A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Ultimate Movie Marathon
Wherever Tropical Mary, Stygian Mole and I go you know the madness simply won’t stop! Following on from the pure, unadulterated epicness that was the Friday the 13th marathon we decided that our next mission, in light of Freddy VS Jason, was to take on the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. This time we felt a little more prepared: with a little experience under our belts we knew that we could hold out in the face of movie after movie after movie, and this time there would only be 7 films as opposed to the previous marathon’s 11. Sadly we were lacking our Occult Specialist for this one but the 3 of us decided that we were going to tackle these movies head-on anyway.
Working from what is admittedly a good system we piled into Tropical Mary’s lounge with a variety of snacks, many litres of Coke, several boxes of cigarettes and the necessary money to do a pizza top up later on. Sadly, in my opinion at least, this series of movies simply could not live up to Jason and his never-ending killing spree. Equally sadly our pizza was not delivered by a guy named Freddy, which just seemed an enormous let down after a Jason delivered our last batch. Join me now as my Elm Street Retrospective comes to a computer screen in your city this morning / afternoon / evening / weekend 😉
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Year of Release: 1984
IMDB Rating: 7.4 / 10
Level of Awful: Surprise!
And we’re off with Freddy’s first adventure! It’s the mid-80s, flannel isn’t as abundant as it once was and Johnny Depp was a fresh-faced young man ready to break into acting. Elm Street falls in the beautiful suburban town that is Springwood but, in amongst these idyllic little houses and perfectly trimmed rose bushes, the children living on the street are about to experience something strange and horrifying.
Our main girl is Nancy, a plain little thing with the emotional range of a plank of wood, and, while her face would never give it away, she’s been experiencing some terrible nightmares. Nightmares about a horribly burned man in a dirty jumper with knives on his fingers. Nightmares that the other children on the street seem to be having as well. Nightmares that, if you get hurt or injured in them, then you’re hurt in reality as well. Nightmares that have Nancy’s friend Tina being dragged across the ceiling and ripped to shreds after a riveting around of premarital sex with her boyfriend Rod. Sadly for Glen, Nancy’s boyfriend, there will be no premarital sex that night.
In the face of a killer that stalks their dreams, parents that believe they’ve lost their marbles and the unbearably orange and never moving face of Nancy’s mother the kids will have to find a way to either stay awake for the rest of their lives or make battle with a monster that has a taste for young children and is out for revenge.
So the franchise got off to a reasonable start. It’s not without its faults and Heather Langenkamp really couldn’t act, but given that it was done on a fairly modest budget credit has to be given where credit is due. Plus Freddy Krueger’s just brilliant in a really disturbing kind of way.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Pants are for the weak!
- Teenage girls will be crapped on by their fathers for going to school, their friend’s houses, visiting friends in prison and virtually anything else you can think of.
- Burns can be migratory.
- Judging by their output bedside lamps in the 80s were nuclear powered.
- Running in ’84 was still being properly developed.
- Marshmallow floors are just impractical.
- Cupboards are the perfect temperature for storing booze.
- Apple cider melts skin beautifully.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART II: FREDDY’S REVENGE
Year of Release: 1985
IMDB Rating: 5 / 10
Level of Awful: Low
And we’re a go for Part II! In what seems to be a pattern in these franchises the second movie takes us on a bit of a dip. This one is a beautiful example of being able to see what they were going for, but then there’s what they actually did with it. I propose that the name of this movie be retroactively changed to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Bitch’, which is far more in keeping with what the story is actually about.
We’re 5 years down the line from the last movie and, since Nancy has apparently gone nuts after the death of her mother, 1428 Elm Street went on the market and a new family has since moved in. Our main character in this film is Jesse, a boy with an oddly shaped chest who appears to live his life in a constant state of sweatiness and tighty whiteys. Freddy appears to be a little weakened at the moment and needs a host body through which to perform his dirty work. Since Jesse has conveniently moved into Nancy’s old room he’ll do just perfectly.
