rating: 4Of all the big long-running horror franchises, Nightmare On Elm Street is perhaps the most interesting. Created in 1984 by Wes Craven, the original film and its iconic razor gloved child murderer Freddy Krueger went on to become New Line Cinemas biggest cash cow - quickly turning into an unstoppably popular series of films that ran throughout the 80s and into the early 90s. While fellow franchises like Halloween and Friday The 13th revelled in repetitive stalk and slash scenarios, the Elm Street films- while just as inconsistent in quality - made frequent attempts to keep things inventive and unique. Freddy himself also changed over the course of the seven films, transforming into an 80s icon, known more for his wicked sense of humour than the fact that hes a child killer. Now fans can now enjoy the original seven films of the franchise, in high-definition for the first time with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-7 Blu-ray Collection . Watching all seven films again in quick succession for this review, I was surprised by how well some of them hold up, and less impressed that the ones that sucked, still very much suck. But its an entertaining collection for horror fans, and a welcome release this Halloween. Heres an individual run down of each film included in the set; Wes Cravens inventive horror classic not only gave cinema one of its most iconic villains, but also turned the fledgling New Line Cinema studio into a success story. Almost 30 years since its original release, its lost none of its ability to scare, shock and entertain. A group of friends living on Elm Street find themselves suffering from similar dreams in which they are stalked by a sadistic child killer with a razor blade fingered glove. When they begin to be killed off one-by-one, the resourceful Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) realizes that she must not only stay awake to survive, but come up with a plan to kill the vicious stalker known as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). The basic concept of A Nightmare On Elm Street is scary in of itself we all suffer from nightmares and we all know what its like to have no control over them. Therefore the idea of a monster as sadistic as Freddy Krueger having the ability to manipulate your dreams is terrifying. Part of what makes the film work so well is how it draws on things many of us can relate to in our own dreams, such as the common feeling of being paralyzed while trying to run - as when Nancy gets stuck trying to climb some stairs. Theres a few dated or questionable moments here and there - in particular the Home Alone style goofy ending but A Nightmare On Elm Street is still frightening. The fact that Freddy remains one of the most iconic horror villains of all time secures its place as one of the greatest horror films ever made. A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Despite being considered one of the worst horror sequels of all-time, Freddys Revenge holds the dubious distinction of being one of the most homoerotic films ever to feature in a popular horror franchise. So while theres a lot wrong with Freddys Revenge notably bringing Freddy into the real world the underlying subtext makes it a more interesting film than some of the later sequels. Rather than the female leads of other Elm Streets we have Jesse (Mark Patton) an effeminate teenage boy, who is not only haunted in his dreams by Freddy, but is manipulated by him to carry across his murderous rampage into the real-world. Theres actually a lot to like about this much maligned sequel. Freddy isnt a wisecracking comedian yet and is given some of the creepiest make-up of the entire series. The set-pieces such as the school bus opening and the American Werewolf In London style transformation sequence - are genuinely scary despite the film being weak overall. I mean how can you hate a film that features Clu Gulager as Jesses accident prone father who accuses his son of blowing up a budgie with a firecracker? Yet compared to Cravens original, Freddys Revenge is a disappointment but it's far from the worst of the series. A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987) After Freddys Revenge, its hardly surprisingly that New Line decided to take more effort with the second sequel - bringing back the participation of Wes Craven and giving the film-makers a larger budget to play with. The result is a film which is considered by many fans to be the best sequel of the series, thanks in large part to the scripting work of a young Frank Darabont and the first time direction of capable helmer Chuck Russell who has since gone on to make The Mask and The Scorpion King. Nancy from the original Elm Street returns now a psychiatric expert specializing in dreams. When a group of teenagers are committed to a psychiatric hospital - all suffering from the same nightmares - Nancy is brought in to face Freddy once again. One of the teens, Kristen (Patricia Arquette), has the unique ability to bring people into her nightmares, while Nancy helps the teens to discover their inner powers which can be exploited to help them defeat Freddy. Its a ridiculous plot, yet Dream Warriors is perhaps the most purely enjoyable of all the films. The dream sequences - such as a boy being gruesomely puppeted by his own veins - are both inventive and chilling, and the idea of its characters being able to enter each others dreams gives the film the opportunity to take more adventurous risks with its nightmarish set-pieces. Dream Warriors is maybe guilty of kick starting Freddys transformation into wise-cracking joker, but this sequel features Freddy at his very best - giving us a good balance of funny and scary. Hes still fearsome, and the quips are excellent - Welcome to Prime Time Bitch! A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master (1988) Its telling that for the first time in the series, Robert Englund receives top billing as Freddy in The Dream Master the most