Movie Review: Nightmare on Elm Street 1 vs. 2

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been going through older “classic” horror movies, seeing what might have made them so lasting and popular, and taking note for the way they each approach the genre. Some of these movies have been really impressive. Some of them have turned out to be absolute stinkers. Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 2 really do a good job of exemplifying this.

The first one was a real surprise. Directed by Wes Craven (and featuring Johnny Depp in his first film), the movie has an engaging plot that creates some real scares. We gradually learn the history of Freddy Krueger: how he was murdered children with a glove he attached razor blades to, was captured, and then got off on a technicality. (So maybe it’s not necessarily the most realistic of films). How the parents of the town decided to take matters into their own hands and burned him to death by tossing him in a furnace. And how he came back as a master of dreams, able to manipulate people as they dreamed (and yet somehow was able to manipulate the real world as well).

Like I said, there are definitely some plot holes, but there’s enough of a story there to give it a pass, especially since Krueger is such a unique bad guy. (Razor blade glove? Who comes up with this stuff?) It goes off the rails now and then (especially at the end, which is sort of a deus ex machina and then a deus ex wrench at the same time. (The problem magically get solved and then magically gets created out of nowhere.) But in the end, you kind of just go along with all of it and enjoy the ride.

The sequel, however . . . left much to be desired. It looked at the crazy plot points of the original, as well as the gory scenes, and then decided plot really didn’t matter at all. There’s no sense to what Freddy can and can’t do. No sense of how to beat him. No sense of what in the world’s going on. I can accept a bit of confusion, but this got to the point where I was no longer scared for the characters, because I just didn’t care about them. They were there for no other reason than be horribly murdered. The movie felt like something I was enduring instead of enjoying at all.

Takeaways for me from the two films are that plot holes sometimes aren’t that big of a deal. Yes, I don’t like them as a watcher or reader, but I can take a few of them without giving up. Second, character matters a ton. Get your audience invested in your character, and everything else clips along just fine. If that gets out of whack, then no amount of effort is going to repair things.

Overall, I gave the first a 7.5/10 and the second a 3/10.

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