A Nightmare on Elm Street (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 91mins – 1984



“Everybody’s got to dream, young lady.”

Inexcusably falling into the ‘genre classic I’ve somehow never seen’ category, I remedied my unintentional aversion to Wes Craven’s Elm Street franchise by picking up the 5-disc Blu-ray boxset recently, which neatly includes all 7 original entries and only skips on the 2010 remake (which, shamefully, is the only one I had previously seen).

… Keep Scuttling!

Ghostbusters (Blu-ray Review)

12 – 105mins – 1984



“We’re ready to believe you!”

Much like the paranormal-investigating pest controllers themselves, Ivan Reitman’s mid-80s supernatural comedy perfectly straddles the divide. Okay, not between life and thereafter, but between yucks and shocks. Ghostbusters is never terrifying enough to scare away the kids, or cheesy enough to turn off their parents. It teases at the edges, sure, but it’s universal in its playfulness, delivering (for the first hour in particular) a relentless rattle-bang compendium of phenomenon-securing cinematic gold.

“Type something, will ya? We’re paying you for this stuff!”

From Elmer Bernstein’s teasingly chilling theramin-tinged opening orchestration to the introduction of gluttonous “ugly little spud” Slimer, via the shock of the library phantom’s sudden mood-swing, it is infectiously entertaining, iconic and endlessly quotable – even down to Ray Stantz’s (Dan Aykroyd) bizarrely incongruous mid-montage ethereal blow job!

“You don’t act much like a scientist… more like a gameshow host.”

Saturday Night Live alumni Aykroyd and co-writer/co-star Harold Ramis bring bountiful personality to their science-fiction screenplay. Their university-evicted spiritual scientists are down to earth and identifiable to such an extent that the belated addiction of advert-answering new recruit Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) is somewhat superfluous. Through Ray’s wide-eyed excitability (“You gotta try the pole!”), nerdy Egon’s (Ramis) inability to flirt with secretary Janine (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman’s (fellow SNL-er Bill Murray) facetious louche sarcasm (“back off man, I’m a scientist!”), we already have ample access to this high-concept Zuul-niverse.

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“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

As the proton-packed foursome find themselves rocketed to overnight success and lend their bumbling, fumbling ‘expertise’ to musician Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) egg-popping, fridge-possessing doggy dilemma, their is a twenty minute period prior to the high-stakes roof-top finale which does switch down a gear. The plot becomes so invested in the coming together of the Gatekeeper and Keymaster and the possession of lovable loser Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) that smarmy antagonist Walter Peck (William Atherton) is almost lost in the mix – until the overzealous EPA agent makes a costly error of judgment which puts the whole city at risk…

“Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!”

But once our heroes are ‘busted out of jail by New York’s panic-stricken Mayor (David Marguiles), the red-hot quotes start tumbling again (“It’s true: this man has no dick”) as the action intensifies and the colourful effects fly into overdrive. The Claymation work on the statuesque demon dogs is a little obvious, while flat-topped femme demi-god Gozer is a tad underwhelming in human form (Slavitza Jovan), but all of this is forgiven when a 100foot marshmallow is summoned to stomp across the city, following a couple of subtle visual references teeing up Stay Puft’s appearance earlier in the film.

“Mother puss-bucket!”

Even 32 years on, Ghostbusters still lends itself to endless repeat viewings – its spunky attitude and endearing characterisation overcoming any dated FX work and narrative lulls. I can’t imagine Paul Feig’s incoming reboot will quite manage to capture the imagination of its generation in quite the same all-conquering fashion, but provided GB ’16 can mine the spirit of Reitman’s original then it’s half way to success – provided it doesn’t cross the streams! I guess we’ll find out on Monday…

CR@B’s Claw Score: 5 stars

Supergirl – International Version (DVD Review)

PG – 124mins – 1984


“Oh God that’s awful – that’s never going to work!”

These less-than-supportive words are uttered by an unimpressed sorceress (Brenda Vaccaro) after hearing her sister’s (Faye Dunaway) unpoetic conjurings of an invisible fog to find and destroy an incognito Supergirl (Helen Slater). Unfortunately, these were not words utter by Warner Bros. movie executives when they were pitched this half-baked superhero spin-off movie, borne out of a need to reinvigorate the flagging franchise following the less than stellar reaction to Superman III (1983).

Okay, so it’s not irredeemably bad, but it is frustratingly riddled with flaws, namely: dreadfully trite plot coincidences (stranded on Earth, our leading lady ends up bunking with Lois Lane’s sister, while Peter Cook’s warlord just so happens to be one of their teachers), shoehorned callbacks to franchise characters who they could never convince to appear (Superman is handily “out of the system”), a script over-complicated with jargonous nonsense (Binary shute? Quantum vortex? Omegahedron?!), less than stellar special effects (see main picture) and a sickeningly cheesy tone.

In another humorous case of the film unconsciously reviewing itself through its dialogue, an early scene in the trans-dimensional Kryptonian outpost of Argo City sees the well-intentioned but mishap-prone Zaltar (Peter O’Toole) describe the journey from inner to outer space as being filled with “airy, glittery stuff” – which sums up what the majority of Supergirl is made up of as young ‘Linda Lee’ attempts to familiarise herself with such human conventions as kissing and falling in love…

The grimmer and grander Phantom Zone conclusion (not to mention the return of a slightly mad, exiled Zaltar) is unquestionably the film’s highlight – it’s just a pity it feels so analogous to the slighter, frothier tone of the preceding hour and forty-five minutes, which largely comprises of middle-aged witches standing around in an abandoned Fun Fair ghost house, moaning at mirrors!

Likewise, the monstrous shadow demon Dunaway’s power-hungry foe summons is a decently ominous special effect, but it is just too little too late, arriving just three minutes before the end credits. Adventure may well run in the Zor-El family, sadly consistency does not. Those who have recently struggled with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice may well argue film-makers are still failing to nail that balance over 30 years later.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars