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[Special Feature] What A Nightmare! Ranking The 9 ‘Elm Street’ Movies!

After last week’s Dream Warriors Script To Scream I found that I had a lot of leftover thoughts racing in my head regarding the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise in general. Was Part 3 better than Part 1? How did they fail so badly with the remake? Is scary Freddy better than funny Freddy? Why does Freddy’s Dead even exist?

Of course, some of these answers are self evident. Nevertheless, with all of these thoughts about the series cluttering my brain, I decided to embark on my own personal ranking of the films in the franchise (including Freddy Vs. Jason). So here they are, ranked in the simple order of which ones I’d prefer to watch over the others.

Hit the jump to check it out. I expect plenty of you guys to disagree, so feel free to include your own ranking in the comments!

1. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

It pretty much goes without saying that the first entry is the obvious winner. Despite some slight hiccups (Freddy visibly landing on a mattress on the staircase, Heather Langenkamp’s performance in general), it’s legitimately a landmark film. For one, it’s actually scary. And I suspect it would be even scarier if the sequels hadn’t taken such a protracted detour into one-liners and camp comedy. In effect, Freddy was spoiled for us – and I wonder if the film would be held in higher regard if the entire franchise ended here.

Putting my wishful pontificating aside, A Nightmare On Elm Street has a genius conceit and a near-perfect villain. Good performances by Amanda Wyss and Johnny Depp (along with great 70‘s-esque whitesploitation performances from Ronee Blakley and John Saxon) seal the deal. It’s a great idea, fully developed and played completely developed.

2. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS

A lot of people have this as their #1 and I completely understand why. Chuck Russell made a really fun horror-fantasy film that fully realizes (at least as far as its small budget will allow) the potential of the dream world both as a setting and as an extension of its characters (many of whom are actually charismatic). But there are elements that haven’t dated well, such as the needless elaboration on Krueger’s backstory and the idea that his remains needed to be buried. Freddy was explained every bit as much as he needed to be in the first film. That plotline and the trend of one-liners that were kickstarted by Dream Warriors would forever haunt the rest of the series.

Also, many people exult this film as somehow being more imaginative than the first. As I said earlier, I think it fully realizes the concepts outlined in A Nightmare On Elm Street – but I think we’re forgetting how imaginative the construct of that film is. Part 1 truly built the world, Part 3 merely expanded it.

3. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE

Freddy’s Revenge is incredibly flawed, but Jack Sholder crafted one of the more fun entries in the series. It has some outlandish elements, and it makes the mistake of pulling Freddy into the real world at the pool party – but at least it’s still trying to be scary. And the oft-discussed gay subtext (or more accurately, text) is actually a pretty good theme to go hand in hand with the idea that Mark Patton’s Jesse is scared of becoming Krueger himself.

Freddy’s Revenge is often thought of as being some kind of fiasco – but what that means to me is that it’s just one of the more interesting entries in the series. Exploding parakeets, Clu Gulager, Jesse’s bedroom dance, Bob Shaye in leather – it’s all so d*mn entertaining. And again, Freddy is still a monster here, he’s not quite in “take my wife, please” territory yet.

4. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER

Here’s where we really start heading downhill. The Dream Master was actually my favorite Elm Street movie when I was growing up, but that’s probably because it was the most successful one. Renny Harlin’s film was utterly embraced my the mainstream – if Freddy ever had a pop culture “moment”, this was most certainly it – which at the time I felt kind of legitimized my fandom.

It’s too bad that a more recent revisiting of the film found it to be utterly lacking in logic, suspense or scares. A lot of it still works, it’s not like the movie is boring, it’s a fast-moving adventure film that colorfully sums up the year 1988. But anytime Freddy impersonates Jaws with his glove, pops out onto the beach and puts on his shades – you know you’ve jumped the shark.

5. NEW NIGHTMARE

A lot of you might be bothered that this is ranked so low on the list, but this entry is hugely overrated. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare feels antiquated – its attempts at meta commentary now feel more smug and grating than clever. It’s thematic territory that he would cover to far greater effect in Scream just a few years later.

Technically I suppose it’s a better film than The Dream Master, but what does that even mean when it’s such a boring slog? Plus, the Freddy redesign isn’t remotely scary. He’s too brightly lit and looks almost like an WWF Wrestling interpretation of the concept.

6. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: THE DREAM CHILD

Stephen Hopkins’ Dream Child is an utterly confounding film. Why would New Line so drastically slash the budget of this when they were coming off the uber-successful Dream Master? I don’t know, but the result is a cheapo movie that feels completely neutered. I could understand a mandate to spend less if they were aiming to make something more in the vein of Part One, but as the third film in the makeshift trilogy started by Dream Warriors you need to go big or go home. This film did neither. If memory serves it also has the lowest body count of the series – even if Greta’s force-feeding kill is pretty cool. Super Freddy? Motorcycle Freddy? No thanks!

7. FREDDY VS. JASON

The only reason this movie is placed as high as it is is because it functions fairly well as a Friday The 13th film. The rave scene is fun, the opening kills are cool and brutal and the narrative kind of barely holds together up until act 3. But then Ronny Yu lets the whole thing devolve into a protracted wrestling match between Jason and Freddy. To be honest, who the f*ck cares?

Freddy Vs. Jason is one of those ideas we thought we all wanted, but boy were we wrong. After this and Alien Vs. Predator, hopefully we’ve learned to stop mixing our killers.

8. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

A dead, soulless remake that makes no sense and cowardly backs away from the one cool new idea it had – what if Freddy were innocent? If they’d actually gone all the way with that one I would have been a little more impressed, but by no means would it have saved the movie. NOES 2010 benefits from having the resources to render its dream worlds slightly more absorbing than prior entries, but how many points can you award a film for simply having more money to spend? Decent actors and performances are utterly wasted and, worst of all, we lost our shot at returning the franchise to the dark roots of the original. Or continuing the franchise at all. The film was a financial success but there are no plans for a sequel – which speaks volumes about how much fun everyone must have had making this one.

9. FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE

Dear God. I remember seeing an interview with Rachel Talalay where she bemoaned Platinum Dunes for not staying true to the original vision or consulting with the original New Line team for their remake. I’m not sure if she should be throwing stones because her Freddy’s Dead is easily the worst film in the entire franchise.

Awful makeup, horrible one-liners, the completion of Freddy’s journey towards becoming a burn-victim Jay Leno, the rogues gallery of stupid cameos, Wicked Witch Freddy, Bus Driver Freddy, Freddy pushing traps into the road like Wile E. Coyote, and the Nintendo Power Glove.

Am I missing anything? Oh yeah – horrible 3D, a stupid Alice Cooper cameo and yet even more unnecessary clouding of the Krueger backstory by making Lisa Zane’s Maggie his long lost daughter.

Your turn! How would you rank the franchise?



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