financially successful film of the series. Made at the peak of Freddy fandom and infused with MTV aesthetics and a distinctly 80s soundtrack The Dream Master is lots of fun if ultimately shallow. Following on from Dream Warriors, The Dream Master sees Freddy return from the grave thanks to a dogs flaming piss - dont ask - and hunting down the surviving Elm Street kids. As before, Alice has the power to pull her friends into her dreams, leading to a whole new bunch of teens facing Krueger. Theres so much wrong with Dream Master, and its not nearly as good as Dream Warriors, but several stand-out moments make it an enjoyable entry in the series. Take the Freddy pizza for example with the screaming heads of his victims as meatballs which is one of the funniest and oddly unsettling moments of the entire series. Pure cheesy fun. A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child (1989) The Dream Child is an odd beast seemingly trying to inject a Gothic darkness and moodiness to the series while continuing to push Freddys outlandish humour forward. This combination doesnt work, especially when combined with a bizarre plotline involving Freddy trying to enter the dreams of an unborn child in order to be born into the real-world. The problem with the Dream Child isnt just the plot though - the series itself was becoming tired by this point, with Freddy no longer frightening and the characters becoming more uninteresting as the films began to drag on. If The Dream Child has anything going for it, its the dream sequences - which continue to become more excessive and grotesque with each and every entry. Most memorable is a scene in which a victim has himself painfully transformed into the bodywork of a Freddy motorbike, while speeding down a highway. It's bizarre, grotesque and actually pretty damn creepy - managing to become the only true stand-out moment from the entire movie which lingers in the mind for long afterwards. So despite the fun thats to be occasionally had in its bizarre dream sequences, theres little to recommend in The Dream Child. It marks the point at which the series was really losing its way, making it an entry thats strictly for Freddy devotees only. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) The series hit an all time low in this so called final part - full of trite references and pop culture cameos making it more like an episode of Family Guy than the horror series to which it belongs. Freddy has made his complete transformation from evil child killer to wise cracking goofball and there are even cameos from Tom Arnold and Rosanne Barr what the hell. Considering the fact that the highlight of this film is supposed to be Freddy's epic demise, the death of Krueger - originally presented in 3-D - is incredibly underwhelming. The cheesy effects used during this whole sequence simply make the whole thing even more unbearable to sit through. Theres some fun to be had in Englunds campiest performance and the sheer ridiculousness of its dream sequences including Freddy flying on a broomstick ala Wizard of Oz and a reference to the infamous Nintendo Power Glove but this is without a doubt, the very worst of the series. Wes Cravens New Nightmare (1994) My personal favourite of the series (an opinion shared by Freddy himself, Robert Englund) New Nightmare and Wes Craven achieved what seemed impossible - making Freddy scary again. With New Line turning to the series creator to bring the character back from the dead, Craven took the franchise into an ingenious but somewhat controversial direction. New Nightmare sees the cast and crew of Nightmare Of Elm Street playing themselves on the verge of the 10th anniversary of the film. With Freddy himself weighing down on the lives of his creators on a daily basis, the fictional character becomes powerful enough to break into the real world, with Freddy now stalking the makers of the film The fact that New Line allowed Craven to do something so cerebral and unique with the series is still surprising, but it paid off - New Nightmare is one of the best Nightmare films. Ive met several people who dislike the series but were impressed by New Nightmare, with its clever structure and concept. As well as delving into the success and popularity of the series itself, New Nightmare asks interesting questions about the effect horror movies can have on not only their creators but also children who are exposed to them. The reinvention of Freddy sporting a brand new look with obvious allusions to Nosferatu caused some fans to balk, but its a necessary act. After the goofiness of The Dream Child and Freddys Dead, Craven had no choice but to make his Freddy something different in order to make the character frightening again and it works. Its also seen by many as an early example of the meta humour which would define Craven's more popular Scream films, but New Nightmare is smarter, scarier and arguably better.
rating: 4.0When Warner released Nightmare on Elm Street on Blu-ray last year, the image quality was a pleasant surprise. After suffering from a number of poor transfers over the years since its release, the Blu-ray was the best the film had ever looked by a significant margin. While not quite as impressive as the first Nightmare, the rest of the transfers for movies 2-7 are of a similar high quality. Theres a pleasing level of natural grain which doesnt become too distracting on any of the films, while colours and detail are generally strong. Its arguable that some of the films look better than others, but overall the films are unlikely to look better than presented here. Many fans have expressed anger over the fact that the 7 films have been squeezed onto four disks, but considering the size of each Blu-ray disc and the relatively short lengths of the films, theres nothing to suggest any sacrificing of visual quality. These are solid transfers, which are a significant upgrade to the murky quality fans will be familiar with on previous home releases.