- Monthly Theme: Slashers
- The Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Alternate title: n/a
- Country of origin: U.S.A.
- Date of U.S. release: November 16, 1984
- Studio: New Line Cinema, Media Home Entertainment & Smart Egg Pictures
- Distributer: New Line Cinema
- Domestic Gross: $25.5 million
- Budget: $1.8 million (estimated)
- Director: Wes Craven
- Producers: Robert Shaye, Sara Risher, Joseph Wolf, Stanley Dudelson & John Burrows
- Screenwriter: Wes Craven
- Adaptation? No.
- Cinematographer: Jacques Haitkin
- Make-Up/FX: David Miller
- Music: Charles Bernstein
- Part of a series? Yes. This film was followed by six theatrical sequels – Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Dream Warriors (1987), The Dream Master (1988), The Dream Child (1989), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) – and a spin-off film (2003’s Freddy vs. Jason).
- Remakes? Yes. Samuel Bayer directed a remake in 2010.
- Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Horror stalwart John Saxon (The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Black Christmas, etc.). Genre star Robert Englund (The Phantom of the Opera (1989), The Mangler, etc.)
- Other notables?: Yes. Superstar actor Johnny Depp debuts here. 1970s character actress Ronee Blakley.
- Awards?: Critics Award and Special Mention [Heather Langenkamp] at the 1985 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
- Tagline: “If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all.”
- Monthly Theme: Slashers
- The Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Alternate title: n/a
- Country of origin: U.S.A.
- Date of U.S. release: April 30, 2010
- Studio: New Line Cinema & Platinum Dunes
- Distributer: New Line Cinema
- Domestic Gross: $63 million
- Budget: $27 million
- Director: Samuel Bayer
- Producers: Michael Bay, Robert Shaye, et al.
- Screenwriters: Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer
- Adaptation? No.
- Cinematographer: Jeff Cutter
- Make-Up/FX: Michael Ahasay et al.
- Music: Steve Jablonsky
- Part of a series? Yes. This is a remake of 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the overall ninth film in the franchise.
- Genre Icons in the cast? No.
- Other notables?: Yes. Character actors Jackie Earle Haley and Clancy Brown. Hollywood ingénue Rooney Mara. TV stars Katie Cassidy, Connie Britton, Thomas Dekker and Kyle Gallner.
- Awards?: Worst Film at the 2011 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. Favorite Horror Movie at the 2011 People’s Choice Awards.
- Tagline: “Never sleep again.”
- The Lowdown: The mainstreaming of the slasher movie, which was all ready wildly popular thanks to the Halloween and Friday the 13th films, was codified with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. Freddy Krueger, over the next decade, became the face of horror movies and America’s most recognizable boogeyman. Blending dream logic, sexual violence, a wisecracking bad guy, teenage girls running around in their nighties and an extremely nubile young Johnny Depp together proved to be the perfect formula for mainstream crossover success. Wes Craven, fresh off of his adaptation of Swamp Thing, drew on images and themes from his earlier movie, Deadly Blessing, adding in a dash of ripped-from-the-headlines drama and Balinese dream mythology. The movie features a quartet of high school kids who are all being menaced in their dreams by the same figure – a burned man in a dirty red-and-green sweater with “knives for fingers.” The movie’s big innovation: if you die in your dream, you die for real. Soon the cast is winnowed down to one final girl, Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp, who was later menaced and stalked by an obsessed fan drawn to her not because of the Nightmare movies, but for the devout teenager she played on ABC’s Growing Pains-spinoff, Just the Ten of Us). The film was a surprise smash and launched the biggest horror franchise of the 1980s. In 2010, Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes made a critically-reviled remake, starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. Even though the film was profitable, no sequels have been made due to the negative fan reactions to the film.
If you haven’t seen both versions of A Nightmare on Elm Street our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.
Sean: So, before we get started, I wanted to state that I see a lot of connections between this movie and Phantasm that I’d like to explore in a bit. But the first thing I want to know is… Do you think this movie is at all scary? While we were watching I wondered if it might just be too dated at this point (I haven’t watched this movie in a least a decade).
