The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: One, Two, Freddy's Coming for You...

Slasher Hexmas: One, Two, Freddy's Coming for You...

A Slasher Hexmas Retrospective with Katie and Linnie!

I firmly believe that the first slasher film you see sets the tone for the horror fan you become. First, the film either scars you so deeply that you run screaming from horror for the rest of your life, or you find yourself so intrigued by what you're watching, that you immediately crave more and more. Next, if you start your horror journey with Jason, you may find that you gravitate toward more minimalist, woodsy thrills. If it's Michael Myers, you consume films about the dangers of a fragile psyche, and the terrors that even the smallest among us can inflict. But if it was Freddy Krueger? If your first slasher film was A Nightmare on Elm Street? Maybe, like me, you find yourself consumed by all of these things: revenge, the supernatural, urban legends, the danger of dreams, and the all-consuming terror of being a child.

For Slasher Hexmas, Sci-Fi Honey Katie and I decided to do a series retrospective of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, as almost every horror fan counts one of these films among their favorites, and it's rarely the same one. But one thing is for certain: thanks to a series full of indelible images and one of the most enduringly frightening slashers of all time, Wes Craven has guaranteed that horror fans will never sleep the same way again. ~RH

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most prolific horror films in movie history for dozens upon dozens of reasons. Prior to 1984, the Final Girl had existed, but never on the same level as Heather Langenkamp's Nancy. Nancy was no screaming victim, no shrieking teen running in fear. She was a young woman who survived against impossible odds, fighting to save her friends and herself from the sins of their parents. Further, it would be decades before we saw Freddy Krueger as singularly terrifying as he was in the original film. With every sequel, a little bit of his edge was chipped away, but in the original NOES, Krueger stands as one of the most brutal and frightening slashers in horror history. Combined with one of the more expertly written scripts to come out of the 80s horror field (the teens in NOES stand as some of the most believably written to this day), and A Nightmare on Elm Street remains among the best horror films we've ever been gifted.

Nightmare fuel for generations of kids with unfettered TV access.
Revenge Honey Rating: 5 Johnny Depp Blood Geysers out of 5 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Ah, the film that would launch a thousand think pieces, and make a half-dozen film executives bash their heads on a table and scream, "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TEACH ME ABOUT METAPHORS?" Freddy's Revenge was once among the most reviled of the Elm Street sequels, but has slowly gained traction as one of the most beloved. At the time it was released, the phrase "gay subtext" wasn't part of the general horror dialogue, so it's not all that surprising that those involved were clueless as to screenwriter David Chaskin's intent that the film be an allegory for the struggles of young gay men in high school. All anyone knew was that Freddy's Revenge chose to do away with the first film's mythology (Freddy doesn't need dreams to get to his victims... he pretty much comes and goes as he pleases), and there were a LOT of naked men taking showers and going to leather bars. Freddy's Revenge still has its detractors, but personally, it counts among my favorites in the series.

How no one knew...
Revenge Honey Rating: 3 & 1/2 inappropriate gym teachers out of 5

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

"Sleep. Those little slices of Death. How I loathe them." - Edgar Allen Poe

Wes Craven came back as screenwriter on Dream Warriors and it shows, because it more than deserves to be included on any list of the best horror sequels ever made. Set in a psychiatric hospital full of teens, where our darling Nancy Thompson just so happens to work as a psychiatrist, Freddy is back and taking advantage of the fragile psyches of the most vulnerable of children. Dream Warriors stands out for making Freddy scary again, even if it also ushered in the first glimpses of the "goofy" Freddy we'd be saddled with for almost a decade. This is also the film where we learn Freddy's backstory, and it's as chilling as you'd expect. The combination of truly sympathetic characters, an awesome script, and having Nancy back in the fold makes Dream Warriors my favorite NOES film by leaps and bounds.

Bonus points for a kick-ass theme song from Dokken, a young Larry Fishburne as Max the orderly, and teaching kids everywhere that a spoon full of Folgers + Coke is a quick fix when you need to stay awake.
"In my dreams I'm beautiful. And bad!"
I still love you Taryn. I will always love you.
Revenge Honey Rating: 5 tiny Patricia Arquette's out of 5

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

The fourth entry in the Nightmare series resurrects Freddy with dog pee and defeats him with his own reflection in a mirror – but for such a silly-sounding premise, The Dream Master actually has some defining moments for the Nightmare compendium. Dream Warriors Joey and Kincaid make an appearance, as well as Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight), as they kick off a series of dream slayings at the clawed hand of Freddy. The film shifts focus to the character of Alice (Lisa Wilcox), who battles Freddy by consciously controlling her dreams and absorbing the unique skills and personality traits of her departed friends. Alice is a sympathetic and likable Final Girl character, so she’s fun to root for as she finds the inner strength needed to crush her nightmare boogeyman. In one of his earliest features, director Renny Harlan demonstrates a razor sharp ability to capture the kind of high-octane action he’ll be known for later in his career. Rounded out by a diverse and competent cast, a decent story, a bitchin’ 80s soundtrack and some memorable effects (the Roach Motel kill is a particularly grisly one), The Dream Master is arguably one of the most entertaining and well-produced efforts in the entire anthology.

Tell 'em Freddy sent you!

