My Top 10 Favorite Scary Movies Number 03: A Nightmare on Elm Street

 

“One, two, Freddy's coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.”

 

        - The Little Children

 

       

        After the apocalypse when the human race is making its new myths and legends one of them will inevitably be the dream monster. Unlike a lot of the movies on my list this one touches something primal in us, something from the days when we roamed the grasslands and slept high in the trees so the lions wouldn’t eat us. A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t affect me so strongly because I think it can happen or because it haunts my dreams. It’d because at its core it’s just a damn good movie.

        My cousin Renee was the first person to ever tell me about A Nightmare on Elm Street and its terrifying antagonist Freddy Krueger. She was about ten years older than me, she still is but that’s not germane to this conversation, and is the younger sister of my cousin Lenny you jump started my comic book collection. (Sorry Lenny I’ll never be able to call you Sam with a straight face, not gonna happen).

        I was staying the night with their mother, my Aunt Dorothy, the weekend Renee saw the movie and all she did for the next couple of weeks was tell me how terrifying it was and that her friends had had to help her out of the theater. I was intrigued by the idea of a movie scaring somebody I knew so bad she’d lost the ability to walk under her own power.

        I wanted to see the movie bad.

        I pestered but was told that under no circumstances would I be allowed to see it. Fast forward several months and the movie was released for rental on VHS (kids ask your grandparents to explain) and it was my middle brother, then my only brother, who convinced my mom to rent it. I was staying with a friend that weekend and did not get to watch it until I came home.

        When I did it was glorious.

        The movie was terrifying, it was smart, it was clever, and it had a dark humor the later installments would unfortunately substitute with one liners and slapstick. I was enthralled and watched it three time before mom too it back to the video store next to the Ben Franklins (anyone remember those?).

        Over the years I’ve owned the movie in multiple formats over many platforms. It holds up remarkably well for a movie now over 30 years old and shot on a ridiculously small budget. There’s a genius to A Nightmare on Elm Street few, if any, horror movie can claim.

        For all of its awesomeness the movie never really scared me.

        Yes you read that. While I found every aspect of the movie scary to one degree or another the film itself entertained me too much to terrify me. I never worried Freddy Krueger would invade my dreams or that I would die in my sleep. But with that being said I can recognize what people find so scary it’s paralyzing in this movie and I love it.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American supernatural slasher horror film written and directed by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film stars Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers who are stalked and killed in their dreams (and thus killed in reality) by Freddy Krueger. The teenagers are unaware of the cause of this strange phenomenon, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago.

 

Craven produced A Nightmare on Elm Street on an estimated budget of just $1.8 million, a sum the film earned back during its first week. An instant commercial success, the film went on to gross over $25 million at the United States box office. A Nightmare on Elm Street was met with rave critical reviews and went on to make a very significant impact on the horror genre, spawning a franchise consisting of a line of sequels, a television series, a crossover with Friday the 13th, beyond various other works of imitation; a remake of the same name was released in 2010.

 

The film is credited with carrying on many tropes found in low-budget horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, originating in John Carpenter's 1978 horror film Halloween, including the morality play that revolves around sexual promiscuity in teenagers resulting in their eventual death, leading to the term "slasher film". Critics and film historians argue that the film's premise is the question of the distinction between dreams and reality, which is manifested in the film through the teenagers' dreams and their realities. Critics today praise the film's ability to transgress "the boundaries between the imaginary and real", toying with audience perceptions.

 

Plot

An unknown character in a boiler room fashions a glove with knives on four of the fingers then stalks high school student Tina Grey who appears there in her nightgown. He attacks her and she awakens from a horrific nightmare with slashes in her nightgown identical to the pattern the knived glove would have made. Unnerved by the encounter, Tina is unable to fall back to sleep. The next morning she confides in her friend Nancy Thompson and her boyfriend Glen Lantz about the nightmare. Nancy recalls a nursery rhyme about a boogieman named Freddy, but they shrug it off as a weird dream. That night, unable to sleep alone, Tina has Nancy and Glen come over to spend the night where the details of Tina's dream intrigues Nancy, as she had a similar dream. Upon describing him, Glen's attention is piqued as Tina realizes that Nancy's dream stalker was the same one she had seen. Tina's boyfriend Rod Lane crashes the sleepover to reconcile for an earlier argument, and he and Tina have sex in her mother's bedroom while Nancy and Glen sleep in separate rooms.

 

After she falls asleep, Tina is again stalked by the killer who toys with her relentlessly before going in for the kill. As she struggles in her dream, her terror awakens Rod, who witnesses slashes appearing on Tina's body before she is dragged along the wall to the ceiling. Her screams awaken Nancy and Glen who can't enter the room. Tina falls to the bed dead and Rod escapes through the window to find out what happened, thus insinuating him in the murder. Nancy is questioned by her father Lt. Don Thompson at the police station and she explains to her parents about the nightmares and that Tina had predicted she was going to die. The next morning, Rod professes his innocence to Nancy before he is caught and arrested by the police. At school, Nancy falls asleep during class and is led down to the school's boiler room by Tina's body bag. She is approached by a man calling himself Freddy, but Glen's advice to tell herself she's only dreaming doesn't work and she burns her arm on a steam pipe, wakening violently in class. Seeing a burn mark on her arm from her dream, she becomes afraid of falling asleep. This fails when Nancy falls asleep in the bathtub and is nearly drowned by Freddy. After Rod tells her about his nightmares, which coincide with hers and Tina's, she has Glen stand watch over her while she sleeps. She sees Freddy in Rod's jail cell in her dream before she is attacked by him. Glen having fallen asleep she is unable to be woken up by him until her alarm clock goes off. The two of them rush to the jail to check on Rod and find that he's been hanged in an apparent suicide.

