A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.

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Written by: Wes Craven

Directed by: Wes Craven

Starring: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund

A Nightmare on Elm Street launched the popularity of the production company, New Line, and generated a long string of sequels and even a tie in with Jason Vorhees. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an iconic horror film that I’ve seen over 20-30 times throughout my life. To say the least, I’m pretty burned out on this film and usually don’t think about revisiting it due to my familiarity with it. Before this viewing, the last time I had seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, I was introducing my little brother to it and when I imagined watching it from fresh eyes, I realized why the film is such a popular horror film. From one scene to another it just slowly raises intensity with each horrifying sequence. When I put in this film for this Halloween season, I tried my best to imagine myself as if this was the first time viewing this film and separate it from the lore of the later films and see it as a stand alone horror film.

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A group of teenagers have been having strange nightmares that share one thing in common, a deformed man with a striped sweater and a glove fixed up with knives. After one of the teenagers is brutally murdered in their sleep, her boyfriend is framed for the murder and is put in prison. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), along with her boyfriend, Glen (Johnny Depp), wants to get to the bottom of what is really going on and who this fedora wearing murderer (Robert Englund) really is.

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This film is easily one of the most brilliant ideas for a horror film ever created and one of the most haunting executions of an idea. The persona of Fred Krueger, played to perfection by Robert Englund, gives you this intimidating vibe while still giving you this odd sense of charm like a spider, lurking in the dark, just waiting for the right victim. The score of the film will be permanently ingrained into my brain as it is easily one of the most memorable horror scores next to Jaws and Psycho. The minute details added to this movie are part of what make it so special, such as the graying of Nancy’s hair and the many ideas of simple horrific imagery.

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There were a few scenes scattered throughout that the cheesy acting made me cringe. But, you really shouldn’t expect A-list acting from a film that was so low budget and wasn’t made to be a hit film. The scares themselves are very genuinely frightening, and each shot is absolutely revolutionary in the world of horror cinema. The humor given from Robert Englund is one of my favorite aspects of each of the Nightmare films just for how much fun it creates and the creativity and range of ideas that have since come from this original balls to the wall film.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street will always be seen as an American horror classic. The unapologetic nature of the film makes it so daring and such an entertaining piece of film. I doubt anybody reading this has never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, but if you haven’t, definitely go out and pick up a copy and check it out to put you in the right mood for your October season.

Grade: A

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 2 hours 18 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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(based on the 1981 novel by Thomas Harris)

Written by: Ted Tally

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, and Anthony Heald

The Silence of the Lambs is a film that is immensely praised and has been reviewed and critiqued to the smallest of details. Therefore, I can’t personally say anything that hasn’t been said by half of the United States already (unless I was Derrick “Hannibal is better than Silence of the Lambs” Carter). Hannibal Lecter is a pop culture horror icon who is easily recognized by the average person without having even viewed the movie. The real question for me when I sat down to watch this film again is, does it still hold up as it did when I first fell in love with the brilliantly edited storytelling?

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Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is a FBI agent in training who is sent to talk to the meticulous and cunning psychiatric cannibal, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Starling is put on an odd case of a serial killer who takes to skinning his victims, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). As another girl is kidnapped and time is running shorter, Starling realizes that her hope lies in Lecter who seems to have the answers to Buffalo Bill’s identity. But, Hannibal is only willing to tell under one condition, Clarice must open up her darkest secrets with him.

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Silence is probably one of the darkest and most disturbing films that I’ve ever experienced due to it’s ominous simplicity and intense subjects. It’s so brilliant and the scariness behind this film isn’t in the fact that a lot happens, because there really isn’t much going on. But, it’s the fact that it seems so realistic, these characters are so sinister due to their complex personalities and the desire we see in these horrific eyes cast an aura around this film that goes beyond the realm of the visual and eventually retreats back into the most depraved places.

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The acting across the board is absolutely superb. The only person that I really did not like or understand is Clarice’s friend who shows up in the last 30 minutes just to explain shit to her. I found that her purpose was literally to run down one hall, explain stuff blatantly to Clarice, and then root her on at her graduation. There just wasn’t any depth or reason in this cliche, completely undeveloped character. This is my only complaint with this nearly flawless masterpiece.

