Friday, January 27, 2017

Franchise Run-Through: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Well, it's time now to take a look at a franchise, and the one we're looking at now is the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.

There's a few reasons that we're doing this one first, the main one of which is the fact that I want to get it out of the way quickly and can move on. There's a simple reason for that mentality: I've never really cared all that much about Freddy's exploits, as he never really offered me the kind of thrills that others utilized. His rather silly tone and indecipherable dream-world logic were hard to penetrate in an age where the straightforwardness of Jason and Michael had more enjoyable and fun. Now, there's some good stuff to be had here as there are some decent films in the series, but there's still a lot of issues with the series as a whole that makes for this one being the lowest of the classic franchises.

So, before we get into the films themselves, there are a few things to get through which we'll discuss here. The first here is obviously the series' origins and how this came into being, as the basis for the film was inspired by several newspaper articles printed in the LA Times in the 1970s on a group of Southeast Asian refugees, who, after fleeing to the United States from the results of war and genocide in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, were suffering disturbing nightmares. After suffering from this condition, they refused to sleep and some of the men died in their sleep soon after. Medical authorities called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome. The condition itself afflicted only men between the ages of 19 and 57 and is believed to be sudden unexplained death syndrome or Brugada syndrome, or both. The 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright sealed the story for Craven, giving him not only an artistic setting to "jump off" from but a synthesizer riff from the Elm Street soundtrack as well.

By Craven's account, his own adolescent experiences led to not only the naming of Freddy Krueger but also the initial inspiration for his creation. The initial concept of Krueger draws heavily from Craven's early life. One night, a young Craven saw an elderly man walking on the sidepath outside the window of his home. The man stopped to glance at a startled Craven and walked off. Initially, Fred Krueger was intended to be a child molester, but Craven eventually characterized him as a child murderer to avoid being accused of exploiting a spate of highly publicized child molestation cases that occurred in California around the time of production of the film. As for the name, he had been bullied at school by a child named Fred Krueger, and he named his villain accordingly. The colored sweater he chose for his villain was based on the DC Comics character Plastic Man, and Craven chose to make Krueger's sweater red and green, after reading an article in Scientific American in 1982 that said the two most clashing colors to the human retina were this particular combination.

So, with that out of the way, let's discuss another issue about this one in the order that I saw these in, as that might explain a little about the lack of interest in the series but which is still a rather fun story. Contrary to most other fans out there, the first one I saw was not the original but was rather New Nightmare which was rather early into my horror-watching lifestyle which I knew of  Freddy's appearance by then I hadn't seen him

A Nightmare on Elm Street (original)-

For me, this is one of the more controversial of the classic-era horror films because a lot of what makes it so appealing is due to historical significance and reputation rather than any actual merits of the film itself. The main source of that reputation is the rather clever and unique manner of the killer's backstory, which here is made to showcase one of the more common archetypes of horror, the sins of the mothers and fathers repeating to their sons and daughters, but is done with such a unique and original take that there's a sense of originality in the work and that makes for some of the best sequences in the film like the bed-attack where she levitates in mid-air, the first encounter in the alley and the final showdown in the house with all sorts of nightmarish situations being utilized in the battle by both sides. These are high-quality scenes that work not only because they're incredibly creepy but also due to the big action-spectacle they endow the film with, and when it's coupled with the fun special effects and several ingenious kills, this one does have some positives. The main flaw to this one, though, is the fact that there's a hidden clue to the film's sense of reality-bending that really makes it easy to write off a lot of what happens and takes a lot of the sting out of this one with how it handles its' main villain. That really makes this one feel a lot less creepy than it really is, as well as the ending which undoes everything that's happened and doesn't seem to really offer much beyond a lame jump. Otherwise, this one still has some going for it. (9.25/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge-

Like most people it seems, it's taken me a while to come around to this one but it does have some good parts here. The biggest thing it seems here is the rather bland pacing, The build-up of his psychosis tends to take way too long with rather bland manners of getting to the point about what's happening of getting Freddy back, taking a while to really get going that it doesn't really feature a whole lot of chances anyway for Freddy to do his work here, despite the fact that this one's rather enjoyable story based on his psychosis and potential possession generates plenty of good points. Once it lets Freddy loose, it's quite as much fun as it was in the original, with a fun opening and a great party sequence at the end where he really lets loose on the teens getting some rather fun action alongside the typical horror elements found within here to give it a few good scenes along with the few inventive kills along the way which also gives this one some decent gore along the way. Overall, it's fun if a little lower than the original. (8.5/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-

For me, this was always the most rewatchable efforts in the franchise and it still is with a strong sense about it that it was going to be more straightforward and wholly consistent entries. The psychiatry clinic at play here is the perfect kind of setting that should be utilized in such films in the series, providing the right kind of mystery involving whether or not Freddy is really preying on them or the victims are just crazy, the reintroduction of elements from the first one feel organic and complete the storyline involved there with the way. It not only gives us a completely logical manner of why Freddy's back in the first place but gives this a coherent feel tying into how Freddy goes after the kids which provide this with some of the series' best scenes. The two opening dreams exploring the run-down house and the fight with the Freddy worm are highly enjoyable, as well as some great kills in here with the other attacks on the kids throughout here. Though some of the quips here with the introduction of the comedy are lame and the pace stumbles somewhat in the middle segments, it's still one of the best entries in the series. (9.25/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master-

