Like any horror franchise that makes it past one sequel, some Nightmare On Elm Street movies are great and some are downright abysmal. For a movie that defined eighties slasher horror, some of the follow-ups missed the tone of the original by miles. A metaphor for the lost innocence of childhood, A Nightmare On Elm Street still has the power to scare an audience.
But by the time the franchise reached Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare it had been watered down so much that the scares are few and far between. For a franchise that lasted six movies (eight, if you count Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and the recent remake of the original) it’s inevitable that there’d be highs and lows. But what are the best and the worst Nightmares? Here’s my choice of the two movies that stand out at either end of the spectrum.
The Bad: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge
The only revenge Freddy gets in this movie is on the audience who shelled out twice as much at the box office as they did for the original. Wes Craven didn’t want to be involved as he didn’t think Nightmare On Elm Street was capable of sustaining a sequel. He was partly right. Rehashing the first movie without the scares of decent scriptwriting, Freddy’s Revenge is the story of a nerdish teen who finds Freddy Krueger trying to take over his body and return to the land of the living.
After the initial set-up the audience is geared up for another teens-vs-dream-killer slashathon. Then nothing happens. Well, not quite nothing. A parakeet explodes. But that’s it. We hardly see Freddy until the last fifteen minutes, and when we do his make-up is so badly done that it renders the big poolside showdown laughable. He doesn’t even have his trademark glove; his knives emerge straight from his burned up hand. Apparently Robert Englund refused to do the movie unless he got a sizeable pay rise. He should’ve given it back. By far the worst Nightmare, Freddy’s Revenge should be cut from the franchise for good.
The Good: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors
If its predecessor lowered expectations for the Elm Street franchise to straight-to-video bargain bin levels, A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors restored it to its position among horror’s greatest series. Reintroducing Nancy Thompson, the heroine from the first movie, it expands on the Freddy mythos, giving us the classic ‘bastard son of a hundred maniacs’ backstory for the first time.
The legendary John Saxon reprised his role from the original and there’s a cool teenage-dream-hero team-up theme that adds a nice comic book vibe. With Wes Craven back on board (no doubt after seeing how much money a turkey like Freddy’s Dead could rake in), Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a classic eighties horror that the rest of the franchise has struggled to live up to.