“He’s dead because mommy killed him.”
Opening scene: The making of the razor glove in a boiler room inside Tina’s dream. I read the first few pages of this screenplay and was amazed at how vividly Wes describes this scene. Just as Freddy grabs her, she wakes up. Her mom and some dude walk in. She tells Tina to either stop having bad dreams or cut her fingernails. It wasn’t until a few years ago through IMDb that I discovered the actress playing Tina also played John Cusack’s ex-girlfriend in Better Off Dead, even though I’ve seen both movies a million times.
The next morning, babyface Johnny Depp, Glen, gives Tina and Nancy a ride to school. Tina mentions her bad dream. Nancy’s had similar bad dreams, but takes it with a grain of salt. Rod, Tina’s douchebag boyfriend, makes a brief appearance before they all separate and go to first period.
That night, Glen and Nancy stay over at Tina’s for the night, her mom is outta town for a few days. Tina and Nancy start talking about their dreams and both begin to describe Freddy, Glen is the skeptic. They hear a noise outside and investigate. It’s Rod, providing our first jumpscare. He takes Tina upstairs, which is Glen’s cue to get happening with Nancy, but Nancy is the good girl so she’s not in the mood, even though Glen is her boyfriend and so far Tina is the main character. Tina, Tina, Tina.
Eventually, they all fall asleep and Tina starts dreaming. She hears noises so she goes outside to check it out. She follows a voice and other various noises before turning around and seeing Freddy. His arms stretch out as he scratches the wall with his razor glove, which looks cheezy as fuck now, but as a kid, I think that it looking so fake, made it more surreal, and harder to wrap my little brain around. Also it was dark, and we’re still only getting glimpses and piecing together what Freddy actually looks like. This was the beauty of seeing this fim while it was still brand new, before all the horrible sequels, remakes, and tv shows. Before he became one of the most recognizable icons of all time, he was an enigma. I’m glad Craven cashed in and made all that money, but it would’ve been interesting had this been a stand alone film.
Back to Tina’s dream: Freddy chases her. He’s behind her, he’s in front of her, he’s everywhere! In the dream, she runs back to the house and tries frantically to get back inside, but in reality she is still in bed. Rod wakes up to her screaming and thrashing around, in a kill-scene that makes us forget those terrible elongated arms just moments ago. This scene, back and forth, in and out of reality, is one of the best ever. Tina being slain by an invisible killer... This is the scene that sets up EVERYTHING.
Nancy and Glen wake up and of course they are sleeping in separate rooms. They open Tina’s door. The room is covered in blood. There’s an open window and no Rod as we shift to a new main character: Nancy. She and Glen go to the police station where we find out Nancy’s dad is a cop and of course her parents are divorced too, it’s the 80’s man. He walks into the room where Nancy and her mom are, and he’s not happy. Where’d Glen go? Rod is suspect number one, but Nancy tries to explain that Tina had dreamed this was gonna happen, that someone in her dream was trying to kill her and that’s why they were at her house in the first place. Of course she didn’t bother to let them know that she was having similar dreams.
The next morning, Nancy’s mom is in the kitchen watching the news (starring Tina!), and pouring herself a drink, which happens so fast you almost don’t notice, but it is meant to foreshadow that something is up and she knows it cuz she is clearly getting ready for work as Nancy comes down ready for school. Since this is the first time we see her drink, the question is: Did Tina’s death flood her with memories which triggered her to drink or has she been a lush the whole time?
On the walk to school, Rod grabs Nancy and pulls her into the bushes declaring his innocence. Her dad shows up, gun blazin’ so Rod makes a run for it, but it’s no use, he’s surrounded as Nancy realizes her dad used her.
At school, her class is talking about Shakespeare as she dozes off. She gets a visit from Tina’s bloody corpse in a body bag so she follows her downstairs to the boiler room. Apparently, in the 80’s, basements and cellars in schools were not uncommon. She meets Freddy, we meet Freddy. She tells herself it’s only a dream and deliberately burns her arm on a hot pipe to wake herself up, then wakes up screaming in class. The teacher sends her home, but wait, the burn on her arm is real!
