Posts Tagged ‘freddy movies’

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

July 21, 2020

Director: Wes Craven (Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4, Last House on the Left, People Under the Stairs)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxson, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

Anticipation Level: N/A

How Was It?

A chronological, as-I’m-watching-it review with MANY SPOILERS:

I absolutely love this movie. It’s easy to forget how great the original Nightmare is because of how bad many of the sequels were. Of all the horror franchises that I loved as a kid, I think the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies have arguably aged the worst. I think about half of them are nearly unwatchable as an adult. But not this one. This one is great.

Right from the jump, the theme music is unique and creates an unsettling tone. The opening dream sequence also does a great job of teasing an ominous presence while not exactly revealing what Freddy is. How about that close up shot of Freddy’s eyes behind the pipes? Ah yes, back when Freddy Krueger was actually scary.

The second dream sequence is AWESOME. I’ve seen this movie so many times that I feel like I know it shot-for-shot and Tina’s second dream just has so many iconic moments: Freddy coming out of the wall above Nancy; Freddy with the stretchy long arms; Freddy slicing his fingers off; Tina pulling his face off while he just laughs through it; and then the unbelievable death scene that sees Tina thrashing through the air as some unseen force slices her to death while her boyfriend Rod watches helplessly and then her body just drops to the floor with a thud. BLOOD IS EVERYWHERE. Holy shit, what a scene.

It’s a bit disturbing when the news report of Tina’s murder says that she was 15 years old. I mean… Tina and Rod were having some pretty loud, raucous sex off screen there. Granted, the actress playing Tina was 24 or 25 when this filmed, but still…

LOL @ Nancy getting private access to Rod, a murder suspect, when he’s in jail. How does that happen? Sure, her dad is a cop, but it’s obvious that he wants her nowhere near this guy and his co-workers should be aware of that. Later, we see Nancy barge in to the police station and demand to see Rod again, bullying the cop at the desk to let her through before dad puts a stop to it.

I have to say the acting in this movie is pretty good for an 80s horror flick. And by “pretty good,” I mean it’s not laughable like it is in a lot of the genre pics of the time. Interestingly, I’m inspired to type this by Heather Langenkamp’s super cringy delivery of “how can you say I don’t take her death seriously?” after her mother says, “I guess you don’t think murder is serious.” It’s a brutal moment in an otherwise reasonably acted flick.

I really like how Nancy’s teacher walks by her when she’s falling asleep in class and gives her a knowing touch. It feels like a rare authentic human moment from a meaningless character in a horror movie. It would just be so stereotypical for the teacher to walk by her and startle her awake for having the nerve to fall asleep in class like what she went through the night before is not public knowledge. Also, shoutout to Lin Shaye playing the teacher here. She will later star in the Insidious movies as Elise Rainier.

Another iconic scene from this movie: Freddy’s glove coming up out of the bathtub water between Nancy’s legs. Not sure how you can grow up watching these movies and not think about that scene when you’re taking a bath as a kid. I think this scene is also the first time we hear the famous Freddy nursery rhyme from the jump rope girls. This scene also has more awkward sexualization of a supposed 15 year old – you can see Nancy topless when Freddy pulls her under the water. Heather Langenkamp was really 20 (and it was probably a body double anyway), but Nancy is 15! Why are we seeing her breasts? It’s weird.

I love when Johnny Depp asks Nancy what happened to her arm and she replies, “I burned it in English class.”

Let’s give Nancy some props. She’s a fighter. How many heroines in horror movies do you see that are ready to take on their tormentor less than halfway through the movie? Nancy asks Glen to watch over her while she sleeps because she needs to go “look for someone” and that someone is Freddy Krueger. Her friends are being killed and she knows the dream world has real world ramifications. This is a BOSS move. Of course, Glen shits the bed and falls asleep. What an ass.

The sleep clinic is another nice touch of giving the main character some credibility. This is a scene where the stereotype would be for the results to show that everything is normal and Nancy is just making this stuff up… but instead, mom and doctor see that things aren’t even close to being normal. Nancy’s dreams are off-the-charts FUCKED.

