I’m running from this Nightmare…

The year was sometime in the late 1980’s, probably 1987 or so. It was before my baby sister was brought into this world. Of course not much earlier but still I am certain she hadn’t come along yet. We were living in this small town so far out of the way in Kansas it could have been the setting of a slasher movie. It was the summer before I started school that much I know. I remember because of the house we lived in. It was the house next door to the video store. My parents had just bought our first VCR.
Now that I have the setting let me dig into the obsession, how it began, where it came from and why it remains so important to me to this day.
Like so many kids of my generation I was a loner right from the start. Going into kindergarten I didn’t make friends easily. I started the school year in the same class as two of my cousins. The situation was basically their parents had married. By the end of the school year they were both making friends, while me, I was still sitting by myself at lunch playing with my Transformers figures my parents probably didn’t even know I was sneaking to class. Well, until the stupid school called them and tattled.
I’ve said numerous times before my best friends growing up were my toys and video games. Many kids also become unnaturally attached to their video players. Mine was a short list of movies that I had to rent over, and over.
The big one, the main movie I immediately looked for was Star Wars. In the event it was available for rent I would take it home and enjoy a weekend of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo rescuing Princess Leia week, after week. The other movies I liked to rent, over and over, included Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Beetlejuice, Weird Science, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Invaders From Mars and any and all Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
The habit of renting the same movies over and over was easy for me. I was the type that once I found something I like I stuck with it. Sometimes I would look for something new, but my obsession was always just holding onto the feeling of once I found something familiar. I never did care much for change.
I distinctly remember my sister going to a slumber party with her friends and instead of going to the kids movie they told our parents they saw, they snuck into the R-rated slasher blockbuster, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors. At this point, I was barely 6 when I started kindergarten so I had to be 5 the summer just before, I hadn’t ever seen any of the increasingly popular “Freddy” movies.
Despite seeing Krueger making countless cameos in other movies, commercials and TV shows, I had yet to see anything official featuring the Springwood Slasher. It would be two more years of building up the mystique in my mind before I was finally able to experience my first viewing of the famed serial dream stalker. This was of course around the time my parents let up on allowing us to rent horror movies.
The movie was A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child. Up to that point I had only seen bits and pieces of the first movie in passing whenever we had a free preview weekend of HBO. How I came onto part 5 was a friend from school, I was now in 2nd grade, his parents owned a video store and he would invite me to his house to watch the new flicks. It just so happened, the Dream Child was one of the new releases they had just picked up. Getting to see a brand-new to video movie before all my friends, and for free, was a treat.
The film did not disappoint either. It was the surreal dream world that had me hooked. I hadn’t seen any of the previous movies so learning the lore in passing from one of the teenagers helped keep it all mysterious and intriguing for me.
As luck, or fate would have it I just happened to be flipping the channels right after, it was probably more than a week but in my mind I remembered it as probably the next week or next day even. Anyways I was turning channels and one of the movie channels was showing a free weekend. It was perfect timing because with part 5 just hitting VHS they were showing Part 4: The Dream Master. At first I wasn’t sure it was an Elm Street movie because I missed the opening credits. All I saw was a girl in a white dress talking to a little girl drawing chalk on the side walk. I thought, hey that looks like the house from the Freddy movie. This was before I knew the house was a staple of the series.
Still when the girl removed her hand to reveal Freddy my heart began racing. Finally I was going to get to see one of the previous movies. The euphoria was as real as it gets for a kid at that age. I couldn’t believe not only that it was actually on TV, unedited during a free preview, but my dad didn’t even change the channel he let me sit there and become sucked into the nightmare world entirely.
I supposed if you wanted to get down to it, watching the movies at such a young age probably contributed to the development of my interest in the franchise. As I sat there watching Dream Master I fell in love with the fantasy world these movies were creating. For me it wasn’t about the serial killer, the teenagers getting their comeuppance, or the foul language, it was all about the idea that there was an alternate reality we could escape into using our dreams. If you want the truth of it, the idea of the dream world was the allure that kept me coming back. Sure there was the cool factor of Freddy being promoted as an iconic villain of the rising “MTV generation” but it was the dreams that kept me coming back. Over the years I have become more interested with fantasy movies featuring a surreal look and gothic imagery.
Every once in a while you go through a phase. I got onto a weird computer/robot kick for a while in the 80’s. Truth be told, when I first discovered Star Wars my attraction to it was the robots, not the laser swords. In fact, I thought Darth Vader and all his Stormtroopers really were just robots. Keep in mind I was a huge Transformers and Go-Bots fan so my fascination with computers and robots was pretty much a given. My obsession with fantasy worlds probably started before Elm Street. I know I had seen The Neverending Story and Labyrinth at some point in my early childhood, oh and I was also a big fan of that Masters of the Universe movie because it also had a world-travelling fantasy element to it.
When I finally got the opportunity get around to going back to see the other movies, with the help of my video store friend, I didn’t go in numeric order. Since I had already seen 5, then 4 I went ahead and picked up part 3. This was the one where it went from a very strong fascination to a full on obsession. This movie not only became my personal favorite, it was the most like a traditional fantasy film. The whole premise of the Dream Warriors banding together to use their “dream powers” in “the dream world” to fight the monster, it was all very Dungeons and Dragons to me. Oh and it actually featured a scene with a kid playing D&D and using that later in the movie.
I don’t think I will go through each individual movie. What I will say is that my love for The Dream Warriors helped translate into a strong appreciation of the infamous LJN-produced NES game based on the film series. I always enjoyed the game and continue to defend it, to this day. I do so, mostly out of nostalgia but also out of pure joy as it was the closest chance I ever got to escaping into that magical dream world demonstrated in the movies. Yeah, I never seemed to care that entering the dream world inhabited by the Dream Demon also meant facing the monster itself. I guess you could chalk that up to me not really finding him all that scary so for me I thought it would be easy to take him on if I ever did dream him up.
Later the movies would be foundation I would use to co-develop a fantasy game I played with my sisters. It mostly centered on a group of kids hopping from one fantasy world to the next chasing down, or running from, an unstoppable monster we, unoriginally named Killer. Much of the inspiration for those characters and their journey came from the Nightmare series.
Do you want a confession? I watch the movie way more than I should admit. I try to view the entire saga at least once a year, sometimes more. But that’s actually not even close to true. Typically once I do get on a Freddy kick I don’t stop with a single viewing, it typically takes multiple repeats before I can get passed it and move on. Not to mention how often, even today, I continue to replay that NES video game.
This really wasn’t intended to be a look at how I got into the movie; I really just popped The Dream Master DVD into my Playstation and began typing. I suppose I was hoping it might inspire me to write something else entirely.
Needless to say I never saw them as horror movies, or even slasher movies for that matter. To me they were always fantasy movies with a really powerful, really scary monster with supernatural abilities to take people into a magical world only accessible through dreams. I thought of Freddy as an inter dimensional being with the power to alter reality, not as a child-murder turned killer ghost.

