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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Matt: 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' did for fantasy terror what 'Friday The 13th' did for slasher films-- it totally expanded my interest in the horror genre and showed that there really are no limits to the boundaries of terror! Wes Craven took a simple little story he read about-- people dying in their sleep-- and transformed it into the cult phenomenon it has become today. The film contains many of the great elements of a horror movie, and it put names like Craven and Robert Englund on the map. The supporting cast, with Heather Langenkamp leading the way, delivered on all fronts. This movie also marked the debut for Johnny Depp, and we all know where this got him. The dream sequences were very well done, given the limitations of the technology at the time. I still shake my head in disbelief watching Tina's death scene. The fact that Craven unknowingly put his entire crew (and the film for that matter) in jeopardy while filming the fountain of blood astounds me, and shows just how far Wes was willing to go to make the film he envisioned.
To this day, I can't believe they had so much trouble getting this film made. This film alone is why New Line Cinema exists today. Without it, a lot of other films of its kind would not have been made, and New Line certainly wouldn't be the empire it is today. 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' set the standard for the rest of the series and really came through with creative kills, stylized violence, and a creepy score put forth by Charles Bernstein. It introduced us to a new demon to keep us awake at night, forever changing the horror genre. 10 out of 10.
A.J.: This movie is by far the best in the series. 10 out of 10.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE (1985)
Matt: 'Freddy's Revenge' puzzles me. I understand that with the success of the original, they were chomping at the bit to get a sequel on the screen. However, the panic and rushing around is evident on screen at times, and shows through the poorly constructed plot and so-so performances by the cast. The big problem is that this movie really didn't scare me at all, and was very reminiscent of a bad TV movie of the week that you would see at 2 a.m. The first two-thirds of the film had very little suspense or terror, and by the time Schneider got killed, I was almost asleep (and certainly not having nightmares). I can certainly appreciate what they were trying to do, but one of the main things that "killed" it was not having a female lead as the heroine. That was an essential plot piece of the original, and later became a staple of the 'Elm Street' series.
This film is also praised by the gay community as being one of the first 'gay' horror films, and if you watch it with that frame of mind, it is easy to see why. I said the film was gay all along, but not for that reason. Christopher Young's score is a little too orchestraic and a far departure from the chilling tunes put out by Charles Bernstein. A definite minus. Only Robert Englund gives this film any credibility whatsoever, and if it wasn't for his one-liners and commanding presence on-screen, this movie would be total bargain-bin material. The fact that Wes Craven wanted nothing to do with it says a lot. If you haven't seen this one, don't go out of your way. Save it for a rainy night when you're not tired, because I guarantee most of it is a sleeper. 3 out of 10.
A.J.: The horrible acting in this movie brought down the final rating, but the good plot and good one-liners by Freddy saved this movie from the bargain bin. 5 out of 10.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Matt: One of the stronger Elm Street sequels, 'Dream Warriors' brings back leading heroine Nancy Thompson to help the remaining Elm Street survivors (and the entire franchise, after the dud that was 'Freddy's Revenge'). The script was very well-written, and Wes Craven's influence was all over the final product. The producers and director felt it was time to really dig deep into the dream realm and show that all things are possible. The fact that this film took place at Westin Hills and not really on Elm Street hurts it a little bit, but Westin Hills became one of the centerpieces of the franchise going forward, all the way through 'Freddy Vs. Jason', so it wasn't all bad. The acting in this film was a huge upgrade over Part 2, with names like Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry) cutting their teeth in the industry. The supporting roles of Craig Wasson and John Saxon really helped round out the story and give it a lot more depth. The kill scenes in this film set the stage for the rest of the sequels, and became more about Freddy getting you in your own environment as opposed to him bringing you into his. Very creative and very unique for its time.
The title track 'Dream Warrior' by Dokken helped give the film mainstream credibility through its play on MTV (when it actually still played music videos), and the score of Angelo Badalamenti was well done, and really made you feel like you were there as one of the group, feeling their fears and experiencing their terror. The music of this film allowed for better soundtracks going forward (with the exception of Part 5). Robert Englund again delivered as Freddy, and proved at this point, that the role is forever his, no matter who else may don the striped sweater and fedora. 7.5 out of 10.
A.J.: Dream Warriors brought hope back into the series for me. I really liked the idea of all of them having their own special dream powers. 7 out of 10.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
Matt: 'The Dream Master' is a great film, the best sequel of the entire series. It ranks second to the original, and really raised the bar (which was never again met) for the rest of the series. Lisa Wilcox did a great job taking over the lead heroine role as Alice, and this is one of the more creative films in the franchise. Director Renny Harlin sought out to unleash Freddy on a whole new neighborhood of Elm Street kids, and does so successfully. If nothing else, this film is a transition piece, moving on from the original children of Elm Street and reeling in a whole new cast of youthful teens. I feel this was essential to the series at the time, because after Part 3, the old storylines were beginning to get a little bit stale. This new take on the series really gave it a breath of fresh air, and also gave New Line the platform for at least a few more films.
