A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection Blu-ray Review
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) – 9/10
By 1984, the HALLOWEEN series was three titles deep and the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise had four entries to its name. It was time for something fresh.
Enter A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, written and directed by Wes Craven, who at the time was most famous for its exploitative shockers THE LAST HOSUE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977). The New Line Cinema production proved effective while its competitors were already beginning to parody themselves.
While far from groundbreaking for the horror field (the villain—disfigured child murderer Freddy Krueger, portrayed by eventual genre go-to Robert Englund—is still an unstoppable maniac slicing and dicing American teens), it did balk at trying to scare the viewers with things they rarely (if ever) encountered, like babysitters or summer camp. Instead, it made them afraid to fall asleep, lest they be slashed to pieces and dragged across their bedroom walls and ceiling.
The first entry in the NIGHTMARE franchise is tremendously operative, full of bright blood, iconic scenes and legitimate fears.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) – 5/10
A profit of $24 million was evidently enough to warrant a sequel. And so “the man of your dreams is back,” this time targeting the family who’s just moved into the old Thompson house. Having been “defeated” by Nancy Thompson years ago, Freddy puts his efforts into enticing Jesse (Mark Patton) into killing for him so he can return to the real world.
Directed by Jack Sholder (1982’s ALONE IN THE DARK), FREDDY’S REVENGE is a weak entry, in part because it lost Heather Langenkamp, who portrayed Nancy in the original (and again in the third and final entries). But there are also almost no scares (the parakeet attack is laughable) and the homosexual undertones (including a trip to an S&M, where the school gym teacher also frequents) are out of place and awkward.
Some of the better visuals include Freddy emerging from Jesse’s body to kill Ron (Robert Rusler) and his tongue replacing Jesse’s mid-foreplay.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987) – 8/10
DREAM WARRIORS finds Freddy preying on patients at Western Hills Psychiatric Hospital, where Nancy Thompson is interning. One of the teenage residents is Kristen (Patricia Arquette in her debut), admitted for attempting suicide. But we all know how those slashes on her wrists got there.
Directed by Chuck Russell (who, with DREAM WARRIORS on his resume, landed THE BLOB a year later), this third entry in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series is one of the best of the sequels, as it captures the essence of the franchise and its villain better than any other post-1984.
DREAM WARRIORS offers a display of both the characteristic nightmare-esque gore (Freddy as a giant snake; a corpse as a marionette; tongues as restraining straps) and Freddy’s cheeky humor (attacking Zsa Zsa Gabor on a talk show; “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”), the latter of which would later become overkill.
In addition to bringing back Langenkamp, DREAM WARRIORS entry also marked the return of Wes Craven, who co-wrote the script with Russell, Frank Darabont and Bruce Wagner.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) – 5/10
THE DREAM MASTER picks up with the three teens who survived the massacre at Western Hills. But don’t worry; few Elm Street residents survive Freddy twice. And so after Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kristen (Tuesday Knight, replacing Arquette) are killed off in the first act, the burden is put onto Alice (Lisa Wilcox), who thinks people are in control of their own dreams. She clearly hasn’t been to Springwood’s cemetery in the last few years.
This fourth installment is directed by Renny Harlin and co-written by, among others, Brian Helgeland (who would later win an Oscar for L.A. CONFIDENTIAL). Harlin weaves in a chunk of visually disturbing bits with the help of the VFX team (Freddy draining an asthmatic girl of all her oxygen; the roach hotel scene; the spirits escaping Freddy’s body), while Helgeland supplies a number of one-liners that had become as much a trait of Freddy as his glove (“How’s this for a wet dream?” precedes his drowning a victim in a waterbed; Freddy declares “I love soul food” before he dines on the miniaturized head of a victim).
The latter element is where the biggest issue with THE DREAM MASTER stems from. Between Freddy’s elementary punch lines (which DREAM WARRIORS only hinted at) and the silly kills (Rick’s battle with an invisible Freddy), it uses its runtime to turn the humor of the series into self-mockery. That explains the rap song, “Are You Ready for Freddy.”
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989) – 4/10
THE DREAM MASTER survivor Alice (returning as protagonist) has just graduated from high school and—if you’re paying attention to the subtitle—is pregnant. Just wait ‘til Freddy gets wind of the news.
This twist in the storyline does little to turn around the quality of the series. With so many sequences devoted to the baby and Freddy’s own mother, Amanda, THE DREAM CHILD (directed by Stephen Hopkins, whose next feature would be PREDATOR 2) leaves little time for kills. This fifth installment ties FREDDY’S DEAD for the lowest body count of the series.
