A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) review

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 posterDirector: Stephen Hopkins

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Danny Hassel, Erika Anderson

AMANDA KRUEGER – “Your birth was a curse on the whole of humanity. I will not allow it to happen again. You brought me back to give you life, but now I must take yours.”

FREDDY – “We’ll see, bitch. We’ll just see.”

I’ll tell you something, that Freddy Krueger lad doesn’t fuck around, does he?

Wes Craven’s original classic A Nightmare On Elm Street was released in 1984, yet by the time 1989 rolled around the series had already reached its fifth film.

Naturally, churning out movies at a rate of nearly one a year can’t be good for the quality of a franchise: not that New Line Cinema cared, of course. Freddy was guaranteed profit.

The process eventually reached a head with film number five, The Dream Child. It offered far more visual spectacle than any other entry before it but, crucially, made far less sense too. Continue reading “A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) review”

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A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) review

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 posterDirector: Renny Harlin

Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman

“You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.” (Freddy, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master)

When A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 was released in 1987, the character of Freddy Krueger truly took off and started to become a household name.

This was partly thanks to his character’s evolution which saw him become more of an anti-hero than an outright villain.

Whereas in the first film he was a strictly sinister creation – a child murderer stalking the dreams of those whose parents killed him – by the third movie Freddy was busting out one-liners and making people scream with laughter rather than terror.

The inevitable fourth film, knocked together in less than a year, continued this trend by offering an even more wisecracking, fun-loving Freddy… with the fright factor taking another knock as a result.

However, as a shameless Nightmare On Elm Street devotee, I’m not fussed in the slightest. Hey, if you want objectivity, visit the BBC. Continue reading “A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) review”

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Director: Chuck Russell

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon

“Let’s go kick the motherfucker’s ass all over dreamland.” (Kincaid, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3)

After New Line Cinema ballsed up the sequel to its biggest-grossing hit with an unintentionally homo-erotic film that tore apart the mythology the original took great pains to create, it was decided that the third Nightmare movie would right the wrongs of Freddy’s Revenge and provide the true sequel Freddy fans wanted the first time around.

Back came Wes Craven, then, who had been shunned for the second film. Craven wrote a first draft of the script then moved on to a different project, but not before also convincing Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy in the original film, to return. The combination of Craven’s story and Nancy’s return laid the groundwork for what would ultimately prove to be the best of the Nightmare On Elm Street sequels.

This was Patricia Arquette's first big film role. A film where she's eaten by a big snake.

With Elm Street exhausted of teenagers, Dream Warriors moves its setting to a psychiatric hospital where a fresh batch of potential teenage victims are housed. While each of these teens is in the nuthouse for their own personal reasons – one doesn’t talk, one self-harms, another is a drug addict – they also share a common problem: they’re all being stalked in their sleep by Freddy Krueger.

Naturally, the staff aren’t having any of it, and the kids are getting annoyed that their pleas are going unnoticed – that is, until Nancy joins the hospital as a group therapist.

Some said Britney Spears' kissing technique was a little severe

After finding out what they’re all going through, Nancy explains to the teens that they’re the last of the Elm Street children – the kids of the parents that burned Freddy alive – and that he wants to kill them so he can finally get his revenge once and for all. Nancy teaches the group that they’re in control of their own dreams, and that as long as they keep that control they can give themselves any special powers they want to help them defeat Freddy. And so they set about preparing to take on Freddy in the dream world.

The reason Dream Warriors is the best of the Nightmare sequels is because it marks the final high point of the series just before Freddy’s popularity exploded and the Nightmare movies descended into self-parody and MTV jokes. This is the first film where Freddy starts wisecracking as he offs his victims but the actual plot is still somewhat serious – the backstory telling how his mother, a nun at an asylum, conceived him after she was accidentally locked in a room with a hundred maniac inmates and raped over and over verges on the obscene – and ensures the film remains a firm member of the horror genre as opposed to the black comedies its sequels essentially were.

"For the last time, it was a shaving accident"

The deaths are also among the most varied and memorable in Nightmare lore. One telly-addicted victim pegs it when her TV sprouts a Freddy head and arms, picks her up and slams her head into the screen, while another nearly meets her end at the hands (well, gums) of a giant Freddy snake which looks not unlike a huge penis. Not that I noticed, I’m just saying.

By far the most talked-about scene in the film however is the puppet suicide. One of the patients builds puppets as a hobby and so Freddy uses this against him by ripping his veins out of his wrists and feet and turning him into a giant puppet, using the veins as strings and operating him from above. To everyone else it looks like he’s just sleepwalking, but in his dream Freddy is in control, leading him to the top floor and chucking him out the window in what appears in the real world to be a suicide.

Even the film’s ending is effective, as some characters you expect to live don’t make it and Freddy’s demise actually makes some sense given his religious bloodline. It’s an appropriate end, and had the series finished there it would have been a fitting way to draw a line under things and atone for the poor second film. Of course, it didn’t quite happen like that, but that’s for another time.

