Friday, October 17, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (USA, 1984) - Color, Director(s): Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 18]
Approx. 91 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 1 stars out of 5

We now know Freddy as that wisecracking maniac that kills you in hilarious ways inside your dreams but Freddy wasn't always played for laughs. In the first movie, he's played mostly in a serious manner as the film was supposed to be a straight horror. Wes Craven originally got the idea from news articles that the L.A. Times ran in the 70's about Asian refugees who were dying in their sleep after staying up for a couple days on end. They refused to sleep because of they would get horrible nightmares and eventually died in the middle of the night when they finally went to sleep. So Craven came up with a character that could kill you in real life if he got you in your dreams.

So in the movie, a group of teenagers are having the same nightmares but they don't know it yet. A girl named Tina (Amanda Wyss) is the one who's most freaked out by them, so she asks her friends to stay with her through the night. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp in his film debut), and Tina's boyfriend (Jsu Garcia) keep her company through the night. Tina is attacked in the middle of the night with her boyfriend in the bed right next to her. This is one of the best scenes in the entire movie because Tina crawls up the wall and onto the ceiling as she's being attacked. Nowadays, that would just be accomplished with CGI or some kind of camera trick but they actually built a rotating set to achieve this effect. They eventually figure out a guy named Fred Krueger is the one haunting their dreams. Krueger was a child murderer who got off on a technicality but the parents of the murdered children took the law into their own hands and burned him alive. Now he's back for revenge, killing the children of the people who killed him. Nancy is the one who figures out you can pull him out of the dreams. The most frustrating thing is that none of the adults believe her. Even after she pulls Freddy into the real world and is calling for help (she's screaming out the window that there's someone in the house with her) none of the police do anything to help her.

Freddy quickly became one of the most popular slasher movie villains of the 80's. Freddy is a total smart ass unlike Jason Voorhees or any of the other voiceless, lumbering slashers. There were a couple funny scenes in this movie but Freddy really starts developing his personality and a sense of humor in the later sequels. Freddy himself has become a horror icon alongside Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and the rest. There's a documentary dedicated to the franchise, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Freddy's glove has become almost as iconic as Jason's hockey mask, you can always find one in stores around Halloween. There are comics, toys, pillow cases, 900 number hotlines, even a Bollywood knock off. There was even a Nightmare on Elm Street video game in the late 80's on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Why do the knives come out of his fingers like that?

Nudity: Almost none at all. Some of the scenes are sexually suggestive but not much explicit nudity shown. There's a scene where Freddy drags Nancy under the water in the bathtub and we see her breasts momentarily.

Gore: There are some great scenes with plenty of blood in it. In the scene where Tina is killed, we see four slashes across her belly appear because she's being attacked by Freddy's gloved hand. The most famous scene of all though is Johnny Depp's bed scene. They used hundreds of gallons of fake blood for that scene and it really has to be seen to be believed.

Awesome: to the MAX! Wes Craven does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between the dream world and reality. The movie moves seamlessly between the two, so it's really shocking when something crazy happens and it turns out someone fell asleep. Also, Freddy doesn't just kill you, he likes to play with his victims first. He relishes in causing as much fear and terror in his victims before he finishes them off because the character is sadistic in nature. Robert Englund does an amazing job as Freddy and returns in all of the sequels, except for remake. Englund has become synonymous with the role. Apparently, Krueger is based on a hobo that scared Wes Craven when he was a kid and the name comes from a kid who used to bully Wes Craven. Nancy doesn't fuck around either, she learns to build booby traps with explosives after realizing she can pull Freddy out her dreams. Despite moving into horror/comedy territory later in the franchise, Freddy still managed to give tons of people nightmares. That's the beauty of the story, everyone can relate to it because we've all had bad dreams before. The story really stays with you long after the movie is over. Keep an eye out for Lin Shaye (Elise from Insidious) as Nancy's teacher.