RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

The Pitch
Um… Freddy fights Jason?

The Humans
Ken Kirzinger, Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland
Director: Ronny Yu
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

The Nutshell
Freddy has been rendered powerless because children don’t remember him anymore. In order to instill fear in Elm St again, he awakens Jason and puts him on a simple mission: kill. But when Jason starts hogging all the glory, Freddy gets pissed.

The Lowdown
I grew up devouring both the Nightmare and Friday the 13th series on VHS, but if one must pick sides here, then I confess that I was always a Jason man. I think Freddy is a more layered, and original character, but looking at their overall series, I gotta give it to Jason. For me Freddy was unreliable in a way Jason wasn’t. Jason always delivered. It sounds stupid to say, but I think it served Jason in the long run that he was such a one-dimensional character. With the bad Nightmare movies there’s always this angering feeling of squandered potential, because we’ve seen how good the series can get. In aiming for the simple please of wanton slaughter, the Friday movies never fail… except for Jason Goes To Hell. But we will not speak of that here.

Freddy vs Jason is 2/3 of an awesome movie. What allows it to ultimately succeed is that the shitty 1/3 is the middle section of the movie. If you’re going to have a shitty 1/3 of your movie, that’s the place to put it, I guess.

Tomato juice bath? I assume he got sprayed by a skunk. Poor guy.

I love, love the opening music cue to this film. It really lets you know these people get it. Under the New Line studio card we hear Charles Bernstein’s classic Nightmare theme, which then shifts into the Jason echoes cue. Perfect. It’s just a ten second music bit, but it is a sign that these two properties may be handled right.

Then we continue with these good feelings into a great opening monologue sequence. Freddy tells his back story and about his current predicament. The idea that Freddy’s only real power is the fear he instills goes right back to the very first film, and the idea that the only way to truly defeat him is to erase the very memory of him is a great logical extension of that. After Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X (which I didn’t much like), I was most curious to see if New Line was going to be able to do Jason justice in what could easily have just been another Freddy movie. But FvJ actually manages to add a new layer to Jason. We see that in Jason’s undead slumber he endlessly fantasizes about killing sexy coeds, and when he kills them… they apologize. They fucking apologize for letting him drown when he was a kid. That is great stuff right there. The film also decides that Jason is afraid of water. This goes against a lot of what we’ve seen from the Jason series, but I think it makes a certain amount of sense.

Looks like New Line had some extra goblin make-up lying around after LOTR.

Freddy, posing as Jason’s mother (that’s just asking for trouble, Freddy. Clearly you never saw Friday the 13th Part 2), sends Jason to Elm St where we meet our plucky expendables. Our hero is Lori is played by Monica Keena who is somehow both super adorable and super sultry at the same time, in kind of an irritating wannabe Marlyn Monroe way. She also has the most immobile breasts I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what the costumer was doing to her, but I found it distracting. Where was I? Oh yeah, movie. Um… Freddy vs Jason has a very solid cast. Kelly Rowland is surprisingly not awful, Jason Ritter should have a bright career ahead of him, and no movie can ever have too much of Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle. There’s more, but the humans are irrelevant to this film.

Seriously, was Jason Mewes too busy?

Good cast aside, the more we get into the “movie” the worse the movie becomes. We know who Freddy is. Even if we didn’t, the film opens with him explaining who he is. Yet the entire second act of the film features our kids uncovering the “mystery” of what happened in their town and why everyone is lying to them and who Freddy and Jason are. Structurally the audience should have no idea what is going on either. Obviously that is impossible, but the film should’ve simply accepted that and not spent so much time with it. As is it’s almost like a farce. You ever see Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman? You know what that movie doesn’t have? A cement-boobed girl and her doofus Scooby gang trying to figure out who Frankenstein and the Wolfman are for half the film. The only thing that saves this middle section is the rave sequence where Jason gets lit on fire and lumbers through the cornfield killing drunk idiots. Nonetheless, the middle of this movie is a drag.


Even after fighting two monsters and watching most of her friends die… still making sexy faces.

The film really comes alive when Freddy and Jason are on the screen together. It’s not much of a horror movie anymore at this point, but it doesn’t matter. Not to me at least. It’s just too much fun. Englund really shines here, giving his best Freddy since Dream Warriors. There was a minor stink with some Jason fans when they cast Ken Kirzinger instead of Kane Hodder, but I never felt any affinity to Hodder. He was definitely the most emotive Jason, but he was also in four of the worst Jason films. So there’s that. I think Kirzinger is the Jason people see in their minds – a 7-foot tall stoic monolith. When I was younger I was always surprised to find out that the actors playing Jason were like 6’1 and 6’2. Jason just seemed so gigantic to me. In purely a visual sense, when pitting him against another monster icon, it only makes sense to play that up.

So now Jason is afraid of running water? Fuck. So much for that script I wrote: Jason Take A Japanese Garden.

The film does a great job of taking both icons and pushing them to the height of their traits. Freddy is jokey, but still sinister. He’s perverted and nasty again. And Jason is the most Jasony he’s ever been. The sound design on his footsteps make him seem like the T-Rex. This Jason is a force of nature. He doesn’t dodge things, not even to protect himself. He just keeps moving forward. It’s also interesting – and a smart move – that the film casts Freddy as the true villain. Jason is just a pawn with no motive. This makes the final showdown all the better and gives the film a bit more weight than, say, AVP. You almost start to feel bad for Jason after a while, which makes the “oh shit” look on Englund’s face when he realizes he’s been pulled into the real world with Jason priceless.

Huh. I apologize. Looking back on this I now realize this isn’t really much of a
review. Which I guess is vaguely appropriate as FvJ isn’t really much of a
movie. It’s basically fan fiction. Which is what it needed to be.
Freddy and Jason are such wildly different characters that there was
just no way to have made a legitimate film without compromising one or
the other. Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift are clearly nerds of
both franchises and knew this. The film is the pay-off for every dorky
debate any 13-year-old ever had about who would win a fight, though comically enough FvJ doesn’t actually answer that question. Neither Freddy or Jason can win or lose at the end, obviously. Someone’s fans would’ve been pissed. The film does a great job of handing us a massive copout, where they both sorta kill each other simultaneously, but doing so in a way where we don’t feel gypped.

This reminds me of the shark’s death in Jaws. Do you think Richard Dreyfuss is lurking somewhere down there?

How is Freddy Defeated?
Stabbed with his own arm by Jason and then decapitated by Lori.

6.9 out of 10



RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

The Pitch
Freddy gets meta.

The Humans
Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, David Newsom, Tracy Middendorf
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven

The Nutshell
Heather Langenkamp finds herself terrorized by the real Freddy, while Robert Englund reveals that he isn’t a good painter.

The Lowdown
You know what? I think this is a decent movie.

I hate saying a movie like this is “misunderstood,” but that’s the feeling I get considering the amount of bile most people have for the film. People complain about the “hubris” of the film or call it flat and lifeless. It is not a great movie, but most of these complaints seem to just be Freddy fans upset that New Nightmare wasn’t much of a Freddy movie. Which is true. That is the film’s big failing; it messed with more than just the template – it messed with Freddy himself. And that was clearly a no-no. Ignoring that, New Nightmare is a very interesting entry in the series. One of the most objectively interesting entries in any horror series, really.

The film begins with a direct echo of the original Nightmare. We are again watching Freddy build his glove. Only now it is a crazy mechanized glove. In cliché movies-about-movies fashion we get a “Cut,” and a reveal that we’re on the set of a Nightmare film being directed by Craven (who is presenting himself in a bland friendly manner for some reason). Langenkamp is there with her son Dylan (Miko Hughes) watching her FX artist husband, Chase (David Newsom), at work. (Langenkamp is actually married to real life FX artist, David LeRoy Anderson, who is much cooler than Chase, I must say). The prop mechanized glove goes crazy and starts killing people and we are treated to yet another reveal. Langenkamp was merely dreaming and is awoken by an earthquake.

For those who don’t know: this is what FX artists really look like. And that’s Robert Kurtzman dressed up.

We learn that there have been a slew of earthquakes recently. We also learn that Langenkamp has been receiving creepy phone calls by a stalker acting like Freddy. Soon weird things begin to happen with Dylan, sleep walking and creepy lil’ kid episodes. We learn from Craven, taking on the classic horror roll of the Guy Who Knows Things, that Freddy is real. Not real real, but rather there is an evil entity that can only be trapped by harnessing it in stories or other art. Unwittingly, back in the early 80’s, Craven had trapped this demon with the original Nightmare.

