Posts Tagged ‘Dreams’

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Miko Hughes, David Newsom, John Saxon

After the successful, entertaining “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” the quality of the “Elm Street” saga went straight to Hell. 1989’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child,” rushed into production and plagued by both MPAA censorship and a bad script, is one thing a horror movie should never be: BORING! 1991’s “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” which does indeed close out the original series continuity, lacks the so-bad-it’s-good element of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” and is simply bad. At one point, Freddy kills a guy by using a Nintendo Power Glove. That right there best symbolizes the series’ decline. Only if I were being paid could I be persuaded to watch either of those movies ever again. The upside of these wastes of celluloid is that they paved the way for the return of Wes Craven. All Craven had to do to craft the best “Nightmare” since the original was to revisit an idea he’d had during the early stages of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,” and that is this: What effect can movies have on the people who create them?

Heather Langenkamp, star of the first and third “Elm Street” films, and her son Dylan (Miko Hughes) by special effects maestro Chase Porter (David Newsom) are bearing witness to the creation of a new “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie when the prop Freddy glove comes to life and starts killing members of the film crew. Just as Chase is about to be next on the chopping block, Heather wakes up in the middle of an earthquake, one which results in Chase receving the very same scratches as he had in Heather’s dream just before she was awakened. Making Heather even more nervous are the harassing phone calls from a Freddy-like voice which she has been receiving. All of this coincides with the 10th anniversary of the original “Nightmare” film, for which Heather is making the rounds on talk shows with Robert Englund, dressed up in his Freddy garb. Later, Heather is approached to do a new “Nightmare” movie (forgetting of course that her character was killed off in Part 3) by producer Bob Shaye. Ultimately, she turns the role down.

Following her meeting at New Line, her son has an over-the-top freak-out moment that seems to suggest that he has seen his mother’s horror films without her knowledge, on top of leading Heather to worry about Dylan’s mental stability. She calls Chase in a panic and pleads with him to come home. Along the way, Chase falls asleep at the wheel and is killed by “Freddy.” At the subsequent funeral procession, familiar faces associated with the “Nightmare” series can be spotted, including actors John Saxon, Nick Corri, and Tuesday Knight. Following an almost fatal incident with Dylan at an amusement park with John Saxon as a witness, Heather visits Wes Craven looking to make sense of everything. Craven explains that the Freddy character in the films had been holding at bay a very real evil, which had taken a liking to the form and persona associated with Krueger. Now that Freddy is dead, “the genie is out of the bottle.” He also explains that he too has been having nightmares as of late. The meeting leaves Heather no less disturbed, as she sees the line-for-line dialogue from their conversation on Craven’s computer screen in script form.

Further disturbing behavior from Dylan leaves Heather no choice but to take him to the hospital. There, Heather encounters Dr. Heffner (Fran Bennett), the same sort of well-meaning but ultimately counterproductive medical practitioner that Priscilla Pointer’s Dr. Simms was in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.” Heather’s own sanity is questioned, and the very real possibility that she may lose Dylan to foster care if his condition doesn’t change becomes apparent. The doctors eventually put Dylan to sleep against Heather’s wishes, and the result is the death of Dylan’s babysitter Julie (Tracy Middendorf) in the same style as Tina’s demise from the original “Nightmare.” Dylan sleepwalks out of the hospital and heads for home with his mother in pursuit. She soon sees that “Freddy” is manipulating reality, turning her and John Saxon into their “Nightmare on Elm Street” characters and making the outside of her house appear as 1428 Elm Street. With Dylan missing but leaving sleeping pills as “Hansel and Gretel”-like bread crumbs, Heather takes the pills and has one final showdown with “Freddy.” Setting the monster ablaze just like the “Hansel and Gretel” witch, Heather rescues her son and both wake up to find Wes Craven’s finished script waiting for them to read.

