Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and 3, A (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Jack Sholder (Freddy's Revenge) and Chuck Russell (Dream Warriors)
Distributed by New Line Home Video
It's been a while since New Line released the hi-def version of Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street so I feel like I've been waiting for almost forever to see a similar Blu-ray treatment for the sequels that followed. This week some progress was made as both Freddy's Revenge (NOES 2) and Dream Warriors (NOES 3) were released in a Blu-ray Double-Disc Edition, and while I'm happy to finally get better quality movies, I'm sad to say that I found the handling of the bonus features pretty abysmal, making the overall presentation of these classics feel rather average.
I'm sure if you're reading this review, then you already know the lowdown on what happens during both Freddy's Revenge (Krueger uses the new teenage resident of 1428 Elm Street as his own killer puppet in real life) and Dream Warriors (a new group of "Elm Street Children" are brought together through their admittance to a treatment facility after each of them become stalked in their dreams by Freddy) so I won't necessarily take much time in breaking down each plot. Suffice to say if you're over the age of 18 and a horror fan, then chances are you've seen both flicks, probably multiple times to boot. On the offhand chance you haven't seen either film, then I would say that the Blu-ray release is a great way to experience both of them for the first time ever.
When it comes to Freddy's Revenge, there's no denying that it is indeed one of the worst sequels of the entire franchise- a terrible script, taking Freddy out of the dream realm, shoddy editing, just to name a few things. But despite its many flaws, I still have a lot of love for Freddy's Revenge for several reasons, including poor lovable Mark Patton doing his damnedest to try to make Jesse a likable character.
Unfortunately for Patton, David Chaskin's script never allows the talented actor to do much in the sequel except mope, complain, cry or scream- and don't even get me started on the scene where Jesse's dancing around in a hysterical "room cleaning" montage that seems better suited for a flick like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun than a movie about a dream demon stalking teenagers in their sleep. It's sad because Patton himself is incredibly likable in real life, but the character was just written (or edited in the final cut) very poorly and never was allowed to become a convincing hero of the franchise.
Another thing that I always loved about Freddy's Revenge are the practical effects used in the flick, especially when Freddy (Englund) bursts through Jesse's chest in the film's third act. Designed by Mark Shostrom, the gag wowed me back in 1988 when I finally saw it on VHS for the first time, and it still wows me to this day (hi-def definitely doesn't take anything away from the effect either). I'll always be a proponent of practical over CG visual effects whenever possible, and while I wasn't a fan of Freddy Krueger's make-up design in this sequel, the rest of the special effects remain top-notch even after almost 26 years now.
So while Freddy's Revenge is definitely in my "bottom two" list of Nightmare sequels, I would have to say that Dream Warriors is definitely in my "top two" list of Nightmare follow-ups (the other being New Nightmare), and finally getting this flick in high-definition is something I've been waiting for ever since I bought my Blu-ray player a few years back.
The complete opposite of the awkward spectacle that was Freddy's Revenge, Dream Warriors is no doubt in the upper echelon of horror sequels released during the 1980s- not only did it cleverly find a way to bring old and new casts of characters together seamlessly (a feat many other sequels usually struggle with), it also expanded on the original movie's mythology by making the entire storyline of the Freddy Krueger character come full circle with establishing the new crop of teens as the "last of the Elm Street" children- a reference to the group of parents who torched child killer Krueger in real life after he was mistakenly released during his trial on a technicality.
What I also loved about Dream Warriors is the inclusion of a "funhouse" that now exists for Krueger to chase his intended victims around in (all contained within the walls of original heroine Nancy's house), which both elevated the twisted humor of a character like Freddy Krueger and also managed to provide some truly terrifying and creepy moments as well.
For me it's hard to pick which of the funhouse scenes is the most memorable; after all, there are so many moments to choose from, including the giant phallic-shaped Freddy worm gobbling on new "final girl" Kristen (Arquette), the room filled with bodies swinging from the rafters, Taryn's (Jennifer Rubin) back alley knife fight with Krueger, the hallway of gooey blood or the roasted pig snarling at an unsuspecting Kristen from the dining room table being just a few of the more notable ones.
There's no doubt in my mind that Dream Warriors is just all around brilliance from some of the best minds working within the genre today still (Wes Craven and Frank Darabont being two of them) that created some of Englund's best pop culture moments ever as the playfully demented dream demon now delivered catch phrases while torturing and murdering his victims ("Welcome to Prime Time, bitch!" "Let's get high!" "What's a matter, Joey? Feeling tongue-tied?").
So is the Freddy's Revenge/Dream Warriors Blu-ray Combo worth getting? For the asking price of $15 or less, I would have to say that this a decent release to add to your home collection, but keep your expectations low because the bonus features are nothing to write home about.
On the disc they name off several "featurettes" that they've included for each movie (Freddy on 8th Street, Heroes and Villains, The Male Witch and Psycho Sexual Circus for NOES 2 and Burn Out, Fan Mail, The House That Freddy Built, Onward Christian Soldiers, Snakes and Ladders, That's Show Bizand Trading 8s for NOES 3), which all sounds rather impressive, right?
All of the "featurettes" are just interview snippets presented individually where you actually have to go back and forth between the menu for each one just to watch them (talk about repetitive). And these interviews were all filmed back in 1997 (oddly enough, they're NOT the ones included on my DVD box set from 1999) so they're all incredibly dated and just disjointed all around. Bummer summer.
What was a saving grace in terms of bonus features for the Blu-ray Combo release of Freddy's Revenge and Dream Warriors is including the Dokken music video for NOES 3, which features both Robert Englund and Patricia Arquette having some fun with the hair metal rockers. That's almost worth the price of the disc alone as it's hard to not have a smile on your face while watching that video. (Who knew Dokken haunted Krueger's dreams? Must be the sequined jackets!)
Overall, the only real reason I'd see not to pick up the Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3 Blu-ray is if you're holding out for a box set down the road. Seeing how they skimped this time around, it doesn't seem like New Line's really invested in these releases anyway so I suspect this is the best we're going to get for a long time. But the transfers look really vibrant and should definitely appease the biggest Krueger fans out there.
2 1/2 out of 5
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