On the way home, she pays Rod a visit and tries to pry information out of him. He describes razor cuts on Tina, then tells her about the dream he had the other night about a guy with razor fingers and now she is convinced of Rod’s innocence.
At home, she falls asleep in the bath and gets pulled under. Suddenly, her bathtub is ten feet deep as Freddy attacks, but Mom comes to the rescue! Hey Wes, if you’re not gonna show vivid nudity, then don’t bother getting our hopes up with a bath scene. I assume she has good hygiene, there’s no need to prove it! She assures her mom everything is fine then pulls a little bottle of “Sta Awake Fast” pills outta the medicine cabinet. Why the fuck were those in there?
She lays in bed watching Evil Dead when Glen sneaks over. He lives across the street, and to prove it, he shows up barefoot. So far, Glen is the only one who hasn’t had a nightmare. He agrees to watch her sleep while she “looks for someone.” In her dream she visits Rod's cell as Freddy visits. She calls for Glen, but no answer. Freddy follows her home and attacks her until finally her alarm goes off. Glen fell asleep and she’s pissed. They sneak out to the police station to see Rod, but it’s too late. Her dad is once again not happy to see her.
As they leave Rod’s funeral, Nancy describes Freddy to her parents and even though she knows his name, she goes ahead and leaves that detail out. And even though her parents know who she’s talking about, they’re in denial and her mom takes her in for a sleep study. She gets monitored as she has a nightmare and when she awakens, she has fresh cuts on her arm, but more importantly, she has Freddy’s hat!
In the morning, Nancy walks in on her mother on the phone, and a bottle of vodka. Her mom actually has the audacity to lecture her about drinking coffee, even though they are both medicating themselves by drinking, they’re just using different beverages. Her mom tells her she threw the hat away, but Nancy finds it, and it even says Fred Krueger’s name in it. Her mom has known about him all along.
She leaves and takes a walk with Glenn. He explains Dream Skills to her and taking away power then makes fun of her booby trap and survival skill book.
When she gets home, there are bars on her bedroom windows and there’s mom with a cigarette and a new bottle of vodka. Her mom walks her down to the basement to spill the beans: Freddy was a child murderer who killed at least 20 kids. He was eventually caught, but got off on a technicality, so the parents tracked him down. They found him in the old boiler room where he’d killed the kids so they doused the place with gasoline. They lit it up and watched it burn. Her mom took his glove as a souvenir and has kept it in her furnace ever since. Why isn’t the glove burned up?
Nancy hasn’t slept in seven days. She calls Glenn. She wants him to meet her at midnight to watch her sleep so she can pull Freddy out of her dream and into reality. Her mom comes in, tells her goodnight, and takes her coffee pot, but Nancy has a spare. Midnight comes, but ol’ flaky Glen has once again fallen asleep... For the last time. I don’t know if Nancy is awake or asleep, cuz she’s getting calls from Freddy despite her phone being unplugged. She tries to leave the house, but ol’ drunk ma is on the couch and has locked her in.
Glen gets swallowed into his bed then the bed vomits enough blood to fuel ten people. His mom walks in, horrified, and calls the cops. The cops and paramedics arrive, Nancy’s dad being one of them. Nancy watches from her bedroom window. Blood is leaking downstairs into the Glen’s living room.
Nancy believes she is the only one who can stop Freddy so she propositions her dad. She’s going to go to sleep and he needs to be there in exactly 20 minutes, time enough for her to go to sleep, grab him, and bring him into reality. Also, enough time to set booby traps and say goodbye to mom. She sets her alarm and goes to sleep.
