11.09.2009

Thanksgiving on Elm Street Part 1



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.


Brilliant.

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.


14 comments:

  1. Cool post. This is one of those movies that is pretty freaking awesome taken alone, and then the rest of the series takes it all in a different (and for me, too comical) direction.

    I am holding out high hopes that the remake will get it all right.

    Cool choice for this month, by the way. I just found a DVD set at Wally World - the first four of these flicks in one set for $13!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The original movie takes the you die in your dreams premise to the max. So original and different from anything that came before it.

    My only gripe is the ending. The way Freddy gets "defeated" still grinds my gears.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post. I can't wait to read your take on the rest of the series. I don't think there is a franchise that started out so amazing, but dropped so much in uality as it went on (anything after 3 is near unwatchable). The first is so classic and holds up 25 years later.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "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"--- LOL! Great line.

    I really do enjoy this movie, too... I'll be interested to see by the end of the month which one is your favorite. I think mine is part 3. But not by much. I really enjoy the first 4 in the series a lot.

    JM

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree that the "pulled up the walls" death is chilling here, but the scene that always got me was an early shot of Freddy, running down one of those trademark shadowy alleys--LOPING down the alley, actually, in a weird, not-quite-natural way. Also, the scene in which he extends his arms to super-length while coming at his victim--it was just so WRONG, so nightmarish, it really sold the whole "otherworldly killer" thing and made him scary to me.

    Good points about the parents being the source of their children's demise, in the name of trying to protect them, and how their cover-up of the truth really does more harm than good. You think you're protecting your kids by lying to them, but such is seldom the case.

    ReplyDelete
  6. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 10, 2009 at 1:09 PM

    For me the entire "Nightmare on elm street" series revolves around that bit in part 3 with Penelope Sudrow and the television, i used to really fancy that bird, she was such a little darlin`.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great review and enjoyed the trivia. Freddy is definitely my favorite of the major 3 scary dudes.

    Has anyone noticed that the first time we see Freddy on screen, is when he's in the alley and his arms are real long and he looks ridiculous? I wondered if that actually scared anyone when this flick first came out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. JLG, I have never found Freddy himself to be scary, especially because of the introduction with the marionetted arms and than silly, bumbling run he uses to mock Tina.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Of all of the Slasher icons, I like Freddy the least for some reason, but I cant dispute how awesome the first and third films are. The revolving room scene is definitely one of the definitive moments in the entire genre, but growing up I could never forget the bed o' death. Love the trivia Becks, great review!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had forgotten how vicious this film really is. Its pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post. You gave me a lot of interesting trivia I didn't know! The first film is the best in the series, by far. It scared the hell out of me as a kid.

    I'm looking forward to your review of Part 2, which I just can't stand. It's as bad as Halloween 3, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. OH, no Chris O! How can you say that?! Part 2 is great!!!

    JM

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great write-up! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the others, especially parts 2, 3, and New Nightmare!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This movie is scary and great.

    I think Freddy's long armed version is frightening in the sense that the person he's terrorizing realizes she's in a world where the normal rules of reality don't apply.

    Freddy scares me to the point where he's appeared in at least one of my nightmares.

    Of course what the hell do I know, I like Halloween 3. :)

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget