Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Best of / Worst of 6 Part 1

Best of/Worst of 6
Kevin Scott Bolinger

       Greetings and salutations. Welcome back to Best of /Worst of. I took a few weeks off to collect my thoughts after the long three part Doctor Who blog, and now, refreshed, I am ready to tackle a new subject. I have decided to move to a horror franchise this time. This weeks subject, the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

      Since there are eight movies in this franchise, that is including the remake, but not including Freddy Vs Jason, I have decided to present my four best chapters, then next week, to present the four worst. Mind you, this is based on my opinion, and if one you feel is good does not make the top four, do not fret. I am a fan of the series, and I like most of the films in some way. That being said, some entries stand out more then others as being real gems, while others end up smelling like something Fido left on the lawn.

    Let us begin with a little background. In the early eighties, director Wes Craven was looking for a way to have a break out hit. He had a fascination with the power of the mind during dreams, learning that some people have even died from severe nightmares. He picked up on this, and, having suffered from a nightmare of his own since he was a child, he went with it. He also learned that there were some who believed they could willingly control their dreams, turning nightmares to paradise.

   He began to envision a dream demon terrorizing a group of teens in a small town. The final product became one of the scariest films of it’s day. The main villain, Freddy Krueger, was pulled right from his childhood. As a young boy, late one night he heard a noise outside. There he spotted a transient, in a dirty red and green stripped sweater, just shuffling down the road. As young Wes looked out, the transient stopped, turned and stared at the boy. Wes cowered in fear, and looked away. The transient kept staring for a very long time till finally moving on. That image eventually became Freddy.
Freddy Krueger, Stuff of Nightmares

   As the story goes, Freddy was a child murderer, using a homemade leather glove with razor knives on the fingers, to mutilate his victims. He was caught and arrested, but due to a technicality, he was released. The parents of the Elm street neighborhood, trying to protect the children still alive, took it upon themselves to form an angry mob. They cornered Freddy in an old building, and torched the place, killing the murderer. One of the parents saved his hat and glove, and the rest took his burned corpse and buried it in a junk yard.

    This should be the end of the tale, but it was only the beginning. Three dream demons had approached Freddy as he burned, and offered him power, the power to get his revenge through nightmares. So, many years later, teenagers on Elm street began to die, one by one. Many times Freddy has returned, and many times he has been defeated.

   As a whole, the series is not that bad, though the very first film was probably the scariest. Freddy was more terrifying then. In later installments, he became more comical, killing in very imaginative ways, and always ending on a bad pun. This made him unique amongst the big three of horror villains from the eighties, those being Freddy, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers, and yes, I know Myers came around in the late seventies, but hey, he still counts. Both Jason and Michael were silent killers, where as Freddy was very vocal. Played by Robert Englund in seven of the films, as well as Freddy vs. Jason, he would tease his victims before killing, feeding off their fear.

      So, there is a brief history of our main antagonist. I will delve into the remakes differences when I get to it in my list. For now, let us just move on to the films I think are the four best of the franchise.

Number 4

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 : The Dream Master (1988)
Nightmare 4, it was ok...

    So, what can be said about this entry into the series. The basic plot still remains, Freddy tries to kill teens in their sleep in revenge for his death. This one, however, was a direct sequel to Nightmare 3. The three survivors from that entry are hunted down by a newly resurrected Freddy, due to a mistake made by one who had the power to pull others into her dreams. As she is dying, she passes her power on to a new friend, who then proceeds to bring fresh victims to Freddy.

     As the movie progresses, our main heroine, Alice, slowly begins to gain the power of those Freddy kills, not just in the dreams, but in reality. Eventually, this leads her to becoming a dream master, which allows her to free all the souls Freddy has collected in his years of terror.  The souls tear him to pieces, ending his current existence. 

     This one was not the best, nor was it the worst. It was middle of the road. The acting was ok, the deaths were creative enough, and the story made sense if you could suspend your beliefs for a while.  I know this is a very brief description of this entry, but hey, I will save the longer write ups for the better parts.

Number 3

Freddy’s Dead : The Final Nightmare (1991)
Nightmare 6, a good way to end the classic series

     This one I do like a lot, however, in my book it is still not as good as my numbers one and two on this list. It does bring a nice closure to the classic Nightmare series, and it even had a short 3D sequence thrown in and a cameo by Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold. The basic story takes a bit of a curve in this one. Freddy has run out of victims in Springwood, and he needs help to expand his territory.

    He sends a messenger boy of sorts, one with no memory. He ends up in a halfway house where they try to help him get his memory back. One of the therapists, Maggie, thinks that heading back to Springwood would help. So, a small road trip follows, with Maggie, the John Doe, and a few other teens. Springwood is a ghost town, devoid of children. A creepy carnival greets them, empty, save for two crazed former parents. Then, the nightmares begin.

    We learn that Freddy sent the teen to find his daughter, who, it turns out, is Maggie. Since she is his flesh and blood, Freddy can hitch a ride out of Springwood and kill in other towns, because, as Freddy says, every town has an Elm Street.

