Retro-Viewing: A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Written & Directed by Wes Craven
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While I would never claim that I learned everything I know about life from horror movies, I will admit that sometimes they do teach a valuable lesson. Nothing is a better fat burner, for example, than running for your life from a serial killer. Especially if you do it barefoot. On rain-slick pavement.

Of course, in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street most of the running takes place while the main characters are asleep, for this movie was the first in a long series about Fred Krueger, the pizza-faced slasher who stalks teenagers in their dreams.

As horror movie premises go, this first installment, which was released when I was a freshman in high school, was fairly original, and very scary. After all, everybody sleeps, and everybody dreams (if you don’t dream, you literally go crazy), and almost everyone has wondered what really happens if you die in your dream.

While I initially watched the film because I thought the concept was cool, and because as a twelve- and thirteen-year-old, I’d had a crush on Robert Englund (the actor who brought Freddie to life) after seeing him in the miniseries V and V: the Final Battle, the teenagers in the cast were actually pretty impressive. Amanda Wyss (who would later appear in several episodes of another favorite show, Highlander: the Series) brought the perfect blend of edginess and vulnerability to the role of Tina Grey. Heather Langencamp (who would return to the franchise in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, was smart and snarky as Nancy Thompson (more recent television viewers would see her play another Nancy – Nancy Kerrigan – in a movie of the week about Kerrigan and Tonya Harding), and a very young, dare I say – babyfaced – Johnny Depp ate up the screen as Nancy’s boyfriend Glenn.

The adult castmembers, aside from Englund, included John Saxon and Ronee Blakley as Nancy’s parents, both of whom turned in quirky and interesting performances.

But it’s the villain in a horror film that makes or breaks it, and old Freddy has become an iconic horror villain, as much because of the razor-glove he uses to slaughter his teenaged victims as because of the one-liners he slings with equal sharpness.

As an eight-year-old, I once had to sleep with the closet light on because the original black-and-white movie of Frankenstein creeped me out so much.

As an teen, lingering fear from my first experience with Fred Krueger had me compelled to make sure all closet/laundry room/basement (when we had a basement) lights were OFF before I went to sleep, so that I wouldn’t wake up and panic over a fictional murder’s boiler room being linked to my house.

Today? Today, I can watch this film for the performances, laugh at the effects, and listen to the commentary thinking, “Man, Robert Englund and my friend Clay are totally voice doubles.”

I still love sharing the film with new viewers – and I still know exactly when to start it so that Nancy’s midnight countdown is in synch with real time.

August Rush

August RushAugust Rush
Available on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray
Get it at Amazon

Fuzzy and I haven’t yet invested in a plasma tv and a plasma mount with which to suspend it from the wall or ceiling, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying movies. Recently, we rented August Rush because we never managed to see it in a theater, and we both loved it.

August Rush is an urban fantasy about a cellist and a rock star who meet, have a one-night stand, and are forced apart. She (the cellist) gets pregnant and her over protective father puts the baby up for adoption while she is in the hospital after an accident. Eleven years later, the child, a musical prodigy who has refused to leave an orphanage because he believes he can hear his parents, decides he has to find them.

We then follow the cellist as she searches for the child she never agreed to give up, and never knew was alive, the rock star, who is searching for the cellist, unaware there is a child, and the boy, Evan, who is given the name August Rush by a street musician who takes him in, and becomes the catalyst for the blooming of a musical prodigy.

Of course the movie ends with August conducting an urban rhapsody (symphony for orchestra and wind chimes) in Central Park, and there’s every sign his parents will find him, especially since he’s run into his father already, they just weren’t aware.

It’s a charming tale, with great music and wonderful performances from all three principals – Freddy Highmore (August) Keri Russell (Lyla, the cellist), and John Rhys Myers (as the rock star).

Goes well with a dreamsicle, and a hot summer night.

Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway

Austen is pervading my life in roundabout ways, and while it’s nice to watch a movie without the work part of my brain peering at the cars to see what sort of dash kits might be installed, I feel like I’d be much better served by reading her actual work. To that end, I’m declaring April “Jane Austen Month” here at Bibliotica, and will be working my way through her…works.

