Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Last night I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.

Nancy (Langenkamp) attends a sleepover with a friend only to wake in the middle of the night to the sounds of that friend's murder. They both had the same nightmare about a burnt-faced man with knives on his fingers. Nancy fears because of this commonality, she is next.

After more nightmares and an eventual confession from her own alcoholic mother, Nancy learns the man in their dreams is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and gets his backstory. With this new information, she, along with her boyfriend across the street, Glenn (a very young Johnny Depp), attempt to defeat this monster with a mix of sleep deprivation and calculated nightmare-planning.

This film came out in 1984. I first saw it a year later at a friend's slumber party, much to the dismay of my mother, who forbid me from such parties when I came home afterword, terrified. I refused to sleep for days.

"1 ... 2 ... Freddy's coming for you, 3 ... 4 ... " The song the kids sing as they jump rope in the background of the film stayed with me all these years, and hearing it again gave me a visceral reaction.

It's funny what you remember and what you don't.

For example, I had clear recollections of Freddy: everything from his voice to his nails to his legendary sweater. I also remembered that Nancy was a "good girl" and her house was nice, in a good neighborhood.

What I failed to remember was Nancy's alcoholic mother, the sexual jokes and references (perhaps they just went over my head in youth) and the somewhat shocking ending. All were hilarious and satisfying last night.

The score by Charles Bernstein is a big factor as well—each time the music enters, it's hard not to put your guard up; you know something is coming.

Wes Craven knew how to do horror.

As silly and dated as many of the references and occurrences are, the film holds up. It is spooky, it is creepy, and it makes you jump. The origin story of the villain is also horrific and effective.

A classic already, and surely for years to come.


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