My favorite horror film series is A Nightmare On Elm Street. I’ve long been intrigued, and quite a bit scared, of the burnt faced, dirty sweater wearing, knife gloved Freddy Krueger. I remember being very young, at the home of friends of my family and they put on the original film. The scene in which Tina dies by being cut up and dragged across the walls. Why a very young me was allowed to watch this film I do not know but it SCARRED ME FOR LIFE! I mean it left a long lasting impression.
It was the 80s, a time when slasher and horror films were cranking out sequels and Nightmare was no different. First film in 1984 and the original series was pretty much over by the time I moved to LA in ’91. In that small space of time I was able to catch some creepy episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares and small portions of various movies but for the most part I stayed far away from Krueger as he actually gave me nightmares. It wouldn’t be until the early 90s when I saw a full Freddy film, that being Nightmare on Elm Street 4: the Dream Master. After that film I caught various films on TV and home video and my love/fear grew.
So to celebrate this month I’m going to give a quick word about the various Freddy movies.
A Nightmare On Elm Street-Wes Cravens horror masterpiece that kicked the series into gear even though Craven never intended for the movie to spawn a franchise. A teenage girl named Tina is murdered and while most suspect her boyfriend, Tina’s friend Nancy believes its a boogeyman whose haunting her in her dreams. Her search for answers lead to Freddy Krueger, a child murderer who was killed by mob justice. The original film works so well for a number of reasons. First is Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy who drives the movie. The second is the excellent performances by John Saxon and Academy Award nominee Ronee Blakely as Nancy’s parents. This is one of the better acted films in the series. Craven also keeps Krueger in the shadows, limiting his screen time and the practical effects keep this as the darkest film in the series. Its simple, effective, and cuts deep. Plus every time Tina dies have kid flashbacks to locking myself in a bathroom scared. If you’ve never seen a Freddy film, start with the original. Its the best overall. Its also the screen debut of Johnny Depp. Personal note, it was years before I saw this movie all the way through.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge-Called the gayest horror movie of all time the second Freddy flick is a strange beast. Done without Craven, and without his blessing, producer and then New Line Cinema owner Robert Shaye went straight ahead hoping that the second Freddy film would put the struggling company in the black since the first film was a surprise success. The problems with the second Freddy involved the director and producer not truly grasping the homosexual themes in David Chaskins script. While director Jack Sholder was unaware of the themes his take accidentally embellished it to an extreme. So it comes of as awkward and weird and times especially as its the only Freddy film with a male lead. That and the weird dance scene. In the film Jesse Walsh recently moved into Nancy’s old house and is being haunted by Freddy’s ghost who is trying to take control of him. My original feelings toward this film was-well, this film fails. Its not all that well acted, a lot of scenes don’t work, and a few of Freddy’s appearances are questionable. However after viewing the Elm Street doc I now appreciate this film for what the screenwriter tried to do. That said, you can skip it. Unless you are looking for LGBT horror films.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-Possibly the most popular among hardcore Freddy fans the third movie is co-written by creator Wes Craven (one of four writers including Frank Darabont who would work on LA Confidential and Walking Dead) and featured the return of Nancy. The film also includes a young Patricia Arquette and also co-stars Laurence Fishburne. The film does feel like a progression in the series that focus’ on teens in a psychiatric ward who all fear going to sleep due to a boogie man. Nancy plays a new doctor who connects the teens as all being children from Elm Street. Despite a rocky third act, the film is one of the better acted of the original films and director Chuck Russell brings a grand vision. This one has some of the more memorable set pieces and effects. Freddy walked the line between scary Freddy and funny Freddy. Robert Englund is forever Freddy and this another gem in his famous role. I love this film and its my second fave of the series. So yeah, check this one out and you don’t need any back story for it.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master-One of the top films of 1988 and the one sequel Wes Craven commended, the 4th Freddy movie is mostly a direct sequel to the third film with some characters returning (one role recasted). Freddy’s back, as he always is, to reign hell first by getting revenge and then killing the friends of those who fought back. This film moved deeper into punchline Freddy and had some silly scenes with him but was also peppered throughout with creepy sequences and murders. The bug trap death is one of the more memorable deaths. Messed me up as a kid. Another favorite and I’d say check it out, especially after the third one.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: Dream Child-The fifth in the series is another direct continuation with the survivors still played by the actors from the 4th movie. In this one the lead of Alice is being haunted by Freddy, again. This time though its through her unborn child. Creepy in parts with a true gothic look yet corny dialogue and weak plot. Not exactly a fine Freddy moment. A skipper in the series. Might be my least favorite in the franchise.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare-Set over a decade after the fifth film, Springwood is a city without children. only one teenager is left and he escapes an amnesiac and is put in a Youth Shelter, all a ploy by Freddy looking to escape his domain and spread his nightmares across new cities. I hated this film. Really its not good but the Nightmare doc did give me a better impression of it. More memorable than Dream Child while lacking the gothic texture-Dreddy’s Dead is more cartoon which attempts to explore deeper into Freddy’s past. While the third movie gave some insight into his birth this one gives a look at Freddy as a young kid and also as an adult before he was burnt alive. there are some interesting ideas behind this one but you kind of wish Peter Jackson would have got the go ahead for his (co)penned Nightmare flick titled the Dream Lover.
Wes Cravens New Nightmare-One of the best reviewed films in the series has Wes Craven returning as writer and director. Cravens story takes place in the real world where Nancy is just a character that actress Heather Langankamp is best known for. Her husband works in special effects and the two have a son. Heather finds out a new Nightmare film is being penned by Craven and all the while weird things are starting to happen around her, especially with her son. Featuring Robert Englund, Wes Craven and John Saxon all playing themselves the story is about pure evil that manifests as Freddy Krueger and looks to break into the real world. Its a dark fairy tale of sorts and one of the most ambitious horror films of its time. definitely one of my top 3 of the Nightmare series. The Freddy in this is even creepier and Heather Langankamp proved to still be the best adversary for the boogeyman. Neat little bit-Freddy Krueger is credited as Himself.
Freddy vs. Jason-Not a big fan of Jason but this crossover is over the top fun and as a Freddy fan its easy to see that the writers knew and loved Freddy. Making a call back to the third film and building a conspiracy within Springwood to eliminate Freddy from any history of the city. Freddy brings Jason to Springwood to scare the city to get his name whispered again-which would give him his power. But Jason starts killing all his victims and its time to put him down. Story, characters, acting-all that is a mixed bag but Freddy vs. Jason is pure horror film fun for hardcore fans. It also has a perfect ending. Which is rgeat because this was the last film before both franchises got slick Hollywood reboots.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy-A 4 hour documentary on the history of Freddy Krueger this documentary is for hardcore fans and fans of cinematic history. This film gets into Wes Cravens development of the idea, it moving through various films and even picks up on the TV series and books. Interviews, rare photos and footage give an idea about the various films developments and receptions. The documentary also made me look at the Nightmare 2 and Freddy’s Dead in a new light. If you like Freddy pick this up.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)-Skip it if you like Freddy. If you don’t, you can try it. I found it to be bland, robotic and in such an attempt at getting to the scares and kills they didn’t develop the characters. That was one of the gifts of the original film, it developed the lead and her parents. Its forgettable.
Well, that’s that. Hope you enjoyed my quick bullet reviews. Find yourself a Nightmare today. Should be able to grab the films for cheap.