 

At Rod's funeral, Nancy's mother Marge insists on finding psychiatric help for Nancy who now refuses to go to sleep. At a dream clinic, she has a particularly violent dream and when she is awakened, she has a streak of white in her hair and a bloody slash on her arm. To Marge's horror, Nancy discovers she pulled an old hat out of her dream, which Marge seems to recognize. Marge begins to drink heavily and puts security bars on the house, when Nancy questions Marge who she's protecting her from, Marge tells Nancy about a child killer named Freddy Krueger who escaped charges on a technicality. In retaliation, the parents of the neighborhood burned him alive in the plant he used to work in, she shows Nancy his gloved weapon and she realizes that somehow Freddy is now taking vengeance on the parents of the neighborhood by killing their children in their dreams. She works with Glen to come up with a plan for Nancy to take Freddy out of her dream like she did with his hat and for him to knock him out when she does. But their respective parents keep them apart; (for her safety and keeping Glen from her influence). Freddy kills Glen by pulling him through his mattress, resulting in a geyser of blood that his parents discover. When the police arrive, Nancy calls her father and propositions him to break into the house in 20 minutes, giving her enough time to find Freddy in her dreams and pull him out. He facetiously agrees, and Nancy sets up booby traps throughout the house. After she falls asleep, she goes searching for Freddy, finding him within the last minute of her alarm and pulling him from her dream.

 

Freddy chases Nancy around her house as she tries calling for help. She successfully tricks him into every trap and lights him on fire before the police arrive, following his footsteps upstairs, Nancy and Don find him smothering Marge with his flaming body and he puts them out. When the blanket is pulled back, Marge's burned body sinks into the bed and disappears. As Don leaves the room, Nancy realizes Freddy isn't dead. Following advice Glen gave her earlier about turning her back on her nightmare, she resists the urge to fight him and turns her back. Demanding her mother and friends be brought back. Freddy weakens and vanishes and Nancy steps out into daylight; apparently the next morning, where her mother is sober and plans to give up drinking and Glen, Rod and Tina pull up in Glen's car to go to school. As she gets in, the car gains a life of its own. Nancy screams for her mother as the car starts to drive away, and Marge is suddenly grabbed through the door's window and pulled through.

 

        It was inevitable that with the phenomenal success of the first Elm Street movie, relative to what it cost, that there would be sequels. And like all sequels some of them are amazing (Aliens) and some of them are total shit (I’m looking at you Star Trek 5). The one thing I can say about every one of the Elm Street installments is that they are fun. Some of them are good and some of them are very bad but none of them quite match the original film.

        A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was the first sequel and it is without a doubt the strangest of the crop. With its homosexual undertones, a risk for the time, and the attempt to turn Freddy into a generic slasher villain it was not well received by some of the more hardcore fans. Still it was a fun movie and worth a watch. On a side note if there can be an official cannon of Nightmare movies part 2 is one of two installments people tend to omit. That being said it’s a very well made movie in its own right.

        A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors is in many ways the high water mark of the series. The story of a group of kids, the “Last” elm street children trapped in an asylum as Freddy picks them off was brilliant. With the return of the Nancy character and an initial script by Wes Craven there’s a reason most of us hold this one up as the second best Nightmare movie.

        A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master is a direct sequel to part three with the surviving kids all returning and being killed in the beginning of the film. I really like this movie but it was the first one where the series began to show it’s seams. It’s formulaic and is the movie where Freddy really turns into a one liner machine. That being said it’s fun and entertaining. Nightmare 4 was also the first American movie done by action movie master Renny Harlin and he shows his skills in every scene.

        A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child is in some ways the Halloween 2 of the Nightmare series. It picks up right where four leaves off and finishes the arc started in three. If Harlin had come back and directed this movie it could have been as good as part four but he didn’t and the movie suffered. It’s not my least favorite Nightmare movie but only because the performances of the actors saved it.

        Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is the second movie people try to forget as part of the cannon. It is my least favorite of the movies but I don’t hate it. The movie is stupid but it’s a playful stupid and Robert Englund looks like he’s having a really good time playing Freddy in this one.

        Wes Cravens A New Nightmare is a strange and scary movie. I don’t love it but I really like it. To me it’s actually the scariest of the series and kicks all kind of ass.

        Freddy vs. Jason is a movie I talked about at length in the Friday the 13th installment so all I’m gonna say is go read that one. But I love this movie. I love mash ups in general and this is one of the greats.

        Freddy’s Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street The Series aired at the end of the 1980’s and was a horror anthology hosted by Freddy himself in the wraparound segments. The show had some high moment and it also had some really dumb ass episodes. I loved it and I miss it. I wish it’d be made available on streaming or even DVD.

        A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) was the movie nobody asked for and very few appreciated. If there’d never been an Elm Street series this movie would have been hailed as an excellent horror movie, instead people hate it. I like it, but I also like to dip my pizza in ketchup so take that endorsement for what you will.

        Have you heard of the documentary Never Sleep Again? If not and you have any interest in Freddy Krueger and his wild ride you have to go to Amazon, or iTunes, or Netflix and watch this four hour epic. It is the most amazing doc about a movie series I’ve ever watched and that includes The Lord of the Rings Appendices.

        Yes I said that and I stand by it!

 

 

        Okay number three in the bag. Next time we hit number two and we enter a world of pure evil. But what would you expect from a creation by John Carpenter?

 

 

- Josh

 

 

 

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Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books (www.palladiumbooks.com) and Third Eye Games (www.thirdeyegames.net) before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press (www.gwspress.com). I also work for Fat Goblin Games (www.fatgoblingames.com). In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!