Ranking the Freddy vs. Jason movies: Part two the Jason movies.

The Spiders Lair ranks the Freddy vs. Jason franchise. This is part two, the Jason films.

Jason movies

Friday the 13th 2

I wish I could tell you I have some fond memory of discovering this movie as a child and how it shaped who I became, much like the Freddy movies did. No, I didn’t ever watch these movies when I was growing up. I saw part 3 and part 7 when I was a kid, the rest I discovered long after reaching adulthood.

That being said, I was able to go into these with the clarity of a new comer who lived through their first-run, but missed them entirely. That helped reduce the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. That’s why I think I was able to name part 2 as the best of the series. For me, it was the only truly scary movie in the series and the one that really defined the slasher summer movie genre.

The plot was basically just repeating the plot of the first movie but with a new set of kids. The only variation was the killer. It had some good jump scares but the gore was definitely yet to become a staple of the series. This one had the most believable characters, for the most part, and the final girl felt like she really deserved to survive not just because she happened to be cast in the role.

Fun fact: The head of Jason’s dead mother is used as a prop, and plot device in this movie tying it back into the first movie.

Friday the 13th

I ranked this one higher than my personal enjoyment of it. The reason, it’s a classic and it reminds me slightly of The Last House on the Left in tone more than the following films. Since I loved that movie I give this a pass. As far as scares go, it’s not that scary. It’s mostly pacing and jump scares, more atmosphere than anything. Much like Sleepaway Camp to follow, this movie relies heavily on the fake out of not revealing who the killer is. Now, to be fair, the twist at the end of that movie was a real twist and not a tacked on jump scare to justify a sequel.

Fun Fact: Kevin Bacon is one of the victims in this movie.

Friday the 13th 4

The Final Chapter. Right, just like The Final Nightmare was the last time we saw Freddy Krueger. For some reason this one jumps out at me as the most 80’s horror movie I have ever seen. This one has the great hair music, teenagers being actual teenagers, Corey Frigging Feldman, and hockey mask wearing Jason getting some visually stunning kills. Oh and hot twins.

