Monday, October 31, 2011

The Nightmare on Elm Street Series

I woke up today like it was any other day.  I got dressed, I brushed my teeth, I made my bed, and I sat down to enjoy some of the finest Internet made by the world's best chiefs, when suddenly, a knock at the door.  Curious, these days people never knock, they text.  So when I went to see who it was, I was surprised to find a police officer standing before me.  He was six foot-two, dressed in an Americanized version of a Gestapo uniform, but wore no smile.  I could see my own fear reflected back to me from the robotic gleam of his aviator shades.  His question was short and to the point:  "Are you one Blue Highwind, owner of the blog, Planet Blue?"

I could only respond with, "well, this is real life, so I usually go by my human name, but yes."

He was not amused, a creature of this species hates nothing more than cleverness.  "Sir, we see here that it is now October 31st, and you have written nothing at all to celebrate the marketing interests of the Halloween season."  He started to loosen up his neck.

"Uh... Yes, I guess that's true...  Well, I haven't written much of anything this month, and I really don't think-"

"Sir, we don't care what you think.  We only care that you write something about Halloween.  These are things beyond both you and me."  I couldn't reply before he continued.  "Now, sir, you know what will happen if you don't listen to this message.  You know what we can do to you, and you know, there is nothing you can do to stop us.  And you now what you have to do."  There was no emotion to a single word.

I had no idea what kind of "interests" the police officer was referring to, if he was the police at all.  And I had no idea who he was talking about when he said "we".  Perhaps he was some kind of representative of the entirety of American commercialism, some sort of demon of mass marketing.  Or maybe I was hallucinating the entire thing, I never rule out that possibility.   Ultimately I decided that I liked being alive, so I said.  "Okay, thank you, I'll get right on it."  The Man in Black left without a word.

So here we are.  Its time to recap the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series.

In the slasher horror genre, there is a Big Three of villains:  Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger.  Each one of them are iconic monsters of pop culture, and collectively they've been in a nightmarish number of movies.  Michael has nine*, Jason Voorhees has ten**, and Freddy has nine, adding up to a collective count of twenty-eight movies, just for these three characters.  Jason Voorhees has killed over 100 people, that's not just serial killing anymore, that's a crime against humanity!  And while that's certainly an embarrassing figure for America in the post-industrial age, it also means that these three are basically the champions of the entire slasher horror genre.  Despite nearly thirty movies, none of these franchises have sunk into the Hell of straight-to-video, like poor ol' Pinhead.  Somewhere out there, there's are three Hollywood execs dreaming up yet another three adventures for each one of these mass-murderers.  For all as long as their are movies, there will be Freddy, Jason, and Michael.  The only thing you can do is grin and bear it, and possibly pick your favorite.

Well, I got to go with Freddy here.  Mostly because, out of all three of the horror masters, he's the only one who can talk.  Thus you actually get to understand Freddy a little bit.  Jason and Michael are just walking juggernauts of destruction, they basically have as much character as the knives they cut people up with.  That's really the point, they're not supposed to be anything other than killer sharks eating their victims.  I don't think they even enjoy killing, its just what they do.  Do you particularly enjoy going to the bathroom?  Freddy is definitely a man who is enjoying himself every second on the camera, and you know Robert Englund is having a blast.  Plus, Freddy is by far the most creative guy of the bunch.  Michael and Jason really only have one way to kill you:  walk up, break your human form in some way, search for more victims.  But Freddy really puts those little extras in his killings.  Like let's say you're a gamer nerd in the 80s, when Freddy finds you, he'll kill you with the Powerglove!  Its so bad!  That takes imagination.

Ultimately, out of all these mass murderers, I'd most want to have a beer with Freddy.

So anyway, let's just do a brief history of this franchise.  Maybe sometime in the future we'll hit "Halloween" or "Friday the Thirteenth", but for now, let's just go over this one.  Like all great horror franchises, "Nightmare Elm Street" has its highs, has its lows, has several aborted attempts to end the franchise, and has had a shitty remake in the last few years.  But we're not talking about that, you should guess already that I would hate it.  We're talking about the good times:

1, 2, Freddy's coming for you...

