Tag Archives: one two Freddy’s coming for you…

“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”

a-nightmare-on-elm-streetA NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

5 Stars  1984/18/87m

“If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all.”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Robert Englund, Lin Shaye, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Whipp.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “I had a hard-on when I woke up this morning, Tina, had your name all over it,” / “There’s four letters in my name Rod, there’s not enough room on your joint for four letters!”


There are no perfect films (with the possible exception of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion) in the same way that there are no entirely merit-less films, even more so in the realm of the slasher flick, so it’s a rarity when something excellent comes along. By 1984, I’d imagine most people were sick of masked killers hunting down teenage prey until the last girl saves the day – and then came Wes Craven’s low-budge indie flick with a bizarre little name – shouldn’t it be called Suburban Sleepover Massacre??

Everyone should know the twisted genius at the core of the Elm Street model: Don’t…fall…asleep. It’s perfect in the way that the lore of Jaws was don’t go in the water. Sleep is something even more impossible to avoid and when you’re a hormone-riddled teenager, your parents aren’t going to believe your tales of recurring nightmares about the claw-fingered madman who really is trying to kill you. Mom…he, like, really, really is!

elm11High school BFF’s Tina and Nancy discover they shared the horrible dream of the toasted guy in the Christmas sweater who freaked them well and truly out. Nancy’s boy-toy Glen tells them that’s impossible but, from his reaction when the girls describe their tormentor, he’s had the nightmare too. When Tina is brutally slain during a sleepover party, her dodgy on-off boyfriend Rod is blamed by Nancy’s Lieutenant dad and soon tossed in prison.

elm31While parents and authority figures simply accept that Rod killed Tina, Nancy becomes convinced that it was the man in her dreams and resolves that to avoid becoming his next victim, she needs to stay awake. Cue parental meddling, peer-disbelief and a memorable trip to a sleep clinic and Elm Street‘s Ace is thrown into play – Nancy has to stay awake by any means possible: pills, bad late-night TV and a helluva lotta coffee from the percolator she hides in her room.

There’s no point in me going through the rest of the story – if you’ve not seen it, what the hell are playing at!? I avoided this film until I was 19 thinking it would scare the hell out of me and, curiously, it was during my second viewing that the film left its frightening imprint: this means it rocks!

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Heather Langenkamp-enschultzenfuss is more than your average slasher flick heroine: she is the centre of the film, far more so than Freddy, who became the linchpin of later sequels (in accordance with Robert Englund’s ascent to top billing), and so a lot rests on her shoulders. As the girl next door type, Nancy is nothing but convincing and her descent into the nightmare (both literal and figurative) is the essence of the story, although things trip over themselves somewhat when she rigs her house with countless Home Alone-type traps, has a heart-to-heart with her mother and falls asleep to battle with Freddy inside a twenty minute window.

Let's get phallical...

Let’s get phallical…

Johnny Depp’s debut is a much-fussed element: as the leading guy, his job amounts to little more than standing around and looking pretty whilst not taking Nancy’s claims seriously and, eventually, dying. But he does fine in the role although we never get to see into his nightmares, nor that of any other male character as a matter of fact.

Craven’s creative streak peaked here, packing in so many great themes and ideas from the genuinely creepy skipping rope song – which has become an anthem of its own – to the allegorical subtexts of the Vietnam War: apparently Craven was riffing on untold truths which return and kick the younger generation in the ass. Here, the sins of the parents are revisited on their kids.

elm71Very little hasn’t already been written about Elm Street in the quarter century since its release, so why even bother reviewing it? I could’ve just given it five stars and written “Awesome!” next to it. It is a classic, the nightmare imagery still stands (I love the squishy staircase) and only some of the technology and Nancy’s ever-increasing hair mass date it, elements that, compared to the flaws in the remake, are minimal, proving that it never required re-booting at all.