'The Dream Master' brought forth its own unique style, while still continuing the classic elements of its predecessors, namely, suspense, terror and stylized violence. Craig Safan's score is probably second-best in the franchise as well (aside from Charles Bernstein's classic original score). The guitar-heavy piece he wrote that plays during Alice's final preparation is excellent, and allows the viewer to feel Alice's emotion, and shows that she is making the transition from innocent waitress to ass-kicking hellion. In addition to that, the original soundtrack they put together for this movie was by far the best of the series. Songs like Billy Idol's 'Fatal Charm' and the Divinyls' 'Back To The Wall' added a new dimension to already scary scenes where they were included, and who can forget Dramarama's 'Anything, Anything', when Rick is practicing his karate? To this day, that song is still on my workout list when I hit the gym. As for Robert Englund, what can be said that hasn't been already? Another legendary performance by one of horror's true greats. I just hope he doesn't plan on rapping again anytime soon haha.
The only minor nit-picking I can do about this film is the role of Kristen, which is taken over by Tuesday Knight in this one. I'm sure they made every effort to have Patricia Arquette reprise the role, but in the end, not having that continuity was a minor weakpoint in the movie. Still, every film series has that one sequel that has an inexplicable aura around it that appeals to me more than the rest. For the 'Elm Street' films, this one is definitely it. 9 out of 10.
A.J.: By far the second best in the series. It continues where Part 3 left off, which is exactly what a sequel should do, and I loved the storyline. 8.5 out of 10.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)
Matt: 'The Dream Child' was a big letdown for me. After all the success of Parts 3 and 4, they could have done a lot better with this one. It does continue the storyline of Alice as the lead heroine, but it just became way too far-fetched, even for an 'Elm Street' film. No wonder they had a hard time finding a director to take on the project. On the plus side, it was unique and stylistic, but the idea of Freddy getting into an unborn baby's dreams was just too much. Lisa Wilcox returns and is again great as Alice, but the magic that was in 'The Dream Master' just wasn't there for 'The Dream Child'. The supporting cast was halfway decent, but too many of the original elements that made the previous films a success were absent in this one. The kills, while very well designed and drawn up, were way off the mark. And there weren't enough of them!
The music failed on so many fronts, including Jay Ferguson's forgettable score and the awful early rap songs that never amounted to anything. Robert Englund was again 'the man' as Freddy, but the actor can only portray what is written, and he did the best he could with what he was given. I do like his cameo without the make-up at the asylum. It gave Freddy more depth and allowed us a rare glimpse at Freddy the man, before he became a monster, even if it wasn't acknowledged on-screen. I believe this is the film where Freddy transferred from demonic force to campy cliche, and it really accelerated the franchise's downfall. Definitely not the sequel I thought it would be. 3 out of 10.
A.J.: The only good thing about this movie is it continued from Part 4. The Dream Child thing is just about stupid. 5 out of 10.
FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)
Matt: THIS was supposed to be the end of Freddy Krueger? You've got to be kidding me. Freddy just didn't seem like Freddy in this one, but I guess I should have expected that after what they did to him in 'The Dream Child'. The continuity of this film was terrible. The story idea had potential, but there was no reference to the previous film and now the eternal question remains-- what became of Alice and her son Jacob? Are we supposed to believe that John Does is, in fact, Jacob? Adding that one little piece to the plot would have made MUCH more sense, and linked it to its predecessors really well. They could have really brought the series full circle in what was supposed to be its concluding chapter, but they failed miserably.
I would have loved to have known more about Freddy's early life (which is more elaborate in the 'Freddy's Nightmares' TV series), but I think they were too concerned with their 3-D effects that they forgot to concentrate on that aspect of the plot. Freddy was too much of a comedian and a wimp in this outing, a far cry from the scary monster he was in Wes Craven's original masterpiece. Robert Englund continued to display his acting chops in this one, expanding his role of Freddy to include the early years. He did this well, but there just wasn't enough of it. The producers got it right casting a female lead, but Lisa Zane was just a bit too old for that role. The cast should have included more youthful teens, especially considering the fact that they were at a YOUTH shelter. As construed, they were passable, but not outstanding, including the debut of comedic actor Breckin Meyer. Again, the actors can only portray what is written on the page, but there just wasn't much substance there. The cameos in the film were a nice touch, including Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper, among others, but it didn't have enough of an influence on the final product.
