This is the second of these installments. If you’d like to read my rankings of the Friday the 13th franchise click here and if for some reason you want to read my long-winded prologue as to why/when I started doing these feel free to click here.

I googled “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to check the date on the remake and saw a slew of “Nightmares ranked” posts from Buzzfeed to Nerdist and everything in between. I didn’t read any of them and as far as I know I’ve never read one before but I’ll check some of them out after I post this to see how my picks compare with others. As with Friday, if you disagree with my order that’s cool. I’ll be doing these lists with other horror franchises over the next few months as well as horror directors and certain adaptations, notes, etc.

Re-watching the Elm Street franchise after the Friday films revealed a few things. Though I loved Freddy as a kid/teen (“Freddy’s Dead” was one of the first R-rated horror films I ever saw and I loved it) the series has aged a bit worse than Friday particularly with the effects but also in some of the installments with the villain. Wes Craven came up with one of the most terrifying villain concepts ever—a child-killer with home-made knife gloves who worked as a school janitor that was burnt alive by the town parents only to come back as a dream demon who can kill you in your sleep—good lord, that is the stuff of nightmares)—but the character got more accessible and caricaturist with every installment. That said, there are still some good films in the batch and horror fans who came of age in the 1980s and ’90s will always be Krueger fans (or “ [his] children now”).

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9) A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

I would say it was pointless but I do in fact see the point of trying to update and remake Elm Street for a new generation with modern effects and solid acting. The Friday remake was actually pretty good (in my opinion). However, this one was terrible. It’s possibly the worst horror remake of the last 20 years. What a wasted opportunity.

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8) Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (part 6)

So this introduced me to Freddy and in some ways horror films…but my recent revisit of the film revealed that this did not age particularly wel at all. I find it especially funny that it was set in the future but everything in that future was concretely rooted in early 1990s technology and culture…for example the power-glove super Freddy? You do get some early Goo Goo Dolls on the soundtrack to remind you they were a hard rock act once. The timeless past of the dream demons prior to Freddy are played with a bit but the effects don’t do the concept justice. There are some solid scenes and it’s not a complete waste of a watch as I’ll likely give it additional views in the future, it’s just not the best of the series and Freddy is at his most ridiculous here (“wicked witch of the west”ing it?).

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7) A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
This one is hilarious and unique. You have an over the top male as the final girl and a metric ton of gay-subtext which the writer and director admitted as intentional later. You have some truly weird dream sequences. You have a lot of odd character choices and horrible (yet funny) dialogue. Then there’s the idea of Freddy needing to possess the protagonist and use him to come back, an idea not quite revisited later. You have an ending that just ends without being resolved in the follow-up. But you also have some dark, scary Freddy appearances—scarier than he would be in any of the follow ups other than “New Nightmare”. It is actually a solid movie and I can see how this one has garnered a cult following.

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6) A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Alice is perhaps a better protagonist than Nancy and here she makes her second appearance—and she’s tough. She fights back and fights hard. There are some of the best dream sequence effects of the series in this one and it may be the most under-rated film of the series.
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5) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Alice makes her first appearance and the story propels nicely forward from the extremely successful (and fan favorite) “Dream Warriors” predecessor. Dream Master and Dream Child fill in some Krueger history and chronology, feature a great protagonist and decent supporting cast and work very well as a double-bill. Solid 1980s horror installments done right.

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4) Freddy vs. Jason

Fans waited so long for this movie. For the most part it always seemed like a pipe dream that wouldn’t ever really come to fruition until it actually did. So after that infamous Freddy glove made its appearance in “Jason Goes to Hell” speculation about what the movie might entail went on for years—as such, nothing would live up to that anticipation. What did come out though was thoroughly entertaining. I didn’t include Freddy vs. Jason in my Friday list because as I said there, it seems much more like a Nightmare movie featuring Jason which it does. This movie basically picks up where “Freddy’s Dead” left off and now that Freddy is “dead” he’s looking to make his entry back into the world via Jason—using Jason to kill and raise the body count and fear on Elm Street so that kids think Freddy is back enough that he can actually come back. The more modern special effects and make-up did wonders for the ultimate battle between these two horror icons and the movie had its share of thrills, laughs, and fun. I still like the idea that at one point they planned two endings to air in different theaters each with a different victor.

 

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3) Wes Craven’s “New Nightmare”

Craven played around with meta-narratives quite a bit, most strongly here and later in Scream. New Nightmare is a blast—audiences get to see most of their favorites from the first film back playing themselves (including/introducing director Craven). Let’s face it, Heather Lagenkamp wasn’t the world’s strongest actress back in the day or later in this one playing herself but it’s still nice to see her back. The visuals were the best they had yet been when this one showed Freddy and he was certainly more frightening than he’d been in almost a decade. Good story through and through.

