TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.9 “The Family Business” (dir by Sanford Bookstaver)

We all knew that, at some point, Dexter would have to welcome Harrison into the family business.  It finally happened on this week’s episode of Dexter: New Blood.

Set on Christmas day (but, oddly enough, airing during the first week of January), the ninth episode of Dexter: New Blood found Dexter and Harrison finally bonding.  Dexter told Harrison the story of Wiggles the Clown though, at the insistence of Ghost Deb, Dexter said that he just told Wiggles to stop doing what he was doing.  Even when Dexter was telling the story, it was obvious that Harrison knew there was more to it than just Dexter giving a stern lecture.

Harrison also told Dexter that he had stabbed his friend and that he wasn’t the hero that everyone made him out to be.  Yeah, we all figured that out a while ago, Harrison!  Still, it was interesting to watch Harrison discover what the rest of us take for granted.  We’re so used to the idea of Dexter tracking down serial killers and murdering them that it’s easy to forget just how weird and traumatic it would be for someone to learn about it or witness it for the first time.  One of the big problems that I had with the final season of Dexter’s original run is that Deb never seemed to be truly shocked at the discovery that her brother was a serial killer.  Fortunately, the reboot did a better job with Harrison than the original did with Deb.

And yes, Harrison did learn the truth.  He and Dexter tracked down Kurt’s secret lair and saw Kurt’s “trophies.”  And when Harrison announced that Kurt needed to die, just the slightest smile came to Dexter’s lips.  Dexter managed to bring Harrison over to his side without actually having to confess to all of the people that he had killed.  Only after Harrison had announced that he was on board with the idea that some people deserved to die, did Dexter admit to killing Wiggles the Clown and Arthur Mitchell.

Kurt met his end in this episode.  Harrison watched as Dexter killed him and then, somewhat ominously, had a flashback to Rita’s murder.  Is Harrison going to realize that, for all of Dexter’s rationalizations, his father is a serial killer as well?  If Harrison truly buys into the code, then Dexter could be in some trouble.

Actually, Dexter might be in trouble regardless.  Angela appears to have figured out that Dexter killed the drug dealer.  And, at the end of this episode, she received a letter telling her that “Jim Lindsay Killed Matt Caldwell” and one of the titanium screws that was left behind after Dexter burned Matt’s body.  If Angela learns the truth, will she arrest Dexter or will she let him and Harrison go free?  Angela has sworn to uphold the law but Kurt also murdered Angela’s best friend.  And, as we learned on Sunday, Kurt also murdered Molly.  Angela might be tempted to let Dexter escape.  I guess we’ll find out next week.

It was an excellent episode, though I have to admit that I was really disappointed when Molly showed up as one of Kurt’s trophies.  When Molly first appeared, her character annoyed me but, as the season progressed, I came to appreciate both the character and Jamie Chung’s performance.  In many ways, she was the stand-in for the viewers.  It was hard not to feel that she deserved better than to be killed off-screen.  Indeed, considering that she knew that Kurt was probably a killer, you have to wonder how he managed to ever get to her in the first place.

Still, that aside, The Family Business was Dexter at its best.  The deliberate pace and the atmospheric direction all reminded of the classic early seasons of Dexter.  Michael C. Hall perfectly captured Dexter’s love of his work while Jack Alcott played Harrison with the right mix of fascination and fear.  Still, I have to wonder what the show’s end game is going to be.  Ghost Deb was pretty adamant about Dexter not bringing Harrison into the family business and Ghost Deb usually know what she’s talking about.

We’ll find out next week!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.8 “Unfair Game” (dir by Sanford Bookstaver)

So, Dexter is going to teach Harrison “the code.”

Wow, who could have predicted that!?

Okay, okay …. I know it’s not good to gloat but let me have my moment.  From the minute that Harrison showed up at Dexter’s cabin, I’ve been waiting for him to take up the family business and it would appear that’s what is about to happen.  My prediction was correct and it’s actually kind of rare that happens so I’m definitely going to take a little bit of pride in this moment.

