THS Fright-A-Thon: Nightmare On Elm Street 1 or 3? Which Is Better?

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So we started the first film of THS’s Fright-A-Thon Movie Marathon. It was A Nightmare On Elm Street. The marathon has an overall Wes Craven tinge to it. So after starting off with the first film that started the Freddy Krueger saga, it’s still just as much of a horror classic as ever. There were a couple things I noticed while watching it again though. Most of us can agree that the top two ranked in the franchise should be either A Nightmare On Elm Street or A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The first film was written and directed by Wes Craven. While Dream Warriors was directed by Chuck Russell. It was written by a team including: Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont, and Chuck Russell.

After the entertaining debacle known as A Nightmare On Elm Street: Freddy’s Revenge, Wes Craven returned to the franchise. Dream Warriors expanded upon the mythos of the series. There are varying reasons why both films are great. Let’s go over those reasons before we make a final judgement on the two films.

Why A Nightmare On Elm Street Is Fantastic

This….is God.

The original film is usually the best in any horror series. There are some exceptions to this rule, maybe the Evil Dead series, or possibly Friday the 13th. In the case of this franchise, the first one is the one that sets everything up. The film is atmospheric, it feels scary. It builds that tension that you know and love in horror movies, better than most. In addition to this tension, you have the bewilderment of the whole film. It’s hard to tell at what points reality is separate from dreams. The character of Nancy is the strongest of the series. She’s built up well and she has motivation in the writing.

The whole film just feels cohesive and strong. With whatever polish and humor was added to the later films, this one has a grit and the lower budget feel of it doesn’t take anything away. Sometimes it’s just better to keep it simple in horror. The character of Freddy Krueger has a simple backstory. He’s a child murderer that escaped the law. The parents in the neighborhood took justice into their own hands and created a monster.

If you’re in for a simple horror story that doesn’t take too much thought, the first Nightmare is for you.

Why A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Is Fantastic

Let’s party.

If the first film is great because it’s a small story that spawned a franchise. The third story is great because it expands upon that story in the best way a horror film can. Turns out there were more kids on Elm Street than just Nancy. Freddy’s motivation is now to get rid of the kids and Nancy. This film does the extra difficult job of introducing a new main character while also bringing back old characters in more than cameo roles. Heather Langenkamp returns as Nancy but doesn’t overshadow Patricia Arquette’s performance as Kristen. Together the two actresses lead the main group of kids against Freddy.

It all adds up to a more stylish and expensive looking film. The budget was definitely higher here for the kills and the effects. Freddy gets way more screen time as well. In the first film we’re never really treated to a great long look at Freddy. In Dream Warriors we are. He’s as much of a character as anyone else in the film.

The cast of characters is also just better here. You have John Saxon returning, but disgraced from the events of the first film. You have the entire crew of kids, and you have Craig Wasson as Neil, Nancy’s love interest, that doesn’t actually mess up the whole film like you would guess. Overall, it’s more polished and a fantastic example of a horror sequel.

It Really Comes Down To What Type Of Horror You Want

I’ll admit the title of this article is misleading. Because while I love both films, it really comes down to what kind of horror you like. If you like it with a bit of a bigger budget and more polished looking? Then Dream Warriors is for you. If you want the gritty, story-driven, less effects heavy, horror, the original Nightmare is what you want.

After the later sequels that are really only fun to watch for dedicated horror fans, these two films stick out of the crowd. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a reimagining that is great but doesn’t fit in with these two films. The Nightmare On Elm Street series is probably my favorite across horror. Each installment, even the bad ones, have merit and are at least entertaining.

So this Halloween season, make sure to give it it’s proper respect and due!

What do you think is the better Nightmare film? The first or Dream Warriors? Let me know what you think in the comments or tell me on Twitter!

For more on Fright-A-Thon, Horror, or any other general pop culture, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.

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