In 1984, Wes Craven, a filmmaker already well-versed in scaring audiences after The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, brought a new horror icon to life. Razor-gloved, child-murdering dream-invader Freddy Krueger, so sadistically and definitively inhabited by Robert Englund, made us afraid to ever sleep again. Dreams were Freddy’s playground, and over the course of seven movies, a franchise crossover and a remake, he and his nightmare world left an indelible impression on the filmmaking landscape that will likely last forever.
What follows is The Film Magazine’s ranking of every visit to Elm Street: the good, the bad and the painfully misjudged. So make some coffee, stock up on your hypnocil pills and, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep. All together now: “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
You already know this story, it’s exactly the same except that it cheats the formula.
How do you sap a horror titan of every drop of his primal power? By overthinking him. Everything is so much darker (not thematically – the lights have just been turned off) and reliant upon jump scares. Why would you want to lift iconic scenes wholesale from the original and invite the comparison? Jackie Earle Haley might have a good stab (pun intended) at Freddy Krueger, but somehow the character loses a sense of menace with the filmmaker’s decision to flesh out his backstory from the beginning – he was scary in the original because he was an enigma. Did they learn nothing from the sequels that over-explained him?
Rooney Mara doesn’t give a bad performance because she never does, but nobody else in the cast makes any kind of impression. The script is re-jigged to feature the protagonists taking “micro-naps” to allow Freddy to turn up at any time, turning him into just another ghoul. It just doesn’t have faith in its own concept or the will to do anything impressively different.
As scary as a nightmare where: You’ve lost your library card and there’s a queue behind you.
8. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Another group of teenagers battle to destroy Freddy Krueger once and for all, because making six movies over seven years is exhausting, b*tch.
Never claim to be the final anything. And never, ever rely on 3D gimmicks if you want to last. Opening on a Nietzsche quote followed by a Freddy Krueger quote is a pretty good gag. Everything that follows tries your patience more than it ever entertains.
If this was made now, and/or more time had passed between instalments, this could be considered an early example of Hollywood’s favourite way to revitalise a named property, namely the soft reboot. New characters and setting, new (to the 90s) technology, same old monster. But it clearly didn’t work, and Freddy was left in dreamland for a spell, seemingly as some kind of penance.
By this point there’s nothing scary at all about Freddy; he’s just a gurning goon messing with a new generation of dumb kids who don’t know the rules yet. It only gets worse when the nonsensical twists are piled on towards the end of the film and worse still when Freddy uses an (unlicensed) Nintendo Power glove as a weapon.
As scary as a nightmare where: You check all your kitchen cupboards and discover that you’re out of tea.