TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3-DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Third Elm St. flick is a marked improvement over the misfire that was ANOES2. It also saw the return of Wes Craven to the franchise as a writer and the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in their original ANOES roles. This installment finds Freddy haunting the dreams of a group of teens all under psychiatric care at an institute. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is now an intern there with a vested interest in the nightmares these kids are having. As Freddy starts to claim the young lives, Nancy and Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), try to figure out how to stop the dream demon once and for all.

Clever second sequel is directed by Chuck Russell (The Blob 1988) from his script co-written with Frank Darabont, Bruce Wagner and Wes Craven. It was a great return to what made the first film work so well and also started the series in the direction it would go till it ended. It felt far more like an Elm St. movie that it’s predecessor, too. ANOES3 made very inventive use of the dream segments and was the film that gave Freddy his twisted sense of humor and proclivity for witty one liners, that would accompany the demise of his intended victims. It was also the film that introduced the character of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger (Nan Martin), a nun accidentally locked inside an insane asylum, who is violated by the inmates and thus gives birth to Freddy, “The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs.” The film does have a moderate pace, but there are some gory and innovative death sequences, with some great prosthetic make-up effects. ANOES3 is today thought of by many as the best of the sequels in this classic franchise. It was a success and paved the way for five more appearances by Freddy and an eventual remake in 2010.

Film is supported by a good cast that make for memorable and mostly likable characters. Obviously Robert England is at the top of his game here as Freddy. He gets to do a bit more and have more fun with the role, which really helped keep this franchise afloat. He was still scary, but now imbued with a dark and mean-spirited sense of humor. Heather Langenkamp is good as an older and more mature Nancy. She cares for these kids and is one of the only people who believes their claims about a scarred man haunting their dreams…a man Nancy knows all too well. Craig Wasson is solid as Dr. Gordon. He’s desperate to save these kids, even if it means reluctantly believing there is a malevolent supernatural entity after his patients. Saxon is really good as Nancy’s father, who is now a security guard and a drinker. Classic John Saxon. A good cast of young actors play our kids, with Patricia Arquette as Kristen, Bradley Gregg as Phillip, Ken Sagoes as Kincaid, Penelope Sudrow as Jennifer, Ira Heiden as Will, Rodney Eastman as Joey and Jennifer Rubin as Taryn. All the cast members make their characters memorable and helped establish the template of a diverse, colorful group of kids for Freddy to stalk in the future installments.

In conclusion, this flick got the series back on track and headed in a direction that would carry it till it’s end. It’s fun, still has some scares and is very inventive with it’s dream-set deaths. While not as vicious as the first two, it still has the blood and gore, not to mention some outrageous make-up effects. The cast are all good and it also contains the now classic theme song Dream Warriors by the 80s metal band Dokken. Solid entry in this classic horror film franchise.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Freddy Kruegers .

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Bonus: The Dokken classic Dream Warriors!…

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

2010’s remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just a very unremarkable movie that doesn’t bring enough new to the franchise to justify it’s existence. To a degree it’s just another sequel with a new Freddy and new characters, including a new Nancy in name only.

The story follows that of the original film very closely with a group of teens having nightmares of a horribly scarred man with a gloved hand fitted with knives. He is murdering them in their dreams and they are all now afraid to sleep as their numbers dwindle. The man is Freddy Krueger (now played by Jackie Earle Hayley) and he is a child molester that their parents hunted down and burned alive…and he has returned to exact his revenge against the teens he preyed upon as children.

The film is actually directed fairly well by Samuel Bayer from a script by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer and does have a few effective sequences. One of the main problems here is the fact that it just comes across as another series entry with very little new, other than a new actor as Freddy and a brief period of time where they try…but don’t succeed…in making us have doubts surrounding Freddy’s guilt. It’s obvious from the get-go how horrible he is and that this is not a nice guy done wrong. The dream sequences are well filmed, but again, offer nothing really new and it wouldn’t seem like a remake at all if it weren’t for a couple of sequences lifted from the original, a heroine named Nancy (Rooney Mara) and rehashing Freddy’s origin, adding little new to that. Why not just make this another series entry and keep Robert Englund as Freddy? There lies another big problem, despite a strong turn in Watchmen as Rorschach, Haley does not impress or scare as Freddy. He comes across as someone’s sleazy, perv of an uncle and he is never as threatening as Englund in the early installments and certainly not as charismatic as Englund was in the later installments, when Freddy became more of a wise-cracking gremlin. Haley is just a generic boogie man and that legendary persona is all but gone. He’s bland and the film is neutered without a strong villain. The make-up and visual FX are top notch, as is most of the production, but it’s kinda hollow without a stronger story and more fearsome villain.