I realize that I just got through praising “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4” as the best “Elm Street” sequel. So, when I say that “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” is the best “Nightmare” since the original, I am keeping in mind the fact that this movie exists outside of the “Elm Street” continuity. It’s unusually clever for an early 1990’s horror movie. At that time, both the series and the genre as a whole had become stale. “New Nightmare” is something of a milestone. Effectively, it bridges the gap between the slashers of the 80’s and the period of self-awareness the genre would go through in the late 90’s. What it lacks in flashiness, it makes up for with a compelling story, characters you can’t help but care for due to their association with the franchise, and a welcome return to the serious tone of the original. Here, Freddy is not only back to being the dark demonic figure he once was, but is now even darker than before. Accordingly, the Freddy makeup is also much improved. Along the way, there are several callbacks to the original, from recognizable lines of dialogue right down to Heather’s wounds and the grey streak in her hair which she acquires at the hospital. If you’ve found that the “Elm Street” sequels don’t do it for you but that you enjoyed the original, this one should pleasantly surprise you.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988)

Director: Renny Harlin

Starring: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Danny Hassel, Andras Jones, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Lisa Wilcox

Once again, I find myself drawing unpopular conclusions about a “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel. In “Freddy’s Revenge,” I found a movie which fails as a follow-up but which works as entertainment. “Dream Warriors,” while mostly a good sequel, tries to be both dark and funny without finding the right mixture, and insults my intelligence in the finale. “Dream Warriors” is also responsible for bringing its immensely popular villainous dream demon out of the shadows and into the spotlight, giving him more one-liners and making the murder sequences less gruesome and more cartoonish. For good or ill, this would be the path that the “Nightmare” films would follow until Wes Craven’s return in 1994. But, with both Parts 2 and 3, the series was still trying to hold onto the creepier elements with which it began. It wasn’t until “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” that the commitment to pure entertainment over horror was made in full, and that’s what helps to make it my favorite of the “Elm Street” sequels.

The three surviving “Dream Warriors” have all been reasonably reintegrated into society, back in high school hoping to get on with their lives. But Kristen (Tuesday Knight, replacing Patricia Arquette) has her doubts that Freddy Krueger is really gone for good. Her friends Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) are convinced he is, and they aren’t taking too kindly to being dragged into Kristen’s dreamworld every time she has a problem. The casting change had me fooled the first time I saw this movie back in the fall of 2000. Both Knight’s appearance and her performance as Kristen differ so greatly from that of Arquette that I didn’t realize I was looking at the same character until the first scene she has with Joey and Kincaid.

Eventually, Kristen’s fears are realized, and Freddy returns to take out both Kincaid and Joey, and to further terrorize Kristen. Her boyfriend Rick Johnson (Andras Jones) and his sister, Alice (Lisa Wilcox) grow concerned, especially after the deaths of Kristen’s two remaining friends from Westin Hills. They go to the house at 1428 Elm Street, still as unoccupied and dilapidated as it was in the last installment, where Kristen utters her worst line of dialogue: “It’s not just a house… It’s his home!” I honestly don’t know where to begin with what’s wrong with that line or how badly it’s delivered. After Rick quickly gives his friend Dan (Danny Hassel) the Cliff Notes version of Freddy’s origin story, Kristen’s mother (Brooke Bundy, reprising her role) shows up. Oh, god, not her again! Fortunately she’s gone as soon as she’s satisfied that she’s tugged on Kristen’s chain hard enough to force her to return home. That leads to Tuesday Knight’s one decent scene in this movie where, upon discovering that she’s been force-fed sleeping pills in her drinking water, Kristen tells her mother “You just murdered me!” Ouch. Could that have been any more harsh?

Kristen falls asleep, and Freddy shows up for one final confrontation. Being that Kristen represents the last of the Elm Street Children, Freddy needs a way to get to the other teens, so he gets Kristen to bring Alice into the dream and hand over her powers before Freddy tosses Kristen into a boiler. Alice wakes up and goes with Rick over to Kristen’s house. There, they discover in horror along with Kristen’s mom that her room is set ablaze and they are too late to save her. Alice, it seems, is set up now to serve as the Dream Master, or Freddy’s spiritual opposite.

Alice soon discovers that her new powers not only bring other people into her dreams, but they also give Alice herself certain character traits of Freddy’s victims. It’s unclear whether or not Kristen’s abilities included that little bonus. It certainly didn’t seem that way in the last movie, but maybe it would help to give an explanation within the film as to why Kristen was acting so differently. Next on the chopping block is Sheila (Toy Newkirk), an asthmatic who Freddy kills by sucking all the air out of her. Rick falls soon after, stabbed by an invisible Freddy who turns Rick’s novice martial arts skills against him. After the loss of her brother, Alice devises a plan involving herself, Dan and their friend Debbie (Brooke Theiss). But Freddy is able to single out Debbie, using her fear of cockroaches against her by turning her into one and crushing her inside a roach motel. At the same time, he puts Alice and Dan in a time loop so he can finish Debbie off uninterrupted. Still asleep while driving Dan’s truck, Alice and Dan attempt to run over what she thinks is Freddy standing in front of them. In reality it’s a tree, and the resulting wreck lands Dan in the hospital under sedation on the operating table.

Knowing that Dan is prone to an attack from Freddy at any moment, Alice hurries home, takes some sleeping pills, and goes into the dreamworld to kick a little Krueger ass. Specifically, Alice enters Freddy’s domain through her bedroom mirror, or “looking glass.” The Lewis Carroll reference should not be lost on anyone. Dan is injured inside the dreamworld and is awakened by the doctors, leaving Alice and Freddy to go one-on-one. A fairly one-sided battle ensues, with Alice getting the upper hand, but Freddy shows no signs of fatigue or lasting injury. Alice is finally able to turn the souls Freddy has collected against him, and they tear him apart before freeing themselves.

Honestly, I’m amazed to find that “The Dream Master” doesn’t have as large an amount of fan support as its immediate predecessor does. It’s never boring, for one thing. I’ll address the four most common marks against it individually:

  • Freddy’s revival. In Kincaid’s final dream sequence, his dog shows up to spray a stream of flaming urine onto Freddy’s resting place, thus reviving him. The thing is… A) It’s a dream sequence and B) Freddy’s a showman, and as such, loves a flashy entrance. C) This was the late 80’s, after all.
  • The early exit of the “Dream Warriors.” This group of misfits were never that strong individually, nor were they that great as a cohesive unit. They only survived this long because of Nancy (R.I.P.). With her out of the picture, Freddy was free to pick them off as soon as he’d regained his strength. No big shocker, there.
  • The outlandish dream sequences. The ones I hear people complain about are the roach motel and Joey’s waterbed. The waterbed isn’t any more over the top than Johnny Depp’s demise in the original “Nightmare,” nor is it any more implausible than Jennifer’s TV death in “Dream Warriors.” As for the roach motel, yes it’s a little out there, but so are most of our own nightmares. Not to mention that this is miles above some of the kill scenes in the next couple of sequels. The only one that truly fails in its execution (no pun intended) here is Rick’s death, made less elaborate than intended due to the limitations of the film’s budget. Alice and Dan’s time loop, along with the previous sequence where Alice gets pulled through a movie screen and ends up at the diner where she works (where Freddy orders “soul food” pizza) are the two best dream sequences in any of these movies.
  • The final confrontation. I guess, after all the insanity that had come before, the finale wasn’t big and broad enough. The way that Alice deals with Freddy here is sort of the complete opposite of Nancy’s solution from the first film. Both women find a way to rob Krueger of his power, only he’s too strong now to simply be evaded or ignored. Alice, in a move that smacks of “old school” horror, defeats the monster by revealing to him his own ugly reflection. It’s never a bad thing to rely on old school methods.

My only personal complaint is the unavoidable re-casting of Kristen. Tuesday Knight does nothing to make me believe she is the same person as Arquette’s version, although I do appreciate Knight’s contribution to the soundtrack (the song “Nightmare,” which plays over the opening credits). It’s all good clean popcorn fun at this point. These movies have always been more fun than scary, and this is the one that finally stopped tap-dancing around that fact. The series probably could have ended on the high note that “The Dream Master” provides. If you’re seeing these movies for the very first time, whatever your opinion of this one, you’re likely to agree. Fortunately, series creator Wes Craven had other ideas.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)

Director: Chuck Russell

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Patricia Arquette, Larry Fishburne, Priscilla Pointer, Craig Wasson, John Saxon, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Robert Englund

Just as I can’t jump on the hate bandwagon against “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,” I also take a pass on boarding the love train for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,” which some fans see as their favorite of the franchise. Don’t get me wrong. “Dream Warriors” is still a great sequel. But I can’t help thinking how much greater it could have been. The few problems I have are similar to the ones I had with the original “Nightmare,” only this time they are magnified.

Six years after the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” we look in on Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette, in her first starring role) building a replica of the house on 1428 Elm Street. Playing loud music and eating coffee grounds washed down with Diet Coke, Kristen is told by her mother to get to bed, as Mom has a boyfriend waiting impatiently downstairs. Kristen does eventually fall asleep, winding up inside the 1428 Elm Street house. Kristen’s dream leads her back to her own house, where the bathroom sink comes alive and slashes her wrist. In the waking world, Kristen’s mother finds her daughter appearing to have sliced open her own wrist with a razor blade.

