A Nightmare from Friday to Halloween - A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The three most prominent American horror franchises (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) have influenced American cinema even beyond the horror genre. As of 2021, there are exactly 31 movies across all three franchises, and I am going to attempt to watch all of them, for this Halloween, one per day.
I have always liked Wes Craven because there’s a thoughtfulness and depth to the stories he creates. I don’t need all my horror to be intellectual and incredibly inspired, but after the slog of increasingly terrible Friday the 13th movies, this was a welcome break. Apparently, he got the idea of a dream monster from the experiences of Hmong refugees who refused to sleep because of all the trauma they experienced. That follows the pattern of other movies of his, like how The Hills Have Eyes satirizes entitled middle-class Americans and the villains in The People Under the Stairs were very pointedly supposed to be a version of the Reagans. The Friday the 13th series has a conservative bent that is characteristic of the time it was made and thus, I shouldn’t fault those movies for that point of view. Still, it doesn’t sit well with me, and I’ll definitely get into that more with the many Friday the 13th sequels left.
It’s also kind of incredible that Craven actually managed to one-up Carpenter in terms of how little safety there is in the world with a killer who can invade your dreams. Craven also does a great job straddling reality and dream world and blurring the lines to reflect the characters’ increasing instability and lack of sanity. The scene where Johnny Depp’s character gets sucked into the bed is still quite effective and creative, and almost all the kills are more visceral and shocking than almost anything I’ve seen so far. And having a villain that taunts and tortures the heroes verbally is a nice change of pace from the silent inevitability of the likes of Jason or Michael Myers. I’m even looking forward to Freddy Kreuger being funny, which I hear he becomes in the sequels.