Face-Off: Friday the 13th Part VII vs. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4

If all had gone well, we might have gotten FREDDY VS. JASON in 1988. Paramount and New Line Cinema discussed the crossover following the release of JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI in 1986, when A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS was heading toward its February '87 release. But the talks fell apart; FREDDY VS. JASON wasn't destined to happen until 2003, by which time both characters were at New Line Cinema. Thoughts of a crossover brushed aside for the moment, the studios continued their franchises with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, both of which were released in 1988... so they're both celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year. As part of the anniversary celebration, we're putting these sequels against each other to see which movie comes out the winner in this Freddy vs. Jason Face-Off.
According to the legend, Jason Voorhees died for the first time when he drowned in Crystal Lake in 1958. So the previous film went supernatural with the way the slasher was defeated - the idea was that he could only be stopped by being returned to his original resting place, so he was chained to a rock and dropped to the bottom of the lake. It seemed to work, as Jason went dormant for years while down there... But who could have expected that a telekinetic teenager would someday come along and will him back to the surface? That teen accidentally caused the death of her father in Crystal Lake when she was a child, and while attempting to wish him back to life, she wakes up Jason instead. He snaps the chain, just like any viewer always expected him to, and strides out of the lake to kill again. I don't think anyone but the makers of THE NEW BLOOD would have thought of having a telekinetic girl be Jason's way of escaping the lake. It's certainly an original approach to take.
Dream stalker Freddy Krueger's death in the previous film seemed pretty final. Burying his bones after they were hidden away in a junkyard for years and then pouring holy water on them in our reality, which made Freddy disappear in a flash of light in the dream world, would have been a satisfactory way to end the series. But in THE DREAM MASTER that seems to have only made him go dormant for a little while. There is no solid explanation for why Freddy returns. Is it because the surviving Dream Warriors keep venturing into his dream territory? Is it because the souls of his victims were still a source of power for him? Fill in the blanks yourself, because this movie is only interested in providing the visual of a dog pissing a stream of fire on Freddy's grave. The ground cracks open, Freddy's body regenerates (some great FX there), and the killer is back to business as usual. The fire piss and effects are memorable, but it would have been nice if any of this had been explained.
Lar Park Lincoln plays Tina Shepard, a girl who is struggling to come to terms with her telekinetic abilities, which surface when she's in heightened emotional states, like when she accidentally used them to kill her abusive father when she was a child. Unfortunately, she's being manipulated by her psychiatrist, who has brought her back to Crystal Lake not to help her but to try to make her even more of an emotional wreck so he'll be able to document and profit off her abilities. Tina is a timid and sometimes shrill character who is, in a way, responsible for every death in the film, but she does eventually embrace her abilities, using them to survive her encounter with Jason Voorhees.
When first introduced, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) is a very meek, shy character, who uses daydreams as a way to struggle through her miserable home life with her alcoholic single father. Her road to becoming a heroine begins when her friend Kristen passes an ability to draw other people into her dreams over to her while being killed by Freddy... which is a mistake, because it gives Freddy access to more victims when Alice inadvertently pulls people into her dreams. Still, Alice continues to gain abilities (and personality traits) from the friends Freddy kills, gradually turning her into a strong, brave character who is able to face off with the man of her nightmares and figure out a way to defeat him.
THE NEW BLOOD features one of the most popular versions of Jason Voorhees. This is partially due to how he looks; while director John Carl Buechler has referred to this Jason as a "meat Terminator", there's hardly any meat left on him, he is in such an advanced state of decomposition. His clothes are in tatters, giving us a better view of his exposed bones. This Jason is also popular because it marks the first time the role would be played by Kane Hodder, who brings a new sense of rage and brutality to the character. Hodder would go on to play Jason three more times, but his first performance was by far the best.
By this point in the franchise Freddy Krueger had become a pop culture icon and any sense of scariness had gone out the window. Robert Englund is still giving a great performance in the role, buried under excellent FX makeup, but Freddy is really a murderous comedian in this film, dropping quips with each kill like he's the Roger Moore James Bond. He's not quite the living cartoon that he would become in later sequels, but he had already come a long way from the dark character he had started out as. While he's still entertaining to watch, jokester Freddy is not the version of the character that I find to be most effective.
There is one nagging issue about the kills in this film, and that's the fact that the MPAA had them cut down to the bare minimum. What could have been a spectacular gorefest became a movie that cuts away at the point of impact. Still, Jason racks up a healthy number of kills (15), and most of them still work even when presented in quick glimpses. Heads are cut off, characters are impaled, a head is crushed, a party horn is slammed through an eyeball, a character meets their end while trapped in a sleeping bag... Good times.
More than half of the 6 kills in THE DREAM MASTER involve him using his razor-tipped glove. While these murders are committed within clever dreams (especially the one where Freddy comes bursting through a victim's waterbed), it is somewhat disappointing given how outlandish nightmare kills can be. There is one amazing outlandish kill in here, when Freddy causes a victim to transform into a cockroach and then traps them inside a "roach motel". That is one of the most memorable and disgusting kills in the entire NIGHTMARE series.
This was an incredibly rushed production, and that comes through in the final product, which has sort of a cheap, unfinished feel to it. The MPAA hacking away at the death scenes probably caused some of that feeling - and the messy, uninspired score by Fred Mollin (taking over from Harry Manfredini, who did the music for the previous six movies) doesn't help. The setting does help it achieve an isolated backwoods atmosphere, and things really get fun when Tina lets loose with the telekinetic powers at the end. Overall, though, this comes off as being a lesser version of the films that came before it.
THE DREAM MASTER was also an incredibly rushed production, and the film probably only works because Renny Harlin was at the helm. Harlin turned this sequel into an '80s MTV party that was shot and cut together in a fun, exciting way, packed with good music, impressive visuals, and explosions. Everything explodes in this movie. As the end credits roll, we hear Freddy rapping with The Fat Boys, and that totally goes with the preceding movie. This isn't the best movie in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, but I do find it to be the most entertaining ELM STREET movie to watch.
On a technical level, THE DREAM MASTER has THE NEW BLOOD beat by a mile - it's a much better looking, more polished movie. But even with that going for it, along with the fact that I find it to be the most entertaining entry in the ELM STREET series, it still loses out to THE NEW BLOOD in the end due to the Jason movie's presentation of its killer and the presentation of said killer's nonsensical resurrection. And of course, THE NEW BLOOD came out on top in the body count department, because racking up kills is what Jason does better than anybody.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think Freddy should have won this battle? Share your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to me at [email protected].



Latest Entertainment News Headlines