Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Nightmare on Elm Street- a mass retrospective

            For the 100th review I wanted to talk about a series that is iconic in the horror genre.  Freddy Krueger is easily one of the best villains of the slasher style films for his humor and comic timing that went into each inventive kill.

The development of the story, according to Wes Craven, started when he read a story in the paper about a Hmong man that was not sleeping because he was terrified he was going to die.  His family kept trying all sorts of things but he kept fighting them claiming that if he slept he would die.  Eventually they got him to sleep and sure enough he died.  All I know is that is an awesome way to come up with the concept.

So anyway there are nine movies out there and we got a lot of ground to cover.  Oh well, reviewing them is nothing.  Robert Englund played the Freddy character in EVERY movie with the exception of the remake.  Not even the goober in the Jason mask had that kind of stamina.  So without further ado let’s get this nightmare in gear. 

Oh this guy is bad.  This is his first and last movie.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
            This movie is great. It’s the one that started it all. It’s all based around the question what happens if you die in your dreams?  In this case there is an imaginative God-like serial child murderer in the dream realm to help the kids along.  It is also a story of revenge as Freddy died at the hands of the parent of the teenager’s he now kills.  Even though it seems rather justified since he did supposedly kill over 20 kids. Luckily the teenager Nancy has the genius and the gumption to stop him despite all her friends dropping like flies.

            It also marks the feature film debut of a young Johnny Depp.  And he gets knocked off in a most awesome way, sucked into a bed, liquefied, and blasted onto the ceiling.   All in all it’s very cleverly done for 1984.  It has themes of loss of innocence in suburban American life.   I totally recommend it if you have never seen it.   

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
            Supposedly taking place five years after the first story we have a new family that has moved into the house on Elm Street that Nancy, the protagonist of the last film lived in.  Oddly enough Nancy left her journal in the new teenage boy, Jesse’s, closet and he is slowly discovering that he is having dreams about the Freddy fellow. 

Viagra anyone?
            Except now Freddy is working THROUGH Jesse like a split personality and killing people.  This is an okay concept and might actually work for a bit until he literally rips out of the teenage boy’s skin. There are all sorts of neat effects with it for the time but as a whole it’s probably the most forgettable of the series. 
The writer claims to have made this script with homoerotic overtones though the director knew nothing of this.  I find that a bit odd because a homoerotic subtext is supposed to be obvious and I missed it in a big way on my first viewing and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it is so damn forgettable and you will honestly not care about these people, gay or straight. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
            People generally say this is the best of the series.  Not only did it wisely bring back John Saxon and Heather Langenkamp from the original film but it also has Patricia Arquette in her first roll, Laurence Fishburne, and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett in funny cameos.  It was showed that maybe the series had folks that gave a rat’s ass about the story and wanted it to have some power. 

Turkey time.  Gobble Gobble.
            Patricia is a girl named Kristen who gets sent to an insane asylum after Freddy almost causes her to kill herself.  She meets and befriends all the other colorful characters and soon realizes that Freddy Krueger is tormenting the asylum.  Nancy’s character returns this time as a psychiatrist trying to help these kids fight off the dream demon.

            Along the way Freddy displays some awesome powers and really amazing kills.  Such as using a kid’s veins and arteries to turn him into a marionette and cause him to leap to his death.  However Kristen has a power of her own.  She can bring other people into her dreams.  This sort of makes things interesting since it allows the kids to attempt to gang up on Freddy in their idealized dream selves. 

            It’s in this movie that it’s revealed that Freddy is the son of 100 murderers supposedly.  Apparently years ago a nun names Amanda Krueger was watching over some of the dangerous criminals. The guards just decided to leave for the weekend and locked her in.  So I guess they don’t’ feed the insane in this story. If you’re crazy it’s your ass.  They all rape the shit out of her until she is almost dead and thus Freddy is born.  It’s definitely a sequel worth seeing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master
When they had a good thing going with good characters that happen to survive the producers pull a bland sequel with a complete recast.  Kristen is back with a few survivors and she even has a few other friends.  Not that it really matters the characters from the third movie get killed by the newly resurrected Freddy and Kristen gets killed mid-movie and passes her power of bringing people into her dreams to a friend of hers named Alice.