THE DREAM CHILD, as with any of the other lesser entries (FREDDY’S REVENGE; THE DREAM MASTER), should be praised if only for its strong special effects. Just look at the demonic baby (who scurries about like the long-lost double of the infant from IT’S ALIVE) or any of the offings (the comic book-inspired one, despite its complete absurdity, is incredibly well-executed).
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991) – 4/10
It’s 1999 and just about the entire teen population of Springwood has died off. But wait! There’s one left! After a nighttime run-in with Freddy, the boy, John (Shon Greenblat), is sent to a shelter the next town over, where he’s taken under the guidance of Maggie (Lisa Zane). A lot of good that does.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE is intended, of course, to be the last entry in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. But it never feels like a grand finale.
Instead, it makes the same mistakes as THE DREAM CHILD: spending more time on Freddy’s backstory (and his family) than the kills. And the slayings that are here—an exploding head, Freddy using a videogame controller to throw Breckin Meyer down stairs, a cut parachute—just aren’t enough to please fans. (That the final kill comes with 30+ minutes left in the movie doesn’t help.)
Still, the scenes in decrepit Springwood do offer some haunting visuals, especially considering two of the residents are Roseanne and Tom Arnold. (Other familiar faces that pop up, whether in supporting roles or cameos: Yaphet Kotto, Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, in an anti-drug PSA).
Directed by Rachel Talalay (later GHOST IN THE MACHINE), FREDDY’S DEAD is the only NIGHTMARE movie to use 3D (a full nine years after FRIDAY THE 13TH utilized the gimmick). It’s also the only one to open with a Nietzsche quote.
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994) – 8/10
Freddy may have been offed in the aptly titled FREDDY’S DEAD, but that’s no reason to not make another NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The meta NEW NIGHTMARE has Craven himself directing the latest sequel, which is rushed into production thanks to fan demand (sound familiar?). In the leads roles are, naturally, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.
It’s not long before Freddy makes his presence known and Heather’s son, Dylan (Miko Hughes), starts acting possessed and those close to the production (including Heather’s husband, played by David Newsom) meet their fates. This is all happening (again) because of Freddy’s need to live in the real world.
Craven is in on the joke of it all (from Freddy’s celebrity to the need to resurrect the villain) and is aware of the best and worst of his creation. He acknowledges things went a little wayward since 1984 and so, with a wink, goes back to the franchise’s roots. He knows just what the fans want and gives it to them, with fresh splatter and clever nods to the original (from John Saxon’s appearance to the last death, which mimes the first kill of the series)
NEW NIGHTMARE isn’t just a successful celebration of the 10th anniversary of the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET; it’s one of the best of the series.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec on all seven films.
The original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET looks the best of the bunch and clearly more work went into its transfer than any of the other films. It still maintains the ‘80s feel and much of the grain, but there are many strong details and deep blacks throughout. That’s not to say that the other six films look bad (NEW NIGHTMARE, being the newest entry, is a runner-up to the original in the video department). While they don’t completely live up to the original’s quality, the transfers do host a fine level of clarity and color balance, and also capture the special effects in a very faithful manner (although some do feel dated in 2013).
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET; English 5.1 on the remaining six films; Dolby Digital 2.0 on THE DREAM MASTER, THE DREAM CHILD, FREDDY’S DEAD, and NEW NIGHTMARE; English 1.0 on the original, FREDDY’S REVENGE and DREAM WARRIORS.
All of the films sound just fine, with clean, audible dialogue and effective soundtracks (from the score to Dokken). The audio transfer is at its strongest during the kill scenes, when the sound effects get a tremendous workout through your speakers.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Filmmakers’ Commentary: Wrtier/director Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson), John Saxon (Lt. Don Thompson), and cinematographer Jacques Haitkin sit down to discuss the production of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Cast & Crew Commentary: This track compiles interviews with Craven, Langenkamp, Haitkin, producer Robert Shaye, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Amanda Wyss (Tina Gray), Ronee Blakley (Marge Thompson), producer Sara Risher, associate producer John Burrows, composer Charles Bernstein, editing Rick Shaine, editor Patrick McMahon, special effects artist Jim Doyle, makeup artist David B. Miller, and film historian David Del Valle.
Never Sleep Again (49:54): This documentary, complete with interviews and clips, looks at various elements of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET to paint a detailed look at everything from the original concept to the film’s release.
The House That Freddy Built (22:47) pays tribute to New Line Cinema and its many horror releases, including the NIGHTMARE series, ALONE IN THE DARK and a pair of later FRIDAY THE 13TH films.
Night Terrors (15:58) looks at dreams and their role.
Alternate Endings: There are three here: Scary Ending (1:39), Happy Ending (1:31) and Freddy Ending (1:46).