Aside from Hayley not living up to the challenge as Freddy, there at least is a strong lead from Rooney Mara as Nancy. She makes a strong heroine with her own inner turmoil and pain and it’s too bad she’s not in a better film to play her character in. Her character is so different from Langenkamp’s Nancy, that she could had been re-named and it would have had no effect on the story. Kyle Gallner is good as Nancy’s friend Quentin. He helps her uncover the truth behind who this dream specter is who is hunting them and killing their friends. As those friends, we have Katie Cassidy as Kris, Kellan Lutz as Dean and Thomas Dekker as Jesse and they all do a suitable job as Freddy fodder. We also have good performances by Connie Britton as Nancy’s mom and Clancy Brown as Quentin’s dad. A decent cast, but wasted in a ho-hum reboot attempt.

I’ll admit this mediocre attempt to restart the series is still better than the worst of the original series (2 & 6 in my opinion), but far from the best of the bunch and can’t hold a candle to the original. The film is well enough directed by Samuel Bayer, who has a nice visual eye, but doesn’t deviate nearly far enough from what has come before it to justify it being made. It plays it safe and gives us little new except recast Freddy unsuccessfully. I didn’t hate this flick, but it is unremarkable and quite forgettable and certainly nothing worthy of building a new franchise over. It lacks the kind of intensity that made the familiar yet, entertaining Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake one of the better of this remake trend. Not the worst, but far from the best and makes you appreciate the great Robert Englund even more.

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Freddys…and the real one, might I add.

nightmare 2010 rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 & 5

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As the Halloween season is in full swing, I decided to put together two of my favorite A Nightmare On Elm Street sequels! Not only do their stories connect and fit together well, but they are certainly both proper viewing for a month long celebration of things that go bump in the night. Enjoy!

 

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)

When deep sleep falleth on men,
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones to shake
~ Job IV, 13:14

ANOES 4 has the distinct honor of being not only one of the highest grossing of the Elm St. series, but the highest grossing horror film, domestically, of the 80s. It is also one of my personal favorites and in my opinion one of the best of the series after the classic original.

This entry picks up where Dream Warriors left off with Kristen (Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette) unable to shake her fear of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and thus empowering him to come back to try to finish off the surviving kids from that flick. He also targets Kristen’s new friends including boyfriend Rick (Andras Jones) and his shy sister Alice (Lisa Wilcox). When Kristen’s ability to bring people into her dreams is passed on to Alice, the meek girl must now find the strength to destroy Freddy before he uses her to kill all those she loves.

Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) directs this one from a script by Brian Helgeland and Scott Pierce from a story by William Kotzwinkle and Helgeland. It’s one of the most imaginative entries in terms of it’s use of the dream world and one of the coolest in terms of look and design. It makes some very clever use of Freddy’s ability to use people’s fears against them…one girl’s fear of bugs being a good example…and Harlin builds some nice suspense and tension as we do have a likable cast of characters to root and care for. Steven Fieberg’s cinematography captures Harlin’s visual style very well and the make-up and visual FX are top notch in it’s portrayal of Freddy’s hi-jinx. There is also a fitting score by John Easdale and Craig Safan with a cool opening song sung by star Tuesday Knight  and it adds up to one of the best of the sequels and one of the most fun, too.

This entry also had one of the liveliest casts and cast of characters in the series with Knight doing a fine job as Kristen and Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes returning as Joey and Kincaid, respectively, to face the dream demon again. They do step aside for a new cast of very endearing characters, highlighted by Lisa Wilcox, who takes her Alice from shy and sweet to ass-kicker over the course of the film…and Wilcox is very convincing as both. Andras Jones is fun as Rick and he seems like he has a good chemistry with Wilcox as her sibling and the supporting cast of Brooke Theiss as tough chick Debbie, Dan Hassel as school hunk and object of Alice’s secret crush, Dan and Toy Newkirk as brainy Sheila, all are a very likable bunch which helps us care for them, root for them and feel for them when they face Freddy’s knives. A solid cast of young performers who are always one step ahead of the oblivious adults. And as usual, Robert Englund is perfectly chilling and fun as Freddy and new cast member Nick Mele is also effective as Alice and Rick’s alcoholic ass of a dad.

Overall, this is my favorite sequel after Freddy vs. Jason and it’s a lot of fun. The characters are all colorful, as are Freddy’s methods for taking them out. It’s an imaginative sequel that takes the story of Dream Warriors and moves it forward and opens it up. It’s got some nice tension and suspense and makes really good use of the dream world sequences which are well-designed and executed. A bloody good time!

