Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Favorite Era: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

And here is where Wes Craven not only hit it out of the ballpark but out of the whole damn galaxy.  A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most fiendishly clever slasher films I have ever seen with an iconic villain and some genuinely scary moments that still send a shiver up my spine to this day.  The background on the film is easily accessible elsewhere (to say nothing of being more intelligently written than anything I could cobble together) so let's take a look.
  • Just a quick note about the studio logo, as much as I like the film reel logo New Line used for all those years, the logo here just works better for the film. Gritty and grimy fits the movie much better.
  •  From the opening sequence, you know you're in for something good.  Just something about the glove being put together is just great as a mood setter.  Having it segue right into Tina's (Amanda Wyss) nightmare makes it work even better.
  • What I really love is how thoughtfully Craven wrote the characters.  He gives us interesting, likable characters you really don't want to see get slashed to bits and even the adults are relatively well drawn.  For a slasher movie, that's bordering on miraculous.
  • Of course, we do get some obligatory stupidity from a few parents but with Nancy's mother (Ronee Blakely) it's because she's a drunk with a guilty conscience.  Even the parents of the Depp character, while pretty bad, are nothing like what we get in the sequels.  It helps that John Saxon is a good actor who can actually add dimension to the usual cop role.
  • Back to the teens, all four of them are good (you gotta love a movie where a young Johnny Depp gets sucked into his bed and mulched) but I really need to single out Heather Langenkamp who is one of the best Final Girls in slasher movie history.  As Nancy, she is smart, tough and resourceful but not so much that you forget the character is just a kid.
  • The sequence with Tina dreaming and eventually getting killed is just creepy as hell with Freddy appearing in the wall over Nancy before terrorizing poor Tina and his first appearance with unnaturally long arms.  It's a real tour de force and Craven directs it perfectly.  While his films can be sort of hit and miss, when he's on he's really on.
  • Freddy is at his scariest here, remaining in the shadows for the most part so you never really see exactly what he looks like.  Add in a bit of vocal enhancement to Robert Englund's great performance and it's easy to see why he became such an icon.  I also like David Miller's makeup for the character.  You don't really see that much, just enough to give you the willies.
  • There are just too many iconic moments to mention:  The tongue phone scene, Depp's bloody demise, the bathtub scene, all of these are horror classics.  I especially get a kick out of the creepy bit where Nancy dreams that she sees Tina's bloody corpse in a body bag right outside her classroom.  Damn!
  • Nancy's showdown with Freddy at the end is great as well.  It just plain works on all levels.  Heck, I even like the shock ending, even if it was tacked on.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a genuine classic of horror cinema.  With a smart script, expert direction and an iconic villain, it still stands as an eminently watchable spook fest.  Hell, even the sequels are worth checking out, with the exception of that awful remake from a few years ago.  Quite simply, this movie rocks.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.