Fun Fact: This was the first movie to feature a story arc that carried over to the following movies more than just the setting and Jason.

Friday the 13th 3

Now in 3D! Freddy waited all the way until his intended demise film to go 3D. Not Jason, they did it in the first movie to have what would become his iconic mask. It was the first one to stray from using an all orchestral soundtrack to a solid 80’s rock soundtrack, but it was for the better. The movie had much better special effects, likable characters and even a sub-plot involving side characters. It even had a flash back that implied Jason might have raped girl.

Fun Fact: The nerdy character in this movie drives around in a totally 80’s retro VW Beetle reminiscent of G1 Bumble Bee.

Friday the 13th 6

What I loved about this was the totally cheesy 80s camp was raised to the max. This and part 4 are about as 80s as you can get.

This movie has a plot more akin to a typical monster movie where the adults are in on the cover up  but don’t want to admit it. Or something like that. Also the introduction of Zombie Jason, who would become the staple of the franchise, and not for the best.

Fun Fact: Alice Cooper has a song in this movie and a couple years alter he plays the dad of Freddy Kruger.

Bonus fact: This movie continues the plot from 4 and 5 with the same Tommy character. I liked that, here. I didn’t in part 5.

Friday the 13th 5

I typically try to avoid ranking movies from best to worst following numerical order. Often times the movies do degrade progressively but sometimes you get an odd instance where a quality sequel will rise above the rest. This is one of those cases where part 5 sort of stands alone as the black sheep of the series. No small feat considering how many films stray from the formula.

I have a lot of things I really enjoy about this movie but it’s still not the best. I like the change in setting. I love how different it is in tone and kills. What does trip me up though is the fake out reveal at the end, and the crazy red-neck characters that seem to contribute nothing but a cheap joke. This was one of those I did see as a kid. Not the whole movie but I distinctly remember the kid that I thought was trying to look like Michael Jackson who got killed in the outhouse scene.

Fun Fact: The hot blond doing the break dancing moves in this movie is the daughter of the woman who played the English teacher in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

Freddy vs. Jason

Yes, this is the breaking point. From here on the movies all go downhill. One of the biggest complaints this movie gets from fans of both franchise is it doesn’t seem to work well as a solid entry in either series. I happen to disagree. I think it works better as a Freddy movie than a Jason flick, considering the Freddy stuff stays very true to the mythology that came before and this movie just makes up its own Jason mythology as it goes along, like they pretty much all do. However, I still enjoy it as a movie more than all the rest of the films on this list.

Fun Fact: The black chick was one of the singers in Destiny’s Child (that defunct band BeyoncĂ© started in.)

Friday the 13th 8

If I was being completely honest, remove Freddy vs. Jason and this movie could go up a notch on the list. Chronologically this is where the franchise hit rock bottom. Everything after this is just garbage.

This movie has few redeeming qualities for me. I enjoy the early boat stuff, the parts most people tend to despise, but I completely hate all the physic dream stuff. This one felt like it was trying to appeal more to the Freddy fans and it didn’t work. At least not for me.

Fun Fact: Jason actually takes his hockey mask off voluntarily for a scare.

Jason X

I like this movie more than most. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. I do think it is a bad Jason movie so ranking it among the others in the franchise it tends to fall pretty far down the list.

Fun Fact: This was another in a long line of horror movies moving to space for some reason. Others were Leprechaun and Hellraiser.

Friday the 13th 7

I hate this movie. It takes the psychic stuff too far. It has a few decent kills and it expands the mythology, I guess, but it messes up the time line and is just plain boring to watch.

Fun Fact: This was the second time a corpse jumped out at the end to drag someone into the water.

Jason Goes to Hell

This was one of the few I did see when I was a kid. In fact it was the only one I watched when it was a new release. I didn’t like it at all. The body switching stuff was too much. Jason didn’t look like the familiar character at all and since it as the first one I watched all the way through it soured my opinion of the franchise for several years.

Fun Fact: There aren’t any, New Line cinema bought the franchise and it should have ended here. I think they only made Jason X just to hold people over until they could get Freddy vs. Jason off the ground.

And that’s the list. Considering I haven’t even seen the remake yet I can’t rank it. Considering how my views tend to differ from the mainstream I am not sure what I will ultimately think of it. I do own the DVD, I just have never gotten around to actually watching it.