Ten years ago, I bought a DVD boxset with all of the Nightmare on Elm Street films with the intention of sitting down and watching them all in order. Growing up, I’d seen bits and pieces of each film, and I’d seen the original, Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare from beginning to end, but I wasn’t sure I’d seen the rest. So, over a few months, I watched them all just so I could confirm that I’d seen each film.
I haven’t had much of an interest in rewatching any of the films until sometime last year. I got this itch to go back into the bonkers world of Freddy Krueger and experience the interesting soundtracks each film offered. I don’t see it talked about enough outside of Dream Warriors, but the NOES soundtracks had some killer 80’s tracks. I’m particularly a fan of Anything, Anything by Dramarama from NOES 4: Dream Master.
A Nightmare on Elm Street – The original. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? It’s dark and takes the character of Freddy Krueger quite seriously. A young Johnny Depp shows up, but Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) is one of the greatest final girls for a reason. She’s a bit naive, and definitely not ready for something like Freddy to enter her life, but she’s able to dig down deep and find something to fight against him, as her friends fall one-by-one.
There are so many iconic scenes in this film including the hand in the bathtub, Tina’s death as she’s dragged across the ceiling, the famous Freddy face pushing through the walls, the staircase… the list goes on and on. There is a reason it’s a classic and one of Wes Craven’s best pictures.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge – Known nowadays as the gay Nightmare on Elm Street. I won’t rehash the stories regarding the production and Mark Patton, as there is already a great documentary on the subject Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.
I always remember being disappointed in this film, but with the most recent rewatch, I found it quite enjoyable. I thought Mark was a great final guy/queen, and Freddy hadn’t gone full comedy yet. Kim Myers (Lisa) was great as a co-star and there is a great scene at a pool party. I enjoyed the dynamic between Jesse and his father, and the groundedness of this film really stands out when reflecting on the series.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – If the original isn’t someone’s favorite, then odds are its Dream Warriors. In Dream Warriors, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) returns, but in a minor role, while Kristen (Patricia Arquette) steps up and leads the cast that includes a young Lawrence Fishburne in a minor role.
Of course, the amazing Dokken song and music video is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.
Dream Warriors is fun and that is why it’s so beloved. It’s a very easy watch and arguably the most rewatchable film in the series.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master – Patricia Arquette decided not to return, so pop singer Tuesday Night takes over the role of Kristen. Considering the shoes she needed to fill, she did an admirable job, but ultimately this movie was the passing of the baton to Alice (Lisa Wilcox) as the new face of the franchise.
Similar to Dream Warriors, The Dream Master is fun, albeit a bit stupid at times. Director Renny Harlin came in and wanted to make an enjoyable film in this playground and he did so admirably. So much so, that after watching the series, The Dream Master was for sure my favorite film.
It serves as a direct sequel to Dream Warriors, although the surviving cast doesn’t make it through this film, but once again, the teenagers trying to escape Freddy are well rounded and memorable.
Alice is portrayed as weak, quiet, and frail, and it’s not until she reaches down and takes the power of her lost friends that she is able to battle Freddy. It’s a pretty interesting arc in a series that doesn’t spend too much time developing characters into something they aren’t when we first meet them on screen.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child – And now… it starts going downhill fast. The Dream Child was released in 1989 and the prime horror days were over by this point. The film is darker both cinematically and tonally, although Freddy continues to spew puns.
We continue Alice’s story as well as Amanda Krueger’s, Freddy’s mother. The plot revolves around Freddy using Alice’s unborn child’s dreams to manipulate her, and while the film is a worth a watch thanks to Lisa Wilcox and Robert Englund’s performance, you can tell the script wasn’t given near enough time and the new tone just doesn’t work.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Final Nightmare – This is a tough watch. Lisa Zane, Billy Zane’s sister, stars as Maggie and a young Breckin Meyer shows up along with a slew of out of place cameos by the likes of Alice Cooper, Roseanne, Tom Arnold, and Johnny Depp. Released in late 1991, the 80’s horror boom was over, but the film still managed to pull in $12.9 million dollars the opening weekend and was profitable for New Line.
Sadly, the story is just terrible. Set “ten years from now” Freddy has killed all the teenager in a small Ohio town and now he needs to essentially enter the multi-verse to find more teenagers to kill.
The entire film feels like a low effort production, and it’s definitely the final time I ever watch this film. It’s just a slog to try and get through as Freddy’s corniness is cranked up to eleven, and there’s a video game scene… and I can’t even talk about it.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – I was born in the early 80’s, so this was my Freddy. Released in 1994, it hit video stores just as my horror fandom was peaking and I made a copy of the VHS and I watched this film dozens of times as a teenager. I’d never seen the original and had no idea Freddy was less intense than the violent, dark, and hungry Freddy we see in New Nightmare.
Kudos to the smart script by Wes Craven and taking things meta. I loved the idea of filming a new Freddy film and Freddy entering our world. Heather Langenkamp returns as herself, along with a slew of cameos from folks like Robert Englund, Bob Shaye, Wes Craven, and John Saxon.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve watched the film so many times or if it hasn’t aged as well, but I even remember my rewatch ten years ago felt a bit like a chore. This most recent rewatch confirmed it. The movie isn’t bad, but it needs editing, and it runs far too long. Similar to The Final Nightmare, I believe this will be my final time watching New Nightmare.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – The much-hated remake… I’ve only seen it once and I didn’t hate it myself. After this rewatch, I still don’t hate it. It’s a different beast than the rest of the films, and it is more grounded, lacks all humor, and is quite disturbing. Folks forget in 2010, most of the horror movies released in theaters were of the torture porn sub-genre. So, the filmmakers wrote a film that would cater to the more serious and darker horror movie goer audience
I’m not really sure we would have needed a sequel to this film, so I’m okay with it not coming to pass, but when you look at the series as a whole, the film is far from the worst. Arguably, in my opinion, it’s in the top half or possibly even the top third.
I’m saving Freddy vs Jason for my Friday the 13th rewatch, so I’ll discuss that later.
I didn’t comment nearly enough about Robert Englund in my little recaps above. The man is just so solid, you almost take him for granted. Whether he’s being serious and terrifying like in the original or New Nightmare or when he’s popping pizza toppings made of teenagers, his commitment to the role and his genuine delivery is what makes Freddy one of the most iconic villains of all-time. He’s funny and he’s not. He’s corny, and he’s not. That’s a lot of range for over a series of films, helmed by different directors, and having different tones. While the lines may have stunk and the scripts may have lagged, never once did Robert Englund not perform masterfully in the role.
As I approach forty, I find myself thinking about how much time I’m wasting rewatching movies I don’t want to watch. Part of me going back through this series was to allow me to experience it once again and figure out which films might be worth watching in the future. For me, it’ll probably be the original, and Dream Warriors, and Dream Master. Although, I think the next time I get a hankering for some Freddy, I’m going to watch some of the supplemental Freddy entertainment out there such as Freddy’s Nightmares, his MTV VJing gig, or even the episode of The Goldbergs he showed up in.