Rankfest: A Nightmare on Elm Street
I just realised I said Halloween would be next but it’s all lies… So from Crystal Lake we fly west to Springwood to check out how I like my Elm Streets…
9th Best: Freddy’s Dead (1991)
With both Freddy and Jason’s ‘final’ adventures, The Final Nightmare peters out with little of the flair that made the concept so good in the first place. This was released in the UK around the same time Queen singer Freddie Mercury died, making the TV adverts staying ‘Freddy’s Dead!’ wildly inappropriate.
Best Bit: Sadly, the montage of best bits from parts 1-5.
8th: The Dream Child (1989)
The attempt to revert to the dark roots of the series resulted in a pretty boring entry on the coattails of the most successful of the 80s installments. Although drippy heroine Alice finally comes to the fire in a non-annoying way, by this point there were way too many tie-ins, toys, music videos, and the TV show, all of which diluted any fear Krueger had injected into anybody.
Best Bit: I actually can’t think of one.
7th: The Remake (2010)
Less Elm Street, more Emo Street as the re-imagining of the story pits a group of thoroughly depressing high schoolers against Jackie Earle Haley’s less quippy Krueger. He’s fine, and there are some good ideas floating around (the curse of the dreams is kind of passed along after each death) but, as with the Halloween remake, the cover version part of it can’t hold a candle, and seems like a cheap afterthought.
Best Bit: The opening nightmare is pretty good and Katie Cassidy is a good screamer.
6th: Freddy vs Jason (2003)
It’s crap, especially compared to the New Nightmare, but Jason’s presence makes it avidly more watchable from an entertainment standpoint. Freddy doesn’t get to do a whole lot of slashing, but comes to the party fully equipped with a quip for every action.
Best Freddy Bit: “She was mine! Mine! Miiiiiiiine!!!”
5th: New Nightmare (1994)
Wes Craven, pissed off with what had become of his creation, re-seized the reigns just two years before Scream came along, and completely overhauled the series, reinstating Heather Langenkamp playing herself, now tormented by the films that made her name, as Freddy comes after her family. It’s all very clever, but not much of a slasher film, running a bit too long to enjoy repeated viewings, but is undeniably an amazing example of somebody reclaiming their work.
Best Bit: John Saxon falling back into character before a perplexed Heather.
4th: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
I hated this one in the beginning, being such a departure from the first, switching the focus to a homo-repressed teenage boy, who has recently moved into 1428 Elm Street. However, repeated viewings have unveiled much to like, from the colourful 80s tone, some laughably bad acting, and some awesome nightmare scenarios, it’s subsequently leapt up the rankings.
Best Bit: The school bus nightmare opener, relative and really well done.
3rd: The Dream Master (1988)
The MTV Nightmare was a combination of fortuitous circumstances that led to huge box office takings: Freddy was riding the top of his pop culture wave, FX work was at a revolutionary turning point and the dream sequences were rendered with amazing innovation and creativity. Points lost for little to no grue, and a sappy, annoying final girl.
Best Bit: Debbie’s transformation into an insect.
2nd: Dream Warriors (1987)
The ‘proper’ sequel to the events of the first film: Six years later, Nancy returns to help a group of nightmare-plagued teenagers at a psych ward where nobody seems able to understand their collective problem, writing it off as mass-hysteria. This marked the last time the adults-know-better theme was used to full effect. Freddy was also legitimately still a scary boogeyman, tormenting Patricia Arquette’s heroine in some perfectly realised nightmare situations.
Best Bit: “Welcome to primetime, bitch!” (or is it “fuck the primetime”?)
1st: The Original (1984)
Wes Craven got everything right – with the possible exception of the end – and built New Line studios on the back of a script that had been turned down by every other studio in Hollywood. Centrally, the motif of sleep=death is up there with a shark in the water off Amity Island, but you can stay out of the sea. How long can you stay awake?
Cleverly, the film foregoes murder after murder to focus on final girl Nancy’s battle with staying awake, something we all tried after seeing it, I’m sure. I once managed a couple of days by going through a crate of 24 Pepsi cans. Unquestionably one of the most important horror films ever made.
Best Bit: Nancy’s gradual progression from suburban any-girl to trap-manufactuing, Krueger-kicking badass.