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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
4.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection

Street Date:
March 5th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 6th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
1985
Studio:
Warner Brothers
Length:
702 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection (U.K. Import).'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Growing up, few horror movies made me behave like such a scaredy-cat, and along with Michael Myers and the demon Pazuzu of 'The Exorcist,' the vengeful ghost of a child-murderer terrorizing the dreams of kids on Elm Street made me cower in fear of the boogeyman. As if his backstory weren't enough to creep out most viewers, his appearance is one which simply seeps into our memory banks and resides there permanently. Just as Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) found his image disturbing, the thought of a man with a burnt face wearing a grimy fedora hat and a torn red and green stripped sweater hiding in the shadows is pretty unsettling. Added to that, the weirdo also likes to make loud screeching sounds and has a hideously sinister laugh.

Of course watching the movie today, it doesn't exactly draw the same kind of reaction, but that may have more to do with the countless number of times it's been watched and not directly related to any faults within the film. 'Nightmare on Elm Street' still possesses a certain eeriness to it which makes it fun to watch and holds a great sense of nostalgia for a time when such flicks were original and fresh. Director Wes Craven cemented his name as master of horror and has since become recognized as a legendary filmmaker for originating one of the most iconic characters in the genre — right up there with Dracula and Frankenstein. And if not for the absolutely one-of-a-kind performance by Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger would not be the household name it is today.

While the successes of Carpenter's 'Halloween' and Cunningham's 'Friday the 13th' arguably opened the doors for Craven's vision to be realized, 'Nightmare' stood as a unique and terrifying revelation to the latest cliché-ridden craze sweeping low-budget horror — sexually-promiscuous teens meet their demise in savagely gory fashion. Eventually spawning a franchise loved by many, the original not only used many of the same characteristics as previous movies but also expanded upon them by taking the dark, brooding psychopath into the one place we normally feel the safest — our dreams. Equipped with a basis in reality and several other inspirations, Craven's 'Nightmare' furthermore brought some interesting features that make it stand out amongst others in the subgenre, revealing a smart and clever horror film.

'A Nightmare on Elm Street' introduced a supernatural element to the slasher formula with the killer stalking his adolescent victims in their nightmares, making it difficult for them, and the audience, to distinguish between dreams and reality. Rather than simply being a large, bulking mass of lunatic rage, Freddy brazenly toys with his prey and speaks to them with malicious and diabolical mockery. 'Nightmare' also shows weak relationships between parent and child, presenting teenagers from dysfunctional families. The film moreover takes the "Final Girl" epithet a step further in the Nancy character. Adding to the idea of being sexually unavailable, Nancy ups the ante by being skillfully resourceful and a clever survivalist. For me, these subtexts add to the film's appreciation and really make Craven's horror classic worth more than its violent, gory parts. (Movie Rating: 4/5)


Freddy's Revenge

After the immense success of Craven's 'Nightmare,' New Line exec Robert Shaye took advantage of its commercial appeal with this poorly-conceived follow-up. In fact, this is the one movie of the entire franchise seen by many, including its own creators, as the best-forgotten stain on Freddy's history. Part of the problem is the attempt to stray from Craven's clear guidelines of the Freddy Krueger mythos, something which later installments try to correct. Working from a script by newcomer David Chaskin, director Jack Sholder proudly brought the killer out of the dream world and into reality, taking it even further by involving a possession/psychological element that ultimately seems silly. Nevertheless, there are a few aspects worth appreciating in this sequel.

One of them, which evolves into the franchise's signature trademark, is Freddy's god complex and his witty, cynical one-liners just before killing his victims. None of it is quite as blatant or meant wholly humorous as others in the series, but we can see the makings of a beloved and celebrated horror icon in this sequel. His interactions with Jesse (Mark Patton) are a bit comical and twisted though Sholder's direction maintains a certain level of spookiness throughout. Freddy also displays a playful, maniacal side in his reign of terror, enjoying the many ways he toys with his victims. Unfortunately, much of this seems defeated in a script that drags in several places with conversations questioning Jesse's mental health. Too much about Jesse and not enough time spent with Freddy.

