Franchise Fun: A Nightmare On Elm Street

Over the next couple of days I am going to be making my way through the entire A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise (including Freddy vs. Jason) and giving my thoughts on each film. I’ve done this for other franchises. You can find my Halloween marathon here and Friday the 13th here.

I’m working under the assumption that you have seen these films before and spoilers will be included. I won’t recap everything or give everything away but nothing will be off limits in the discussion. Seriously, if you haven’t seen these movies, stop reading and get to watching.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!

Just in case I didn’t make it clear.

Let’s get started.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) – SUNDAY – 3:54PM

The original is mostly considered a masterpiece in the genre. Wes Craven gave us all something that we hadn’t seen yet. He took the slasher genre and threw a bit of magic into the mix. Plus, you can see the killer’s face and he talks.

Freddy is scary in this film (he’s also called Fred Krueger which takes some getting used to). The kills are incredible and the acting is better than I remembered. Everything about the original film holds up.

I did notice that Glen (played by Johnny Depp) is possibly the most useless character ever to appear in a horror film. Not once, but twice, his girlfriend asks him to stay awake and watch over her and he falls asleep not once,but twice. Completely useless.

I don’t know what else to say about this film that hasn’t already been said. It’s a classic and it holds up as one.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) – SUNDAY – 5:27PM

Every horror franchise has it’s entry that goes a little (sometimes a lot) off of the beaten path. Halloween III & Jason Goes To Hell seem to be the outliers for those respective franchises. It seems like Freddy’s Revenge could be that film for the Nightmare movies. Much like the others it has been universally hated until fairly recently. Halloween III is now acknowledged as a really good film and Jason Goes To Hell seems to be picking up new fans all the time. I’ve seen people mounting a defense for Freddy’s Revenge now too. These people should not be trusted and should probably just be avoided because this movie is garbage.

I give it points for trying to do something different than the original. Freddy doesn’t attack people in their dreams in this movie. Instead he possesses our main character Jesse and uses him to kill people in the real world (at least I think that’s what is happening). The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I know that there are dogs that seem to have the faces of human babies at some point.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987) – SUNDAY – 6:52PM

Here’s the movie that lead to this little exercise. A lot of people claim that this is the best movie in the franchise. I have long claimed that most of those people are blinded by nostalgia and that the movie isn’t that good. After watching it, I would say that I was more wrong than they were but they aren’t entirely correct either.

Dream Warriors is a good movie and it does hold up. The cast is great, the story is interesting and the characters are likable (for the most part). Plus it has that bitchin’ song by Dokken which can’t be denied. It is not the best in the franchise, however. And I do think that nostalgia allows some of these people to overlook the flaws in the movie.

This is the film where Freddy starts to turn the corner from monster to pop culture icon. He becomes part killer and part stand-up comedian. It hasn’t gotten as bad as it’s going to get but the seeds are planted. Everyone loves the television kill but the iconic line “Welcome to prime-time, bitch.” is the exact kind of one-liner that will nearly kill this character soon. It’s preceded by a worse line by the way when Freddy tells the young girl to get ready for her “big break in TV”. That’s cringe worthy stuff to me. That’s not the only scene either, after using tongues to strap Joey to a bed Freddy quips “What’s wrong Joey? Tongue tied?” No thank you to this open mic version of Freddy.

One last thing that doesn’t make sense in this film is the disregard for the rules. It does a great job for most of the film but at the end for some unexplained reason Freddy is able to manipulate the real world in the junkyard. Which in itself doesn’t make sense. They want to hide Freddy’s bones some place that they will never be discovered so they pick the trunk of a car in a junkyard? Buried somewhere, nearly anywhere, be safer than that. But Freddy is able to leave the dream world and make the lights flash on the cars in the junkyard and then reanimate his bones to fight the people trying to bury him. It doesn’t work within the rules that have been established throughout the film which are: If you don’t go to sleep, Freddy can’t get you.

Complaints aside, Dream Warriors is still a lot of fun and certainly better than I remembered. I’ll give this one to the masses and say that it is a good, maybe even very good, movie but it’s not better than Craven’s original.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) – SUNDAY – 9:38PM

I didn’t hate this one as much as I remembered. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a bad movie it’s just not as bad as I thought it was.

Plenty of stupid things happen in The Dream Master. Freddy is brought back to life after a dog pees fire on him, we get more terrible Freddy one-liners, that dumb karate fight scene and Freddy is defeated by seeing himself in a mirror. Plenty of really dumb stuff.

There are a couple of interesting things that I had forgotten about though. The idea to bring the remaining Dream Warriors back to start this one was a really smart idea. Having to recast the role of Kristen threw me off because she doesn’t feel like the same character. This was out of the hands of the production though. A number of stories have been floated as to why Patricia Arquette didn’t return for this movie. She wanted more money, she was pregnant, she was already committed to making something else…the list goes on and on. Whatever the reason, the film suffers for it. Tuesday Knight isn’t bad in the role but it just doesn’t feel right, especially because the other two actors came back.

The other major plus for this movie is the use of the time loop. Freddy delays Alice and Dan by putting them into a loop so they keep going through the same scene over and over. I thought my blu-ray was messed up at first. It works perfectly for the story and feels like something that would happen in a dream.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989) – SUNDAY – 11:34PM

This movie is terrible. Really terrible. Almost unwatchable. I like to go through franchises and watch them because sometimes I discover that I have been wrong about a movie. Usually I find out that one of the films is better than I remembered, on occasion I find one that is worse than I remembered. This one is 1,000 times worse than I remembered it being.