She goes down to the basement and checks the furnace, the glove is gone. She walks down another flight of stairs going lower and lower into a boiler room. I think this house was built on an Ancient Indian boiler room! She announces herself then wanders deeper and finds him, but now she’s in her front yard. Her alarm goes off and she wakes up alone, but not for long. Freddy is in reality and the booby traps are in place. She yells to her dad and all the cops outside, she is still locked inside.
After hitting Freddy with a sledge hammer, electrocuting him, lighting him on fire, and pushing him down the stairs, she finally gets her dad’s attention. Her dad comes inside and they see flaming footprints that lead upstairs where Freddy is still on fire attacking her mom. Her dad throws a blanket on top of them to smother the fire and when he pulls it away all that’s left is her moms corpse, which disappears into the mattress. Freddy comes back and Nancy realizes she gives him his strength so she denounces him and takes all of his energy away. He disappears. She opens her mom’s bedroom door and suddenly she’s on her front porch on a bright beautiful, yet foggy morning. Her friends are alive again and they’ve just arrived to pick her up for school in Glen’s convertible. Her mom waves goodbye from the front porch. Suddenly, in an unnecessary turn of events that still makes no sense, the car becomes possessed by Freddy, then his arm pulls Mom through the little window in the front door back into the house. The End.
It always breaks my heart watching this movie cuz I know that shitty ending is coming. Apparently, the ending is a combination of two conflicting things: What Craven wanted and what producer Bob Shaye wanted, so they compromised and did both. Craven wanted the happy ending and Shaye wanted a hook, which could lead to a sequel. Instead, we just got confusion.
Afterthought: I think I was in the fourth grade, when my best friend, Eric, came to school one day describing this film to me. It was at his house that same year I watched Faces of Death, his mom and her boyfriend had rented it. He was a sadistic son of a bitch (The boyfriend, not Eric). Ironically, my mom, the horror junkie, wouldn’t let me watch this film, despite the countless other films she’d exposed me to, but not cuz it was scary. It was the same reason she wouldn’t let me have an umbrella, toothpaste in a pump, Pepsi, or Burger King: She thought it was stupid.
If you’re afraid of the dark, close your eyes and then it’s morning, but what if the monster is in your dreams? I couldn’t win at night, eyes open or shut. Luckily, as I got older, I realized I liked being scared. I became obsessed and even had nightmares of Freddy way before I actually saw the film based on Eric’s synopsis. Back then, there were no spoiler alerts. Your friend would explain the entire movie and that made you want to see it even more.
Wes Craven always has interesting inspirations behind his films that I’ll delve into a little as I review them. Freddy was named after a kid who bullied him when he was a kid and his look was inspired by a creepy old guy he saw outside his house one night. As for the rest of the story:
“I’d read an article in the L.A. Times about a family who had escaped the Killing Fields in Cambodia and managed to get to the U.S. Things were fine, and then suddenly the young son was having very disturbing nightmares. He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of a horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Fun Fact: This is Johnny Depp’s first film. If I remember correctly, his buddy Nicolas Cage got him the audition and he beat out all the other actors because Craven’s teenage daughter thought he was cute.
Another Fun Fact, Wes Craven vs. Sam Raimi: In The Hills Have Eyes, there’s a torn Jaws poster hanging on the wall so in the original Evil Dead Sam Raimi hung a torn The Hills Have Eyes poster in the cabin cellar, hence Nancy watches Evil Dead in Nightmare. A few years later, in Evil Dead 2, Raimi hangs a Freddy glove in the cabin. Several years later in Scream, Jamie Kennedy’s character has a selection of vhs horror films, one of them being Evil Dead, but they choose to watch Halloween as a final subtle diss on Raimi.
The Badass Bitch Award goes to Nancy Thompson for keeping her sanity, staying awake for a week, studying booby traps, and trying at all costs to stop Freddy, despite losing all of her friends along the way while everybody downplayed her.
What did we learn? Survival Tips:
1) If you hear noises outside, stay inside!
2) Don’t take the law into your own hands.
3) Don’t go to sleep!