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In the trinity of modern horror films, there's the father (Michael Myers of Halloween), the son (Jason of Friday the13th fame, a knockoff), and the unholy spirit, Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. The spectral man who haunted the nightmares of unsuspecting teenagers with deadly consequences, Freddy (as played by Robert Englund) was a truly frightening bogeyman and icon for the '80s. Unlike the hockey-masked Jason, who dispatched horny teenagers with mechanical and monotonous ease (he never talked, never took off his mask), Freddy was a truly creative and diabolical villain, with a sadistic and blackly funny personality. The hallmarks of the Nightmare on Elm Street series were imaginatively gruesome suspense pieces, set in the overactive imaginations of the teen victims. The first film of the series, Wes Craven's truly intelligent and scary film, was so hugely successful it begat not one, not two, but six more sequels, each pretty much diluting the originality and horror of its predecesor. (Horror fans will fondly remember Drew Barrymore's assertion in Scream that the first Nightmare film was great but all the rest sucked.) Still, there's fun to be had in the remaining films in the series, seeing as a number of aspiring filmmakers cut their teeth on the continuing saga of Freddy. Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and Chuck Russell (The Mask) worked on the third installment, Dream Warriors (starring a young Patricia Arquette), and Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) came to prominence with the ingeniously macabre fourth film, The Dream Master, coscripted by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential). Craven and original star Heather Langenkamp did return for the last film, New Nightmare, which presaged the tongue-in-cheek postmodernism of the Scream films and resharpened Freddy's ability to scare. --Mark Englehart
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