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From New Line Cinema comes The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, the ultimate tribute to horror icon Freddy Krueger. The set includes all seven films in the long-running franchise, plus an eighth disc packed with hours of behind-the-scenes content.

There’s so much to this collection it’s difficult to know where to begin this review. Certainly these are the finest versions of the films that you will currently find, but then once would expect nothing less for the series that built New Line. It’s obvious that a lot of care has gone into producing the set, right down the stellar presentation. So, without further ado, let’s move on to the films themselves.

Nightmare On Elm Street Collection, The
Feature
The films themselves are a very mixed bunch, ranging from excellent to appalling. It will come as no surprise to hear that the original Nightmare on Elm Street is the best of the bunch. Wes Craven succeeded in creating a genuinely scary villain in Fred Krueger; after all, no one can escape the inevitability of falling asleep. He also succeeded in creating a strong central character, something that was sadly lacking in most of the sequels. In the original Nightmare you really care if Nancy—and to a lesser extent her friends—survives. Most of the sequels lost this element, becoming little more than effects-laden gore-fests.

After the superb start to the franchise we were 'treated' to the first of the sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This feels like a rush job from the start, and this is something that is borne out in the interviews on the bonus disc. This film almost completely disregards all of the ‘rules’ established in the first film, and instead sees Freddy possessing the body of a teenager and walking around in the real world. It does have some redeeming moments, such as the sight of Freddy emerging from Jessie’s body in scene reminiscent of the chest-burster from Alien, and the make-up effects are far better than the original. However, none of this is enough to save the film from being the second weakest entry in the series.

Part three sees things heading back in the right direction, while at the same time giving Freddy a comic makeover. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors reintroduces Nancy and features a much stronger cast than the other sequels, with future such stars as Larry Fishbourne and Patricia Arquette making appearances. Dream Warriors also saw the return of Wes Craven in a limited writing capacity, and this shows in the quality of the film. It just feels a lot more like the first movie, and you do start to sympathise with and care for the characters. With great special effects and some good acting, this is easily the best of the traditional sequels.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is another fairly good entry, again with great special effects and make-up. Unfortunately by this time the teenagers are just there as fodder for an increasingly 'MTV' Freddy to quip at whilst he dispatches them in as many varied and creative ways as the writers can think of. To be honest, you don’t care if they live or die, as Freddy is now the real star of the show. Even the attempt at another strong heroine to oppose Freddy doesn’t quite come off. With that said, the film does have some amusing moments and some imaginative death scenes. It’s just a pity that Freddy seems less scary than ever.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child sees the series treading water with nowhere else to go. This time Freddy has returned by using the unborn child of Alice (the female lead in part four) to bring him fresh victims. As with the previous movie, you simply don’t care about the teens at all. There is zero character development and you just get the feeling that they’re all sitting around waiting for their turn to die. It’s a very similar film to part four in many respects, with good effects and a wisecracking Freddy, but the joke is starting to wear a little thin. Director Stephen Hopkins does add a nice gothic touch to the proceedings and we do get to learn quite a bit about Mr. Krueger’s past, so it’s not a total disaster, but it’s not a film I would watch often.

Nightmare On Elm Street Collection, The
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is a dire film. The tagline ‘They saved the best for last’ is a sick joke. Freddy is taken into absurd comic book territory; the script is a mess and the acting atrocious. The ending is presented in 3D, which is clearly a pathetic attempt to rescue the flagging series and it’s a gimmick that just does not work. With that said, you are given the choice to watch a 2D version of the proceedings, which will at least spare you the headaches associated with watching through the horrible red and green 3D glasses (two pairs are supplied). I was actually glad when they killed Freddy, because I don’t think I could have faced another instalment after this travesty. I suppose we do get a pretty good look at Freddy's past, but it's mostly contradictory stuff that doesn't tie in with the rest of the continuity. For example, exactly when did Freddy have time to settle down and have a kid?

After a long lay-off and just when you thought the franchise was dead and buried for good, along comes Wes Craven to turn the whole thing upside down and produce a fantastic film in the process. Not strictly a sequel, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare stands on its own as an intelligent and scary film. This time the action takes place in the real world, with virtually all of the actors playing ‘themselves’. It seems that since production of the Nightmare films halted, a force of ancient evil has decided to adopt the guise of Freddy and is now trying to cross over into our reality. To do this it must go through Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy in the original Nightmare, and as the film progresses the line between fantasy and reality becomes increasingly blurred. With new make-up effects, a new uber-glove and filled with more hatred than ever, Freddy is back to his murderous best in this instalment.

Video
All of the films feature fantastic anamorphic transfers considering the age and relatively low-budget origins of the series. You just will not see these films looking any better than they do here, at least not for the foreseeable future. All seven are presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratios, and colours, contrast and black levels are very respectable. Although the films are ‘crammed’ onto single layered discs there are no real signs of compression artefacts or other ‘nasties’. While clearly not a patch on even the most pedestrian modern transfer, these films look great considering their initial release date.

Audio
All seven films feature full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in addition to their original (either Dolby Mono or Stereo) tracks. The first and seventh discs also feature a commentary track by Wes Craven and some of the cast members. The 5.1 remixes are amazing; you really do feel like you’re in Freddy’s oppressive boiler room at times. There is one scene in the original film, when Freddy is chasing Nancy, and as the camera follows her as she runs you will believe Freddy is chasing you! The other discs are equally impressive sonically, making this set the most atmospheric way to watch these films.

Extras
Where to begin? Apart from the bonus content on the individual discs, an eighth disc takes the supplemental material to ludicrous levels. The set includes an hour-long documentary entitled 'Welcome to Primetime', which features interviews with the creative talent, actors and New Line staff. This is informative and interesting stuff. Then there is 'The Index', which allows you to watch trailers and other bits and pieces from the series without having to enter 'The Labyrinth'. This, perhaps the most impressive element of the disc, is an interactive quiz in which you navigate a maze of corridors unlocking behind the scenes documentaries, video clips, interviews, TV spots, music videos, images and even an alternative ending or two. Also included are an interactive Freddy for your desktop, a Nightmare on Elm Street screensaver and the final ‘Dream World’ quiz.

All of the disc feature excellent animated menus, as well as the usual scene access and subtitles. They also have an option to 'Jump to a Nightmare', which takes you straight to the grisly demise of the teenager of your choice. Each disc also has DVD-Rom content, with a script-to-screen comparison and a 'Dream World' trivia game. This is a nice touch and the questions are fairly challenging. If you complete the quizzes on all seven of the films you are given a code to unlock the final quiz on the eighth bonus disc, although the competition should you win has long since expired.

Nightmare On Elm Street Collection, The
Overall
This is a fantastic box set, and an amazing tribute to Wes Craven’s creation. If you have even the slightest interest in the Nightmare films then this is an essential purchase. The first, third and seventh films are classics, part four is good, five is ok, and after that you can almost excuse parts two and six. The eighth extras disc is superb and really adds value to the collection, with my personal favourite being Freddy’s appearance in the Fat Boy’s music video. If you want the definitive versions of these films then you must buy this set! Whatever you do, don’t settle for the inferior UK release, which omits one of the films and the bonus disc.


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