A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Technically, whoever picks the movie is supposed to write the intro blurb. Well, Jack abdicated the hell out of that responsibility so I feel morally obligated to mention how much of a turd he is. Maximum turd. Anyway, now that that's out of the way we can get to our feature presentation. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Wes Craven's 1984 super-classic. It was Johnny Depp's first movie. It made Robert Englund a household name in horror. It essentially created New Line Cinema. I would guess that if you asked any random person to name the first horror movie that popped into their head this one would be their answer about 26% of the time. I went with a specific number there to make it sound more sciency. Seems like it worked. Look, if you haven't seen this one you owe it to yourself. So go rent it, and give it a watch before you read our spoiler-heavy review below. Jack ist ein turdmeister.

 
 

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Mark: Nightmare on Elm Street. Another classic under our belt, Jack. Feels like we’re finally clawing our way toward competence. It feels weird. You picked this one as a response to Dead Silence. Without touching on the hot pile of garbage that movie was, explain to our readers how that one worked out.

Jack: Well, Mark, mostly because of the nursery rhyme thing. Given what dumpster fire of a movie Dead Silence was, you really didn’t give me much to work with when picking the next one, so I grabbed onto whatever floating piece of furniture I could find. And Freddy was what I could find.

 
That Rose was an idiot. Freddy wouldn’t have let Jack drown . . . and he didn’t! See what we did there? Isn’t wordplay fun?

That Rose was an idiot. Freddy wouldn’t have let Jack drown . . . and he didn’t! See what we did there? Isn’t wordplay fun?

 

Mark: I actually don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. They’re both basically the same story when you pare it down to its skeleton. Old murderous psychopath kills some kids, then gets murdered, then rises from the dead to exact revenge on the children of the people that killed them. Same movie? Same movie.

Jack: You know what? That’s a good point. I am a genius. Thank you for finally acknowledging that. So yeah, I picked this good ol’ Fred Kreuger. This one is on the list of the most classic horror movies of all time, and for good reason.

Mark: The movie doesn’t waste any time at all getting into the dream sequences. Actually, I mean that literally, the opening shot is a dream sequence. Nothing actually happens in that dream, so maybe what I should say is the movie does waste time a little bit on introducing the gaggle of teens the movie centers on. You have Heather Langenkamp playing “the main chick,” her boy-friend Glen, her friend Tina, and Tina’s schmuck of a boyfriend, Rod.

Jack: You just breezed right past something important there, so hold on buster. Why in the hell would you name the actress Heather Langenkamp, but not the actor who played Glen? Because it was Johnny Freaking Depp man. Kind of a big name. And this was his first movie ever.

 

Oh right. That’s why you wouldn’t mention it.

 

Mark: The first time we see any real violence on screen is during Tina’s post-coital sleepytimes. She get’s all kinds of sliced and diced in her dream, and in the real world Rod can only look on as she’s is attacked, and dragged quite literally around the room. They actually built a set that rotated on a vertical axis so that Tina could be dragged onto the walls and ceiling without using a weird wiring harness that would’ve ended up looking terrible. The final effect was fucking great. One of the best scenes in horror.

Jack: Can’t argue with you on that one, guy. It’s truly an iconic scene. It worked so well then, and it holds up staggeringly well now, almost 35 years later. 35? Really? Jesus. Although I should mention that you again blew by something important and Johnny Depp related: during the during-coital (that’s a thing right?) scene with Tina, she is being as loud with the screaming as anyone ever has. Johnny Depp, next door with his girlfriend who didn’t want to bang mutters to himself “morality sucks.” What?! Is the “morality to which he’s referring here not raping his sleeping girlfriend? I mean, I guess technically that is morality . . . but yikes. What a scumbag.

Mark: The interesting thing about this movie is I had totally forgotten about the scenes immediately following Tina’s death. They’re great. Tina’s bloody corpse being dragged around the school in a body bag? Shit, man. That is real spooky.

Jack: I didn’t love these scenes as much as you apparently did. There was nothing wrong with them per se, but they just didn’t do anything for me. And look, I get it, Mr. Krueger has picked Nancy (Langenkamp) as his next victim, and Freddy’s not your average slasher, he wants to fuck with his victims more than he wants to actually kill them. The scenes just didn’t grab me.

Mark: The rules become clear pretty quickly. What happens in your dreams happens in real life. How does that work? Who gives a shit. Magic, I guess. Also, for whatever reason you can take things from the dream world with you back into real life.  They’re figure this out by her materializing a fucking hat out of nowhere in the middle of a science lab. The scientists are concerned about her brainwaves, but are totally cool with the fact that she can CREATE MATTER FROM NOTHING. Fucking rubes.

Jack: Well anyone who screams technobabble about her “levels” being three when she’s asleep and like eleven or fucking whatever when she gets attacked by Freddy isn’t paying that much attention to anything. What do those numbers mean?! But all of the adults’ reactions to things in this movie are infuriating. And so are the teens’ for that matter. Nancy always just says “I had a bad dream, mom” when Freddy attacks her in her dream and she wakes up with actual cuts.