Craven never wanted Freddy to become a franchise and while some of the sequels sucked a bit (5 and 6 I’m looking at you!!) I’m glad it did; of the three major slasher franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street has the best story arc, bucked in Part 2, but back on track all the way through the 80s films until FK became a caricature and the films drifted further away from the sleep = death goldmine of a premise.

elm21In 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was made for about $1.8million and a lot of love. In 2010, It’s CG-heavy remake was made for $35million. Which one do you think people will remember in another quarter of a century?

BIG-blurbs-of-interest: Englund returned to his career-making role all the way up to 2003, starring in eight Freddy films and his own syndicated TV series (which was crap, by the way) and has cropped up in many a slasher flick including Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera and Urban Legend. John Saxon returned for Elm Street 3 and the New Nightmare and was also in The Baby Doll Murders, the original Black Christmas, Tenebrae and Welcome to Spring Break; Heather Langenkamp also came back for 3 and 7. Nick Corri, under his real name Jsu Garcia, was in Teacher’s Pet; Charles Fleischer was in The Back Lot Murders (which also had a cameo from Ken Sagoes from Elm Street 3); Depp has starred in big budget variants From Hell and Sleepy Hollow; Mimi Craven was later in Mikey. Craven also directed Deadly Blessing, The Hills Have Eyes Part II and the Scream trilogy.

By the finale, Nancy grew her hair so big that even razor blades couldn't penetrate it

By the finale, Nancy grew her hair so big that even razor blades couldn’t penetrate it

9, 10… Michael Bay’s done it again

elmst2010A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

3 Stars  2010/18/93m

“Never sleep again.”

Director: Samuel Bayer / Writers: Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer / Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “Why are you screaming? I haven’t even cut you yet.”


Remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, rehashes – they get everywhere like that STD you just can’t get rid of. Not that I’d know, of course.

You gotta feel for Wes Craven though, now three of his most famous horror flicks have been re-somethinged in the last five years! We never thought anyone would be so foolish as to touch Elm Street, but then after Halloween “happened”, all bets were off.

elmst2010-1In fairness, Nightmare 2010 is no worse than Rob Zombie’s attempt to re-ignite interest in the Michael Myers saga, it’s actually a little better.

Unlike that film and Platinum Dunes’ re-thingy of Friday the 13th last year, Freddy’s re-birth sticks closer to the source material than it ought to: suburban kids are having a shared nightmare of a burned dude in a Fedora and the kind of stripy sweater you’d pick up in C&A before immediately putting it back again – and said dreams are deadly. This time, things unfold in a different way: the core group of teens witness the apparent self-throat slashing of their friend Dean at an all night diner. We, however, saw him fall asleep and get slashified by razor-gloved Fred K.

Things switch to focus on his girlfriend Kris (Cassidy), who ‘inherits’ the nightmares and soon becomes the next victim, passing the baton on to her ex, Jesse, and finally along to slightly more resourceful teens Quentin and Nancy. Yes, Nancy is back. Not Nancy Thompson, mind, Nancy Holbrook, played by Rooney Mara, whose sister Kate was the lead in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.

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Some textbooks are just really, really emotional

Nancy and Quentin’s detective work exposes a secret kept by their parents, but it’s got a few subtle differences to Craven’s original, concerning the pre-school all the kids went to but none can remember. Why? It’s never revealed. They just seemed to have completely forgotten. It seems that their entire pre-school class is being eliminated one by one in their sleep after their folks did the olde pitchforks and torches routine on the school’s caretaker, who was allegedly abusing the kids. Key word: allegedly.

This is one huge question mark hanging over proceedings: was Freddy guilty or not? There were no murders, no Springwood Slasher, just unfounded accusations that may or may not mean anything and we have a strange dream flashback of what happened to Freddy – yes, it’s time to spoon-feed the audience so they needn’t bother being smart enough to figure out anything on their own. Oddly, the sequence is witnessed by Gallner in nothing but Speedos.