Off to Westin Hills we go, where Kristen reacts violently to the thought of sedation and is only calmed down when Nancy Thompson, a new staff member at the psychiatric hospital, enters the room and finishes the familiar Freddy nursery rhyme that Kristen begins. Afterwards, we become acquainted with the rest of the cast in a group therapy session. In addition to Doctors Neil Gordon and Elizabeth Simms (Craig Wasson and Priscilla Pointer), we also meet the other patients who, together with Kristen, make up the last of the Elm Street children (i.e. the children of those who originally killed Freddy). This is where “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” shows off one of its strong points; very few horror films in the late 80’s had casts of characters with such distinct personalities and backgrounds. We have Joey (a mute), Will (a paraplegic whose condition is the result of a nasty fall), Kincaid (who suffers from perceived behavioral issues), Taryn (a former drug addict), Phillip (a sculptor who specializes in clay puppets), and Jennifer (an aspiring actress with delusions of grandeur).

Purely by accident, it is revealed that Nancy has been taking an experimental drug called Hypnocil, used for dream suppression. She wants Neil to prescribe this drug for the kids, but Neil balks at the idea of administering a drug that the FDA won’t even approve. After another dream in which Kristen is attacked by Freddy and then demonstrates her ability to pull others into her dream with her by calling for Nancy, Freddy and his nemesis are reunited. Subsequently, Phillip is killed when Freddy causes him to sleepwalk up to the hospital’s highest point and then cuts him loose, having used Phillip’s tendons as marionette strings. The next day, Jennifer is killed in a scene which couldn’t possibly be interpreted as a suicide, yet is. When Jennifer falls asleep in the TV room, Freddy interrupts a talk show hosted by Dick Cavett. Jennifer goes to the TV to try to fix the scrambled signal, but then Freddy’s head emerges from the top and two mechanical arms extend from the sides, pick up Jennifer, and then ram her head into the TV screen. Max (Laurence Fishburne), the head orderly, finds Jennifer with her head indeed smashed through the TV screen. The trouble is that she would either have had to run at the TV, jump and then headbutt the screen, or at least get something to stand on first. Considering no chair or footstool is in sight, I’m guessing the hospital staff went with the even more ludicrous explanation.

All the while, visions of a nun named Sister Mary Helena convince Gordon to go along with Nancy’s recommendation of giving doses of Hypnocil to the children. He also decides it would be best to try group hypnosis. Within the ensuing dream, the kids all discover they have powers unique to them. But the hypnosis experiment backfires, resulting in Freddy trapping Joey in a coma, and Dr. Gordon and Nancy both being fired. They soon head for a local bar to confront Nancy’s father, estranged from his daughter ever since the death of her mother. Nancy knows her father is the only person who can tell them where Freddy’s remains are hidden, as Sister Mary Helena has told Neil that burying said bones are the only way to put Freddy to rest for good. Lt. Thompson is less than cooperative, so Neil sends Nancy back to the hospital while he convinces her father to take him to the auto graveyard.

Nancy makes it back to the hospital, hoping to help Joey and Kristen, who has been sedated and placed in isolation after freaking out over Nancy’s firing. Max stands in her way, but she convinces him to let her visit with the others one last time. It is here that she gathers Taryn, Will and Kincaid for one final group hypnosis, warning them that death in the dreamworld means death for them in the waking world as well. Only Kincaid and Nancy manage to survive to free Joey from Freddy’s clutches while Neil and Lt. Thompson remove Freddy’s bones from the trunk of a Cadillac and proceed to dig a hole to bury them. Now here’s where the movie sinks from being as good as or even better than the original into bitter disappointment.

Before Lt. Thompson and Dr. Gordon can finish their task, Freddy’s bones come alive, impale Nancy’s father against the Cadillac and knocks Neil unconscious with his shovel before collapsing again. Most occurrences like this in the series can be attributed to the characters falling asleep without them or the viewer knowing it, but the way this scene plays itself out I have to believe that Freddy somehow reanimated his bones in the waking world. What happens next, however, may be even worse. After Joey reveals his dream power to have been the use of his voice in screaming so loud that it appears to drive Freddy away, Nancy automatically assumes the danger is over. She even becomes complacent when her father appears in the dream without having been pulled in by Kristen and tells her he has “crossed over.” Nancy believes this lie so thoroughly that she doesn’t notice anything is amiss until she feels the four blades of Freddy’s glove in her abdomen. Freddy also traps Kristen in the room with them, and although she uses her gymnastics dream power to evade him briefly, he does catch up to her and appears ready to take her out until a mortally wounded Nancy sneaks from behind and forces Freddy’s gloved hand into his own chest. Neil also wakes up and shoves Freddy’s bones into the grave and consecrates the ground, apparently defeating him. But victory comes with a price, as Nancy dies in Kristen’s arms. Later, at Nancy’s funeral, Neil discovers that “Sister Mary Helena” was the assumed name of Amanda Krueger, Freddy’s mother.