To begin with it’s all fun and games as Freddy takes out people who Jesse doesn’t particularly like, such as his leather-clad gym teacher. With delightful dialogue such as “he’s inside me, he wants to take me again” and “he owns me”, combined with the constant state of tighty whitey-ness that Jesse lives in, there appears to be a definite homoerotic undertone to the whole movie. Jesse, along with his would-be girlfriend Lisa, will have to battle their way through their nightmares, Jesse’s possession and a pool party gone horribly wrong if they are ever going to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
The main problem with this movie, and one that becomes apparent across the franchise as a whole, is that it can’t live up to the characters it creates. Freddy, as always, is disturbingly brilliant but doesn’t appear as often as you’d like because we need to deal with everyone being awake for so long. While Jesse isn’t perhaps the most memorable character he plays the disturbed teenager very well but the whole pseudo-possession storyline neither does his or Freddy’s character much justice. The biggest waste, however, is Lisa. The Sydney Prescott of her time, Lisa will beat the crap out of Freddy with any available object at any given time but the storyline is just too weak for this character to stand out.
Despite these many problems this movie did bring out what is perhaps my favourite comment from Tropical Mary for the whole evening: “For a lesbian-headed, dyke-looking woman she’s very romantic.” Watch the movie and see if you can spot who this applies to 🙂
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Off-road school bus rallies are a lot of fun.
- The art of egg making hadn’t been perfected in the mid-80s.
- Your liver can function as a heart.
- Running was still in its infancy in ’85.
- Feeding your bird cheap seed will cause it to burst into flames.
- 80s parenting meant being constantly aloof.
- Like running and making eggs, kissing also hadn’t been perfected in the mid-80s.
- The power of love will lead to internal haemorrhaging.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS
Year of Release: 1987
Genre: Horror / Fantasy
IMDB Rating: 6.3 / 10
Level of Awful: Surprise!
And we’re on the up again! Freddy’s back and ready to take on a mental asylum full of sleep deprived children. This was Patricia Arquette’s debut role and, in my opinion, she’s the glue that pulls it all together.
Kristen Parker has a mother who isn’t very sympathetic (and, by the movie’s implication, a whore) to her night terrors or the fact that she’s waking up with her wrists slashed by Freddy. Convinced that she’s just out for attention her mother locks Kristen in Westin Hills, the psychiatric hospital we would see again later in Freddy VS Jason.
Along with Kristen the other misfits at the hospital are Joey (who doesn’t say anything), Phillip (a would-be sculptor who shows a little promise), Jennifer (who dreams of becoming an actress), Will (this movie’s answer to Artie from Glee), Taryn (an ex-druggie) and Roland (the stock black kid with behavioural issues). These guys are the last of the so-called Elm Street children, children of the adults who murdered Freddy. So locking them all up together really is going to make Freddy’s job a whole lot easier.
Thankfully help is on hand. In her spare time between growing up and losing her mind Nancy somehow managed to become a doctor and specialise in sleep disorders. She herself is now taking Hypnosil, a dream suppressant that helps keep Freddy at bay. She will be aided by Dr Neil Gordon, the hospital’s resident psychiatrist, who in turn is aided by Sister Mary Helena (Handbasket).
This movie serves as Freddy’s origin story, explaining how his mother Amanda used to work at this very same institution. Back then the hospital used to house people who were far more insane, and Amanda managed to get herself locked in with the mental patients. Raped repeatedly by the 100 patients in this wing over a prolonged period of time, she fell pregnant and gave birth to Freddy at Westin Hills. Being the bastard offspring of 100 deranged lunatics (a medical impossibility, but we’ll run with it) is what made Freddy so evil.
But Freddy’s in for one hell of a fight this time round. Kristen has a remarkable ability to pull people into her dreams, allowing the rest of the group to follow her so that they can do battle as a group rather than being picked off one by one. This power, coupled with Nancy’s experience in Freddy hunting, will pave the way for one amazing showdown between Freddy and the last of the Elm Street children.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Tricycles are creepier than wheelchairs.
- By ’87 wearing polka dots to a funeral was out and normal attire was in.
- Sleep therapy in the late 80s comprised a blend of hypnosis and induced epileptic fits.
- You can go from high school senior to doctor in the space of 6 years.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER
Year of Release: 1988
IMDB Rating: 5.3 / 10
Level of Awful: Medium
And we begin our downward spiral. To give credit where credit is due, I think the movie makers behind this one must have realised that they were eventually going to run out of Elm Street children and needed to somehow tie them into new characters. I can see what the overall plan was, although I may have blinked and missed some important bits since I’m still not 100% clear on who / what the Dream Master is. Nevertheless, the marathon had to continue and we girded our respective loins and dived head first into our next instalment.
