Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This may sound lame, but to me the most frightening movies are those with evil spirits resembling long haired women in white, which are probably the horror villains with the least amount of costume and makeup budget ever. (See The Ring, Ju-On, The Eye, A Tale of Two Sisters, etc.) They are frightening to me in a way clowns or lifelike dolls are frightening to some people.
That said, most Western horrors aren't very scary to me. Shocking, repulsive, maybe. But the scares rarely made me want to cower behind my blanket like the Asian varieties sometimes do. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, the Frankenstein monster, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface and Freddy Krueger... they're more supervillains in a movie than something fearful on a subconscious level. They don't crawl under your skin like a good old apparation or just plain weird shit happenings could do. For example, a man standing and facing the corner of a decrepit room for no reason (The Blair Witch Project) does a lot more than the sight of a raised kitchen knife.
Yet, I still enjoyed movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street, although for the wrong reasons. Freddy Krueger, a very iconic horror staple recognisable through his trademark fedora, red and black striped sweater, Wolverine-like blades and charred face, is a memorable baddie more in the lines of The Dark Knight's Joker than a malevolent supernatural force like in the other movies I mentioned. With villains like The Joker, Hans Gruber, and Hannibal Lecter, you find yourself rooting for them despite their nefarious nature. I doubt anyone was in anyway concerned about Dr. Chilton at the end of Silence of the Lambs, and probably wished Lecter got to "have him for dinner" sooner!
Unlike other horror villains, Krueger dispatches his victims in their dreams (or nightmares) where logic and the laws of physics don't apply, which allows for creativity beyond the usual hack-and-slash-with-the-common-garden-utensil death sequences. One infamous scene depicts a teen being swallowed by his own bed, only to be regurgitated as a geyser of blood. This makes Krueger's nightmare attacks a constant highlight in every impending sequel. The Nightmare On Elm Street series becomes more of a morbidly humourous special effects showcase than a true fright fest.
"A Nightmare On Elm Street" is the kind of "must-watch" movie for the movie and horror buffs, simply because the popularity and iconic stature of the series cannot be ignored. I find the movie above-average, with some nice subversion of cliches (a trademark of director Wes Craven) marred by bad acting performances. I also didn't find it frightening for one second, but that doesn't mean you should show this one to your mum or kids either.
Also stars Johnny Depp and John Saxon.
Next: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2 - Freddy's Revenge
The stuff of Nightmares