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The Silence of the Lambs is easily one of the most brilliant horror/psychological thriller films ever made because it doesn’t try to throw gore and scary looking things in your face. It doesn’t try to scare you at all, it uses real situations and without forcing them it makes the sequences absolutely bone-chilling. This is a mental rollercoaster of a film and shows that action and gore isn’t everything. I’m sorry, Derrick, but Hannibal falls way short of the simple brilliance of The Silence of the Lambs.

Grade: A+

I Eat Your Skin (1964)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

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Directed by: Del Tenney

Written by: Del Tenney

Starring: William Joyce, Heather Hewitt, Betty Hyatt Linton, and Dan Stapleton

Jerry Gross slapped this film into a double feature with I Drink Your Blood, just to make some money off an old lackluster rip off of James Bond. This film isn’t worth half of what I Drink Your Blood sets up for it beforehand and is a sad excuse for a horror film. I am not rating this like a normal film either. There just isn’t much to enjoy here at all unless you like being bored out of your mind.

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Bond wannabe, Tom Harris (William Joyce), is paid to investigate Voodoo Island. Why is it called Voodoo Island, you may ask? Well, to your surprise, you will find that the island is full of people from an African tribe practicing voodoo (shocker). Upon arrival, everyone is being attacked by mindless, bug-eyed monsters who look like someone just rubbed dirt and mud all over the actor’s faces. In a cliche tidal wave of twists and turns, Tom Harris must get to the bottom of what is causing these zombies (hint: it may be voodoo, or science…i don’t know, maybe both).

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50% of this movie is people dancing and acting out fake rituals that are very uninteresting. The other 50% is full of tacked on characters, a slow plot that goes exactly like any average episode of Scooby Doo but less entertaining and stretched out into a feature length film. The most entertaining parts are when the zombies are running around and giving everyone the death stare (quite literally).

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There is an actress in this film that is in about half the film who is so god damn annoying, it pushed me almost to turning the damn movie off, to be completely honest. I really don’t know what else to say about this film. Literally it’s dancing and bad acting in the style of Scooby Doo with Bond substances. I would recommend you just leave this double feature with I Drink Your Blood. (sorry for the short review, I thought I wouldn’t waste our time with another paragraph or two)

Grade: D-

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: X for graphic violence

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Directed by: David Durston

Written by: David Durston

Starring: Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, Jadine Wong, and Rhonda Fultz

The film that is notorious for being the first movie to receive an X rating purely on violence, I Drink Your Blood is a great place to start for someone who is interested in diving into grindhouse films. The backstory and idea of the film is honestly much greater than the film is present. But, you don’t put in a grindhouse film and expect it to be well made. If you want a mainstream, interesting horror film, this is nowhere near your ball park. So, I must review this film in a completely different way than a mainstream film.

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A small town is terrorized by a group of satanic worshiping, acid tripping hippies who take over a hotel and destroying anything in sight. After a young boy is harassed and his sister is raped and grandpa is beaten, he decides to take it upon himself to get back at the hippies. The boy shoots and kills a dog who is infected with rabies, then he retrieves the dog’s blood in a syringe. The next day, the boy injects the blood into all of the hippies meat pies, and soon they’re all foaming at the mouth and trying to rip everyone to shreds!

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I am gonna start this off with a warning to all the people who want to see this, there is a good amount of animal cruelty (chicken getting it’s throat cut, dead rats being put over a fire, a dog presumably lying “dead”, and a dead goat being dragged around). The director, David Durston, has been quoted saying “the only animal that was harmed during the making of the film was the chicken at the beginning of the film”. I expected this film to be much more balls to the wall than it was, but I gave it a second spin and some thought and I think I Drink Your Blood is pretty balls to the wall for the decade it was released.

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The story behind the theatrical releasing of I Drink Your Blood is actually very interesting. The producer, Jerry Gross, had sent out all the reels to the theaters across the nation and upon arrival, a huge uproar came forward about it being X rated and the theater’s were rejecting the reels. So, Jerry Gross told every theater that they could have the projectionist cut the film for how they deem it fit for their community. Which means that everyone saw different cuts of the film during the original release of this film and is what gave I Drink Your Blood a lot of it’s publicity.

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Bhaskar, who plays one of the main villains, is great at acting with his body but seems to fall short with his vocal acting. The dubbing in this film isn’t great but adds to the charm of a grindhouse film. The film keeps the pace steadily going and you don’t really ever get lost. Some sequences are laughably silly and the use of funk music in the more intense scenes makes for a few laughs. The biggest complaint that I have for this film is that the synthesizers that play constantly throughout the film get really annoying, especially if you’re watching it while people are trying to sleep.