Kristen’s back and she’s doing quite well for herself. Not only have her and her surviving friends been released from Westin Hills but her face has also morphed from that of Patricia Arquette to that of Tuesday Knight. Naturally someone needs to be nervous about Freddy coming back so why not let it be Kristen? Living in a state of perpetual panic and paranoia she often pulls Joey and Kincaid into her dreams. The dreams, however, are sitting quite comfortably at room temperature so Joey and Kincaid reason that Freddy must still be dead. He will be, until a dream dog with resuscitating flaming pee digs him up and lets him loose on the world again…
Joey and Kincaid are killed off reasonably soon into this little adventure to make way for a new group of people: Rick, Kristen’s never-before-heard-of boyfriend, Alice, Kristen’s friend, Dan, your stock studly jock whom Alice has a crush on and, last but not least, Debbie, a friend of Alice who epitomises virtually everything that was wrong with the 80s.
With Freddy back one of the first people he’s going to after is obviously Kristen. Panicked at being brought face to face with him again she accidentally pulls Alice into the dream, bringing her to Freddy’s attention. Kristen is killed by Freddy trying to defend Alice, but she manages to transfer her power to Alice right before Freddy swallows her up as a little soul food.
Admittedly there are some interesting methods of death in this movie, including being utterly deflated, an interesting take on being a karate kid and the art of getting an invisible ass whipping, and teenagers being turned into cockroaches. After doing a little reading I’ve seen a lot of things about different gates, different guardians and absorbing different powers, resulting in Alice and Freddy becoming supernatural guardian mortal enemies, but if any of that actually happened I genuinely missed it.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Over time boiler rooms tend to become more and more chainey.
- As a year 1988 was a lyrically desperate time.
- You can dedicate entire closets to shoulder pads.
- Vegetation is not a meal.
- The real problem with Freddy is that he wants to dance with someone (who loves him).
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD
Year of Release: 1989
IMDB Rating: 4.8 / 10
Level of Awful: High
And then there was this. The Dream Child is this franchise’s equivalent of Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy, supposedly dead, has to be brought back some way and made to be even more threatening than before. While the story and concept are weak in themselves the movie’s main problem is that it takes itself seriously. This could’ve been played so differently and, had it been done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it probably would have been a lot of fun. Even Freddy seemed to be fighting against the movie at times, but his delightfully disturbing humour just wasn’t enough to save this.
Nothing says ‘this is going to hurt’ quite like an opening credit sequence that doubles up as the movie’s first sex scene. Alice has returned and she and Dan are enjoying many rounds of passionate premarital sex. With all their friends dead Alice has also had to expand her social circle and make new ones (for Freddy to butcher) but her first priority now that she’s graduated from high school is to go on a little whirlwind tour of Europe with her beloved. That at least was the plan until Alice starts dreaming about a baby Freddy climbing into his old grownup clothes and somehow regenerating himself, being stalked by Freddy while she’s awake, chatting with the spirit of Amanda Krueger (AKA Sister Mary Helena Handbasket) and having Dan die on her in a rather epic (but admittedly painful) fashion.
Now the $1 million question is how Freddy is stalking Alice while she’s awake. To be honest I was more curious as to where the hell her body was hanging out for the 4 hour blackouts she was experiencing, but Tropical Mary said I shouldn’t get distracted and just watch the movie. The answer to that question (which also justifies the movie’s title) is that Alice is with child. Since children in the womb apparently spend a lot of their time dreaming Freddy can attack through the baby’s dreams without having to wait for the grownups to eventually go to bed.
Trying to beat Freddy this time will involve Alice not only using her supernatural powers once more but also trying to reason with the dream consciousness of her unborn child. What part of ‘this could be amazingly funny’ the people behind this movie didn’t see I’m not sure, but again they decided to take themselves terribly seriously. Freddy’s dealt with many things in his time but he’s never taken on a mother trying to protect her child so he’s in for a very big fight. Throw in the ghost of his own mother with a bone to pick with her son and the stage is set for the biggest family feud you’ve ever seen.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- As the 80s drew to a close polka dots at funerals decided to make one final, desperate stand.
