A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming she won't wake up at all...
Year of Release: 1984
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Wes Craven
Heather Langenkamp ... Nancy Thompson
Amanda Wyss ... Christina 'Tina' Gray
Jsu Garcia ... Rod Lane
Johnny Depp ... Glen Lantz
John Saxon ... Lt. Donald Thompson
Ronee Blakley ... Marge Thompson
Robert Englund ... Fred Krueger
Lin Shaye ... Teacher
Joe Unger ... Sgt. Garcia
Mimi Craven ... Nurse
Nancy is having grisly Nightmares. Something monstrous wants to kill her. Meanwhile, her high school friends, who are having the very same dream, are being slaughtered in their sleep by the hideous fiend of their shared nightmare. When the police ignore her explanation, she herself must confront the killer in his shadowy realm.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, the movie that reminds us that, while Freddy's glove may very well be God in a dark alleyway, in highschool, the hall pass is God. Fuggin' hall pass Gestapo. Serta hates this one, just devastating for business. I mean, who's gonna go buy a new bed when they know they're not even gonna sleep on the old busted one they've got? Porn producers maybe, still, they're a very small segment of the 2 - 116 male/female demographic. Ain't nobody countin' sheep, they're all too busy countin' stab wounds. Coping with all the insomniacs is hard enough on the purse strings. Those people don't even use the beds they have, just fall asleep for 15 minutes at a time in their armchairs watchin' C-SPAN at 3:45am. But I suppose one man's burden is another man's asset. Folgers loves Nightmare on Elm Street, for obvious reasons. I suppose you just can't please everyone. Wonder why nobody else talks about this stuff, it's really pretty obvious when you think about it. But anyhow, by this point Wes Craven was still making good stuff for the loyal fanbase before he went all Scream on us. He'd already taught us why not to take refuge with the parents of the girl you just butchered, and why not to drive down dirt roads in the desert when you're draggin' an RV behind you. So it's pretty likely he'll have some useful input to contribute when a guy that's got a side of beef for a face starts invadin' your dreams an drawin' blueprints for a 1978 Dodge Dart all over you with a Ginsu glove.
First of all, there's absolutely no point in having sex. EVER. Unless somebody that doesn't wanna know about it has to listen to it. An you know this is the case cause the girl in the movie that's doin' all the vaginal calisthenics makes sure her friends aren't gonna bail on her before goin' upstairs to work the pogo balls. Second, most girls get really freaked out if you watch 'em sleep. So when you find one that actually asks you to watch her sleep, be advised that she's a keeper, cause she's gotta be pretty kinky. An third, Johnny Depp is quite possibly the only man on Earth to look worse in a belly shirt than Stevie Richards. But what I've gotta know, and a lot of movies, even non horror movies do this, why do kids always wanna have sex in their parents' beds? What the fuck is WRONG with these people? Is there some kind of added thrill knowing that this is the spot where your Dad pumps your Mom's rump? I dunno about you, but not only does that not excite me, but if this sort of thing were to come up, I get the feeling the monastery would start lookin' real good as an alternative. An what happens if your parents actually fooled around earlier that day? Then you're rollin' around in their wet spot. Do you so called normal people find that sexy? Cause I've given this a lot of thought, an this doesn't appeal to me at all. An the other thing, it's not like they couldn't have sex in one of their own beds. It's not as though it's the parents' bed or the soap on a rope. These people consciously CHOOSE their parents' bed. Is the sex just not the same if you don't wake up at some point with the distinct smell of middle aged lust hangin' in the air? Sure, it's somewhat masked by Hi-Karate an scented candles, but it's there, an you know it's there. I'm probably not ever gonna be able to make sense of this an that's just as well cause I think I'm gonna have to vomit as it is.
