Cait Hates Horror : The Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Nightmare on Elm Street is the origin of a well-known terror character, Freddy Kruger. For most Halloweens in my childhood, there was always one weird, desk-carving kid wearing a latex Kruger mask with razor nails. Needless to say, I was not totally at ease going into this assignment.
Released in 1984, it stars a number of people I’ve never seen before and Johnny Depp. The basics of the plot revolve around a few teenagers plagued with dreams of a killer chasing them with knife hands. And guys, if you were hoping for a 10 minute gentle lead up of first scenes representing peaceful American suburbia, nope, you’re not getting that. This movie jumps into horror in the very first second, creepy music and razors to boot. It’s basically the opening sequence from Dexter, except Kruger has little care for sanitation.
One of the many reasons I’ve avoided horror is that I do not inherently enjoy “gore porn.” The Nightmare on Elm Street is really gorey at times, especially Freddy’s actual blood which I’m pretty sure is just left-over gak from the Nickelodeon prop department. It also equals in creepiness in the manner that Kruger behaves (i.e. waddling while running and non-stop smiles), and the ever present danger of falling asleep (e.g. in a bathtub, where Kruger is looking to slice you from taint to eye ball).
You guys, I did not like watching this movie. It checked off all the boxes for things that I hate about horror movies. HOWEVER, this movie is phenomenal. The main character is a strong, intelligent female who does not put up with all the gas-lighting that everyone throws at her. The killer is intensely terrifying with a twist which creates depth in a low-budge slasher film. The gore is not only well executed as practical effects, but is horrifying on a psychological level. The plot makes sense, even though it lives in a magical reality that’s not fully explained. Conclusion, Wes Craven is a supes creepy dude with rad storytelling skills.
Things I’ve learned from this movie
- In the ‘80s, drugs had fun labels on them, like “STAY AWAKE!” I imagined other little white bottles said things like ““GET THAT YEAST UNDER CONTROL!” or “STOP POOPING!”
- Teenagers have so much blood in them. This is not a theory anyone should test out, but I'm pretty sure they are just pimple covered blood sacks, guys.
- Going 11 days without sleep is a nightmare even without a serial killer hunting you down. Nancy, girl. I feel for you. I once went 3 days without sleep because of final exams, and I ended up falling asleep on the sidewalk in the sun. Hard times.
- “Either cut your fingernails or stop that kind of dreaming,” is a line I will be delivering to people in the future who complain about nothing.
- Inception is a knockoff. Preamble: I viscerally, but illogically hate Christopher Nolan. After seeing this, yea the idea of multi-level dreamscapes and lucid control of your subconscious seems cool… but it’s nothing like a teenage girl conquering a demonic killer against all odds and dragging his ass out of the dreamworld. Suck on that conceptual mind game, NOLAN!
Why does this movie matter?
Not all parents should be parents.
Our heroine’s mom in this movie suuuuuucks. And there is a reason as to why she might suck, in the sense that she’s been through some serious emotional trauma, and also has a raging Betty Friedan complex. I want to feel bad for her, I really do, but I don’t. She sucks. She drinks away her problems, even though she has full knowledge and complicity to the death of her daughter’s friends.
Edward Scissorhands coincidence?
I think not. Johnny Depp’s debut film performance was this movie. Then he goes on to be Edward Scissorhands? Is Edward Scissorhands Freddy Kruger’s son? Why do they both have razor fingers? What drugs were Tim Burton and baby-Captain Jack Sparrow on? I don’t know if Edward Scissorhands is a good movie (it looks scary, so of course I haven’t seen it), but there’s some kind of alternate universe fan fiction stuff going on there, right? RIGHT?
Is this scary?
Yes. Maybe not for a horror film veteran, because it’s still from the 80’s and the score is more techno children’s songs than that deep horn resonance a la the last three Harry Potters. BUT for those of us who are easily scared, this is terrfiying and holds up even after 30+ years. Watch it with the lights on, and probably not in bed.