Kristine: Yes, I do. Not crazy scary, but, yes, scary. This is one of the few movies I remember seeing bits of on TV or whatever in my youth and being scared. I distinctly remember being scared of Freddy’s glove stabbing me through my mattress when I was in bed, and I also remember the boiler room scenes being scary.
Sean: So, what do you think of Freddy as a baddie? Is he too clownish?
Kristine: I think he is a very good baddie, and was not that clownish in this one. I thought he would be more clownish, and have more one-liners. He was pretty dark and scary, I thought. When did you first see this and were you scared of Freddy?
Sean: I saw this when I was like…. 12? I loved it. I watched this movie probably 100 times between the ages of 12 and 17.
Kristine: 100 times. That is amazing.
Sean: Yeah, I used to tape movies off of HBO and watch them 1,000 times. This was one of my staples.
Kristine: Freddy really didn’t it scare you at all?
Sean: No it didn’t scare me at all. I wasn’t scared of Freddy, I loved him.
Kristine: Okay, tell me why you loved Freddy. I need to know this. Explain it all.
Sean: Well, I actually think it was just the movie itself that I loved more than Freddy in particular, though I did think the glove was cool. This movie is more a work of pure imagination and dark fantasy in comparison to traditional slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th.
Kristine: I agree with that… I mean, in Friday the 13th there are hints that Jason is supernatural, but in this movie, Freddy is revealed to be a more traditional “monster” right off the bat, grounded in the supernatural. It makes Freddy both scarier and more vulnerable.
Sean: As we have discussed before, I was a voracious reader of fantasy novels as a kid. [Editor’s Note: In our The Cabin in the Woods discussion, Sean breaks down and lists all the dorky fantasy books he loved as a child and it is horrible]. I really liked all the fantasy dream elements of this movie, and how the line between the dreamlife and the waking life of the characters is porous. Things can be brought in and out of dreams in this movie. I have had spectacular and vivid dreams all my life, but especially between the ages of like, 5 and 15. I still remember some of those dreams to this day. So, this movie’s basic premise really appealed to me, because a very, very high percentage of my dreams were (and still are) nightmares. I think one thing that also sets this movie apart from many other horror movies of the period, and especially many other slashers, is that it has a pretty good story. It like, has an actual plot that unfolds throughout the movie and bits and pieces of it are revealed along the way and it is really fun that way. The biggest misstep of the remake, in my opinion, is what a terrible job it did at just telling a coherent story.
Kristine: I agree that this is a good movie, period.
Sean: I think another reason I loved this movie as a kid, and why it captivated me the first time I watched it and didn’t actually scare me, is because the movie unfolds like a mystery. I remember being in suspense the first time I watched it, wondering, Why are they all dreaming about the same guy? Who is Freddy? What is the connection to their parents? I remember being really sucked into the story.
Kristine: I was surprised that the storytelling aspect was so strong, and I agree that the remake didn’t do a good job of just even simply making you want to know what would happen next. The remake was just a string of hollow setpieces strung together.
Sean: And I recall being shocked when Tina died at the beginning because I thought she was the lead. They do the old Psycho switcheroo where the person who seems to be the protagonist is killed fairly early, something Wes Craven did again a decade later in Scream with Drew Barrymore, though I was not shocked at all that time for whatever reason. I was probably just too knowing a horror movie viewer by then. But at 12 I was guileless, and the movie offing Tina in such a brutal and spectacular fashion really floored me and made me giddy with excitement because I felt like now anything could happen in this movie.
Kristine: Oh, I agree. I thought the bait and switch with Tina and Nancy was very good and unexpected… but then I remembered that the remake did the exact same thing, including using a fast blonde and a virginal brunette. The remake was really bad, Sean. I really wish we hadn’t seen it first. It definitely took away from my enjoyment of this movie. [Editor’s Note: The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in theaters just a few weeks after Sean and Kristine first started horror movie club. So on a lark they decided to go opening night without viewing the original movie first].
Sean: Aw, that’s too bad. I remember literally nothing about the remake except hating it. And Kellan Lutz all sweatily dying right away. The cast was atrocious actually. Wasn’t it Beaver from Veronica Mars, John Connor from The Sarah Conner Chronicles and Amanda Woodward 2.0 from the Melrose Place reboot?