Weird silly stuff. You’re gonna either accept this or not, I guess. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Craven though. Not on a Nightmare film. Craven was never going to deliver on the horno version of Nightmare (he already wanted to make this film for Part 3). He returns to the themes that most interested him: our relation to sleep and the sins of the parents being revisited on their children. Langenkamp’s sin wasn’t murdering a child molester and covering it up. Her sin is having made those horror movies. I like the bit where she catches Dylan watching the Tina bodybag scene from the first Nightmare. It is believable on a parenting level, but also works with the film’s subtext. She can’t escape Freddy. Neither can Englund or Craven or Bob Shaye. Freddy has taken on a life of his own. The only way to contain him is to keep making Freddy films.

I like to imagine Bob Shaye demanded this extra after turning away the previous actress saying,
“My secretary would have way bigger tits than that girl.”

The film’s presentation of Hollywood – where FX artists are handsome preppies and PA’s yell wackily at the talent – is really hokey, and threatens to drag the film down in several instances. But it was a weird and bold move for New Line to actually finance what was for all purposes a movie made for the people who made the movies. It is a very expensive in-joke. But I love it when filmmakers waste money on personal things. Frankly I think the film should’ve gone farther with the Hollywood thing. The funeral scene where we catch a glimpse of some of the other Nightmare actors was great, but too brief. I also wish they’d made some joke about Just the Ten of Us. Especially considering that three of that show’s cast where in the series – Langenkamp, JoAnn Willette (NightmareFreddy’s Revenge), and Brooke Theiss (The Dream Master).

I think the root problem the film has, preventing it from being a great Nightmare film that diehard fans might embrace, was that Craven wasn’t a Freddy fan. He never intended the first film to have a sequel, much less six. He never intended Freddy to become the icon that the character did. It also bothered him the way the series moved away from its core ideas and just became about increasingly silly and ridiculous set pieces. He hated wacky Freddy. Worse yet, Craven wasn’t seeing any of the merchandising or sequel money because of the deal he had made with New Line. This movie in fact came right after Shaye gave Craven some participation points. So really New Nightmare is an intentional fuck you to the series. And I think that hurt its potential. I like the meta concept, I like the tone, but I think it would have been even better if it was coming from a place of love for the series and more importantly for Freddy.

Freddy’s lookin’ kind of debonair here, I must say.

There is the definite feeling in the film that Craven is ignoring everything after the first film. It is only the first film we ever see clips of. I love having John Saxon filling the father like position in Langenkamp’s life, but I think we should’ve seen far more of other Nightmare series peeps. This would’ve been a great opportunity for more deaths too – which the film is skimpy on. Why not have all the actors who had defeated Freddy in previous films getting killed off? Zane? Arquette? Etc. Freddy building his way backward to his ultimate foe, the first girl to beat him – Nancy. The police could think it was a crazy stalker. Something along these lines could’ve opened the film up dramatically.

I don’t mind Freddy’s new look. Buffer. Trench coat. Green hat. Bone-metal knife hand instead of the glove (which was a nod to how Freddy’s knives were painted on the original poster – though cooler as an idea than a reality). Sure. Whatever. I’d grown bored with the way his make-up had evolved anyway. The whole idea was to make Freddy scary again, which I can get behind. There just isn’t enough of him in this film. His personality never quite comes through. It’s almost like Freddy is never even in the movie.

Freddy’s Dead was just stupid. SO not scary. I – what? Oh shit. Freddy is standing right behind me isn’t he?”

The film was too personal. It needed to be for the fans as well. (On a personal level I wonder what Craven was trying to say by presenting himself having a weird Indian maid.)

This is a lesser Craven work, but it also shows a filmmaker at the top of his game. I like that all the earthquakes aren’t lamely revealed to be caused by Freddy; they exist solely for tone. Their presence lends the film the feeling that Langenkamp’s world is coming apart. I love the Repulsion bit, when the first earthquake causes the claw-like cracks in the wall. The scene of Langenkamp and Englund on a talk show with an audience full of Freddy fans is a lot of fun. And I love the climax of the meta concept where Langenkamp finds herself at 1428 Elm St and John Saxon starts calling her Nancy. Langenkamp, who annoyed me in Nightmare and sucked in Dream Warriors, is actually pretty good in New Nightmare.

“Hello, I’m Wes Craven. Welcome to my sweet mansion. Care for some diamonds?”

