A Nightmare on Elm Street 1 / 2 / Remake (1984-2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street Remake (2010, Samuel Bayer)

Unexpectedly ended up watching the second half of this (and up through the first kill of Freddy’s Dead) on the ceiling of the dentist’s office while getting a filling replaced. Same ol’ thing, Nancy and her bf trying to stay awake, then trying to figure out why this is happening, then pulling Freddy out of the dream world to kill him. Jackie Earle Haley, now a repeat-offense child abuser, has some cool makeup, distinct from the original design, but that’s the only thing here that’s distinct. I didn’t recognize Rooney Mara at all, blaming the poor lighting for that. The bf was Kyle Gallner, just off Jennifer’s Body, who had worked with Craven on Red Eye. The parents are blamed for killing an innocent gardener (the three-pronged garden cultivator as finger-knives, get it?), then Mara discovers FK was not innocent at all, and isn’t killing them as revenge on the parents, but just because he’s a real bad man. The hearing aid scene in Freddy’s Dead holds up well, but the best Freddy movie I’ve seen this year is still Buzzard.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Craven)

The dentist remake viewing experience combined with the Plaza screening part 3 got me curious whether the original Elm Street series was available cheaply on blu-ray, and yes, very cheaply, so it’s marathon time. My first time seeing any of these in HD, and in at least twenty years. Part one doesn’t look too distinctive, and human behavior wasn’t the writers’ strong suit, but all a horror movie needs to become legendary is a cool concept and good theme song, and we’ve got both of those covered.

First to die is Tina (Amanda Wyss, between Fast Times and Better Off Dead), victim of some memorably anti-gravity claw work. Her pretty-eyed boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia would appear in a couple Soderbergh films and Candyman 3) is blamed by the cops, led by Heather’s dad John Saxon. Rod later hangs in his cell, leaving only Heather (also of Shocker and Hellraiser 10) and her bf John Depp (later of Secret Window and Tusk).

“What the hell are dreams anyway?”
“Mysteries… incredible body hocus pocus.”

This is dialogue between two people who WORK at the DREAM INSTITUTE, a Cronenbergian facility where Heather is checked in. She also tried watching The Evil Dead to stay awake. Depp doesn’t make it (both of the movie’s cool kills are in bedrooms, bloody and gravity defying). Heather’s parents are complicit (mom is Ronee Blakley of A Return to Salem’s Lot) and we hear Freddy was “a filthy child murderer who killed at least 20 kids in the neighborhood.” He’s ultimately defeated through some childish magic: Heather turns her back on him and demands her friends back. But:

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)

Jesse (Mark Patton of an Altman film) is new in town, a Simple Minds fan who just moved into Nancy’s house. Straight away he’s being followed by Freddy when asleep, and local girl Lisa (Kim Myers with Meryl Streep vibes, of Hellraiser 4) when awake. Nancy was nice enough to leave her diary behind, so the kids learn more about Freddy, who is trying to emerge into the waking world by taking over Jesse’s body – no glove here, the blades grow through his fingers. When this happens, Jesse ends up “inside,” and Lisa braves some seriously unconvincing mutant animals in the power plant where Freddy used to work, and they burn the Freddy off, Jesse emerging safe from within. A decent sequel, from before they’d fixed a formula for these things. Sholder would make The Hidden next (about killers possessing innocent bodies), writer David Chaskin would do I, Madman (about a disfigured killer wearing the skin of his young victims), both carrying on themes from this movie.

The human behavior here is about 10% better than the original Nightmare. I remember the chaotic pool party, not the leather-studded gym teacher. We get real “Parents Just Don’t Understand” vibes from Jesse’s dad Clu Gulager. The kids are lame, but it feels more like they’re meant to be lame. School jock Grady (Robert Rusler of Sometimes They Come Back) has a Zappa poster. Was everything in the 80’s so very 80’s? Sure the music, but the wallpaper and decor and clothes too.

First victim is the family bird, boooo: