Cravenous: Night Visions

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[Loba Apology: I nearly left this movie out of my Cravenous reviews. I honestly don’t know what happened. I guess I got so excited about getting closer to The People Under the Stairs that I lost my focus. Oversight rectified. You’re welcome.]

Sorry for the miniature nature of the poster art for this film, but this was all I could find. With as misogynistic as the imagery is on the artwork, though, I’m kind of okay with this being the largest version I could find. Also, that’s pretty risque for a made-for-television film, eh?

That’s right, after the three-in-a-row lackluster performance of Wes Craven’s theatrical offerings, he decided to head back to television. Maybe he thought he could find his mojo there. Maybe he enjoyed working on those Twilight Zone episodes so much that he wanted to recapture some of that. Or maybe he just wanted a break from being bullied and berated by critics, producers, and fans. He wanted something easy. A palate cleanser, so to speak.

Whatever the reason, we ended up with 1990’s MFTV movie Night Visions. I almost didn’t end up reviewing this film, as it’s unavailable for rent anywhere I looked. However, as luck would have it, someone has posted it to YouTube. Oh the lengths I’m willing to go for a review series.

The bonus we get with this film is that not only did Craven direct and produce it, he also co-wrote it with Thomas Baum. Baum, by the way, was quite prevalent as a screenplay writer back in the day, writing The Manhattan Project, several episodes of Deadly Nightmares (originally called The Hitchhiker), and Nightmare Cafe for Craven. My OMG moment from his credits is that he wrote the screenplay for The Haunting of Sarah Hardy, which is one of my favorite Sela Ward movies and also can be found in its entirety, much to my girlish delight, on YouTube. Prophets bless YouTube.

But I digress. What else is new, right?

The most telling thing about this movie is that you instantly know two things: Who the killer is and what the purpose of the movie is. The former was painfully obvious to me and led me to believe that it was secondary to and in support of the primary purpose: This was meant to be an introduction to a television series. Given that Craven would try again in a couple of years to launch a different series with Nightmare Cafe, I think it’s safe to assume that he really was growing weary of making movies. He wanted to do something different. Maybe just produce for a little while, with the option of writing and/or directing if he chose to.

Unfortunately, this was not going to be the E-ticket that he wanted it to be. There were simply too many questions unanswered and not enough fresh intrigue about either of the main characters for this to incite the interest needed to convey it from MFTV movie to series. Even Craven’s directing was on-point but mostly predictable with this film. It just felt like a paint-by-numbers effort on his part and another indication that this was definitely a point in his career when he was struggling with what he wanted next.

That being said, this was still better than Chiller. I’m telling you, Chiller is going to end up being my least favorite of all his films, denizens. I can feel it.

Seriously, Night Visions was a good enough effort from everyone involved that I didn’t mind watching this film. I wouldn’t seek it out again, but I’m not going to slam people for the attempt. Especially James Remar, who seemed to be giving his all to what was unfortunately a predictable cop character. Loryn Locklin did her best, but her character was the less interesting of the two (which was strange since hers was the more damaged and more complex of the two leads; Craven again was showing his interest both in strong female characters and in the complex dynamics of mental turmoil). Also, it was great seeing Penny Johnson in another Craven film (remember, we haven’t seen her since her stint as Sue in The Hills Have Eyes Part 2) as well as Horace Pinker Mitch Pileggi, working on perfecting his hard-ass law enforcement official in charge of two rogue agents. Gee, wonder when that kind of expertise would ever work in his favor…

Cravenous: The Hills Have Eyes Part 2

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I’m honestly surprised that Wes Craven agreed to tackle a sequel to his 1977 movie The Hills Have Eyes, especially considering how adamantly against an open ending he was for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Then again, even though The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 came out after Nightmare, Craven started working on it before that film released. Perhaps his experience with this film was partially what drove his disinterest in leading another of his films down the franchise route.

There’s not really a whole lot to say about this sequel. True to most 80s horror sequels, it takes the original idea, guts it of value and back-fills it instead with more gore and more gratuitous nudity. That’s pretty much this film in a nutshell. The only original characters to return for this film are Michael Berryman’s Pluto (who gets royally shafted in this film), Robert Houston’s Bobby, and Janus Blythe’s hill girl Ruby, who now goes by Rachel. Oh and Beast, the German shepherd, who is probably the most interesting character from the entire film.

The premise is that Bobby is still severely traumatized by the events of the first film and when he learns that the motocross team he trains and has developed a high-octane fuel for is going to compete in the desert near where those events happened, he freaks and can’t go. So his wife, Rachel/Ruby, takes his place and leads his unknowing team of dirtbiking dudes (and their girlfriends) off into the empty terrain of her former home. Of course, they break down and the remaining cannibal clan find them. You’d think the clan would be led by Pluto (who, by the by, shouldn’t have made it to the sequel since it seemed pretty clear from the first film that Beast killed Pluto, but whatever). Instead, the leader is the Reaper, the brother of Jupiter, the leader from the first movie.

Now, that’s where the plot really falls apart for me. This introduction of the Reaper is painfully convenient, especially considering how important it was to stress how horrible Jupiter was in the first film—so horrible that his own father abandoned him alone in the desert to fend for himself. No mention there of a brother. And yet for the sequel, we get a brother who is supposedly even worse than the first guy? Perhaps they were only supposed to be brothers in name only, but if that was the case, then they needed to stress this a bit more. Otherwise, it just feels like a flimsy plot contrivance.

I would have much rather seen Pluto as the big bad of this film. Craven could have made him a proper badass to better explain how he survived the first film. Instead, he turned Pluto into a bumbling, skittering Falstaff to the Reaper’s terror. And, spoilers ahoy, he bites it well before the end of the film. A shame, really.

The returning character who doesn’t bite it but instead bites others? Beast. Most badass dog on the block, yo. So badass that he has flashbacks. I kid you not, denizens. Beast has a flashback to the events of the original movie, and it might possibly be one of the greatest moments in film history. Dog flashback. Thank you, Wes Craven. Also, thank you for letting the dog survive this time. And kill Pluto. Again.

Spoilers.

Craven does introduce an intriguing plot element by having one of the characters, Tamara Stafford’s Cass, be blind. I liked the utilization her other senses to figure out what was happening around her. Kane Hodder appears in the movie as a stuntman. Guess it was in between Friday the 13th films for him. Peter Frechette’s in it, for you two Profiler fans out there. Oh, and Penny Johnson plays Sue. It’s not until many, many moons later that she lands her job as Kassidy Yates on Deep Space Nine.

Not much else to say about this movie. It’s an okay sequel, but not really necessary. However, I’m glad that Craven took the reins on the sequel rather than let others tamper with his original creation. Wonder what might have happened with the Nightmare franchise had he held on to those reins as well…