Last week, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the very limited, very unpublicized screenings of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I never had a chance to see it on the big screen during its original run, so I was duly excited about the whole concept. I was so excited, in fact, that I had these ridiculous images in my head about what the experience would be like. I was imagining that whatever theatre at the Regal 16 showing the film would be filled with a raucous, unruly audience, whooping and hollering and having a blast. The room would be absolutely filled to capacity- a big phew! for me for reserving tickets! Apparently, I was picturing Freddy Krueger playing to a crowd of chubby 40-something women having "girls night out!" at a Chippendales show, dollar bills waving in the air to the strains of Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me".
Aside: I have no idea where this concept of strip clubs has come from. TV, maybe? Shall I blame the media? I've been to exactly one strip club. It was a rather sad affair. I went in (with friends, silly!) thinking it would be as I described above, you know...the whooping and hollaring and dollar bill waving. All I really remember is that it wasn't like that whatsoever. It was quiet in there, and when the girl was finished doing her thing, the music ended and she had to pick up her clothes and walk off the stage in silence. It was eerie, odd, and very, very sad. And yet, my idea of strip clubs as pits of loud excitement perpetuates.
In reality, the theatre had maybe 25 people in the seats. It was sedate and deathly quiet throughout the movie...even when Nancy righteously loudwhispered "Screw your pass!", there was nary a snicker but for mine. None of this has anything to do with the movie itself, I know...I'm simply adding "local color", which I learned about in 7th grade English class.
Now then. How does A Nightmare on Elm Street hold up after more than 20 years?
For me, NoES is akin to...I don't know, a Bananarama record or something. When I was 12, it was the greatest. Fucking. Thing. EVER. I still have fond memories of it, but I honestly can't remember why I made such a damn fuss over the thing back in the day. I still enjoy it, in its way, but I know in my heart of hearts that it's not that great anymore.
Oh no, she di'n't! Did she just write that about A Nightmare on Elm Street? Girl, please! Where's my tar and feathers?
Yeah, I said it. It's only my opinion, it's not gospel...in fact, most horror fans probably disagree with me, perhaps vehemently. Freddy Krueger has never come close to topping my list of horror movie boogeymen, despite his popularity. I've simply never found him to be scary...and so while I still enjoy NoES, it looks even more tame today than when I was an impressionable youngster. As you can see, he fails to even arouse much of a response from my awesome cat, Hot Cocoa:
There's no denying the mind-bending, gory terror in the sequences depicting the deaths of Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Glenn (Johnny Depp). Director Wes Craven knocked those out of the park- an unseen killer tossing bodies around the room like dolls and WOW that's alot of blood...
But there's so much UNscary in Nightmare that any genuine scares Craven elicits in those scenes vanishes quickly. First, let us discuss the soundtrack. On one hand, the sound effect of Freddy's knives scraping along metal is jarring, grating, terrifying, and perfect. But honey...the music. Whenever Freddy gives chase to Nancy, the boinking synthesizer kicks in and we're treated to something you might hear on a Nu Shooz album. I realize the movie was made in the mid-80s. One might forgive the synthesizer, but more than that it's the wrong tempo. The music doesn't evoke chills...it evokes...action movies. This soundtrack belongs to a Lorenzo Lamas movie about someone who breaks the law to bring down the bad guys...a vigilante...a Renegade, baby. It doesn't belong in a horror film. It's glaring in its wrongness.
Then there's Nancy's mom's charred body waving as it sinks into the glowing, fog-emitting disco bed and Freddy disappearing into a shower of sparkles when Nancy turns her back on him and tells him off. Quaint, maybe, but not scary.
The idea of a killer stalking your dreams is fantastic. People having to "think" killers into reality is great as well (and was much better handled in Candyman, I think). I simply don't think A Nightmare on Elm Street is a terribly horrifying horror movie. I like it, but...not in that way anymore, you know? Now hold on, because I'm going to say something awfully brash. Are you ready?
I think this movie deserves a remake.