Monday, October 5, 2009
Never Sleep Again--"A Nightmare on Elm Street"
In 1984, Hollywood was making some big bucks off ridiculous copy-cats of John Carpenter's "Halloween" (Friday the 13th) and scraping the bottom of the barrel by recruiting sub-par acting talent (Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, and so on).
Horror movie enthusiasts were ready for something refreshing and new, and low budget director Wes Craven was in the right state of mind to deliver.
The main idea behind Craven's horror classic was based on articles in an LA Times newspaper. The stories focused on a group of Cambodian refugees whose children were having extremely crazy nightmares when they'd try to sleep. When their parents sought after medical help, the children died while they were having the nightmares.
Creating a horror film that revolves around a killer that murders you while you sleep had never been done before, and I think that's why "Nightmare" is such a potent thriller.
Instead of scrounging up A List Hollywood actors, "Nightmare" featured Heather Langenkamp (Nancy), a then unknown Johnny Depp (Glen), and Amanda Wyss (Tina). Although each actor was very young at the time, Craven's writing breathed a lot of life into the characters. Nancy was a really strong person, and I'm a lot of girls looked up to her (if teenager girls actually went to see the film).
Above all else, "Nightmare" featured the most fearsome villain in horror movie history, Freddy Krueger. Portrayed by classically trained actor Robert Englund, Freddy shined in every scene he was in. Be it cutting off his own fingers or tearing through the bedspread with his trademark claws, Englund's performance was timeless and memorable.
Out of all the 80s horror flicks, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" stands out to me the most. The content and themes in the film are what make it so scary. Sure, Freddy's straight up scary as frik (and ugly for that matter), but once you really think about what you're watching, "Nightmare" is much more a psychological thriller. It plays with a fear that's inside of all of us: the fear of the unknown. That is why Craven's movie is such a classic, he tapped into a concept that other directors waddled around in their rehashed summer camp slashers. It's a shame that other horror directors don't look for the intrinsic fears that we all possess, if they did, we'd have a whole slew of great horror flicks coming out these days!
On a side note, the trailer for the reinterpretation of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" looks pretty good. I'm not against remakes entirely, but this does not look like a remake to me. I just hope that they treat Craven's vision with respect and don't rush through scenes with crappy editing before the scares actually sink in.
View the new "Nightmare" trailer here.
Thanks for reading!