Released: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988
Overall Grades: C, F, F, F
Starring:Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp
Easily my least favorite of the Big 3 slasher franchises, The Nightmare On Elm Street series is probably that way just because it never ventures in to realism. A killer who can only stalk you in your dreams? Not anything to really be afraid of. It’s still a very enjoyable group of movies!
The first installmentfollows a group of children who have all had nightmares about the same creepy guy (Fred Krueger). They start dying one by one and have to work together to figure out just what is going on.
While the idea is a solid one, I feel like it was enacted very poorly. There are a couple of great scenes that have some strong tension to them, but most of the scenes that are supposed to be funny just fall flat. This movie is a time capsule, clearly stuck right in the middle of the 80s. The music, the big hair, how every element is played big…unfortunately, that fact goes against the scare factor, making a lot of things that are clearly intended for fright come off as comical instead. There are some incredible ideas in the dream world, with Freddy’s control over it, but they’re rarely capitalized on to realize even a portion of their full potential.
The script as well is just incredibly forced and awkward. The back and forth dialogue is static, the acting is poorly done, and the storyline drags on for too long. Upon re-watching the movie, as I’ve only seen it the once before, I find myself even more disappointed than before. They try to make everything super dramatic, and in doing so lessen the sting of the actual scarier moments of the film.
Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revengewas released a year after the first, capitalizing on its predecessor’s success at the box office. Not helmed by Wes Craven at all, it was taken over by David Chaskin for the writing.
It tells the story of a boy who dreams of Krueger and is slowly possessed by him, attempting to get more murders under his belt without having to wait for those pesky kids to fall asleep first.
If you thought the line between dream world and real world was blurred in the first movie, it’s just non-existent in this one. The scenes are so jumbled and confusing that I’m not convinced Chaskin knew exactly what he was writing as he was writing it. There are so many random scenes, either completely unnecessary as a whole or just shotgunning scene after scene so that you have a hard time grasping what’s going on, as there’s little explanation at any time.
And be careful if you’re in this movie; there’s a good chance you’ll burst in to flame. Not just people…birds, plates, any THING in this movie is susceptible to unexplained spontaneous combustion.
The film isn’t held back by a poor script, or cheesy 80s effects, or even a really absurd plot. It didn’t allow any of these things to stop it from being awful, pointless, confusing, and a total waste of time.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriorsis the next chapter, co-written by Wes Craven. In my mind, he was devastated by what Chaskin did to his character, and demanded he have a bit of a say in the next film.
This one follows a group of people at a mental hospital who are all experiencing the Krueger dreams. The girl from the first one has returned as a doctor on dreams, aiding those in the hospital in the fight against Krueger.
It seems they decided to take the idea from the first movie and combine it with Dreamscape, jumping in to other people’s dreams and fighting the common enemy. The plot is more cohesive than in Freddy’s Revenge, but is still a bit flat. It keeps the same large blurry line between dreamworld and reality. Realism and believability (past the expected suspension of disbelief) is shot to hell, seeing both overreactions and no reactions from people in situations that are totally unjustified.
There’s a scene where they group dream, and discuss all the things that they can do in their dreams. It’s an incredible scene for its cheesiness, and is unintentionally hilarious. We see a number of hysterical scenes that were meant for either fear or triumph, that all are so full of 80s awfulness that they’re funny rather than their intended effect. This movie had a hard time keeping my attentions…I’m preparing for my Halloween party tonight and keep thinking of better things I can do. Not doing them, but the fact that I’m thinking of them doesn’t speak well of the movie.
The big final confrontation with Freddy gets absurd. Everybody with their dream skills, and Freddy with his constant one-liners with each kill…it gets painful. The script is so poorly written that the incessant jokes and attempts at comic relief just get in the way of what could have been an entertaining conclusion.
While it’s stronger than the second, it still falls sharply in comparison and is by no means good. It feels so much longer than it needs to be, and is just plain boring.
Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Warriorwas released a year later. It starts off in a dream, where we see three characters from the end of the last movie group dreaming to confirm Freddy’s death.
A number of absurd things happen, and Freddy gets brought back to life in the dream world (by the fire-urine from a dog?), and starts to wreak havoc among the final children of the gang that murdered him all those years ago. With her new friends, Kristen helps the fight against him by passing her power for bringing others in on her dreams along to her friend Alice.
This movie has very weak characters. I feel the writers just jotted down a couple descriptors of the characters and never expanded on them, with the basic idea of the plot they had in mind. The plot itself is a bit trite, having done it to death in the other movies, and never really built on the story they’d created.
The climax of the film makes absolutely no sense, and is just inane. The budget was clearly spent more on the effects for it rather than working up a sensible plot or a base idea that isn’t just re-hashed or full of holes (if he just had to see a reflection, why didn’t he die in the hall of mirrors at the end of 3?).
All-in-all, the franchise is the weakest of the big 3, none of them really cresting into being scary or having a great plot…as is the case with all big franchises, the first one is the strongest, but even this one falls short of entertaining.
Body Count: 4, 10, 6, 6
My Rating: 63, 10, 35, 24