The Last Drive-In | Slasher Life Lessons, Pt. 4

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Take it from Joe Bob, who incidentally gave the original A Nightmare on Elm Street four stars, when it comes to this Freddy guy, a mattress is the last place you wanna be. Blog art by T.J. Denton (@TDenton_1138)

Our esteemed Queen of the Last Call Blog, Laura Beerman, has been ruthlessly assailed by work this past week — think about the mob scene that happens to Willem Dafoe at the end of Antichristand you know what I’m talking about — so she asked me to pinch hit to let everyone know what us mutants can learn from A Nightmare on Elm Street, which, back in 1984, showed all of us that Michael Jackson wasn’t the only person in that magical decade who could pull off the whole one-glove thing.

Yes, horror history was made when Wes Craven came up with the dream-invading, child killer, boiler-room residing Freddy Krueger and the knowledge gleaned from the franchise- and career-launching flick no doubt has been taken to heart by the mutant faithful everywhere.

Here we go:

Numero Uno: You can’t depend on Glen

Glen, of course, was played by future Hollywood Fake Academy Award Best Actor nominee Johnny Depp in this, his film de-butt. Johnny doesn’t have much to do in this one other than to look charming and be a puppy dog to our heroine, Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp. To wit:

When Glen tries to con his folks by using a tape player and a sound effects cassette, he fails miserably.

When Nancy asks Glen to watch her and prevent her from falling asleep, of course he falls asleep.

When Nancy tries to call Glen to warn him about falling asleep, he’s already asleep.

Glen did, however, give Nancy the secret to denying Fred his nightmare powers (you turn your back on him) in a middle-of-the-flick exposition scene that also sets up her bona-fides as a trap-setter that would make Jigsaw jealous, so he wasn’t completely useless.

And Glen did have a whole lotta blood to donate in the end, so let’s be positive. His mattress geyser was probably the most massive bloodletting since The Shiningand was then surpassed by Henrietta’s attack on Cletus in Evil Dead 2 (more on that Sam Raimi kid later…)

Numero Two-o: You can’t depend on your parents, either 

John Saxon plays Nancy’s dad and doesn’t even kung-fu anyone even though he’s the chief investigating detective and was in Enter the Dragon, the greatest kung-fu flick ever, where he kicked Bolo Yeung in the gazebos. He barely handles rescuing his daughter in the end and sorta stands by as his flaming (and by flaming, we mean she’s on fire) ex-wife, Marge, aka Nancy’s mom, is swallowed by her Serta.

As an aside, Marge probably went up so easily because of her high blood-alcohol content. She drank vodka from the frosty gray bottle in 50 percent of her scenes. Math doesn’t lie cause if you multiply half the scenes with Marge times 40 proof equals all the explanation you need for why she’d have stashed a child killer’s glove of death in her fireplace. Marge did sort of save Nancy from drowning in the bathtub once she figured out how to operate a doorknob, which was probably the sole instance of somewhat passable parenting.

Glen’s folks were really the instruments of his demise. After badmouthing Nancy when she was trying to warn his narcoleptic butt not to fall asleep, they ghosted her with the Busy Signal of Doom, leading their son to becoming Hemoglobin Old Faithful.  

And poor Rod was exposed to too many Welcome Back, Kotterepisodes as a kid. He based his whole personality on living the dream as a Sweathog. But his folks did do something right with the name – just ask Tina.

Numero Three-o: Mr. Krueger needs to dream himself up a laundromat

When everybody finally figures out who the guy is who’s threatening the kids, it’s the dirty sweatshirt that’s the main distinguishing feature that tips them off. It’s not that his face looks like an overcooked bratwurst loaf. It’s not that he’s got an Indiana Jones hat on. It’s not even the fact that he’s tryin to chop people up with his Ginzu glove. It’s that dirty old sweater. If he would of washed it, maybe he would have gotten away with it for a while longer.

Meet Nancy — she’ll teach you a thing or two about survival. And notice the distinctive background — we can only imagine how nightmarish Mr. Krueger’s distinctive dirty sweater smelled.

Numero Four-o: Nancy’s a trend setter

Macaulay Culkin and Arnold the Barbarian ripped off Nancy big time. Nancy figured out the best way to fight a deadly dream-fueled killer – put him in a King Kong Bundy-style bear hug, drag him into the real world and then go all Rube Goldberg on his butt with a sledgehammer, other traps and Molotov cocktails. Her strategy is eternal and has been emulated by fictional characters ever since, cause that’s how Arnold defeated the Predator and how Macaulay beat up Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci.

Numero Five-o: If you can’t hurt yourself, then you’re a lightweight

That Fred guy is a real cut-up. As an intimidation tactic, he slices off his fingers and gouges his innards just because he can. He trains creepy jumprope girls to chant his own theme song. He’s got super stretchy arms. He can mind-control bed linens. He also was a phreak (1980s speak for telecommunications hackers) and if Nancy didn’t get him in the end, Ma Bell would have caught up with him eventually had the company not been broken up.  Is it any wonder that Freddy won the 1986 Drive-In Academy Award for Best Beast and spawned a legacy of seven sequels and one remake that we shall not mention ever again?

Numero Six-o: So did Wes Craven like the Commodores?

Check to see if Tina’s cassette deck had some Lionel Richie because “Oh, what a feeling …” (you know the rest).

Numero Seven-o: Sheet happens when you’re in the slammer

Going back to Rod, while he lived up to his name in Tina’s eyes and elsewhere, you gotta feel for the guy because his tragic demise was a textbook example of how sometimes sheet happens in life.

Numero Eight-o: Even big-time director folk call each other out

Sam Raimi and Wes Craven had a (maybe real/perhaps imaginary) game of one-upsmanship going on through some of their flicks. First Sam tore up a Hills Have Eyes Poster and threw it in the basement of the cabin in Evil Dead. Then Wes had Evil Dead playing in one of the scenes in Nightmare. Then Sam had a blood geyser to match the Johnny Depp geyser in Evil Dead 2 and snuck in a model of Freddy’s glove in the basement of that cabin. So theoretically Ash’s boomstick and Fred’s claws are kind of in the same universe.

Numero Nine-o: Insomnia is your friend in the fight against Fred

Nancy says she used a combo of coffee and uppers to stay up for seven straight days but was nowhere near the world record. Problem there is that she had built up a tolerance. These days, all you have to do is get on a rotating schedule of coffee, energy drinks, energy shots and the 24-hour news cycle and you’ll be blowing Nancy’s personal best away.

Bonus geography lesson:

I thought A Nightmare on Elm Street was supposed to have taken place in Ohio, but when Glenn is telling Nancy about how to kill Freddy by not giving her nightmares any power, there’s a dang palm tree right there. There’s no way there are palm trees in Ohio, not even in Cincinnati. Wes should have known this, having spent some time in Cleveburg, but in his defense, in 1984 it had been a couple of decades since he taught school here …

And a musical finale as the bell rings

When you revisit Freddy’s de-butt for the 15th (or 85th) time, you owe it to yourself to stick it through the credits, not for a post-credits teaser, but for the memorable musical stylings of 213, whose anthem “Nightmare”is at least the equal of “Megaforce” by 707, but those are all still a step below the Yor, Hunter From the Future theme song for 1980s drive-in music theme cheese dominance.

As your substitute blogger, I hope I’ve given you at least a modicum of drive-in enlightenment. Hope to see some of you at Joe Bob’s show at the Capitol Theater in Cleveland this Wednesday, and keep an eye out for my own movie review de-butt for Joe Bob’s Screening Room here in the near future.

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