Kristine: Ok, you need to stop just saying the names of things. You are jibbering like a lunatic. And the only relevant casting detail is that it starred The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Sean: It was so so so so so so so so so so bad. I want to go on record by saying that I am not a nostalgic purist about horror movies being remade. I do not, on principal, disagree with remaking things. It is a classic Hollywood tradition since the founding of cinema and has resulted in some of my favorite movies (the remakes of both Gaslight and Imitation of Life are fantastic and probably superior to the originals in both cases). Almost all of the classic Universal monster movies, which I adore, were remakes of earlier versions. The 1980s brought some great remakes with them: John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly are, to me, the platonic ideals of how to do a horror remake (Chuck Russell’s The Blob is pretty darn good, too). But these days I am guarded and not particularly optimistic about horror movie remakes because so few of them are any good at all. There have been a couple recent remakes (Zack Snyder’s riff on Dawn of the Dead and Matt Reeves’ version of Let the Right One In are both pretty good). But almost all the others are atrocious. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake is, for me, one of the worst of the bunch, topped only by John Moore’s fucking lifeless remake of The Omen.
Kristine: Who was responsible?
Sean: Michael Bay.
Kristine: Really? That is not what I expected you to say.
Sean: Yeah he produced it and his company, Platinum Dunes, is responsible for this and a whole spate of remakes that are pretty shitty. Their take on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is probably the only decent movie they’ve produced. But Platinum Dunes hasn’t put out a movie since their Nightmare on Elm Street, and on imdb it lists all of their upcoming projects as original material. I think they’re moving away from the remake craze. I’m sure their movies will still suck. Shall we return to the original movie? I want to know if you found Nancy’s wardrobe offensive.
Kristine: Nancy’s baggy khakis were quite horrible. I almost texted you about them. Johnny Depp’s half-shirt was amazing. He had an adolescent girl’s body.
Sean: Nancy’s high-waisted mom pants and puffy sweater vests were killing me. But Nancy is like, chubby-faced and seems like a normal, average girl, not a slender model/actor from The CW.
Kristine: I agree that she looked average and I liked that.
Sean: In the 1980s, they still cast normal people in movies. With the role of Tina also. They’re just like, these girls, not fucking model creatures or alien embryos like Rooney Mara.
Kristine: Well, Rooney very publically said the remake was a piece of shit and she was embarrassed to be in it, especially after she was cast in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Sean: Well it is and she should be. Even though I don’t like the idea that horror movies help launch these actors’ careers and then once they’ve “made it” they sneer derisively at the genre. But in this case, I’ll allow it because she’s right. So what about the two boozy, trashy mothers? Tina and Nancy’s moms were both diva nightmares.
Kristine: I liked that touch a lot, that the parents were flawed and even involved in the story in some meaningful way. I mean, this is one thing that really sets this movie apart from Halloween and the other slashers we’ve watched. This movie is about the generation gap and the inheritance that passes between parents and children. In all the other slashers, it is just about the teens. There are no adults in that universe, at least not in any meaningful way. I do think it is interesting that both movies feature on character who is the sheriff’s daughter – Annie in Halloween and Nancy here – and in Halloween that means nothing and does nothing to save Annie while here it sort of does. Plus, it made sense that Nancy’s mom would be a neurotic drunk after she and her PTA cronies lynch-mobbed Freddy. I mean, we are to assume that all the parents we meet were in on the lynching, right?
Sean: Yes, all the parents were lynchers. The actress who played Nancy’s mom was also Barbara Jean, the big country music superstar in Altman’s Nashville, by the way. And Nancy’s dad, John Saxon, is a horror movie legend whose biggest claim to fame is being in…. the first giallo ever. Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much. He was in a bunch of sleazy Italian horror movies in his career, and is also a cult figure for being one of the stars of Bruce Lee’s best movie, Enter the Dragon. He’s kind of a badass mutherfucker.
Kristine: Mrs. Nancy’s lipliner was amazing and her perpetually frosty vodka bottle was… well, it was something.
Sean: Her swigging from the vodka bottle hidden in the linen closet cracked me up.
