8. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Often referred to as Jason Vs Carrie, Part VII can be summed up as a middling slasher film. It is what we have come to expect from a Friday film now. While it kept the supernatural elements of Part VI going, it was a more back to basics turn for the series. With that we get the usual praises and issues. Dull, dragging moments. Uninteresting characters. Impressive effects and stunt work. So-so writing and adequate directing.
But Part VII does have a couple points that hold it higher than most others. The lead telekinetic girl is a fun character. The fact that she can fight back against this undead Jason makes for a great climax. This was Kane Hodder’s first turn as Jason and he brought a good amount of character to the role. From Hodder we get anger – pure, unfiltered, undying anger. This is the most intimidating Jason has ever been. And he looks great, with a zombie face and an exposed spine. Hodder, being such and incredible stunt man, makes the climax feel more impressive.
This was one of those films that was cut down to appease ratings. This comes to the film’s benefit at times and works against it at others. The ending, after the climax, is very disappointing. And it suffers from being just another Friday the 13th film. Better than most, but still a mediocre affair. Worth a look for anyone curious, and it is the only Kane Hodder Jason film worth a watch.
The Best Kill: Jason wrapping a woman in her sleeping bag and then whacking her against a tree. This was cut down to just one whack, but it is for the best. It is as funny as it is shocking, which is what we want from these films. It’s also Hodder’s favorite kill scene and has been referenced in many of those following it.
7. Friday the 13th (2009)
Another Platinum Dunes remake, though this one is much better than A Nightmare on Elm Street. From the director of the unpleasant remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this film sets out to remake the first three Friday the 13th films at once. Friday is not exactly a film that shouldn’t be remade, and to the film’s credit it does the job. Delivering on the goods while also adding in a few new angles.
Remaking three films at once sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. But you would be amazed at what trimming the fat of those three does to them. Jason is changed slightly into more of a survivalist killer, which adds to the horror factor somewhat. It also makes sense how he can keep appearing from seemingly nowhere at any given time. The characters are mostly dull, but Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker manage to keep the film going when Jason is momentarily off-screen. The comic relief get a few laughs and there are some good kills.
But we do have unforgivable issues here too. The first twenty minutes stick us with characters who we can only be thankful we don’t spend long with. You have to get past that point to really get to the decent stuff. The action at the end drags on and Jason’s motive for some of his actions make little sense.
Then there are the sex scenes. There being sex scenes is par for the course for Friday films. But the two here go more extreme than any other installment. One in particular feels like it belongs in pornography more than it does in a mainstream horror film.
While it is one of the stronger installments to the series, it is still a mediocre effort.
The Best Kill: Back to the sleeping bag gag. This time it is more tortuous. The woman is strung up in her sleeping bag and is cooked alive in it as Jason suspends it over the campfire. It is one of the nastiest kills Jason has ever done and tells us that this Jason is not going to be a lumbering monster. He is a cruel, sadistic man. A far scarier concept.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)
With Dream Warriors we are finally getting to the good stuff. What a climb in quality this film is from the Friday remake. Wes Craven and Frank Darabont wrote the script to Chuck Russell’s effects-heavy horror fantasy, and the creativity is mind-blowing.
Solidifying Freddy as a pop culture icon, we finally get the sadistic comedian that horror fans still quote to this day. As a sequel to the original it is exactly what audiences desired. Bigger and more effects heavy than the first, while focusing on more interesting characters and developing the dream sequences. Having the kids find a way to fight back within their dreams in ingenious, adding new levels to the horror.
There are many out there who would call this their favorite of all the series. What sadly holds this back for me is the film delving too deep into Freddy’s backstory. Freddy is a child killer who has come back to finish his spree – that is ideally all we need. Unfortunately, Dream Warriors is the film that introduces us to the hundred maniacs element of Freddy – a plot line that is too stupid and way too complicated to be anything other than cringeworthy. But Dream Warriors remains a good film and should be high up on any horror fans watch list this Halloween.
The Best Kill: ‘Welcome to prime time, bitch!’ Everyone knows what I’m on about. Freddy turning into a possessed television and smashing the would-be actresses head into the screen. It would be the favorite kill anyway, but Robert Englund’s improvised line made the scene more iconic than almost any other in the series.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
When your film is directed by Renny Harlin, you expect a certain kind of quality. The director of such films as Die Hard 2, Deep blue Sea and, um, Cutthroat Island, has a talent for making films that – while not exactly ‘good’ films – are entertaining rollercoasters. Often with great effects, silly humor and bombastic action. None of this sounds like it should belong in an Elm Street film. Yet, it turns out to be what the series needed at the time.
Freddy’s fear-factor is all but gone now – once you see him walking on the beach with his sunshades on, there is no going back. But what is kept is the character’s sadistic sense of humor and the irony he likes to slaughter his victims with. He does have a good nemesis to bounce off of too, in the form of Lisa Wilcox’s Alice. Despite the rushed, and often troubled production, Dream Master has an energy to it that keeps you on the edge of your seat – out of joy instead of terror.
The lack of scares and the lighter tone will be a turn off to some, and more will find issue with the script – it was rushed and it shows. But the sets are creative, the kills are thrilling and Freddy may a parody of his former self, but he is a delightful parody – one that doesn’t break character. The more mainstream blockbuster treatment is certainly what helped keep the series going and made this one of the biggest money earners of the franchise. It isn’t perfect, but it manages to work through its shortcomings and is easily Harlin’s best film. Even Wes Craven commended it.
The Best Kill: While most are too silly and bloodless to be memorable, everyone remembers Alice’s friend being turned into a cockroach. Freddy’s irony here is that she killed one earlier on in the film – yep, a rushed script. The transformation effects are fantastic – all gooey and gross. Her friends can’t help her either as Freddy has them in a time-loop, making the scene more tragic. Eventually, it is revealed that she is in a bug trap, which the sadistic Freddy crushes in his palm – with messy results.