FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Sep 26, 2006

Oh, Freddy.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the very limited, very unpublicized screenings of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I never had a chance to see it on the big screen during its original run, so I was duly excited about the whole concept. I was so excited, in fact, that I had these ridiculous images in my head about what the experience would be like. I was imagining that whatever theatre at the Regal 16 showing the film would be filled with a raucous, unruly audience, whooping and hollering and having a blast. The room would be absolutely filled to capacity- a big phew! for me for reserving tickets! Apparently, I was picturing Freddy Krueger playing to a crowd of chubby 40-something women having "girls night out!" at a Chippendales show, dollar bills waving in the air to the strains of Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me".

Aside: I have no idea where this concept of strip clubs has come from. TV, maybe? Shall I blame the media? I've been to exactly one strip club. It was a rather sad affair. I went in (with friends, silly!) thinking it would be as I described above, you know...the whooping and hollaring and dollar bill waving. All I really remember is that it wasn't like that whatsoever. It was quiet in there, and when the girl was finished doing her thing, the music ended and she had to pick up her clothes and walk off the stage in silence. It was eerie, odd, and very, very sad. And yet, my idea of strip clubs as pits of loud excitement perpetuates.

In reality, the theatre had maybe 25 people in the seats. It was sedate and deathly quiet throughout the movie...even when Nancy righteously loudwhispered "Screw your pass!", there was nary a snicker but for mine. None of this has anything to do with the movie itself, I know...I'm simply adding "local color", which I learned about in 7th grade English class.

Now then. How does A Nightmare on Elm Street hold up after more than 20 years?

For me, NoES is akin to...I don't know, a Bananarama record or something. When I was 12, it was the greatest. Fucking. Thing. EVER. I still have fond memories of it, but I honestly can't remember why I made such a damn fuss over the thing back in the day. I still enjoy it, in its way, but I know in my heart of hearts that it's not that great anymore.

Oh no, she di'n't! Did she just write that about A Nightmare on Elm Street? Girl, please! Where's my tar and feathers?

Yeah, I said it. It's only my opinion, it's not fact, most horror fans probably disagree with me, perhaps vehemently. Freddy Krueger has never come close to topping my list of horror movie boogeymen, despite his popularity. I've simply never found him to be scary...and so while I still enjoy NoES, it looks even more tame today than when I was an impressionable youngster. As you can see, he fails to even arouse much of a response from my awesome cat, Hot Cocoa:

There's no denying the mind-bending, gory terror in the sequences depicting the deaths of Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Glenn (Johnny Depp). Director Wes Craven knocked those out of the park- an unseen killer tossing bodies around the room like dolls and WOW that's alot of blood...

But there's so much UNscary in Nightmare that any genuine scares Craven elicits in those scenes vanishes quickly. First, let us discuss the soundtrack. On one hand, the sound effect of Freddy's knives scraping along metal is jarring, grating, terrifying, and perfect. But honey...the music. Whenever Freddy gives chase to Nancy, the boinking synthesizer kicks in and we're treated to something you might hear on a Nu Shooz album. I realize the movie was made in the mid-80s. One might forgive the synthesizer, but more than that it's the wrong tempo. The music doesn't evoke evokes...action movies. This soundtrack belongs to a Lorenzo Lamas movie about someone who breaks the law to bring down the bad guys...a vigilante...a Renegade, baby. It doesn't belong in a horror film. It's glaring in its wrongness.

Then there's Nancy's mom's charred body waving as it sinks into the glowing, fog-emitting disco bed and Freddy disappearing into a shower of sparkles when Nancy turns her back on him and tells him off. Quaint, maybe, but not scary.

The idea of a killer stalking your dreams is fantastic. People having to "think" killers into reality is great as well (and was much better handled in Candyman, I think). I simply don't think A Nightmare on Elm Street is a terribly horrifying horror movie. I like it, but...not in that way anymore, you know? Now hold on, because I'm going to say something awfully brash. Are you ready?

I think this movie deserves a remake.


Anonymous said...

I strongly suspect there's a difference between strip clubs frequented by women (in packs, waving money) and those frequented by (solitary, pathetic, dead-serious) men. I've never been to one, so I can't opine authoritatively, but I think there's probably some difference in sex-wiring in the brain that leads to the "Wooooo!" factor and the y-chromosome "Hnuhnuh... naaaaaked..." syndrome.

Just a theory...

Stacie Ponder said...

You might be on to something there, Bill. It was just so shocking, the disparity between the image in my head and the reality of the situation. Like meeting someone you know from the Internerd in person- sometimes they're more awesome than you thought, sometimes less awesome...but it's never what you pictured. They're always at least 3 feet taller than I imagined them to be.