Kurt definitely had his chance to bring Harrison over to his side but he ruined it by snapping and trying to kill Harrison.  Big mistake there, Kurt.  Harrison is now back with Dexter and, judging from that big hug he gave him, it appears that there’s no longer any doubt in Harrison’s mind as to which father figure he should follow.

It was an exciting episode.  Along with Kurt’s attempts to bond with Harrison, we also got a lot of scenes of Dexter and the truck driver chasing each other through that abandoned summer camp.  (“Perfect place for a serial killer,” as Dexter put it.)  Why didn’t Kurt take out Dexter personally?  That was my only real question.  I get that Kurt wanted to bond with Harrison but he could have easily killed Dexter and the bonded with Harrison later.  It’s not like Harrison has anywhere to go.  Instead, Kurt made the mistake of outsourcing the murder of his biggest enemy.  Entrusting a job that important to a random truck driver doesn’t really make that much sense.  Kurt screwed that one up because, despite being shot in the leg, Dexter managed to kill that truck driver and save Harrison.  In the past, Dexter has spent so much time in its lead character’s mind that it was interesting to see that Dexter can take care of himself physically as well.

Dexter and Harrison appear to be ready to go to war with Kurt but it also appears that Angela has figured out that Dexter murdered that drug dealer a few episodes back.  Will Angela arrest Dexter?  Will Dexter have to fake his death yet again?  Let’s hope not.  There’s only so many times that one character can successfully fake his death before it starts to challenge the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.

That said, I don’t see Dexter sticking around town, regardless of how everything turns out.  I’ve seen some speculation that Dexter will sacrifice his life to save Harrison and then Harrison will be the “new” Dexter.  I don’t think that’s going to happen just because I don’t think Showtime is going to want to abandon the character of Dexter after this miniseries ends two weeks from now.  If nothing else, Dexter: New Blood has proven that there is still a sizable audience that’s interested in Dexter’s adventures.  Ask me to look into the future and I see Dexter and Harrison going on the road together and hunting killers.  It’s the family business.

Am I right?  We’ll find out in another two weeks!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.7 “Skin of Her Teeth” (dir by Sanford Bookslaver)

Occasionally, while watching an episode of the original run of Dexter, I would sometimes wonder, “What if Dexter didn’t kill this latest serial killer?  What if he actually did step back and just let the police do their job?”

Well, the latest episode of Dexter: New Blood answered my question for me.  Even after he had all of the evidence that he needed to believe that Kurt was not only the sniper but that he was also responsible for the decades-old murder of Iris, Dexter still tried to play by the rules.  He extracted a tooth from Iris’s mouth and, seeing that she had bitten her attacker, he gave it to Angela so that she could run a DNA test.  He also told Angela about the murder cabin to which Kurt had previously tried to lure Molly.  For once, Dexter stepped to the side and tried to let the system do its job.

Why did Dexter do this, despite Ghost Deb literally ordering him to kill Kurt?  Dexter’s pursuit of Kurt has been complicated by Kurt’s pursuit of Harrison.  With Harrison obviously growing more and more unstable, Dexter didn’t want to have to keep another secret from his son.  He didn’t want Harrison to make a martyr out of Kurt.  Dexter wanted to make sure that his son would eventually look up to the right serial killer.  Good for Dexter!

Unfortunately, it turns out that the system doesn’t work.  It didn’t work in Miami and apparently, it doesn’t work in upstate New York either.  Yes, Kurt is arrested and he’s taken off to jail.  But, after he concocts a story framing his abusive father and after the DNA on Iris’s tooth turns out to be just a 67% match, Kurt is set free.  However, while he is in jail, he’s visited by Dexter.  The two of them, obviously no longer pretending to be friends, find themselves discussing whether or not titanium can melt.  Earlier in the episode, a slovenly truck driver gave Harrison an envelope for Dexter.  Inside the envelope was a titanium screw, one that Dexter soon learns came from Matt’s body.  In short, Dexter knows that Kurt is a murderer and Kurt knows the same about Dexter.  However, others may soon be finding out as well.  With Kurt out of jail, Molly and Angela talked and realized that there were holes not only in Kurt’s story but Dexter’s as well.