The movie begins with a set of hands that look kinda like pepperoni pizza when you stretch the cheese out real far buildin' a real gnarly lookin' glove with Ginsu knives attached to 'em. Then we pan up to the floor above where this hapless blonde girl's runnin' down a hallway til she descends some stairs an finds her way into a boiler room. It's a pretty scary place, but I get the impression she was runnin' cause she needed to use the can, so she clenches as best she can an perserveres onward, only the glove we saw a minute ago's scrapin' against pipes an makin' sounds like a train that just slammed on its brakes til whatever it is that's wearin' it grabs ahold of the blonde airhead (Tina) an she wakes up sweatin' like Robert Pattinson when he realizes his body guards didn't show up for his meet'n greet with the fans. The next morning she an her friends; Nancy, Rod, an Johnny Depp are walkin' to school. Only Rod gets real mad when she starts talkin' bad about his lil friend an he has to go punch small animals until he feels better. Later that evening, Nancy an Johnny are stayin' over at Tina's place. Only Johnny has to rig up this elaborate setup involving a sound effect tape so his Mom'll think he's with a friend that lives near the airport. Which is pretty damn clever, unfortunately, Johnny is not quite clever enough to hit the stop button once his Mom's convinced an the tape starts playin' all kinda horrible noises like there's a gang war goin' on outside an he has to do some pretty fast talkin' to save his bacon. Then Tina an Nancy start discussin' their dreams an realize they're both havin' dreams about the same creepy lookin' guy. That sort of thing's normal these days, cause now, the guy is Johnny an it's a lot more than just two women dreamin' about him. But at the time, this was highly out of the ordinary. But before too long they start hearin' noises outside, so Johnny has to go outside, take the point, an threaten to make the intruder watch Crybaby if they don't get the heck outta there. But just when Johnny starts to think he's got the situation taken care of, Rod cross checks him right outta his Nike Air Force 1s an scares the bejezus outta everybody. Then Rod an Tina go upstairs so he can make her call him The Ramrod an squeal like a 1982 Trans Am with a loose fan belt while Nancy an Johnny do their best not to puke. Later on, Tina wakes up to a noise outside an goes to investigate, only when she gets to this alleyway the guy with the pepperoni pizza face starts walkin' towards her while his arms go all Stretch Armstrong an start stratchin' the walls of the buildings on either side of the alley an makin' noises like somebody stuck a cookie sheet in a wood chipper an Tina has to run like an evolutionary biology teacher in West Virginia.
About the time she gets to her front door the pizza boy catches up to her an starts cuttin' off his fingers just for giggles. She's asleep, of course, and back inside Rod's watchin' her spaz out all over the bed like an 8 year old that drank a 6 pack of Mountain Dew an ate a couple quarts of cookie dough ice cream. Which is pretty weird in itself, but then she starts gettin' sliced up like Oscar Meyer lunch meat an floatin' around the room til she ends up on the ceiling shootin' out blood like Dracula projectile vomiting, eventually coming to rest on the floor with a thunderous splat. Suffice it to say, Rod is confused, and soiled, but due to his general delinquency, he has to flee the scene cause it doesn't look real good for him if the cops show up. About that time Johnny an Nancy bust in an... well it looks like Rod doesn't quite understand that the phrase "slay the babes" is just an expression. A little later on at the police station, John Saxon shows up an he's pretty much been in a bad mood since 1968, so this doesn't bode well for Johnny an Nancy. John is Nancy's Dad, an he wants to know what the crap happened an what it is women see in this Depp guy. So Nancy tells John that she doesn't think Rod did it an that Tina was havin' dreams about this kinda thing happenin' an by this time John realizes she's so looney tunes that if he wants to start yellin' he's gonna have to yell at Nancy's Mom cause this is goin' nowhere. The next morning, Nancy's on day two of her sleep strike an heads for school, but en route she's ambushed by Rod who tries to explain that he didn't do it an that he needs some tips on gettin' all that grease outta his hair. Unfortunately for Rod, John was usin' Nancy for bait an his guys are on Rod like garbage on MTV. Nancy's pissed. Later, at school, Nancy falls asleep mid lesson an starts seein' Tina's corpse inside a clear shower curtain an follows the blood trail downstairs, into the boiler room. Then the guy with the spam casserole face shows up an scares the tar outta her til she has enough presence of mind to stick her arm on a hot pipe an develop third degree burns, but more importantly, wake up. Once she wakes up she starts freakin' out like she's OD'd on Prozac til she realizes where she is an, well, suffice it to say, nobody's gonna absorb much about Shakespeare now. So then she decides to go see Rod in the crossbar hotel an Rod tells her it was like somebody was in the room with 'em when Tina was gettin' slashed up, but he couldn't see anybody an he's scared cause he knows what happens to pretty boys in jail. After that, Nancy has to go home cause she's gettin' a contact high from Rod's hair fumes.