I suppose I should point out right now that I have no desire to join raucous crowds, at strip clubs or elsewhere. Amusement/entertainment purposes only!

Anonymous said...

"Remake? What? Never!!1!"

Which is what I always say... and then the remake comes out, and then I really like it.

Personally, Halloween is the movie that doesn't stand up for me anymore. Dr. Loomis, or whatever his name is, drags me down. Eh.

Although, Halloween DOES have better music. ;)

CRwM said...

I had a similar experience with the original Friday the 13th. I was first "exposed" to that movie when, as a young boy, my older brother saw it and told me all about it. Of course, in his version, the movie became this gore-filled abattoir, an endless parade of slaughter. His version scared the crap out of me.

As I got older, I saw numerous other slasher flicks, including all the Friday sequels. But I always avoided the first Friday because the very idea of it was scary.

I must have finally caught it nearly a decade after my brother saw it, and, of course, it couldn't live up to the nightmare vision my brother had scared me witless with. I enjoyed it, but it was a bit of an anti-climax.

Mistah Wade said...

I agree with you completely. Remake Nightmare and make it scary. The concept was great but the execution just doesn't hold up. I have also come to recent opinion that Wes Craven really isn't that good of a film maker. I was planning on discussing it on my blog after sitting through Red Eye, this day may come yet.

Mistah Wade said...

I agree with you completely. Remake Nightmare and make it scary. The concept was great but the execution just doesn't hold up. I have also come to recent opinion that Wes Craven really isn't that good of a film maker. I was planning on discussing it on my blog after sitting through Red Eye, this day may come yet.

Mistah Wade said...

sorry for the double comment. something happened that was screwy, just plain screwy!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was a regional thing, Stacie. My screening was sold out and there was a healthy amount of a'hootin'-and-a-hollerin', if not quite as much as there would have been in a perfect world.

I think the original holds up well, and I still love it as a film... just not as a horror film. It's not scary and never really was, but honestly, I think I've come to terms with that. It still has a shockingly brilliant premise and some great set-pieces, and Freddy, while not all that creepy, is an excellent stage presence and personality.

Not terrifying, but certainly entertaining, which is all I could ever really ask of it. I'd have no beef with a more scare-centric, psychological remake, though.

Anonymous said...

I think your image of strip clubs might be from Mr. Mom. There's a scene in there where the various housewives all go to a strip club, dragging Michael Keaton with them. A very rowdy sequence, ending with Ann Jillian enthusiastically running to the stage with a bunch of bills...

Meanwhile, as much as I like to look at naked women in films and in person... (I guess the latter is more of a hypothetical scenario, because it's much less frequent beyond my wife), I don't enjoy going to strip clubs because i find them depressing... looking at all the men staring at the women... gaah.
My friends surprised me for my birthday years ago by driving me into Canada to a strip club.
I got a table dance, which was alright. But then I had a lovely conversation with that dancer (I bought her a drink), who was very skilled in her maneuvers on the pole (my friend Lisa, one of the b-day co-conspirators, was VERY impressed by the pole chorography and the ladies who were particularly supple and strong and contortiony on that thing, to the point that Lisa became sort of obsessed by pole dancing and a few years later, her husband surprised her by having a pole installed in their bedroom for their anniversary)(yeah... for HER...)(hmph).
But, enough local color...

