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Monday, October 28, 2013

A Nightmare On Elm Street

It's the last official Monday Matinee for the month of October, and for this week's edition, I thought that I would discuss a movie that has been a staple of Halloween parties for nearly thirty years.  And, I'll be honest with all of you.  When I watched this movie for the first time, it scared the heck out of me!  Of course now that I am much older, I see the film as more campy than anything.  In fact, I honestly find it funnier than some of the so-called sitcoms that are currently airing on network television.  But back in the days when it first debuted, it certainly scared a lot of people, and I would imagine that a select few people were afraid to even fall asleep at night as a result of watching this film.

Why, I would imagine that the film would have inspired quite a few nightmares, wouldn't you agree?

I mean, at some point in our lives, we've all had some nightmares that have kept us tossing and turning in our beds.  Bad dreams are one of the main reasons why some people end up sleep-deprived for days on end.  I can tell you that I had some real doozies of nightmares when I was a kid.  Among some of the ones that I have had over the years...

1 - Falling in a backyard and having a dog that clearly has rabies running towards me and biting off my face.

2 - Falling off of a building and plummeting down towards the pavement below, with me waking up just before the impact.

3 - Sitting down at a picnic table celebrating a birthday, eating a piece of birthday cake, and immediately wincing in pain upon realizing that the cake was filled with live bees!

(Okay, that last nightmare might seem like it came from bizarro-world, but I assure you that this nightmare really happened, and it really creeped me out!)

But you know...the good thing about nightmares are that they are only temporary distractions and in every single case, we wake up and realize that everything was exactly how we left it.  Well, unless the nightmare is so great that you end up having a panic induced heart attack.

I mean, it's not as if you're going to have bees actually attacking you while you sleep (unless you live on a beekeeping farm), and it's likely that if you do dream of falling off of a building, you'll only fall a grand total of three and a half feet (well, depending on how high your bed is raised).

And, you certainly would never have a man actually killing you in the middle of your nightmare...would you?

Well, unfortunately for the four teenagers who appear in the 1984 film "A Nightmare On Elm Street", they discover just how terrifying the serial killer Freddy Krueger could be.  

Now, before I go on with further discussion of "A Nightmare On Elm Street", I want to tell you all a little bit of a story.  When I was in elementary school, I was picked on a lot by some of the older kids in school.  When I was in the first grade, we all shared a hallway with the second and third grade students, and this meant that we all shared the same bathrooms.  Well, every time I went to the bathroom in school, there would be this third grader who seemingly always happened to be in the bathroom at the same time.  Maybe it was coincidence.  Maybe he was stalking me.  Maybe he was just a slacker who decided that he was going to skip all of his third grade lessons.  Who can say exactly?

But every single time I ran into this goober of a boy, he would try to scare me by creepily hissing "FREDDY'S GONNA GET YOU!", expecting me to cower in fear.  But because at that time I had never seen "A Nightmare On Elm Street", I had no idea who Freddy was, or why he was trying to get me.  All in all, he looked like a complete idiot.  He kind of ranks up there with other goober bullies like the guy who kept insisting that I ate a Volkswagon, or the putz that kept insisiting that I looked like a two by four who couldn't fit through the patio door.

(I wonder if that putz ever realized that a two by four is a skinny piece of wood?)

Anyway, I didn't know who Freddy Krueger was until I was about ten years old, and I happened to catch an airing of "A Nightmare On Elm Street" on cable television.  It freaked me out so badly.  I had nightmares for days afterwards.  I'll be the first one to say that the movie no longer has that same impact on me today, although I do admit that I would still recommend this film as a date movie, or just a movie to have a few laughs during Halloween.

The funny thing about this film was that it was released nine days after Halloween, on November 9, 1984.  It was directed by Wes Craven, and it was the first of many "Nightmare" movies.  Though, having seen a few of the "Nightmare" films, I have to say that the original one was the best one of the bunch. I'm sure that most of you reading this might agree.  Or, maybe you'll disagree.

At any rate, this film had quite a few firsts associated with it.  It was one of the first films to make back its entire budget within the first week it aired in theatres.  It was one of the first film series to have a total of six sequels.  And, for those of you who love Johnny Depp, this film marked his debut on the silver screen!  And, boy has he come a long way over the last twenty-nine years!

In addition to Depp, the movie starred Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia (using the screen name of Nick Corri), Ronee Blakley, and Robert Englund as the mysterious, but deadly Freddy Krueger.

But just who is Freddy Krueger?  Well, as it turns out, he was a serial killer.  Over the course of several years - prior to the start of the events that took place in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio - Freddy Krueger haunted the streets of the town, killing a grand total of twenty children before he was finally arrested.  But when a technicality causes Krueger to be released from police custody, it makes the parents of those children he killed incredibly angry, screaming about how justice was blind.

So the parents decided to take matters into their own hands.  They hunted Krueger down, set him on fire, and watched as he burned to death.  The people of Springwood, Ohio believed that the nightmare of Freddy Krueger was over, and they went back to living their lives as best they could.  But Freddy Krueger's evil spirit wasn't finished on Earth yet.  His body might have been nothing more than a pile of charred ashes, but his spectre was still very much alive...and though he couldn't enter the real world to take his revenge, he could enter the dream worlds of the surviving children of the mob who killed him years ago and exact his revenge by murdering their children through their dreams.

Sounds scary, doesn't it?

It certainly was scary for a group of four friends.  Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp), Glen Lantz (Depp), Rod Lane (Garcia), and Tina Gray (Wyss) have all had the same dream...where all of them dreamt of being stalked by a man with a burned face and a glove that was more or less a fusion of Swiss Army Knives.  For Tina, her encounter was especially scary.  She dreamed that she was running away from Freddy who was stalking her inside of a boiler room, and when she woke up, she had slash marks all over her nightgown.  

When Tina tells Nancy of her dream, Nancy admits that she has had the same one, and recalls a nursery rhyme that she heard quite often over the years.  You must all know the rhyme by now, so let's say it together!

1, 2, Freddy's coming for you!
3, 4, Better lock your door!
5, 6, Grab a crucifix!
7, 8, Gonna stay up late!
9, 10, Never sleep again!

Now, all four children believe it to be a rather morbid rhyme, built upon an urban legend.  Little do they know that the urban legend was built on truth.

Anyway, Tina's mother is out of town for the night, so Tina invites Nancy, Glen, and Rod over for a sleepover so that she can feel safe in her home, and because the other three kids know exactly what she's going through.  Now, because it's a teenage slasher film, there has to be a little bit of foreplay involved, and Tina and Rod end up making love in the same bed while Glen and Nancy sleep in separate rooms.  But when both of them end up falling asleep, Freddy makes another reappearance in Tina's dream, and this time, Tina was not escaping.  (Warning...this video is NOT for small kids.)

A horrified Rod watches as Tina is literally torn apart by Freddy's glove of horrors.  He is absolutely frightened and in complete shock as Tina is dragged across the wall and ceiling of the bedroom, blood pouring out of her entire body before she falls back on top of the bed, dead.  A panicked Rod escapes out the window as Nancy and Glen come across the gory sight.

The next day, Rod is arrested for Tina's murder as he was the last one to see her alive.  That same day, Nancy has a nightmare about Freddy Krueger at school, and she immediately decides to go to the jail, to get Rod's side of the story.  And after Rod tells Nancy that he has had the same dreams of Freddy chasing after him, Nancy puts two and two together, and figures out that Rod didn't kill Tina at all.  Instead, they both suspect that the real culprit is this mysterious burned man with the metal hand.  But how he's making it happen, neither of them know.

Nancy decides that she must figure out what the story is, and she thinks that the only way that she can make it happen is to fall asleep, and have someone else (Glen) monitor her, and wake her up before Freddy decides to murder her.  And when Nancy discovers that Rod is the planned next victim, Glen and Nancy rush over to the jail to try and save him.  But as both of them soon realize, the ability to prevent a killer from killing is not easy.

And when Nancy's mother reveals the real story behind the urban legend of Freddy Krueger that turned out to be a true story, the hunt for a killer becomes even more imperative.  Can Nancy find a way to stop Krueger from killing again before she ends up dying herself?

Well, given that the series spawned six sequels, you likely already know the answer to that one.  But I will say this about the ending.  It surprised me in a way.  Particularly the last few seconds of the last scene.  And, I will say that there's one death scene involving a bed with a voracious appetite that everyone seemed to talk about!

All in all...a movie that is less scary the more times you watch it, yet has spawned an iconic character in Freddy Krueger.  And Robert Englund played the role so well.  I know that Jackie Earle Haley played the role in the 2010 remake of the film, but to me there really is only one Freddy.

And, there's only one set of trivia facts for this film, beginning with...

1 - Did you know that Amanda Wyss had never seen a horror film prior to making "A Nightmare On Elm Street"?

2 - Did you know that even though the movie is called "A Nightmare On Elm Street" that the words Elm Street are never spoken once?

3 - The bathtub scene featuring Heather Langenkamp was actually a bottomless tub suspended over top of a swimming pool.  Langenkamp reportedly spent twelve hours in that pool filming that scene!  She must have been quite wrinkly!

4 - A mixture of food products were used in the melting staircase scene, including pancake mix, oatmeal, and mushroom soup.

5 - Freddy Krueger was based off of a real-life schoolmate of Wes Craven's, who would bully him constantly.  I suppose naming a villain after the person who picked on you would be a form of revenge of sorts, wouldn't it?

6 - This film is widely credited with saving New Line Cinema from filing bankruptcy in 1984.

7 - Over five hundred gallons of fake blood were used in the movie.  I imagine that the scene involving the hungry bed used half of that amount alone!

8 - The little girl skipping rope in the movie?  Her house was the one used for Tina's death scene!

9 - Charlie Sheen was interested in the role of Glen, but he decided not to take the part over salary disagreements (Sheen wanted more money than the producers were willing to offer).

10 - The whole movie was shot in a month.

11 - When Robert Englund tried on the slasher glove for the first time, it apparently did too good a job!  Englund cut himself moments after putting it on!

12 - Robert Englund spent three hours each day getting his make-up put on.

13 - Heather Langenkamp beat out several other actresses for the role of Nancy.  Other actresses who reportedly tried out for the role were Tracey Gold, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Grey, and Demi Moore!

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