Much is made out of the don’t-go-to-sleep premise and the babble about ‘micro-naps’ allows for some interesting moments where characters continually slip in and out of their dreams over short periods as they struggle with their fatigue – but do we really care? Freddy is at the centre stage and the teens are just there to be slashed at. The first few to go have little to do beyond act scared and the pairing of Nancy and Quentin doesn’t have a fraction of the appeal Heather Langenkamp did.elmst2010-2

Nancy herself is played capably by Mara and as an emo-misfit rather than the girl-next-door she was before – she’s not even terrified the first time she encounters Freddy – so why should I be? Her dad is entirely absent and so the police play no part and mom is marginalised into a 2D parent figure, serving only to admit to a couple of things and be there to collect her daughter when required. Cassidy, as Kris, simply looks too old to still be in high school. Haley makes for an acceptable Krueger, maintaining enough menace so’s not to crap all over Robert Englund’s original performance.

Dunes’ take on Friday the 13th was smart enough not to re-tell the same story, playing instead like another sequel with naive storytelling and there is less lore to upset in a Jason film: teens, woods, machete – you’re done. Elm Street could have been a decent ‘side-quel’ or whatever they call ’em, a follow up to the original, allowing them to basically re-use most of the plot elements without having to undo 26 years of material: as it happens, the bath scene is half-revisited and Freddy’s uber-scary wall-stretching moment becomes a truly godawful CG-fest. What is this? Craven managed ten times as much on 10% of the budget!?

It’s easy to mock remakes of films that were just fine in their original forms: there’s simply nothing to be gained creatively. It exposes the Hollywood fixation with bums-on-seats trumping quality output, accentuated here by the use of music video director Bayer in the hotseat. His visuals may be competent but depth and auteurism are entirely non-existent, dripping in a sort of muted tone that’s haunted too many films of the last decade or so. But it’s here and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even I’d rather there be remakes of horror films over no horror films at all.

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From Elm Street to Emo Street, self-harming included

Nightmare 2010 is basically an okay film in its own right that plays a little better on DVD than the big screen. The story is no longer fantastically inventive enough to wow anybody and the non-Freddy characters are too bland to evoke much empathy for their shared plight. Any sense of desperation is long gone, replaced by a sort of teenage nonchalance to it all. Nobody seems to care that much about any of it, so why should the audience?

You have to wonder, with the phobia of horror sequels that Hollywood appears to have, after we get A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in 2013, will they reboot again? Surely you can’t number something ‘Part 4’ anymore? I bet Craven is awaiting the call that tells him Scream is now old enough to warrant a remake…

Blurbs-of-interest: Haley was in Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence; Gallner was in Scream (2022); Katie Cassidy was in Harper’s Island and remakes of Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls; Thomas Dekker was in Laid to Rest and its sequel. Aaron Yoo from the 13th remake played the video blogger.

Out of the closet, into a nightmare

nightmare_on_elm_street_2A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE

3 Stars  1985/18/82m

“The man of your dreams is back.”

Director: Jack Sholder / Writer: David Chaskin / Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Sydney Walsh, Robert Englund.

Body Count: 9-ish

Dire-logue: “Lisa, there’s a Jesse on the phone!”


Although often cited as the worst of the Elm Street franchise (a view I shared until a few years ago), Freddy’s Revenge, on a subtextual level to say the least, is actually pretty good viewing. Plus the fact that it’s so superbly 80s, even the metallic shininess that adorns the titles!

*shing!*

*shing!*

Although there’s enough evidence that this sequel was rushed into production without a lot of thought, at least the creators tried to vary the theme rather than provide a retread of the original and things begin magnificently with a creepy dreamscape that could rival some of those in #1 for effectiveness. Fears of kidnap, social inadequacy, and hell are realised almost perfectly in the sequence, which introduces us to our final boy, Jesse…

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Jesse and his family have recently moved into 1428 Elm Street and their teenage son is in Nancy’s old room and already having nightmares about a burnt, claw-fingered guy who, it seems, is more interesting in getting Jesse to do his bidding rather than just slashing him to death.