Since you never saw NOES in the theater, i'm glad you were able to see it that way.
My experience with the audience was similar to yours, although, there were more inappropriate laughers. Inappropriate in that only a few times did i understand the reaction: Ronee Blakley's (Nancy's mom) big, disheveled backlit hair as she stands in the bedroom door, wondering if Nancy's alright; Johnny Depp's cut-off football jersey and sweats which made him look really feminine, I thought, although I thought he did pretty good as the well-meaning horny boyfriend who just can't stay awake! But sometimes, there was just laughter, so i don't know if they were laughing at something i didn't catch, or they were bored and just talking amongst themselves and laughing at their own conversation.
It was interesting seeing "Fred" prior to his status as horror icon. Sometimes he comes across as weird and scary, like the surreal image of him with the long arms reaching out, the finger blades scraping the alley walls. But sometimes, he's just a kind of doofus, for lack of a better word, like when Nancy's fighting him in the big climax. Every time she gets a few licks in, it's almost, not quite, but almost funny, and i'm not sure if that's completely unintentional.
Heather Langencamp is still great, i think, in performance and so is her character as Nancy.
I haven't seen all the sequels, but my impression is that the dreams in the original are more dreamlike, surreal, or occasionally symbolic (FK's aforementioned long arms, the bottomless bathtub, the tongue coming out of the phone, Tina in a body bag being dragged by nobody through the school hall leaving a blood trail, the occasional appearance or sound effects of a lamb) which I think was a great dimension about the original. But as the sequels progressed, the dreams became more a license for anything goes (but that's a broad statement).
I thought the story was still very solid.
But I agree that Wes Craven's sort of hit or miss as a director. John Carpenter's hit or miss as a director, too, but i tend to think that Carpenter really knows how to handle film, while Craven might be better in the idea stage and his execution of an idea, is, what?, more sincere and thoughtful in effort, but not naturally cinematically adept, although he does sometimes more than simply pull off a sequence, but I think that's just because he's smart. Hell, I'm not expressing myself right. Grrr...
But, a remake seems redundant considering there's a slew of sequels. I would almost think that any director doing a sequel of the franchise, in a sense, re-invents the original idea, doesn't he? Or she?
Kind of like these contemporary Godzilla films from Japan now. Someone was telling me about one of them made a few years ago (late 90s, 2000?) where Godzilla is about to breathe his fire breath thing, then they cut to an elementary school, and the kids suddenly see this mushroom cloud in the distance. Something to that effect.
So, the opportunity for re-invention is always there in the sequels.
Maybe my comic book collecting side is riled... the whole screwing with the order, messing with the numbers thing.

Anyways... so there!

Stacie Ponder said...

Cattleworks- +15 points to you for mentioning Ann Jillian. I don't know why I like her, but I do.

Why strip clubs can be sad: a friend related to me the tale of going to a strip club and seeing a large, hand-shaped bruise on one stripper's thigh.

Why strip clubs have the potential for awesome: another friend related to me the tale of going to a strip club and seeing a male stripper whose shtick was to perform as a breakdancing Papa Smurf.

And so, the battle rages on.

It was definitely interesting to see "Fred" Krueger before he got to be a completely ludicrous character...the post-credits highlights from the other Nightmare films reminding me how bad the series got in later years. Wow, and I neglected to mention Nancy's 20-minute booby-trapping job...awesome, cheesy stuff. I think after the sledgehamer to the gut, Freddy actually uttered an "OOF!"

Tammy- First of all, welcome aboard!

Second of all, how dare you ever question my thoughts, feelings, or fashion choices? I oughta run you outta here on the next train!

Wait, I don't mean that. Actually, I mean you're right, and thank you for bitch-slapping me back to the realities of remakes. Unfortunately, 99% of them fall into the flavor-of-the-minute cast and wink wink nudge nudge trap.

I guess I was thinking how cool the idea could be if the reins were handed to someone like Alexandre Aja- someone not afraid to go for the throat, someone seemingly unhindered by the Hollywood star system. Freddy might be too big of a juggernaut for anyone to be given carte blanche, though.

Dane Cook as, that was a wake-up call.

Now don't ever disagree with me again! ;P

Anonymous said...

Okay since you mentioned him by name, Alexandre Aja, I have to ask.
I take it you liked HIGH TENSION?
My reactions are so contrary to that movie-- i loved alot of what he did, in fact, it made me want to see THE HILLS HAVE EYES even moreso, but the ending-- the way they handled it story-wise-- DROVE ME CRAZY! Won't go into detail in case anyone hasn't seen the film yet.

However, if you're partial to ridiculously long-winded rants about a particular film, you can read this (and if you'd do, i'd be astonished and grateful!):

Sorry, I seem to have a personal venting agenda with this movie.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and what's not to like 'bout Ann Jillian?
She's an energetic presence on screen, sexy and funny.
Hubba hubba!

Stacie Ponder said...

Hey cattle-

Yeah, I really dug High Tension. Even the ending, which at times required some...forgiveness, I guess you could say, worked for me. I thought it was fantastic! I wrote a review you can read right here...we got a pretty good discussion going in the comments, as well. I don't want to give anything away to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

I read your thoughts on it and I agree on some points- there's definitely a suspension of disbelief for some of the film, and some of it still doesn't fall quite into place when all is said and done. I went along for the ride, however, and I fell right in step. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap! You read my rant? Wow, more than one person! Although, I can't actually say my wife stuck it out all the way through...
Anyways, you rock!
I went to your post and I thought it was great, and then the following commentary was also great.
Couldn't resist tossing my pocketful of change in there, tho', sorry.
But, it made me want to see the movie again, if that's any consolation.