Meanwhile, Harrison finally revealed the truth to Dexter.  As Harrison explained it, he has always had nightmares but now he realizes that the nightmares were actually memories of Rita’s murder.  (John Lithgow makes a cameo appearance as the Trinity Killer and is quite chilling, despite only being onscreen for a minute or two.)  Harrison announced that he was leaving town.  Just as Dexter tried to follow his son, he was attacked by the same trucker who gave Harrison the screw.  And then …. the episode ended!

This was a seriously good episode, probably the best of the season so far.  The episode opened on a properly macabre touch (with Dexter and Angela investigating Iris’s mummified corpse) and it ended on a moment of genuine suspense.  In between, Michael C. Hall and Clancy Brown both did compelling work as two guys who have a secret that only they can truly understand.  The scene were Dexter and Kurt faced off in the jail was wonderfully acted and directed.  As played by Clancy Brown, Kurt is the first Dexter villain to truly feel like a worthy adversary since the Trinity Killer.  Indeed, it seems somewhat appropriate that the same episode that featured a flashback to Kurt’s first kill also featured a flashback to Trinity’s final murder.

So, what can we expect to happen next week?  Dexter getting attacked by that truck driver would seem to suggest that Kurt has more allies that Dexter imagined.  What if Kurt is not working alone?  What if his truck stop is actually some sort of serial killer hang-out?  It’s possible and it would certainly explain why Kurt was so eager to have Harrison working there.  It would seem that Kurt might want to hunt Dexter next.

But here’s the thing — there are three episodes left.  Seeing as how Kurt and Dexter know the truth about each other, you have to wonder what they’re going to be spend the next three hours doing until their final confrontation.  Next week’s episode is called Unfair Game.  Could that be a reference to The Most Dangerous Game, the short story that Kurt seems to be trying to recreate with each of his murders?  The final two episodes are entitled: “Family Business” and “Sins of the Father,” which would seem to indicate that Harrison is going to play a key role in whatever happens.  Personally, I’m still expecting Edward Olsen to be revealed as Kurt’s partner.  Olsen hasn’t been in the last few episodes but he was prominently featured at the start of the season so it just seems like there has to be more to him beyond just being a wealthy land developer.

We’ll see what happens!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.6 “Too Many Tuna Sandwiches” (dir by Marcos Siega)


Listen, a lot of interesting and important things happened on the latest episode of Dexter: New Blood.  Angela broke up with Dexter after revealing that she knew that Dexter was lying about his identity.  Dexter now has all the evidence that he needs to know that Kurt is a serial killer.  Kurt is continuing to bond with Harrison, to the extent that he’s now becoming as much of a father figure to Harrison as Dexter is.  The scene where Dexter and Harrison went to therapy together was classic, cringey Dexter.  Harrison and Audrey’s relationship is getting serious.  Hell, even Molly had something important to do this week.  There were a lot of good and memorable moments to be found in the sixth episode of Dexter: New Blood.

But what we’re always going to remember is Harrison coolly and efficiently snapping that kid’s arm.  Maybe it was the “crack” sound effect or that the show cut away just as the bone snapped but that totally freaked me out.  I’m just hoping the bone didn’t piece the skin.  God, I’m cringing just thinking about it.

Yes, Harrison definitely has some issues.  That’s been clear since the first episode.  With each subsequent episode, Harrison has gotten a little bit more openly violent, a little more openly insolent, and a little angrier.  Harrison is a time bomb and you have to wonder just what exactly Dexter is going to do about this.  Because his son seems like he’s going to snap eventually — ugh, snap.  Snap just like that kid’s arm….

