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The A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection (featuring A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Wes Craven's New Nightmare) was released on Blu-ray last year as a Best Buy exclusive. On March 5th, Warner Home Video made the five-disc set available to purchase through other retailers, including their own official store, WBShop.com.

Feature
A Nightmare on Elm Street came at just the right time for me growing up. Already a film buff before my teens I was at the age where the more kid friendly science fiction flicks that had dominated my childhood had run their course. I was ready for the big time world of scares, gore and splatter, and besides the occasional Alien here or The Omen there I hadn't yet started down the road to ruin that made me the genre fan I am today. I first saw the original Nightmare when I was finally able to convince/coerce my mother into renting the picture when it was newly released to home video.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A
I remember that first viewing rather vividly. Tina crawling the walls. Freddy's tongue attempting to French Nancy through the phone. Johnny Depp getting dragged down into his bed and the resulting fountain of blood. Needless to say I was hooked. I started reading Fangoria magazine almost religiously and made sure to pay special attention to any issue that made mention of Freddy Krueger on the front cover. When it came time for Freddy's Revenge to hit video I called the one video store in town everyday to see if it was in stock yet so that I could reserve it. Back then movies didn't really have set release dates so much as they had estimates on when something would come out, especially in my home town where they'd get movies in for rent whenever they go them in. To see the latest and hottest flicks you had to work for it, especially when the chances were that there would be only one copy for rental in the entire town. I was not only hooked, I was determined to the point of obsession. I had become a true horror fan.

That was around 1986, and today you can get just about anything by purchasing it in store or online, streaming it instantly over this service or that one or on demand through your cable provider. You don't really have to work for it by staying up way past bedtime for the late night double feature or wait through commercials anymore. There are times when I miss those days, but I certainly wouldn't want to go back in time and swap them out for the ease of today, especially when you consider the great treatment that some of our once looked down upon horror gems have received over the past several years. Even Nightmare on Elm Street, the series of films most responsible for their start up success, were for years New Line Cinema's mistreated and unloved stepchildren.

Much like the 1999 DVD release of the films, Warner Home Video's recent release of The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection on Blu-ray is pretty close to a Freddy fan's dream come true. In addition to a brand-new documentary all of the previous extras have been ported over without the need to navigate through some weird and obtrusive menu interface that marred the DVD release, and the audio and video upgrades over the decade old DVD set make the new set worth the money towards an upgrade.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A
As for the movies themselves there's something I love about each of them, though admittedly I love some more than others. With the first Nightmare Wes Craven created a serial killer who preferred stalking his victims in their dreams instead of lurking in the dark or in the next cabin over, and with Freddy Krueger popularized the genre's move away from more traditional, real world slashers to those that looked towards supernatural means for their modus operandi. Even Freddy's main rival in the 1980s Jason Vorhees, who had up until this time been a stalker more in the mold of Halloween's Micheal Myers, would take on the role of an undead killing machine with the first Friday the 13th sequel to be produced after Nightmare's late 1984 release, the 1986 feature Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The original Nightmare is one of the few genre changing pictures to be released in the past 30-years and its reputation as one the genre's best is well deserved.

The non-Craven helmed sequels on the other hand are a mixed bag, and of the bunch I like the third and fourth entries ( Dream Warriors and The Dream Master respectively) the best and numbers two and six ( Freddy's Revenge and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare) the least, and a lot of what made three and four better than the rest has to do with the relatively young filmmakers behind them. It may not have been apparent at the time, but Dream Warriors's behind the camera team of Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont had as much to do with the exploding popularity of Freddy as anyone not named Wes Craven, and the film's success with fans who made it the most successful film in the franchise to that point was certainly a good omen for what these two men would achieve later in their careers. Likewise The Dream Master was directed by Renny Harlin, another talent on the rise fresh off of the underrated and until just recently unavailable on DVD in the U.S. Prison, who would go from Nightmare 4 to the likes of Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the Sylvester Stallone favorite Cliffhanger.

Still, as I said, even the weaker films in the series have their moments. For example, I remember being scared out of my wits the first time Freddy emerged from Mark Patton's Jesse in Nightmare 2 and coming gleefully close to losing my lunch over the motorcycle transformation in The Dream Child. Even if you take into account the sometimes threadbare plots and very loose continuity within the series and the lesser entries specifically they're still entertaining flicks worth sitting through just to see how Freddy will do in his next victim. I'm not sure I really could have asked for anything more than that as a young teenager, or even today as a supposedly film affluent adult.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A

Video


Here's Chris Gould's spot on take on the video and audio presentation of the Region B released version of the set as well as the included extras, which are all identical to the release here in the states. Read his full review of the set here.

