So… horror movies. That's what we're all here for. What are they if not nightmares we can visit during our waking hours with our good friend Orville Redenbacher? (I just googled Orville Redenbacher to check the spelling on Redenbacher and discovered they do a jalapeno popcorn now. That sounds potentially revolting, has anybody had this junk? Is it good?). Ok so what are they if not that? A lot of times they usually become unintentionally hilarious comedies. And that is why A Nightmare on Elm Street is such a perfect movie to kick off this year's horrorpalooza with. It's a straight-up horror film that plays with the line between what we percieve as reality and what we percieve as dreams. And it spawned a series of sequels so goobery they remind me more of romantic teen comedies (albeit gory ones) than they do genuine horror movies.
Of the Holy Trinity of slasher franchises (Halloween, Friday the 13th and Elm Street), Elm Street has been my favorite place to visit and revisit each year for the last four or five years. I'm beyond reasoning when it comes to this series… they are all my children (hoho). I'll be talking about all the others in due time, but for now let's go back to the Wes Craven original.
Here's the funny thing: even before he started cracking one liners, Freddy himself was never really scary. It's the concept that's scary: dying gruesomely in your sleep at the hands of your very own dreams. Unless you're a lucid dreamer, you're pretty much screwed unless you can manage to wake yourself up before it's lights out. This makes something as simple as taking a cat nap a life or death ordeal, a fact that's not lost on final girl Nancy, who caffienates the heck out of herself to keep from zonking out until she can figure out how to outsmart Krueger. Craven puts these ideas to good use, creating a sleepy atmosphere around the "waking" scenes that makes it difficult to discern where the real world ends and where the nightmare begins. Which makes even more sense when the film later reveals its big twist. It's a great vibe, and it's even more effective if you watch it when your eyelids are starting to feel a bit droopy too.
If I have one complaint with the film it's the tacked on extra surprise ending that New Line forced on Craven. I still don't get why they made him slap it on, it totally contradicts the logic of the film up until that point. Nancy vanquishing Freddy wouldn't have negated a sequel at all. She kicked him out of HER dream. All the audience needs to know is that Freddy was visiting the dreams of some other unlucky teenagers. Oh well, whatever. I still love this movie dearly.