Another troubling aspect of 'Freddy's Revenge' is the removal of a central female protagonist. On the surface, it seems like a silly notion to gripe about, but as this movie proves, watching one's dream violated by a child murderer is more terrifyingly effective with a character like Nancy. With Jesse, the story carries an underlying implication of homoeroticism and a teen struggling with sexual identity. Much of this goes in line with the plot's psychological element and one prominent scene showing Jesse unable to be affectionate with Lisa (Kim Myers). The whole affair simply takes away from the movie's fear factor and is worsen by the idea that Nancy's former house contains the ghost of Freddy Kruger. In the end, the sequel is really the least memorable of the 'Nightmare' franchise. (Movie Rating: 2/5)


Dream Warriors

Things drastically improve with the third installment, which brings back the franchise's creator Wes Craven to write a screenplay that makes better use of Freddy's mastery over the dream world. The previous movie never really took advantage of this concept and its imaginative possibilities, so from its opening moments Craven's story seems determined to do precisely that. It also features a central female character in a very young Patricia Arquette as Kristen, and like Nancy, the teen has a distant relationship with her mother that coincides with a sleeping disorder. However, those issues are lightly gleaned over in favor of what fans really want. Right from the start, 'Dream Warriors' makes itself known as a slasher horror flick about nightmares with Freddy at the center of it all.

It's easy to gather that Craven aimed the second sequel as the franchise's return to its origins and make the last entry a forgotten dream. Freddy doesn't just haunt one kid, but chases after a group of teens fearing the one place where they should feel safest. Upping the ante, the kids are a troubled motley of psychiatric patients with highly active imaginations, allowing for director Chuck Russell to be wonderfully creative with each nightmare sequence. This is where Freddy's warped sense of humor is solidified, showing that he enjoys taunting his victims in ingenious and often hilariously ironic ways. And Englund loves every minute of it. With this in place, 'Dream Warriors' also takes a moment to give Freddy a bit more history and background, revealing he's "the bastard son of a hundred maniacs."

Craven's story idea, which was later tightened a bit more by Frank Darabont ('The Walking Dead,' 'The Shawshank Redemption') in one of his earliest industry jobs, makes a further connection to the first movie by having the kids be "the last of the Elm Street children." It's a bit of a stretch to be sure, but nicely rectified with Heather Langenkamp reprising her role as Nancy Thompson, now working as a therapist and sleep specialist. Demonstrating Freddy's power to control the dreams of others doesn't hurt either. Nonetheless, it's all part of a master plan as fans watch Nancy's father (John Saxon) and her coworker (Craig Wasson) try to locate Freddy's remains in an auto salvage yard. Basically, Craven intended to bring any possibility of a franchise to a screeching halt, but fortunately for us horror maniacs, that attempt quickly failed. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)


The Dream Master

I still remember walking out of the theater after watching 'Dream Warriors' thinking that was the end of Freddy Krueger. How could filmmakers possibly resurrect the infamous child-murderer with the finger knives after that conclusion? However, when part four was released, I quickly learned that anything is possible in Tinseltown, no matter how ridiculous. And the way in which the makers of 'Dream Master' bring Freddy back is incredibly stupid though still pretty hilarious — a dog's fiery urine is apparently the spark of life he needed. Interestingly, it sets the movie's tone as something that doesn't take itself seriously, as in part two, and the plot establishes a clear departure from Craven's original concept in an ingenious manner that works surprisingly well.

The plot takes place soon after the events of the previous movie. The last of the Elm Streets kids, Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kristen (now played by Tuesday Knight), return for Freddy to finally complete his revenge. But not until after Kristen shares her unique ability with her shy, daydreaming friend, Alice (Lisa Wilcox), which is where we find the real genius of the story. The script by Brian Helgeland ('L.A. Confidential,' 'Mystic River,' 'Man on Fire') and the Wheat brothers ('Pitch Black,' 'The Fly II') has our iconic villain's thirst for taunting teens extend beyond the Elm Street neighborhood. Through Alice, Freddy's legend grows so that other kids fear and bring him into their dreams. Essentially, the movie has the makings of an ongoing franchise.

And like the third entry, the movie explores the highly inventive potential of seeing nightmares come alive. A yet-unknown at the time, Renny Harlin ('Cutthroat Island,' 'The Long Kiss Goodnight') directs with a cartoonish delight, carefully balancing the scares and the laughs without feeling terribly silly or goofball. In fact, his strengths as a filmmaker are seen during the dream sequences as each kid meets their demise by confronting personal fears and phobias. Of all the 'Nightmare' flicks, 'Dream Master' has some of the craziest and most memorable special effects, with Freddy's death being a highlight which continues to astound. Admittedly, the movie comes with many drawbacks, namely the amateur acting, but it's fun and amusing nonetheless. (Movie Rating: 3/5)


