Raz’s Midnight Macabre Horror Review: “A Nightmare On Elm Street”

Nancy Thompson and a group of her friends are being tormented by a clawed killer in their dreams.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you, a man who needs no introduction but I’m gonna do it anyway….FREDDY KREUGER! Over the next few days were going to go through each film of this beloved franchise and talk about the ups and downs, the good and the bad, you get the idea.

Watching “A Nightmare On Elm Street” for the first time is one of those things you always remember, to many it was their first Horror film. Wes Craven’s now classic film was a big surprise, after the flop of “Swamp Thing” he was not the most popular person among studio executives, the script got turned down by many over the course of 3 years, until New Line Cinema took a gamble on it, and there’s no doubting that gamble paid off.

Once New Line gave a modest budget of just under £2 million the ball started rolling and casting had to be made. Yes we all know that this film is famous for being Johnny Depp’s first feature film but I want to talk about Robert Englund, Englund was the person who brought Craven’s character to life. He had done a-lot of work before appearing in this film, most notably as the character of “Willie” the alien in the TV series “V” but there’s no doubting that the role of Kreuger was his HUGE break and gave millions nightmares.

Also we can’t forget our female star, Heather Langenkamp who plays Nancy. No she wasn’t the best actress in the film, but her amateurish portrayal gave the film a more raw feeling and made Nancy more believable. I also love the fact that she was more of the ‘girl next door’ looking than the women who we see in modern Horror today. No-one in the film had supermodel looks (No not even Depp), or had lots of plastic surgery. These were believable characters in an unrealistic film plot but the fact that the characters were so believable made the film seem like it was real and that’s where most of the scares came from.

I can’t finish this without talking about the amazing practical effects of the film. For a low budget-ish film the effects look high budget, which is an amazing achievement, from the blood bed scene, the claw in the bath, the appearance of Kreuger in the wall, even Kreugers make up itself and more. The effects and make up team truly outdid themselves and deserve high accolades for their achievements.

As I said at the beginning, Watching “A Nightmare On Elm Street” for the first time is one of those things you always remember. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had many nightmares after seeing this when I was younger, just like many others that I know did. If you are one of the minority that hasn’t seen this 80′s classic (Which I doubt there are any for those who read these) then do yourself a favor and make it a high priority!

