One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you. Three, four, better shut your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, better stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again. Eleven, twelve, kill the Keebler elves.
Wait, strike that last one.
If Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in all its gloriously bell-bottomed nihilism, is the epitome of ’70s horror, then the relatively slick, Moog-laden, big-haired Nightmare on Elm Street is the epitome of ’80s horror. In this story, a child-murdering revenant haunts the dreams of the “ones who got away” as they struggle to get their dimwitted parents to realize A Good Night’s Rest isn’t really what the doctor is calling for here. By now, the full glory of the sexual revolution is on display, with our kids coming largely from broken homes, the children of the now grown-up rebels without a cause, seeking solace in casual (and/or possibly financially profitable) sex and lots and lots of booze, the sort of dysfunction that no amount of having your own Walkman and glorious 12-inch black-and-white TV in your room can fix. And that’s about it for social commentary of which this movie doesn’t have much more to say the times than Chain Saw, really, and thank God for that.
The Boy said, after it was over, that Nightmare was more fun than Chain Saw, and that’s pretty indisputable. Chain Saw is probably a better movie overall, though. Some of the acting in Nightmare is terrible—though as I always like to remind people, in low budget-filmmaking, that’s often the fault of the director, the editor or sheer lack of time and money to do retakes. It stands out here, also, moreso than Chain Saw because the latter’s cinema verité-style doesn’t lend itself to much dialog at all where Nightmare has a boatload of it to explain “the rules”.
Without the rules, the movie would just be random (albeit cool) special effects. Without the rules, you can’t have a good ending (even if you do ruin it with an awful, inexplicable stinger). Without the rules you have A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
But sometimes the rules, but more especially having to explain the rules, sounds wooden and bogs the film down.
But these are, perhaps, nitpicks. The kids liked it, as did I; but I knew what was coming at every turn and the movie does rely quite a bit on the unexpectedness of its imagery. This same feature, though, also means that some of the sequels (#2 notwithstanding) are among the most watchable horror sequels. Whatever else is going to happen, and however poorly things might play out, it’s not going to be Jason hacking another camper’s head off with a machete. People maketop 10 lists of Freddie kills that are pretty awful—and still way better than the Jason kill lists.
To get strong thumbs up from Today’s Youth after being the second feature of a double-feature is a good sign this one is a keeper.