Monday, November 15, 2021

Behind the Monsters: Jason, Freddy & Pinhead

If you want a deep dive into the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Hellraiser franchises, you can watch the six-and-a-half-hour Camp Crystal Lake Memories, the four-hour Never Sleep Again, and the nearly eight-hour Leviathan. On the other hand, you could just watch the next three forty-some-minute episodes of Behind the Monsters, which start airing this Wednesday on Shudder.

Who doesn’t love Freddy Krueger, even though he was a child-molesting serial killer that became a demonic dream-monster? It is because of the great Robert Englund, who fortunately is heard from extensively during Freddy’s episode. He just had the right sinister charisma for Krueger’s James Bond-like “get the point” “stick around” quips. Sadly, his creator Wes Craven is no longer with us, but his son discusses his father’s visions at length.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare gets the credit it deserves for launching meta-horror—and it still holds up. However, it overlooks his significant appearances on his own hosted-anthology TV series, Freddy’s Nightmares. Still, Englund and popular franchise veterans like Heather Langenkamp and Lin Shaye keep this episode lively.

Weirdly, we’re more fans of Kane Hodder for his other work than for playing Jason Voorhees, but it is definitely good to see him in the Jason episode. It is also a nice reminder how much the series evolved over the first three films. Director Tom McLoughlin offers plenty of commentary on the installment he directed, but
Part IV: Jason Lives, but he never mentions the episodes of the unrelated (but highly underrated) Friday the 13th: the Series, probably because it would have been confusing. Strangely, it is also nostalgic to see clips from Alice Cooper’s “Man Behind the Mask” video.

It is not much of a surprise Clive Barker only appears in archival video during the Pinhead episode, but Doug Bradley talks at length about the signature
Hellraiser character he played. He also shows he has a good sense of humor in the outtake they play over the credits. There is no doubt he is the definitive Pinhead. The series definitely has declining returns, but fans can usually find something good to say about the installments he appears in. Naturally, all the talking heads are really into the franchise’s BDSM imagery, but there is also a lot of good behind-the-scenes stuff from the makeup and costume designer.

If you don’t have nineteen hours to kill, these three episodes offer an entertaining overview of these perennially popular characters. Revisiting their unheralded debuts really shows how far the genre has come in terms of critical acceptance. You can always find things they overlook (indeed, that’s my job), but certainly brisk and diverting streaming experiences. Recommended for horror fans, the Freddy, Jason, and Pinhead episodes of
Behind the Monsters premiere on the next three Wednesdays on Shudder.