Author Topic: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)  (Read 2431 times)

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« on: July 10, 2020, 10:30:18 PM »
I've just watched this for the first time in about 30 years. I didn't want to mention it in the 'films that disappoint on viewing again' thread, as I actually quite enjoyed it, but it's a lot sillier than I remember, the screenplay is rather clumsy at times, and most of the performances are downright ropy.

I'm no Wes Craven expert, but I'm aware that he tended to throw elements of black comedy into most of his films. Some of the stuff in Elm Street is obviously supposed to be funny in a twisted way, but it also includes quite a few moments of inadvertent comedy. Or does it? The final shot is justly notorious, it looks ridiculous, but maybe Craven knew that. One final gag before bedtime. I'm really not sure.

It's very well-directed for the most part, it's atmospheric and the pace never flags. But the acting, as I say, is mostly dreadful. Englund is very good - he plays Freddie with such manic glee, but he's not the flat-out panto bogeyman he later became - and Langenkamp is an appealing, sympathetic protagonist. But Ronee Blakley is bloody awful as the alcoholic mother, she wouldn't look out of place in a cheap daytime soap (I don't think that's a deliberate campy touch a la Twin Peaks, it's just bad acting and writing), a bored John Saxon picks up his pay cheque through gritted teeth, and Johnny Depp, while occasionally adequate, appears stiff and confused for the most part.

It's a fairly inventive and enjoyable film, certain scenes work a charm, but I don't think it deserves its reputation as a horror masterpiece. It's no Halloween.

I will now watch all the sequels. I remember enjoying the third film, but I can barely recall a single thing about the others (I haven't seen New Nightmare).

tl;dr? S'alright, innit?


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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2020, 10:45:46 PM »
This may be top of the IMDB trivia, but I think Depp got the gig because he was bored and went to the audition to keep his friend Rob Morrow company. I thought he was fine in it, as was Saxon (no argument on Blakley, though).

I think the first four movies are head and shoulders the best first four of any of the big horror franchises, which may be damning with the faintest possible praise but so be it. I like the way that they can bend reality, like it's baked into the DNA of the movies, unlike the other ones, which have to keep coming up with dumb reasons to resurrect their main villains.

That last shot is tough to justify, though. i think it's mentioned in the "Never Sleep Again" documentary, which is available on Youtube in all its 4 hour glory, should you wish to dip into it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2-KyCVqYtI

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2020, 11:11:35 PM »
A somewhat cliched opinion but I do think the second one is pretty sloppy, despite its interesting (semi-intentional) gay subtext. The lead actor, Mark Patton, has recently been the subject of a documentary called Scream, Queen!, which sounds interesting.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2020, 01:38:03 AM »
When I watched it, I was surprised at how not funny and camp it was, compared to its successors. It's probably my second favourite of all of them though, except the ending, the ending is fucking shit.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2020, 06:39:35 AM »
Halloween is a much better movie, but I do think A Nightmare on Elm Street deserves credit for bringing a new sensibility to the genre that was later copied by many others.

The early Friday the 13th movies that it was competing against are really quite tedious by comparison.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2020, 07:59:08 AM »
3 is brilliant fun, and the movie that helped me realise that what I love most about Freddy is when his cruelty is sort of ironic, so he kills the recovering drug addict with a load of needles for fingers and chases the disabled kid with a giant wheelchair.

He's just so mean.

Great cast of really likeable characters in that one. Kincaid busting through a wall to call Freddy a pusssayyy is often quoted by me and a friend to this day. Nothing in the series is quite as chilling as the 'puppet master' death in 3, either. It rules. Aw man, John Saxon fighting a skeleton in a junkyard, I think I'm going to try and find that to watch tonight, I've nothing to connect my VHS too.

Here's some trivia I only learned last year - the UK tapes had weirdly cropped covers because at some stage it was deemed you couldn't have knives on artwork, so Fred's right hand had to go. The very originals were uncensored but here are some of the reissued ones. 2 is especially weird looking




Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2020, 11:32:30 AM »
This may be top of the IMDB trivia, but I think Depp got the gig because he was bored and went to the audition to keep his friend Rob Morrow company.

Craven said he had wanted someone else for the role because he thought Depp looked too thin and sickly but he showed the headshots to his daughter and she insisted that he cast Depp. I guess he realised it's the role that got him where he was as he appeared briefly in Freddy's Dead.

I watched all eight of them not long ago (have never bothered with the reboot), one each night, and found something to enjoy in all of them although 4 and 5 are hard going aside from a few memorable scenes. I think 3 is the best after the first, just really entertaining and inventive and I heart Patricia Arquette. Really like Freddy's Dead although no-one else seems to.

madhair60

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2020, 11:42:45 AM »
Even the worst movies in this series have something to like about them, whether it's the gothic visuals (Dream Child) or the sheer batshit lunacy of it all (Final Nightmare). Freddy Vs Jason is joyous as well, just a rollercoaster.