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984):  Wes Craven came up with a pretty genius concept for a horror movie here.  Sleeping is a thing I think we can safely assume that we all do.  But let's ad a viscous dream monster that will murder you in your sleep.  Go to sleep and you die.  Its bad enough with some scary movies when you awake late at night imagining the girl from "the Grudge" hiding in your closet, knowing she'll come for you any moment burping in that fucked-up way.  You'll spend hours trying to go back to leep.  But throw in the knowledge that whatever creature is after you is inside your dreams.  I think its time to get a cup of coffee.  Even better, because its a dream, Freddy Kruger basically has unlimited powers to do any kind of insane tricks he wants.  This of course, leads to plenty of excellent murders.

To call "Nightmare on Elm Street" a great horror movie is to understate its greatness.  As fun of a character as Freddy Kruger is, the movie actually has a great sense of nightmares coming to life.  Its the sort of horror that gets under your skin and sticks in your head for years like a ridiculously catchy commercial jingle.  Poor Last Girl, Nancy and her friends have got some serious problems when Freddy wants them dead.  Their parents set him on fire in the past for being a serial killer and now he's pissed.  The first murder is still memorable as being one of the best horror kills I've ever seen.  The best one though, is seeing young Johnny Depp (in his first movie role) get eaten by his bed, then watching an entire Old Faithful of blood gush up to the ceiling.  You got Freddy's claw coming between the main girl's legs in the bathtub, you got him coming out of the walls, its great.  And you can never tell if you're in a dream or not.  One second the character on camera is in class, next thing they know they're inside Freddy's Nightmare Factory, a ruined old factory that Freddy Kruger likes to take his victims in all of the movies for no particular reason other than to scare the pants off the audience.  You're never safe in Elm Street.

And obviously, once "Nightmare on Elm Street" ended, it would not be the end of Freddy's adventures in gutting teenagers.  Do you really think it would end with Nancy magically bringing her friends back to life in a trippy ending like that?  A force of nature had been born, and since it was the 80s, the Golden Age of Horror, a sequel would be right around the corner.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge:  Now that's a great classic title for a movie.  A number in the title, and the word "Revenge", no doubt at all what place it holds in the series.

"Freddy's Revenge" is probably the least liked of all the "Nightmares on Elm Street", and really, that's doing the movie a disservice.  It definitely is the movie with the least amount of screen time for Freddy, and changes the rules of the franchise in a lot of weird ways.  Freddy has lost his power over nightmares, and instead needs to use the new protagonist, Jesse, to be a living sock puppet through which he can murder people.  (The movie never really decides where the physical boundaries between Freddy and Jesse are, and actually its better that way, it adds a surreal tone to the entire film.)  This is much more psychological film, dealing a lot more with Jesse's personal issues.  Mostly that he's gay.  Really really gay.  This is the most unintentionally homoerotic film to ever be made up until "Top Gun" the next year.  The 80s were a really gay time, and nobody knew it.

Anyway, the plot here is that Jesse has moved to Elm Street, and is going slowly insane.  Freddy is invading his mind and using him to kill, first to go is his sexual abusive gym teacher.  (I told you this movie was gay.)  The movie builds up this slow - kinda boring to be honest - psychological framework with Jesse.  Is really being invaded or is this all some kind of gay panic lashing out?  Then Freddy literally explodes out of Jesse's body and goes on a completely physical rampage using magic.  Yeah, Freddy is a straight magician in this movie.  Its awesome.  The scene when Freddy rips himself out of Jesse like Jesse is a skin costume is the one of the best in the series.

But of course, "Freddy's Revenge" was another ridiculous success, so the sequel train kept on rolling.