 

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2) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Probably the best cast (Laurence Fishburne), best lines (“Welcome to prime time…”), and some of the best visuals (Freddy the puppeteer) the series had. The soundtrack was solid as well, so there’s little wonder why this is many fans favorite of them all. Freddy also made a definite move to wiseass mischief maker who dished out comic relief and one-liners though which set the tone for every appearance he made afterwards (until New Nightmare). But this one works by pretty much every count: bringing back Nancy for a bit, expanding on the mythology, and squaring Freddy off against a group of quality adversaries.

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1) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In this instance (contrary to Friday) the original is by far the best of the batch. Wes Craven came up with a truly terrifying concept that was original and provided a twist on the slasher genre much different than what anyone else was doing. He assembled a mostly top-notch cast, shot it with the best effects he could muster (and there are really only 1-2 instances where said effects are overly dated), and gave horror fans a creative, unique, and original experience. The bath tub scene, the ceiling drag, the blurring of waking and dreaming life, this one is a true horror classic was truly unmatched by every successive film regardless of how fun those sequels were.

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First off—Friday the 13th isn’t high-brow art just in case you’ve never seen it and were wondering. Let’s go ahead and acknowledge that this franchise isn’t about creativity or originality so much either while we’re at it. Watch any of the panel discussions and behind-the-scenes pieces on the first film and you’ll hear that producer Sean Cunningham simply saw that Halloween was doing big things at the box office and he wanted to rip it off and rush a film to theaters to strike while the iron was hot. Like Halloween (and all other 1980s slasher films) Friday the 13th stylistically and thematically owes a great deal to “higher” art of previous Italian horror and giallo pictures. But Friday was huge—it printed money and brought in crowds in droves for what was a modestly produced work yielding tons of cash. So then you had a string of sequels, some of which (to outsiders) seem to just rehash previous entries and others which do truly bizarre things (Jason in space, Jason in Manhattan). Despite it all, if you were young in the 1980s or ‘90s chances are you saw a Jason film or two fairly early in your horror exploration. If you’re a horror fan, even one with a preference for more “serious” horror films, chances are you have a soft spot for this franchise. It’s fun, it’s over the top, and it still has what it takes to surprise you with a scare. I recently watched the whole franchise from front to back over the span of a month or two. Some I’d seen before, some not for years, some never at all. Kicking off my series of horror film lists and articles I begin here by ranking the Friday films in order of my least favorite to my most favorite. Some observations I made while watching these about horror in general and cultural changes over decades made evident by genre films will be revisited in later articles.

Note—not listed in this ranking is “Freddy vs. Jason” as I view it more as an Elm Street movie featuring Jason than I do a true Friday film. I have included the 2009 remake, however.  Lots of folks have ranked these films prior to me and there are often serious horror-nerd arguments over differences of opinion on order. This is just my personal opinion and taste. If your opinion is different, that’s cool.

 

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11) Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

This is the worst entry in the franchise, period. There are a few entertaining moments, a couple of okay characters, and a few laughs but it’s the most boring of the batch and the problem contrary to what you might think if you haven’t seen it is not that they pull Jason out of his natural environment and throw him in one of the busiest sections of city in the world—it’s that in contrast to the title itself he’s not really in Manhattan! Well, at least not for long. The first 3/ 4 of the movie takes place on a cruise ship between Crystal Lake and Manhattan. Even after the ship docks in NY it takes even more time to actually make it to Manhattan so in total Jason spends about 10 minutes in Manhattan. There could actually be some good (if silly) story there but it was an opportunity wasted. Don’t even get me started on the “Jason reverts to childhood” effect. But—the heads-off KO was pretty cool.

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10) Jason X

This is the Jason in space movie and you know what? There are some fun things going on in this one. Uber-Jason, the flash-freeze kill scene, and the guest spot by David Cronenberg in particular. The plot is ridiculous and over the top but so what, it (mostly) works. There are some slow segments, several weak characters, and a complete disconnect with every other Friday movie to its fault though.

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9) Friday the 13th Part III

Some hold the first 4 films as the cream of the crop, even as horror classics. They are the “human” era Jason movies and all of the major ingredients are in place by III: stalking killer Jason, Camp Crystal Lake, counsellors, mayhem. This is also the one where Jason grabs his famous hockey mask and adorns it for the first time. All that said, this one had some of the weakest characters, silliest gags, and slowest parts. It was also “3D” in the old-school sense. It doesn’t work quite as well as the films surrounding it.

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8) Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Spoiler alert—the one without Jason. Who knows if this was to signal an entirely new direction or not but after the fact Jason was back in the follow-up. Despite no “real” Jason, this movie has its fair share of shocks, scares, and other such ‘80s slasher fare. Commentary from the director suggests the sexuality was much more troubling to the MPAA censors than the violence and as such it’s probably the goriest of the Friday movies until the censors stopped caring in “Jason Goes to Hell”.