They try to tackle some heavy subjects in The Dream Child and they deserve some credit for that. Unfortunately no one in this cast is up to the task. Every scene that addresses the teen pregnancy or abortion or giving your child up falls flat because the actors don’t have the weight to pull it off.

As for the story, I lost the thread really early in this one. By the halfway mark, I had no idea what was happening. It seemed like just a bunch of nonsense that was trying to pass itself off as something with actual meaning. The movie tries to show us more of Freddy’s backstory, which is a good idea but the execution is poor. One of the scenes literally features Robert Englund, out of make-up, looking directly into the camera. Alice ends up pregnant, there is a creepy kid who needs a bath and Super Freddy (who could easily be renamed Stupid Freddy). The whole thing is a mess.

Freddy lands in a weird middle ground of being scary and being funny, which doesn’t work. This is another example of the franchise wanting it both ways. Freddy needs to be funny to sell backpacks and Trapper Keepers but they also want to put him in a grim, dark film. This is the most off balance the scale has been so far.

I was wrong about Freddy’s Revenge. Time to celebrate Jesse, Lisa and Grady! Freddy’s Revenge is no longer the worst A Nightmare On Elm Street film. I never thought I would say that.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991) – MONDAY – 7:13PM

This movie might be the outlier of the franchise. I thought it was Freddy’s Revenge but Freddy’s Dead isn’t even a horror movie. This is just a straight up, stupid comedy. It’s like a live action Looney Tunes movie.

When I started this film I realized that the one and only time I had seen it was opening night in 1991. After watching it, I know why I waited so long. It’s a mostly unfunny comedy with a ton of dated references and cameos (including Roseanne Barr & Tom Arnold). The only function of the ending is to serve the 3D gimmick of the last act.

It’s not as bad as The Dream Child because at least it makes sense and it is slightly more enjoyable than Freddy’s Revenge but not by much. There really isn’t anything to recommend watching this movie except for the fact that you have already watched five others in the series, so you might as well finish it out. I know there are more movies to come but in a way this really does wrap up the Freddy Krueger story as we have come to know it. The remaining films refer to the mythology of Freddy but they are really something different.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
4. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994) – MONDAY – 9:31PM

I have long heralded New Nightmare as the best film in the franchise and after re-watching it, I am proud to report that I have been correct all along. This is far and away the best in the bunch (yes, it’s better than the original), Wes Craven created something that we had never seen before when he introduced Freddy to the world in 1984. The series of films had it’s up and downs after that but when Craven was ready to return to the character, he brought us something that we had never seen…again.

New Nightmare is the most creative film in the franchise, by far. I’m not talking about the kills or the effects. With this movie Wes Craven wasn’t trying to push the boundaries of the censors, he was pushing the boundaries of storytelling and he does so brilliantly. The joker like version of Freddy that had become common place in the film franchise is taken out of the equation and replaced with a Freddy that is more evil than we have ever seen him. The characters in the film or based on the real life actors that play them. There are multiple layers to this story and I don’t think anyone but a master like Wes Craven could have told it.

Do I wish there were a few more kills? Yes. Do they try a little too hard to make the kid creepy? Yes. Do some of the effects look dated? Yes, especially on blu-ray. Does any of it matter? No, because this film is effective despite all of that. It seems like the people at New Line were determined to destroy this franchise, and Freddy with it, to get every last dime they could. New Nightmare restored Freddy Krueger’s status as one of horror cinema’s most frightening characters and Wes Craven once again turned the genre on it’s head.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare (1994)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
5. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
7. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

FREDDY VS. JASON (2003) SATURDAY – 11:44PM

I have always thought of this as more of a Friday the 13th movie than a part of the Nightmare franchise. Partly because Jason gets almost all of the kills, Freddy only ends up with one in the entire film. And partly because I love the Friday franchise and usually watch all of the films at least once a year with this one included. Watching it along with the Nightmare series this time I noticed that it actually does feel quite a bit like a Nightmare film. Freddy is the one pulling the strings the entire time, even if things don’t seem to be going the way he wants. We also spend quite a bit of time in the dream world and there are some pretty cool dream sequences.

Overall the movie is good. We get to see Freddy do his thing and then Jason do his thing and there are laughs and violence and blood along the way. The showdown at the end is over the top and fun. I like that they left it open to interpretation at the end so fans can argue about who won the battle.

Nothing is added to either franchise by this film but I don’t think that it takes anything away from either of them. It’s not the best in either series but it is far from the worst thing that we have seen these characters in.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare (1994)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
5. Freddy vs. Jason
6. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
7. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
8. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) – SUNDAY – 12:15PM

This movie isn’t bad. It’s not good either. They do some interesting things, just not quite enough. It’s biggest fault is that it is clearly a cash grab. There is not enough new here to justify remaking a classic.

The biggest flaw is Freddy himself. Freddy is the one slasher that doesn’t have his face hidden by a mask and stalk people silently. You have to be careful when recasting this role. Jackie Earl Haley is great and he does great things with the character but he’s just not Freddy Krueger.

I do like the inclusion of the micro naps. It makes it much more challenging to escape Freddy. Eventually, even if you don’t fall asleep, he’s going to be able to get to you and if you run out of time you could end up in a coma which is a constant sleep and the worse thing that could happen to you.

FRANCHISE RANKING:
1. Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare (1994)
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: Dream Master
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
6. Freddy vs. Jason
7. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
8. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
9. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

It took longer than I thought to get through all of these movies but it wasn’t because I wasn’t having fun with them, life just kept interrupting. Overall, there are three really good movies here, three movies that are okay and three that are barely watchable.


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