Frankly, this one was enjoyable if not entirely spectacular. Once again, the dream sequences are top-notch and manage to not only include some rather chilling ideas presented here as the scenes of him going after the kids from the previous film in the boiler room and the car graveyard which are quite exciting action scenes in chilling locations, a hallmark of the series. Once it gets to the new crop of victims, the goofier nature comes off rather at odds with what's being attempted here as these are supposed to be dark and chilling yet are played purely for cheesy laughs. This creates such a disjointed feel that so many of the scenes lose their impact, and that really forces the film to rely on the visual impact and creativity of what's going on as there's little else going on elsewhere in here, and that does make for a much more impressive time here since those dream sequences are again just as much creative and original as they have been in the rest of the series. This is certainly a watchable effort, even though there are some big flaws to this one. (8/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child-

Overall, there are a few decent parts with this one but it still has plenty of flaws. What really tends to hold this one up is the fact that there's still quite a lot of impressive work in the dream sequences as these are some of the series' most enjoyable and creative. Being the big driving factor here since it allows for those rather impressive special effects which has long been a hallmark of the franchise, there's a lot to like here and really generates the film's best  moments, really getting a lot of that in the finale which is some of the better fighting against Freddy which ends this on a high-note. Still, there's the ever-looming shadow hanging over the franchise in the inherent silliness being at such jarring odds with the rest of the horror here that it feels wholly chaotic and disorganized. There's little about the story that makes sense either which is a huge part of the film's flaws since nothing about it is given any kind of coherence to the remaining franchise entries and never really works quite as well as expected. Overall, there's stuff to like but it's got a lot of problems. (7/10)

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare-

This one ended up being quite a bitter disappointment and is overall one of the weakest entries in the series, if not the absolute worst. One of the biggest offenses here is the absolutely inane and over-the-top comedy injected into the film, from the never-ending quips and one-liners to the physical slapstick of the kills that are no longer horror at all and instead are now pure comedy. There isn't a whole lot here that really falls into the horror realm beyond the opening dream, which is the most serious of the scenes in here despite a few jokes thrown in, but the fact that this is mostly built up as a comedy doesn't really help this much. The 3D finish doesn't really mesh well with the rest of the film and doesn't have much point in helping the film out, feeling as though it was thrown in as an after-thought. While the joke-filled nature might wear on some, the fact that this is so silly might be a virtue to some as, though it doesn't work as a straight horror effort as a comedy this is really good with all those elements brought into play. That really lowers this one overall. (5.5/10)

New Nightmare-

This here turned out to be a decent if slightly flawed entry. Among the many things that work here is the fact that, by tying into the film series as a separate entity away from the reality presented here, it manages to be a lot smarter than it usually would be for this type of film, and that's something to commend by having the actors playing themselves instead of the film roles. That makes the typically-clich├ęd is-it-all-a-dream-or-not set-up far more effective than it has any right to be, given even more credence with Freddy's return to being scary again. Dropping any semblance of wisecracks, puns and lame jokes, reducing their screen time and really only appearing to do damage makes him a credible, scary force again, and that helps this out tremendously. With some great action in here, a lot of great special effects and a fantastic finale, this has a lot going for it but there's still a few problems here, mainly in the film's continued usage of the annoying child who does nothing but screams and yells, doing nothing to help the film overall. The low kill count means there's little variety to be found there as well, but overall this isn't all too bad. (9/10)

Freddy vs. Jason-
I'll cover this one in the Friday the 13th write-up, you'll just have to wait for that one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake)-

Frankly, I've always enjoyed this one and have always, always enjoyed it a lot. The main issue with it is the fact that this one doesn't seem to have any reason for being here, which is one of the single most ridiculous and pointless arguments to be made against a film. The fact that it tends to replay so many scenes as carbon-copies of the original without improving or altering them in any shape or fashion is a much bigger crime, as this one being a remake does bring up so many scenes that play off what happened in that manner which is the biggest factor to hold down the film. For the main part of the film, there's still a lot to like with the high amount of screen-time for Freddy making him somewhat creepy and chilling again through the admittedly still-scary sequences in here. The continuing taunts are effective and the trips into the dream world offer incredibly fun visuals that look really impressive due to the escape from reality they represent even though it is obviously CGI. A fast pace and some nice kills make this quite fun, so it's got some really enjoyable elements within here. (8/10)

So, with that done, let's rank these:
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (original) (9.25)
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (9.25)
3. New Nightmare (9)
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (8.25)
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (8)
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake) (8)
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (7)
8. Freddy's Dead: The Final Friday (5.5)

And before I leave, I should mention that no, Freddy never haunted my dreams growing up, and I've never woken up from a nightmare clutching something I was holding in my dream like this one says you can despite how many times I've tried. Lastly, I am aware of the TV show, but no I'm not going to give an overview of that one as this is a movie discussion blog, not a TV show blog so that will not be covered here no matter how good you say it is. Thanks for stopping by.