Acclaimed Irish author Wayne Byrne’s latest book Welcome to Elm Street: Inside the Film and Television Nightmares is available now from all book stores and to mark the release we asked Wayne to give us his ranking of the Elm Street franchise.
This is the prolific writer’s fourth book following works on actor Burt Reynolds, director Tom DiCillo, and cinematographer Nick McLean. As if he wasn’t busy enough, the former Hot Press journalist has found time to author two more books set for release. He has been busy been putting together the definitive document on the career of legendary filmmaker Walter Hill for McFarland Books. Hill’s considerable work includes directing cult classics such as The Warriors, 48 Hrs, Southern Comfort and writing majorfilms like Ridley Scott’s Alien and Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway.
Meanwhile, Byrne has also teamed up with friend and noted American musician, Amanda Kramer (of The Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie Sioux, 10,000 Maniacs, and more), in co-writing their upcoming book, Hired Guns: Women of the Road and on Record in Alternative Music. This book marks Byrne and Kramer’s first literary collaboration and will be released by Equinox Publishing.
If you want to join Wayne in celebrating the release of Welcome to Elm Street, you can visit Naas Library on Friday May 20th at 7pm, where he will be joined by Film Ireland’s Paul Farren for a Q&A on all things Elm Street and writing. Booking is essential. For more information you can contact the library on 045-879111 or at email@example.com
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The absolute lowest point in the franchise. For a start, it is typical of the horrible digital filmmaking aesthetic that has taken over the horror genre: the green and blue filters which are designed to inform mood and tone but which make everything look ugly and underexposed, and the tacky CGI substituting for physical effects. It’s a mess. With all the money they had they still couldn’t make one scene anywhere near as effective or creepy as Wes Craven managed to do with his limited budget in 1984. Freddy looks terrible, the characters are disposable. It is just an unpleasant experience in every way.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
When I first saw this in theatres in 2003, I found the opening montage of scenes from past films extremely thrilling. It reminded me of how great the series is. But then it cuts to the present day and you realise that it’s not the 1980s and you can never, as they say, go home again. It is what it is: a mashup of two movie monsters, strung together on a very thin narrative with its group of shallow teens who don’t provide enough personality to invest in it emotionally. It really is just about getting you to the end point of seeing Freddy and Jason beating seven shades of shite out of each other, and I’m not excited by that. It’s not a bad film, it is entertaining, but it’s just not an interesting one.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
After the commercial success and creative ingenuity of Parts 3 and 4, Stephen Hopkins’ dark blend of splatterpunk and gothic influences make for a rather dreary visual experience, although it does take the backstory of Freddy’s origins to some interesting places. It tackles controversial topics and contains interesting sociological ideas but it doesn’t follow through on them as much as one would like, losing them amongst the fantastical set pieces. I remember seeing this on VHS in 1991 and it was the first Freddy movie that disappointed me on a pure entertainment level, something about it felt different. These days I can appreciate that the decision to take it to a darker, more subversive place was a bold one, but it felt like a baffling path to take coming after the popular embrace of its crowd-pleasing predecessor.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
I must admit, when I was kid I found this to be the scariest film of the bunch. The film boasts Freddy’s most hideous makeup, making him appear gaunt and emaciated, and Jack Sholder creates a great tone throughout which is unnerving. Nowadays it is, perhaps ironically, celebrated as a camp classic and icon of Queer Cinema, and yes, Freddy Krueger’s insidious manipulation of Jesse’s sexual identity and anxiety is brilliantly handled. But I didn’t understand all of that when I was watching it in my pyjamas on a Friday night, I just enjoyed it as a creepy, enjoyable horror movie. It does break the rules laid down in the first film – Freddy appears out of the dream world for everybody to see – but who cares? In fact, that BBQ massacre is a great scene and was very effective when I was young. It was like, “shit, Freddy can be real!” Now the only thing that scares me about the film is seeing New Line Cinema chief Bob Shaye in an S&M outfit. Truly, the stuff of nightmares!
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Yes, it’s cheesy as Hell and about as scary as a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode (which is what it feels like!), but I love this film. I love its surrealist take on a childless Springwood where the elderly sadly roam the carnivals eating cotton candy and riding the bumper cars; I love the Goo Goo Dolls soundtrack from when they were cool and sounded more left-of-the-dial than middle-of-the-road; I love how it manages to include some important themes whilst functioning as a real life Looney Tunes spectacle. The ending sucks, of course (killing Freddy by blowing him up with a pipe bomb…really?), but the rest of it is so enjoyable I can forgive its unfortunate denouement.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
I discovered the Elm Street franchise just as Part 3 came out on video, Freddy’s Nightmares was hitting television, and this one came out in the cinema, so this is my era right here, this was the big one. This is the MTV one, and by that I mean it’s flashy, colourful, bright, hyper-edited, stylishly photographed, and buoyed by a vibrant 80s pop-rock soundtrack. That film turned me on to some great bands, such as Dramarama and The Divinyls, and has so many great songs in there. It’s just a fun, entertaining good time that also advances the themes that I am very much interested in.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The one that started it all. A true masterpiece. Wes Craven’s best film. That said, it doesn’t make my number one purely because the one that does means a lot more to me on a personal level, but A Nightmare on Elm Street can go down in the canon of Great America Cinema. It is to my generation what Universal’s Dracula or Frankenstein was to previous generations, it is that important and influential. There are so many rich themes, ideas and subtexts in there that I decided to write a book about it.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
When I was six years old I saw this movie and it just blew my mind. The VHS cover sleeve was my first encounter with Freddy Krueger and seeing the film, especially at that age, thrilled me, entertained me, and kind of scared me, and I don’t mean that in a “I can’t watch this” kind of way because in fact it had the opposite effect, I wanted more of it. That’s why horror movies work best when you first encounter them at a younger age, before you get wiser to real world horror thus more cynical; at that age you suspend your disbelief and allow films to scare you in the way they are intended to. Then I realised that this is just great filmmaking. It is the most imaginative of the series, the characters have personality, and the themes are deep, relevant and real. The hardest chapter I ever had to write for any book was this one; I interviewed the people who made it and learned it was a tough production; I really wanted to get it right and I laboured over it like no other piece of writing I’ve ever composed. I’m not saying this is objectively the best Elm Street film, that is surely the first, but I’m saying it is my favourite Elm Street film.