The music is definitely the only high point of this film. Composer Brian May gave the score a more 'finalistic' touch, and treated it the way it should have been-- seriously. The soundtrack was also well put-together, and included the launch of the Goo Goo Dolls with their song 'I'm Awake Now' and a couple others, as well as the classic stoner song 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' by Iron Butterfly. The closing song 'Freddy's Dead' by Iggy Pop is also well-done and a fitting end during the credits, which included tributes that I actually enjoyed. Still, the tributes don't make up for the hour and a half that came before it. When the music is all you can say that's good in a film, it definitely doesn't say much about the movie itself. It's just not scary, and was definitely a horrible way to conclude the original run of the series. 4 out of 10.
A.J.: This is supposed to be the last Nightmare movie? What? This is supposed to end the legendary Freddy Krueger? What? Please, get real. This movie sux, bottom line. 3 out of 10.
WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
Matt: I really didn't know what to expect heading into this one. I knew that no matter what Wes Craven did, it would beat 'Freddy's Dead', so I figured it couldn't be that bad. This film is technically a separation from the other films in the series, although it is packaged with the rest on DVD double-discs and box-sets. New Line knew what they had in Freddy, and in 1993, with the public clamoring for more Freddy after they killed off another beloved horror icon, Jason Voorhees, it was just a matter of time.
This time, New Line did it right, bringing Wes Craven back on board and re-uniting a lot of the cast from the previous films, including Heather Langenkamp, who became the only actor besides Robert Englund to appear in three 'Elm Street' films. If nothing else, this film was a big tribute and thank-you the studio to the people who made it what it is today. The story was truly an innovative idea by Craven. Freddy was more dark and more evil than any movie since the original, and he was scary again. His new look was definitely a plus, and I would have loved to have seen it repeated in future films. Just when I thought I couldn't say anything else great about Robert Englund, he does it again, playing three roles-- himself, himself as Freddy Krueger, and Freddy Krueger, the demon. And he pulls it off nicely, with a touch of Freddy's sinister comedy thrown in. He doesn't go overboard, and that's a huge plus. It definitely did not detract from the final product.
I really didn't care for J. Peter Robinson's musical score for the film, but including R.E.M.'s song 'Losing My Religion' was a nice touch, even though its only Chase who is singing it and not the actual song. The main thing to remember is that, despite its flaws, Wes Craven took the story of Freddy Krueger and turned it into a bedtime story, which explains why it was aimed at all audiences, young and old. The end result was a far departure from previous entries of 'Nightmare On Elm Street', and something much more unique and enjoyable. 6 out of 10.
A.J.: This movie could go either way. You either like it or you don't, and some days it's a really good movie, and some days it's not. It all depends on my mood, so I figured giving it a 5 would be fair. 5 out of 10.
FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
Matt: I will always be bitter about 'Freddy Vs. Jason' for the fact that Kane Hodder got screwed out of the role of Jason. With all that man gave the franchise from Parts 7-X, I could not believe he got passed over, and I am not buying that 'expressive eyes' crap. Ken Kirzinger, his replacement, cannot lace his boots! He portrayed Jason like a big walking dildo, something I say almost every time I view the film (which isn't too often now). Since when is Jason afraid of anything?
Two of the greatest horror icons are finally brought together for the long-awaited face-off from hell, and this is the best they can do? The script was decent, but it did have some holes in it. It it understandable that it was a very difficult task to tie together the two mythos of Freddy and Jason, and this is probably about as good as it was gonna get from New Line. The kills and battle scenes were nicely crafted, and the effects were pretty good on the nightmares. The acting was halfway decent and included horror vets Katharine Isabelle and Brendan Fletcher, among others. This one also marked the last performance of the legendary Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, but the large dark cloud will always hang over this film for me. I truly believe Robert Englund and Kane Hodder would have tore up the screen like never before. Now we will never know. As good as it was, it could have been THAT much better with Kane Hodder as Jason. Hell, 'Kane Hodder as Jason' is a horror institution, and now I'm afraid we will never see that again.
The music was a definite positive with this film. Graeme Revell's score really echoed of an epic battle, which I can totally buy into. I would have preferred a little more of the classic scores of Harry Manfredini (Friday The 13th) and Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare On Elm Street), but overall it was solid. In addition to that, the hardcore soundtrack of this film was the best of any entry in either franchise. Beginning with Ill Nino's 'How Can I Live' and concluding with Type O Negative's underrated 'We Were Electrocute', I can listen to this and not get bored. It is also on my workout list when I hit the gym. To the producers' credit, they used many of the songs on the soundtrack in the actual film, something not done too often these days.