- As the 80s drew to a close the art of running had STILL not been perfected.
- Shirts are for the o’ wedgie (like 20 to llama llama, this came as the mind was starting to go).
- You can be just a little pregnant.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
Year of Release: 1991
IMDB Rating: 4.6 / 10
Level of Awful: Medium
Finally! Someone had the brains to realise that they could take the piss out of this series, and it really paid off. This was my favourite movie of the day, mainly because it seems like this was the point that the morbid humour of the franchise’s antagonist and the movie’s plot finally decided to align themselves. Had some of the humour of this movie been injected into the series about 4 movies earlier I may have enjoyed this marathon a whole lot more than I did.
Freddy’s been a very busy boy since the events of the last movie. 10 years have passed and he has successfully managed to kill off all the children in Springwood, leaving the once-beautiful suburban town a shadow of its former self. The only surviving teenager, who can’t remember who he is, is being sent on a special mission by Freddy (although he doesn’t know that). Freddy can’t leave Springwood, with the city limits acting as a barrier that he cannot cross, and there’s someone very special on the other side that he wants brought to him.
Through a little retconning and some imagination from the audience we are informed of the fact that Freddy is actually a dad, just another reason why The Dream Child was utterly unnecessary. His child is floating around out there in the big bad world somewhere and he wants it back. Where on earth could it be? Surely not at the home for troubled youth that our dear John Doe has landed up at? Surely our little gang of street waifs – Terry (sexually abused by her father), Carlos (beaten by his father and now partially deaf as a result), Spencer (“former” drug addict) – and their psychologist Maggie couldn’t possibly be candidates to be Freddy’s offspring? That’s just crazy.
But is it crazy enough to work? Through a series of amazing coincidences (and after coming face to face with a wild and possibly rabid Roseanne Barr) the five of them land up in Springwood and strangely cannot seem to find a way to leave. Could Freddy be behind this? Could he be the one making people’s heads explode? Possibly. Turning people into some 8-bit gloriousness and beating them up? Yeah, sounds like something he’d do. Re-enacting The Wizard of Oz and throwing people onto a bed of spikes? Definitely sounds like something he’d find fun.
The movie also addresses the greatest question of all: how the hell does Freddy manage to keep coming back? The answer: dream demons, that’s how. These demons are inherently malevolent and granted Freddy his power on the night when the parents of Springwood initially burnt him alive. We’ve retconned a child, so let’s retcon some malevolent tadpole dream demons while we’re at it, anything goes here. Prepare for the ultimate father VS child showdown as we see just which generation of Kruegers deserves to wield the knife glove.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Blowing up the garage will get you a lot of attention.
- Intense daddy issues are intense.
- Throwing yourself on the floor doesn’t make a sound.
- It’s very important that you ignore any and all ominous omens in disturbing situations.
- Despite being an immortal dream demon Freddy gets the crap beaten out of him quite regularly.
- Synapses fire in technicolour.
- The fact that Freddy was a ginger kid explains virtually everything about his character.
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE
Year of Release: 1994
Genre: Horror / Fantasy
IMDB Rating: 6.3 / 10
Level of Awful: High
You know what? I can totally understand a fan base calling for another sequel to a film franchise they love that has supposedly come to an end. I myself would do many things to see another Halloween movie that had nothing to do with the two bastard offspring of Rob Zombie. But was this really what the fans wanted? I remember seeing this movie for the first time a few years ago and thinking it was utter crap. Watching it as part of this marathon did nothing to change my opinion. Again, I can see the concept and I think it was a very interesting one, but the execution left me cold and bored stiff.
Since Freddy was (supposedly) killed once and for all in the last movie we need to do something completely different to bring him back round this time. So what if he had never been around at all? What if the last 6 movies were just that and nothing more? That’s the path that New Nightmare wants to take us down, so let’s all go for a little walk.
It’s been 7 years since Heather Langenkamp last portrayed Nancy, but she’s a mother now and needs to think carefully about the kinds of rolls she decides to play. She’s happily married, lives in a beautiful (if somewhat earthquake prone) neighbourhood in a lovely house. She’s still friends with Robert Englund and many other people from the films and is currently doing a few promo gigs to discuss the franchise’s 10th anniversary, life after Elm Street and being a mother. But someone isn’t prepared to let the franchise go quietly into that good night; someone is stalking Nancy and making threatening phone calls to her. Someone who sounds remarkably like Freddy.
