A Nightmare on Elm Street/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
"One, Two, Freddy's coming for you..."
If you've never heard the name Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund of Eaten Alive) and felt terror seep into your bones than I can only assume that you've spent the last 32 years in a cave, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears singing "LALALALALA" at the top of your lungs.
Before the merchandise, before the spin off TV series, before the cheesy one liners (Oooh, great graphics) and before we all found ourselves inexplicably cheering for the bad guy there was the first nightmare. A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) (no relation) is dreaming but it's not the usual thing that teenage girls dream of (what do teenage girls dream of? answers on a postcard please). She is trapped in a boiler room and being hunted by the ugliest man since John Merrick decided to stop wearing a pillow case and go au natural. This scene scared the hell out of me when I was 12 years old and it still gives me the heebie jeebies to this day.
It's a terrifying combination of things, the music that haunted my own nightmares for weeks after, the sound of the blades from Freddy's glove scraping against the pipes and the moment he pops up behind her ready for the kill, they all combine to make one of the greatest entrances of any movie character to ever grace the silver screen.
But Tina Gray (no relation) does not die. Instead she wakes up screaming which brings her mother into the room to see if she's alright. Claiming that she is, her mother turns to go back to bed only to stop to point out that the front of Tina's nightgown has 4 vertical slash marks down the front.
The next morning Tina tells her story to Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, one of my first ever crushes...awwww) and Nancy's boyfriend Glen Lantz (Hey Kids! It's Johnny Depp! *Applause!*) who do their best to convince her that it's nothing to worry about and that everyone has bad dreams that leave razor marks down the front of their PJ's. Later that night the 3 decide to have a slumber party at Tina's which could've been a shoe-in for Glen if it wasn't interrupted by the sound of more scraping, this time against the windows. "Letting" Glen bravely lead the way they go to investigate but instead of a horrible death awaiting them it's just Tina's asshole boyfriend Rod Lane (Nick Corri) who thinks the best way to make up with his girlfriend is to sneak over to her house and scare the crap out of everybody there.
Smooth moves Rod. It seems to work though as he and Tina disappear upstairs for some Bow Chicka Wow Wow. Falling asleep afterwards, Tina is woken by the sound of stones being thrown at the window and being the only person awake decides to go downstairs to investigate. Instead of listening to the spooky music or, y'know, using common sense and picking up a very large chainsaw she wanders aimlessly out of her house, through the back garden and into the alley where she comes face to face with one Frederick Krueger and his amazingly long arms that span the width of the alleyway and scrape those bloody knives of his against the wall. I still hate that sound even now. She screams, she runs, Freddy gives chase and while all this is going on Hot Rod is woken up by her thrashing around in the bed next to him. What happens next is a horror show (no pun intended) as she is carved up like a pig and dragged across the walls and celling as all the while poor old Rod can only cower in a corner shouting out her name.
As Tina is quite, quite dead Rod does the only thing a man can do in a situation as crazy as that and cheeses it out the nearest window leaving Nancy to get dragged to the police station to face her very irate father Lt. Don Thompson (the legendary John Saxon). As you can imagine Daddy Thompson is far from happy that his little girl is mixed up in all of this but eventually lets her go home with her mother only to show up the next day when, as Nancy is heading to school, Rod appears form behind a bush to proclaim his innocence.
Seriously Rod, you do a bunk from an active crime scene and then jump out of foliage to grab young girls, hell, I know you're innocent and even I think you did it. Annoyed at her father for using her Nancy heads off to school (that'll learn him) where she proceeds to fall asleep while listening to someone recite poetry, we've all been there, amirite? In her dream she sees a very dead and bloodied Tina in a see-thru body bag who vanishes when she looks away to only leave a trail of crimson that she decides to follow (I usually dream about Scarlett Johansson but each to their own I guess).
This little adventure leads her into the all too familiar boiler room where she comes face to butt ugly face with Freddy who corners her in the same way he did Tina but our Nancy is a smarter girl and burns her arm on a hot pipe thus waking herself up right before she becomes a fucking kebab.
The scene where Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is attacked by Freddy in her bathtub was shot using a bottomless tub, which was put in a bathroom set that had been built over a swimming pool. During the underwater sequence, Langenkamp was replaced with stuntwoman Christina Johnson. Langenkamp spent 12 hours in the bath during filming.
Believing that Rod is now innocent Nancy goes home and proceeds to fall asleep in the bath (did I say smarter?) where Freddy lays in wait like some razor tipped Jaws and drags her down to a bottomless pit of water. Don't worry kids, she escapes. Deciding enough is enough she ropes Glen into watching over her as she sleeps that night so she can go find Freddy and give him a pimp slapping which goes just about as well as you would expect it to.
She survives another attack due to the alarm clock going off and waking her up, Rod, on the other hand, is not so lucky as he gets strung up by his bed sheets and hung from his cell in the middle of the night just as Glen and Nancy show up at the police station to tell her old man that there's some weird things going on.
After a stint in a sleep clinic where she runs into Freddy yet again and this time brings out his hat her mother decides it might be time to fess up about Krueger and how he was a child murderer who killed 20 kids and got off due to a technicality and how the towns folk found out where his hideout was and burned it to the ground with him inside.
And this is where I have a problem with the later films, they seem to forget this fact. He was a monster who murdered children for fun but by the time Wes Craven got his hands back on the character for New Nightmare he was a watered down comedic buffoon who got over by using more and more elaborate ways to off people while making wisecracks like he was Groucho Marx.
Anyway...back to the film. After Glen finally succumbs to sleep and is turned into a jet spray of body organs and fluids all over his bedroom celling (one of THE greatest death scenes in any horror movie ever), Nancy decides that enough is enough and Freddy is getting the world's biggest smackdown.
What follows is the climactic scene of the film where Nancy heads into Freddy's world and pulls him into hers before setting his ugly ass on fire. Seemingly locked in her basement, her father, now at the house, enters only to find that Freddy's gone and a smoking trail leads to her mothers bedroom where a burning Fred is on top of her, smothering her. After the fire is put out both bodies are gone and Papa Thompson tells Nancy that she is safe now and there's nothing to worry about... WRONG!!!! Back in her room Freddy appears one more time to attack Nancy who calmly turns her back on him telling him that she's not afraid of him, this just messes Freddy all kinds of up and he vanishes into nothing.
The next morning is bright and soft focus and nobody is dead. Momma Thompson (Ronee Blakley) walks her to the door and waves good by as she gets into Glen's car that lowers a sun roof onto them in a very familiar pattern, locking them in. As Nancy screams to her mother Freddy's arm smashes through the glass window on the front door and drags her through it to an obviously nasty death as Glen's car drives wildly out of control down the street. The message is clear: you may defeat me but you will never KILL me.
Unfortunately the producers of the series took this quite literally and churned out weaker sequel after weaker sequel, diluting the brand so badly that it became something of a joke (though Dream Warriors did have a kick ass theme by Dokken) but there is no doubting that this, the first movie, is one of the greatest horror movies ever made and is still one of my go to movies whenever I feel like reminding myself just how awesome and terrifying Freddy Krueger actually was.