No 162 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director - Wes Craven
One, two, Freddy's coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, better stay awake.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Everything is scarier when it is accompanied by a rhyme. There is something about an innocent children's rhyme that just makes scary things scarier. I think it is the cruel cruel juxtaposition. It is like the Gentlemen - they were the SCARIEST Buffy villains, and that was probably helped by the accompanying chilling rhyme.
The thing that I find disappointing about this film is that it just fails to live up to the premise. The idea of a homicidal maniac with phenomenal God like powers terrorising you through your dreams is a genuinely terrifying concept, and yet it never lives up to its full potential. I think this is partly down to the special effects. As this is a film which relies a lot on special effects, the fact that they're dated does make the film feel slightly hokey.
And yet, that is what is all the more disappointing about the remake. Even though they have better special effects, they still haven't grasped the FUN you could have with such a concept. Almost endless fun.
And whilst Nightmare is slightly flawed as a horror, it is a wonderfully fun piece of film. Freddy Krueger is a genuinely chilling villain in the fact that he seems to just be really enjoying what he does. The gleeful way he torments his victims is both horrifically cruel but wonderfully joyous - his cackling face as the teenagers claw at him for freedom. He does also seem to have a slightly masochistic personality. Just before he uses his claw hands (such an amazing, instantly iconic, weapon) he likes to show off how sharp they are - cutting off fingers or slicing into his own skin. He just enjoys a bit of self mutilation before he attacks.
The fact that Freddy Krueger was a child killer is unimportant. The fact that he is clearly stark raving MAD is what makes him a dangerous villain. Just really not a scary one. I was going to say that he is like a clown trying to kill you - but that is terrifying... Freddy just isn't scary. Dead Tina is scary, wrapped in her bloodied sheets, but he isn't.
However, his character does allow for some amazing visual moments. Stairs which collapse and melt in crumbling squidgy marshmallow, individual flaming footprints and tongues which creep out of the phone receiver to lick your face...
And the deaths are phenomenal! An echo back to the 70's and the ridiculous over the top deaths of Dario Argento. Fountains of bright bright red blood shower out as limbs are severed and blood flies everywhere. It is gloriously over the top. It all helps to make sure you're never drawn into the film too much - it is all so absurd.
Another thing that keeps you from falling too far in are the number of recognisable faces looking so young... Look at young little Johnny Depp. Look at Lin Shaye playing the teacher (best known to me as Magda in Something About Mary or (even better) Mrs Bruce in the awesomely bad Detroit Rock City). And who is playing the doctor? Why it is the man I find infuriating... the voice of Roger Rabbit himself Charles Fleischer (I dunno why, I just find him REALLY annoying). All of these people rip me out of the story, but allow me to enjoy it for the camp violent stupidity of it all. And that is a good thing.
This is a film that for all its violence and gore, feels cosy. There is something jolly and fun about it, which is quite a feat considering it touches on some dark topics. It is a horror romp, but it is one which manages a wonderfully surprising ending that leaves you with a little buzz of adrenaline.