3, 4, better lock the door...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors:  This is the movie were the series really hit its stride.  "Dream Warriors" was the movie that really cemented the proper "Nightmare on Elm Street" formula.  The last two movies were straight horror.  "Dream Warriors" is where Freddy started coming into his own as a comedic character.  In the first movie, he had a few catchy lines, he killed with a smile, but that was it.  By the third movie, he's throwing one-liners and killing his victims in hilarious ironic ways.  So one girl in this movie really likes to watch TV, apparently so she can become an actress.  So Freddy throws her head into a TV and yells "welcome to prime time, bitch!"  Come on, that's both awesome and hilarious.  But definitely not scary.  If you want scary, "Nightmare on Elm Street" won't have much to offer you for awhile past this.  But I'm here for fun in any flavor, so I love this movie too.

The plot this time is that Patricia Arquette is being tormented by bad dreams, caused by none other than Freddy, of course.  So her bitchy mother sends her to a mental hospital, where all the other kids there are also Freddy's victims.  Then he picks them off one by one.  Nancy from "Elm Street 1" returns as a new psychiatrist, ready to help the kids fight off Kruger.  Her solution is... wacky.  Basically if the kids realize they're dreaming, they can transform into "Dream Warriors", since its a dream.  You can do whatever you want in the Matrix, including becoming a ridiculous 80s goth with a massive Slim Jim Mohawk.  I can only explain this chick's hair by reminding us all that the 80s were thirty years ago.  Well, being a Dream Warrior actually doesn't work so well, as you can see in this link, but eventually they kill Freddy again and life goes on.

Oh, Nancy is dead for realz now.  Sorry.  Wes Craven wanted this to be the last movie, but clearly he didn't get his way because...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:  The Dream Master:  Of the original "Elm Street" movies, "Dream Master" is.... one of them.  Robert Englund now has top-billing, and he's back to killing.  Freddy at this point has forgotten his motive for killing the kids from the first movie, now its just time to keep on killing, no particular reason why.  This is probably best remembered as the movie where Freddy Kruger turns into Jaws and puts on sunglasses.

This one is a bit weird too, I'm going to be honest.  Freddy returns thanks to horror movie magic, and he immediately kills off all the remaining kids from the last movie.  So if you had any attachment to Patricia Arquette's character, you're going to be pissed.  She gets recast, and murdered in two seconds.  So then Freddy goes off to kill everybody else in the extended teen circle.  But there's a hitch this time for Freddy.  Apparently, the new girl, Alice, is also some kind of dream demon person like Freddy - it isn't explained very well, if at all.  So whenever he kills somebody, she gets their talents and skills.  She's a Dream Master, whatever that means, so slowly throughout the movie she keeps getting stronger.  Her boyfriend is a kung-fu loser, so she gets kung-fu, some girl was really smart, so now Alice is smart too, etc.  You know, if I had anything like this power, I'd let Freddy kill every kid in school, I'd be a polymath of every skill on Earth before long. 

At the very least, the ending is great.  Freddy gets attacked by all the souls inside him, and baby limbs grow out of his body and screw him up.  One of the grossest and greatest effects ever.

5, 6, get a Crusifix...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5:  The Dream Child:  This one is probably the best shot of all the "Nightmares on Elm Street".  I don't know what it is about this movie's camera work, but it is friggin' beautiful.  It looks ten years more modern than its immediate sequel, "Elm Street 6".  A lot of people hate this one, and I really don't know why.  Basically all these movies are interchangeable at this point, so I don't know why "5" would be hated more than "4". 

The premise this time makes considerably more sense than whatever was happening in "Dream Master".  Alice is back, still being played by the same actress.  Unlike all the other Final Girls who got a reprise, she actually gets to live and be the main character again.  She's lost all her dream powers... somehow... but she's pregnant - with Freddy's kid.  Well, he's not actually Freddy's kid, its just that babies are never actually awake, so Freddy can posses him and return to the living.  I'm not really sure why Freddy would want to be human again, considering that he's always having so much fun killing high schoolers by shoving huge amounts of food down their throats or something.  I assume he's just here to piss off Alice.

Anyway, you should guess how this is going now.  Alice wins, Freddy dies, again.  The opening is probably the best part, considering how freaky it is.  If I need to complain about anything, its that this movie has only three murders, which is pathetic for an 80s horror film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 6:  Freddy's Dead:  The Final Nightmare:  Colon cancer much?  By the way, children, if a horror movie ever says in it the title that its the "final" one of its franchise, bet everything you have that another one is on the way.  In fact, the franchise won't even be half over at that point.  "Friday the Thirteenth" has had no less than two movies claiming that Jason is really really dead this time.  And look how well that's worked.