One thing all of the films have in common is the new 1.78:1 aspect ratio, opened up slightly from the original 1.85:1. In most instances this has resulted in a lot more information being visible in the frame when compared to the DVDs. In fact, in some cases it's startling just how much was cropped from the older discs, although curiously a few scenes have been zoomed to show slightly less picture (very obviously in part five, to obscure gore). Even so these are still probably the most 'complete' versions you will have seen. The original film features a VC-1 encode, while the sequels are all AVC.

I’ve already written a fairly lengthy review of the first film, so I’ll keep this brief so as not to repeat myself. Basically A Nightmare on Elm Street has never looked better on a home format than it does on Blu-ray. Detail is vastly improved, colour rendition is more natural, and there are few (if any) defects in the source – it looks great. If I have any minor criticisms they relate to the moderate contrast boosting that has been employed, which results in a few blown highlights and some black crush. It’s nothing too egregious though, so fans needn’t worry. It’s obvious that the original film was given the most care and attention when it was transferred to BD.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A
Moving on to the first of the sequels, Freddy's Revenge presents an appreciable upgrade over the DVD but it falls slightly below the standards set by the original film's Blu-ray offering. Detail is reasonable for the most part, with some close-ups proving surprisingly revealing, but one or two scenes look very soft and muddy. Grain is consistent throughout, only appearing noisy during some of the darker effects-heavy moments. Colours are natural and accurately reproduced, there are no contrast issues to report, and there are no obvious film artefacts. Dream Warriors is very similar in terms of detail and the lack of artefacts, but where it differs is in brightness and contrast. For some inexplicable reason they have been altered from the DVD release, resulting in drab colours and some pretty obvious black crush. Given that a lot of the film takes place in dark dream worlds it proves problematic at times.

Dream Master has much in common with the other sequels, with a relatively detailed, clean image that retains plenty of grain. Unfortunately it has also been subjected to the same sort of tinkering as part three, which means more black crush and a dull palette, but it's more severe here. It's really quite noticeable if you're familiar with the DVD, or indeed grew up watching it on VHS, and while it's not a total disaster it's a bit disappointing. Still, the positives do outweigh the negatives, so it's not all bad. Surprisingly The Dream Child is actually a bit of a step down from the previous film visually. It's very soft, although perhaps intentionally so, and detail just isn't as impressive as I'd hoped. Colours also look a little off, although again I believe this can be attributed to the film's visual style. At least the black crush isn't as bad and it's as clean and artefact-free as the rest of the series.

I have very similar comments to make about Freddy's Dead, although it's actually slightly more pleasing to the eye than the previous three films. The transfer is just as clean, but colours and contrast are better and the image is more detailed overall. The sections that were originally filmed in 3D stick out like a sore thumb, but other than that it's not bad. New Nightmare is the newest film in the collection, but it offers the least significant upgrade from the DVD. That's not to say it looks bad though, as it's just as visually pleasing as the other sequels. In fact, it's probably one of the most natural looking films in the series as it doesn't suffer from excessive black crush, has a realistic palette and retains a nice layer of grain. However, it’s the only film in the set with what looks to be a visual defect (at around 14:10) in the shape of a red line that appears horizontally across the image for a frame or two.

While it's true that none of the films look perfect, Warner has done a pretty good job of wringing high-definition goodness out of a series of low-budget horrors. They could have just slapped a bunch of outdated masters on these discs, but instead they actually took the time to spruce them up a little, which is commendable. Ignore what you might have read on some forums from people with wildly unrealistic expectations, these aren't too shabby at all.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A

Audio


All seven films include both remastered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks (7.1 in the case of the original movie), along with their original mono, stereo or surround audio mixes in lossy Dolby Digital.

As above I won’t go into too much detail about the original as I covered a lot of ground in my separate review, so here are the most important facts. As the only film in the series with a 7.1 track you’d rightly expect it to have the most surround action. There’s plenty of discrete channel activity and plenty of atmospheric effects, from hissing steam in the boiler room, to Freddy’s raspy breath and the screeching of his claws as he drags them across metal. Fidelity is very good considering its age and origins, and it has by far the best score of the series. Unfortunately the 7.1 remix omits a number of key sounds, or otherwise buries them in the mix by inadvisably prioritising music over dialogue and effects. It’s a real shame, as apart from this the track sounds pretty great. Thankfully you can always fall back on the original Mono mix if you’re really offended by the changes.