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

  • The inspiration for the character of Freddy came from several sources in Wes Craven’s childhood. Fred Krueger was a schoolmate of Craven with whom he had shared a paper route, and who had bullied him for several years. In The Last House on the Left, Craven also used this experience as inspiration, calling the villain Krug. Freddy’s appearance (especially the dirty clothes and hat) was inspired by a hobo who Craven saw staring at him through his window one day when he was ten.
  • Wes Craven’s original concept for Freddy Krueger was considerably more gruesome, with teeth showing through the flesh over the jaw, pus running from the sores, and a part of the skull showing through the head. Make-up artist David B. Miller argued that an actor couldn’t be convincingly made up that way and a puppet would be hard to film and wouldn’t blend well with live actors, so these ideas were eventually abandoned.
  • The scene where Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is attacked by Freddy in her bathtub was shot using a bottomless tub, which was put in a bathroom set that had been built over a swimming pool. During the underwater sequence, Langenkamp was replaced with stuntwoman Christina Johnson. Langenkamp spent 12 hours in the bath during filming.
  • Wes Craven wrote the script and presented it in 1981 to try to sell it to a major studio, but no one wanted it. He said that “It just flew around” for three years until New Line Cinema picked it up.
  • This was the second movie produced by New Line Cinema. The first was Alone in the Dark, directed by Jack Sholder and starring Jack Palance. However the film was given a very limited theatrical release, and when it performed poorly and received bad reviews, it was released straight to video. As such, A Nightmare on Elm Street was New Line’s first genuine mainstream cinematic venture.
  • The movie almost folded before production had even begun. Initially, Smart Egg productions were supposed to put $1 million into the movie, but they dropped out several days before filming began, and producer Robert Shaye had to try to raise money elsewhere. Two weeks into shooting, the production had no money left to pay the crew, so line producer John Burrows used his credit card. Eventually, Shaye brokered a deal with a European company called Media Home Entertainment and subsequently persuaded Smart Egg to put up the final $200,000 needed to complete the film.
  • Originally Freddy Kruger was designed by Wes Craven to be the typical “silent” serial killer such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.
  • The original glove was used in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and was also seen in Evil Dead II. However, when Wes Craven loaned the glove to the A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors’ set, it was lost, and has never been located since.
  • New Line Cinema was saved from bankruptcy by the success of the film, and was jokingly nicknamed “the house that Freddy built”.
  • In her room after almost getting killed in the tub, Nancy looks at herself in a mirror and says, “Oh God, I look 20 years old.” Many viewers find this humorous, thinking that Heather Langenkamp was 20 years old at the time of the movie. However, on the DVD audio commentary, she’s quoted as saying, “I was 18 or I was 19. I can’t remember.”
  • Over 500 gallons of fake blood were used during the making of the film.
  • The words “Elm Street” are not spoken at all during the movie.
  • The scene were Freddy’s arms elongate were achieved by having men with fishing poles on each side of the alley marionetting a set of puppet arms attached to actor Robert Englund.
  • Wes Craven had helped Sean S. Cunningham by working on a few shots for Friday the 13th, in turn, near the end of the production of this movie, Cunningham directed a few shots when several units were working at once.
  • Heather Langenkamp beat over 200 actresses for the role of Nancy Thompson, some of the other actresses who auditioned for the role of Nancy were Jennifer Grey, Demi Moore, Courteney Cox and Tracey Gold.
  • According to Heather Langenkamp, the melting staircase scene was shot using pancake mix. According to Wes Craven however, it was oatmeal and glue. According to the fact track on the DVD, it was Bisquick. The scene was directed by Robert Shaye who was on set pressuring for the film to wrap, and Craven told Shaye he could direct it, as it was based on a dream Shaye himself had once had. In another interview, Heather Langenkamp added that mushroom soup was also one of the ingredients in the staircase mixture.
  • When Nancy’s dreams are “examined”, when her hair turns white, the nurse is played by Wes Craven’s ex-wife, Mimi Craven.
  • Wes Craven first came up with the basic idea for the movie from several newspaper articles printed in the LA Times over a three year period about a group of Cambodian refugees from the Hmong tribe, several of whom died in the throes of horrific nightmares. The group had come to America to escape the reign of Pol Pot, and within a year of arriving, three men had died, with the situation the same in each cases; the young, otherwise healthy, man would have a nightmare, then refuse to sleep for as long as possible. Upon finally falling asleep from exhaustion, the man awoke screaming, then died. Autopsy results revealed that they had not died because of heart failure, they had simply died. It was this lack of cause which intrigued Craven so much. Medical authorities have since called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome, a variant of Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUDS) and Brugada Syndrome.
  • In relation to the famous red and green sweater, in the script, the sweater was red and yellow (based on the colors worn by Plastic Man, who, like Freddy, could change his form; the idea was that whatever Freddy changed into would be yellow and red). However, when Craven read an article in Scientific American in 1982 that said the two most contrasting colours to the human retina were red and green, he decided to alter the colors.
  • The idea behind the glove was a practical one on Wes Craven’s part, as he wanted to give the character a unique weapon, but also something that could be made cheaply and wouldn’t be difficult to use or transport. At the time, he was studying primal fears embedded in the subconscious of people of all cultures and discovered that one of those fears is attack by animal claws. Around the same time, he saw his cat unsheathe its claws, and the two concepts merged, although in the original script the blades were fishing knives, not stake knives as in the finished film.
  • On the DVD audio commentary, Wes Craven says he was told that this was the first film to use a breakaway mirror.