The obvious solution would be for Dexter and son to go into business together, working as a team to take down murderers.  But is it too late for Dexter to do for Harrison what Harry did for him?  Dexter was raised for an early age to hunt down evildoers.  Harrison has developed his “dark passenger” without the benefit of guidance.  The entire town should be worried.

As for the rest of the episode, it was a good one.  It didn’t get bogged down in improbable coincidences like the previous episode and the story is definitely moving forward.  Dexter now knows that Kurt is a serial killer and, as a result of following Molly, he now knows where Kurt takes his victims.  But how long until Kurt figures out just who exactly Dexter is?  It’s going to happen.  Either Harrison is going to tell him or Kurt will figure it out on his own by listening to Molly’s podcast.  It’s obvious already that Kurt is going to do what he can to break up Harrison and Dexter …. in fact, he’s going to break up their uneasy relationship just as surely as Harrison broke that kid’s arm!  OH MY GOD!

Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter get and deserve a lot of praise for their work on Dexter.  Clancy Brown is doing good work as Kurt but that shouldn’t be a surprise, seeing as how he’s Clancy Brown.  But I have to say that the actor who is really taking me by surprise is Jack Alcott.  In previous episodes, Alcott has done a great job maintaining a balance between making Harrison sympathetic and making him petulant.  I mean, Harrison has been through a lot so it makes sense that he would not be the most emotionally stable character on the show and Alcott has done a good job of capturing Harrison’s unpredictable nature.  But last night, Alcott was briefly terrifying.  The look of pure hatred that went across Harrison’s face before he broke his opponent’s arm was genuinely scary.  And, of course, only Dexter and the audience noticed.  I’ll be interested to hear what Ghost Deb thinks about all this.

This was a good episode and I look forward to seeing what happens next week.  Will Harrison face any consequences or will he get away with yet another act of violence?  And how long until Kurt and Dexter have their final confrontation?

We’ll know soon enough!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.5 “Runaway” (dir by Marcos Siega)

There was a lot of coincidences in the latest episode of Dexter.  In fact, I would argue that there were perhaps more coincidences than were necessary.

For instance, I can accept that — having killed his latest victim — Kurt would just happen to drive up on Harrison while the latter was trying to run away from home.  And I can accept that Kurt would possibly see Harrison as being a kindred spirit.  It’s not just that Harrison and Kurt both have homicidal tendencies.  It’s also that they’re both people who feel like they’re on the outside of normalcy looking in.  Harrison probably reminds Kurt of himself as a teenager and, by mentoring Harrison, it’s possible that Kurt can try to fix the mistakes that he made while raising Matt.  Either that or he just wants to make Harrison his new partner in his side hustle, murdering hitchhikers.

I can accept all of that.  I mean, this is Dexter that we’re talking about.  Dexter requires a certain suspension of disbelief in order for the show to work.  If you spend too much time focusing on the chances of two serial killers actually ending up in the same small town in upstate New York, you’re never going to have time to appreciate Dexter’s sense of the macabre.

However, the show also asked me to believe that Angela and Molly would just happen to be in New York at the same time as Angel (David Zayas) and that Angel would just happen to be talking about the murders previously committed by the man that Angela now knows as Jim Lindsay.  I mean, it was good to see Angel again and I’m glad he’s still wearing the hat but his sudden appearance was a bit too convenient.  It was also very convenient that, earlier in the episode, a drugged Harrison told Audrey that his father was using a fake name and that Audrey later told Angela, at the exact moment that Angela was having her first doubts about Jim/Dexter.  The episode ended with Angela printing out an old obituary for Dexter Morgan, one that featured Dexter’s picture.