Fuck the remake, that never happened.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2020, 11:43:25 AM »
I also like Freddy's Dead, it has its own unique feel compared to the other sequels. I sort of feel if you're going to be cartoonish you might as well go for broke, I know a lot of people disagree.

The Dream Child isn't very good, but I really like Stephen Hopkins visual style.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2020, 01:29:31 PM »
Even
Freddy Vs Jason is joyous as well, just a rollercoaster.

The original ending was meant to have Pinhead show up. That would have been incredible.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2020, 05:12:07 PM »
Tina's death in this film is brilliant, really nasty and unsettling.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2020, 10:21:22 PM »
“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams”

There are too many great scenes for this not to be inducted into the horror hall of fame, cheesy as it was in places. Wes Craven's best movie for me, but I'm up for a heated debate on that.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2020, 10:40:17 PM »
I've only seen New Nightmare, which seems like the wrong way to do things.

Will you be watching the Bollywood rip-off of Nightmare on Elm St?

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2020, 10:41:45 PM »
Tina's death in this film is brilliant, really nasty and unsettling.

The most disturbing scene in the film by far. Her herky-jerky movements are horrible. Also, the opening scene in which Tina attempts to run away from Freddy in almost imperceptible slow-motion perfectly captures the helpless anxiety of a nightmare. That volcanic eruption of blood when Depp is murdered still looks brilliant too, I love the way Craven lingers on it for as long as possible. Surreal, operatic gore (but not as wanky as that sounds).

Watched the first sequel. It's the most overlit horror film I've ever seen, it looks like a sitcom at times. Again, I don't think that's a deliberately campy David Lynch/John Waters-esque touch, even though some of the domestic scenes are sort of played for laughs. It has a shit '80s teen comedy aesthetic. No atmosphere, no sense of genuinely fucked-up weirdness. Despite my issues with the first film in the series, it was clearly made by a talented filmmaker with a weird, distinctive vision. Freddy 2 is pure hackwork.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2020, 10:44:48 PM »
Will you be watching the Bollywood rip-off of Nightmare on Elm St?

I have nothing better to do, so yes, I probably will.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2020, 11:12:25 PM »
I've only seen New Nightmare, which seems like the wrong way to do things.

Will you be watching the Bollywood rip-off of Nightmare on Elm St?

Available in full HD on youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUCTWuEseig

Doesn't appear to have subtitles but having skimmed through it, could still be great post-pub fare

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2020, 03:24:43 PM »
That last shot is tough to justify, though. i think it's mentioned in the "Never Sleep Again" documentary, which is available on Youtube in all its 4 hour glory, should you wish to dip into it.

Ooh, thanks for that link - last time I looked for that only the first part was up.  I'm only really interested in 1 & 3 so that was fine but I do like a good film documentary.  It's odd that at the time of cinema release, a mate of mine was complaining after going to see Freddy's Revenge that it was "really the gayest thing he'd ever seen" - this is mid-80s - and seeing that doc really explains why that film was the way it was

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2020, 04:30:29 PM »
I visited the street where they filmed Elm Street back in 2018, in Los Angeles. It was Halloween week and we were walking down there and was expecting some resistance from neighbours, but we were just walking down the street and a chap who had lived there the last 40 years came up to us and voluntarily took us to the house and showed us what had changed and what was the same. Unexpected and lovely.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2020, 08:53:49 PM »
This may be top of the IMDB trivia, but I think Depp got the gig because he was bored and went to the audition to keep his friend Rob Morrow company.

Craven mentions on commentary they were deciding while his daughter was present and she kept insisting on Johnny Depp like the rest of them were insane

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2020, 08:58:53 PM »
Craven mentions on commentary they were deciding while his daughter was present and she kept insisting on Johnny Depp like the rest of them were insane

I hope he sent her straight to bed without supper. 

No doubt she was one of the key sources of inspiration for the whole inescapable nightmare scenario.  Imagine having a daughter that reprehensible.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2020, 09:18:35 PM »
I've just watched this for the first time in about 30 years. I didn't want to mention it in the 'films that disappoint on viewing again' thread, as I actually quite enjoyed it, but it's a lot sillier than I remember, the screenplay is rather clumsy at times, and most of the performances are downright ropy.

I'm no Wes Craven expert, but I'm aware that he tended to throw elements of black comedy into most of his films. Some of the stuff in Elm Street is obviously supposed to be funny in a twisted way, but it also includes quite a few moments of inadvertent comedy. Or does it? The final shot is justly notorious, it looks ridiculous, but maybe Craven knew that. One final gag before bedtime. I'm really not sure.

