“How sweet, fresh meat.”
When I think of Freddy, the first thing that comes to mind is this line from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. After that, a cascade of one-liners begins to ripple through my brain.
“Welcome to prime time, bitch.” – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
“Told you comic books was bad for ya!” – Dream Child
“Now be a good little doggy and go fetch!” – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
The list goes on. Freddy was funny. I had the full Freddy mask on Halloween. This dream demon wasn’t just a killer; he was also one cool-ass comedian.
But if I dig deep, past the dark recesses of my cobwebbed brain, I can’t help but remember a darker Freddy. There was a time when Freddy gave me nightmares – made me afraid to venture into my basement or any other. It was a sad point in my childhood, where I would sneak into my parents’ room and seek refuge on their floor. Yeah, I wasn’t allowed in the bed. Tragic. The next day, I would be in the schoolyard, acting tough as though I wasn’t scared of Freddy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who hid his nightmare demons – just like Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) did in the original Nightmare.
The 80s were a different era of horror. We were more sensitive to violence. We didn’t need CG for scares, just good old-fashioned prosthetics and animatronics. But, when did the scares end and the comedy begin?
With the Nightmare on Elm Street 5-Disc Collection Blu-ray release, I had a chance to revisit the series from start to finish.
The first movie is a classic, simply for being the first. It introduced us to that great childhood tune, “1…2…Freddy’s coming for you.” Tina (Amanda Wyss) was the first to go. She got dragged up the wall and massacred, while her boyfriend watched. The scene conformed to the horror adage about teen sex: once you have sex in a horror flick, you die.
While the premise of a nightmare demon – that turns dream into reality – is a scary notion, the film as a whole isn’t scary. It doesn’t have those Exorcist or Poltergeist moments of horror.
Oddly enough, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge actually kicks up the scare factor for the franchise. Freddy has entered the real world and is trying his hand at possession. Unfortunately, the plot, details and acting don’t quite measure up.
In movie 3, Dream Warriors, the word scare is tossed out the window in favor of cheap laughs. However, they work. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her father (John Saxon) both return. We get a broader Freddy origin story. And we also get a nurse that spits out her tongue like a chain. Does Freddy get better?
Not really. By movies four through The Final Nightmare, you’re just waiting for the one-liners. They lose their momentum. You begin to expect each Freddy zinger as the films become more and more cliché. Perhaps that is because Wes Craven stepped aside from directing the franchise after the first film.
Needless to say, Craven thought the same way and eventually returned to the director’s chair in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The film mirrors the end of the first movie and is a nice change of pace from the litany of comedic films that were released after Freddy’s Revenge.
Instead of following Nancy, we start off in the real world with actor Heather Langenkamp. She discovers Craven is working on a new movie. Then, Freddy enters the real world. It’s a smart return to the first film, where Nancy brought Freddy into the movie’s real world. Plus we get to see Robert Englund play both himself and Freddy. The movie was released to commemorate Freddy’s 10th anniversary.
Overall, the Freddy Krueger franchise stands as one of the best horror franchises of all time. No horror movie’s premise and villain is as memorable as Freddy. Jason may have dominated the cinema with “a billion-and-one” movies, but Freddy always held the crown.