Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nightmare On Elm Street ('84)

I remember first learning, on the playground of Talbot Elementary, that there existed movies whose sole purpose was to scare the crap out of you.  The couple of my friends who were lucky enough to have parents who were oblivious to what they watched on television would regale us with stories of ax-wielding, hockey mask-wearing behemoths terrorizing teenagers at Crystal Lake, and before I had even seen one, I was in love with horror movies.

As I began seeing the trailers for the newest Nightmare, predisposing it as crap and proclaiming it as inferior to Craven's masterpiece, I realized it had been at least a decade since I'd seen the '84 classic, and wondered if it still held up 25 years later.  So with a rainy Tuesday night and Netflix Instant, I turned off the lights, got out the whiskey and weed, and settled in for a little historical horror.

I'm quite sure no one needs a synopsis of Nightmare, but truth be told, there were some plot points that I don't remember from the first go around, and that made my reunion with Fred that much more enjoyable.  Back in the day, I remember not giving a shit about the 'how' and 'why' of Fred Krueger, and being more concerned with how the hell he was going to slice up his next victim.  This time around I found myself paying closer attention to Nancy's mom's story about the neighborhood parents banding together to hunt down and kill alleged kiddie murderer, Fred Krueger by cornering him and setting him on fire.  But it was never explained why Fred used a glove with knives for fingers, and why he only showed up in his victims' dreams.  But I don't really care why, because it enables Kreuger to kill in increasingly bizarre and disturbing ways, which may ultimately be the 'why'.  For example, how else would you explain why Freddy's chasing Tina down an alley with ridiculously elongated arms, other than that it's a fucking dream so why wouldn't he elongate his arms (for some reason, that image above all other fucked up images from this film sticks with me the most, that and the goat).

A Nightmare On Elm Street still stands strong as ONE of the best horror movies of all time (but not THE best; that distinction in my opinion currently belongs to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  It does however have arguably THE best scene in horror film history.  And I of course welcome all dissenters to weigh in on this, but THE quintessential scene in horror film history unfolds as follows:  after realizing that they're all three having the same nightmare about a creep in a fedora with fucked-up fingers and face, teen friends Nancy (Heather Langenkamp, older sister on that 80's show Just the 10 of Us) and Johnny Depp stay overnight with Tina when her mom goes out of town (i.e. requisite horror movie sleepover).  Their jock -friend Rod shows up and plays some spooky pranks on the three, then goes upstairs to have loud requisite sex with Tina, while chaste couple Nancy and Johnny Depp stay downstairs.  After they all fall asleep, the inevitable shit hits the fan.  Freddy appears and watches Tina in her sleep through rubber wallpaper, then goads her into the dark alley behind her house by throwing things at her window and creepily calling out her name.  She is startled by a goat.  And then Freddy makes his move, chasing her down the alleyway, blocking her escape with the aforementioned Mr. Fantastic arms, and cornering her in her backyard where he slices off his fingers in front of her just for shits and giggles.  She tries to make it back inside, but he grabs her and a struggle ensues, which we then see is taking place in her dream as she begins to thrash about next to a sleeping Rod.  Rod wakes up, pulls off the bed-sheet and Tina's stomach is slashed open by four invisible finger-knives as she's pulled screaming by an unseen force, up the wall to the ceiling and falls to the bed in a bloody heap.  Classic.

This and so many other iconic moments in Nightmare (Freddy's hand surfacing between Nancy's legs during her bubble-bath; Johnny Depp getting sucked into his bed then spewed back out in a gore geyser), coupled with the semi-intelligent storyline, if not thoroughly explained, make for one of the most inspired and inspiring horror films ever made, and certainly the best of Craven's and of the 1980's.

5 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment