Monday, August 25, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street

After a chance encounter with Robert Englund over the weekend at Monster Mania (he briefly wandered out onto the main floor and as soon as I noticed he was there he took off like a shot, so there was no time to take any pictures of me chasing him like a fucking creepy stalker), I decided it would be fun to rewatch all of the Nightmare on Elm Street films for the site. They have a lot of history for me – Nightmare 2 was the very first horror movie I ever saw (or at least that I can remember seeing) when I was five or six years old. It’s good that they all still hold up so well (yes, even the bad ones), so this week won’t go by nearly as torturously as, say, another week of Tomb of Terrors movies.

One nice thing that sets this film apart from its sequels is the mystery of just who is committing the crimes. We gets a view of the killer (mostly in shadow), but we don’t learn his name until more than halfway through the film, and we don’t find out how he is for a few more scenes after that. It also provides us with a halfway intelligent cast (at least the teens – the parents, especially Nancy’s mother, are a whole ‘nother story), that in defiance of standard slasher logic, actually makes some small effort to avoid being killed by a deranged killer.

Of course, the teens aren’t the real reason to watch a movie like this, so it’s good that the kills tend to be so impressive. For a film with so few (four, a truly paltry sum compared to its peers), the ones it has are truly memorable. Right near the start, a girl gets sliced to ribbons while being dragged across the ceiling, and film newcomer Johnny Depp’s final scene is an unceasing delight. Freddy is actually surprisingly scary in this one, too, as he hadn’t yet transformed into the joker character of the later films.

While many people view this as the pinnacle of the series, it’s actually only my second favorite, as I think the initial series was closed out perfectly with New Nightmare. Both that and this film were directed by Wes Craven, who clearly knows his shit. If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere and haven’t seen any of these films, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you begin. You won’t regret it.

Rating: *** ½

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