Halloween is upon us once again. And after the horror show that has been the year 2020, there is no better time to watch a scary movie to forget about the real horrors. If you are struggling to find something to give you some joyful, creepy thrills, then look no further than these two characters.
Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees have become more than icons of horror. They are as inseparable to horror as the zombie and the witch, Frankenstein and Dracula, spiders and bats. It is hard to think of modern horror media without them. The films they make, the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series’, continue to entertain, terrify and influence fans of horror to this very day. Even when the films they are in are less than stellar – which, admittedly, is most of them. It says something about their staying power when even the poorest films are popular enough to warrant making more.
Whether it’s killing teens in their dreams or at camp, alone or even together, there is no escaping the pair of them. With them having a staggering total of twenty films between them, there is a lot to look at. But which is the best of them, and which go out with a whimper? And what are the best kills the psychotic duo can deliver?
The best place to start is from the bottom up.
20. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
As will soon become apparent, the Elm Street movies tend to be the better of the two. Overall, they tend to be more narratively creative and visually interesting. But not Freddy’s Dead. The sixth installment in the Nightmare franchise is not only the worst of Freddy’s offerings – it is one of the worst horror films ever made! You name it, it fails at it.
From the director who would later give us Tank Girl, Freddy’s Dead is as fake as they come. The sets look like those of an early 90’s tv show. The story is nonsensical – focusing on a child that Freddy (apparently) had, now all grown up and having to destroy her father’s evil spirit. The 3D used towards the end of the film is nothing more than a gimmick – which the filmmakers were likely ashamed of with how late in the runtime it is used. Horrible acting, with Freddy actor Robert Englund trying his best to work with the material he’s given. Despite attempting to be more humorous than the ones before it, it isn’t even remotely funny.
It is embarrassing to see the Elm Street franchise fall to such low levels. As a viewer, I have never been able to finish it in a single viewing. There isn’t anything to recommend. Everything here is recycled from the other, better films. All this film adds – the daughter, the 3D, the strange subplot about the town forbidding children from setting foot there – is all wince inducing. And Freddy’s death, despite being the title and final line of dialogue, is very anti-climactic. Thankfully, it was not the last we saw of our favorite dream killer.
The Best Kill: The film’s only remotely fun scene involves Freddy causing a deaf victim’s head to explode. This is done when he gives him a hearing aid that enhances all sound. After some Looney Toon-esc antics, Freddy scratches his claws on a chalkboard until the young man’s head can’t take any more. It’s silly, for sure, but it is also surprisingly well handled. It doesn’t make up for the rest of the film though.
19. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
With Jason having been killed off in the finale of Part IV, the plan was to have someone else take up the reins from this point forward. Not an inherently bad idea (as people will point out, Jason wasn’t the killer in the first film), but it is in the execution that this one fails. And it is only slightly better than Freddy’s Dead.
Outside of the copycat-killer plot, there is nothing new to this film. After being preceded by four eerily similar films, stale does not do it justice. The directing for the Jason films is typically workman like, but this one is just amateurish. Bland, boring and sleezy – it is boring when there is no killer, and it isn’t better when there is one.
The death scenes would be completely forgettable if they weren’t so violent – even by Friday standards. Admittedly, the effects are good and the kills look painful, but they aren’t effective. There is an uncomfortable scene where the camera just lingers on a naked woman for some time – whenever this scene plays, I remember that it was directed by a director of pornography and the need to shower quickly follows.
The return of Tommy Jarvis isn’t even enough to save this one. It is simply nasty, uncomfortable and forgettable.
The Best Kill: None really stand out as highlights of the series. But looking for the best, it would have to go to the man who has a strap wrapped around his face, which is tightened until his eyes are crushed. It looks nasty, it sounds nasty, and it sums up what watching this one was like.
18. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
While it has calmed down now, there was a period when the classic slasher films were getting remade left, right and center. Some were fine, most were trash. And Elm Street was, unfortunately, one of the worst of them. Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, the remake aimed to be a verbatim retelling of the original, with only one major reworking and more CGI heavy effects and gory kills.
As a remake there isn’t much to say. It is what you would expect. We get repeats of classic scenes (at times shot-for-shot) and countless references that only succeed in making you want to re-watch the original version. The effects are awful – they may be the worst out of all twenty listed films – with some of the worst CG effects from the 2010’s.
According to cast members, the making of the film was like pulling teeth, and that shines through. Rooney Mara looks like she is one wrong word away from storming off set. Jackie Earl Harley is a strong replacement for the beloved Robert Englund, but the script keeps him from truly coming into his own.
The final nail in the coffin is how unpleasant the film is. Yes, it is about a dream demon killing teenagers, it isn’t exactly a happy tale. But the film is ugly with a cruel atmosphere. That alone isn’t bad, but coupled with the change to Freddy’s backstory is another matter. Seeing a child murderer return to kill those that got away is a fun idea – the kind of story you tell around the campfire. Seeing a child molester kill the now grown kids that he had assaulted is in stomach-churningly poor taste – because that’s what we want in a horror fantasy film.
The Best Kill: The best this one has to offer is the redo of Tina’s suspended death scene. That’s it. The best the film has to offer, we have already seen done. And much better too.
17. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Well, that title is a blatant lie. A more accurate title would be Jason Take a Boat. Or maybe Jason Mucks Around for Over an Hour. Often considered the low point of the series, this was the film that finally convinced Paramount Pictures to cut their losses and sell Jason to New Line Cinema. Honestly, it is hard to disagree with any of those statements.
Kane Hodder returns as Jason Vorhees, giving all he can to make the hockey mask wearing psychopath as intimidating as possible. It is admirable to see and does lead to a couple of effective moments. There is also that amazing shot of Jason in Time Square. Other than that, there is nothing to recommend in this one. It may hold some guilty-pleasure moments here and there that could entertain, but you would have to be very forgiving of it to really enjoy them.
Despite trying to be a serious horror film, Friday Part VIII is way too silly to be taken seriously. It is one of the longest films of the series, and you feel every minute of it. The kills are very tame, with most being almost entirely bloodless (likely due to cuts to get the rating it wanted). There isn’t anything to talk about other than the nonsensical ending (where Jason melts away into his child self – I think that’s what happened anyway). All that can be said is that it is terrible, even by Friday standards.
The Best Kill: In one of the only memorable scenes, there is a fist-fight between Jason and one of the teens on top of an apartment. The teen really lays into Jason (with Kane Hodder noticeably taking real punches) before Jason ends things with a single punch. The kid’s head flies clean off and lands in a dumpster. Hey, at least Jason doesn’t litter, what’s your excuse?