As originally conceived, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” was to be much darker and more violent. Freddy himself was to be much more vulgar, instead of the wisecracking persona he adopted and has since become known for. In fact, Wes Craven’s first idea for the movie had had Freddy emerging into the real world to invade the dreams of actors filming the latest “Nightmare” film, a concept he would later have the chance to revisit in seven years’ time. The final product, the subject of rewrites from three additional sources (including Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell), still manages to be the best written of all the “Nightmare” sequels. It also contains some of the series’ best nightmare sequences, and features an undeniably catchy hit tune in “Dream Warriors” by Dokken.

So why can’t I love it the way that most fans do? Much like the first “Nightmare,” the ending to this one is downright frustrating. It’s not that big a deal that Nancy dies. Heroes die in horror movies all the time. It’s the WAY she dies that’s such a bring-down. Nancy had demonstrated in the past that she’s too smart to fall for the trick which seals her fate here. Compounding the situation is the awful dialogue given to the otherwise talented Patricia Arquette in this, the series’ saddest moment. Because we know now that “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” would not be the final “Nightmare,” her death is ultimately in vain, turning what had been a fun movie up to that point into a most depressing affair indeed. Tonally, it would have worked better in Wes Craven’s darker, original draft. If this movie had been terrible, I wouldn’t even care. I would just ignore the fact that it exists. But it’s not terrible. It’s actually very entertaining and inventive, and that’s why it’s so disheartening that it doesn’t quite have the ending it deserves.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Robert Englund

As a general rule, I tend to enjoy a given film more when I know the least about it. But, every so often, one comes along that I would have been better suited in knowing exactly what I was getting into beforehand. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” is one of the latter. Back when I originally sought out the Freddy Krueger series, I saw this particular one out of sequence. While that much didn’t really matter, what did matter was that I came out of that first viewing experience feeling sorely disappointed! For several years, in fact, I completely wrote this first sequel off. Later, I came to realize I’d done so because of what this movie is NOT, rather than appreciate it for what it IS. This is not to call it the best of the sequels, because that would be crazy. But I do believe that fun can be had in watching it as long as you go in with the right frame of mind.

Five years after the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) and his family have moved into the same house at 1428 Elm Street which was once occupied by Nancy Thompson and her mother. Jesse, as a matter of fact, now lives in the same room as Nancy once did. The house itself is largely unchanged from the first film, although the front door is now painted red (instead of blue), and it would remain so in all the house’s future appearances in the series. Jesse is having nightmares about Freddy Krueger, the same dream demon who once haunted Nancy. This time, since Jesse’s parents weren’t part of the mob who originally killed Freddy, Mr. Krueger is not out to kill Jesse but rather to possess his body so that he can kill more indiscriminately in the waking world rather than be limited to the realm of dreams. This was a change that has never gone over well with fans, and I can certainly see why, but it’s not really the deal-breaker it’s made out to be.

Jesse is obviously very confused about who this guy is and why he’s being targeted. Eventually, after a very embarrassing moment in which Jesse is caught dancing in his room (watch the scene and you’ll understand), Jesse’s girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finds Nancy’s diary hidden away in the closet and begins reading passages from it. The diary entries pique Jesse’s interest because they talk of Nancy having similar nightmarish experiences to his. In school, Jesse is at odds and then suddenly best friends with Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). Neither young man has much use for their gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell), and Grady even goes to the extreme of explaining Schneider’s after hours activities at a gay S&M bar.

