Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sequelitis: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Been rewatching through several of my favorite horror film franchises lately, and honestly it amazes me how many of them turned sour so quick, either never to recover or recovering too late for many to care. So, I thought I'd ramble about a few of them here.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

We start off with a horror classic. Wes Craven, a director that normally churns out stuff like Shocker, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, made something that is just pure nightmare fuel.
Excellent casting (featuring a young Johnny Depp), great writing, great music, and has some extremely terrifying sequences that will take most first time viewers off guard. The only downside to this film is the ending. The only thing I can compare it to is maybe Neon Genesis Evangelion's ending in the sense that I have no idea what happend, how I should feel, if what happend happend, and why the hell Wes Craven did that.

My face during the entire thing. Less the girl's and more the quite perplexed driver.

After this you go to pop in two, and maybe 30 minutes in, maybe a bit later, you wonder to yourself: "Did I get the discs switched? Is this some weird, coming of age coming out of the closet film?"
No, it's just Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which is filled with more homoerotic imagery than Top Gun and a Rammstein music video combined. Freddy Kreuger himself Robert Englund even went on to state in an interview, on the subject of Freddy representing the fears of each films hero, represents the suppressed homosexuality of the film's lead.
Sadly, the film is pretty terrible. It's sillier than the previous film, much more dated (the scene where our ~fabulous~ lead dances around his room lipsyncing to a popular 80's track seems more fitting in say a John Hughes film than a Nightmare sequel), and Freddy begins talking more. Much, much more.
Freddy being relatively silent was part of what made him so frightening in the first film. You didn't see much of him, and the few times he spoke were just some really unsettling remarks (my favorite being "I'm your boyfriend now.")

Thankfully after the crapfest that was Nightmare on Castro Street, we get Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. First off: Yay, we get Nancy's back! The lead actress from the first film returns and helps me forget the previous sequel. Also returning is her father, played by character actor John Saxon, who I'm quite a big fan of, often playing drug kingpins and cops throughout the late 70s and 80s (including two seperate A-Team villains.)
Beyond that, the film is awesome in several other reguards. The new cast is great, the nightmares this time around are... honestly more unsettling than the first film, including one scene featuring a human marionette, wherein the man's veins are the strings. Freddy talks even more, but at least his one-liners are memorable and not overly cheesy ("WELCOME TO PRIME TIME, BITCH!")
The only negatives in this film are a really cheap looking stop motion animated skeleton (it's less retarded sounding in context) and the hair metal credits tune. My complaint with the credits tune extends to the music video for said theme, that features an ending wherein the entire music video is revealed to be Freddy's nightmare, and he comments how afraid of the hair metal members he was.

Truly the stuff nightmares are made of.

Now's where we're entering the realm of lousy sequels. The less memorable, the smaller budgeted, the lower quality.
First off in this era we have The Dream Master. An absolutely dreadful film that I'd compare only to Alien 3 in that it quickly and mercilessly kills off the survivors of the previous film to make way for a new cast of killable teens and a new hero. However, at least Alien 3 got better from it's rather range enducing opening, Dream Master just gets worse as it goes along.
This film easily has the highest body count in the series, to the degree that there's no real sense of dread or drama because you -know- they're all going to die. And seriously, everyone but the lead and her overly generic boyfriend dies. I've gotta trail off here to go into detail on that last bit: This movie has the most generic love interest I've seen in a movie with a female lead. The guy's name might as well be Bob Smith. He's average height, blonde, plays football, talks in a really uninterested, vaguely sentient kind of way, dresses like an extra in Grease. I kept getting Futurama flashbacks to that rich doctor Leela falls for.
Moving along, this film also has the most retarded ending in NoES history. I know I called the first one non-sensical, but this manages to honestly beat it. Freddy sees himself in a mirror and dies. ...Yeah. I don't get it either. I've looked online, I've gone from Freddy community forum to Freddy community forum, everyone has their own theory, but overall it's just "What."

Moving right along with the bad sequels is the direct sequel to 4: A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
Our hero and her generic boyfriend are graduating high school, along with a group of friends with extremely specific personalities that determine everything they do (One's the opressed daughter of a rich snob that constantly tells her how to behave, what to do, etc. One's obsessed with comics. The other's our token skeptic for the movie.)
Well, our hero from the first film starts dreaming while awake and sees her boyfriend die at Freddy's hands. In a really confusing turn of events, it turns out it's because she's pregnant with Bob Smith's generic lovechild, and it's dreaming. Keep in mind that she's not visibly pregnant, but somehow she's far along enough for the fetus to be dreaming complex enough dreams that we can see and understand them. Also the kid version of her fetus is played by that BOY OR GIRL from Jurassic Park, the one Alan Grant torments with a raptor claw.

Sadly he isn't killed by a six-foot turkey.

This film also introduces us to a rather irritating and moronic addition to Freddy lore: Freddy is the son of 1,000 maniacs and a nun. Basically, through a flashback, we see a nun get locked into a room at an asylum that for some reason has been filled with 1,000 maniacs. Yes, the film that gave us the dreaming super-early stage fetus also tells us that 1,000 men can produce a single baby from one woman that is the combination of their evil, insane genes.
Anyway we're treated to some lame deaths (try not singing Take On Me when the comic fan dreams, just try it. You can't, nor can I), Freddy's nun mom helps contain Freddy, and our hero is free to give birth to children of ambiguous gender that famous paleontologists can terrorize.

Thankfully the sixth film, titled Freddy's Dead, doesn't feature either the mother or her freakishly ugly womb-spawn. Instead, it features many unfortunate celebrity cameos, some of the most moronic and hilarious deaths I've ever seen, god awful 3D, and some of the worst acting I've seen in the series.
Johnny Depp, Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold, Alice Cooper... are in a movie where Freddy Kreuger kills a kid with video game like violence on his "Powerglove." HE CALLS IT A POWERGLOVE. He also imitates the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz, complete with music lifted from the film.
Also we find out Freddy never died. In the middle of the fire, he just made a deal with some weird flying snake things that go from nightmare-to-nightmare looking for evil people, and they gave him the ability enter dreams. This is also where the 3D kicks in, the hero puts on "dream glasses" (They're 3D glasses), and we're treated to a short, poorly done 3D sequence that gives me Jaws 3-D flashbacks.
Finally, Freddy gets pulled into the real world (hey, it worked in the first film!), blown up with a pipe bomb, and we're treated to a song about Freddy being dead.
Thankfully, he pretty much is. Save for one film in its own continuity and the arguably canon Freddy vs Jason, as well as a remake... Freddy's done. We never got A Nightmare on Elm Street 7.

It's sad too, because our next film, New Nightmare, is excellent. It's a sort of meta-horror starring Nancy from the original film, as... the actual actress. You see, in this universe, NoES is a movie series directed by Wes Craven. It's -our- world. Basically, the actress gets plagued by dreams of something similar to Freddy going after her, her child, her husband, and friends. This is... so much better than it sounds, and I highly recommend it to anyone that hasn't seen it. It's honestly the 2nd best film of the franchise, 2nd only to the original movie.

After this, we've got a remake of the original. I want to go ahead and say: Fuck movie critics when it comes to horror films. This got some terrible reviews, but judging by the comments the critics made, they went in expecting it to be god awful and didn't even give it a chance.
Normally I hate remakes with a passion, and I had -very- low hope for this film, but I was pleasently surprised. It's genuinely creepy, it offers a great new spin on things, the cast is magnificent (the actor playing Freddy this time around is Walter 'Rorscach' Kovacs from the Watchmen movie, and he's fucking horrifying in this.)
They really play up the darker side of pre-death Freddy in ways they only hinted at before, leading to him honestly maybe even being more terrifying than the original film's Freddy.
Thankfully, despite the terrible reviews, the film did well enough financially that we'll at least get another sequel, here's hoping it'll be as good as this. Also hoping it's the same screenwriter, the guy that wrote this is also responsible for Dionaea House, which was sort of a creepypasta told via Myspace and Livejournal about a Lovecraftian horror that poses as a house, and directed by the same guy that did the weird, trippy "Until It Sleeps" music video for Metallica.

I'll tackle Freddy versus Jason at a later time, probably tommorow or monday when I do the Friday franchise, as it's really more of a Jason film than a Freddy film.

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