Did you know Peter Jackson actually wrote a script for this film?  It didn't get bought, but it would have been a great "Nightmare on Elm Street 7".

The premise this time is cool, if nothing else.  "Freddy's Dead" is not a very good movie, I'm afraid.  The idea is that its now 1999 (this movie was actually made in 1991), and Freddy has been so good at killing that he's wiped out the entire child population of Springwood.  But there's a mystical barrier stopping Freddy from killing any kids outside the town limits.  This is curious to me, since one would assume that he couldn't kill beyond Elm Street, thus the title, but clearly not.  Springwood is now a horrifying ghost town filled only with crazy people played by celebrity cameos.  Rosanne Barr is in this movie, wow.  Unfortunately, the last teenager in town has escaped, only to come back with a bunch of new friends from a youth shelter.  Freddy does his thing, with a couple of the most ridiculous kills in this entire franchise.  He kills somebody with a fucking Powerglove!  Holy shit!  Then he interrupts Johnny Depp's cameo to murder a stoner to the tunes of Iron Butterfly.  This movie is a comedy, not an once of horror left.  The climax of this movie sees the Final Girl beat up Freddy Kruger using 3D glasses.  If only they were that useful in real life.

The Final Girl this time is Maggie, who turns out to be Freddy Kruger's daughter.  This is not the baby from "Dream Child", who was actually a boy, and honestly I think that was a hugely missed opportunity.  Instead she's the child of human Freddy Kruger, played by Robert Englund without make-up.  Then she kills him, as you'd expect, and supposedly the franchise is over.  Well, it was dead for about three years.  Wes Craven just could not help himself:

7, 8, stay up late...

New Nightmare:   This is the most original of the all the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies, because it takes place in the "real world".  Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the first and third movies, is playing Heather Langenkamp, in Hollywood.  Apparently a brand new "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie is being made, the final one (unlike the last final one, which was just a joke, I guess).  Wes Craven personally shows up on camera to play himself, only provoking the supremely meta-concept to a place where even postmodernist would go insane.  How come Johnny Depp was never invited to this party?

"New Nightmare" is actually legitimately scary, because it isn't a slasher movie.  All the humor is gone, Neo Freddy is a dark figure of death, who never says "bitch" once.  There aren't many deaths, its about the world we know being attacked by a horror movie icon.  Freddy is here in the real world, screwing with the actresses and directors of his own movie.  Apparently when your box office gross is high enough, you can become a demon and terrorize the Earth.  Freddy wants Heather to be Nancy, and so is screwing around with the rules of reality in order to get her to be his Final Girl.  And that includes targeting Heather's own son, Dylan.  Robert Englund shows up a perfectly kindly actor, and this is where meta movies start to annoy me.  I want to tell you that Robert Englund plays Freddy in "New Nightmare", but am I talking about the real Robert Englund or Robert Englund the character in this movie?  Oh, and during this entire film, Wes Craven is writing the script... to this movie!

"New Nightmare" also features a complete replay of the first death of the series, which made the horror fan inside me squee for joy.  Most of the horror actually comes from earthquakes and other reality shifting mumbo jumbo.  Which is hilarious because Los Angeles was actually hit with a huge earthquake during production.  Freddy Kruger caused the 1994 Earthquake!  Run for your lives.  But all in all, this was a cool little movie to end the franchise on.  Wes Craven would later do the meta thing again with the "Scream" films.  I would have liked for the nightmare to end here.  But sadly, things would only turn to shit.

Freddy vs. Jason:  (groan)

I fucking hate this movie.  I can't call this the worst slasher movie ever made, but its definitely a sign of how the genre is completely dead in the 21st century.  Once upon a time, slasher movies were supposed to be about kids you could relate to getting butchered.  Now its about annoying one-dimensional sluts, male and female sluts, getting butchered.  Its not like 80s horror movies didn't have sluts, they had plenty.  And there were one-dimensional stupid characters.  But I don't remember horror movies being so intentionally annoying as they are today.  I get rooting for the killer, Freddy is the star of the show, but don't make me want to see the teenagers die if only to make stop being stupid!