  • The little girl skipping rope was the daughter of the couple whose home was used as Tina’s house.
  • Many extended scenes, which were lifted from the work print, appeared on the 1996 Anchor Bay Special Edition release. Charles Bernstein had not yet composed the iconic score for the film, so these scenes include preexisting temporary music taken from other sources. Some of the music heard is from Final Exam by composer Gary S. Scott. Scott later went on to score many episodes of the Elm Street spin-off TV series Freddy’s Nightmares.
  • In the original script, Freddy was a child molester, however the decision was made to change him into being a child murderer to avoid accusations of exploiting a series of child molestations in California around the time of production.
  • According to Wes Craven, Robert Englund was not the first choice for the role of Fred Krueger; he had initially wanted a stunt man to play the part, but upon testing several stunt men, he realized he needed an actor.
  • Charlie Sheen was interested in the role of Glen, but according to producer Robert Shaye, he wanted more money than the production could afford.
  • Prior to making the film, Amanda Wyss had never seen a horror movie and Heather Langenkamp had only ever seen Burnt Offerings.
  • Special makeup effects artist David B. Miller based Freddy’s disfigurement on photographs of burn victims he saw in UCLA Medical Centre.
  • According to Robert Englund, he based the physicality of Freddy on Klaus Kinski’s performance in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. Englund also says on his DVD commentary that in his mind, the back-story for Freddy was based on something from his own childhood. On Valentine’s Day when Englund was in school, everyone in the class made Valentine cards for one another, but there was one boy who received no cards from anyone. Englund theorized that this boy went on to become Freddy.
  • The very first time we see Freddy in the movie, he isn’t being played by Robert Englund, but by special-effects man Charles Belardinelli, as Belardinelli was the only one who knew exactly how to cut the glove and insert the blades.
  • The fictional address of the house in the film is 1428 Elm Street. The actual house where filming took place is located in Los Angeles, California on 1428 North Genesee Avenue.
  • The sparking glove effect seen throughout the movie was achieved by attaching the glove to a car battery. The famous scraping noise was created by scratching a steak knife on the underside of a metal chair.
  • All of the boiler room footage in the film was shot in the basement of the Lincoln Heights Jail, which was condemned shortly after production wrapped, due to the high levels of asbestos.
  • The scene where Glen (Johnny Depp) lies on the couch and can hear Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Rod (Jsu Garcia) having sex was based on an incident from Wes Craven’s own life where he lay on a couch listening to a couple having sex next door.
  • The scene where Freddy presses through the wall above Nancy was shot by stretching a sheet of spandex across a hole in the wall and pressing against it. In the shot, Freddy is played by special effects designer Jim Doyle.
  • A few days before the film was to go on general release, the processing lab which had the negative informed New Line that they wouldn’t be releasing it as they hadn’t been paid. At the last minute however, producer Robert Shaye was able to negotiate a deal.
  • The film was shot in 30 days.
  • The film cost roughly $1.8 million to produce, a figure it made back in its opening weekend.
  • Ranked at 17 on Bravo’s The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Freddy Krueger was ranked at number 40 on the AFI 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains list.
  • Heather Langenkamp’s favorite performance of her own.
  • Tina’s name is mentioned 39 times throughout the course of the film.
  • The 2006 Infinifilm release fixes a continuity error in the original film. In the scene where Glen watches over Nancy as she sleeps, she turns her light off before sleeping, but it’s on when she wakes up. The Infinifilm release fixes this mistake by digitally darkening the room when she wakes up, until Nancy’s mother enters the room and turns it on.
  • During the scene where Nancy is running towards her house with Freddy right behind her, Heather Langenkamp cut her foot and required stitches. When viewing this scene you can clearly see her limping as she enters her house. This wasn’t acting, but rather a genuine reaction to her injury. If you look closely you can see the bandage she’s wearing in the last shot of the “goo stairs” sequence, which takes place just moments later.
  • In an interview with Heather Langenkamp, she mentioned that Ronee Blakley really did slap her during the kitchen scene. However, if you watch the scene carefully, you can see that she must be referring to a previous take. It’s obvious that the slap seen in the final take is artificial.
  • Johnny Depp accompanied his friend Jackie Earle Haley to auditions for the film. Instead of Haley being chosen for a role, it was Depp who was spotted by director Wes Craven, who asked him if he would like to read for a part. Depp got a part in the film, Haley didn’t, but Haley would go on to play Freddy in the remake 26 years later (A Nightmare on Elm Street).
  • Nancy mentions taking a drug so she won’t dream. This drug (Hypnocil) ends up being a major plot point in later Freddy movies.
  • The first time Robert Englund tried on the infamous Freddy glove, he cut himself.
  • The film playing on Nancy’s TV when she drifts off to sleep in her bedroom is Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.
  • During the production, Wes Craven stayed in a small apartment that belonged to Wim Wenders, the former husband of Ronee Blakley.
  • Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin wore an eyepatch during filming so as not to be distracted by anything else on set.
  • It would take about 3 hours to get Robert Englund into his Freddy make-up.
  • David Warner was originally slated to play Freddy Krueger. Make-up tests were done, but Warner had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Robert Englund was cast instead.
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Author: Raz

Some of you may know me from my site 'Raz's Midnight Macabre'. It was 'SomeWhatNerdy' that gave me my first break in writing for another site other than my own and it's a site you'll hopefully never see me leave! I have an obsession with all things Horror and it's an honour to share my passion with you all. If you like what I do here then please visit my site - http://razsmidnightmacabre.blogspot.com/ and if you like what you see then please sign up and share :)

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