Kristine: Seriously. What about the keeping Freddy’s creepy glove in the furnace in the basement? WTF?
Sean: That was so hilarious. I mean, her whole presence really ups the camp value of this movie by about 1,000%. So, this movie dances around the fact that Freddy was a kiddiefucker. Didn’t the remake totally censor that element?
Kristine: No it didn’t. The remake made that element way more explicit and gross! Don’t you remember? Do you need me to remind you of what happens in the remake?
Sean: Yes, remind me.
Kristine: In the remake, there is doubt as to whether Freddy was actually guilty of child-raping, but then the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that ugly emo boy find sexually explicit photographs Freddy took of her and all the other children. The remake totally plays up that element for titillation and grossness, which includes suggestive shots of the dirty mattress and other fixins in Freddy’s lair, suggesting that that is where he diddled them. I think Freddy also says gross stuff to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, like, ‘You were so good, I want to have you again,’ etc.
Sean: OMG. I blocked all that out.
Kristine: I was shocked at all the things I thought were inspired touches in the remake that were lifted directly from the original. It was all the stuff I thought was somewhat good. For example, I thought the kids trying to not sleep was new to the remake. I thought they had figured Freddy out in a way the kids in the the original movies hadn’t. Also, bringing Freddy into the real world from the dream world so he could be killed, I thought that was a new idea in the remake. The remake really added nothing except perverse references to babyfucking.
Sean: No it didn’t.
Kristine: So the character of Freddy immediately resonated with you and a lot of other people when this movie came out back in 1984. Can you speak to his appeal? I’ll just add that I feel like, despite his back story, Freddy is much less a tragic figure than Jason Voorhees or even crazy Michael Myers. I feel like he is a figure of chaos and mischief out of mythology more than a “contemporary” villain of the modern America.
Sean: I agree with you that Freddy lacks pathos which, dare I say, might just make him more of a fun, evil bastard than some Frankenstein’s monster type tragic figure. But like I said earlier, the dark fantasy elements of the movie really appealed to me. I mean, this movie accidentally winds up seeming “deeper” than it really is because it is about the mind and about the subconscious. So everything has all these Freudian and Lacanian layers. I think I picked up on that as a kid. And certain things made me die laughing.
Kristine: Such as?
Sean: Like Nancy going “Screw your pass!” to the hall monitor and the phone with the tongue coming out. I loved those things. I just thought it was a witty little movie. I also thought Nancy was a tough final girl and I liked her better than the screaming mimis from your average slasher.
Kristine: The thing that cracked me up the most was Nancy’s secret coffee pot. I can’t get over it. Plugged in and brewing away…
Sean: You know that detail – the hidden coffee pot – is lifted from the real life news story that inspired Craven to write this movie.
Kristine: I didn’t know this was “ripped from the headlines.” Can you tell me the back story?
Sean: Sure. Craven read this news story about these Cambodian refugees who like, dropped dead of heart failure and it turned out hadn’t slept in forever. Or maybe they died in their sleep. But they were afraid to go to sleep. I think one of them was a young guy, like 18 or 19, and he was convinced he would die if he went to sleep…
Sean: And when he died, they found all these coffee pots hidden in his closet all plugged into a million extension cords all being a fire hazard.
Kristine: No way. The hidden coffee pot was a true detail That makes it even better.
Kristine: I do think that is one thing the movie doesn’t really explore… That the kids are getting nuttier and more paranoid the longer they stay up. In this story, they are 100% in the right about everything, they are not paranoid in the least. It would have been cool if one of them accidently killed another kid out of paranoia and delusion, or something like that.
Sean: Sure… Though I did love how the plot gave Nancy a real predicament. I remember when I first watched the movie really feeling Nancy’s pain that she was so tired but couldn’t go to sleep and realizing how terrible that would be.
Kristine: Yes, absolutely. Did you think the sleep clinic was cool or dumb?
Sean: I loved the sleep clinic. I loved all the ridic stuff like that. I also love Nancy’s mom lighting up her Virginia Slims 100s in the sleep clinic and the doctor saying nothing about it.
Kristine: Hah, yes, I loved that too. I loved her bringing back his hat.
Sean: I was afraid she would just add the hat to her weird outfits.
Kristine: I thought Freddy having greaser boyfriend hang himself in his cell was great. I loved that scene.
Sean: That actor in real life, by the way, was like a jonesing junkie IRL and was always sweating and being a tweaker in-between takes. He also is a Hispanic actor who was, at the time, going to auditions in Italian drag and renamed himself “Nick Corri” – something Italian so he’d get hired because he was like, ‘No one would hire a man with firey Latin blood.’
Kristine: No kidding. Is there like an oral history of the making of A Nightmare on Elm Street?
Sean: There is a 4-hour-long documentary on the whole series called Never Sleep Again.
Kristine: No shit. Is it good?
Sean: It’s pretty good. I mean, it’s just a lot of fan service, it’s not like some hard-hitting investigation into the series or anything. It’s a nostalgic retrospective, but it’s informative about the whole series and kind of fun.
Kristine: Cool. Tell me about the sequels. Are they good or just ridiculous? Or are they a mixed bag? How many were there? Were they all successful, box office-wise?
Sean: We have to watch the first 2 sequels. Part 2 is considered to be the most unintentionally gay horror movie ever made. I don’t want to spoil anything about it because it is just too juicy and amazing. It must be seen to be believed. Part 3 is awesome and is the fan favorite. It was also my favorite as a fan at the time. Then they all suck after that. Part 4 was the most successful at the box office and RENNY directed it. It is the film that made Renny a Hollywood player and I am not even kidding.
Kristine: Oh God. Renny.
Sean: The sequels get really bad from Part 4 onwards. Though there is a weird meta one later on (Part 7 I think?) where the actors from Part 1 all play themselves in Hollywood being stalked by Freddy. It is the only other one that Wes Craven directed.
Kristine: Huh. Including Johnny?
Sean: No, but Johnny makes a cameo in Part 6 as himself on television and Freddy like, hits him on the head with a frying pan or something ridiculous like that.
Kristine: Good for Johnny.
Sean: Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold are also in Part 6, just fyi.
Kristine: Oh god, them. I can’t even believe that they existed… that was a nutty time. Did you think Johnny Depp was hot when you were a young gayling and you first watched this movie?
Sean: Not really. Johnny was…. pretty. He is not my type, but he was certainly a good-looking lesbian.
Kristine: I was going to say, he is very girly looking in this.
Sean: Yeah. Apparently they wanted a beefy jock-type to play Glenn but then one of the producer’s tween daughter saw Johnny’s picture or his audition tape or something and was like, ‘No, him’ and pointed quiveringly to Johnny.
Kristine: He is definitely not sexually threatening. By the way, Tina and Rod’s sex scene was ridic.
Sean: Oh I know. I watched that as a kid and didn’t even really understand. The moaning….
Kristine: Their screaming mutual orgasm? Yeah, no. That’s not how it works, kiddies. So let’s talk about Nancy.
Sean: Yes, please. I have to say that re-watching the movie this time, I worried that it was kind of sexist and mean-spirited towards women.
Kristine: Well, yes, I had that thought too. Nancy is definitely a Cassandra figure, right?
Sean: Yes! Nancy is totally Cassandra, and also all the women are kind of weak and dysfunctional. She keeps talking about how she needs Glenn to be there to save her, but she doesn’t really. She’s kind of a bitch to Glenn, actually.
Kristine: It’s weird, because I wrote myself a note when we were watching that just said, “Crazy girl trope again, hate it.” But she does triumph, so what are we to make of that? And, yes, she is shrewish to Glenn.
Sean: Yeah, she’s a bit of shrill pill the whole movie, running around going “Daddy!” a lot. But I’ll tell you what made me the most upset rewatching it with you. When Tina is killed with Rod in the room… By the way: Um… Rod.
Sean: But anyway, it is all a totally coded way of talking about sexual and domestic violence…
Kristine: I agree.
Sean: And it made me mad that Nancy automatically sides with Rod, who for all she knows just murdered her best friend. Nancy doesn’t even seem to care that Tina is dead, or feel any anger at Rod at all. Nancy is like, “Daddy you used me” and just goes out of her way to justify and excuse Rod of any wrongdoing. It sort of sickened me.
