After having gotten a close look at the first disc from the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series a little while ago, it was now time to examine the entire 8-disc box set that New Line Home Video released. According to New Line this massive release was designed to pay proper tribute to all fans of the Freddy Krueger series and was supposed to leave nothing to be desired. If it was anything like that first disc I had seen before, I knew I was in for a treat!
The box starts out with the original Wes Craven film, A Nightmare On Elm Street, the film that started the entire phenomenon. Unlike the disc we have reviewed a little earlier, the DVD that is part of this box set only contains the anamorphic widescreen version of the film and New Line decided to drop the pan & scan version altogether. Considering that the buyers of this box set are most likely true fans of the franchise, this was a smart move that allowed New Line to save some money on the production side without cutting back the quality while at the same time ensuring to give the fans exactly what they want. Freddy in all its gory glory in the best presentation possible in full anamorphic widescreen, the way he scares the best. Quality-wise the transfer found on this disc is identical with the one on the other disc with a breathtakingly detailed transfer that is rich in color and practically picture perfect and complemented by a new 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack.
The next disc contains, Freddy’s Revenge arguably the worst of all seven films in the series. With an inconsistent script that broke many of the rules that were put in place in the first movie, this film is nonetheless a lot of fun to watch, especially when it comes in such a great presentation as on this DVD. To be honest with you, I had really bad memories about the film but when I revisited it on this DVD it just felt like a really campy and thus funny slasher flick, and no way as bad as I remembered. I guess time gets us a little distanced from the expectations we once had towards these releases when they first hit theaters. Again, New Line is showing off this film in a glorious anamorphic widescreen version that makes every other presentation look pale by comparison and I mean that literally. Again, a brand-new 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack adds immensely to the spooky settings of the film.
My personal favorite of the series, right after Wes Craven’s original comes next. Dream Warriors is not only the most cinematic of all films it is also the one that explores the inner demons of Freddy and his victims the best. Combined with the kick-ass soundtrack found in this part, "Dream Warriors" is a Freddy fan’s dream. I must have seen this film a thousand times before, but never did I see it like this. Again the anamorphic widescreen presentation is razor-sharp with well-delineated colors. The colors are actually stronger than I even remembered them from the film’s theatrical run and bring out the best of the film’s great cinematography. Embellished with another 5.1 channel Dolby Digital remix, "Dream Warriors" is still my favorite sequel in the series, and this DVD makes me all the more determined!
Part four in the series was Renny Harlin’s take on Freddy. What was truly powerful about The Dream Master is the way how Harlin blurred the lines between dreams and reality. You never knew whether what you saw was real or just people’s imagination running wild although very dangerously so. The film constantly toys with the viewer, which still makes it one of my favorite sequels in the series, although it already shows some of Harlin’s weaknesses in dramaturgy that would become more obvious in his future films. Nonetheless "The Dream Master" looks better than ever on this DVD and the haunting soundtrack is coming through very nicely on this disc as well.
The Dream Child was the next film in the series and showed clear signs that the writers were struggling to find new edges they could hold on to tell more interesting stories about Freddy. For the most part "The Dream Child" works quite well and blends in nicely with the style of "The Dream Master", making it a good sequel to that particular part. Sadly Freddy himself has become more and more of a live-action cartoon character over the past sequels and in "The Dream Child" it is taken to the point that he’s not even really scary any more. Nonetheless, "The Dream Child" finds a spectacular presentation on the DVD in this box set, like all the other parts in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack.
When the creative people behind the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series found that they had covered almost everything there is to cover with Freddy as a character, they decided to end the series with a great finale, called Freddy’s Dead. This film is a wicked attempt to give Freddy free reigns and let him wreak havoc on his victims until he is finally put to rest. The notion that Freddy has turned into a cartoon character by now is actually used within the film itself by turning him into a video game villain how fights the player. It’s a very funny scene, just like many other effects of the film. The film also featured a 3D ending and New Line has fully restored this ending for the DVD. The box set comes with two sets of 3D glasses that are put to good use during this film’s final minutes. For a good look at some of the 3D scenes, please look at the end of this review, and make sure to have your 3D glasses ready! Organic special effects that take into unknown realms mark the end of Freddy, and once again, New Line presents the film in a stunning anamorphic transfer. Alternatively, the disc also contains the ending in a traditional 2D look, the way it was previously used on all home video releases.