Jesse accidentally confirms this story later when he sleepwalks there and is caught by Schneider, who is in full S&M garb (as is the bartender, played by New Line Cinema exec Robert Shaye!).  Schneider then brings Jesse back to the school to run laps in the gymnasium. Oh, I’m sorry. I meant he KIDNAPS Jesse and forces him to run laps against his will when he should be sending this kid home! Also very strangely, while all this is going on, various kinds of sports equipment inexplicably hurl themselves at Coach Schneider. He can’t handle Jesse’s balls…  Schneider’s hands are eventually tied with jump ropes and he is dragged screaming into the showers by an invisible force. There, still screaming, he is restrained, his clothes removed and his bare ass slapped with a towel. I would have thought a man of his nature would have thoroughly enjoyed this sort of treatment. But I can certainly understand how receiving a couple of fatal slash wounds to the back would be a bit of a bummer for anyone. Worse still is that when the smoke clears, Jesse discovers Freddy’s glove on his hand, and screams his fool head off! Eventually, he makes his way back home through the rain and with police escort.

Lisa does a bit of investigating, which leads her to the location of the old power plant where Freddy used to work and also where he brought the children he killed (hence all the nightmares set in a boiler room that the Elm Street kids have had). The movie eventually leads us to the scene of a pool party at Lisa’s house. Jesse attends at first, but leaves in the middle of a make-out session with Lisa, deciding instead to head for Grady’s house to stay the night hoping to avoid the takeover of his body by Freddy. And if you think it’s a mere coincidence that this sequence of events has Jesse exiting a poolside changing closet to be with his same-sex (although thoroughly heterosexual) best friend, then you’d be wrong.

Eventually, Jesse does transform into Freddy, slaughtering Grady and also several of the guests at Lisa’s pool party. Finally forced to retreat by Lisa’s father wielding a shotgun, Freddy heads for his old boiler room where Lisa confronts him one last time, convincing Jesse to fight off the monster inside of him in a blaze of fire and crawl out from beneath the ashes. But as with the first film, the defeat of Freddy does not mean the end of the battle, as Freddy is apparently free to haunt Jesse’s dreams once more, showing up in an updated version of the school bus nightmare which began the film.

There’s more than enough evidence to conclude that at least some of the people involved with the project knew full well that they were crafting a story which “Elm Street” fans would come to refer as “The Gay Nightmare,” though some still claim to have been ignorant at the time. Writer David Chaskin certainly knew, as did openly gay lead actor Mark Patton. Who knew vs. who didn’t doesn’t matter. That the film dares to be different does. It’s undeniably stupid at times, and batshit crazy in other instances, but I can’t help admiring it for being so bold. It has that so-bad-it’s-good quality which has helped lift other potentially bad movies into cult status. That’s why you watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,” not in the hopes that you’ll find a worthy successor to the first film, but because of its own uniqueness.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

I still have fond memories of the first time I ever watched “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” A senior in high school at the time, it had me hooked from the opening title sequence when the series’ infamous theme is heard for the first time. As I have seen the film many times since the fall of 1999, I’ve noticed more and more a few standout flaws here and there within the overall plot, which I’m not surprised to learn came up as a result of creative differences between the heads at New Line Cinema and director Wes Craven. This knowledge, however, has not diminished my enjoyment of “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” nor my appreciation for its iconic status in the genre.

A blonde teenage girl named Tina (Amanda Wyss) is becoming increasingly disturbed by nightmares of a horribly burned man in a brown hat and red & green striped sweater, who wears a glove on his right hand with blades attached to all of the fingers except the thumb. The recurring nightmare seems to always take place in some kind of boiler room. She’s so frightened that she asks friend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Nancy’s boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp, in his first movie role) to stay the night so she can feel safe. From the way they react to Tina’s story of the man in her nightmares, Nancy and Glen are both clearly having dreams about the same mysterious person. Tina’s boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri) crashes the party, and takes Tina up to her parents’ bedroom. Sometime after they both drift off to sleep, Rod is awakened in horror as he watches Tina being slashed by an invisible presence and dragged out of the bed, up the wall and onto the ceiling where she is finally killed, her lifeless and bloody corpse falling back down to the bed in a sea of red. Certain he’ll be accused of Tina’s murder, Rod further incriminates himself by opening the bedroom window and escaping out into the night, leaving Nancy and Glen to discover what’s left of their friend. The next morning, Rod is captured by the police which include Nancy’s father, Lt. Donald Thompson (John Saxon), after Rod has confronted Nancy on her way to school and tried to convince her that he had nothing to do with Tina’s murder.