    Maggie eventually figures out what’s going on, and at some point is able to enter her fathers memories. She sees her childhood, which was repressed. She watches as Freddy kills her mother. She also sees Freddy cornered in the abandoned building as it is set ablaze. She watches as the three dream demons give their power to Freddy, turning him into the dream monster we all know.

   Maggie manages to pull Freddy out, and kills him with a pipe bomb, ending his reign of terror. This entry was fun and a little unpredictable. The effects were ok, the 3D sequence was an interesting touch. However, it never captured me as much as the other two films on this list, and so it ranks as my third favorite.

Number 2

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 : Dream Warriors (1987)
Nightmare 3, best of the sequels!

    Wes Craven returned to the franchise to write the story for this one. It was a good thing too, but more on why in part two of this blog. He brought back Nancy, the survivor from the original film, he gave us more of Freddy’s back story, and he introduced powers in dreams to fight Freddy. Just one of those would have been enough to make this a great film, all three at once, and it is an awesome thrill ride.

   Springwood has a problem, it seems all the teenagers are committing suicide. This is of course Freddy’s ultimate revenge, killing in such a way as to make it look like his victims took their own lives. It was very cleaver. Some, survived the attempts on their lives, and were put in a mental hospital to help them recover. No one would believe them about the nightmares, about the man haunting their dreams.

    Nancy Thompson, the only surviving teen from the original film, returns to Springwood as an intern, at the mental hospital. She of course believes the kids, and knows exactly who is after them. She describes him to the teens, and tells them why he is doing what he is doing. They want to know how they can fight back. It seems one of them, a newcomer to the hospital, has the ability to draw others into her dreams. This could prove useful to them.

   Meanwhile, another of the therapists in the hospital has been seeing a mysterious nun. He follows her one day, and learns of a young woman named Amanda Krueger, who worked at the hospital back in it’s early days. He learns that there is a sealed off ward, in it was once housed all the maniacs, in one large room. Amanda was locked in there accidentally, and she was raped, over and over by the maniacs. Eventually she bore a son, Freddy, the bastard son of a hundred maniacs. The nun also tells him that Freddy can only be stopped by burying his remains in consecrated ground. Only one man knows where the remains are, Nancy’s father.
Trust me, I won't hurt you...much

    Back in the group sessions, Nancy comes up with a plan to have them all brought into one dream, and teaches them how to make themselves powerful in it. This way, they can fight Freddy on his own turf. In reality, the other therapist convinces Nancy’s dad to take him to Freddy’s remains, which are in a junkyard. Armed with a shovel and Holy Water, they plan to did Freddy a proper grave.

   In the dream the plan seems to work, they are all brought into a group dream. However, Freddy quickly splits them up. They all try to overpower him, but he has been at this game far longer then they, and he begins to use their powers against them. In the junkyard, a hole is dug, but before the therapist and Nancy’s father can bury the bones, they attack, and kill Nancy’s dad. In the dream, Freddy manages to kill Nancy as well, leaving just three to fight him. As they get ready, Freddy begins to scream in pain as white light escapes him. In the real world, holy water is being flung on his remains. As his mortal remains are buried, Freddy vanishes.  The survivors attend Nancy’s funeral, and part company.

   This one was by far a fantastic film. It is fun, scary, and had a great story that lead in a few directions, only to be pulled back together in the end. This one needs to be seen, but of course, it is still not as good as number 1.

Number 1

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
The original Nightmare, still the best!

    Ok, who didn’t see this one coming. The original is still the best. It is sheer terror. Freddy was a true monster in this one. He did not need jokes or elaborate schemes to kill, he just terrified his victims, then slaughtered them. This film almost earned an X rating for the amount of blood in one kill alone.

   It opens, typical enough, on a nightmare. A girl named Tina is being chased in an old burned out boiler room. The killer taunts her and teases her, and he swipes at her, just missing. As she wakes up screaming, she notices her nightgown has four slash marks on it. Her mom tells her she needs to either cut her nails or stop having nightmares.

   In School the next day, she finds out that her best friend Nancy, and her boyfriend Glen both had the same nightmare. Tina’s boyfriend Rod then jumps out at them and scares them. Eventually he leaves, and the others go to class. Tina asks Nancy to stay at her house, because she is frightened, and her parents will be out of town. Both Nancy and Glen decide to stay with her, and Rod shows up. Rod and Tina have sex in her moms bed, and afterwards, Rod admits he also had the same nightmare. As they sleep, Tina dreams again. This time, however, Freddy gets her.

    Rod wakes up to Tina’s screaming, and he sees a shape under the covers on top of Tina. She is cut open and dragged across the ceiling, still screaming, still being slashed. She falls to the bed dead, in a bloody heap. Rod jumps out the window, chasing after someone who isn’t there. Later, when the cops arrive, we learn the Nancy’s father is the Chief. He is convinced Rod killed Tina and puts a warrant out for his arrest.

