Friday, September 4, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Screen capture from New Line Entertainment DVD
WHO: Wes Craven, who died of brain cancer last weekend, wrote and directed this.

WHAT: In an age where we love our screens so much that we like to take them to bed with us, the above-pictured scene, starring Johnny Depp in his very first movie role, seems eerily prescient. Or maybe it's just fun. Either way it's a great moment to see in a theatre full of other moviegoers.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens at the Roxie tonight and tomorrow at 9:45 PM, on Sunday at 3:00 PM, and next Wednesday at 9:45 PM

WHY: The very first of the nine-and-counting "official" films featuring modern bogeyman character Freddy Krueger was never expected by its writer-director to launch a franchise, but it touched such a nerve in popular culture that it was inevitable to occur. I was a horror-averse preteen and, later, teenager when these movies came out so I never saw them at the time, but that doesn't mean I wasn't constantly exposed to Freddy through schoolmates descriptions of him, through Halloween costumes, through novelty songs, and the like.

I finally saw my first Freddy film (this one) in October 2007 when Jesse Hawthonre Ficks of MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS played it on a Castro Theatre triple-bill with Flowers in the Attic (which Craven was slated to direct but ultimately didn't, to the finished product's detriment) and the 1977 The Hills Have Eyes, which I instantly recognized as the best of the handful of Craven-directed films I'd seen thus far. Though to my regret I haven't added to that small list in the nearly eight years interim (aside from a DVD viewing of his underrated The Serpent and the Rainbow). Nor have I watched any of the many non-Craven-directed Freddy Krueger movies aside from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge when it screened at the Frameline festival a couple years ago after a stage show featuring drag queen Peaches Christ wearing a red-and-olive green sweater lipsynching the Hell out of "Enter Sandman".

It's a shame that it's taking the horror icon's death for me to realize how desperately I need to familiarize myself with his legacy. In addition to this week's Roxie screenings, Ficks (who told me about the sad news in person when we ran into each other at Sunday's Castro screening of King Vidor's The Crowd- the venue's final silent film to be performed with the current Wurlitzer organ before it's replaced with a new one in the coming weeks) has booked 35mm prints of two 1990s Craven films for October 30th at the Castro: Scream (the first Craven film I ever saw) and New Nightmare, his return to the franchise he never intended to be one, that has always sounded fascinating to me, set as it is on the production of Freddy Krueger movie (how meta!) I'm not sure I'll make time to fill in the gaps and watch A Nighmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors through Freddy's Dead: the Final Nightmare on DVD before then, as it appears from this list of references that I've probably seen enough of the series already to follow along with the film nicely. I'd rather spend time watching some of the more highly-recommended Craven films like Swamp Thing and Shocker, assuming they're available from Le Video. Or watching other films on the new Castro calendar such as the other MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS auteur tribute, on October 2nd (John Carpenter's They Live and Assault on Precinct 13).

HOW: The Roxie will show A Nightmare on Elm Street via DCP, a format they became able to screen this past April but which I haven't experienced there for myself yet, having only seen 35mm and DVD-projections there in the meantime. I'm sure this digital format will look better than the latter, even if it can't quite maintain some of the essential qualities of the former. It seems DCP is only available in the "Big Roxie" and not the "Little Roxie" so take that under consideration in picking your showtime for The Tribe (a film I have much more to say about than to simply recommend or dismiss) should you decide to see it during its current run. I'm pleased that the venue was able to bring in DCP without giving up its ability to show 35mm, which it will from October 30 to November 3rd when it brings a set of Quay Brothers shorts along with a documentary by Christopher Nolan.


  1. Hi Brian I am remiss in not having been catching up with your posts since July (!) but I wanted to mention I just finished an interesting, if superficial, bio on Craven I took out of the UNC Library. Wes was a good friend of my musician brother Eugene, hoped to use some of his music in one of his films, but that never happened. Euge does appear though as the man in the bar in Shocker (his part from Scream 2 was cut) and a Eugene T shirt appears in The Serpent And The Rainbow. I've heard a number of stories about Wes from my brother, who would sometimes stay at his place in Laurel Canyon (used to be Steve McQueen's house) when performing in the LA area. I finally got to meet Wes, on a book tour in the 1990s at the Booksmith on Haight, and found him a civilized, professorial type. I've set aside People Under The Stairs to watch on DVD.

  2. Wow, Larry! Great stories. Thanks for sharing. Missing your presence here.