From the start of Dexter: New Blood, it has been obvious that Angela was going to learn that Jim was actually Dexter.  We all knew it was going to happen but I was hoping that Angela would learn the secret as the result of her own investigations, as opposed to just happening to attend the same random conference as someone from Dexter’s past.  Audrey very easily could have just told Angela what Harrison told her and Angela could have then done some investigating on her own.  Having her randomly stumble across the truth felt like a bit of a disservice to the character.  It felt like the type of groan-worthy plot twist that far too often popped up during the final seasons of the show’s original run.

So, yes, I was a bit disappointed.  A lot of this episode felt like filler.  Dexter returned to his serial killer ways to take out a drug dealer but, in another coincidence, Logan showed up to arrest the dealer before Dexter could actually do his full ceremony.  (Interestingly enough, the same thing happened with Kurt when his latest victim refused to run when he ordered her to.)  So, Dexter had to force the man to overdose on drugs before making a hasty retreat.  That was probably for the best, considering that Dexter still hasn’t found a good place to dump the bodies.

Still, there were a few intriguing moments in this episode.  I’m liking the idea of Harrison having to potentially choose between two serial killing mentors and Clancy Brown continues to give a strong performance as Kurt.  And, regardless of how she discovered the information, I’m looking forward to seeing Angela confront Dexter.

One final note: I still don’t think Kurt is working alone.  I think Olsen is somehow involved.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Molly was somehow involved too.  Seriously, if Molly isn’t secretly a killer then she’s just an extremely annoying character.  On a show like this, it’s always better to be a killer as opposed to just annoying.  Either way, we’ll see what happens!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.4 “H is for Hero” (dir by Sanford Bookstaver)

Boom!  I predicted Harrison would be a budding serial killer so give it up for me!

Well, to be honest, I’m probably not the only person who predicted that.  I haven’t been reading any other reviews of Dexter: New Blood beyond my own but Harrison turning out to have a dark passenger shouldn’t be a shocking development to anyone who watched the original Dexter series.  The way that the Trinity Killer killed Rita was obviously designed to turn Harrison into a killer.  There was even an episode during season 5 in which Dexter investigated whether or not Trinity’s son had taken up his father’s bad habits.  (And let’s not forget that, in the books, Dexter quickly realized that Rita’s children were sociopaths.)  Harrison following in his father’s footsteps was something that was set in motion long ago.  It’s an inevitable development.  The only question really is whether or not Harrison has killed before or if his attempt to kill his high school friend was his first dry run.  And will Dexter forgive his son, partner with his son, destroy his son, or be destroyed by his son?

While I’m patting myself on the back for being correct about Harrison, I should also admit that it appears that I was wrong about the identity of the killer sniper.  I was sure that it was going to be Olsen but the end of this episode seems to suggest that it’s Kurt.  Of course, Kurt could be working with Olsen.  Considering what’s happened in past seasons of Dexter, it wouldn’t be a shock to discover that the Sniper is actually more than one man.  Perhaps Matt was a part of the organization as well.  I mean, he certainly was trigger happy.

It was a good episode.  I’m cringing a little bit at the character of Molly Park, if just because she sometimes seems like a boomer’s version of what a podcaster is like.  (“Those crazy kids, with their cursing and their drunk sex….”)  But, I do think there is some potential to her “alliance” with Angela.  I also felt the fallout of the school stabbing was handled well, particularly Harrison’s new status as the town hero.  In many ways, Harrison is living Dexter’s fantasy.  He’s killing (or nearly killing) and he’s being celebrated for it.  He’s a hero, just like Dexter always wanted to be.

(That said, even I could tell that Harrison obviously stabbed himself.  Have the people in this town never watched an old episode of CSI?)

For me, the best part of the revival remains Ghost Deb.  She really deservers her own show, though plotlines would probably be limited by the fact that she’s just a figment of Dexter’s imagination.  Still, Jennifer Carpenter was one of the key parts of what made the original Dexter such an entertaining series and the way that show’s final season rather cavalierly killed her off is one of the many reasons why so many people hated the original finale.  Though Ghost Deb may not be solving crimes, she’s still calling everyone on their bullshit.  It’s good to have her back, in all of her profane glory.