Jesse soon becomes torn between what’s real and what’s in his head and his parents naturally blame it all on drugs but then some murders occur: first his high school’s nasty gym coach in an exceptionally sexual manner (we’ll come on to that later), then his buddy Grady and some poor schmucks invited to love-interest Lisa’s pool party.

Lisa demonstrating what happens if you look like Meryl Streep and dress like Tiffany

Lisa demonstrating what happens if you look like Meryl Streep and dress like Tiffany

There’s no dream-stalking in Freddy’s Revenge, at least none that’s as clear cut as the other films. No, “oh shit, I’m asleep!” Only Jesse needs to stay awake and sometimes that doesn’t appear to work as Freddy cuts his way out to wreak havoc whenever he feels like it.

Elm Street 2 has a reputation as ‘the gay film’ in the series. Why? Well, from electing an effeminate boy as the lead who whines to Lisa that “he’s [Freddy] trying to get inside my body,” is a good start. Then there’s Nancy’s diary that quite literally comes out of the closet with insights. The aforementioned gym teech is into S&M and catches Jesse in a downtown gay bar before escorting him back to school where the coach is then tied to the showers, stripped, whipped and slashed by Freddy before the showers spurt blood in a bizarre ejaculative gesture. It’s worth noting that furiously chewing gum has never succeeded in making ghostly things depart for future reference.

elm4Jesse – it’s in the name! – shrieks in a high-pitched voice much of the time before Freddy literally comes out of him to take over and it eventually takes Lisa’s kiss to save the day. In effect, heterosexuality is what claims victory, re-repressing Freddy into the background and out of harms way.

There are those who criticise the film for being a ‘gay pride parade’ but it couldn’t be more the other way if it tried. 80s America wasn’t really much of a ticker tape parade for homosexuality at the best of times and the film paints quite a marginalised portrait: the thing that lurks inside trying to take over is evil and must be repressed. Quite the celebratory message indeed.

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Is it worth pointing out the irony of these people who moan about diverse sexuality being explored in a film series where the central character is a child molester? I’d bet they’re the same ones who whinge when there are no tits on display. It’s OK, look, there’s an undead kiddie-fiddler instead!

Anyway, back in the black and white world of horror cinema, Freddy’s Revenge fails on several levels: there are only two ‘proper’ murders, although both are good, not enough of the skipping-rope chant, the acting is all over the place and Patton doesn’t make much of a sympathetic hero and it’s really Meryl Streep-a-like Myers who does the legwork. Freddy though, looks great and at his scariest with a sort of moist quality to his skin (ew!) and the final shock is amusing.

Why be scared of Freddy when there's a giant poster of Limahl over your bed!?

Why be scared of Freddy when there’s a giant poster of Limahl over your bed!?

Who knows what writer Chaskin was trying to achieve here? Parts of it work and parts don’t, but it all looks well made and it’s certainly different and betters – at least – parts 5 and Freddy’s Dead.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jack Sholder edited The Burning and directed Alone in the Dark; Christie Clark (Jesse’s little sister) was later in Children of the Corn II; Marshall Bell was in Identity; Clu Gulager was in The Initiation; Englund appeared in Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera and Urban Legend.

Pant-Soiling Scenes #9: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

The first slasher film I ever saw was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 when I was about 11. Brown pants and bad dreams. I flat out refused to watch any other Freddy films until I was 19. Oddly, it was my second viewing of the original Elm Street that creeped the hell outta me.

There’s mucho scariness in the film; the nightmare scenery is classic stuff but I personally find this moment – lasting just a matter of seconds in the run up to Tina’s uber-frightening encounter with Freddy Krueger – to be ingeniously terrifying. ‘Tis the stretchy horror wall…

pss-elm-streetHe’s like…coming through the wall for Nancy!! It’s so horrible! I want to cry.

“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”

I think y’all should check out the trailer for the upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, due out next year.

I’m sending big thanks to the fab Evil on Two Legs, where I was first made aware of it.

Looks like quite the faithful remake for a change, with a little added origin flair to it and it’s also good that we might just see some of the guys’ nightmares this time round!

Actually quite impressed and excited!

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