Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CLASSIC HORROR -- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Written by Federico D.

The Real Queen of Horror challenged me to review Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. Usually, I leave classics like these to her, but how can I turn down geeking over a film that used 500 gallons of blood. Furthermore, when the studio that brought us Cinderella and Little Nemo wants to buy your horror script, then you deserve praise. For the lame people, that is Walt Disney Studios, which failed to get the rights because they wanted to tone it down for the kiddies. Anyway, in my living room with a pen, pad and snuggie, I press play on the VCR.

In the fictional suburban town of Springwood, Ohio (built for a couple months of filming in Los Angeles), teenager Nancy (Heather Lanjenkamp) and her friends endure nightmares of the same man with a homemade glove and sharp knives for fingers. Donning a red and green striped sweater and a grungy brown hat, this scorched man should be no stranger to any of us. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Keep clapping while I also introduce Dana Lyman, who perfected the costume design for the film.

Now that we have that out the way, next in line is the first to die, Tina (Amanda Wyss), who fresh from sizzling sex, sleeps beside her boyfriend, Rod (Jsu Garcia). With an unsurpassed joy for death, Freddy emerges in her dream. Rod awakens to Tina’s screams as she struggles against the unseen force laughing and dragging her from her bed, up her wall, and across her ceiling. Gashes flash over her body as Rod rushes fearfully into a corner, screaming for Tina until she plummets to the bed and into the puddle of her own blood.

Accused of the murder, Rod is taken to jail, only to have Freddy sneak into his dream and hang him from the ceiling with his own bed sheets. Creative, huh? I bet you thought you were talented building your little fort with your little sheets. Well, let me share more about Freddy.

Dream after dream, strong-willed Nancy fights with Freddy until she finally awakens with his hat, evidence that he is real. Her mom recognizes the hat, which compels Nancy to pester her until she reveals that Freddy Krueger was a child murderer. After his case had been thrown out of court, the parents of the murder victims burned him alive. Now, from the grave, he returns to murder any other children of those parents, which prepares me for the next paragraph about Nancy’s boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp).

Glen dies. It’s funny. Freddy sucks him into his bed. Blood gushes up. It’s funny.

Not liking that scene as much as Freddy and me, Nancy sets up booby traps and weapons in her house, then falls asleep, seeking to pull Freddy from the dream world to the real world to kill him. She succeeds in burning Fred Krueger in her basement, then rushes to retrieve her father and other policemen. They return to find the basement door open. Freddy’s flaming footsteps trail upstairs, where Nancy and her father witness Nancy’s mother fade into the bed. Disconcerted, her father walks out. Freddy materializes from the bed to slaughter Nancy, but she turns her back to him, declaring that she is no longer afraid of him. At this, Freddy perishes. Or does he? (What a perfect place for an evil laugh.)

The next morning, Glen’s convertible arrives at Nancy’s house with him, Tina and Rod alive and carefree on their way to school. Nancy rushes to them, waving bye to her mother who smiles from the front porch. The convertible top comes up and—is donning the same red and green stripes of Freddy’s sweater.(I’m sorry. I had to ruin it with the hyphen. The suspense was killing me.) The car speeds out of control with the teenagers screaming. Nancy’s mother is yanked through the window of the front door, yelling and kicking until the credits roll.

By the end of this film, the pee stain from my 1989 childhood He-man bedsheet had reappeared on my wife’s favorite couch in 2014. I thought I had matured. Nevertheless, as I drown in shame, I praise Heather Lanjenkamp, who performed amazingly as a new arrival to the film industry, which Wes Craven wanted from his lead actress instead of the Hollywood actors that auditioned: Demi Moore, Courtney Cox and others. My fear and delight also surfaces from recognizing the similarities of John Carpenter’s Halloween and other 1970s and early 1980s horror films. Nevertheless, Wes Craven and A Nightmare on Elm Street stand their own ground. Standing with them is cinematographer Jacques Haitkin, widely known for The House Where Evil Dwells and Evolver.

I originally watched A Nightmare on Elm Street at age four. Today, I still wondered how some of the special effects were pulled off: Freddy’s mouth becoming the bottom of the house phone--and Glen’s epic blood geyser of death scene. Once I found out, I couldn’t believe they did all that on a $1.8 Million budget. Nowadays, you can’t even buy a toothbrush with that kind of loot, let alone make a movie even half as great as A Nightmare on Elm Street. Then again, if you had Gregg Fonseca (production design) and Anne H. Ahrens (set decorator), then maybe I could see it happening.

Furthermore, New Line Cinema with Robert Shaye at the helm made this movie possible. I believe this was their first film production, so kudos to them. On the other hand, I read that Shaye modified Wes Craven’s original conclusion where Nancy destroys Freddy forever. I understand leaving the movie open for more money to be made, but for such a timeless piece, I prefer Wes Craven’s ending instead of what appeared in theatres.

What about you guys?

1 comment :

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 26, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Heather Langenkamp was such a hot babe 30 years ago.