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.3 “Smoke Signals” (dir by Sanford Bookstaver)

It’s been a busy week, with my sister’s birthday and Thanksgiving, so it was only this morning that I finally got a chance to watch the latest episode of Dexter: New Blood.  

A lot happened in Smoke Signals.  In fact, it was probably the busiest episode of the series so far.  That’s not a complaint, of course.  If anything, this episode felt like a classic episode of the first Dexter series.  In Miami, there was always a lot going on around Dexter while Dexter tried to figure out a way to dispose of his latest victim.  The latest episode would seem to suggest that, chilly weather aside, upstate New York is not that much different from Dexter’s former home.

Here’s a quick rundown of what did happen:

First off, Lily the hitchhiker was killed by the serial killer who we all know is going to turn out to be Olsen.

Harrison is now a student at the local high school.  He stood up to group of bullies, which was cool.  But, by grabbing the bully by throat and basically strangling him while demanding that the bully leave his friends alone, Harrison confirmed my suspicion that he’s got his own Dark Passenger.

Audrey, who is kind of annoying, told Olsen to stop “fucking up the planet.”  Olsen pointed out that Audrey drives an “old gas guzzler.”  It seems kind of obvious to me that, along with being a Count Zaroff-style serial killer, Olsen is also Audrey father.

Angela continued to investigate Matt’s death and Dexter again found himself in the weird position of being the closest confidant to the people investigating a murder that he committed.

Dexter spent most of the episode trying to figure out how to get rid of Matt’s body.  It turned out to be not as easy as he thought it would be.  Eventually, after watching the Seneca people burn the body of the deer that Matt shot, it occurred to Dexter to do the same thing with Matt.

No sooner had Dexter finished stuffing Matt in the incinerator than he ran into Matt’s father, Kurt.  Kurt was totally drunk and swore that he had just had a conversation with Matt and that Matt was still alive!  I’m interested to see what the show does with the character of Kurt.  At first, I thought he’d just be another person who would eventually come too close to revealing the truth about Dexter, like Doakes from the first two seasons.  But the end of the latest episode, with Dexter driving the drunk Kurt home, suggested that their relationship could become a bit more complex.

For myself, the highlight of this episode was Ghost Deb, who spent the entire show popping up at the least opportune times and profanely taunting Dexter over his inability to get rid of Matt’s body.  Ghost Deb had a point.  Dexter is out of practice and his idea that he could somehow turn his urges on-and-off was a foolish one.  Dexter should know better.  Ghost Deb and the wood chipper was a great Dexter moment.

All in all, it was a good episode.  I do wish that Olsen was a bit less obvious in his villainy but Dexter was never exactly known for its nuanced villains.  The Trinity Killer was more the exception than the rule. That said, I’m interested to see where all of this stuff with Harrison leads.  Is Harrison a killer-in-training and, if so, how is Dexter going to deal with that?

Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow!

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.2 “Storm of Fuck” (dir by Marcos Siega)

The second episode of Dexter: New Blood had a title that I’m sure Deb would have appreciated.

Indeed, any Deb-centric episode of the first series of Dexter was always guaranteed to feature a storm of profanity and one of the the things that I always liked about Dexter is that everyone on the show was always as shocked by Deb’s language as the viewer was.  Ghost Deb tends to curse a lot as well.  Of course, Ghost Deb has her reasons.  Not only is she dead but she can’t get her stupid stepbrother to listen to her advice.  Ghost Deb told Dexter not to let Harrison stay in the cabin.  She told Dexter that everyone he gets close to dies.  And yet, over the course of Storm of Fuck, Dexter not only invited Harrison to live with him but he also took Harrison along with him while he covered up the previous episode’s murder of Matt Caldwell.  (Of course, he didn’t tell Harrison what he was actually doing.  Dexter is very good at keeping his secrets.)