Already on edge, Heather’s state isn’t helped when her husband dies tragically in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel, his chest sliced with mysterious claw marks. In the aftermath of his death their son has also begun to behave very strangely, saying that he can’t sleep without his pet dinosaur to protect him from the bad man who comes out of his dreams to get him. But this isn’t a movie, so how can Freddy possibly be coming for Heather and her young son?
Wes Craven, that’s how. It would seem that, after writing the script for the initial movie, it began to dawn on him that Freddy was perhaps a little more than a simple character on paper. What if he were an ancient malevolent spirit that needed a means to gain access to our world? Well, that’s what he is and that’s what happened, with this demon using the Elm Street movies to play himself out but, while the franchise kept going, his thoughts were trapped in the scripts and unable to hurt anyone. It would seem that the demon enjoys being Freddy and isn’t quite ready to let the character die just yet. Heather’s going to have to reprise her role as Nancy one more time if there’s any hope of finally laying Freddy to rest.
If only she could have managed to do it without an hour going by where nothing happened it would have been so much less painful than it actually was. This was not worth the nearly two hours it took to watch it. While the concept was interesting, it was also the movie’s main weakness. Because it was brand new it took a long time to develop on screen, time where very little else was happening and the audience just sits and watches a child become gradually creepier and creepier.
LIFE’S LESSONS LEARNED:
- Good hygiene practices are entirely unnecessary in a morgue.
- You can just leave corpses littered around the hospital halls at night.
- TVs don’t need to be plugged in to work.
- 90s programming had a lot of subliminal Freddy messaging.
- ICU is a perfect place to keep a person with a sleep disorder.
- In new age fairy tales a trail of bread crumbs can be replaced by a trail of sleeping pills.
- Ferns are evil and must be punished.
- Freddy is a genie, you gotta rub him the right way.
Right, I’m just going to come out and say it: I didn’t enjoy the Elm Street movies. I love Freddy Krueger and think he is an absolutely brilliant and disturbing character but these movies simply did not do him any justice and, at times, seemed to actually work against the primary character they had developed. While the concept of him as a killer that stalks dreams makes him particularly frightening and difficult to defeat it also creates the problem when it comes to people being awake. Freddy can’t kill people when they’re awake, meaning the times that the audience would have to worry about seeing him were very defined, which takes away a lot of the suspense. Attempts to rectify this through the dreams of an unborn child were not very successful.
Although we didn’t rewatch Freddy VS Jason during this marathon the memory is fresh enough that I can say that I think Freddy’s character was best suited to that movie. A more powerful presence in the waking world, his disturbing character can run a little more wild. That’s the Freddy you want to see, and that’s the Freddy that’s missing from this franchise.
Perhaps it’s also a sign of the times we live in when we expect more gore and brutality at regular intervals, but this franchise’s total death count of 38 across 7 movies with a Breast-O-Meter reading of only 3.5 just seems a little depressing. Freddy has just been so built up over the years that you expect so much more, yet in some movies he killed a grand total of 3 people. You’re constantly waiting for this murderous rampage that simply never comes.
Perhaps one day Tropical Mary will be able to give us her thoughts on our marathons, but until then I leave you with my little musings. I’m sure I’m in a minority when it comes to my feelings on these movies, and I’d really like to hear from people who did enjoy them. Good to get some different perspectives. Let me know in the comments below.
We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming of trashy horror movies reviewed by myself with the occasional guest appearance by Tropical Mary. Follow our ramblings on Twitter for the next Ultimate Movie Marathon!
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Posted on May 3, 2012, in Awful Level: High, Awful Level: Low, Awful Level: Medium, Awful Level: Surprise!, Ultimate Movie Marathon and tagged 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1994, A Nightmare on Elm Street, brutal, death, Dream Child, Dream Master, Dream Warriors, dreams, Freddy Krueger, Freddy's Dead, Freddy's Revenge, Heather Langenkamp, Horror, Johnny Depp, knives, murder, New Nightmare, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part II, Robert Englund, teenagers, The Final Nightmare, torture, Wes Craven. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.