For a long time, Wes Craven had felt that the Freddy Krueger of the series had very little in common with the character he had originally envisioned. To him Freddy has always been a mature villain and not simply the teenage slaying, one-line-spitting slasher we got to see in all the sequels. Freddy was much darker in his mind and to make a statement he decided to once again take full reign of the franchise he created and wrote Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the so-far last film in the series. Together with "Dream Warriors", "New Nightmare" is clearly the best of the sequels and carries a very unique stamp. The film is very mature and has a totally different atmosphere. Gone are the teenagers and the funny lines for Freddy. This time we go to the set of the original Nightmare film and witness how Freddy comes alive during the shooting of that film. We see how he starts to possess the people involved in the film and how Freddy starts manifesting himself in the real world. Starring much of the original cast who actually play themselves in this movie, Wes Craven has created a remarkable film here that skillfully toys with the dream sequences and always raises the question, "Is Freddy in all of us?" New Line presents "New Nightmare" also in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer with an enlightening commentary track by Wes Craven himself.
After so much horror, it is time to take a look at the eighth disc in the box set. It contains a 30-minute documentary that nicely takes the viewer behind the scenes in an almost nostalgic way. Many people who were involved in the series at one point or another share their memories and their understanding of the series. Especially two people have remarkable comments to contribute to this documentary called "Primetime" hardly surprising these two people are Robert Englund and Wes Craven. While Englund is able to shed some light on his understanding of Freddy, it is also very interesting to see how he saw the series change over time. After all, he played Freddy Krueger in every one of these films and a number of TV episodes. Seeing from his eyes how things developed and how different people brought in different ideas to the franchise is a very nice touch to the featurette.
Wes Craven’s lengthy discussion about how the idea of Freddy came about, how he felt about the series as it progressed, how he decided to go back and how he dealt with many of the problems associated with the films is simply magnetic. There’s a segment in there in which Craven is talking for minutes undisturbed about the first film and I was literally glued to screen, almost reading the words off his lips. It is exciting to hear how Craven got started as a director and how he worked his way up to become one of horror’s most acclaimed and recognized directors. This documentary rocks!
Then there is the "Labyrinth" on this disc, a game that gives you access to an endless array of clips and pieces from the entire series. Somewhat logically and chronologically structured, the game takes you to different rooms where you can explore certain items. Each item is associated to a video clip of some kind. It takes hours to get through everything and once again, as a true Nightmare on Elm Street fan, this was the icing of the cake. New Line has collected all sorts of Freddy memorabilia over the time and they are all presented here. From T-shirts, Halloween masks and action figures, basically everything that has ever been created for the franchise is here. But also the video clips are a treat. While many of them have been seen before, some of them are ultra-rare. Also numerous music videos from the films are included, comments about specific things in the films, EVERYTHING is here - even alternate endings!
I like the way New Line approached these supplements. Although most of them can be accessed directly through links on a separate page, I found it much more intriguing to play the game and explore the areas, gradually uncovering more and more details. It took me many hours to see everything and solve all the puzzles until I think I had seen everything on this disc. You can hardly get more bang for your bucks!
New Line’s "A Nightmare On Elm Street" box set is simply phenomenal and deserves all respect and commending. Not only are the films perfectly presented, but also the bonus materials are richer and better than I would have ever imagined. Hey, finally I do have a cool copy of Dokken’s "Dream Warriors" video in this box set.
New Line’s Executive Director of DVD Development, Michael Mulvihill once said to me, that Freddy Krueger is practically New Line’s "Mickey Mouse" and that the DVD versions of this franchise would be as good as they can possibly be. I am very proud to say that indeed, he has kept his word and we would like to award this effort with our "Gold Seal Of Excellence". This box set is the ultimate word in all things "Nightmare On Elm Street" - period!