Kristine: I agree with that. I guess the only explanation is that Nancy is a Cassandra, so she already “knows” about Freddy even before she knows, right? So that is why she believes Rod. She also didn’t seem upset when Glenn dies. She was just like, ‘Yep, told you.’
Sean: I actually like how un-upset she is about Glenn, though she does scream “Glenn” once but then is like, building booby traps. They had a shitty relationship anyway. But I was struck by how many of the assaults in the movie have a tone of sexual violence to them. I feel like Freddy is a big rape monster. For example, Tina’s final dream starts with pebbles being hurled at the window with such force that they imbed in the glass, which is like a trope of romantic trysts – the suitor pelts his beloved’s window with pebbles to call her out of her “bedchamber,”
Kristine: I didn’t catch that, but you’re right.
Sean: So the pebbles signal teenage courtship but lead instead to Freddy luring Tina outside for an assault that ends under the covers in her bed, with her shirt torn off of her… It is such rape. Then there’s the assault on Nancy while she is naked in the tub, of course.
Kristine: For sure. Freddy being sexually voracious is part of the “fun” of the movie.
Sean: Just fyi, Craven lifted that bathtub sequence from one of his own movies, this 1981 weirdo religious cult movie called Deadly Blessing. The tub sequence, including that master shot where the camera is looking at Nancy dead-on and between her legs, comes from Deadly Blessing, but in lieu of Freddy’s glove it is a snake that menaces the girl (even more overtly phallic). That movie is also infamous for including a scene where Wes Craven drops a spider into Sharon Stone’s open mouth (she apparently wouldn’t do it until the spider had been de-fanged) in a sequence where the line between dreams and waking is blurred. But back to my rant about the film’s sexual violence, remember Glenn coming to Nancy’s window on the rose trellis?
Kristine: Yes. The rose trellis is another classic trope of courtship and romance.
Sean: So much of this movie is about the bedrooms and private spaces of these teen girls being violated and entered. Glenn is constantly (but passively) insinuating sex with Nancy, which she keeps rejecting (which is my least favorite of her character traits).
Kristine: Yes, totally. And the parental idea that they can keep their little princesses safe with bars on the windows…
Sean: I mean, Nancy becomes Rapunzel and her mom becomes the Wicked Queen in that last part of the film.
Kristine: I like that Freddy exists beyond, in a space that the parents can’t control. The budding sexuality of the teenagers exists in a similar space.
Sean: Right. It annoyed me how much time Nancy spent shrieking “Daddy!” Kristine, the only person a teenage girl can count on or trust is…. Her Daddy.
Kristine: Gross. Did you like the mom coming back to life at the end? Oh, wait, they all did. I almost forgot about that.
Sean: No, I think this movie has a terrible ending. That cheap dimestore skeleton of the mom like, descending into the bed? What the hell was that?
Kristine: It was weak. What about the Johnny Depp bloodbath?
Sean: What did you think of the Johnny Depp bloodbath? Did they try to recreate that in the remake?
Kristine: I don’t remember them recreating it… though I think Tina and the blond girl in the remake had pretty much identical deaths. I thought it was darkly comic and ridic, all that blood.
Sean: Yeah, I mean I guess Glenn gets a kind of rape-ish death also right? Pulled down into the bed?
Kristine: Yeah, I guess so.
Sean: I thought him and his mother talking about Nude Miss America was weird.
Kristine: Yeah, it was, and her being all like, “Oh, boys will be boys.”
Sean: He screams out “Mama!” as he is getting pulled into the bed. And he is then transformed into a vaginal torrent of period blood.
Kristine: Well, this movie is all about parents trying to protect their kids and totally failing and actually putting them in danger, right? I have three examples: #1. Lynching Freddy in the first place and making him immortal and out for revenge. #2 Drunk Mom putting bars on the windows and trapping Nancy inside the house #3. Glenn’s parents not letting him talk to Nancy, who was going to warn him about Freddy and keep him awake. This movie is chock full of over-protective parents in suburbia actually putting their kids in harm’s way, right?
Sean: Yes. I mean, I think you were onto something that there is a parallel between the sexual awakening of the kids and the threat that Freddy poses. He comes for them in their pubescence, just as they’re beginning to be sexual creatures. The adults can’t control either thing: teenage sexuality or Freddy’s rampage.
Kristine: Right, but they are going to try. That’s why I equate Freddy with some chaotic, sexual being out of mythology. Like Maryann on True Blood! Remember? Goddess of sex and violence or whatever. Freddy is a Maryann type to me.
Sean: Yes he is totally an imp from demonology rather than a Michael Myers-esque boogeyman.
Kristine: Yes. He comes to whitey-white picket fence, cookie-cutter suburbia and fucks shit up.
Sean: So can I briefly connect this movie back to Phantasm?
Kristine: Sure, go ahead.
Sean: There were a number of uncanny parallels between the two movies, and I think they both are interested in the same “surreal” brand of horror that’s really about psychology. But when Freddy’s arm comes out and pulls the mom through the door at the very end, that’s an exact restaging of the dwarves pulling Jody into the hole in the mausoleum. And even the car weirdly rolling away at the end was like the car the girls drove in Phantasm. Both movies blend “real” and “unreal” and make it hard to distinguish between the two. Like, Nancy’s dream in English class. By the way, the woman who played Nancy’s English teacher is the psychic medium from Insidious.
Kristine: Okay, I get what you are saying, but I don’t see the Freddy-grab thing as a “direct restaging.” And I get how Freddy and the Tall Man both inhabit two worlds, and move in between them… but I think this movie is so much more successful. I really don’t see a strong “connection” other than the elements of fantasy and maybe the protagonists of both movies being Cassandra-figures who people don’t believe.
Sean: I guess I am saying that Phantasm set an important precedent for this movie. Remember that I thought the main way Phantasm worked was that it staged all of these moments of primal fear? Arms coming out of doorways and holes, stuff like that?
Sean: I think this movie builds on that and draws from that kind of psychoanalytic, primal dread. Re: Freddy’s arm coming out of nowhere (the bath, through the window).
Kristine: Do you think this movie has a class bias? I mean, Freddy is working class and attacks these middle class families.
Sean: Tina and Rod seemed pretty working class to me.
Kristine: Right, true.
Sean: And Nancy’s dad is a cop, not a banker. If anything, Glenn is the good suburban kid slumming it with his girlfriend’s delinquent friends.
Kristine: Yeah, you’re right. But it definitely explores the idea that suburbia is this twisted place, á la David Lynch… The parents have secrets, they are divorced and drink… Would you trust me to stay awake and let you go find Freddy in dreamland?
Kristine: I knew you would say that.
Sean: Would you trust me?
Kristine: Wow. I don’t know.
Sean: Interesting. Our whole relationship is built on a seismic fault-line.
Kristine: Do you not trust me because you think I would a) fall asleep b) wander off and forget about you or 3) let you die out of some hidden hatred for you?
Sean: I choose a or b. Mostly a.
Kristine: That’s good, at least I will have you know that I am an insomniac, so you’re safe with me. We discussed why you liked Freddy… Why do you think he was so popular with the general population?
Sean: Remember that moment when Nancy sneaks around the basement staircase and surprises Freddy and throws the gasoline on him? Very few horror movies are willing to let their monster look that stupid. We see him from Nancy’s point-of-view, coming around thinking he’s scaring her and going “Gonna get you” but WE know Nancy’s right there about to douse his ass.
Kristine: Right, I liked that as well.
Sean: I think that might have something to do with his appeal. He is a bit of a jester, and is easy to laugh at. Michael Myers is not easy to laugh off.
Kristine: I agree. And it’s funny that slashers are often accused of not having any regard for human life and being so dark and soulless, but I feel like this movie had a lot of energy. it made me feel energetic and kind of gleeful, not depressed and empty. Does that make sense?
Sean: Oh totally. This movie is more of a fun romp and the body count is really low. But I honestly think part of it, too, is that Freddy is a psychological threat as much as a physical one. He will use your own fears against you.
Kristine: Maybe that trope that Freddy uses his victims’ fears against them comes out more in the sequels, because I got that but it wasn’t super-explicit. I mean, it wasn’t like the deaths were catered to the victims’ personalities or anything.
Sean: What did you think of the tongue coming out of the phone to lick Nancy on the mouth? “I’m your boyfriend now Nancy.”
Kristine: I loved the tongue in the phone, even though the tongue is another threat of sexual violation.
Sean: Ok, horror movie club trivia. What movie was Nancy watching in her bedroom?
Kristine: Let me think. I know it was a horror movie.
Sean: When she is taking her pills and drinking coffee… Then Glenn interrupts the movie with his barefooted trellis visit. It is something we’ve watched for the blog.
Kristine: By the way, while I am thinking, can I say that this movie was propped really well. The kids’ rooms were teeming with appropriate teenage stuff. Did you notice Nancy’s “finger” hook? I especially like the finger hook because it was a nod to Freddy trying to grab people through the walls. Tell me you noticed it.
Sean: I didn’t notice that, but Nancy needed a good fingering.
Kristine: I want to say Night of the Living Dead but that’s wrong… I’m pretty sure the movie she was watching was in color. Shit, I give up. I knew you were going to ask me about it, too.
Sean: I am mad and disappointed. It was The Evil Dead.
Kristine: Shit, that’s right.
Sean: You are not ready to graduate from Hogwart’s, young lady.
Kristine: You didn’t notice the finger hook and relate it to the Freddy wall grab. And you have seen this 100 times.
Sean: Weaksauce. I just want you to know, Rod in his underwear when Tina was being killed like, rocked me to the core as an 11-year-old.
Sean: Because he was in his underwear and it made me feel things.
Kristine: Heh. Was Tina punished for fucking? Did they conjure up Freddy?
Sean: Hmmm…. Nah. He was already coming for them.
Kristine: But the movie does hint at that… Nancy is a good girl and she lives.
Sean: It might.
Kristine: I liked that the ladies were adventurous and all yelling, “Who is there? Don’t fuck with me!”
Kristine: It is.
Sean: But I have a fondness for it for that very reason.
Kristine: And the summer camp setting is classic.
Kristine: Isn’t there a movie where Freddy and Jason fight? Is it beyond dumb?
Sean: There is that movie and it is the worst ever. It also features Kelly Rowland calling Freddy a “fucking faggot” and it is horrible.
Kristine: So, I gave myself a challenge and I didn’t meet it. You brought up something that I realized, once you said it, that I was all ready somewhat aware of: that A Nightmare on Elm Street is popular with the rap community, and I was going to get to the bottom of why, but I didn’t. Is it true?
Sean: Oh my god. Robert Englund did a rap as Freddy with the Fat Boys called “Are You Ready for Freddy?” in which Freddy actually raps and says the words, “Yo, bust a rhyme!” I am not lying. I mean, this gets to the heart of what sets Freddy apart from Jason and Michael – you would never see Jason or Michael rapping on a goddamn Fat Boys song. Then of course DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had “A Nightmare on My Street.” I mean Killa Kyleon & Mouse on tha Track JUST put out a song called “Freddy Krueger” in May of this year. It is a total thing.
Kristine: I know and I need to ruminate on It to come up with some theories. I don’t have anything to say about it right now except for my earlier point that Freddy is fucking up honkys in suburbia. I will continue to ponder and try to solve the mystery. Was Wes Craven involved in all the sequels?
Sean: No. He was a bit involved with the script for Dream Warriors and he returned to direct New Nightmare, which is the meta sequel I mentioned earlier. Other than that he had no part whatsoever in the others.
Kristine: Did you like the scene in the alley when he was being a living funhouse mirror, all super long arms and then super short? I loved that part.
Sean: Yeah. I like all that kind of inventive weird stuff. What do you think of the singsong girls playing jump rope?
Sean: They’re creepy because little girls have scary little vaginas, Kristine. Don’t you get it?
Kristine: I knew about the singsong girls because that was lifted directly in the remake. And that jump rope rhyme is not scary. That falls into your category of horror movies trying to make us scared by having kids doing “scary” things like talking in stage whispers or looking blank and it is so dumb.
The Girl’s Rating: Sleazesterpiece!
The Freak’s Rating: Problematic but fun as hell AND Deserves props for being groundbreaking and innovative.