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7) Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (pt. IX)

So a lot of people hate this one as it does mess with the mythology of Jason in ways never hinted at (or revisited) elsewhere. Some like it only for the exploding Jason at the beginning or the Freddy glove reveal at the end. The entire thing is entertaining though if you just roll with it and it has some of the best effects of the entire franchise. Jason possessing others as a force of evil is entertaining.

 

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6) Friday the 13th VII: The New Blood

This one is the “Jason versus the teen psychic who can raise her surprisingly un-rotted long dead father” one. There are funny moments in this one, a solid cast, and a surprisingly tense showdown with a final girl that fights back. Not to mention a rotten mask-less Jason in full-on battle mode.

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5) Friday the 13th (2009)

Largely hated by the hardcore fans of the original franchise, I say the 2009 remake worked surprisingly well, better by far than most of the ‘00s remakes (Nightmare, Last House, etc.). This one is basically a cliffs note version of the first 3 films updated for a new generation. Sure most of the characters are annoying though I think the final girl and the older brother looking for his lost sister both work just fine.

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4) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives

 Jason lives–that he does I guess. This one is a fan favorite for good reasons. Jason brought back to life by lightning—bigger, rotting, tougher, cooler looking than ever—facing off with the only major adversary he ever had (Tommy Jarvis). Great shots, music, and solid acting with cool effects make this one of the best Friday movies in the canon. 

 

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3) Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter

They really meant to kill Jason in this one (maybe). This is with Corey Feldman as a (surprisingly un-annoying) child adversary fighting off (and ultimately “killing”) Jason.

What Friday fan can forget the gruesome eye socket slide of Jason to his “death” or Tommy’s psycho gaze in the hospital?

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2) Friday the 13th (1980)

So the original is not listed as my favorite. This is very rare for any series as you quite often get diminishing returns with each successive film in any series no matter how entertaining but for Friday I actually prefer the first sequel to the original (more on that below). The first one though—this is a genuinely entertaining slasher that was also a mystery of sorts in its time as the killer reveal wasn’t made until the end. There’s some acting chops on full display with Mrs. Vorhees in particular as she seeks her psychotic revenge. Not the best slasher of all time but one well worth watching a few times. The atmosphere of the entire series is at its best in the original and the final 10-12 minutes are among the most entertaining in slasher horror history.

 

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1) Friday the 13th Part Two

 What else can I say? Potato-sack masked Jason is the scariest of the bunch for me. This movie has everything an ‘80s slasher film needs. Jason is legitimately scary in this movie making his first adult (or arguably “real”) appearance. He’s a bit crafty, plotting, agile, and human. What’s not to love? There’s the revenge on the first movie’s final girl in the opening sequence. There’s Jason lying in wait and creepily rising off the bed to stalk his unsuspecting victim. Creepiest of all, there’s Jason with his macabre alter to his late mother. This is the best film of the franchise and the most traditionally “horror” of the batch. Jason would never be as scary as he was in this one and the story would never get better no matter how much more complex the successive scripts strove to be.

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(A) Film review
(B) Enjoying Schlock rather than Celebrating Mediocrity
(C ) What Could’ve Been
(D)Parents have no common sense sometimes

So I actually went to the theaters to see the new “Friday the 13th” re-make. Me, who just wrote an article disdaining the celebration of mediocrity opted to see “Friday the 13th” this close to the Oscars without yet having seen all of the nominations– more on that later in this article, but first I should actually offer a movie review.
It’s a bit difficult to adequately review a movie like this. Going into this I knew it wasn’t going to be “good” in the technical sense. Sure the special effects are good, the violence and action looks terrifyingly appropriate for such a thing. Surprisingly the acting isn’t terrible, given the short range the actors have to work with in their characters. At this point the characters in slasher films are “teens” that are consistently over-sexed, heavy pot and alcohol imbibers with few redeeming personal qualities that wander into the wrong place at the wrong time and become prey for an unstoppable killing machine. One character of the entire lot actually gets to portray himself in a purely noble manner whereas the others only show positive qualities in short, if any, bursts.
There are some highly effective moments, and this is a movie that benefits from a theatrical viewing if you hope to get any actual jolts from it. The use of music and noise heavily amps up every possibly scary moment. Each appearance of Jason Voorhees does work in a very scary, or “awesome” (if you’re an ‘80s fan boy) way.
It’s not a re-imagining nor simply a remake of the first “Friday the 13th,” it’s more of a compressed and exacerbated amplification of the first 3 films into one hour an a half lightning bolt of gore that makes full use of new effect developments and less violence restrictions than the originals. Viewers catch the gist of the first film in the first 5 minutes of footage, and Jason gets to make his appearance much quicker than in the old days. The first group of teens to wander in Jason’s path quickly find their demise (at least most of them) and months later a new group wander into the woods on their own trip, as well as the brother of an earlier missing girl looking for his lost sister.
Anyway, it’s enjoyable and problematic and could have been so much more yet should it have been given the source material?
See, I’m a child of the eighties, born in ‘82. Growing up in my early years, cinema slashers like Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers were practically omnipresent and when I was old enough to finally watch the films I was a huge fan. This geekdom comic fan and horror niche market past made it a given I’d see this. I wrote an article this past Halloween discussing 10 horror films I felt were truly great, and I went into a discussion on what is good about Horror entertainment and what makes for a good example of it (scroll back through my past entries until late October and you can read it if you missed it when I put it up the first time). This movie would not make such a cut. Yet it’s undeniably fun in many ways.