Mark: You know, I don’t know if these teenagers ever really fully explored the full set of solutions to their problem. Yeah, Freddy’s a creep, but maybe his dream home life was just messed up or something. If they played their cards right they could’ve gotten Freddy to scare their math teachers into giving them straight A’s. Scary Terry knows what I’m talking about. Wasted opportunity.

 
 

Jack: Alright, enough dicking around. I want to talk about Johnny Depp getting obliterated. If the scene with Tina isn’t the most iconic of this movie, then it’s gotta be Johnny getting sucked into his bed and replaced with a fucking geyser of blood, right? Amirite?

Mark: Turns out Johnny Depp is fucking bursting at the seams with blood. He gets sucked into his bed and goddamn explodes all over the room. They actually used the same rotating set from earlier and just poured like 50 gallons of blood into it. There was so much blood that people on the crew almost got electrocuted when the blood got to the electrical wiring. Here’s the thing though. What the hell happened in that dream? Did Freddy push him into a giant blender?

Jack: Who gives a shit what happened, man? Plus, the movie never tells you that it’s all Mr. Depp’s blood. Maybe Freddy’s been hoarding blood for just such an occasion, huh? How ‘bout them apples? In any case, after Glen’s untimely death, Nancy puts her plan into action. It should be noted that the execution of her plan involves exactly zero of the Kevin McCallister-style traps she had set previously, and goes a different direction.

Mark: Having already developed her personal skillset of pulling hats out of dreams she took it to the next level and pulled the whole guy out. Uhhh… nothing sexual. Long story short she sets him on fire and he pulls her mom into a bed death vortex. Then she stops believing in him and he disappears because apparently he’s Santa Claus.

Jack: Nah, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake right? Freddy only knows when you’re entering REM sleep after having already been asleep for a fair little bit. I mean I guess he could figure out the awake part through the process of elimination, but still. Different. Ratings?

Mark: Yeah let’s get the hell out of here. Ratings.


RATINGS

For 1, think of how well Adam Demamp would rate how well Ipecac works:

 
 

 

For 10, think of how well Gerald would rate Arnold’s level of boldness:

 
 

STORY:

Jack: 7 - The base concept is pretty good an innovative, but once you go one step deeper it just doesn’t hold up that well. And the fact that “it’s a dream world” or whatever doesn’t really save it, because that’s just the writers being lazy. Look I gave it a 7 alright? That’s pretty good.

Mark: 9  - I’m no expert (that shouldn’t surprise you), but I’m pretty sure this was the first big horror movie to really play with the concept of sleep and insomnia. What Jaws did for people going in the water this movie did for going to bed. The only issue I really take with the plot is the ending. It really feels like they couldn’t figure out where to take the narrative so they just turned the guy into Santa.

 

WORLD BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Jack: 4 - This movie just isn’t that immersive. With Freddy’s goofiness and the terrible decisions by both the adults and teens, it’s just not going to suck you in all that much.

Mark: 5 - A lot of the dialogue is pretty cringeworthy, both on the parts of Freddy and the kids. “Up yours with a twirling lawnmower.” Really? That’s how you think kids talk? Even for the 80s that seems unlikely. The movie certainly builds a world, it just so happens the world is difficult to be immersed in.

 

SCARE-FACTOR:

Jack: 3 - This just isn’t a scary movie. Some of the gore works pretty well, but Freddy’s way too goofy, and every time he’s confronted, he’s pretty easy to defeat. Sure it was all hopeless because the whole thing’s a dream, but hopelessness of this nature is only scary in an existential, nihilistic, dust in the wind kind of way.

Mark: 7  - Jack is bad at rating things. He is also a turd... that's a callback. This is factually a scary movie. See earlier comment on making people afraid of going to sleep. The scenes with Tina after she dies are really goddamn good. You have to knock it a bit for the campiness of it, and there's also a scene where the main girl is getting chased by Freddy, and they cut in this insane 80s techno music. It’s enough to take you out. Those are really more of an exception that a rule, though.

 

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Jack: 8 - The effects here are great. They really took some fucking risks here, and for the most part, they work really well. But there some things that just don’t work. Freddy’s stretch arms do not hold up well, and I question whether or not they ever looked good, and while I appreciate lighting a guy on fire, I wish that guy wasn’t noticeably shorter than Englund and noticeably covered in 2-3 inches of fire-retardant. How do you fix that? I don’t know, but that’s not my job god damn it.

Mark: 9.5 - Really super stuff here. You guys, they built a whole rotating set to make some of the scenes work. You could complain about the choice to use the amount of blood that they did, and it certainly is a choice, but I think it served the movie as a whole. There are quibbles, certainly, but overall this thing is an effects masterpiece.

 

OVERALL:

Jack: 7  - This movie is a lot of fun, and it’s my favorite of the classic triad of 80’s slashers by a decent little bit. Is it the best movie of all time? Not by a long shot, but it is pretty great.

Mark: 8 - There’s a reason this one is a classic. It’s got the right mixture of scares and camp to give it legs. It’s a catch 22 though, because the camp that keeps this thing interesting also puts a ceiling on the overall rating by taking down the immersion and scare factor.