Last House On the Left is the poster-boy for this - comedy cops with their own slapstick soundtrack that, from memory, even involves the classic penny whistle-BOING sound effect.  I don't think I've ever seen such a tonally ambiguous film.

I think Craven was massively over rated as a director and his few big hits and memorable characters (i.e. Freddy) distracted everyone from the fact that most of his films were actually a bit shit.  For my money his only consistently good film is The Hills Have Eyes, but even that has quite a few moments of dodgy acting and slapdash film making.

Having said that, I would agree that they all have at least one memorable thing about them - even 2, which is generally considered as one of the worst, has that great shot where Freddy disappears mid-jump through patio doors.  And 4 has that brilliant poster (even if it is slightly reminiscent of Star Trek The Motion Picture).

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2020, 09:55:58 PM »
4 has some great set-pieces like Screaming Mad George's roach motel sequence. It's the best of the sequels Craven wasn't involved with.

For some reason, 5 never made it to my local video store, so I only saw it when I got the DVD box set years later. Easily my least favourite, the only one of the lot I'd argue has nothing to offer.

The heroine's sceptical friend was such an obnoxious fucker she drove me up the wall. All your mate's old friends were horribly murdered at an unusually young age and you're not going to give her the benefit of the doubt? Some friend you are, cunt. Sometimes sceptics really are fucking idiots, like when Jeremy Paxman was pulling all those stupid doubtful faces while Bowie was explaining the potential of the internet.

They didn't even give us the satisfaction of having Freddie prove her wrong in a deliciously ironic setpiece, which is unforgivable in a film so severely lacking in memorable death scenes. Two thumbs down.

I have a soft spot for 6 as I managed to persuade my dad to take me to see it (I was 13), despite him having not seen any of the previous films. It was kinda shit and we both knew it, but we still had a lovely night at the pictures.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2020, 10:50:48 PM »
I still think 1 & 3 are top tier films, New Nightmare then for me personally even if it does look a bit like a television drama , Two is about equal to that. Never understood the claims of it being worst, it's fucking mental. It's hard for me to explain what I mean sometimes but if the first film is Black Sabbath, the second film is Cannibal Corpse

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2020, 11:58:33 PM »
Freddy Vs Jason fucking rules so much

Aw.... tilt.

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #25 on: July 14, 2020, 12:35:08 AM »
same guy directed Bride With White Hair which is one of the best films of the 90s, but then they also made him direct 51st State maybe as punishment

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #26 on: July 14, 2020, 09:44:59 AM »
Last House On the Left is the poster-boy for this - comedy cops with their own slapstick soundtrack that, from memory, even involves the classic penny whistle-BOING sound effect.  I don't think I've ever seen such a tonally ambiguous film.

At the time I saw it I argued this made it more unhinged and distirbing, or something equally insufferable that I would say in those days. Still, I can't deny it worked on me then.

His last non-franchise film (he made Scream 4 afterwards) My Soul to Take was apparently heavily compromised, which is crazy as it's pretty nuts as it is, even somehow incorporating his charmingly juxtaposing hobby of bird watching.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2020, 10:18:30 PM »
I watched Craven's Wishmaster on Netflix recently, it's a wonderful camp mess of gore. Great knowing villain (well, he's the devil, sort of) and it's bursting with fun set pieces.

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Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #28 on: July 17, 2020, 04:59:19 AM »
I enjoyed how the wishes were so OTT. A guy wants a million dollars? Kill his wife in a plane crash so he gets the insurance!

Re: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
« Reply #29 on: July 21, 2020, 08:59:54 AM »
Nightmare on Elm St 2's worst crime was that it didn't stick to the established logic of Freddy only being dangerous in dreams. That pool sequence where he appears and kinda spooks a few of the kids was a bit bobbins.
Otherwise the film has that weird aspect of everything feeling sweltering hot and clammy all the time. There's something just sort of gross and uncomfortable about it generally. If it could have maintained its tone throughout it could have been a great Nightmare. The idea of Freddy taking over Jesse and the gay subtext isn't inherently bad, it's just let down by some dodgy moments, some pretty bad acting and that hilarious and uncomfortable but tonally inconsistent dance scene. Also it's a bit of a weird message to send to write a movie about a guy struggling with his urges, include a sequence where he gets freaked out having a sexual encounter with his girlfriend so he runs off to stay in his guy mates bedroom, then have the resolution of the film be that he ends up liking a girl after all.

Overall it's weird! But I kinda like it and it has far more merit than Freddy's Dead IMO.

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