Though they've become caricatures of their former, brutal selves, Freddy was one of the most recognizable and creepiest of the 80's horror icons. Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, Warner Home Video and New Line Cinema presents the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise in a nice boxset dubbed 'A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection' with all seven films that directly relate to the series. Now, on to the set. This is a five-disc set (four Region-free Blu-ray discs, and one Region 2 DVD). The original film and its extras are found on Disc 1, and each of the three subsequent discs feature two sequels and their extras. Disc 5 contains some additional special features. I'll try to cover each transfer briefly.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), introduced one of the scariest villains of all time, Freddy Krueger (Robert England), one of the ultimate boogeymen that you know who he is just by his name. Wes Craven brought us one of the most terrifying ideas, what would happen if your nightmares were real? Nancy played by Heather Langenkamp is a girl who has been having tons of nightmares about a scary figure, a man who is severely burned and has knives for fingers. She's so scared of this man that she asks her friends, Nancy's boyfriend Glenn (Johnny Depp's first acting role), Tina and her boyfriend, Rod to stay over. But Tina is brutally killed in the middle of the night. Also stars John Saxon as Nancy's father who is a police officer, the fx might look a bit dated but they were great for the time, and watch out for Johnny Depp's bloody death scene where he's sucked into his bed.
The original 1984 film looks great on Blu-ray, as anyone who owns the standalone release already knows. In stark contrast to the smoothed-over Alliance transfer, the grain here is fully intact, and lends a strong filmic appearance to the presentation. There is some very minor shimmer here and there, along with a few fleeting spots and specks on the source print, but nothing distracting.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 (1985). The first of the Elm Street sequels is a bit different than the other films of the series, but it's not nearly as bad as some critics say. Young man (whose family has moved into the Elm Street house) is terrorized by Freddy, who wants to use him to do his dirty work. Elm Street 2 is a fairly entertaining sequel directed by B movie maker Jack Sholder. The movie's possession theme is solidly played out with some tight direction. Sholder gives this movie some well-done moments of shock and dark humor. The opening sequence on the bus is a memorable thrill ride. The film boasts some bloody FX.
Even if there are those fans, like myself, who consider this first sequel underrated, it has never been one of the most popular among fans, and I'd wondered if it might get short shrift. Not so. The improvement over the DVD transfer is massive here. Grain is intact and unintrusive, colors pop like never before, and the contrast levels are quite pleasing.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987) was the third film in the Freddy Krueger series. This time around a hospital ward full of disturbed teenagers (which includes a young Patricia Arquette) are the latest target for Freddy Krueger. Thanks in large part because the teens can't stop dreaming about the world's most famous serial killer turned supernatural monster. Considered the best film in the entire series which I have to agree, everything has improved including the awesome special fx and watch out for a young Laurence Fishburne before he became a celebrity.
This fan favorite also looks quite good on Blu-ray. Once again, the grain is intact, though some might find it a bit of a distraction at times, as there are some minor pulsations in a few darker scenes. Still, it's an entirely filmic appearance, and I can't find much to complain about.
Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988) I think that the 4th sequel of the NOES franchise was a good one. Robert Englund was once again fantastic as Freddy Kruegar the sick twisted deceased serial killer who is out to kill the last of the elm street children. This time headlining the cast as the 'scream queen' is Lisa Wilcox as quiet and withdrawn Alice Johnson. She's not fantastic but she does a good job and you do root for her. Her brother Rick is played by Andras Jones and he does a good job too and the two of them together have good chemistry. Unfortunately the second half of the film tends to be lackluster and you could tell that by this time the series was running out of steam.
Detail is strong here, as are colors, but I do suspect contrast boosting, with noticeable black crush in several areas of the film and an overall darker appearance which looks somewhat unnatural. That said, I still believe that this transfer is probably much closer to the theatrical presentation than the DVD transfer, which was far too bright.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989), the fifth installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the worst sequel ever in the series. Alice is back and she's carrying a child, she couldn't be happier with her life. But Freddy is also back and he's not going to be too light on her since she defeated him so easily in the fourth movie. But anyways, he wants her child and to be born into the world again. The story was really silly, I mean it could have possibly worked, but once again, it was just executed the wrong way. Like Dream Master, the transfer for Dream Child sometimes appears boosted...though not as frequently, and not to the same degree. Overall, this is a more filmic transfer than its predecessor, though it does suffer from occasional crush.
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) is the sixth part of this classic movie and is a very weak and disappointing sequel. The story is silly, with a dark humor that never works, despite the cameo of Johnny Depp. Further, it shows a total lack of imagination of the writer, and proves that the franchise was exhausted at this point. This movie should have been a straight to video or something. The only great thing was MR Robert Englund he was great as usual, that was the only great thing about this movie. This is probably the weakest transfer of the bunch. Detail is decent at best, though certainly a marked improvement over the DVD, and there's a kind of overall lifelessness to the image...especially when compared to the other transfers in this set.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) features Heather Lengankamp, who played Nancy in the first and third films, living a normal life with her husband and son. Lately, earthquakes and strange things have been happening, and her son isn't acting like himself. She is called in for an interview with New Line Cinemas, where she finds out that Wes Craven is making a new Nightmare film. The events of this film are beginning to unfold in the real world, because Freddy Krueger is angry at being killed off in the last film, so he steps out of fantasy and into reality to go after the makers of the original film.
I personally think it's just as good as the first movie. This is one of the most original and ingenious plots for a horror movie I've ever seen. All of the people involved with the original films appear as themselves, including Heather Lengenkamp, John Saxon, Robert Englund, and Wes Craven. Freddy is amazing in this movie. He appears with his trademark brown hat, but now he's in a much darker red and green sweater along with a brown tattered trench coat. While the inferior compression is unfortunate, this presentation is still reasonably strong, and certainly the best the film has ever looked outside of the theater.
As far as audio is concerned, I'll keep it short and sweet. Each film features both a DTS-HD MA surround remix (7.1 for the original, 5.1 for each sequel) and a Dolby Digital presentation of the original theatrical audio (mono for the earlier sequels, stereo for the latter ones). If you have the DVDs, you know what most of the extras are. The bulk of them are recycled from the Infinifilm DVD and the Nightmare Encyclopedia. The only new extras of note here are the new documentary, Fear Himself: The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger and two episodes of Freddy's Nightmares. These appear on the final disc of the set, which is a Region 2-locked DVD. This is a set that I wholeheartedly recommend to all Nightmare on Elm Street fans. I strongly suggest replacing your old DVD box set with this far-and-away superior Blu-ray collection.