In her English class, Nancy drifts off to sleep, sees Tina in a body bag just outside the classroom, and walks out into the hallway following a trail of blood down to the school basement. This quickly transforms into the same boiler room seen in earlier nightmares. Nancy escapes by burning her arm on a nearby pipe, awaking with such violent screams as to disturb the entire classroom. Deciding to leave for home straight away, Nancy notices that the burn she suffered in the dream has appeared on her arm in the waking world. She later goes to visit Rod at the jail. Unsure at first whether to believe him, Nancy is convinced once Rod describes the way he saw Tina die and most especially after revealing that he has been dreaming about the same creep that she, Tina and Glen all had been. Later that night, Nancy falls asleep while in the bathtub and is almost drowned by the dream demon.

Close to falling asleep again in her room, Nancy is startled by Glen who has made the unusually brazen move of sneaking through her bedroom window. She asks him to stand by as a guard while she goes looking for the monster in her dreams. While in dreamland, Nancy discovers the man appearing to be going after Rod next. Glen of course has fallen asleep too, and is scolded by Nancy once she’s able to regain consciousness. Together, they rush down to the police station in the middle of the night, but arrive too late to save Rod, who appears to all but Nancy to have hung himself with his own bed sheets. At Rod’s funeral, Nancy tells her parents about the dream monster, and it’s as clear as when Nancy and Glen listened to Tina’s story that Nancy’s mother and father know exactly who she’s talking about. But, instead of coming right out and saying so, Nancy’s mother (Ronee Blakely) takes her to a dream therapy clinic, where she experiences yet another nightmare. This time, Nancy develops a grey streak in her hair, has a very bad cut on her arm, and has also managed to pull the hat off the man’s head and bring it forth into the waking world.

After an argument about the hat and the discovery of the name “Fred Krueger” written on the inside, Nancy’s mother is forced to reveal the truth: Yes, she’s known about him all this time. Freddy Krueger had been a child murderer who was brought to trial but got off on a technicality. The parents of Elm Street had gotten together and tracked him down to the boiler room where he took the kids he abducted and killed, where they burned the whole place down with Krueger inside it. Nancy’s mother then produces the familiar bladed glove which she personally took and has kept hidden in the basement ever since.

Nancy and Glen come up with a plan whereby she would go into the dreamworld, extract Freddy and have Glen stand by with something with which to bludgeon him to death. Sadly, Glen falls asleep before the two can set their plan in motion. Glen is dragged down into his bed, and all that exits the gaping hole is a seemingly endless geyser of blood. The scene was to have been even gorier than it appears in the final product, but they only had the one shot of making it work because the fake blood caused a short circuit which could have been a health hazard to all involved. Booby trapping the house, Nancy goes into the dreamworld alone, pulling Freddy out as planned and forcing him into all her traps. Eventually, Nancy sets Freddy on fire and persuades her father and the cops to break down the front door and help her out. But in the time it takes for them to get there, Freddy makes his way upstairs and burns Nancy’s mother to death. Nancy sends her father out of the room and deals with Freddy one last time by herself. Her final solution is simply to turn her back on him and reclaim all the power she’d given him through her fear.

The inspirations for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” are far more creepy than anything you’ll see in the actual movie. Freddy Krueger comes from Craven’s memories, named for a kid who used to bully Wes, and his appearance from a fedora-wearing hobo who once frightened Wes as a child. The story itself is inspired by newspaper headlines. Three men who were refugees from Cambodia, having escaped the Pol Pot regime, were nonetheless still traumatized. Within the space of twelve months, each man was dead. They had all done everything they could to keep from dreaming. When they finally did fall asleep, each man woke up screaming, and then expired.

I’ve personally watched “A Nightmare on Elm Street” enough times to know it frontwards and backwards. The movie is nearly flawless. It’s the ending that keeps perfection just out of reach. This comes as the result of the conflicting ideas of two men: writer/director Wes Craven, and producer Robert Shaye. Craven was more interested in telling one complete story with a closed loop. Shaye, who was looking to bring New Line Cinema (the company which he had founded) out of financial dire straits, didn’t want Freddy Krueger as a mere one-off villain and so, upon his insistence, a new ending was tacked on to tease the possibility of a sequel. As an ending, it doesn’t work because there’s zero build-up to it. Meanwhile, Craven’s intended conclusion (wherein Nancy turns her back on Freddy) is foreshadowed on three separate occasions. But don’t even think about letting this discourage you! There’s so much that’s iconic about “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” from the music, to the elaborate dream sequences to Robert Englund’s memorably creepy performance as Freddy Krueger, that make it one of the top must-sees in all of horror.