it grew on me. What I hated the most about that movie was that the zombies could run now. In all of Romero’s movies the zombies could not run, they were slow moving creatures and I liked that. Well, in this movie not only can the zombies run, but they are basically acrobats now. They jump in the air, fly off walls, crawl on the walls, anything they want to now. The zombies in this film have become invincible, and that is awful. Also, I’m having a hard time accepting Mena Suvari as a tough military woman. And what the fuck is Nick Cannon doing in this movie? He plays the typical black guy who thinks everything is racist. Oh, that’s good for a laugh (notice the sarcasm).

This movie was released in April of 2008, direct to video. So that pretty much says it all. In short there was a reason why this was released direct to video.

2001 Maniacs (2005)

"Frankly, Miss Pussy, I Don't Give a Damn"

During the beginning of 2000 it seemed that Hollywood had run out of ideas. Starting with The Ring in 2002, a new flood of horror remakes were on our hands. Only 4 years prior they had tried remaking a classic horror movie with the remake of Psycho but that fell flat on it’s face and it seemed that Hollywood wouldn’t try remaking classic horror movies or classic films at all ever again. But, we were wrong. They started with Japanese movies, making them American films like The Ring or The Grudge. Well, those films did very well at the box office, regardless of the fact that they were not very good. Well, if remaking Japanese films would successful what could stop them from remaking anything. All they had to do was pick a safe time of horror movies, that may have a fan following but are technically “classic” films, like Psycho was. What better of a decade to pick than the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003 we saw the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a classic horror film, considered by many to be a classic. But, apparently Hollywood didn’t consider it a classic. From 2003 on, they just remade everything (Michael Bay is to blame for this, by the way), they didn’t care what it was. Every year we see at least 4 or 5 remakes of films considered to be horror classics.

In 2005, Tim Sullivan decided to remake the 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis film Two Thousand Maniacs!, a film that has a cult following, but not really a classic by any means. Usually I have a problem with people remaking movies, especially horror movies, but this one I had no problem with. For one simple reason, Robert Englund. I’ve been a fan of his for quite a long time, and I love to see him play characters outside of Freddy Krueger. So, when I saw him as the star of the movie, I was excited. Also, I’ve seen Two Thousand Maniacs! (you can read my review later on), and there was nothing “classic” about the film that could or would be ruined by a new telling of a story over 40 years old.

2001 Maniacs is a telling of a group of people who get (deliberately) sidetracked into this small town run by a bunch of civil war era residents. The entire town is caught in some time warp where they still believe it’s the civil war time, even spouting out racial slurs when they see a black man and an Asian woman. But, the fun part is they brought these people to their town because they plan to kill them, and later eat them. This follows the original story very well, except in this remake they delve a little bit more into character development with the townspeople, something the Lewis version was lacking.

A good reason to remake a movie like this, is to give it a more modern day twist. There are certain movies that is not a good idea for. Like remaking anything from the 1980s. It’s too soon to be remaking those types of movies. Simply saying they have better technology now to make the films better is not a good enough reason. There is no good reason to remake anything from the past 30 years. In fact, there really isn’t a good reason to remake anything at all. Would you remake Gone with the Wind? No, and they haven’t in almost 70 years. So leave classic films alone. This film is enjoyable for the simple reason of the killings. They have some interesting killings going on in this town, starting off with the best death in the movie, the girl being torn apart by horses. After that you are hooked into this movie. I’ve come to the conclusion that anything that Robert Englund does (acting wise, his directorial films have been pretty bad) is pure gold. This is a movie that you should watch with some friends, just for a good time.