My love for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series holds no bounds. It is a series that I grew up on and that I regularly watch. I can’t remember the last month that went by without me popping in a movie from the series as comfort food. Well, today I have decided to “rank” my favorite slasher series. Starting with the best and ending with the worst, the following are my selections. Please note that I will NOT be including either the remake or “Freddy Vs. Jason” into this list. Let’s say hello to Freddy! Pleasant dreams…
1) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Convoluted? Pretentious? Overly meta? Shockingly, no. “New Nightmare” is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. The film examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s “Scream” would play out to great effect two years later. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. It is my favorite horror film of all time and a modern classic.
2) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s definitive classic. Bet you can’t guess what it is. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.
3) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
If ever there was a horror sequel that screamed the 1980’s, it would be “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Crazy punk chick? Check. Wheelchair Dungeons and Dragons obsessed geek? Check. Zsa Zsa Gabor? Check. Dokken theme song? You better believe it, check! Dream Warriors is both a faithful to sequel to original masterpiece as well the rare sequel that actually advances the story without just being a carbon copy reboot of everything that made the first film great.
4) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Truth be told, “Dream Master” is probably the most fun a viewer can have with the series. The deaths are completely imaginative, the special effects top notch, and the acting is solid on all accounts. It is also probably the most quotable entry of the series. It is entertaining as hell. Nonetheless, part of me wants Freddy scary again. As cool as the deaths are (Debbie’s cockroach death being the highlight death of the entire series for me), something here is missing that made the third installment so special.
5) A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
For those of you who haven’t seen this film, I don’t really know what to say besides the fact that it is very, very homoerotic. From the gym coach that Jesse finds at a gay bar (???) while sleepwalking to the gym coaches’ bondage death to the love scene between Jesse and Lisa in which Jesse can’t “perform”. Everything about this movie screams gay…and I haven’t seen talked about the dancing bedroom cleaning scene. It’s all funny, campy, over-the-top and “oh so 80’s.” haha
But the problem with Nightmare 2 isn’t the film’s gay themes, it’s the fact that it breaks too many of the rules laid out by the original. Why would Freddy want to be in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? How does Freddy make the parakeet explode if no one is dreaming? It doesn’t make scene. I will give this film some credit. The imagery is imaginative, the acting solid, and Freddy is pretty damn scary. It just doesn’t feel like a Nightmare movie. This is both it’s greatest weakness and it’s greatest fault.
6) A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
The biggest problem with “Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child” is the same problem that exists in “Freddy’s Revenge”: it breaks the rules of the series. Why would Freddy want to live on in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? Add in some hokey mother moments and an “in the womb” Krueger and you get a pretty dreadful sequel. The cinematography is top notch and the actors do what they can but, by this point in the series, who really cares? This isn’t a terrible entry but just a middle-of-the-road one. By this point the series was starting to show its age.
7) “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” (1991)
If “New Nightmare” was the rare horror sequel in which everything worked than “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” is that rare horror movie in which nothing works. It sure as hell isn’t scary and the cameos by Johnny Depp and Roseanne come across as more desperate than funny. The deaths are awful as well. Killed by a robot hearing aid, killed by Freddy’s “power glove”, fallen from a parachute onto spikes placed by Freddy? Is this a Nightmare movie or a Looney Toons cartoon. Not only this, but Freddy himself doesn’t even get a cool or original death. They take the ending of the original and cheapen it and we are all worse for it. This film is a grim insult to Freddy fans everywhere.
To buy the box set from Amazon for under $30: Nightmare on Elm Street Collection