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A nice collection that does the series justice
on 7 February 2003
Although missing the final 2 parts in the series, this box set provides a well presented, value for money collection of the first 5 films in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
The first - and arguably the best - episode sees Wes Craven's creation Fred Krueger terrorise teens in their dreams. Genuinely scary and suspensful, it differs from its descendents which focussed on a more humourous, visually imaginative bogeyman. However, Craven shows his forte lies in creating surreal images and set pieces, rather than the comedic postmodern horror of Scream. Released at the time when teenage slasher flicks were feeding off of the success of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm St. should not be remembered along with the formulaic Friday the 13th sequels and exploitative video nasties. A truly original and thoughtfully constructed story (though inevitably flawed in places) ANOES strayed from the escaped lunatic theme that Halloween made standard. Although the acting and script are often a bit shaky, the film is exciting and original and puts to good use the techniques used by a director short on funds and support.
The best DVD of the lot in terms of extras, this includes a commentary from Wes Craven and stars of the film Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. Although an exciting prospect, the trio appear to have little to say other than how effective they think the story is. The DVD also includes cast and crew bios (which are interesting on this disc - however returning cast and crew are replicted on the others) as well as the usual scene access etc.
The 2nd film proved to be a disappointing sequel, though not without merit. The plot focusses on Freddy's possession of a teen boy, and despite some rather overt homoerotic/phobic (it can't really decide) themes, the film has little else to offer. An interesting opening scene involving a school bus however does show the broadening of the series scope and reliance of imaginative set pieces. Like the film, the DVD has little to offer than biographies of a number of unrecognisable cast and crew members.
Part 3, co-written by Wes Craven is a vast improvement from the last outing. It is the presence of Craven which provide the stylistic consistencies with the first film. By now, the death scenes have become far fetched and contrived enough to the point where ex-heroin addicts are given forced overdoses and sleep walkers are manoevered like marionettes with veins instead of strings. However, the returning presence of Langenkamp as well as soon to be discovered stars Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne, manage to keep it afloat. Freddy still manages to evoke a sense of fear, and the climax evokes the same sense of tension that the first did. Only a small step down from the original. Again, the DVD has little to offer, but a bizarre music video and the usual extras.
Director of part 4 - Renny Harlin - manages to sever the umbilical chord linking the entries from this point on, with all previous. Any sense of horror has vanished, with Freddy now taking star billing and often being portrayed as the protagonist in many scenes. Conventions of horror films such as a creepy, haunting score and darkly lit environments, have been replaced with soft rock tracks and fair-ground style sets. However, not taken as a horror film (a strange frame of mind to take, I know) this entry still proves entertaining on a humourous level. The script also manages to squeeze symbolism into the character of Alice's blank canvas 'painted' with the characteristics of her murdered friends. Again, some music vids on the DVD and little else.
Part 5 is perhaps the 2nd weakest in the set, however still serves as a visually interesting fairytale. As Alice from part 4 now becomes pregnant, Freddy invades the dreames of her unborn foetus. There is little in the sense of horror, with only 3 rather incomprehensible death scenes occurring throughout the film -each one played for laughs. Fans of the series will however enjoy the films exploration of Freddy's birth and his mother's character. This time, you get 2 daft music videos.
For die hard fans, the box set is perfect, as it doesn't look like a complete set, including parts 6 and 7, is coming to the shops any time soon. However, for those who are easily baffled or only searching for a genuine horror film, just seek out the original and the best.