Meanwhile, however, I’ve seen the movie Becoming Jane, which I found to be warm, funny, a little bit provocative, and really rather interesting, and not just for continuing the trend of American actresses playing British literary figures (c.f. Renee Zellwiger in Mrs. Potter, which I also found enchanting.)

I quite liked all the casting, especially James Cromwell and Julie Walters as Austen’s parents. Cromwell, especially, charmed me with his crusty affection.

My aunt suggests I should begin my own revisit with Miss Austen with Pride and Prejudice. What does everyone else think?

The Nanny Diaries

I just finished watching The Nanny Diaries, the movie based on the book by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Klaus, and starring Scarlett Johansson .

While I thought the book was delightful, and enjoyed the movie as much for the story as for the luxury homes in Manhattan where it all took place, I’m never entirely satisfied with book-to-movie translations, because when I read I’m immersed in a story, but when I’m watching something, I’m merely observing it.

That being said, Laura Linney as Mrs. X was fabulous, seemingly cold, but with vulnerability beneath the icy veneer, and Paul Giamatti as the mostly-absent Mr. X was simply perfect, and Donna Murphy was believable as Annie’s mother, even if her New Jersey accent was horribly inconsistent. Young Nicholas Art, as Greyer, the child in the film, was also very good – very much a natural kid.

Where the film excelled (other than at marketing CitiGroup, whose iconic red umbrella was used throughout the film) was in capturing the spirit of life in New York, where small kids really DO know whether something is on the East or West side, and how much there are distinct sub-cultures within it, changing from block to block.

If you haven’t read the book, see the movie first or you might be disappointed in the condensation of the story, but you will not be disappointed in the way they presented the spirit of the novel, or the city in which it all takes place.

Dracula: The Series

If there’s some kind of drug treatment for people who like cheesy vampire stories, than I surely need it, because yesterday while I was working I went through an entire disc of Dracula: The Series on DVD. Now, an entire disc may not sound bad to those of you accustomed to getting four hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on a disc, but you will understand why a disc of Drac is bad when I tell you that, because it’s a half-hour show, one disc = eleven episodes.


Now do you sense the wrongness?

Back in the very very early 1990’s, there was a channel in the NJ/NY area known as “Universal 9” – I’m not sure if it was some precursor to UPN or not, but among the funky syndicated shows they ran were this one, and another called She-Wolf of London that was about an American university student who is bitten by a werewolf while she’s visiting England. Adventure and romance ensue.

Dracula however, is at least partly a sit-com. It features extremely tall Canadian actor Geordie Johnson as “Alexander Lucard” – who lives in a modern castle and conquers the world by conglomerating it. Pitted against him is Bernard Behrens as “Gustav Helsing” – Uncle Gustav to the two American (who are really Canadian) kids who are sent to live with him in Belgium (except it’s really Luxembourg) while their mother wanders around Europe in her job for a bank. The boys are Max (10) and Chris (16), and they are cheerfully geeky in that “still have eighties hair” sort of way. Also staying with Gustav is Sophie Metternich (played by The L Word‘s Mia Kirschner), and of course she and Chris end up flirting with each other, a lot, while Max and Uncle G run off to try and kill Dracula.

There is a lot of wielding of crosses and splashing of holy water, big swirly capes, and near-vaudevillian gesturing, especially when Drac is about to sink his ridiculously long fangs into the neck of the week.

Guest stars are campy in a “If I wasn’t Canadian and it wasn’t thirty years too late I’d be on Gilligan’s Island” sort of way, and most of the 41 Canadian actors who showed up in EVERY US/CAN joint production of the era show up here as well, including, in a recurring role as Klaus “I’m a psychotic giggling loon with fangs” Helsing, Gustav’s son, turned Dracula’s minion, Geraint Wyn Davies. Followers of Vamp TV know that Geraint Wyn Davies would show up wearing fangs (and a better hair style) a few years later as the lead in the “Crime time after prime time” show, Forever Knight.

If I’m mocking this show so much, you may wonder why I bought the discs. Well, for one thing, the entire first season of 21 episodes (there was no second season, which is too bad, because had they chosen to tone down the cheese some interesting plot points were coming out) was a whopping $8.49 at a certain online megabookstore.

Also, sometimes, you just need to laugh.