July 11, 1943
Poughkeepsie, New York, United States
Director, Screenwriter, Actor, Producer
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Here's a clever genre filmmaker whose talent lies less in creating original material than in recycling old, but good ideas. Holland's screenplay for "Class of 1984" (1982) was a riotous, punked-out updating of "The Blackboard Jungle" (1955) as an action comic-book. "Cloak and Dagger" (1984) was a shrewd, quasi-Spielbergian take on "The Window," the 1949 noir sleeper about an imaginative little boy who cries wolf one time too many. His smart and witty screenplay for "Psycho II" (1983) helped make a particularly dreaded sequel into a pleasant surprise featuring classic characters and sets in new situations. As the writer-director of "Child's Play" (1988), Holland resuscitated the hoary device of an evil murderous doll to construct a surprise hit that inaugurated the three-picture "Chucky" franchise.Holland's first feature as writer-director, "Fright Night" (1985), was a minor classic of the horror genre. This teen-oriented vampire movie deftly combined Hitchcockian themes, Hammer horror trappings, state-of-the-art special effects, a subversive gay subtext and a John Hughes milieu into a seamless and satisfying genre product that was comfortably old-fashioned yet genuinely frightening. Holland elicited much better-than-average performances from his young performers, especially Stephen Geoffreys, and two outstanding turns from his more seasoned players, Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell. (The ostensible romantic leads were William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse.) The result may not have been great art, but it was great fun, and obviously made with love and intelligence. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for his follow-up, an unsuccessful detour into modern cop movie heroics entitled "Fatal Beauty" (1987). This much maligned vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg tried to transform its newly hot star into a distaff Eddie Murphy but was undermined by a poor script and excessive violence. The nervous studio also excised a romance between Goldberg and co-star Sam Elliott. Helmer Holland was merely aboard as a hired gun. Holland retreated to TV for the rest of the 1980s and the first few years of the 90s. He built up his genre resume with writing and directing assignments on HBO's "Tales From the Crypt" and helming a segment of the busted pilot "Two-Fisted Tales" (Fox, 1992). Holland executive produced, wrote and directed "The Owl" (CBS, 1991), an unsold pilot for an action series about a sympathetic vigilante. He also served as executive producer on the syndicated special "Disorder in the Court: 60th Anniversary Tribute to the Stooges" (Fox, 1990). Holland returned briefly to features to helm "The Temp" (1993), a ludicrous and poorly received thriller in which food company manager Timothy Hutton is menaced by his fatally efficient temporary secretary (Lara Flynn Boyle). An occasional actor, Holland returned before the camera for a small role in the popular TV miniseries "Stephen King's 'The Stand'" (ABC, 1994). The experience was presumably positive as he subsequently scripted, directed and acted in another TV miniseries derived from the best-selling author's work: "Stephen King's 'The Langoliers'" (ABC, 1995), a "Twilight Zone"-like tale of a jetliner lost in another dimension. Working once again with strong material (and a screenplay by horror veteran Michael McDowell), Holland resumed his film career helming "Stephen King's 'Thinner'" (1996), a thriller about an unscrupulous overweight attorney's unwanted--and unstoppable--weight loss.