    Rod is captured the next day as he tried to talk to Nancy, and let her know he was innocent. She is furious with her dad for using her. In school she begins to doze. As she does, she looks into the hall and sees a bloody body bag shuffling down the hall. Tina is in it. As she follows after, Freddy  appears, and chases her. In her dream she burns her arm on a hot pipe, and is awoken in class as she violently screams. As she regains her composure, she looks down, her arm is burned.

   Later that night, as she is taking a bath, she falls asleep again. A razor knifed hand rises from the bath and pulls her under, into a very deep pool of water. He struggling in the bath causes her mother to break in, saving her from becoming the next victim. After this, she begins drinking lots of coffee and taking pills to keep herself awake. Her mom grows concerned, and takes her to a sleep study. They put her under, where she begins to dream. Freddy chases her again, but this time, when she is awoken, she somehow managed to grab his hat. When she awakes, she is still holding it.
The true face of fear!

    In the hat is a name, Fred Krueger. She confronts her mother. Her mother eventually gives in and tells her the tale. Krueger was a child killer. He was caught and brought to trial, but was released on a technicality. To protect the remaining children, the parents got together and killed Freddy, burning him alive in an abandoned building’s boiler room. She shows the razor knife glove to Nancy, and says that Freddy cannot hurt her, because he is dead. Her mother even has bars installed on the windows to keep Nancy in.

    She tries to get her boyfriend Glenn to help her fight Freddy, but Glen’s parents intervene. That night, when Glen falls asleep while holding his portable TV and wearing headphones, listening to music, he is pulled into his bed. Seconds later, a geyser of blood erupts from the bed, coating the entire room. The phone rings, and as Nancy answers it, it is Freddy, taunting her , since he just killed Glen.  Her mom is drunk, and useless, so she goes to her dad, and tells him she is going to get the killer.

   Nancy sets numerous booby traps in the house, and then sets her alarm to wake her soon after she falls asleep. Eventually Freddy attacks her, but she grabs him as the alarm goes off. However, he isn’t there when she awakes, only a piece of fence. As she is looking for him, Freddy attacks her, but gets caught up in her traps. She ends up setting him on fire, and he runs off. She tracks him to her moms bedroom, where she finds him burning on top of her. Her mom is dead, a burnt husk, being slowly drawn into her bed. Nancy has had enough, she confront Freddy, and tells him she isn’t afraid. As she turns her back on him, he lunges, but has no power. He vanishes from existence.

   The next day, Nancy heads off to school. Her mom tells her she is giving up drinking. All her friends are alive and waiting in the car. As she gets in, the convertibles top closes, and the doors lock, trapping them. As she looks, she sees Freddy’s hand break through the doors small window and yank her mom through. The car speeds off, while Freddy laughs. You just can’t keep a good dream monster down!

    This film scared the crap out of me as a kid. I had nightmares on top of nightmares. It truly was a masterpiece in horror cinema. This film brought us a young Johnny Depp, in the role of Glen. How can that be a bad thing? This film also turned New Line Cinema from a small independent company, to a powerhouse. Without this film, we would never have had the superb Lord of the Rings trilogy many years later. If you have never seen it, go rent it. This truly is the best of the series, a few come close, but they never match the pure terror invoked in this one..

   So there you have it, my top four, the best of the Nightmare series. Next week, we will star at number five and work our way down to the worst, and heaven help me, it really was bad, it almost killed the franchise. Join me , won’t you? It will be a fun trip down memory lane, for the ones that follow, are what truly give me nightmares. Till then, we are the universe, trying to find it’s voice, we are one!

See, even Freddy gets a vacation now and then!


  1. Freddie was so scary to me as a young kid but I did manage to watch about 2 or three of the movies. I think if they didn't try to make him funny the fear thing would have taken them further in their story and would have made Freddie just a little more iconic. Not to say that his image isn't iconic enough but when you add humor to fear then fear sort of loses it's punch

  2. I loved the Nightmare on Elm Street films, even though they frightened me horribly. I'm really not sure why my parents allowed me to watch them actually.

    I pretty much agree with your favorites, although I did find the dream demons to be a bit cheesy.

    I've been told that the guy who played Freddy in the remake (can't remember his name) auditioned for the role Johnny Depp got in the first one. Apparently he needed a ride from Depp, and while waiting for him in the lot, Johnny was told he should audition since he was there.

    I was excited to see this blog as I love horror movies. I didn't care for the remake too much though. It wasn't bad, per say, but certainly didn't compare to the original. Also I don't know why they felt the need to expand on Freddie's crimes. Apparently being a simple child murderer isn't evil enough anymore.

  3. Kat,you are exactly right. Jackie Earl Haley, who plays the new Freddy, as well as being Rorschach in Watchmen,did indeed go to the audition by getting a ride from Depp, Depp ended up getting the part, even though he wasnt really pursuing an acting career yet. Funny how things work out.