Also included are Focus Points and a Fact Track, both of which run along with the film.
Heroes and Villains (6:22): New Line Cinema CEO Robert Shaye, director Jack Sholder and Wes Craven discuss FREDDY’S REVENGE and horror trends.
Psycho Sexual Circus (3:26): Production assistant Rachel Talalay, Sholder and actor Robert Englund touch on the film’s various mistakes and the lead character, played by Mark Patton.
The Male Witch (2:46): Sholder and special effects artist Kevin Yagher discuss Freddy’s grotesque look.
Freddy on 8th Street (5:28): Sholder, publicist Jeffrey Wells and Englund chat about Freddy’s popularity.
Behind the Story is divided into seven brief sections: Fan Mail (0:45) with Dick Cavett touching on his famous cameo; Onward Christian Soldiers (9:01), which looks at the film’s origins; Snakes and Ladders (6:04), a tribute to the special effects; Trading 8’s (4:09), a piece devoted to some of the more popular scenes and lines (“Welcome to prime time, bitch!”); That’s Show Biz (2:00), with Robert Englund reminiscing about the shoot; Burn Out (3:38), with the Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon discussing returning for another NIGHTMARE entry; and The House That Freddy Built (0:38), about New Line Cinema’s success.
Music Video for Dokken’s “Dream Warriors.”
THE DREAM MASTER
Krueger, Freddy Krueger (8:16): New Line Cinema bigwig Al Shapiro, director Renny Harlin and more discuss the latter’s hiring, approaching Freddy’s character and more.
Hopeless Chest (3:45): Special effects artists John Carl Buechler and Steve Johnson chat about their work on THE DREAM MASTER.
Let’s Makeup (2:20) focuses on Freddy’s popularity and the makeup.
The Finnish Line (2:27): Harlin reminisces about THE DREAM MASTER’s screening and reception.
THE DREAM CHILD
Behind the Story is divided into five sections: Womb Raiders (6:23), an overall look at the production; The Sticky Floor (5:45), a piece on special effects at the time; Take the Stairs (0:56), about the M.C. Escher-inspired sequence; Hopkins Directs (0:35), with on-set footage of Stephen Hopkins and Robert Englund; and A Slight Miscalculation (1:26), about to the lack of scares in THE DREAM CHILD.
Music Videos for Fat Boys’ “Are You Ready for Freddy?” and Whodini’s “Anyway I Gotta Swing It.”
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
Rachel’s Dream (2:48) looks at director Rachel Talalay and her work on FREDDY’S DEAD.
3D Demise (2:18): This featurette covers how utilizing 3D “limited” the finale.
86’d (1:40): New Line Cinema CEO Robert Shaye shares his thoughts on FREDDY’S DEAD.
Hellraiser (0:39): Director Clive Baker (HELLRAISER) discusses working on sequels.
Commentary by Wes Craven: Craven covers every topic fans of NEW NIGHTMARE would want to learn about, from the story’s origins and the cast to the themes and, of course, Freddy Krueger.
Becoming a Filmmaker (7:53): Craven discusses his early years, working in New York and his eventual successes.
An Insane Troupe (0:51): Craven reminisces about seeing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and learning to make the audience “frightened of the filmmaker.”
Two Worlds (2:04): Craven touches on the themes of NEW NIGHTMARE and how they fit with criticisms of the horror genre.
The Problem with Sequels (1:35): Craven discusses how he had to bring NEW NIGHTMARE to “another level.”
Filmmaker (4:37): Craven shares his views on his profession.
Fear Himself: The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger (31:01): This informative documentary covers a variety of subjects relating to the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, from Freddy/Robert Englund and the style to themes and the horror genre at the time.
Two episodes of the anthology series FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, both from the first season: “It’s a Miserable Life” and “Killer Instinct.”
Welcome to Prime Time (49:26) is another comprehensive documentary, divided into 13 sections. They are: “It Really Happened,” “A Childhood Memory,” “Sometime in the Early 80’s,” “So It Began,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Making the Glove,” “Shapeshifter,” “The Shoot,” “The Revolving Room,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Talalay’s Tally,” “It Couldn’t Have Happened,” and “Alternating Ending Version 1.”
Conclusions (17:09) wraps up with any topics not touched on in previous special features. The 10 sections are: “Where Gothic Plots Come From,” “Why We Like Gothic,” “Sadomasochism,” “Freddy vs. Pinhead,” “Freddy’s Manic Energy,” “Creating Lasting Characters in Horror,” “No More Magic Tricks,” “Monster with Personality,” “Freddy as Sex Machine,” and “Campfire Stories.”