One of the things I love the most about urban life is being able to see an event advertised and just decide to go. The SIFF had a midnight showing of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which I watched during my post-Scream teenage attempt to watch classic horror films, but I hadn’t seen it since then. So, how does a movie that helped write “The Rules” look on its 30th birthday?
I was surprised at how average the suburban homes looked—the mediocre paint job on Tina’s doors to the back yard, the tchotchkes, the cluttered rooms and basements. When I watch contemporary horror (and other genres), the homes all seem less cluttered, more expensive, like something out of a catalog than something full of years of the detritus of suburban life. The actors, particularly Nancy, actually looked like teenagers—the actress has a stress zit forming, and her “ugh, Mom” attitude and average teen clothes from the 80s were a nice change from the “oh, the nice ‘frumpy’ girl with perfect hair and makeup” in contemporary shows and movies. (It is rare to look good in high school.)
Some of the special effects, like Freddy’s arms extending to abnormal lengths in the alley, looked a little ridiculous, but by and large, they were really good. I found the scene in which Tina is dragged across the ceiling to be incredibly scary as a teenager, and I was surprised how convincing it looked now.
One thing that allows me to enjoy slasher films more as an adult, other than not being in the age range to be a teenage victim anymore, is that I don’t live in the suburbs anymore. Although summer camps are also a site for horror, I found Nightmare and Scream much scarier when I was a teen living in a house. Now, as an adult living in a small apartment in the city, house-related horror is so far from the realm of my “so tiny I can basically see everything” domicile that it scares me less.
Is this a feminist movie? Well, not exactly. Nightmare is a film that informed a genre and is good for taking a look back into the classic slasher film era’s treatment of teenage girls and women’s sexuality, but what I really like about the movie is Wes Craven’s sense of humor, which comes across as clearly in Nightmare as it does in Scream, in which he’s making fun of some of his own films. It feels less formulaic than a lot of the other “teens have sex, get picked off one by one” films, even though that’s basically what it is. Nancy’s final plan to catch Freddy is just plain fun to watch.
Contains stabbing, nightmares, backstory with child murder/molestation, vigilante justice, Final Girl, teens who have sex getting murdered, that metal-on-metal nails-on-a-chalkboard noise, buckets of blood, alcoholism.