The Dream Child

After the spectacular finale of the previous movie, it's difficult to imagine how Freddy could ever return or have a comeback as equally fantastic. But this fifth installment tries to do just that, opening with one of the most bizarre birthing scenes imaginable. A mix of flashback and nightmare, audiences are made to witness Kruger's birth at the infirmary of the insane asylum and looking like the demon prune from hell with an oversized head. After crawling to a dilapidated chapel conveniently engulfed in shadows, Freddy howls from growing pains and quickly fills into his iconic outfit with the fedora and gloves. The whole event is laughably excessive, but weirdly fitting for the 'Nightmare' universe. Sadly, the rest of the movie fails to live up to this absurdly sensational beginning.

Lisa Wilcox returns as Alice and unwittingly becomes responsible for Freddy being reborn and haunting the dreams of her new friends: Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter), Mark (Joe Seely) and Greta (Erika Anderson). Following the continuity of the two movies that came before it, she and her boyfriend Dan (Danny Hassel) move on with their lives as recently-graduated high school sweethearts. We don't learn of the particulars behind Freddy's mysterious resurgence until much later, only after a wacky but somewhat creative death scene involving a literal speed demon. As far-fetched and dim-witted as it may seem, we have to give the three screenwriters responsible for this silliness some credit for at least developing this one original plot device. However, the teen pregnancy angle opens some pointless melodrama as well and ultimately goes nowhere except more bad acting.

Director Stephen Hopkins, who later moved on to helm 'The Ghost and the Darkness' and 'Lost in Space,' does what he can with the material, which is really nothing more than goofball fun. He doesn't make an attempt at being taken serious, aware of the sort of movie he's making and goes with it to a certain degree. And 'Dream Child' is all the better for it. How could any filmmaker sell the comic-book fight or the M.C. Escher-inspired final showdown with complete earnestness? But at the same time, it's also the movie's downside, coming across more as a comedy than horror and further transforming the Freddy persona into a perverse prankster. The visual fatuousness and overall zaniness of the movie are about the only saving grace and the laughs make it tolerably watchable. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)


Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

By the time we reach the sixth entry — and the formally last in the series' continuity — filmmakers seem conscious of the franchise's clownish faults but embrace it nonetheless as the circus-like freak-show it had become. As with her predecessor, director Rachel Talalay, who also served as producer of parts three and four and later helmed the wacky dystopian 'Tank Girl,' makes the best of the eccentrically gonzo direction Freddy had taken and further exploits the character's comedic side. Freddy is now a sadistic mischief-maker who toys with his victims in some questionably stupid, roll-your-eyes moments. (The pothead, videogame sequence takes the cake for one of the worst deaths.) But sadly, the best intentions are not enough to save this entry beyond being amusingly bad.

'Freddy's Dead' also features some of the worst acting of the entire franchise, which when compared to the other movies that came before it means it's pretty dreadful. Leading the pack, unfortunately, is Lisa Zane as Maggie, a therapist working with troubled teenagers. As the plot's main attraction carrying a secret with close ties to the Kruger saga, her role is rather vital, but Zane appears as if only half-committed and completely bored. Conversely, Shon Greenblatt and Lezlie Deane as John and Tracy can't seem to contain their enthusiasm for taking part in a Freddy movie, delivering their lines with unconvincing histrionic elation. The only two actors with any seriousness to their performances are Yaphet Kotto ('Alien') and Robert Englund, with the latter showing a great deal of fun.

On a positive note, the movie does add to the Freddy mythos and expands a little on the character's life prior to invading the nightmares of teens. Although the very brief explanation of the Dream Demons is a bunch of cockamamie nonsense, Talalay's story, which was scripted by producer Michael De Luca ('In the Mouth of Madness'), reminds fans that the celebrated horror icon is a child-murdering monster, allowing us a sneak-peek into his repulsive secret room in the basement. Unfortunately, the possibilities within the plot feel wasted in this sixth installment and degraded further with a conclusion that's nowhere near satisfying, let alone even respectful to Freddy Kruger's legacy. Cameo appearances by Johnny Depp, Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold and Alice Cooper insert some amusing humor, but the movie is only worth watching to see those small tidbits into Freddy's past. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)


Wes Craven's New Nightmare

After the disappointing finish of the last movie, it's no wonder its creator Wes Craven returned to his beloved character with a decidedly unflattering look at what had become of him. Story goes that franchise producer Robert Shaye asked the horror director his opinion about the film series and Freddy's demise. Out of the frank conversation came a need for one final entry that would give the celebrated horror icon a proper farewell. Craven also set out to eliminate Freddy's comically cartoonish demeanor of previous movies and restore his frightening image as a perverse psychopath that invaded the dreams of his victims. The result is one of the best and smartest installments of the franchise since the first and interestingly serves as a precursor to the similarly-themed 'Scream' series.

As the title suggests, the film intends to be seen as something distinct from the rest of the franchise while also celebrating the aspects which made the original memorable and fun. For this, Craven returned to the initial premise he conceived for 'Dream Warriors,' a light but ultimately silly examination on the origin of scary stories. Most clever, however, is the concept's amusing attempt at breaking the fourth wall where viewers are essentially watching the making of a Freddy movie as it being written by its creator — or better yet, as it is being dreamt up. Craven does a far better job at bringing the character into the real world than Jack Sholder's sequel, and much of that is due to an understated dissatisfaction with the franchise. It's almost as if Freddy is angry with the way he'd been portrayed over the years and intends to reaffirm his position as a villain worth fearing.

Freddy's victims this time around are not teens who believe him to be only an urban legend, but rather the filmmakers facing more true-to-life horrors and nightmares. Many involved in the first film return as themselves with Heather Lagenkamp leading the way, slowly realizing her dreams become strenuously difficult to distinguish from reality. Events in the last quarter melding with those from part one are particularly amusing and smartly brought to fruition. Freddy, himself, receives a scarier make-over to differentiate him from the others and works well for this dark reimagining. A couple aspects of the script, however, slow things down, like Lagenkamp and Craven's conversation, and some optical effects look terribly dated. But all in all, 'New Nightmare' is true to Craven's vision and makes a great conclusion to a much-loved horror franchise. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)


The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection' comes courtesy of Warner Home Video/New Line Cinema. The five-disc package is identical to the U.K. release from 2011 where the first movie is allowed a disc all to itself. The rest are squeezed onto the next three Region Free, BD50 discs — two films to each with supplements. The fifth disc is a Region locked, DVD-9 with a collection of bonus material exclusive to this boxset.

They are all housed together on individual panels that flip over inside a blue, slightly-larger-than-normal keepcase. The package arrives with a cardboard slipcover showing a new cover art. At startup, the discs with two movies give viewers the option to select which to watch. Afterwards, they're taken a basic main menu with a still image and music playing in the background.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

A Nightmare on Elm Street

As we would expect, this 1080p/VC-1 encode of the first 'Nightmare' is identical to the previous standalone release and the U.K. box set. The high-def transfer comes with a couple age spots and some softness, but they're largely forgivable since the majority of the picture is nicely detailed with natural, revealing facial complexions. The 1.85:1 image displays intensely deep black levels with excellent shadow delineation, and the color palette is bold with full-bodied primaries throughout. Although highlights run a tad too hot with some mild posterization, overall contrast is stable and bright. Only other issue worth mentioning is some minor moiré effects noticeable in Nancy's blue sweater at the end of the movie. (Video Rating: 4/5)

Freddy's Revenge

The sequel escapes the dream world with a strong and generally pleasing 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1). Clarity and definition are a big plus, looking excellent for a majority of the time, but resolution dips on several occasions, appearing blurry in a variety of spots. Blacks are often intense with great shadow details, and contrast is well-balanced, allowing plenty of visibility in the far distance. Primaries are particularly bright, but the overall palette is bold and cleanly rendered with mostly healthy flesh tones. Fine object and textural detailing is distinct and sharp more often than not, making this a great upgrade over previous standard def editions. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)


Dream Warriors

As a fan of this second sequel, I'm hugely disappointed by the outcome of this AVC-encoded transfer. There are several positives to be found, many scenes with good fine object and textural details. But overall resolution is inconsistent and wavers significantly, ruining definition and clarity for a majority of the time. Contrast is generally average and flat with noisy whites while black levels appear deep but mostly murky. Film grain is somewhat well-balanced, but the worst scenes make it more prevalent and a bit distracting. Colors receive the greatest benefit yet remain unimpressive nonetheless, and telecine judder is quite noticeable. Some of the problems can be excused as the result of visual effects, but not everything, making this a terrible high-def presentation. (Video Rating: 2/5)

The Dream Master

Going into part four, things dramatically improve, compared to number three, but the AVC encode (1.85:1) is still average at best. There are lots of good moments with strong definition and detailing around hair, clothing and architecture. Close-ups reveal great texture and natural complexions. But the video's better parts are also countered with lots of blurriness and softness, particularly in nighttime sequences or during segment with very poor lighting. Visibility remains fair though not perfect, and blacks never really shine, looking rather murky for a majority of the runtime. Contrast is decently well-balanced and stable while colors are rendered accurately. (Video Rating: 3/5)


The Dream Child

The fifth installment arrives with a passable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that disappoints more than it pleases. The few good moments show nice detailing and definition, yet the 1.85:1 picture never makes much of an impression, looking mostly flat and dull with serviceable contrast. Colors are well-rendered and mostly clean, but they never really shine or look much better than an upscaled DVD. Black levels are generally on the weaker side and lackluster, and shadow details leave much to be desired. Nighttime scenes are surprisingly some of the best aspects of the transfer, but overall, it's an average presentation. (Video Rating: 2.5/5)

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Like others in the set, this AVC-encoded transfer is made from an old master likely used for the DVD. It only shows the slightest improvement in definition and resolution. Details are average at best with a few pockets of HD goodness sprinkled throughout, and textures are mildly appealing. A very thin grain structure is ever present and surprisingly consistent, but a majority of the presentation generally falls on the softer side of things. Contrast and brightness doesn't improve the picture quality much, looking mostly dull and flat, although blacks are stable with good shadow delineation. Colors appear to benefit the most, but only the primaries really their best. (Video Rating: 2.5/5)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Last, but not least is the final chapter in the series arriving with a better but still slightly disappointing 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. As we'd expect, daylight exteriors look the best with excellent resolution and clarity into the far distance. The 1.85:1 image is nicely detailed with strong well-defined lines, contrast is stable with crisp whites, and blacks are well-balanced but never truly shine. Primaries are nicely saturated and cleanly rendered with healthy facial complexions throughout. Nighttime sequences and poorly-lit interiors are generally the worst, looking fairly dreary and soft. Overall, it's a passable presentation to one of the better Freddy installments. (Video Rating: 3/5)


The Audio: Rating the Sound

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Breaking out of the dream world is this great DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, which utilizes the rears to great effect. Atmospherics are discrete and convincing with excellent directionality, generating an often immersive ambience during scenes inside Freddy's boiler room. The iconic music fills the room and surrounds the listener with a satisfying soundfield. Dialogue is clear and precise in the center, and channel separation displays a terrific balance between all three channels. The mid-range isn't perfect with some trouble spots in the higher frequencies when synthesizer sounds come in, but they remain fairly dynamic and sharp for a majority of the runtime. Low bass is adequate and responsive in the musical score, but not all that aggressive, as is should be for a 25-year-old film. (Audio Rating: 4/5)

Freddy's Revenge

The same DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack as the previous release remains just as unimpressive, yet good in its own right. While still mildly engaging, the issue is how generic and conventional it feels. With Jesse's funny screeches piercing in the center of the screen, dialogue is cleanly delivered and well-prioritized. The front-heavy mix exhibits a decent dynamic range, but it also comes off rather limited with hardly any extension in the upper frequencies or into the other channels. In fact, there's very little movement or activity to generate an imaging the genuinely satisfies, and the light bleeds from the score into the rears seem forced, a rather weak attempt at extending the soundfield. Low-frequency effects happen on occasion, and they're appropriate to the on-screen action. (Audio Rating: 3/5)


Dream Warriors

A very good DTS-HD MA soundtrack makes the disturbed kids sound better than they look. An wide and welcoming soundstage features a clean, precise dialogue reproduction in the center while the other two channels delivers discrete, convincing off-screen effects. The lossless mix exhibits sharp detailing in the mid and upper frequencies, but the low-end is noticeably lacking, especially during scenes we'd expect some minor oomph. The design is mostly a stereo presentation, but rear activity is employed on occasion with a few atmospherics the nicely enhance the soundfield. The musical score also spreads into the back with little effort, creating an appreciable environ and making this high-rez track is good deal of fun. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)

The Dream Master

The real surprise of this fourth installment is this great DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The front-heavy mix displays an excellent balance between the channels and delivers a fairly wide imaging. Vocals are clear and intelligible in the center while several off-screen effects are cleanly heard without drowning any of Freddy's silly one-liners. Dynamics and acoustics exhibit lots of range and clarity although a few high-pitched sounds during the many scares are not quite as sharp as others. Low bass isn't very persuasive, but it gets the job done, providing the music and song selections some nice depth. Several discrete effects escape into the side speakers along with the music, creating a corny yet generally pleasing soundfield fans can enjoy. (Audio Rating: 4/5)


The Dream Child

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a big improvement over the video, generating a broad and welcoming soundstage. The front-heavy mix displays a clean mid-range but doesn't exhibit a great deal of extension. Still, with a nice balance between the channels, the presentation feels expansive with well-prioritized dialogue and a hearty, appropriate low-end. Rear activity comes with decent directionality and music lightly bleeds into the background with little effort. The high-rez track isn't particularly immersive, but it gets the job done and is pretty entertaining. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Number six impresses with a very good and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, thanks to the original design being recorded in four-channel surround Dolby. Frankly, this only means that the front soundstage feels broader and more active than your typical stereo mix. Imaging feels spacious, spreading evenly across the channels with good balance and separation. The mid-range is clean and detailed with strong low-frequency effects that nicely provide some oomph to a few action pieces. Vocals are intelligible and well-prioritized in the center. Several atmospherics bleed into the back speakers, decently extending the soundfield though never feeling very convincing. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

The final entry in the Freddy franchise comes with a lossless audio mix that not only amazes on occasion but is also generally satisfying. Dialogue is precise and cleanly delivered in the center even though a couple conversations seem slightly hollow and canned. The rest of the soundstage feels expansive with good channel separation and a detailed mid-range. Low bass is healthy and appropriate though it fails to really impress during earthquake scenes. Rear activity is not very consistent or immersive, but several discrete effects are employed along with the musical score, extending the soundfield and generating a mostly pleasing atmosphere. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)


The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Warner ports over many of the special features found on the DVD boxset from a few years back, except the 'Nightmare Series Encyclopedia' bonus disc, and the package is identical also to the U.K. Blu-ray release.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

  • Audio Commentary — The two audio tracks are preserved, and both are quite entertaining and enlightening for fans and newcomers alike. The first is between director/writer Wes Craven, cinematographer Jacques Haitkin, Heather Langenkamp, and John Saxon. The conversation, while amusing, is typical scene-specific quips and comments. Craven and Langenkamp do most of the talking about working with the actors and other aspects of the production, but the solidarity between them makes the banter an enjoyable listen for fans.

    The second commentary is a bit of a Frankenstein monster, pieced together from separate recorded interviews, and remarks are continuously rotating with narrated intros. The observations are incredibly varied, covering anything from production anecdotes, history, influences, admiration of the cast and characters, special effects work, and on the lasting impression of Freddy Krueger. The track features Craven, Langenkamp, Haitkin, Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, Ronee Blakley, composer Charles Bernstein, editors Rich Shaine and Patrick McMahon, make-up artist David B. Miller, mechanical effects creator Jim Doyle, film historian David Del Valle, and producers Robert Shaye, Sara Risher, and John Burrows. Although slightly jarring at first, listeners will quickly adjust to the constant switching back and forth between voices and find a thoroughly informative commentary track.

  • Never Sleep Again (HD, 50 min) - This exhaustive and well-done documentary on all aspects of the film is the real highlight of the set and a must-watch for everyone. It starts with a quick introductory background on Wes Craven and the origins of 'Nightmare on Elm Street.' Then it moves on to casting, production difficulties, and the incredible work done by the special effects team. It finally ends exactly as one would expect with a look at the film's initial reception and its lasting impression. With plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew, this retrospective makes for good infotainment.

  • The House That Freddy Built (HD, 23 min) - This is another good featurette that ultimately works best as an extension of the previous doc. It examines the impact made by 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' the franchise which quickly followed, and its influence on other horror films. The title is taken from the nickname given to New Line Cinema after the movie's commercial success transformed the minor distributer into a major film studio. Although the ending feels much like a promotional piece, the brief look at the importance of Craven's horror classic to the history of the studio is enjoyable.

  • Night Terrors (HD, 16 min) - With interviews from various psychologists, this piece explores the strange things that can occur while we dream. From thoughts on the possibility of people dying while they sleep to disturbing accounts of murder, the conversation definitely makes a strange topic to consider. The only drawback is that I was left wanting a little more from the discussion.

  • Alternate Endings (HD, 5 min) - The three slightly different endings which Sean Cunningham famously requested of the director are collected here. The happy ending is Wes Craven's original intention, but the ending used in the final print was the better - and still is the best - conclusion to the film.

  • Fact Track - Identical to its DVD predecessor, this trivia track appears periodically on screen as a simple white text while the movie plays. Those intimately familiar with 'Nightmare' and its history will not find anything new, but neophytes can benefit from some of these finer points of the movie.

  • Focus Points - Despite the name change, this featurette is also identical to what is found on the Infinifilm edition of 'Nightmare.' While watching the movie, a yellow icon that looks like a rotating DVD suddenly appears in the upper left corner. When clicking on it, viewers are shown either an alternate take of a particular scene or a short clip from the 'Never Sleep Again' documentary.


Freddy's Revenge

  • Heroes and Villains (SD, 6 min) — With a slight apologetic air to it, the piece has filmmakers discuss story origins and its place in the franchise.

  • Psycho Sexual Circus (SD, 3 min) — Filmmakers talk about the homoerotic and sexual undertones within the movie.

  • The Male Witch (SD, 3 min) — An all-too brief look at the special make-up effects by Kevin Yagher.

  • Freddy on 8th Street (SD, 5 min) — A discussion on a publicity stunt done by Jeffrey Wells prior to the release of the sequel.

  • Trailer (SD) — The original theatrical preview.


Dream Warriors

  • Behind the Story (SD) — A section containing seven separate featurettes, like actors finding everlasting fame once they appear on a Freddy movie ("Fan Mail," 1 min). "Onward Christian Soldiers" talks about developing the story and thoughts about the end product (9 min). "Snakes & Ladders" discusses the special effects (6 min). "Trading 8's" is an amusing talk about the beginning of Freddy delivering his funny one-liners (4 min). "That's Showbiz" has Robert Englund reminiscing about his memories working on set (2 min). The cast takes a turn discussing their experiences on set in "Burn Out" (4 min). Director Jack Sholder quickly gives his thoughts on New Line Cinema's newfound success in "The House that Freddy Built" (1 min).

  • Music Video (SD) — 80s hair-band Dokken performs their awful song, "Dream Warriors."

  • Trailer (SD) — The original theatrical trailer for part three.


The Dream Master

  • Krueger, Freddy Krueger (SD, 8 min) — An entertaining piece about the production with cast & crew interviews talking about Renny Harlin being hired and the challenges with writing the script.

  • Hopeless Chest (SD, 4 min) — After a few words on the pizza gag, viewers are given a closer look at the special effects behind the spectacular ending.

  • Let's Makeup (SD, 2 min) — Make-up artist Howard Berger talks about applying the Freddy face and shares a funny memory of being surrounded by a horde of fans.

  • The Finnish Line (SD, 2 min) — Director Renny Harlin reminisces about the reaction to his movie and his excitement.

  • Trailer (SD) — The original theatrical preview.


The Dream Child

  • Behind the Story (SD) — Another collection of smaller featurettes looking at various aspects in the production. "Womb Raiders" (6 min) kicks things off with the origins and explanation of the script. This is followed by "The Sticky Floor" (6 min), which has crew members talk about the art direction and special effects. "Take the Stairs" (1 min) is a very short interview with the director on the M.C. Escher-inspired conclusion. "Hopkins Directs" (1 min) is a throwaway clip of Hopkins directing Englund. And finally, "A Slight Miscalculation" (1 min) is a somewhat apologetic chat on the movie.

  • Music Videos (SD) — Two amusingly corny songs are collected here, starting with the Fat Boys performing "Are You Ready for Freddy?" and followed by "Anyway I Gotta Swing It" by Whodini.

  • Trailer (SD) — Finishes with a theatrical preview.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

  • Rachel's Dream (SD, 3 min) — A talk on long-time producer Rachel Talalay finally being given the opportunity to direct a Freddy picture.

  • 3D Demise (SD, 2 min) — A frank discussion on the concerns of shooting the movie with 3-D effects in mind.

  • 86'D (SD, 2 min) — Producer Robert Shaye explains to viewers his overall satisfaction with the franchise.

  • Hellraiser (SD, 1 min) — Author and filmmaker Clive Barker gives his opinion on the series, basically admitting to being a fan.

  • Trailer (SD) — The original theatrical preview is included.


Wes Craven's New Nightmare

  • Audio Commentary — With optional subtitles, director Wes Craven offers his thoughts about his own movie and the overall production. It's a very friendly conversational piece with the filmmaker explaining a great deal of his thought process and his aim. Making the track a worthwhile listen is hearing Craven slip in his opinion about Freddy's popularity, the character, the relationship with dreams and storytelling, and the various clever ways he blurs the line between reality and fiction. For most of its runtime, he provides amusing anecdotes about the people involved and shenanigans on set. It's a good commentary that fans can enjoy.

