Since I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing all of the Friday the 13th films last month and you guys also seemed to enjoy reading the posts for Fridays in October, I thought it would be fun to continue this theme throughout the holiday season. What am I doing for November? You guessed it: The Nightmare on Elm Street films. Of the major horror franchises, I am actually the least familiar with Freddy Krueger movies. So I am really looking forward to this retrospective, hoping to straighten out the confusion in my memory, as I can never remember which kills happened in which film. Let’s begin with the classic…
Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven’s original and frightening concept was too good not to become the most media exploited horror series throughout the 1980’s. A dream killer with a limitless imagination was a goldmine. Reality could be twisted in any direction the filmmakers wished. Additionally, Freddy Krueger himself provided a unique character to the cast of horror icons. Instantly recognizable and constantly spouting dark puns, Freddy was a welcome contrast to the silent, masked stalkers of the genre. Combine a killer with a sense of humor, a cool murder weapon, and a universe that has no bounds, and you get a franchise that has brought in over $300 million in box office revenue (if you include Freddy v. Jason, which I will not be reviewing for Thanksgiving on Elm Street). It also launched the success of New Line Cinema, which has become a major studio in the American film industry and is now a subsidiary of Warner.
Who's that skinny hobo dressed up for Christmas?
What was it about the first film that made it so special? In all honesty, I believe that Freddy and his abilities are more conceptually scary than actually scary in any of the films. If he had any chance of actually being a horrifying figure, it would be in Craven’s original. While every Freddy movie is full of awesome sight gags, there is one standout scene for me. I believe it is one of the most terrifying scenes in film history and probably what made Nightmare on Elm Street pop out to filmgoers. The first of Freddy’s kills, Tina’s death is brutal and effective. Flying around the room, crawling up the wall, covered in blood, screaming the most awful screams, and dropping from the ceiling to the bed with a lifeless thump, all the while the perpetrator is invisible. I remember being shocked by the visceral scene on my first viewing and it still holds up. Unfortunately, I don’t think the rest of the movie or the series ever lived up to that moment. Don’t take this the wrong way. I love Freddy and the Nightmare movies. They are so much fun and full of great scenes, blending comedy and the macabre quite well. However, I’m just not inclined to take them all that seriously.
The original Nightmare on Elm Street is a great film. It’s tightly paced, well-acted, exciting, and funny. Despite a low body count, there is plenty going on to keep you entertained. Unraveling the mystery behind Krueger and constantly battling sleep, the story moves along with ease. In some ways, it takes the simplicity of the other slasher icons and flips it on their heads. Nightmare on Elm Street removes some of the redundancy and rationalism from the horror genre, but still maintains the everyday-people-in-an-everyday-neighborhood mentality. Indeed, the title itself implies that the fantastical could occur along any one of America’s white-picket-fenced streets.
The average American girl...but with better hair.
Accompanying that attitude is a through line regarding the relationship of parents and their teenagers. There is much more interaction between the characters and their parents than in most horror films, where parents were often removed from the equation due to circumstance or location. Not here. Parents play an integral role in the story. Nancy’s mom hides the truth from her and doesn’t take her fear of sleeping seriously. Glen can’t be honest with his mother about sleeping at Tina’s house and she doesn’t approve of listening to music and watching TV at the same time. Nancy’s father is quick to blame teenage immorality on Tina’s death before listening to the plight of his own daughter. The parents of Elm Street are oblivious to the blatant threat that their children face. Even more consequential is that the parents are the source of this threat—the makers of their children’s demise. In an effort to protect their children, the parents created a monster that would later destroy them. The social commentary is clear: Parents obsesses over their children, while simultaneously not paying enough attention to them.
"Dear, I think we should wait till we get home to spank her."
As a conclusion, I thought it would be fun to share some trivia on the original film. I learned some new things while researching and I hope you do too. Keep in mind, I’m not crazy into the series like some, so exciting trivia for me may be old news to you.
-Elm Street is not mentioned in the film at all, except in the titles during the opening and closing of the film.
-The red and green colors of Freddy’s sweater were chosen because they are the most difficult for the eye to process when put together. So Freddy is definitely not easy on the eyes.
-Jennifer Grey, Demi Moore, Courtney Cox, and Tracey Gold all auditioned for the role of Nancy. I wonder if their hair was better than Heather Langenkamp’s at the time.
-In a deleted scene, it is revealed that all of the plagued teenagers had a sibling that was killed by Freddy when he was alive.
-Both Tina and Glen’s death scenes were filmed in the same revolving, upside-down-room set.
-Heather Langenkamp spent 12 hours in the water for the bathtub scene.
-The original glove used in the film is apparently missing, having been last seen in Evil Dead II.
-A Canadian serial killer, Peter Woodcock, who was responsible for the deaths of three children, changed his name to David Michael Krueger in 1982. Craven says this is just a coincidence.
-Walt Disney Productions had originally expressed interest in the Nightmare on Elm Street script on the condition that Craven tone down the film…thankfully, he did not.
-500 gallons of blood were used for the production. I’m sure we all know which scene required 99% of that blood.