Craven is a terrible actor, but I’m glad he put himself in the film. The idea wouldn’t have worked if he didn’t. His big Guy Who Knows Things scene, where we see the present written in his script, is a great idea, but it is also the moment the movie starts to unravel a bit. The more we get into the actual Freddy stuff the weaker the movie becomes. The Freddy hospital sequence is effective enough, but once Langenkamp and Dylan get sucked into Freddy’s hellscape you kinda stop caring. And the song that plays the end may actually be the worst piece of music in the entire Nightmare series.

Wait. Hold the phone. There are pterodactyls in hell?

The film definitely plays it a bit too safe in places where it shouldn’t. I think Craven allowed himself to be held back because he was writing about his friends (and himself). In Never Sleep Again Craven reveals some of his original ideas for the project that would’ve been really great (like portraying himself as living in his car and having clawed off his eyelids to stay awake). As is, the film is definitely the tamest horror film in the oeuvre. But I think as time goes by New Nightmare will be re-judged more favorably than it initially was. Fans hungry for more Freddy were kind of kicked in the nuts by the film. But removed from that context, it has something to offer the series.

How is Freddy Defeated?
Ironically enough, he is burnt to death in an oven.

6.2 out of 10


RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

The Pitch
Dream Child had the worst performance of any Nightmare movie, but we want more of your money so we need to make this movie seem special enough for you to go see it so we’re gonna say it is the last one. In 3-D! Rosanne!

The Humans
Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Ricky Dean Logan
Directors: Rachel Talalay
Writers: Rachel Talalay, Michael De Luca

The Nutshell
In the near future, Freddy has killed off all but one of the teens in Springwood. Now he must summon more. In 3-D! Rosanne!

The Lowdown
I think a worthy entry in Devin’s “Movies That Never Were” series would be Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm St: The Dream Lover, which almost happened as the sixth Nightmare film. It told the tale of a near future were Freddy had become so unscary that kids were taking sleeping pills just so they could go mock him and beat the shit out of him, until Freddy finally finds a way to fight back again. God, what I’d give to see a Meet The Feebles-era Jackson take a crack at Freddy. Sadly, Jackson was no match for in-house nepotism. New Line exec Michael De Luca had written a script and long time Nightmare Line Producer Rachel Talalay had asked Shaye if she could direct. Alas, alack. Here we are.

Message for all the Freddy fans.

Oh, Freddy’s Dead. *shakes head*

I find it interesting that both Friday the 13th and Nightmare chose to make their sixth installments comedies. The difference being that Jason Lives was a sly satire of its series and is the best of the Friday films (in my opinion), while Freddy’s Dead isn’t satirizing anything and most Freddy fans say it is the worst of the series.

I don’t hate this film as much as most people seem to. Though I think that’s maybe because I checked out on the series around Dream Master, so I don’t have that same sense of betrayal true Freddy fans must’ve felt. Cause, while Dream Master and Dream Child feel like Bob Shaye just threw a bunch of people into a soundstage with enough sandwiches to last four weeks and told them to come out with a movie, Freddy’s Dead at least feels like they all stopped to take a breath before entering the soundstage. And I appreciate that. I also think there is a bit of dramatic irony here for the fans who really embraced funny Freddy in the previous films, since making an all-out comedy seems like the logical outcome of that shift. Anyway, I think the film’s problem isn’t that it is a comedy and not a horror movie. I’m fine with that. No, the real problem is that it is a comedy that isn’t funny. The movie is just, well, stupid.

“Do you like it? I worked all night on it.”

The cast is solid enough. Lisa Zane (sister of Billy) has a really strange quality about her – kind of ethereal – that is enjoyable to watch. Yaphet Kotto is wasted, but is a welcome presence. The Tom & Rosanne cameos are over the top and annoying, but I think they’re made up for with the Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp cameos. The first third of the film is actually somewhat interesting. While out-there, I find the idea of this totally childless Springwood to have possibilities. Alas, it was not meant to be. For soon Freddy’s Dead is crushed under its own tiresome goofiness and lame ideas.

Is it creepy that I find Lisa Zane even hotter dressed like this? No, wait. Don’t answer that.

