Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Film Appreciation - One, two, Freddy's coming for you

Guest contributor Rich Stange guides Film Appreciation on a tour through the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Psychology provides us with many examples of the mind's power over the body, such as the power of suggestion with such treatments as hypnotism.

With the Nightmare on Elm Street movie series, we have a series of films where a character actually lives in the minds, more specifically the dreams, of those he victimizes. That character is arguably the most famous movie maniac of the 20th century. He wears a red and green sweater, a brown hat, and has knives for fingers on his right hand. His name is Freddy Krueger! We are going to celebrate the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and the development and evolution of the Freddy Krueger character.

Wes Craven had his film directorial debut, alongside Sean S. Cunningham (director of Friday the 13th, 1980) with The Last House on the Left. He would follow that film up with another horror film called The Hills Have Eyes. Both of these films were visually shot in a way that makes the viewer believe they are watching a documentary of horrible events. They are extremely grisly and real.

With A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Wes decided to make a film that was more fantasy than reality based. Freddy Krueger was a child murderer who was slain by a lynch mob of pissed off town parents. Young Nancy, a high school student, is suffering from terrible dreams of Freddy trying to kill her. Of course he murders the main cast of characters until only Nancy is left to battle against him. A Nightmare on Elm Street has been analyzed on so many different levels by so many people. This genre of film is often targeted to a teenage audience, therefore it must have teenage significance to the plot. A big part of the teenage stage of one's life is puberty, becoming an adult. Wes made a conscious decision to make the main character female. He also wrote in the story that Freddy died many years ago, yet he picks the time he chooses strike. Freddy Krueger in this film is representative of the female menstruation cycle. He shows up for a couple of days, causes all kinds of havoc in this girl's life, and is simply gone the next morning as if he was never there. Then at the very end of the film, Freddy controls the car, which is a visual representation of controlling Nancy’s thoughts by saying, "See you in a month."

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is referred to by many as a homosexual horror film. On the surface, it is about Freddy haunting the house on Elm Street. It takes place five years after the original and a new family resides there. Jesse, a young adolescent male, is having dreams which lead to Freddy possessing him to enter reality. There are specific scenes: the homosexual gym teacher being tied naked and whipped bare-assed in the shower, and Jesse walking out on making out with a beautiful girl because "something is trying to get inside by body." A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is extremely self aware of its homosexuality and celebrates it. This is Freddy telling us it is okay to be homosexual. One has a right to own their sexuality, whatever it may be. Freddy does not discriminate, he kills all teenagers equally!

In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Robert Englund (also Freddy in the first two) developed the Freddy character far more than it had been developed previously. Freddy had a dark, witty, evil, yet funny sense of humor. He also began making the murders more personal. He would use the characters' own personality and sexuality against them, manipulating them, thus luring them to their deaths. Then, if that isn't enough, he actually began drawing more strength than he had ever had by taking their souls. This film takes the theme of teenagers with their sexuality making its debut break through to a new level. This time, instead of Nancy being alone at the end of the film like in the original, we have a team of teenagers all going through it together, which was Wes Craven and Chuck Russell's way of telling teens that they are not alone. Millions of teens are going through what you are going through right now.

With A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Freddy Krueger became a full-blown comedian. He was no longer scary, but funny as hell! Unfortunately, this film did not offer much in the way of plot. It was a very generic slasher film dressed up with some great (and some not so great) special effects. My favorite scene in this film is when Freddy gets torn apart by the souls inside him at the end.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is a very dark film, but features some light-toned funny scenes as well. The storyline basically focuses on Freddy living off of the dreams of a developing fetus. Is the possibility of there being something wrong with the baby not the biggest fear in a pregnant woman's life? Well, I would consider Freddy living off of the dreams of my developing child reason for alarm. He would feed the souls of his victims to the child, thus changing the child. This film, in many ways, was before its time because it was dealing with such themes as embryonic stem cell research and genetic cloning before those things even existed.

Freddy had a TV series called Freddy's Nightmares. The series wasn't good overall, but it had an awesome pilot episode, which I long for a DVD release of. It was directed by none other than Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare was pure commercialism. Freddy did not have one single scary scene in the entire film. He was funny, funny, and funny. This is a very enjoyable film, not as a horror film but as a comedy. It had cameos by celebrities like Roseanne, Tom Arnold, Johnny Depp, and Alice Cooper. It offered an ending in 3D and a cool music video at the end during the credits. The most noteworthy aspect of this film perhaps is the backstory of Freddy and his daughter.

In Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Freddy celebrated his friend Jason finally joining him in Hell by grabbing Jason's mask for him at the end.

After a three film hiatus from the series, Wes Craven returns to write (for the first time since part 3) and direct (for the first time since the original) the seventh entry of the series, titled Wes Craven's New Nightmare. This time, the first six films are just films and Freddy exits the films and enters reality. This is an extremely intelligent film and it is also Freddy’s return to form with being dark, scary, evil, and his humor being really dark.

Freddy made his return to the movies in 2003 to battle Jason Voorhees in the hit film Freddy vs. Jason. Ignoring both Jason X and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Freddy searches Hell for a soul twisted enough to instill fear into the new Elm Streeters in order to give him the power to return. Jason does not play nice and the two wound up battling their way to millions of box office dollars. A noteworthy plot element to Freddy vs. Jason is the importance of Hypnocil. In this generation we have pills for absolutely everything, and a pill to stop dreams to stop Freddy is a powerful social commentary.

With Freddy vs. Jason, both the original Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series came to a close. Various comic book companies created Jason and Freddy comics, books were written, countless toys and models were made to celebrate these characters. Companies like NECA and Sideshow celebrated these characters with amazingly detailed toys and collectibles.

Platinum Dunes is a company, owned by Michael Bay, which offers young directors a chance to direct film. With such remakes as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, and Friday the 13th under their belt, it was only inevitable that A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) would be the next obvious remake. Freddy Krueger was played by Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) in this dark, sadistic remake of a classic story. I love the micro-naps in the story. That is very significant social commentary on a society that does not prioritize sleep. Our society is all about the night life or staying up all night cramming for the finals or going over the case or boning up for tomorrow's meeting. Staying up all night causes the brain to shut itself down for minutes at a time, allowing Freddy access to the characters. Jackie played Freddy amazingly and they did a good job with the movie.

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