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)

Dream Child picks up shortly after Dream Master left off with Alice (Lisa Wilcox) getting pregnant by now boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel) and Freddy (Robert Englund) using her unborn baby’s dreams to get back into the real world to exact revenge against those who put him away…and their loved ones. Alice is not only forced to fight Freddy again, but deal with an unexpected pregnancy which Freddy takes full advantage of as he targets the very soul of her unborn child, Jacob (Wet Hertford). Can Alice defeat Freddy and save her child or will the dream demon gain a new protégée’ to help take out Alice and her friends once and for all? But there is one crack in Freddy’s plan…Alice may have an ally too…Freddy’s dead mother, Sister Amanda Krueger.

Not quite as good as Dream Master, I still think it’s a solid sequel, though, it did far less business than it’s predecessor. Leslie Bohem scripts this time as Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2) steps in to direct. The result is an entertaining enough entry that falls a little short of equalling the last flick. Hopkins does create some tension and suspense, but his visual style and imaginative use of the scripted dream segments, while effective, aren’t quite as sharp as Harlin’s. But the addition of an unborn child into the mix, as well as, the deeper look into Freddy’s conception…when his nun mother becomes locked inside an insane asylum overnight…does add a nice edge to the proceedings and gives the film a slightly different direction than the previous chapters. Hopkins presents the material well, it’s just the script need to be a bit stronger, maybe one more draft before filming began. The flick looks good with Peter Levy’s cinematography and Jay Feguson scores this time and utilizes the Elm Street theme well.

The cast is good, though the new characters aren’t quite as lively or mix as well as previously. Englund is awesome again as Freddy, no surprise there! Wilcox gives her Alice a nice maturity since we last saw her and her concerns over her newfound motherhood come across as legit for a character her age. Hassel’s Dan also has matured a bit and he and Wilcox have a nice camaraderie and their relationship comes across as fairly real. Newcomers Kelly Jo Minter as skeptic Yvonne, Erika Anderson as reluctant model-in-training Greta and Joe Seely as comic nerd, Mark are all fine, but the characters aren’t quite as memorable as the last batch and don’t seem as natural a fit as friends as the last crew. Nick Mele returns as Alice’s father who gives a nice performance as a man overcoming his alcoholism and finally becoming the dad he should have been years ago.

In conclusion I like this sequel. It is not up to Dream Master, but it is good enough and certainly far better than the train wreck that would follow with Freddy’s Dead. It’s moderate box office sadly caused the producers to drop the Alice/Jacob angle which was originally supposed to continue and considering how awful Freddy’s Dead is, it’s too bad.  A fun sequel that continued the series and fits in very well with the other films in this classic franchise.

3 Freddys!

nightmare 5 rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: JASON X and FREDDY vs. JASON

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My Friday The 13th film retrospective is back with a vengeance with the final two films in the original series before the 2009 reboot…which we will cover soon…these two are certainly the most over the top of the series as one brings Jason into not only the future, but outer space and the last pits him against the Springwood Slasher himself, Freddy Krueger…

 

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JASON X (2001)

With the awful Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday not making that much of an impact, despite trying something a bit new with the franchise and being yet another entry boasting it was the series’ last, it was eight years before New Line tried to get the series going again in anticipation for their plans for Freddy v.s. Jason which was in development at this point, but not ready for production. Not sure why they chose this completely over-the-top approach to get Jason back in action, but the 10th Friday The 13th flick finds Jason not only in the future, but in space and turned into a cyborg as well.

The film starts out in 2010 where Crystal Lake apparently has a research facility and Jason is imprisoned there as the subject of government research into why they can’t kill him and why he can regenerate his body tissue so quickly…though from what I gather he is still a zombie at this point, so not sure how he is regenerating anything if he is dead. The arrogant Dr. Whimmer (legendary director David Cronenberg in a cameo) wants him studied, while Research Director Rowan (Lexa Doig) wants him cryogenically frozen after repeated attempts to destroy him have all failed. During an attempt to transfer Jason elsewhere, he escapes and kills everyone before Rowan tricks him into the cryogenic freeze chamber, but not before being wounded and frozen herself. We then cut to 2455 where earth is uninhabitable and a research ship filled with students, who are not unlike the nubile camp counselors and partying teens in previous installments, find Jason and Rowan and bring them back to their ship with intents of returning to Earth 2 with their find. Rowan is revived and healed and warns the crew to destroy the frozen Jason. A greedy professor (Jonathan Potts), however, sees dollar signs in making the infamous serial killer an exhibit and has no interest in seeing him destroyed. Jason has his own agenda and despite being thought dead, thaws out and returns to his old habits and starts slaughtering the crew…including their well-armed security force. Can Rowan and the remaining crew fend off the revived killer, or will their ship become a floating tomb?

This installment at least is smart enough to try to have a good time with actor/writer Todd (Drive Angry) Farmer’s silly script and makes no pretense in trying to be a serious horror flick. As directed by James Issac…a Visual FX Supervisor who did FX work for both David Cronenberg and Sean S. Cunningham, which explains Cronenberg’s cameo and being hired to direct this flick…the film makes a solid effort to have a fun with the outlandish premise and yet deliver at least some of the familiar elements that F13 fans look for. Unfortunately, Issac’s minimal experience as a director doesn’t give the film the vitality and faster pace it needed to really make effective use of the Sci-Fi imbued story. His directing is very by-the-numbers and the film only really livens up in the last act when Jason goes up against a female android, the KM 14 (Lisa Ryder) who goes all Ripley on the Crystal Lake juggernaut. This leads to a computer malfunction repairing Jason and turning him into an even more lethal cyborg. It’s these moments when the film really takes off and has a good time with taking the iconic character into space. It’s a little too late to really turn the film into a B-movie treat, but it saves it from being a little more then a head scratching curiosity. Issac at least knew his material was silly and it’s too bad he couldn’t have given it a little more spark till these scenes. Not that some of what came before isn’t entertaining, it just isn’t outrageous or fun enough to match the premise. Again…by the numbers. Issac’s approach is competent but very straight-forward and if you’re going to take Jason Voorhees into space, go with it and have a blast. Maybe…and I’m just guessing here…it’s simply because Issac’s experience is more technical and that’s how he approached directing it. The film needed someone with a more passionate touch. The gore FX are, at least, well done and there is enough to please fans.

The cast are fine. Lexa Doig makes a decent enough heroine as Rowan, but she really doesn’t become that endearing. Lisa Ryder steals the show as the spunky, sexy android KM 14 and the film could have used more of her. Peter Mensah makes a good impression as tough-as-nails and resilient Sergeant Brodski who bonds with Rowan, and Jonathan Potts is appropriately slimy as Professor Lowe. Kane Hodder returns for his fourth and final…at least for now…appearance as Jason and gives the character his needed presence and menace.

Overall, it is not the weakest entry, but certainly not one of the better flicks. I was moderately entertained and only wished there was more fun had with the premise like we were treated to in the last act. The film was not the success New Line hoped for, considering the 14 million investment they made on it and it barely made it’s money back. But Freddy v.s. Jason was on the horizon and that would become the highest grossing film containing Mrs. Vorhees’ baby boy thus far. Worth a look if you are a fan of this series and haven’t seen it.

2 and 1/2 hockey masks.

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FREDDY vs. JASON (2003)

After quite some time in development, New Line Cinema finally brought two of modern horror’s most infamous icons together for a throw-down…and in my opinion it is a bloody blast of gory fun. The clever plot has Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally outwitted by the people of Springwood. His memory has been wiped almost clean from the townsfolk by a diligent policy of never discussing the nightmare demon and institutionalizing and medicating anyone who dreams about him. He’s powerless in his dream realm and quite unhappy about it. Not to be outwitted, Freddy has a nefarious plot to get back in action. He needs someone in the physical world to return to Elm St. and start killing again. The murders will obviously be attributed to him and once he is in the minds of the townsfolk and they begin to fear him again, his power will be restored. The monster he’s chosen for the job is a certain Crystal Lake resident. Freddy revives Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) and sends him to Elm St. to start a killing spree to which he will gleefully take credit. Jason picks the original Elm St. house to start his carnage, which is occupied now by a troubled girl named Lori (Monica Keena) and her widowed father (Tom Butler). Jason thus interrupts a get-together between Lori and some friends in gruesome fashion and Freddy’s plan is set in motion as troubled locals and the authorities think the Springwood Slasher is back. Freddy’s plan seems to be working fine except for two things he didn’t expect….One, Lori is a smart and resilient girl who figures things out a lot quicker than Freddy anticipated and rallies her friends to stop him. Secondly, Jason may have a kill-switch but not an off-switch and if he kills all the beleaguered Elm St. teens, Freddy will be back to square one with no one to fear/empower him. Now the dream demon has to not only foil Lori and friends from stopping him, but must now destroy the very fiend he set in motion. It’s monster vs. monster with Lori and her decreasing number of friends caught in the middle. Who will win?