It’s kind of embarrassing (to a truly impressive degree) how silly this movie gets. The Looney Tunes comparison becomes quite literal. I mean, Freddy wheels a fucking cart of spikes into the road for a kid to fall on like Wile E Coyote. When Freddy is taunting the hearing sensitive Carlos by dropping a pin to the ground, I was honestly expecting to get an “Ain’t I a stinker?” from Freddy. If Tina’s death in the first film is the zenith of Nightmare kills, then Breckin Meyer’s death here has to be the nadir. This is a scene you would feel comfortable showing to your six-year-old (they’d love it). What begins cheesily enough with Meyer sucked into a video game, crescendos into sheer doofiness with Meyer bouncing around the house accompanied by cartoony boinks and sproings and bonks. If this is really how New Line wanted the movie they should’ve hired Joe Dante. (I don’t know that Freddy fans would’ve liked it any better, but the film may have become a cult classic under his supervision.)

“Genius, that’s what it is. Sheer genius!”

Freddy’s Dead decided to make the bold move that Freddy had a kid. For most of the movie we’re meant to think that John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) is the spawn, but the big twist (uh, SPOILER ALERT I guess) is that it’s Lisa Zane. So she’s the only one who can kill Freddy permanently. Let’s pretend that makes any sense. We get a bunch of flashbacks of Freddy when he was a dude, married and with a little girl. I don’t really like Freddy being married and having a kid, but it’s not like it really ruins anything. I could’ve lived with it, except they made a really pointless and detrimental ret-con change here. It’s a little confusing exactly what happened, but Freddy says that the community took away his daughter after he got busted for killing his wife – because she found out he was a murderer (I think). Because of this Freddy decided to get revenge on the children of Elm St. Wait… what? Wasn’t he killing children already? I’m so confused. So he was getting revenge on the parents by killing their kids, so they burnt him alive, so then he came back for revenge… again. This really ruins the basic Freddy concept. Double revenge?

You know, now that they’ve softened Freddy’s look I think Englund might be scarier WITHOUT the make-up.

This ret-con isn’t half as stupid as the Dream People twist. Most horror series eventually decide to explain how exactly the undying villain became so immortal. The explanation is almost always awful. No change here. Apparently Freddy made a deal with three floating dream slugs when he died and…

How is Freddy Defeated?
After his daughter jams his own glove into his gut and blows him up with dynamite (in what deserves a place on CHUD’s “Worst CGI In History” list), these three dream slugs fly out at the camera and laugh. That was the end of Freddy forever? That’s gayer than Freddy’s Revenge.

Didn’t it turn out there was some kind of demon slug inside Jason too? What is it with ret-con slugs?

Speaking of flying out at the camera… the 3D section of the movie is quite hilarious when not in 3D. In particular that Kotto makes Zane literally put on a pair of 3D glasses, and then she sticks her hand into the lens.

3.9 out of 10


RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

The Pitch
Freddy ruins life with an unfortunate pregnancy.

The Humans
Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Danny Hassel, Erika Anderson
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Craig Spector, John Skipp, Leslie Bohem

The Nutshell
Alice gets knocked up with Freddy’s demon baby. Series gets diarrhea.

The Lowdown
Jesus. What a steaming pile of shit this movie is. It’s interesting that the movie has sort of a Pro-Life message, because it really is a total abortion of cinema (boom!). Popular consensus seems to hold that Freddy’s Dead is the worst film in the series, but I say no way. It’s Dream Child.

This film is so haphazardly conceived and executed that I don’t know how to properly criticize it. The film has all the problems that Dream Master had, only doubled and minus any of the good attributes. The pacing is just awful, for one. The whole film feels completely slapped together. The graduation scene in which we’re meeting all out characters is a perfect example. It stumbles for moment to moment, hurried when it should slow down and paused randomly in other parts. The film has this herky jerky rhythm to its scenes that drove me nuts while watching.

Wait. This is giving me an idea. Okay, so people liked Muppet Babies, right? How about Monster Babies?!
Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead, uh… Candyman, and… some C.H.U.D. I’ll make millions!

Again we’re following boring dream ninja Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and her wooden boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel). After Freddy returns yet again – I don’t even remember how – Dan soon dies and Alice discovers herself preggers. Some bullshit happens and Alice meets Jacob, who turns out to be her kid or some crap and she must free the spirit of raped-nun Amanda Krueger in order to defeat Freddy and… zzzz… who cares.