With Kane Hodder as Jason, this movie would have definitely been a 10 out of 10, something I haven't given to a 'Friday' film since Part 6. As it stands, this film is merely half that. 5 out of 10.
A.J.: This is by far the hardest movie I've ever had to critique. I know most fans are disappointed that this movie did not receive a 10, because it was one hell of a film. Just the simple fact that it included both Freddy and Jason, I had rate it tougher than normal. The plot is perfect, the kills are freaking outstanding, and the acting, although it needed a little work, was still good. The only thing that hurt this rating was Ken Kirzinger! If Kane would have played Jason, not only would he have done a totally better job, but he would have never let the writers do Jason such an injustice as making him afraid of water?! And he would have made sure Jason's hockey mask had the infamous "ax mark" in it. Other than a few minor errors, this movie simply kicks ass; an instant classic. 8 out of 10.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)
Matt: Let's see, where do I begin? I went into this film with low expectations, and STILL left the film disappointed. I should have known when Wes Craven was let go from this that disaster would soon follow. First off, let me comment on what I liked. Jackie Earle Haley did an admirable job taking the reigns as Freddy, considering he had large shoes to fill. Rooney Mara did a fine job portraying Nancy, although it was far from the character we all knew and loved in the original, complete with an entirely different story and last name. The other thing that stood out was how aesthetically pleasing the film is. The colors were very vibrant and defined, and the transitions from the real world to the dream world and back again were very well done. Kudos to the production staff for that one, because they clearly did not have the technology to do this even as recent as 2003 during 'Freddy Vs. Jason'. Director Samuel Bayer came from a music video background, and it was clearly evident throughout the film, both positively and negatively.
Now, onto the bad. The Freddy makeup just did not work. I know the producers did research and wanted to make him look more like a burn victim, but aside from the hole in his cheek, it just wasn't scary. They didn't have to duplicate the Englund look, but they could have done a lot better than what they ultimately came out with. The best look he had was during Quentin's dream, when Freddy first emerges burned and runs right at him. THAT would have worked. The one-liners were awful, ill-timed, and ill-placed. The classic Englund lines came off misplaced and illogical when spoken by Haley, and were clearly a bad attempt at a tribute. The best one-liners were the new ones by Haley himself, like the one about petting the dog. Now THOSE were sinister. Next, the story does not work well in the Elm Street universe. There was really no flow to it at all. They changed all of the characters and practically eliminated the parental involvement except for the background info. That was a major mistake. And, while I'm at it, Freddy was NOT a gardener! I cringed when they mentioned that in the film. He was always a creepy janitor, not someone who loved kids even 'one...little...bit'.
Another thing that bugged me was, why didn't they mention Elm Street more? Kris was the only one they confirmed that actually lived on Elm Street when she drove by the sign, but other than that, the central theme of the story is largely omitted. And what was up with the pre-school? I realize they built the story around it, but it wasn't on Elm Street, and not all the kids who went there lived on Elm Street, so why bother? They could have simply put the pre-school on Elm Street and have all the neighborhood kids go there, and it would have made a LOT more sense.
Finally, there's the ending...what the hell was that??? It was a complete rip-off of the ending to 'Freddy Vs. Jason'...complete with Nancy saying, "you're in my world now, bitch", then spilling the carnage. Again, what was meant as a tribute came off VERY badly. 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' is not worthy of its title. Aside from the performances of Haley and Mara, and the creepy musical score of Steve Jablonsky, it is a largely forgettable film. For me, it ranks a distant third behind the recent 'Halloween' and 'Friday The 13th' remakes. They just screwed up too much, even for a re-boot/re-imagining. 2 out of 10.
A.J.: Finally it seems like they got a remake right! A Nightmare on Elm St. is hands down the best remake of a classic horror film to date. This film jump starts the Nightmare series with a new and improved Freddy Krueger. Gone are the days of Freddy dressing up in super hero and nurse outfits with cheesy comedy lines. Freddy is now finally back to being scary and quite frankly, realistic. The one liners are still there (including some of Englund's classics), but in a more of a sinister type tone. Although the "new look" may not please some fans, it makes a lot more sense when you see the actors real face. The film pays great tribute to the whole Nightmare series throughout the film, and the classic creepy music is still there. I have to really grasp at straws to find a negative for this film, but the one thing that stands out the most to be in the Nancy character. I like the new twist on her (similar to Laurie in the Halloween remakes), but the actress just did not deliver in key scenes. That and she just looked really young and weak, but thats just my opinion. Another negative is no sex scenes, but historically in Nightmare on Elm St. there really isn't a lot of sex scenes anyway. This film is a solid 8 (your going to stay up late). 8 out of 10.
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