This prompts mom to tell Nancy the truth about Krueger being a local child murderer and reveals that she’s been keeping his bladed glove in their basement furnace like a serial killer holding on to a souvenir from a murder. This part of the movie is a bit muddled. Fred Krueger got off on a technicality in a case that got the “lawyers fat and the judge famous?” Uh, okay. If you say so. And none of the teenagers in the area know about this obviously super infamous case that happened right in their own backyard? Uh, no. Not even in the pre-internet age is this even remotely believable. Literally everyone in that town would know about what Fred Krueger did.

Ugh, the ending of this movie is brutal. Craven really botched it. There is just so much going wrong. How is Nancy barricaded in her house exactly? Her mom is a semi-functional alcoholic and though it’s never explicitly said, all indications are that Nancy’s parents are divorced and her dad doesn’t live with them…. so who made their house an inescapable fortress? Mom? Yeah right. I guess it’s feasible that she paid some professionals to do this, but… I’m rolling my eyes here.

How absurd is it that Nancy is linked to three murders, she’s a police officer’s daughter, there’s a bunch of cops at a murder scene right across the street (including dad!), she’s screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs and shattering windows trying to get someone’s attention… and her dad’s co-workers are just standing there looking at her like, “what’s that crazy kid on about now?” This is the kind of stereotypical bullshit that always happens in these movies that A Nightmare on Elm Street was doing such a good job of NOT doing. This whole sequence just blows.

There’s such a Home Alone vibe to Nancy’s final encounter with Freddy. She has booby traps set up all over and he runs right into them. She even says, “come and get me” at one point, a line straight out of the Kevin McCallister playbook. But Home Alone came out in 1990, so does that mean that Home Alone has an A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe?

How bad is the mom’s death scene? Nancy and dad walk in just in time to see a fake looking corpse descend into the bed and disappear. Then Nancy says to her dad, “now do you believe me?” with zero emotion or regard for the fact that her mom was just murdered. For a movie with tons of awesome visual effects, I can’t believe how pathetic her mom’s body looks here.

Finally, this conclusion just doesn’t work for me at all. How anticlimactic is it that Nancy defeats Freddy by simply turning her back on him and taking away his “power” by not believing in him? The fact that she turns around to see if he’s there afterwards is proof enough that she still believes in him. Somehow this ending also brings her mom and friends back from the dead, so essentially nothing that happens actually happened. But then they drive off in a Freddy-themed car and mom gets pulled through the door by Krueger, so wtf? I suppose Wes Craven answers this question in Nightmare 3 because when Nancy shows up her hair is streaked grey and she says her friends were killed by Freddy. I dunno. It’s all just so bogus and leaves a gross stain on an otherwise wonderful horror movie.

I forgive A Nightmare on Elm Street for all its flaws. The first 80 minutes of this movie are just way too enjoyable for the last ten minutes to ruin it. It is chock full of iconic moments and Freddy is a looming, sadistic, and scary figure. This Freddy gets off on scaring and toying with his victims before he kills them and the corny one-liners that he eventually becomes known for are nowhere to be found in this film. This movie is not completely absent of camp, but I think Nightmare 1 strikes the perfect mix of camp and scary.

I wish the ending was better, but this is still an all-time horror classic to me and its replay value seems unending. I’m sure I’ve seen this at least ten times and I still enjoy it thoroughly. Wes Craven created one of the most memorable villains to ever grace the silver screen. 35 years later and a decade since the last Freddy movie (and arguably 25 years since the last good one) and Freddy Krueger still feels relevant today. A must see horror flick and one of the best the genre has ever had to offer.

Replay Value: Plenty. I’ve seen it so many times and I’m still eager to re-visit it with each viewing.

Sequel Potential: None. Well, except for seven sequels, a remake, and endless amounts of merchandising. And it’s not going to stop there either – though we are currently in the longest stretch between Freddy movies since he debuted in 1984.

Oscar Potential: Nightmare 1 received zero Oscar nominations, but I think it should have at least been considered for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects. Having watched both A Nightmare on Elm Street and (loosely) visual effects nominee Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom recently, I think Nightmare was clearly better in this department.

8/10 (Must See)

A Dark Knight Classic