I will admit that I was not looking forward to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 as part of this ongoing game of catch-up with the original films. Previously, I have been more or less ambivilent to the film as it is not the worst, is not the best, but falls into that middle ground also safely occupied by its predecessor. Due to the extreme condition of diminishing returns over the life of the franchise thus far, I had expected it to fair quite poorly, especially compared to the commercially-acclaimed Part 4. While this is in no way a good film, director Stephen Hopkins and at least one of the three credited screenwriters on this film had their hearts in it.
Yes, I know that this movie is rated in the same league as Freddy’s Dead and Part 2 as far as quality goes but I felt this movie at least tried to not only stay within the growing cannon but also return to tension and scares over goofy puns and elaborate death scenes. Notice I say tried because for all the praise I could give this movie for the effectiveness of the character-driven scenes, Freddy’s part of the film is amplified 5x over the last film which leads to a really bizarre shift in tone whenever he is onscreen. It almost seems that two different scripts were written for this film, one goofy like the last and one more oriented to the first part of the series, and the film we received was an unholy combination of the two.
I certainly appreciate the fact that Alice is brought back for more than just killing her off in the opening scene as her character, and those around her, are vastly better than the relative cookie-cutter ensemble of the previous few films. Alice, her dad, and three friends who she seemingly became quite close with despite not knowing a year prior, are all fairly sympathetic characters and well written characters. I definitely bought the dialogue between these friends moreso than Debbie, Shelia, and the rest of the old gang.
Having fewer characters (and thus Freddy fodder) was a benefit to the story, although only having three deaths seemed to step backwards from the ratcheting up body count. While Alice’s connection to Freddy is dubious at best (Freddy, while still dead from the last film, inflitrates the dreams of her unborn child?), it works to the point that you do not have to buy the awkward change from one heroine to another like some other films. Also from the jump, one of my biggest problems with the last film was rectified here as the poppy 80s songs over the title credits and sprinkled throughout was replaced with original score music from Jay Ferguson which, like many other entries in the Nightmare series, was quite good in conveying mood and atmosphere through the gothic sounds of choirs and organs. In fact, short of the character of Alice and the god-awful Freddy, this movie seems to cut a lot of ties from the last.
So, while all of that was good, the problems I had previously have compounded. Freddy is more background now and I would guess has a significantly less amount of screen time but the time that he does appear kills the movie. Even leaving Super Freddy out of this for now, the makeup still looks like crap compared to the early films and the fact that this movie’s lame Freddy is so prominently featured in his scenes kills any goodwill the rest of the flick affords. And while some people might prefer the comical Freddy to the original incarnation, his puns and one-liners here seem to be done in the vain of a ZAZ movie with “jokes” being tossed out for quantity rather than quality. In most cases, Freddy is just lame in this movie with such memorable lines as “Let’s rock and roll” and “Bad-year!” It is a shame to see a great character fall in so few years to appease the mainstream.
It seems almost comical that this film, and its poor box office reception, lead to Freddy’s Dead to serve as an end for the franchise as this is light-years ahead of the crap that is yet to come in the next portion. In the end, I take comfort in the fact that at least someone tried to make a decent movie but was likely thwarted by New Line and their quest for gold, frankincense, and myrrh.