Somehow Springwood has teenagers again, even though Freddy massacred that town years ago.  But the parents won't tell the kids about Freddy, so he can't kill them.  You need to know about him, for him to kill you.  But... but that makes no sense!  None of the main heroes in this franchise had ever heard of Freddy before the start of the film!  From Nancy on up they all saw him in dreams than learned who he was.  So Freddy summons Jason Vorhees to murder a few kids and get the rumor mill running so he can come back to killing again.  However, Jason eats too many victims, so Freddy and him have to fight.  Meanwhile, a group of annoying teenagers defeat them both.  Lame.

And of course, this is versus movie.  That means that neither Freddy or Jason can actually win, because fans of one of the franchises would get pissed.  Well, I'm a fan of both, and I don't care.  I like Jason, I like Freddy, I can root for them both.  Just pick a winner!  "Godzilla vs. King Kong" had no problems having Godzilla lose, and that movie was made by Toho, the Godzilla folks***.  "Freddy vs. Jason" is just stupid.  Really really stupid.

9, 10, never sleep again... 

A Remake on Elm Street:  This movie is my nightmare.  These days its fashionable to reboot horror franchises, I have no idea why.  There's nothing wrong with making a sequel to a horror movie.  Nobody was embarrassed when "Friday the Thirteenth" hit part eight, nobody will be embarrassed if you just make a "Nightmare on Elm Street 9"!  Nobody will care.  They rebooted "Friday the Thirteenth" too, which is really a shame because they were only two installments away from "Friday the Thirteenth 13".  There's a reason I own all the "Nightmare" movies but this one.

What's to say about this movie?  Its everything that's wrong with horror today.  Its a pointless remake shot entirely in ugly blue and orange that rips off all the best kills from the first movie, and does them in CG.  Basically if you need to see a "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie but hate the 80s and everything about them, here you go.  Well, if you hate the 80s, then don't watch slasher movies!  Robert Englund is replaced by Jackie Earl Harley, who did not need make-up because he's the only man in Hollywood who looks like he's been set on fire already.  Harley offers no fun, no joy in his performance.  He's just angry, Freddy isn't supposed to be angry.  And they made Freddy into a literal child molester, actually touching kids.  I guess that's creepy, but really?  This is an episode of "Law & Order: SVU", not a "Nightmare on Elm Street".

And worst of all, its boring.  "Nightmare on Elm Street" was never boring!  Even "Freddy vs. Jason", for as much as it sucked, was at least entertaining.  This movie blows.  Talking about it is killing my Halloween.

So we're ending this walkthrough of Freddy Kruger's adventures here.  Go off, find a decent horror film to watch, I know I got seven great "Elm Street" movies to enjoy right here.

* We entirely cannot count "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch" in this reckoning.  That movie didn't have Michael Myers at all besides brief shots of him on television.  "Season of the Witch" is actually the story of America under attack from the most annoying ad jingle in the history of history.  Its actually not that bad of a movie besides.  

** Can't count "Friday the Thirteen 1" or "Friday the Thirteen 5" in that list either.  The first one was actually his mom, everybody knows that.  But "Part 5: A New Beginning" actually sucks so bad that you'd never want to see it.  (And Jason isn't the killer, but who cares about that?)

*** Of course, maybe I'm refuting my own argument here, because I hate when Godzilla loses and I think King Kong cheated.  Where did he get electricity powers from?  In real life, Godzilla would step on King Kong and win in two seconds flat.  FIRE BREATH, over.


  1. Did the police officer really come to your house and tell you this? On a unrelated note... Please read this, it is about how Final Fantasy XV can look like. Tell me what you think.

  2. Freddy was always a child molester They said it in the first film at some point. That or they just made really vagued remarks to it.

    -the 1 & only Uzuki

  3. Horror films are dead now, none of them are scary anymore. It's all about real life scares and horror games (Which can suck) these days.