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The biggest thing about a grindhouse film that I look for is if I had fun or not. There’s really no point in watching a grindhouse film other than to have fun with it. With I Drink Your Blood, I personally had a blast watching it and would recommend anybody wanting to dive into this gritty side of cinema to check this one out. This film isn’t for everybody but it certainly entertained the hell outta me.

Grade: B-

 

House 2: The Second Story (1987)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Written by: Ethan Wiley and Fred Dekker

Directed by: Ethan Wiley

Starring: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano, Lar Park Lincoln, and John Ratzenberger

Well…that was pretty wild. Uh… where to begin? What in the actual fuck am I supposed to say or feel about this travesty that’s surprisingly entertaining. The first House was honestly so disappointing to me that I had a blast with this one. Caterpillar dogs, a mummified great-great grandfather, a zombie cowboy, a baby pterodactyl, and a crystal skull (watch out Indiana) that gives eternal life. What a roller coaster of entertainment that’s really a technical train wreck.

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Jesse (Arye Gross) is digging up his past (quite literally) as he goes back to live in his childhood home where his parents were killed with his wife, Kate (Lar Park Lincoln). When his party animal best friend, Charlie (Jonathan Stark), pays a visit, they begin to uncover a dark past to the house that resides around the possession of a crystal skull. They dig up Jesse’s great-great grandfather who will do “everything” he can to keep the skull in his possession as multiple dimensions open up in the house and everything you can think of is after the skull. Most notably, a zombie cowboy that has some severe beef with the mummified grand-dad.

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I have to say that House 2 is some of the most cheesy fun that I’ve seen in the longest time. A completely dumb, turn your mind off type of movie. There’s many plot holes and very dumb decisions that are made numerous times, such as the skull constantly being left right out in the open. But, the film is interesting in that it is not a real sequel and works well as a stand alone film. The first House is very overrated, in my opinion. There just isn’t enough stuff for me to really get into the movie and really care at all about what is going on. So, when I put this one on, I really had the lowest expectations possible and was surprised that this movie actually lives up to the cheesy fun that I had originally expected from the first film.

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I can easily agree with most that this film is still wholly mediocre and doesn’t live up to the credentials surrounding the film, such as being under the production of Sean S. Cunningham of Friday the 13th fame. Plus, the ending is probably one of the worst endings to a horror movie that I’ve ever witnessed. This movie is really hard to call an actual horror film because it has some horror elements but it feels much more like a kiddie adventure-western film with a mummy and zombie cowboy, with a hint of a haunted house atmosphere. When compared to the other films in the large category of horror comedy, it definitely rests towards the bottom.

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All in all, if I was looking for some good films to get into the Halloween spirit, I would definitely skip this one. But, for some cheesy entertainment, definitely give it a try any of the other 11 months in the year. The first two House films are complete opposites in the way of atmosphere, scares, and overall enjoyment. I personally enjoyed this film much more due to the amount of in-your-face random occurrences that plague the entire film. I wouldn’t rush out to see this, but if you got some extra time and come across a cheap copy of it, definitely give it some mindless time.

Grade: B-

House (1985)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for adult situations, language, and violence

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Written by: Ethan Wiley and Fred Dekker

Directed by: Steve Miner

Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, and Kay Lenz

From Friday the 13th reoccurring director, Steve Miner, comes a fun, dimwitted horror film filled with wonderful make up and creature effects. House does a great job of using great imaginative ideas in a creative way. The delivery of the film is generally very shaky and at times feel more like the pilot to a Tales From The Darkside reboot series (take that or leave it as you will). If it tells you anything about what kind of film this is, the story was written by the director of Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad and also went on to direct many Tales From The Crypt episodes.

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Roger Cobb (William Katt) is a Vietnam vet turned successful horror novelist. After his son goes missing while at his elderly aunt’s house, and soon after the aunt kills herself, Roger decides that it is a good idea to stay in his aunt’s house to write his new novel based on his Vietnam experiences. Weird occurrences go on late at night, and demons both mental and physical can’t be driven away. Roger begins to wonder if there is more going on with the house than he originally expected.

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This is not a great film by any means, it may not be even a good film. But, it is definitely a blast for anybody who enjoys cheesy good stories and great special effects. I do have a big problem understanding what House is really trying to be, though. It’s like the writers were unsure if they wanted it to be serious or goofy, and it makes you uncomfortable when they put all these deep elements that don’t work into the mix. House has great comedic sequences though, and succeeds at showing the life of a well known author.

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Most of this film really feels like a high budget made for television or direct to video flick. The acting is sub-par from every actor and actress and the development really feels like it would work better on prime time than on the big screen. There are some very interesting ideas strewn throughout, but unfortunately the execution of the ideas really fall flat due to the unprofessional take on the story. I can definitely see where the love for this film comes from, though.

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There is some good scare tactics in this film that make up for some of the faults. It’s all really just bad storytelling but still a lot of fun. Roger’s flashbacks to Vietnam could have been executed in a better way by the kids in my freshman video class, honestly. But, even then, you still are having so much fun watching these goofy ass cliche sequences of the tough soldier and the captain that nobody likes, and it tries so hard to make you care about these characters while being made with every lazy story shortcut they could muster up.

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In the end, it’s just exactly what it is, a bunch of crazy effects made to wow you, which work. Plus, a very sloppily written story that fails at half of what it sets out to achieve. Then, a very amateurish cast that pulls me back a little bit further from having an all out fun time. Still worth giving a watch in my opinion if you’re into goofy horror comedies that would probably do better as a 30 minute episode rather than a feature length film.

Grade: C

Carrie (1976)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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(based on the novel by Stephen King)

Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, and Piper Laurie

Carrie White is a pop culture horror icon that came from the mind of the widely acclaimed Stephen King. Growing up as a big King fan, I hold a special place for a large amount of his work and films adapted from his work. I have previously read Carrie before watching this film for this review. With a new look towards this film, It really doesn’t hold up as well as the book does. But, it still does the best it can and has some of the greatest performances and editing in horror film history.

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Carrieta White (Sissy Spacek) is the poor, laughing stock of the school. Raised in a bible thumping household, Carrie knows nothing outside the bounds of what her mother (Piper Laurie) will allow. After a confrontation occurs in the girl’s locker room over the knowledge (or more lack there of) menstrual processes. Out of pity, a young girl asks her boyfriend (William Katt) to ask Carrie to prom. But, what people don’t know is that Carrie has a special power. A power to disrupt her environment without moving a muscle. Will this end in happiness or heartbreak?? Life or death?? Anybody who has seen the theatrical poster probably knows the answer.

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I’ve always had a big problem with Carrie adaptions for the fact that they fail to cast Carrie correctly. Yes, Sissy Spacek is an amazing actress and kills (quite literally) as Carrie. But, Carrie is supposed to be the average chubby, underappreciated girl with zits you can find at any high school in the U.S., not the good looking actresses that always seem to be cast as Carrie. As a Stephen King adaption, Carrie is great as it stays pretty close to the book and has it’s own cinematic spin on the story. However, as a Brian De Palma film, it is definitely nowhere near his best work.

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The chemistry between Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie is dreadfully realistic. I find myself cringing in intensity throughout their entire sequences together. They both were nominated for Best Actress in a lead and supporting role. The film from beginning to end is very slow up until the notorious prom climax. There are a few scenes that keep you going, but more often then not, I found myself having trouble keeping my attention on the film due to it’s average teenage drama build with some extraordinary occurences.

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Carrie is a must watch for horror/De Palma/Stephen King fans, no matter what though. Despite any flaws I found to pick out, this film is easily one of the best horror films adapted from King’s work, under Misery and The Shining. This film is very easy to find, and more likely than not, you’ve already seen this film. I personally don’t have the love for Carrie that I know many other people possess. Carrie has been praised to death, and for relatively good enough reason. A good watch that’s worth buying for your October season.

Grade: A-

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality/nudity and some language.

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Written by: Adrien Joyce and Bob Rafelson

Directed by: Bob Rafelson

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Susan Anspach

Five Easy Pieces is another film from BBS, directed by Bob Rafelson (dir. Head) and starring Jack Nicholson (Easy Rider) now in the lead role as the Nicholson we know and love. On my BBS marathon, I’ve found Five Easy Pieces is easily my favorite film thus far as it is very personal and bitterly realistic. The situations littered throughout the film are incredibly uncomfortable and charming in an unsettling way. Five Easy Pieces shows an avante-garde story displaying the blue collar worker in the most blatant and unapologetic way.