Which brings me to what I feel is a tie-in point with my recent “Celebrating Mediocrity” article. I propose now that there’s a bit of a difference between celebrating mediocrity and enjoying schlock- B-movies, silly speed metal, pulp novels and big dumb horror movies. “Friday the 13th” doesn’t pretend to be anything it is not. It doesn’t aim for crowd-pleasing wide range attractiveness of a middle-of-the-road turd of a movie like “Marley and Me.” It makes no concessions to reach the widest range of people, it knows its audience and goes after it. Critics were strictly average on their ratings and judging by most internet fan posts, a lot of 14-18 year old boys thought this was 5 star phenomenal. The rest of us, those of us who appreciate what the horror genre is capable of and what its faults are, those of us that know the good ones when we see them yet are able to glean a few minutes of gold from a lot of average see such a film as escapist fun that harkens back to a time when we were much younger and much more terrified by such a silly idea.
The one concession I make that pinpoints me as guilty of something I accused those of celebrating mediocrity as doing is that I was able to see this at my local theater. I drove 2 hours to see Milk, an hour to see “Frost/Nixon,” and my local theater still does not have the Oscar front-runner “Slumdog Millionaire,” that ones yet another hour drive away. Yet they had “Friday the 13th” and I paid them my matinee 6 bucks to see it, allowing them to keep bringing such things in over such other choices. I’d have gladly driven to a 24-plex to see this one if only my local 12-plex had things like “Slumdog” and “Milk” for the entire community to see. Oh, well.
It’s worth noting what “Friday the 13th” could’ve been. It could’ve gone two different paths from what it did, either of which probably would have been much better than it was. See, the excellently campy, action packed, big dumb summer movie that was “Freddy Vs. Jason” screamed “bad” from all directions yet remained immensely watchable and enjoyable. Sad to say, but the infinitely better and more important “Gandhi” remains a favorite of mine yet I’ve actually watched “Freddy vs. Jason” 4 or 5 times now and Gandhi only once. Which goes to show that big dumb fun remains escapist fun.
The other path that could’ve been would’ve been the Rob Zombie path. He had mentioned his interest in doing the character and concept himself, that the franchise was in dire need of a new approach to bring out its potential, yet the producers already had Damian Shannone and Marcus Nispel on tap to do it. Rob Zombie handled “Halloween” as a re-imagining and provided viewers with a captivating, disturbing, and highly psychological yet violently visceral dark art film. Zombie could’ve made art out of Friday had he been the one to write and direct this remake rather than Shannon and Nispel (who directed the remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) with the association of Michael Bay. The original had such capability of subtest. Ebert called it “Psycho in reverse,” with “mother killing for son.” Add that to Jason himself, a physically deformed and mentally handicapped never-ending child who simply can’t die and continually kills because his dead mother orders him to– there is so much room in that preposterous concept for a disturbing yet artful psychological thriller that Zombie’s infinitely better potential version practically writes itself if you’ve seen his “Halloween.”
I do find it interesting that the original, and undeniably classic slasher film that was “Halloween” was responsible for inspiring such a thing as the original “Friday the 13th,” and critics who loved the artful and subdued “Halloween” hated “Friday the 13th.” Now, 2 decades later we see a successful remake of Halloween that doesn’t equal the greatness of the first yet succeeds by a totally different approach possibly inspiring a remake of “Friday the 13th” which vastly improves on its original yet doesn’t beat either version of “Halloween.”
To see what a typical mainstream critic is saying of this film, here’s the first part of Roger Ebert’s review:

“ ‘Friday the 13th’ is about the best ‘Friday the 13th’ movie you could hope for. Its technical credits are excellent. It has a lot of scary and gruesome killings. Not a whole lot of acting is required. If that’s what you want to find out, you can stop reading.”

Last of all, I was at a weekday 1 pm showing and noticed at least 2 children under the age of 12 accompanying their parents to see this movie. It contains pervasive gore, language, drug use, binge drinking, sex and  nudity . What parent in their right mind would take their ‘tween to see such a thing?