In this Death of Fear segment, I’ll be discussing A Nightmare on Elm Street, which is so far my 100% favorite 80’s slasher for so many reasons. Sure, My Bloody Valentine had its laughs and its perks, but I felt like A Nightmare … was a little more grounded in what it wanted to be: a strong balance between humor and fear. It’s got blood, boobs, and some long creepy claws. Because I love the original I wanted to see if the remake could hold up. I was interested to see what the remake did to address my generation’s death of fear.
Quick recap: A Nightmare on Elm Street is about a man (Fred Krueger) who was burned to death by an angry mob for murdering (molesting, in the 2010 version) children. He comes back to exact revenge—he does so by killing the mob’s kids in their dreams. He likes to wear the kids down with possession/haunting tactics any poltergeist would be proud of until the teens can no longer stay awake, and then he kills them in all kinds of bloody and brutal manners. All in all, it’s a good time.
As an audience, we know the killer is Freddy from pretty much the first scene. I think that’s a massive, big plus for this slasher. What we don’t know is the how or the why, which is interesting, considering I’m not sure if many other slashers follow that same formula. Most of the time the audience is trying to figure out who the killer is.
Hint: It’s almost always the boyfriend.
I think this strategy worked for A Nightmare … . I knew who I needed to be afraid of from the very beginning, therefore I was totally along for the ride to figure out why Freddy was after this unfortunate group of teens. And of course that group of teens includes the Final Girl.
I’m super excited to talk about 1984 Nancy. She is an awesome, perfect final girl. Definitely a final girl I can get behind. (The others I’d get in front of because they fall and the killer can have them, I’ll be long gone.) But not 1984 Nancy. She’s got a great inner strength, but she’s also such a teenage brat! She snaps back at her mother and she treats Glenn (her boyfriend) so badly. You can tell that Glenn is just all about Nancy and she just kind of orders him around. He carries her books and pets her hair. I really love it. 1984 Nancy also builds booby traps and hides a full coffee maker under her bed. I particularly love that scene when her mother comes in her room to say goodnight, then Nancy pulls out some medium roast already in liquid form. So great. Nancy not only thinks ahead, but she plans to stay awake and take Freddy down.
1984 Nancy is my spirit animal.
In the 2010 remake, Nancy’s got more of the traditional final girl build. Her personality requires a big bad monster to scare her into a bigger pair of boots. Maybe she’s not as powerful as 1984 Nancy, but this 2010 final girl still has some redeeming qualities. Remake Nancy possesses a quiet inner strength. Her outsider aura doesn’t make her strange or label her as a weird, I instead got the impression that she simply doesn’t need anyone. Her introverted personality makes her mysterious, but resilient.
Which brings me to the story itself. There seemed to be a public outcry when the remake came out because people were unhappy that Freddy was a child molester. In the 1984 version, he was a killer, but because the police couldn’t pin any murders to him, he was out free. The adults took it upon themselves to punish the man who hurt their children.
I thought turning Freddy into a child molester completely solved one of the issues I had with the original. In the original, I couldn’t help but wonder why Freddy waited for his killers to have children? If Freddy was pissed enough to cross over from the dead to the living in dreamland, why go for the parents’ children? In the original 1984 version, the parents have little to no connection to the original missing children other than they live on Elm Street, they were simply seeking justice after the police exhausted their chances. It seems off to me that Freddy would wait in his dream world for his killers to have children he can prey upon. Why not get revenge on the people who burned him? Were they not young enough? I get that he wanted to punish them in a deep, unfathomable way, but what if those people had never had children? What was his plan then? What was lacking to me for this particular plot was the answer to ‘Why now?’
The remake successfully addressed this plot hole. Freddy molested the kids, then comes back to kill them. To finish the job. By killing them, he hurts the parents who burned him. That sounds pretty solid to me. It’s still lacking the answer to the ‘why now’ but, a friend recently told me that sometimes horror is just happening, and that’s the scary part. It can’t be explained away. Sometimes evil just exists, and that’s what is happening here.
Only troubling thing about this fix is the humor that was in the first movie never appears. Without the humor, without snarky 1984 Nancy, Freddy’s taunts and insults became too real, too creepy. In the remake, Freddy isn’t just a pervy dude who kills you in your dreams, but a real, true monster back from the grave. There is a more serious tone in the remake, something that tries to talk about current issues and while I believe they succeeded, it’s a very different voice than the original. The original allowed us to laugh.
The remake made it abundantly clear that it was all business.
So, was it a wise choice for the remake to ‘fix’ Freddy? I’m starting to tread on the dangerous ground of opinion, because the remake did fix a plot hole, no denying that. But how did I feel watching it? Which film was fun? With the original I felt like I could enjoy myself, have some laughs and some scares. The remake has a good adrenaline rush with it. It’s creepy, sure. But I wouldn’t re-watch. The original I could watch on a loop. When it comes to blood and gore, as an audience, we want to laugh at how fake it is. How it’s just a fun ride that will be over too soon.
Which brings me to some of my favorite scenes from the original that appeared in the remake—scenes that could never ever be left out of any A Nightmare on Elm Street movie.
- The jump roping girls. Although, I still don’t know what they are supposed to signify. Are they just creepy? Are they part of a dream? Are they part of Freddy? Is it like the idea that sometimes demons masquerade as apparitions of children (yeah, that’s a thing) Are they there just to deliver the skip rope poem/song about Freddy? Regardless of their purpose, this is an iconic scene and I’m glad it got to stay.
- The clear body bag. At one point, the Nancies leave her classroom and has a vision of Tina (Chris in the remake) in a clear, bloody, body bag. And then it gets dragged away by unseen hands, legs first. Soooo creepy. Would make a killer Halloween costume.
- Freddy’s claws in the tub between the unsuspecting Nancies legs. That was excellent. Although, in the 1984 version, it was a little funnier. In the remake when we are aware he’s a child molester, it has a different tone. Feels a little less like fiction.
While those three big iconic A Nightmare on Elm Street scenes got to stay, there were some that never appeared in the remake. This bummed me out, as I feel the original is almost perfect.
- Freddy with the long, long arms framed by the smoke/fog/mist. It gave me the impression that Freddy’s extensive and all-powerful reach could find you anywhere. Great foreshadowing, great image. That gave me shivers. I think that’s when I was in. When I knew that this slasher meant business and I was going to fall deeply in love.
- My favorite, favorite scene that sadly didn’t have a place in the remake was the fountain of Glen’s blood. Oh man, how his bed, like, eats him and Linda Blair style projectile barfs so, so much blood up to the ceiling? The bed even eats his TV! Oh, I was dying. Poor baby Johnny Depp. Great scene. I was super bummed when this perfect, gory bit didn’t have a place in the 2010 remake.
After watching these movies, it’s clear that the 1984 and 2010 versions of A Nightmare on Elm Street have their own place in horror. The 2010 version tries to scare, really terrify. Not only are the effects and make-up perfect, but the message is sinister and very, very close to reality. However, while both of these movies have a place on the horror shelf, only one has a place in my heart. The original is everything I want out of a slasher. Not only is the monster big and bad, but this film has a kickass final girl, lots of blood, and even better, it laughs at itself. It didn’t need my generation to find it funny. The movie was aware of itself from the get-go, and that I believe is its biggest strength, making it an absolutely enjoyable wild ride of a slasher.