Dream Warriors, Dream Master and Dream Child kind of form their own little story arc (the Dream Trilogy, I suppose it would be called). Really though, Dream Master was just a lazy copy of Dream Warriors and Dream Child is an ever lazier copy of Dream Master. While continuing with the motifs and ideas that made Dream Warriors interesting, these two films don’t really bring anything to the table themselves. Dream Child has the distinction of showing us more of the infamous nun-rape that created Freddy, but it was so much more effective when simply left as a story told in Dream Warriors. It felt like a ghost story; we couldn’t be entirely sure how much of the story was true. Actually seeing the 100-raping-maniacs removes any of that mystery. This is a minor quibble compared with the film’s larger problems though.

The film’s biggest problem is that it can’t even deliver on the horno level. That was Dream Master’s saving grace. Dream Child doesn’t have one memorable or truly creative moment in it. The concept behind the death of rich girl Greta (Erika Anderson) is a decent one – always on a diet because of her mother, Freddy stuffs her face with food while her mother’s party guests laugh. But the execution of the scene is vile. It’s so dumbly shot, going for big Monty Python silliness, but director Hopkins can’t pull it off. To top it off Greta chokes to death. Shouldn’t Freddy have kept stuffing her with food until her stomach bursts? That seems more in keeping with the bit.

We’re talking away

I don’t know what

I’m to say I’ll say it anyway

Today’s another day to find you

Shying away

I’ll be coming for your love, OK?
Take on me, take me on

I’ll be gone

In a day or two

The film’s biggest set piece is probably the death of comic book geek Mark (Joe Seely). With Mark sucked into a comic book, the scene starts out interestingly enough – at least it has interesting art direction (the set and props are all painted gray to make everything except Mark seem like it was shot in black and white) – then Freddy pops out on a skateboard. A fucking skateboard. Then in a knock-off of Dream Warriors’ Wizard Master bit, Mark turns into his own comic creation, a double gun wielding vigilantly. Then Freddy becomes “Super Freddy.”  The scene is just stupid on every level. It’s not even trying to be scary, which I could live with if it was trying to be something else at least. Hard to say what it was going for.


The one truly inventive moment of the film comes at the end when Alice is trying to save Jacob from Freddy in an M.C. Escher nightmare of stairs that defy physics. At least it would be truly inventive if Jim Henson’s Labyrinth hadn’t already done this bit and done it better.

Jareth calls shenanigans.

I liked Whitby Hertford, who plays Jacob. I’ll say that. He’s creepy in an interesting sort of way, and I enjoyed when he was on screen. The film also has one good scene, when Dan’s parents are trying to get Alice to agree to give them her baby when it is born. The acting and writing are both good and the conflict in the scene is genuinely dramatic.  It frankly feels like a scene from a different movie.

I’m sure Dream Child has its fans. Everything does. But I just can’t see it. This film is a joyless cash-in trifle and it is very poorly made. The fact that it was the worst performing film in the entire series would seem to indicate I can’t be alone in thinking this.

How is Freddy Defeated?
Freddy’s raped nun mommie shows up and absorbs his.

2 out 10


RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

The Pitch
MTV comes to Elm St.

The Humans
Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel
Director: Renny Harlin
Writers: Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, William Kotzwinkle

The Nutshell
Meek high schooler Alice (Lisa Wilcox) must become a magical super hero in order to defeat Freddy.

The Lowdown
Freddy’s Revenge wasn’t a terrible movie. It was just a terrible sequel to Nightmare on Elm St. No, Dream Master is the first entry in the series that fails as a piece of cinema.

Dream Master was a casualty of the late 80’s WGA strike. Brian Helgeland’s name appears in the credits, but you certainly can’t tell he did any work on it. Harlin and crew were apparently making the film up as they went along, and it shows. On the one hand, knowing this, I feel some guilt criticizing the movie too much, but other films have been in similar situations and managed to pull it off. Gotta judge what’s on screen.

One part Chris Evans, one part Christian Slater, one part Josh Hartnett. A true monster.

The film picks up with our three survivors from Dream Warriors: Kincaid, Joey and Kristen. Patricia Arquette sadly did not return as Kristen, and Tuesday Knight is just not up to snuff. The chemistry between the three is off, and Knight makes Kristen feel like a whole different character – lacking the unhinged sadness Arquette brought to the role. But it is nice to see Kincaid and Joey again… until they both instantly die in classic horror sequel fashion.

