Anyway, my relationship with Nightmare has been a bit...tempestuous. Let's put it this way: if all the slasher movies were my children, Nightmare would be the middle child I constantly forget about (people with kids forget about their kids, right?). Halloween would be the eldest one, the one I paid the most attention to because I wasn't so tired all the time. Friday the 13th would be the young brat acting up on the regular with stupid sequel after stupid sequel, crying out for notice. While I'd get irritated with it, I'd also be won over by its antics. Meanwhile, there'd sit Nightmare, all but ignored, wondering what it did that was so wrong and why its siblings got all the love. It's not like the film isn't full of some of horror's most indelible images:
That last one is so Messiah of Evil, isn't it? I mean:
Anyway. It's got some solid scares, terrific set pieces, a plucky, smart, brave Final Girl...it does so much right that I should love this film. Somehow, however, the parts never quite gel into something I'm ever flipping my wig over. Despite the Cosby kid endorsement, despite my seeing it for the first time when I was an easily-impressed and impressionable yoot, A Nightmare on Elm Street ultimately leaves me feeling a bit cold. It's good, I like it, but I don't love it. (A big reason for this in my most recent viewings is that score. I hate it. It's overbearing and hokey and not scary and it doesn't establish the right mood and it's super irritating to my earholes.)
And yet! There is so much about this movie I do love with all of my heart:
- Tina's death scene! The dream that leads up to it is truly a nightmare, and when Tina is finally killed it's unexpected, brutal, bloody, and just plain fucked up. Kind of the high point for me–likely of the whole series...and it's about 18 minutes in.
- Though none of the actors come across so young, they're supposed to be 15-16. The series is much darker than it seems on the surface.
- It's a very lean film. There is nothing extraneous–no group traveling to the cabin in the woods, etc–within five minutes or so everyone is talking about the killer and there's only the pattern of dream-death-dream-try to kill Freddy.
- Despite her cute boyfriend with his adorable Nike sweater vests and her group of pals, there's something decidedly Dawn Wiener about Nancy Thompson.
- MARGE: Marge's bedhead. Marge-as-functioning-alcoholic. Marge lighting up a cigarette at the Sleep Institute. That time Marge combined all three of these things.
- MORE MARGE: The way she "hides" vodka bottles in places like...behind her back and under a towel. Then she pulls the bottles out and swigs from them openly anyway. I really wanted her to pull a bottle from a hollowed-out Bible at Rod's funeral.
- "He's dead, honey, because mommy killed him."
- Oh, also: Marge's lipliner.
- As a child does to underwear when he goes away to summer camp, Fred Krueger writes his name inside his hats.
- "I'm into survival."
- Everyone calling Nancy "crazy" or a "lunatic" whilst ignoring the fact that she walked into a bedroom covered in blood and found her best friend sliced to ribbons...and also the cops lay the dead body of Rod in her lap and she's only like 15, can't she handle it, why is Nancy acting so nutso?
See? There's so much about this movie I love. The nightmares are great–heck, for Glen and Rod we don't even experience the dreams, only the aftermath. Freddy is kept largely in the dark and he's treated nothing like a joke. It's a solid horror film, and absolutely a slasher classic. When I think about it, I adore it. When I watch it, I feel only okay about it. So what's holding me back? Why can't I be more like Theo Huxtable or maybe Vanessa?
Also, if I'm like "Yeah, it's good but I don't love it" about the first movie, what does that portend for the rest of The Nightmare-ening? I'd better make some coffee.