With the sequels there's less to say. Freddy's Revenge's mono origins are plain to hear, with very little in the way of discrete effects and narrow dynamic range. The occasional stereo effect can be heard when cars drive across the front of the soundstage, and the rears are employed to bring greater presence to the score, but that's about it. At least the dialogue is clear, if a little hollow-sounding. Oh, there is a little bit of bass right at the end, but that's your lot. Dream Warriors treads a very similar line to the previous instalment, although fidelity is slightly better and the track is livelier overall. There's definitely more surround activity (a flock of birds taking off made me look behind the sofa) and everything sounds a little crisper. There are no issues with dialogue, but once again bass isn't hugely powerful. It's not a particularly memorable track, but it gets the job done.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A
Part four sees a marked improvement in audio quality, with superior fidelity and much more aggressive use of the surround channels for atmospherics and spot effects (there's a cool bit where we transition through a hole in Freddy's chest, accompanied by his heartbeat). It's not just the set pieces that benefit from this expanded sound-stage, but also the film's music, which is a decent mix of late eighties pop and rock from acts like the Divinyls and Dramarama. A lot of the score also appears to be recycled from the first two films, which actually gives it a boost in the continuity department. There's some weighty bass to be heard when thunder claps or things explode in the dream word and dialogue is always intelligible. On balance it's a reasonably effective track given the limitations of the source. Like the video, The Dream Child's audio is a bit of a step down from the previous installment, sounding thinner overall. The surround utilisation isn't as impressive, bass is anaemic and the score is one of the weakest in the series. Still, this has always been the case and you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

After the dip in quality from part four to part five, you’ll be glad to hear that Freddy’s Dead takes things up a notch with a more dynamic track. There are some great touches during the opening scenes set on the airplane, especially when part of it is ripped away and our hapless hero finds himself plummeting towards the ground. This is the first film to offer what I would call a ‘modern’ sounding mix, with stronger atmospherics and some genuinely impressive discrete effects. It also features some surprisingly powerful bass, especially when compared to most of the other instalments, along with strong dialogue. However, when it comes to the sequels New Nightmare probably takes the audio crown. The surround utilisation at the beginning of the film is among the best in the entire series, as the Earthquake causes things to crash to the ground in the Langenkamp household. The use of the discrete channels is also more effective than what’s come before, with voices that effortlessly transition from the side or rear of the soundstage to the front. Atmospherics are also good - with creaking floorboards and the sound of the wind - and bass is easily the most potent of the sequels.

One the whole I was quite pleased with the films' audio. It's a bit disappointing that the original film's 7.1 track has a few obvious omissions, but other than that it's a good remix. The sequels' 5.1 remixes breath new life into them, belying their low-budget origins. I was also impressed by Warner's decision to include the films' original audio mixes (admitted only in a lossy format), which is something more distributors should do.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A

Extras


The only new bonus material to be found in this collection is a documentary entitled 'Fear Himself: The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger' (29:48 SD) and a couple of episodes of the Freddy’s Nightmares TV series. It’s not a bad documentary, but it doesn’t really do much to set itself apart from any of the documentaries about the series that I’ve seen over the years. To be honest, once you’ve seen Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy*, most official documentaries are pretty weak by comparison. Most people who’ve seen Freddy’s Nightmares will probably tell you to steer well clear, and I’m going to do the same. It’s not a great show, with very little of the man himself and some pretty terrible ideas for episodes. The ones included in this set aren’t even two of the better ones.

I was initially unsure exactly what extras were going to be in this set, as the press release wasn’t very clear, but I’m happy to report that much of the material from the original DVD releases of the films - such as the audio commentaries, a fairly large collection of interesting featurettes, music videos, and more - has also been included. In total there's over five hours of material to work your way through, much of which is actually very interesting and informative stuff.  The vintage DVD features from back in 1999 (wow, was it really that long ago?) are just as great today as they were back then, putting the bonus material found on many contemporary releases to shame.

* - I'll reiterate Chris's comment on the Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy documentary. If you haven't taken the time to check it out and consider yourself a Nightmare fan be sure to do so--it's an extensive and exhaustive piece that is sure to please.

 Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, A

Overall


Wes Craven's original Nightmare was a genre game changer upon its release in 1984 and remains to this day his greatest achievement as a filmmaker, and while the same can't be said of the subsequent sequels they are for the most part an enjoyable series of films featuring one of the most recognizable and iconic screen villains of all-time. The majority of the work on the presentation side of the set is deservedly focused on the original film and Warner Home Video's five-disc set would have benefited if the presentation of the sequels would have seen more attention, but as it stands this is still a pretty good set that fans won't want to miss out on.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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