As directed by Honk Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, Freddy vs Jason is a lot of gory fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously, or expect it to be the least bit scary. The movie moves very quickly and Yu’s visual style is colorful, as with his Chinese films, but it is when these two modern horror icons finally lock horns that Yu’s HK filmmaking style really kicks in. The final battle is vicious and ridiculously gory like a Tom and Jerry cartoon by way of George Romero. When the smoke clears, you’ve had a bloody good time.

Yu also has a good cast with gorgeous Monica Keena making a sexy and smart final girl. The lively supporting cast features fan favorite Katharine Isabelle, as tough but cute Gibb, Kelly Rowland as smart-ass Kia, Jason Ritter as Lori’s ex Will, who has escaped from being hospitalized and drugged to prevent his dreams from evoking Freddy, with Brendan Fletcher as Will’s oddball bud and fellow hospital inmate, Mark. The supporting characters are all fun and likable and the cast members give them some nice personality to make it all the more effective when either Freddy or Jason take one of them down. The movie works very well because the cast of characters are endearing and our fiends are at their best. Obviously, Englund is at the top of his game as Freddy and he is given some fun dialogue and bits to chew on and serves as the main villain of the piece with Jason ending up being a sort of anti-hero or lesser of two evils. As Jason, big Ken Kirzinger gives him presence and menace and he holds his own against Mr. Krueger.

Sure some of the hardcore fan base may have been hoping for a more serious attempt at a legitimate horror with these two, but at this point, both characters have become more like anti-heroes and it would have been hard to take the bringing together of these two icons all that seriously. Yu chose an approach which never makes a joke out of it, but has a good time with the possibilities as does Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s script which provides some clever touches such as Freddy discovering Jason’s only ‘fear’. The flick gets a lot of mileage and fun out of the legacy of both characters and the bringing them together for a fight. It’s a very energetic movie and is a blast of fun and works very well for what it is. The characters still have some threat and there is plenty of the red stuff spurted about as their paths cross and the make-up effects portraying the carnage is top notch. The production as a whole is very slick and and makes good use of it’s healthy budget. A really entertaining flick that deserved, but sadly never got a rematch. A fun blast to end the original series for both Freddy and Jason.

3 and 1/2 hockey masks.

friday 13 1980 rating

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Much like a dream…or a nightmare…A Nightmare on Elm St. is many things at once. It’s one of the quintessential 80s horror flicks…defining a decade where horror was quite prolific…it gave birth to the legendary icon that is Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund)…who now sits proudly among Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula in the halls of horror… and it certainly is one of Wes Craven’s best films, in a solid career of genre filmmaking. Most of all, it’s a damn good horror flick!

Wes Craven gives us a cast of likable teens haunted by the malevolent specter of a child molester that their parents murdered after he was freed on a technicality. Now vengeance comes when they are at their most vulnerable…while they sleep. And that’s what makes this work so well. We all know how vulnerable we are when we are sleeping and Craven uses that fear to not only draw the audience in, but present us with some unsettling and spooky dream sequences where Freddy torments and then finishes off his victims. Craven also crafts a spooky boogie man who is a very frightening figure in his first outing, before becoming an anti-hero of sorts in the later sequels that got more humorous and outlandish as they went on.

The lead cast is fairly solid including spunky Heather Langenkamp as our heroine Nancy, Amanda Wyss as the ill-fated Tina, Nick Corri as Tina’s delinquent boyfriend Rod, the always good John Saxon (and I am a BIG John Saxon fan!) as Nancy’s sheriff father and a young unknown named Johnny Depp as Nancy’s boyfriend Glen…not to forget Robert Englund chilling our bones as Freddy in a role that would make him a horror film legend.

The film isn’t perfect, there is some very weak dialog peppered throughout and a few weak performances in the supporting cast especially Ronee Blakely who seems to be acting in another movie, or a soap opera, as Nancy’s alcoholic mother. Langenkamp has a few weak moments early on, too, but as Nancy gets stronger so does her performance. Flaws aside, the make-up and gore effects supporting our story are quite good and the dream sequences are visually effective and quite spooky, despite the limitations of a low budget. The film is loaded with chills and suspense and is still effective all these years and sequels later.

Another trend setting horror and a true classic that continues to find fans with each new generation. This series was a favorite of mine as the 80s horror franchises went, as the Halloween and Friday the 13th sequels just became redundant weapon of the month club features while the Elm Street films, even in their weakest installments, were continually inventive with their nightmare sequences. Also stars the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye as one of Nancy’s teachers. A classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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