When she gets home she gets in the bath, but pretty quick she falls asleep an the Ginsu glove pops up between her ankles like there's a whole family of Jawses comin' after her an pretty quick she gets dragged down into the briny deep an has to pull herself out before her Mom kicks the door in an sees her what she's been doin' with the shower head. That tears it. Err, well it almost tore it, but the point is she's done sleepin'. So she grabs some Trucker's Choice brand stay-alert capsules an goes to her room to watch The Evil Dead for awhile. But about that time Johnny sneaks over to check on her an she starts havin' a genius moment. She tells Johnny to keep an eye on her while she goes to sleep, an if it looks like shit's startin' to get real, to wake her up. So she falls asleep an goes lookin' for the guy with Hamburger Helper Lasagna face, but first she has to make sure Johnny's still awake. Johnny says he is. So they go check out the jail to take Rod a carton of smokes to bribe the screws, only when they get there Tina's corpse shows up again an melts into a big pile of indigo snakes an pretty quick nine inch nails shows up an chases 'em both back to Nancy's house, only when she tries to run upstairs the staircase turns into tapioca pudding. When she reaches her room, she tries to go to her happy place an wake up, only the guy with the metasharpals busts outta her mirror an then they wrestle almost as violently as Tina an Rod used to til her alarm clock goes off. Johnny's asleep, an Nancy's about to shit a brick. Seriously, what a useless scrub this Depp guy is. Nancy aughta rip his nuts off an feed 'em to 'im at gunpoint. But before she can her Mom shows up an Johnny has to hide an then they go to the police station to see Rod. John's there though, an his surly questioning expends just enough time that Rod gets noosed up in his sleep an hung from the ceiling like a fly strip til his eyes roll back like the odometer on a Volkswagon bug that just hit 1,000,000 miles. After Rod's funeral, Nancy tries to give John a description of the guy with the gnarly nails but he don't wanna hear it an Mom takes her to a sleep clinic so they can hook her up to a seismograph an see if she's havin' any earthquakes in her brain. It's not long before Nancy starts goin' ape shit again an by the time Mom an the doctor can wake her up she's got serious razor burn on her arm an something a little harder to explain. An old dirty hat, that she pulled out of her dream. Later, at home, Nancy wants to know if Mom knows anything about the guy who's screwin' around in her dreams. She knows his name cause he sewed it into the hat, and probably his underwear. Though those would be a lot harder to get ahold of.
Mom plays dumb until Nancy starts hecklin' her about her alcoholism an Mom ends up havin' to smack her for tellin' it like it is. But then she feels bad an tells her that Fred Krueger (duh, the pizza faced killer) can't get her cause he's dead an if she'd just take a nap she'd feel a lot better. I'm not sure if Mom's been watchin' the movie up to this point, but anyway, Nancy takes off to go see Johnny, only when she gets back there's bars up on all the windows of the house. God damn, how long was she gone? Well, it's not important, what is important, is that Mom's feelin' a little more chatty now an she takes Nancy downstairs an tells her that Fred used to kidnap kids an slice 'em up into Arby's Beef'n Cheddars. The prosecutor botched his trial though, so all the parents of the children he'd butchered got together an roasted him like a pork shoulder in his boiler room. She's even got Fred's tools to prove it. So against her better judgement, Nancy enlists Johnny's help again. This time she wants him to be in the room when she pulls Fred outta the dream so he can use his head for batting practice. Long story short, Johnny an Nancy's parents both run interference so they can't hook up an execute the plan. Unfortunately, she accidentally disables the phone after Johnny's Dad gives her the cold shoulder an starts blubberin' about how she won't be able to answer if Johnny calls. Ladies, the guy isn't gonna call, just stop waitin' by the phone, it's just pathetic. But someone does start callin', an it must be important cause the phone ain't even connected. So Nancy picks it up, only to have the bottom half turn into a tongue an slip it to her. Now, if women had this kinda phone they'd spend even more time near it, an they wouldn't give two shits if the guy ever called. Elsewhere, Johnny's fallen asleep, AGAIN, an this time he's gonna have to pay the Krueger cause he gets sucked down into his bed an pretty quick the hole erupts like Old Faithful an spawns a bloody tornado that splatters plasma from here to Cleveland. It's not too long before John shows up, an to put this in perspective there's so much blood upstairs that it's drippin' down through the ceiling into the living room. So John decides he'd better call Nancy since she's probably got serious sad face, an Nancy tells 'im she's gonna get the guy that did it, an that she needs 'im to be in her room in 20 minutes to club the bastard. John's still skeptical, an it doesn't seem like he's ever gonna get with it. But he tells his deputy to keep an eye on Nancy's window in case anything diabolical starts happenin'. So Nancy goes all Macaulay Culkin on the house, riggin' up traps for Fred, puts on her game face, an tucks herself in. Will not spoil the ending for the three poor suckers that haven't seen it.