A few thoughts on Storm of Fuck:

First off, it’s pretty obvious that the girl in the motel is going to be used as the target in some version of The Most Dangerous Game, right?  And it’s also pretty obvious that Edward Olsen is the one behind it.  It’s in no way a big surprise because Dexter has always been full of evil, rich serial killers.  It also seems fairly obvious that Audrey is eventually going to end up getting hunted by Olsen.

Secondly, I don’t think Matt’s father (played by Clancy Brown) is a serial killer but I do think that he’s going to eventually figure out what Dexter did to his son.  He’ll be the New Blood‘s equivalent of James Doakes, the man who knows the truth but can’t get anyone to listen to him.

Third, Harrison has totally murdered someone, right?  I mean, he may not be a serial killer.  And the events of Storm of Fuck would seem to indicate that he doesn’t have anything to do with any of the recent missing persons cases.  But, obviously, he’s got some secrets.  What did he do back when he was on drugs?  Was he even on drugs or was that just something he said?  Are those drawings of people who he knows or people he killed?  When he read Dexter’s letter about “dark tendencies,” was he upset because he discovered Dexter was alive or was it because he knew that he did have those dark tendencies?  My point is that Harrison is destined to follow in his father’s bloody footsteps eventually.

As for the rest of Storm of Fuck, it was an okay episode.  It didn’t exactly move the story forward by much but it did allow us a chance to get to know all of the new characters.  To me, this episode worked best as an example of the show’s often underrated use of dark humor.  As macabre as the subject matter often is, it’s hard not to laugh at the contrast between Michael C. Hall’s deadpan voice-over and the events happening on screen.  And, in grand Dexter tradition, the entire episode featured Dexter getting one lucky break after another until, during the final few minutes, everything fell apart.  Dexter had nearly gotten everyone away from his cabin when Kurt Caldwell showed up and gave a rousing speech.  On any other show, we would have cheered a community coming together and Kurt’s speech would have been a big hero moment.

On Dexter, though, it’s just a storm of fuck.

Horror Film Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (Samuel Bayer)

“Hey, you guys!  The 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is on TV!”


Indeed, way back in 2010, there a lot of hype accompanying the release of the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  It came out at a time when a lot of classic horror films were being rebooted for no particular reason.  Halloween got a reboot.  Friday the 13th got a reboot.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre has gotten a reboot.  So, it was just kind of expected that Nightmare on Elm Street would get a reboot, bringing the story into the modern age and making the story less problematic and blah bah blah.

And yet, for all the hype that accompanied the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot, it was pretty quickly forgotten.  If I remember correctly, it failed to live up to box office expectations and, as a result, there was never a sequel to this reboot.  Jackie Earle Haley never got a second chance to play Freddy Krueger and, to be honest, that’s probably for the best.  Haley’s a great actor who deserves better than to be typecast as the actor who played the second best version of Freddy Krueger.  No matter how good a performance Haley could have given in any of the hypothetical sequels to the Nightmare reboot, he would have been overshadowed by Robert Englund’s definitive interpretation of the character.

Today, the movie seems to be best remembered as one of the films that Rooney Mara made before she was cast in the title role of David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Mara plays the role of Nancy, the sleep-deprived teenager whose friends are all having nightmares and dying in various grotesque ways.  In Nightmare on Elm Street, Rooney Mara is even more boring than usual but then again, the same can be said of just about everyone else in the movie, with the exception of Jackie Earle Haley and Clancy Brown.  The majority of the actors just go through the motions.  It’s as if they decided that, since they were appearing in a horror movie, they didn’t really have to make any sort of effort to do anything interesting with their characters.  One need only compare the performances of Heather Langenkamp and Rooney Mara to see why the original Nightmare On Elm Street remains a classic while the remake has been forgotten.

Of course, another reason why the reboot has been forgotten is because it’s not really that scary.  The original Nightmare is still scary.  The original can still give you nightmares.  Robert Englund’s performance still holds up.  The death of Tina is still terrifying.  The scene where Nancy looks at the gray streak in her hair and says that she looks like she’s in her 20s is still funny.  Nightmare on Elm Street still holds up.  The reboot, however, falls flat in the scares department.  I think part of the problem is that the dreams are too obvious in the reboot,  In the original, the waking world would segue so effortlessly into the dream world that you were always kept off-balance.  In the remake, the dreams are too easy to spot and they’re too dependent on CGI to be convincing as a actual nightmares.

The remake does do one interesting thing.  There are several scenes in the film that seem to be designed to hint that maybe, in life, Freddy was actually innocent of the crimes for which was accused and that he was just set on fire because he was a convenient scapegoat.  That’s an intriguing idea and it certainly would have brought a whole new dimension to Freddy and his quest for revenge.  Just imagine how much of a mind-screw the film would have been if it had been revealed that Freddy had actually been framed by one of the same adults who later set him on fire.  Unfortunately, after making you think that the movie might actually do something unexpected, the film then reveals that Freddy actually was guilty and the whole story becomes a bit less interesting.  Revealing that Freddy was just a somewhat slow handyman who was wrongly accused would have brought some subversive life to this film but this reboot has no interest in being subversive.

Ignore the remake.  Watch the original.

Thunder Alley (1985, directed by J.S. Cardone)

Richie (Roger Wilson) is an Arizona farm boy who can play the guitar like a riot and who, after he joins a band called Magic, discovers that success is a hideous bitch goddess.

Thunder Alley was a Cannon production and it features all of the usual rock movie clichés.  Though Richie is reluctant to join Magic and leave his family behind, he soon emerges as the most talented member of the band and he starts to overshadow the arrogant lead singer, Skip (Leif Garrett).  Donnie (Scott McGinnis), who is Richie’s best friend in the band, gets hooked on cocaine while Richie struggles to resist groupie temptation and remain loyal to his sweet girlfriend, Beth (Jill Schoelen).  The band depends on their road manager, Weasel (Clancy Bown), to get them on stage in time and to protect them from dishonest club owners.

As predictable as it may be, Thunder Alley is one of the better films to be distributed by Cannon Films in the 80s, which is saying something when you consider that Thunder Alley doesn’t feature Michael Dudikoff, Chuck Norris, or Charles Bronson.  The thing that sets Thunder Alley apart from so many other similar films is that, when you actually see Magic perform and hear their music, you actually believe that the band could be a success.  This isn’t one of those films where everyone is feigning enthusiasm for a band that sounds terrible.  Instead, Magic actually sounds like a band that could have gone all the way in 1985.  The scenes of them going from one cheap motel to another while coming together as a band feel as authentic and real as the scenes of Skip angrily realizing that Richie has replaced him as the face of Magic.

Though he was probably cast because he was one of the stars of Porky’s, Roger Wilson was also an actual musician and he’s credible whenever he’s performing on stage.  The same can be said of former teen pop idol Leif Garrett, who plays an actual rock and roller in Thunder Alley and who is surprisingly convincing in the role.  Sporting an impressive beard, Clancy Brown is the ideal road manager while Jill Schoelen brings a lot of life to her small role as Richie’s loyal girlfriend.

For a film that is all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Thunder Alley has an innocent side.  Even after he becomes a star and he’s got groupies going crazy every time he steps up to a microphone, Richie’s main concern is making sure that he gets home in time to help his father with the harvest.  Thunder Alley not only asks how far you would go to be a star but also suggests that there’s nothing wrong with choosing, instead, to be a loyal boyfriend or a good son.  Thunder Alley brings it own earnest approach to all of the usual rock and roll clichés and suggests that, with the right combination of talent and hard work, you can have it all, the farm and the stage.

Of course, it helps if you’ve got Clancy Brown looking out for you.