Saturday, May 2, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 6)


A bit of a departure from my usual movie selection came along in 1984. I was not a horror fan at all, still reeling from the Raiders of the Lost Ark experience, and then the terror of seeing ALIEN for the first time when it aired on UK TV in 1982, and The Omen - I have a memory of a friend of mine at school, Wally (he liked to be called), had recorded it off the TV and kept slowing down the gory bits to show how the special effects worked. It should have made it less sinister, but that bloody soundtrack! Talk about unsettling...

Anyway, I didn't watch a lot of horror really, I was more of an SF/Fantasy/Action person, but I have a very distinct memory of the trailers on TV for A Nightmare on Elm Street. We didn't get it in the UK until a lot later - August 1985 - and I seem to remember it getting an almost simultaneous release in the cinema and on VHS. It certainly was pretty close.

There was something about that first trailer. It was scary, but it was the dream element that really got me interested.

The idea that something could kill you in your dreams, and it happen in the waking world. That was brilliant. Especially as it came out just a year after Dreamscape - an awesome film I really loved as well about a psychic going into other peoples' dreams to help them escape their nightmares. You can see I was already getting really into dreams as a setting for fiction and games way back then.

I visited my local video rental stores constantly when I was a teenager. The moment we had a VHS recorder we had regular Friday Night movie nights, where the D&D group would come around and watch the latest releases. And weekends were usually spent with me renting a handful of movies, taking the VHS player into my room and having a movie marathon for most of the waking hours.

I'd just seen the trailers and then there the movie was on the shelves! Yes!

I seem to have a memory of watching it first time around at a friend's house during the day over a lunchtime/free period when I was in the 6th form.

Freddy was nasty, gross and sick, and that made him a brilliant villain. While some of the teenagers lined up to get the sharp end of Freddy's finger-knives were slightly annoying (Rod, I'm looking at you) you were on the kids' side.

But I have a distinct memory of the first moment when I thought Elm St was cool. There's the scene where Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is taken to a sleep specialist and wired up. She has a nightmare and starts flailing about, and when they wake her she's grabbed Freddy's fedora off of his head in the dream, and pulled it into the waking world.

Hell yes. That was going beyond the horror movie tropes and heading right into SF/Fantasy domain. I loved it. Of course, I liked the sequels - though they did peak with 3: The Dream Warriors and 4: The Dream Master. Dream Warriors introduced the element that I loved from Dreamscape by introducing Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) who had the psychic ability to pull other people into her dreams. With multiple dreamers able to team up in the dreamrealms, Freddy didn't stand much of a chance. And it was great to have Nancy from the original movie back, along with her father (the legendary John Saxon).

The Dream Master built upon this, continuing Kristen's story (now played by the brilliantly named Tuesday Knight) before handing her dream ability over to a new character... and then the series kinda started losing its way. Freddy was becoming too big a character, almost a cartoon of himself. He wasn't sinister or evil anymore, despite his horrific backstory. He was becoming a wisecracking parody, and it wasn't until the incredibly clever and meta Wes Craven's New Nightmare that it became brilliant again. It foreshadowed the Scream movies, with Heather Langenkamp returning playing herself as an actress plagued with nightmares of the movies she was in - and the power of these nightmares to make Freddy real.

Clever stuff.

Anyway, that's getting off the topic. The first A Nightmare on Elm Street was great, and shortly after renting it on VHS I ended up buying it - I think it was fairly cheap straight away if I remember correctly. I even had the massive quad cinema posters for Elm St 2 and 3 on my ceiling, so you can tell I was more comfortable with horror movies by then and had got over my previous experiences.

Must give it another watch soon.


Before I finish this blogpost it has been pointed out to me that there are a few movies missing from my list that have had a real impact on me. I tried to keep it to twenty, but I may just up it to twenty four in order to get these essential movies included. Sorry!! I hope this doesn't bore you all too much.

Take care everyone, and stay safe.

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