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three squashed bug-girls out of five.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

Any sequel in a long-running horror franchise is bound to delve into the background of its main baddie at some point, and Dream Warriors was the first film in the series to expound on Freddy’s conception as the bastard son of a hundred maniacs. 1989’s The Dream Child depicts more of that origin story and attempts to tie it in with a modern pregnancy: that of Dream Master heroine Alice (Lisa Wilcox). While the idea itself isn’t uninspired – Freddy using the dreams of an unborn child to infiltrate the consciousness of its mother and resurrect himself – the film has an odd, imbalanced tone that oscillates between eerie supernatural horror and bizarre comedy fueled by Freddy’s increasingly cartoonish one-liners. Featuring nightmare sequences that are some of the most gruesome and thematically bleakest to date, The Dream Child is mostly noteworthy for the ways the film experiments with different kinds of visual effects, from animation to puppetry. Some effects, such as a comic book artist being turned to paper and ripped to shreds, produce genuine chills; while others, including a scene in which a burned and mutated infant Freddy springs forth from his mother’s womb, might elicit more laughs than frights. Yawn-inducing dialogue and truly shoddy editing distract from what otherwise might’ve been an intriguing story punctuated by innovative movie FX magic, ensuring that The Dream Child goes down as one of the lesser offerings in the series.

Har har har.
Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Two-and-a-half killer Freddy babies out of five.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Annnnnnnd here we take the plunge into the murky depths of awful sequel history. By this sixth entry in the series, Freddy had metamorphosed from a child-murdering psychopath into a laughable caricature, a mere shell of the fear and dread he used to inspire. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare takes place in the distant future – ok, 1999 – where the town of Springwood has seen its entire youth population decimated by Freddy’s reign of terror. An amnesia-stricken teenaged boy (Shon Greenblatt) and a counselor at a center for troubled runaways (Lisa Zane) ban together to solve the mystery of the whereabouts of Freddy’s one and only child, the conclusion of which you can see coming a mile away. The one intriguing story-related aspect of the film – how Freddy was pretending to lead a normal life as husband and father when his horrific murders were discovered – is cast aside in favor of era-specific gimmicks that don’t hold up in any way for modern audiences. From the Nintendo ‘Power Glove’ and antiquated 3-D, to popular advertising slogans (“this is your brain on drugs”) and nonsensical cameos by Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold, Freddy’s Dead feels like an overlong commercial for a Nightmare-themed breakfast cereal. The entire film is a pathetic parody compared to where Craven began the series, and should not be viewed as anything more than a laughable exercise in slasher franchise failure.

That’s also what this guy’s agent said.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: One half of a Roseanne cameo out of five.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

In his meta-precursor to the Scream series (and one that I vastly prefer to the series as a whole), Craven re-booted the franchise he started with a much needed shot of adrenaline and a story that was so original, most horror fans at the time had no idea what to make of it. But as the years have gone by, New Nightmare has earned its status as one of the best sequels in the franchise. Written, directed by, and even featuring an appearance from Craven, New Nightmare follows "Heather Langenkamp," played of course by Heather, as she tries to protect her son (played by horror mainstay Miko Hughes) from Freddy, who has arrived in the real world intent on taking Heather down. For an extra dose of meta, Robert Englund plays "Robert Englund," but also Freddy, which is just fantastic. New Nightmare was the second Elm Street film I ever saw, and coincidentally is also my second favorite in the series. 

The most terrifying death in the NOES series since Tina in the original.
Revenge Honey Rating: 4 & 1/2 stuffed dinos out of 5

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

He who will not be named.
Alas, we arrive at the final (for now) stop on our Nightmare journey: the much-derided, Michael Bay-produced remake. I’m not opposed to remakes at face value, even remakes of beloved films, because it provides the opportunity to reexamine a work of art in a potentially novel and thought-provoking way. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, seemed doomed from the word Bay. The first hurdle was replacing Robert Englund as Fred Krueger, a persona that he’d brought to life in eight films spanning two decades. Englund’s embodiment of the character and the stylists behind his trademark look had elevated Freddy to the stratosphere of horror iconography. The remake cast Jackie Earle Haley in the Krueger role, complete with more ‘realistic’ makeup that resembled a real-life burn victim – turning him into something that resembled Lord Voldemort and sounded like Christian Bale’s Batman. No, kids, this is not the Freddy you remember – and he’s not the least bit scary compared to Englund’s phantom of your nightmares.

If Michael Bay is involved, there must be a 'sposion.
Aside from the Freddy problem, the remake also failed to cast an actress confident or charismatic enough to portray the Final Girl heroine, Nancy (Rooney Mara). Mara’s presence on-screen is grim and sour, a far cry from the self-possessed determination and heart Heather Langenkamp brought to the original role. The ‘new’ Nancy is so dull that she barely registers on screen; a fault of either her egregious miscasting or the lackluster screenplay (likely both).

How dare you kill Tami Taylor!
The biggest sin of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, however, is the way that it thinks modern audiences want to be scared. Barely a scene goes by without a purposeless ‘jump’ scare to jolt the viewer out of the comatose storyline, providing a cheap split-second thrill without any memorably frightening effect. The film attempts to give Krueger a more sympathetic storyline, implying that the parents of Springwood jumped the gun when they condemned him to death for committing acts of child molestation – a conceit that was subtly achieved in the original film without being overstated, as it is in this case. No, there is nothing subtle about a movie that has Michael Bay’s slick, glossy name attached to it, and this remake is no exception. As all involved ploddingly go through the motions, this film is less like a nightmare and more like a meandering sleepwalk.

Stop it, you’re terrible.
Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Zero razor fingers out of five.

What is YOUR favorite NOES film?
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