Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

One..two, Freddy's coming for you
Three..four, better lock the door
Five..six, grab a crucifix
Seven..eight, better stay up late
Nine..ten, never sleep.....again
- Creepy Little Jump-Roping Girls

My Nightmare Marathon begins with one of the true, great classics.  The original. Accept no subsitutes. ; )   Full Disclaimer: This one of my favorite movies of all time and yes, I may be a little bias. But hell, it's just awesome.

For the two of you who have never seen it, here's a quick recap. Pretty girl-next-door Nancy and her friends Glen, Rod and Tina have all started having the same dream about a killer in a red and green sweater with claws on one hand.  Gore and mayhem ensue.  I don't think I need to recap more than that. It's too well-known.

So there's a lot to cover here but let's start with the characters. This is one of those movies where oddly enough, you root for ALL of the kids - and while that has a lot to do with the writing and directing, the actors do the bulk of the work. Tina could have easily been another bimbo character who gets knocked off in the first part of the film, but instead she's sympathetic as a girl who just hasn't lived that great a childhood due to a trashy upbring. Her boyfriend Rod isn't some jerk meathead, instead, he's a tragic figure who is torn apart by his inability to save Tina. Depp is pretty, no doubt about it, but his character Glen genuinely loves Nancy and shows the absolute confusion a high school boy would once his seemingly normal girlfriend starts going a bit whacko.

And let's talk about Nancy.

Most of you regular readers of my blog know I love to talk about the monster.  But truth be told, this isn't Freddy's film. Nope. This film belongs to Nancy.  But before you start spitting at your computer screen, sending me ugly hate mail or kicking Muffy the cat in frustration - let me explain. Freddy is horrible, yes.  But one of the reasons he's so horrible is because the heroine is so..not.  Nancy is an everyday high school girl next door type, you know, the one who sat next to you in math class.  But she's also a bit more. When problems need to be solved, this girl-next-door will cut a bitch if necessary.  She's into survival.  And let's face it, her parents are pretty much useless, so she's used to fending for herself.  And she's the only one with enough gumption to take on Freddy once his claws come a-tearing.

Now, let's talk Freddy.

Freddy is the scariest monster. Forget all the joke-cracking, cracking-wise Freddies of the later movies. This Freddy doesn't do that. Yes, he likes to toy with his victims a bit, but this Freddy is blue collar all the way. Is he clever? Sure. Does he prey on his victims before dispatching them? Yes. Is he a  lovable nut?  Nope. This guy just wants to kill.  Robert Englund plays the part to such perfection that it's near impossible to imagine another actor playing the part in this movie. He's frightening, his face is burned (and he has arguably the best make-up in this one), his clothes are distinctive, his hat is dirty.  His claws look homemade.  He IS Freddy and this first movie for me is the DEFINITIVE Freddy. He wants to kill you.  And he will.

Finally, let's talk dreams.  Dreams are weird.  They might be as symbolic as a hot dog falling into a donut hole or as odd as a pound of cheddar attacking you, but it's okay because you are wielding the magic dog collar of doom.  Okay, my dreams are weird, but you get the point. This is the only Nightmare I remember in which the nightmares were....well, real nightmares. Inexplicably, a goat crosses the street in front of you, a rose trellis falls on your face and you wake to find it's not there, your legs are stuck and you're unable to move. We've all had strange things that happen to us in dreams like that, and the fact that these dreams are so well-realized shows that Wes Craven and the gang really knew what having a nightmare felt like.

Yes, you can find fault with this movie if you try. Heather's acting is a little wooden from time to time but it doesn't distract from her wonderful character. Ronee Blakely's over-the-top performance may be off-putting to some but it's fun how awesomely quotable she is. And a lot of people have trouble with the ending but I love it. After all, nightmares don't wrap up their storylines in neat packages before you wake. They don't have an ending.

Just from the beginning of my review, you can tell the love I have for the film. I could go on and on about the music, the style, the plot. There are so many iconic moments in this film, it's hard to mention them all: Tina getting slashed in the rotating room, Tina in a body bag, the spray of blood from Johnny Depp's bed, Nancy answering the tongue phone, Freddy's face coming out of the wall. Ask any fan and they'll all have their favorite moments.  The cast is great, the story is imaginative and this has the original Freddy as he was meant to be: down, dirty and killer. All a horror movie fan can ask for.  Until Part II, pleasant dreams....

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • Tina's first dream which is so much like my own it's scary.  You dream about goats too, right?
  • Ceiling death and the body splat!
  • Screw your hallpass!
  • I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy. 
  • Okay, if it made the coroner throw up, you know Depp's death was bad.
  • The ending. I know people hate it but I just adore it.  Dreams are weird, mmkay?
Fun Facts Kids!
  • Depp was cast at the insistence of Wes Craven's daughter who knew a good thing when she saw it.
  • The rotating room used for Tina's death was used later in Glen's death scene. The room turned when it shouldn't have and everybody got drenched in red water. A crew member was even electrocuted (but he was okay).  Oddly enough it worked for the scene and they only did one take.
  • Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit) has a small part as the doctor in the sleep clinic.
  • Heather Langenkamp asked to take the tongue phone home with her - everyone was too polite to ask why.
  • Wes Craven wrote the movie after reading a news story about a kid who refused to sleep for days, thinking he would die. When his parents finally made him sleep, he died.  
Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment!

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