If you want to watch only the best films in the Nightmare On Elm Street series then watch the first, skip the second and definitely check out Dream Warriors. It’s second only to the original movie in terms of plot and creativity while also presenting a Freddy that, while more charismatic, is still somewhat scary. In short, it was the last truly fantastic film in the main Nightmare On Elm Street series.

Usually I end my reviews with the film’s trailer but the Nightmare On Elm Street 3 one was only a sort of teaser trailer, effective though it may be:

So to give a better idea of the movie I found this fan-made trailer which is actually really well-made and gives a fantastic sense of what the film’s all about. I really recommend it because it goes some way to explaining why I love this film so much. Enjoy!

A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers

JESSE – “Grady, do you ever remember your dreams?”
GRADY – “Only the wet ones.”

At the time, Jack Sholder didn’t know he was making a gay movie. As far as he was aware, he was simply making a sequel to A Nightmare On Elm Street, which had been a huge box office success the previous year. It was only when the film started getting recognition and critical praise from the gay media that he slowly realised he may have unwittingly created the greatest homosexual film of the early ’80s.

Freddy’s Revenge tells the tale of Jesse (Mark Patton), an effeminate young chap who’s new in town and already trying to win over his new high school lady friend Lisa (Kim Myers, looking remarkably like a young Bette Midler). The problem is, Jesse’s family have unwittingly moved into1428 Elm Street, the house where Nancy lived in the previous movie, and in doing so have provided Freddy with new victims to stalk.

"Haven't you heard, Toots? I'm a metaphor for Jesse's gay side. Ain't got no time for adequate pieces of tail like you"

As Jesse sleeps at night, he dreams about Freddy. Rather than killing him though, Freddy wants to take over Jesse’s body so he can come into the real world and kill all the teenagers in Elm Street. Jesse tries to resist, but finds himself unable to control his body. He goes into his little sister’s room wearing a Freddy glove and only just manages to stop himself attacking her. He sprouts a huge demon tongue while he’s getting down and dirty with Lisa but manages to hide it and leave without her seeing. Freddy’s taking over his body and there’s not much he can do about it.

Ah. Right. Well, I'm not touching this one, you can draw your own conclusions

Of course, as far as the cast and crew of the movie were concerned (well, most of them at least – nowadays Mark Patton, himself a gay actor, claims he knew all along what was happening), this was nothing more than a straight sequel (in every sense of the word) to the previous year’s big horror blockbuster. That wasn’t how the gay community saw it, however. In their eyes, Freddy’s Revenge was a film about a young man struggling to accept his own sexuality and trying to fight it. The funny thing is, if you watch the film with the assumption that Freddy is supposed to be Jesse’s gay side, it’s hard to argue with them.

Everything Freddy does to Jesse can be interpreted as an attempt to bring out his gay side. The aforementioned tongue scene is Freddy’s attempt to stop him being intimate with a woman. At one point, Jesse runs to a male friend’s house, climbs through his bedroom window and tells him there’s someone inside of him he’s trying to get out. Every time Jesse kills someone (while under Freddy’s control), he lets out an incredibly high-pitched scream. When Freddy finally completely takes over Jesse’s body, the only way Jesse can be freed is for Lisa to kiss Freddy, essentially killing off his homosexual side.

The pivotal coming out scene, where Freddy literally "comes out" of Jesse while he's in another lad's bedroom

All these are mere foreplay, however, compared to the scene in which a sleeping Jesse, under Freddy’s control, walks to the nearest gay S&M club and finds his gym teacher there wearing a tight leather outfit. The teacher takes Jesse back to the school and makes him run laps in the gym, but afterwards Jesse, as Freddy, ties him up with skipping ropes in the shower, strips him, whips his bare arse with a towel then gives him the old fingerknives in the back (penetrating him from behind, if you will). If the cast and crew genuinely weren’t trying to make a gay movie, you have to wonder what the hell they were thinking here. I’m not just making this up, you know, here’s an entertaining behind-the-scenes video with the film’s cast admitting they had no clue. They’re incredibly honest and stunned at how gay they made the film. It’s a must-watch!

Either way, the homosexual subtext is neither here nor there – Freddy’s Revenge is simply an odd film however you take it (so to speak). Odd, unexplainable things happen throughout the film, each doing their bit to undo the “rules” and mythology laid out by Wes Craven in the wonderful first film. Jesse’s house suddenly becomes incredibly hot for some reason, to the extent that his pet budgie goes mental, attacking Jesse’s sister and then spontaneously combusting into a tiny explosion of flames and feathers.

"Sorry lads, you don't look gay enough. This film has to be fucking blatant. Back to the locker room"

Then there’s the part where Freddy freely comes into the real world, something that was a big no-no in Craven’s original (only Nancy could bring him out of her dream). This leads to a ridiculous scene at a pool party where Freddy confronts 50 or so teens, most of whom are taller than him and could probably kick his arse.

In a series famous for its bizarre moments and bending of reality, for Freddy’s Revenge to somehow feel a bit off is something of an achievement. It’s entertaining enough however you choose to interpret it, but it’s by no means one of the better entries in the Nightmare saga.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon

“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…” (freaky as fuck children, A Nightmare On Elm Street)

It’s unfair for me to give a fair and objective review of this film because it was such a big part of my childhood. The majority of my years as a wee boy were spent shitting myself at the very sight of Freddy Krueger (unlike my fearless younger brother who idolised him). The Nightmare films affected me so much that they remain the basis for my love of horror to this day. Quite simply: no Nightmare On Elm Street, no That Was A Bit Mental. So it’s to blame if you think this site is pish. Therefore, anyone expecting this film to get any less than a full 5 out of 5 can stop dreaming (as it were) and just accept it. I fucking love this film, and I always will until the day I die. Now let’s dissect it.

Johnny Depp in his first ever role. Awwww

Nancy and a couple of her other high school friends have started sharing the same bad dream about an impolite chap named Fred Krueger. Mr Krueger has a glove with long razors for fingernails, which must be an inconvenience when he has to use toilet paper. Naturally, he’s not a happy man (not necessarily because of the toilet paper though) and terrorises Nancy and her friends every time they dream about him. Once Nancy’s friends start dying in their sleep, however, it soon becomes clear that whatever Freddy does to you in your dream affects you in real life, and if he kills you in your dream you’re fucked in real life too. It’s up to Nancy and her boyfriend Glen to figure out how to stop Freddy before all the Elm Street children die in their sleep.

Freddy's makeup was a little nastier than it was in later films

Everyone talks about how the original Friday the 13th isn’t scary anymore because (with the exception of Kevin Bacon’s death and the ending) you’re pretty much warned about all the deaths in advance (the shadow of the axe against the curtain before it’s slapped into someone’s head, for example). A Nightmare On Elm Street, on the other hand, still provides the odd chill to those who have yet to watch it; be it Freddy bursting out of a mirror, Tina’s death or Glen’s unfortunate bedroom experience. It’s safe to say that 27 years after its release, despite showing its age a little in terms of special effects, A Nightmare On Elm Street can still hold its own fright-wise against much of the emotionless bullshit that’s being released in cinemas these days.

This scene actually merges slow motion into normal speed without the viewer noticing

Part of this is also down to the film’s concept in general. It’s often hard to care much about slasher films because not many of us have been chased down a street by someone wielding a knife (unless you’ve spend a Friday night in Glasgow of course). Everybody has nightmares though, and everybody knows how powerless they feel when they’re having them, so building a film around that idea was a genius move by Wes Craven.

Of course, this film would be nothing without Freddy Krueger, one of the greatest horror characters in history. The idea of a dodgy chap burnt alive by the parents of the children he killed who now seeks revenge is great, and the innuendo and suggestions that he may have been more than simply a child murderer adds an underlying sense of nastiness without ever actually confirming anything.

Gore fans will be reasonably happy with A Nightmare On Elm Street because there’s a good deal of the red stuff spattered throughout the film, most notably during the famous first kill where Freddy drags the helpless Tina onto the ceiling. Plus Freddy seems intent on causing himself harm in every scene he appears in, be it by slicing his fingers off or cutting his stomach open. Quite gory then. The deaths are also extremely inventive, given the film’s low budget. It’s a credit to the special effects crew that the aforementioned ceiling death is very surprising when it happens, because you don’t expect to see something as cool as that happening in a film that seems fairly cheaply made. Here’s the scene if you haven’t seen it before:

The acting is possibly the one area where the film could theoretically lose some points. As much as I love this film I have to admit that it’s undeniably ’80s and most of the actors (with the exception of Johnny Depp, Robert Englund and John Saxon) either play their roles in an over-the-top manner or simply are’t convincing enough. As a lead actress, Heather Langenkamp is simply not good enough in this film and her shonky delivery of her lines tends to take the viewer out of Craven’s world and throw them back into reality. This is more due to her inexperience as an actress when she starred in this, however: indeed, her later roles in the third and seventh Nightmare films were much more believable as she gained maturity as an actress.

A product recall for Marks & Spencer's new line of bath mitts was inevitable

Maybe I’m being biased, maybe I’m being nostalgic, but I am of the honest opinion that anyone who hasn’t seen A Nightmare On Elm Street before they died better have a good reason like being Amish or something. Not many horror films can be considered classics but in my opinion among the true classics you have your Dawn Of The Dead, you have your Halloween, you have your Friday The 13th and you have your Nightmare On Elm Street. Yes, the acting is poor and the fashion is sometimes scarier than Freddy himself (witness the camp might of Johnny Depp’s crop-top and bouffant hairdo), but these are merely documents of the film’s history.

Does anyone question Nosferatu‘s lack of sound? No, because all films at that time were silent. Therefore, should anyone question A Nightmare On Elm Street‘s dodgy acting and dodgier clothes? No, because all ’80s slasher films had Oxfam wardrobes and stars who couldn’t act their way out of a nutsack. It comes with the territory. What doesn’t however, and makes A Nightmare On Elm Street better than its countless competitors is that it’s a clever, well-directed horror with great special effects for its budget and inventive deaths that involve more than just someone else getting their throat slit every five minutes. If you haven’t seen it, take it from me and remedy that situation. Here’s the trailer to help drive the point home: