Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise (Part 2)
After Dream Warriors, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise sort of went downhill. Unlike Friday the 13th where the concepts got more ridiculous, there was at least an attempt to try and stick to what made the first film so memorable. The idea that dying in your dreams can be real and how surreal a dream can be. Well, they took these elements and things got campier as each sequel was made. In fact, the next three movies really had some bizarre stuff the more I think about it.
Case and point is how Freddy gets resurrected in the fourth film The Dream Master. It’s so weird that it needs to be seen to be believed. A dog urinates fire on Freddy’s grave and that’s the trigger to how he comes back. It feels like it comes out of nowhere. Of all the things to try and bring back the dream demon, it all boils down to a canine peeing flames. Supposedly, this idea was originally a joke by director Renny Harlin but later used in a metaphorical manner from what Robert Englund stated. He sees it as a Hell-Hound and how evil Freddy is. Even without that context, its a weird scene.
As Freddy returns, he dispatches the dream warriors with such ease that it feels like the movie should be over. But no, the torch is passed down to Alice Jonson (Lisa Wilcox) who somehow gets Kristen’s powers before she dies. The rest of the movie I guess makes some sense as Freddy starts to kill Alice’s friends in gruesome ways but it sort of defeats the purpose. Freddy was supposed to kill the kids on Elm Street for the parents that burned him to a cinder. Now, he is used as a Jason prawn going around and killing random folks. You could argue it sort of works seeing Alice has Kristen’s powers and Freddy is doing this to taunt her. But even then, it sort of doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Even Alice is sort of uninteresting. I guess they wanted another Nancy-ish character but crank up the heroic levels. In a nutshell, she comes off as a mini-Ripely clone by the end and even when the movie does try to clear up the logic of her powers and everything, it still seems off. She only exists to carry the torch of the franchise because Nancy’s story ended in the third film and Kristen along with her friends got killed off in the opening. Even Ken Sagoe who plays Kincad told his fans that if they were to see the fourth film, they would have to see the movie immediately after getting their ticket or else “my ass will be dead.”
Speaking of which, the staging of the kills are interesting in a sense leading to a lot of creativity. Some are basic like Freddy literally sucking the life out of a teenager and others are over the top like one where a girl turns into a human cockroach and crushed. At least this movie tries to deliver the fun when needed even things don’t add up. Freddy is more campier than before just as the deaths feel a tad more cartoony. At least with Dream Warriors, the theme of the dreams and cinematography helped make the nightmares look dark despite having an exaggerated look. With Dream Master, there’s more light and certainly less menace. Its all about the fun fact and less about the scares.
Thankfully, it didn’t end up as weird as The Dream Child. Lisa Wilcox returns as Alice who graduates from college and might possibly be pregnant. Of course, Freddy returns again but this time wants to take control of her unborn son making her child a monster. As expected, he goes around killing teens she knows in order to give power to the baby in her belly. Yeah, I dare you to make a shred of sense of that. It just raises too many questions and certain too many ethical ones too. I’d go into deeper detail but its hard to deal with the subtext of teen pregnancy and mix it with dark fantasy. Moments when they considering things like abortion come off as awkward and feel really forced. I guess after something heavy like teen suicide, they wanted another heavy topic to explore. But this one doesn’t feel full realized and comes off as awkward and uncomfortable.
Even the death scenes push a little too much of the dark toll for something that is trying to be dumb fun and serious at the same time. A kid’s motorbike morphs into him in such a graphic way and in one infamous scene that had to be cut down, Freddy feeds the innards of a character’s guts to herself. Its absolutely nasty and feels a bit too gruesome. I know the deaths can be creative but also frightening too. Here, there is no sense of fun and we just watch on in disgusted shock. The only exception is a kid who turns into a super hero but gets defeated by (ugh) Super Freddy who slashes at him like tissue paper. Already too soon for such a grim entry and way too over the top for something like this. I admire the effort in trying a new direction but it comes off weird and clunky in the long run.
Even thought Freddy’s Dead was supposedly the last one, we had that suspicion there would be another one. But after all the franchise went through, New Line Cinema felt it was best to end the series while they had the chance. Nice idea but I wish we got a more serious entry. Instead, it goes for a more horror comedy vehicle as Freddy kills his victims in a Looney Tunes fashion. From dressing up as the Wicked Witch to even using Nintendo for a kill, the deaths get sillier and sillier as the movie goes along. Again, I still respect the creativity but at this point, a straight up comedy just felt really like desperation. And nowhere is that more evident with cameo appearances by Rosanne Barr, Tom Arnold or even Johnny Depp (which honestly is one of the more funnier moments in the film.)
However, there are some welcome exceptions like seeing Alice Cooper as Freddy’s father and there is something enjoyable about the deaths even when they get way too bonkers. And at least they have a story that is trying to be engaging even when it doesn’t make sense like Freddy having a kid and trying to find out who it was. The biggest highlight is the climax which was seen theatrically in 3D but ends on a lame note as Freddy is defeated with such a simple weapon that is too weak to describe here. And if watched in 2D, your very much looking at stuff being tossed out at the screen. There is a box set that contains a version with the ending as it appeared in theaters but of course, you have to set up yourself to get a “good 3D reception.” It feels like New Line went all out on this entry and they really tried to make it a spectacular finale but it fails because of how it overdoes itself. Considering how uneven Dream Master and Dream Child are, I’m slightly more forgiving seeing it falls as a guilty pleasure for me. But even with that knowledge, I still can’t find the guts to recommend it.
It feels like after Dream Warriors, the series transitioned itself to be more fun and light. These three tired to be dark when needed but felt unnecessary when you take into effect how off putting it is. I can’t say 4, 5 and Freddy’s Dead are the worst but they are not the best. Fans make some exceptions with the fourth film but I just have a few too many problems it. I say stick with the first film and Dream Warriors if you want a good dark fantasy about nightmares. But as for these three, pick your own poison.
Posted on October 8, 2015, in Horror-Wood 2015 and tagged 3D, A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Alice, cartoon, Freddy Kreuger, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Horror, Horror-Wood, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Johnny Depp, new Line Cinema, Robert Englund, Wes Craven. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.