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Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson), a former piano prodigy, is the perfect definition of a narcissist. He moves from place to place and makes ends meet where he can while doing everything in his power to lower the self-esteem of his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black). After a long string of temper tantrums, unfaithfulness, and long nights out, Bobby loses his job and visits his sister at her recording studio. Upon learning of his estranged father’s illness that has pushed him close to death, Bobby takes a trip up the country to make amends with his past with Rayette following close behind.

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This whole film is driven by the brilliant performance of Jack Nicholson as he takes his destructive path across the country. He plays Bobby with a rebellious attitude that is a staple Jack Nicholson role that he plays many times throughout his career. There is a lot of fun to be had here as you see Nicholson go on his unpredictable rampages and even at the subtlest moments spit out insults and degrade anybody who crosses his path. His sincere disrespect for other people is what makes Five Easy Pieces so believable and is one of the main reasons this is my favorite BBS film so far.

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The soundtrack adds an atmosphere to the film that benefits the ideas and general mood of the film as a whole. The two types of music you’ll find in this is female sung country songs (which I usually wouldn’t be too keen of but it definitely works in this case) and classical piano music which both enhance these scenes substantially. Karen Black also does a great job combating Nicholson and plays the unintelligent blonde who will lower her standards just to make her boyfriend satisfied.

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“I move around a lot because things tend to get bad when I stay. And I’m looking… for auspicious beginnings.” Even with the many unlikable traits of the supreme asshole anti-hero, you can’t help yourself but love the charm that is given off by Nicholson. The cinematography from the very first shot to the final shot, that is held on to for an extended period of time, really just put you in the shoes of the protagonist and does an amazing job at making you feel his alienation and the constant need to make a living somewhere. The deep orange sunsets and dull blue ocean as well as many other beautiful vignettes make the film really visually stunning.

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Overall, Five Easy Pieces is a must see film if you wanna see pre-One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Jack Nicholson flaunting his true ability to perform. A staple in rebellious cinema and one of the most interesting films that I’ve ever seen. The complexity of the characters, especially Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea, make you fall in love with every piece of this film in it’s own way. Definitely get your hands on this and give it a watch, if you haven’t!

Grade: A+

Easy Rider (1969)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Written by: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern

Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson

Continuing my BBS marathon is one of the most American films ever made, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider. This film is a perfect definition of America during the huge Woodstock hippie counterculture of the late 1960’s. Packed full of drugs and sex and plenty of rockin’ tunes to put you in the mind of a rebellious teen in an age of misunderstanding. With an amazing performance by Jack Nicholson, an acid trip that dips into very dark territories, and an ending that ends the film with a bang.

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Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt “Captain America” (Peter Fonda) travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans on their bikes to find somewhere they can enjoy themselves. Along the way they meet some warm welcomes and some very cold scolds from traditional Americans. They also come across a Texan lawyer (Jack Nicholson) that has always wanted to travel outside his home state to experience the world who joins along with them after getting them out of jail.

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“What you represent to them is freedom….¬†they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.” Jack Nicholson spouts out this wonderful set of quotes by a campfire while conversing with Dennis Hopper’s character, Billy. Nicholson brings a ton of heart into this film and without his presence, Easy Rider would not be as amazing as it ends up being. One can conjure up much joy from seeing Jack Nicholson’s wide grin and goofy dance when he brings out his old football helmet to go out on the road with some hippies.

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Most of this film is taken up with the protagonist’s riding their bikes out on the road while great 60’s music plays. There is an insane Mardi Gras acid trip in which Peter Fonda gets very personal with a statue that Dennis Hopper supposedly told him to talk to like his mother who had committed suicide while he was very young. There also are some hints towards rape and out of body experiences as the LSD takes hold of these characters we’ve come to love. There are also a couple big climaxes that will make your stomach flip and take every bit of comfort you have and strip you of it.

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Easy Rider is an ingenious fresh vision of American society that was well deserving of the acclaim it attracted and the awards it received from Cannes. The raw depiction of the generation of elderly vs. youth is enough to earn a watch for this incredible film of a very controversial time in American history. Definitely give Easy Rider a watch if you can get your hands on it!

Grade: A

 

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