It is Kincaid’s dog – named Jason, in what I guess was a dig at the competition: “You almost scared me, boy.” – who resurrects Freddy… by pissing flames on Freddy’s bones. This bit is so completely ludicrous that it is sort of brilliant in a dumb way. It makes no sense, but it is memorable. So it aptly sets the stage for what we can expect from Dream Master: random hit-or-miss ideas that a giant crazy Finn pulled out of his ass and forced talented FX artists to execute.

Joey had the world’s coolest water bed for 1 minutes and 15 seconds. Then the hooker drowned. 

Then Kristen promptly dies and transfers her powers (being able to suck other people into her dreams) to Alice. Then Alice soon learns she has the ability to absorb other people’s dream powers, such as her brother’s embarrassing karate skillz. With this seemingly simple and logical tweak to what Dream Warriors introduced, I think the series officially steps too far towards dark fantasy and away from horror (for my tastes, at least).

This is the film where Freddy officially becomes the Bugs Bunny of horror. When he pops on a pair of shades during a beach scene with Kristen, you kinda know the creepy slimeball from the first film is no more. Freddy’s sense of humor used to be representative of his cracked mind. Now he just seems like a merry prankster – Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, giving people donkey heads and screwing with young lovers’ minds.

These ass-pulled hit-or-miss ideas do have some hits. Joey’s naked girl waterbed death is one of the more memorable of the series (maybe just cause I first saw the film as a hormonal little boy). The sight of Debbie Stevens’ elbows splitting open on the bench press still haunts my mind whenever I’m at the gym. The souls in Freddy’s chest trying to burst free and attack him is quite cool too – possibly the best of Freddy’s many deaths. And there is an interesting scene with Alice in a movie theater, where she gets sucked into the film Sherlock Jr. style. But none of these ideas add up to anything. This is where the franchise officially becomes horno. There is no weight to any of the scenes. Nothing actually matters.

I feel your pain. I wouldn’t want to be sucked into this movie either.

The dreams may be neato, but they aren’t even remotely scary anymore. Cause Freddy isn’t scary anymore. And for every good idea the film has, it has a stupid one too. The set up for Debbie Steven’s character’s fear of bugs is beyond hacky, and the fact that she eventually turns into a bug herself doesn’t even follow logically with that fear. Then there is Rick’s (Andras Jones) “karate” fight with an invisible Freddy, that is certainly one of the stupidest and worst executed death scenes in the series. The dreams by this point have also become very movie-like, the fuzzy surreality of the first film now replaced by Meatloaf video aesthetics and gonzo weirdness.

Freddy, not a great gym buddy.

From the on-going story perspective, Dream Master is noteworthy because the film kills off the last of the Elm St children (kids of the parents who murdered Freddy). Now the implication is that Alice is Freddy’s link to new victims. While such a move was ultimately necessary if the series was going to keep going (we can’t keep finding new Elm St kids), it also feels a bit easy. Honestly, I think it’s a no win scenario from a screenwriting perspective, so I can’t knock the film too hard. I do think it could’ve been handled a bit better though.

How is Freddy Defeated?
Shown his own reflection, which somehow makes him realize how evil he is or whatever. Then the souls trapped inside him rip the top of his head off and they all escape up to heaven.

4.5 out of 10


RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

The Pitch
Freddy vs lucid dreams.

The Humans
Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Robert Englund
Director: Chuck Russell
Writers: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell

The Nutshell
Nancy, all growed up, returns to help a group of Freddy plagued teens living in a psychiatric hospital control their dreams and fight Freddy on his home turf.

The Lowdown
Dream Warriors marks the solidification of Freddy Krueger. This is the film where – for better or worse – Freddy really becomes the Freddy. This is where he went from a mere horror movie villain to something much more.

This is the sequel A Nightmare on Elm St deserved.

Right from the get go we know we’re back home. The opening credits sequence of hands building a papier-mâché house is reminiscent of the opening of the original film. And when Kristen’s (Patricia Arquette) mother comes in to bitch at her while being beckoned by a male companion, we can’t help but think of that original Nightmare first scene with Tina and her mother. Then, just when we could be forgiven for thinking the film was going to be a complete rip off, they reveal that Kristen had been constructing the Thompson house. With this simple move the film nails its take off and we know we’re in for a safe flight. Cause now we know two important things: we aren’t stuck in the fucking Thompson house again, but we aren’t completely jumping away from it either.

The tragic outcome if one actually follows the invitation from Newton Minow’s famous “Vast Wasteland” speech.