Wish you were here.
            Alice is a nice, shy character who has to now face Freddy which sucks for her.  Luckily she is somehow able to absorb abilities from her loved ones in order to face Freddy.  It’s a tad odd because in the battle there is a big reveal that Freddy collects the souls of the kids he kills.  It’s very creepy and stuff but honestly I liked it more when it comes off more as being a modern boogie man.  Not some sort of soul stealing demon.  It’s also a bit of a forgettable sequel.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
            In this movie Alice is back but now she has her own friends and a boyfriend named Dan.  At this point the formula is about the same standard.  A group of teens are hanging around and Freddy kills then in their dreams in creative ways.  In this movie we expand the story of Amanda Krueger’s rape.  Freddy also kills Dan but not before he knocks up Alice.  Real nice movie. 

The Swedish Chef really let himself go.
            Alice’s power that she got from Kristen is passing to her baby.  This is causing issues since Freddy is using her unborn kid to kill her friends.  With the help of the soul of Amanda they find a way to stop these shenanigans.  All you really need to know is everything revolves around the unborn kid.  It’s a bit convoluted and it was the lowest grossing of the Nightmare movies.  Once again we have a sequel that I don’t care much about.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
            With a supporting cast of Breckin Meyer, and Yaphet Kotto this movie wanted to put an end to the Freddy character.  This movie even brought back Johnny Depp in a brief cameo.  All in all this movie is much more like the first movie.  Freddy has to be killed by dragging him into the real world. 

3D?  Oh this will never catch on.
            The big draw for the movie was that when going into the dream world it goes into 3-D. The effect is very weak but I’m sure it would have been funny back before 3-D was overused for damn near every movie.  I guess even Peter Jackson tried to get a version of a script in but it never got made.   It’s just as forgettable as the other sequels thus far.   

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
            Wes Craven is back and it shows.  This movie was really great.  It’s got most of the original cast from the first movie playing themselves.  The concept is that they are making a movie about Freddy and because of it the legend becomes reality.  It’s a really cool concept and the effects have gotten a great overhaul.
 Nothing beats kids. Juicy to a fault. Chomp!

            There is a big theme connection with Hansel and Gretel’s story.  Freddy reveals himself to be a type of demon in the end.  It’s all a very well done movie and makes a great conclusion to the series. However, in the last Friday the 13th movie “Jason Goes to Hell” There were two hints of characters that would face Jason next.  Before Jason is dragged to hell there is a necronomicon from “Evil Dead” and as Jason is dragged into hell his mask is grabbed down by Freddy’s glove.

Freddy vs. Jason

This comic was the!
            A movie that fanboys and the fangoria crowd were clamoring to see.  There was a lot wrong with this movie. The dialogue was a joke and the acting was awful.  They basically made it so that folks could watch teens get chopped up in that “ooh that’s gotta hurt” factor.  Strangely enough they decided to make Jason Voorhees an antihero of sorts.  I don’t see it.  Sure he is a big dumb zombie but it’s never stopped him from killing indiscriminately.  Does anyone really win?  You’d have to see it to really judge.

            They also made a sequel to this movie in comic book form which pitted Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash from “Army of Darkness”.  It’s a good follow up.  Really it makes up for the pretty lackluster end that you get with the film.  It’s not as bad a versus movie as “Alien vs. Predator” but still kicks both franchises in the balls which might be a reason they decided to go ahead and remake the originals rather than make a sequel. Sort of a sad note to end on.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
            Well the remake is not too bad.  Jackie Earle Haley is the new Freddy and he is wildly different.  Mostly because he lacks the humor that Robert gave the roll.  Jackie is still a great actor and it’s played well.  But you don’t really care about the teen characters. 

That's never gonna heal if you don't stop picking.
            That is a big flaw.  For whatever reason they decided to only focus on the killer as a character but the teens get no real depth.  It’s a movie that really makes a person miss the old 1984 version. Hopefully they won’t go nuts and make a shitload of sequels based on the new version of Freddy.

            In conclusion there the series is rather decent but as a whole the ones that are really worth watching are the first the third and new nightmare.  The first film, because it gives you all the great scares and clever tension in one great movie.  The third because it raises the bar a tad with new effects and funny jokes tossed in to make it a worthwhile add-on to the series. Finally “New Nightmare” because it takes the same old concept and gives it a great new look.  All of which have many of the same actors.  So pull on a red and green sweater and check out some of the greatest horror series of our time.

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