And now, the hard part. What's to say about Elm Street that hasn't been said a zillion times in the past, and by people with more credibility than me? Nothing, really. So I'll try to filter out the less interesting crap at least. It's classic. It's spawned more sequels than most series can ever hope to. It's got one of, if not THE iconic horror villain. The series brought New Line Cinema back from the brink of financial ruin, after which, the company became known as "The House that Freddy Built". Consider, had there been no Nightmare on Elm Street, all the fantastic horror movies that New Line churned out during the 80s and early 90s, would never have come into existence. Scary thought. It's the movie that cemented Wes Craven as one of the legends of horror in the director's chair, cause even though he'd already done Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, though both are great movies, they lacked a certain degree of originality and more importantly, weren't all that accessible to the mainstream public. Particularly Last House on the Left. So realistically, Elm Street is more than just a movie. It's a dynasty, and no matter how silly the sequels ended up becoming, the original is immortal. It's got a fantastically original plot, atmosphere, pretty decent acting, extremely clever and original conventional special effects, atmosphere, is well written, has great direction, atmosphere, a catchy soundtrack, an amazing villain, awesome cinematography, and it's got some pretty respectable atmosphere too. Plus, Heather Langenkamp watches The Evil Dead in the middle of the movie. Which you can speculate is either a polite nod of approval, or a challenge to Sam Raimi, depending upon your point of view. I see nothing to suggest stupidity. Although it really dates back to The Hills Have Eyes featuring a torn poster from the movie Jaws. Sam Raimi, believing that it was a statement (and perhaps it was), took a poster from The Hills Have Eyes, tore it, and used it as a background piece in The Evil Dead. So Craven then uses a clip from The Evil Dead in Elm Street mid movie, like there's some kind of hilarious one upsmanship going on between the two of them. I may have to side with Craven on this one, I think Hills edges Evil Dead, ever so slightly. Anyway, stay tuned for a more detailed analysis.
As I mentioned above, the plot is fantastic. And original. Even by the 80s it was tough to write an original script, most everything had been done, so you can see why no one is capable of it now. It was tough 30 years ago. But Craven's script delivers, even though you may not know exactly how Krueger came by his power to enter people's dreams. They do explain it later in The Final Nightmare, but that bit of information I'll withhold for a later date. Besides, it's about the only reason to watch Freddy's Dead. So, the highest of marks for the plot, perfect score. The acting is above average, certainly. Not what you'd expect from a huge budget production, but certainly above average by 80s horror standards. It's kinda sad to see how far downhill poor Johnny Depp's career went after Elm Street, but at least he's got it to look back on with pride. I'm not going to bother providing resumes for Depp, Robert Englund or John Saxon because in regards to the latter two, most people should be pretty familiar with them. If you're not, then frankly, I'm embarrassed for you. Ronee Blakley (A Return to Salem's Lot), Heather Langenkamp (Shocker, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Wes Craven's New Nightmare), Amanda Wyss (The Graves, Son of Darkness: To Die For II, Black Magic Woman, Shakma, This House Possessed), Jsu Garcia (Candyman III, Predator 2), Charles Fleischer (Zodiac, Demon Knight, Bad Dreams, Deadly Friend, The Hand), Joseph Whipp (Scream, Death Spa, The Hidden, Chiller), Lin Shaye (Big Ass Spider, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, Asylum, Snakes on a Plane, 2001 Maniacs, The Hillside Strangler, Dead End, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Amityville: A New Generation, Critters, Critters 2, The Hidden, Alone in the Dark 1982), Joe Unger (Closed for the Season, Sutures, Altered, The Visitation, Night of the Scarecrow, Pumpkinhead II, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), Jack Shea (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3), Ed Call (Dark Night of the Scarecrow), David Andrews (The Horror Theater, Hannibal, Graveyard Shift), Jeff Levine (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, The Hidden, Stranded), Shashawnee Hall (Cursed), Ash Adams (Puppet Master 4), Leslie Hoffman (The Car). Some supporting favorites of mine in there, although their roles were pretty well irrelevant. Good acting though.
The special effects are fantastic, particularly the concept of the revolving room, that allowed them to do rather extraordinary things, with what's actually a pretty ordinary approach. But consider watching the movie during it's original run back in '84 when you hadn't seen documentary after documentary on the making of all these horror films. Pretty mind boggling stuff for it's time, and holds up well to this day, even knowing how they did it. The make up effects are pretty good for the most part, although the slash on what's supposed to be Amanda Wyss's chest isn't one of Mark Shostrom's finest moments. The tongue phone is pretty hokey too, but then, that's the idea. Overall, really good. The shooting locations are alright, but pretty simplistic. Most of the movie takes place inside the Elm Street house. I do have to say that the boiler room (which has a tendency to change in every movie) is not as good as boiler rooms used in some of the later movies. It works, although the shooting locations may be the low point for the movie. You've also got the school, the police station, and a few out in the open shots, not much worth writing home about. And lastly, the soundtrack. Really good soundtrack, if a little manic at times. No more manic than what's happening on the screen while it plays, however, and that's really all that matters. So in addition to all the tracks, which are probably providing the bulk of the atmosphere for the movie, there is of course, the iconic, simplistic, short little track that is reused in every sequel. Very creepy, and also rather ear pleasing. Not to mention the trademark children's rhyme, which is nothing more than a foreboding version of "One two, buckle my shoe". But it works. The other significant atmosphere generator, for anyone curious, is the lighting. Really good use of the lighting. Some movies show too much, others not enough, but they hit the sweet spot on this one. Bottom line, it's timeless, it's classic, top five greatest horror villain of all time for Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy Krueger. If you haven't seen it, you're a bad person an you should feel bad. In which case, remedy that an check it out.