Friday, October 7, 2011

Favourite Halloween Movies: Nightmare on Elm Street

Robert Englund as Freddy
I thought it'd be fun to write about some of my favourite horror films in the weeks and days leading up to Halloween.

First up ... Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Written and Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp and Robert Englund

This was the second horror film I'd ever seen in my life at the time (second only to the wonderfully atrocious Dolly Dearest, which was essentially a girl-doll remake of Child's Play). I saw Nightmare way back in the sixth grade and I consider it my official introduction to the horror genre (sorry, Dolly).

Freddy Krueger (or Fred, as he's referred to in the original movie -- there's a bit of trivia for you!) remains one of my favourite film villains. He luckily hasn't been destroyed by the shoddy and over-the-top remakes that effectively ruined any enjoyment I ever had for classic villains Michael Myers (Halloween) and Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th). Last years Nightmare remake starring Jackie Earle Haley was actually decent, although completely unnecessary. 

Why I Love It: While many horror film buffs that I've talked to tend to prefer gorier, grindhouse fare from the 1970s (or anything by Dario Argento), I've always been a bigger fan of the more traditional "slasher flicks" that were really big in the 1980s and early 1990s. I guess there's just something about a clever, shadowy villain chasing teenagers that I find more watchable -- its that whole idea of the "boogeyman" that you just can't seem to outsmart.

The plot, for those who don't know, is relatively unique for a teen slasher film: When it's discovered that reclusive creep Fred Krueger is the man behind the recent deaths of young children in a small town, the parents of the community mobilize a lynch mob in an act of vigilantism. They lock Fred in his house and set fire to it, scarring him beyond recognition before he eventually succumbs to his injuries. Years later, the children of the parents who took part in the lynching are being terrorized by a shadowy figure in their nightmares -- an act of revenge from the "spirit" of Fred.

I remember being so freaked out by the premise when I was a kid. Sleep can not be avoided and Freddy was not just some intruder you could lock out of your house. He got inside your head and stayed there. He didn't have a slow, ambling walk like Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees -- Freddy could turn into various people, or even objects, to confuse a dreaming teenager.  

Nightmare is a horror fantasy franchise that distorts reality and utilizes nightmare tropes to chilling effect; a surprise considering its low budget. Dream sequences involving stairs turning into mush so the victim is trapped in same spot is only one example of the creative, nightmare-quality the film takes on.

Although Freddy has very little actual screentime in the original film, it's the first time audiences got a glimpse of what would ultimately become his iconic outfit -- red and black striped sweater, clawed hand and fedora-like hat. Freddy eventually became a bit of a wise-cracking villain in the gorier sequels but, although some fans prefer some of the later films, the first film is arguably the true classic of the series.

Favourite Scene: Johnny Depp (in his breakout role) is pulled through his bed and...there's no real way to explain this properly. It's one of the most famous scenes in the film because it manages to be both ridiculous, creepy and gross at the same time. Plus, it's got that great (and by great, I mean cheesy) generic music that became the staple of many horror soundtracks. YouTube didn't allow any embedding, but you can watch the clip HERE).