This is Chuck Russell’s film, to be sure. Tonally and stylistically it bears his stamp far more than it does Craven’s. But Craven and Bruce Wagner’s original draft of the script is undeniably what gave the film the foundation it needed to succeed. We got out of the house (Craven knew the house was never important beyond the iconography). Nancy and her father are back, which is a big deal when you think about the fact that Freddy made no attempt to continue his vengeance against those who killed him in Freddy’s Revenge. Once more he is targeting the children of those who burnt him alive. “We’re the last of the Elm St children,” Nancy realizes. Jason is the great white shark of slashers, killing anything that gets in his path. Freddy is at his scariest when he is targeting specific characters. Returning to the Elm St children continues what is one of the most interesting aspects of the Nightmare series – the dark parable about bad parenting. Most importantly though, Freddy is once again trapped in dream-land.

Craven and Wagner gave the film a foundation. Russell and Darabont had to build the house. And they did a pretty kick ass job. (I wish this duo hadn’t ended after only two films.) Dream Warriors is not an amazing film, but there is really a lot to commend here. Like the first film, we again return to the realm of ideas. The New Line team wisely went back to the well, acknowledging that, hey, there is a reason we’re all here and its because people really liked the first film. Freddy’s Revenge was right to try new things, but they threw the baby out with the bath water. Dream Warriors takes the template of the first film and both builds up and digs deeper.

Goddammit, old man! I know the scene looks sorta familiar, but I keep telling you… wrong fedora movie.
Do you need me to call your family for you, sir?

It was a minor stroke of genius to personalize the nightmares. Freddy is in your head, quite literally this time. He knows your desires and phobias and he is gonna fuck with you in the worst ways now (hey, crippled kid, meet the world’s scariest wheel chair!). Ultimately this minor stroke of genius cripples the series, but here and now it works and it is really great.

The first film had a great mystery to reveal: who is Fred Krueger? There is no way Dream Warriors can possibly match that, but they do the next best thing by expanding the Freddy mythology with the introduction of the “bastard son of the 100 maniacs” bit. It is a ridiculous backstory, but in the best possible way. Freddy is the boogeyman, a thing of legend, and that is the kind of ghost story origin befitting of such a legend.

I guess this is why Freddy never wears tighter clothes.

With this film the nightmare sequences now become full on set pieces, more bizarre and imaginative than ever. The Nightmare series always had good FX (exploding birds, notwithstanding), but Dream Warriors is when art direction really became part of the game. New Line knew they fucked up with Freddy’s Revenge. They simply didn’t grasp that they had a full-fledged franchise. You can tell they were trying to do it right this time. The FX are fantastic. Dream Warriors rivals the first film when it comes to truly memorable moments (for some fans it may even surpass it):

The Freddy worm.
Little puppet Freddy.
The awesomely disgusting tendons marionette death.
The breathing track marks.
The sexy nurse tongue crucifixion.
TV Freddy.
The graveyard burial.

Because of this scene I’m still afraid to French kiss sexy naked nurses. It’s becoming a problem.

The other big expansion of the Freddy world is the idea that you can master you dreams. Lucid dreaming, basically. Become a warrior. Here became a major dividing point in the series, I think. With this inclusion the Nightmare series shifted from being straight-up horror to kind of dark fantasy. As a kid I loved it. As did most other kids I knew. Of course my generation loved the Ewoks. So consider that. Just like with Return of the Jedi, now that I’m an adult revisiting the film, I do see why some fans didn’t like this. For all that is gained here in Dream Warriors, something is most certainly lost. The tone became different. This is where Freddy started to become funnier. It’s actually not surprising that Russell went on to do The Mask. Cause you get the sense that if he weren’t being restrained by New Line, he might have had Freddy say “Somebody stop me!” at some point.

Let’s talk cast for a moment. Bringing back Nancy was a great idea, but Langenkamp flounders in the role. I have never been a fan of her in Nightmare, but the overall poor acting in that film didn’t make her stand out. Now she’s got a better class of actors (Lawrence Fishburn is in this movie for Christ’s sake!) and an ill-fitting character making her look bad. All the teens do well with their parts, and the very forgotten Craig Wasson is always nice to see. Once again John Saxon rules every scene he is in; I kinda wish he could’ve been in more of the series. The big win here is Patricia Arquette, making he