10.18.2010

"Up Yours With A Twirling Lawnmower!"

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET:
Image from nisahukor.blogspot.com
In honor of getting into the Halloween spirit, I went all out. I decided to do an epic marathon for a first time watch of the movie franchise which taught us that children never, EVER miss a day of school, fathers are always hardassed and mothers are usually sleeping with the neighborhood, and every household must keep a bottle of the famed Stay Awake pills. That's right. A Nightmare on Elm Street, the 80s phenomenon directed by Wes Craven, made me scream, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me wear pants that swallowed my bellybutton. On to the real stuff. I've broken the franchise up into two parts: the good half (A Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 2) and the bad half (more or less everything else). For now, here are the good parts:

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
The only way this movie could've been more 80s is if Wes Craven Rickrolled me at the end. At yet, despite the fact that I was so into the fact that it was an hour and a half of pure 80s, I was actually surprised by how scary and creative some of the scenes were. Wes Craven introduces us to Elm Street, populated by the doe-eyed and doe-faced Tina Gray, her badboy boyfriend Nick, the plain "best friend" Nancy Thompson, and Nancy's boyfriend, Glen, the extraordinarily young, sweet, and even slightly nerdy Johnny Depp. That's right, Johnny Depp gets his first role in A Nightmare on Elm Street, possibly the only time he's every played the completely and utterly normal "good kid". 
The movie starts with Tina Gray, plagued with dreams of some creepy man with a hand of knife fingers. She wakes up with a start once he rips into her nightgown and finds that back in reality, her nightgown is slashed (to which her mother responds with a bit of comforting parental wisdom: "either cut your nails or stop having bad dreams. One of the other."). It's soon discovered that she's not the only one--all her friends seem to be having similar nightmares, and they shack up at her place for the night to comfort her. But the nightmare becomes real when Nancy falls asleep next to her boyfriend and ends up writhing on the ceiling poltergeist style and falls back into the bed, slashed to ribbons. Naturally, her creepy boyfriend Nick gets tossed in the pen since he inexplicably carries a switchblade in the middle of Stepford Suburbia. Here, the movie takes a turn I appreciate and the "sidekick" characters--Nancy and Glen--are suddenly at the forefront, taking the reigns of the movie.

Once you get passed the fact that Nancy can't act her way out of a paper bag, her character is actually pretty kickass. If there's one thing the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise gets right, it's that the women are always the ones who save the day. And Nancy is the first teenage girl to make some real proactive moves against Freddy Kruger, even at the risk of seeming insane. Speaking of, I didn't quite expect Freddy to be as frightening as he was. I mean, he's a pedophile who works in a boiler room and murders children. It doesn't get much worse than that. His weird elongated arms in his first introduction were definitely eerie, to the point where I wouldn't have minded them coming back later. But one of the best parts about this movie was the fact that it actually seemed like a nightmare. It had all the reoccurring elements of bad dreams, throwing in images that weren't so much in your face scary as they were just off and twisted. The scene in which Tina visits Nancy at school in a body bag and then is dragged down the hall by an invisible figure gave me chills (it's all in the arm flop). Another great touch was Nancy running up the stairs which kept breaking under her, dropping her feet into thick goo. Again, something very familiar about the dream quality of it. I half expected Cobb to jump in and steal Freddy's hat. 

80s phone sex. 
Speaking of children. About the parents. I don't think Nancy's plea for her dad to come next door simply to make sure a psychopath isn't murdering her after three of her friends have died within the span of a few days is such a lofty request. Nancy's dad considers it attention seeking behavior. Nancy's mom was an alcoholic and certifiably insane. I mean, she put bars on the windows, which immediately set Nancy off into an hysterical teenager fit ("You did what to my subscription of WOW?"). However, she has one of the best lines of the movie, after she's told Nancy that Freddy Kruger the man was actually discovered to be a pedophile and torched by the parents. Some Stepford, right? Mommy reassures with: "He's dead, honey, because Mommy killed him...so it's okay now. You can sleep." Right. Because knowing that my parents are capable of burning a man alive is my kind of bed time story. No doubt it would put Glen, Nancy's boyfriend and apparent narcoleptic, to sleep. Sure, Nancy hasn't slept in a whole week, but tell Glen to stay away for more than fifteen minutes because your life depends on it and you might as well dig your own grave now.

Despite the many people who failed her, Nancy put up a pretty epic battle against Freddy. And sure, there's a sequel. Clearly, she didn't sent the man to hell where he belongs. But she got out with her life, and that's more than most of the teenagers on Elm street can say. (Or did she...?)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
The original of anything is always everyone's favorite. Episodes 4-6 of Star Wars, the first Matrix, the Coen brothers' "early stuff". However, I was surprised by how legitimately good the sequel was. Unlike most horror movie sequels, this was NOT simply a rehashing of the first movie with new (and less awesome) characters. This movie took a very different approach and brought Freddy to a new level of scary. In the first one, we followed the children who were plagued with nightmares of Freddy and who tried to literally outrun him. In this one, our hero didn't have quite so easy a task.

Photo taken from http://www.b-movies.gr
Jesse Walsh (played by Mark Patton, who, considering the tight pants and the amount of crotch-shots we get, I think it's safe to assume was hired solely because of his ass) is your average football playing dweeb. Alright, that's a bit of an oxymoron, but let's roll with it. He's the new kid in town, who's just moved into a house that his parents (the dad who barks instead of talking and the surprisingly caring mom) forgot to mention was previously inhabited by some crazy Nancy chick. Whoops. Jesse unfortunately reaps the unpleasant rewards of this choice of real estate. He wakes up every morning from a nightmare, coated in an obnoxious amount of sweat. But Jesse doesn't get the run-of-the-mill Freddy Kruger nightmares. Instead, Freddy has decided to run with a different tactic--he's slowly taking over Jesse's mind and body, essentially possessing him. Jesse spends the entire movie struggling with "this thing inside me", this tugging need to kill everyone around him. And, in my opinion, being afraid of yourself is much scarier than being afraid of a psycho child killer. The second one's logical, the first one's uncontrollable.

Thus begins the second installation of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, as we see Jesse struggle to warn friends about his quickly dissolving sanity. His girlfriend, Lisa, while pretty in a Meryl Streep kind of way, is ultimately pretty annoying. She falls for Jesse, who's really given her no reason to love him, and she's really into his whole spiritual conquering-your-dreams thing. I don't know. If some crush comes up to me and says "Hey, I'm probably going to kill you", I don't know that I'd say, "You can fight it!" I'd most probably run in the other direction. But props to her.
Clearly didn't read the side-effects label on the Stay Awake pills.
Don't get me wrong. This movie, like the first one, has many lulz. For example, the BDSM-loving gay gym teacher who got his rocks off making the boys do an excessive amount of push ups? Yeah. My point exactly. If you think it's cracked up enough to be a dream sequence, it probably isn't. Spoiler alert. Freddy tans his ass with gym towels. Okay, I just had to say it. Moving on. We also had a pretty epic moment with a killer love bird. I kid you not. That sweet little thing that tweets in it's cage? Actually a rabid destroyer of lives. The scene in which the couple inches of bird chases Jesse's entire family through the house is pretty cracked out in it's own right. But I don't know about you, but more than the 80s explosions and the crack subplots, I watch these movies for the epic Freddy Kruger deaths. And in the spirit of the first one, this one served. One of my favorite moments was when Freddy was quite literally bursting through Jesse's body right before he killed Jesse's good friend. Aliens comes out a year after this, apparently 'tis the season.

All in all, if you want a good, surprisingly creepy, always campy, 80s horror movie, look no further. A Nightmare on Elm Street delivers two times over. Just...you know. Stop after the second one. Seriously. Not kidding. Put the remote down. Do NOT press the Ondemand button. No...I'm warning you..it's not worth $1.99! NO--!

[Tune in next time for reviews of the rest of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series! That's all, folks!]

3 comments:

  1. So I'm pretty pumped I came across this. I just rented Nightmare on Elm Street 2 because we are supposed to make up a movie drinking game for it and this review pretty much solidifies it. Considering the tone and jokes you mentioned I think it will be awesome.

    The review of Elm St 1 is great too. I really love how 80s the original is.

    Fun fact: Apparently Jackie Earle Haley went to audition for the original film and brought his then roommate Johnny Depp with him, who obvs got the part. But of course now we know that Haley eventually played Freddy in the remake. I always thought that story was wild.

    -Lindsay

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  2. Niiiiiice! The Nightmare series is perfect for a drinking game! I will be definitely looking forward to checking that one out. I know a lot of people who are huge fans of the later movies but...they just turn into campy ass shit in my opinion. However, if you watch them with a bunch of friends and a good French Toast drinking game, I think it'd be worth it.

    And thanks! The first is so 80s and so great.

    I did not know that fun fact! That's way too hilarious. Jackie Earle Haley definitely got his jab in for the remake! I'm also having a hard time seeing Jackie Earle Haley roommate with Johnny Depp. My brain...

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