  • Becoming a Filmmaker (SD, 8 min) — Beloved horror director Wes Craven talks a bit of his career prior to filmmaking and how he eventually, after several years, moved on to direct horror movies.

  • An Insane Troupe (SD, 1 min) — Again, an interview piece with Craven's thoughts on how to make a horror film.

  • Two Worlds (SD, 2 min) — Craven shares his aspirations and goals about 'New Nightmare.'

  • The Problem with Sequels (SD, 2 min) — As the title suggests, the director tells his reasons for returning to the franchise.

  • Filmmaker (SD, 5 min) — Craven is asked about his opinion on his career as a filmmaker and lightly delves into an interesting conversation about real-life violence and the cultural significance of film.

  • Trailer (SD) — The original theatrical preview brings it to an end.

Disc Five

  • Welcome to Prime Time (SD, 50 min) — Thirteen separate brief interviews with director Wes Craven and others, which can be watched sequentially. They are essentially deleted scenes from the other docs and worth watching as they feature several interesting anecdotes related to the history of the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' franchise. It ends with one last surviving alternate ending to the first movie.


HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

For this Blu-ray box set, Warner puts together a few high-def exclusives, which are quite nice and sure to be enjoyed by fans everywhere.

Disc Five

  • Fear Himself: The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger (SD, 30 min) — A new and terrific retrospect that examines and even analyses the franchise, the Freddy Krueger character and his popularity. The various interviews with cast, crew and film experts are very recent discussions on the story's origins, Wes Craven as a horror filmmaker, Robert Englund's signature performance and the phenomenon which led to seven sequels. It all ends with a few praises on 'New Nightmare' and Freddy as an ironically celebrated pop-icon. This is definitely worth a watch for even the mildest of fans.

  • Freddy's Nightmares (SD, 94 min) — Two episodes from the 44-episode television series are included here and each is 47 minutes long: "It's a Miserable Life" featuring future film director John Cameron Mitchell and "Killer Instinct" starring Lori Petty and directed by Mick Garris. The late-80s TV spinoff is far from memorable but nice to have as a collector's item. However, it's a shame they didn't include the pilot episode directed by Tobe Hooper.

  • Conclusions (SD, 18 min) — A series of 10 short interviews with University of Virginia professor, Mark Edmundson, author of Nightmare on Main Street, horror fiction writer Clive Barker, filmmaker Sean S. Cunningham, and actor Robert Englund. In each piece, participants offer an intriguing opinion and analysis of the 'Elm Street' series, the overall symbolism of the Freddy Krueger character and the cultural significance of the horror genre in general. It's all good stuff.


Easter Eggs

As an added bonus, producers of the boxset have hidden one Easter Egg for fans to enjoy. After selecting language preference and special features on the fifth disc main menu, scroll down to the "Welcome to Prime Time" segment and press the left arrow button on the remote. When the eyeball highlights, press Enter and you'll find a 5-minute piece of Freddy acting like MTV video jockey and promoting 'Dream Warriors.' (Thanks to Arthur for the tip.)

Final Thoughts

Of the hundreds of movies released during the golden age of slasher films, only a handful of notable figures survived the 80s as lasting icons of the genre. Though they've become caricatures of their former, brutal selves, their names live on as embodiments of all the things we demand in contemporary horror. Every year around Halloween, we celebrate these fictional characters by donning their faces and weirdly pretending to be just like them for one night. Wes Craven's original is one such film that has left a major impact and continues to be just as entertaining today as when it originally premiered, leaving behind a cultural legacy and several sequels.

Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, Warner Home Video and New Line Cinema presents the franchise in a nice boxset dubbed 'A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection' with all seven films that directly relate to the series. Except for the first movie, the picture quality is a bit of a disappointment — transfers likely struck from the same masters used for making the DVD sets. The audio presentations of each are more impressive but for the most part, leave much to be desired. Supplements are also copied from their DVD counterparts although missing a few choice selections, but the fifth bonus disc makes up for some of the loss. Altogether, the package is worth the purchase for Freddy fans. Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Five-Disc Set
  • 4 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs / 1 DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region Free (Except Fifth Disc)

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (First Disc Only)
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Documentary
  • Music Videos
  • Alternate Endings
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Interactive Trivia Track
  • Trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • Documentary
  • Bonus TV Episodes
  • Featurette

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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