A Nightmare on Your Street

Welcome to Wild Card Wednesday. Today we have another installment of the Original vs. Remake series. The movie of the month is A Nightmare on Elm Street. I will do the original, and Tiffany A. White will do the remake this coming Friday.

The Movie

A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984 and was directed by Wes Craven.  Craven is well known for his contributions to the horror genre.  Some of his other films include Last House on the LeftThe Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs, Scream, and My Soul to Take.

A Nightmare on Elm Street used many of the set tropes of the horror slasher film. The hook–what made it different—is that it made the audience question their perception of reality.

Short summary of A Nightmare on Elm Street:

A group of teens’ dreams are haunted by the ghost of a child murderer who has the power to kill them while they sleep.

Watch the trailer:

Influence on the Horror Genre

I’m not going to talk much about the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Those of you who are interested have probably seen it numerous times. Those of you who are not interested would not watch it no matter what I said.

Know this:  A Nightmare on Elm Street raised the bar once again for horror movies.   no longer could a film just be about a faceless madman chasing a group of hapless teenagers.  It had to have a twist. And the twist of making an audience question their perception of reality was very original at the time.

The Casting

Craven used a cast of mostly unknown actors and actresses.

Heather Langenkamp, whose previous acting experience was limited to auditioning as an extra for The Outsiders and not getting chosen, won the starring role as Nancy Thompson. She beat out actresses such as Courteney Cox, Tracey Gold, Jennifer Grey, and Demi Moore.

A then-unknown Johnny Depp, who came to audition as an extra, won the role of Jesse. Other actors who auditioned for the role of Jesse included Charlie Sheen, John Cusack, Brad Pitt, Kiefer Sutherland, Nicholas Cage, and C. Thomas Howell.

Robert England, who had been acting since the mid 1970s, was cast as Freddy Krueger. This role catapulted Robert England to a sort of fame. He has the dubious distinction of being one of only two actors to play the same horror villain eight consecutive times.   The villain, Freddy Krueger,  was named for a bully who used to torment  the young Wes Craven.

[The other actor to play a horror villain many consecutive times is Doug Bradley who played Pinhead on the Hellraiser franchise.]

The Inspiration

In the early 1980s, there was an investigation into the unexplained deaths of eighteen Laotian Hmong refugees.  The refugees had fled their homeland after it was overrun in 1975 by Pathet Lao.

These refugees all died in their sleep, apparently from cardiac arrhythmia.  The deaths occurred within a period of 18 months.  One theory on the cause of death was that the refugees died of fear caused from a nightmare.

On the audio commentary on the A Nightmare on Elm Street DVD,  Wes Craven mentions that the 1976 song “Dream Weaver” by  Gary Wright inspired the story concept for A Nightmare on Elm Street.   The keyboard riff from “Dream Weaver” also inspired theme music for A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Wes Craven has also stated that A Nightmare on Elm Street  was inspired by his studies of Eastern religion.

Fun Factoids

  • 500 gallons of fake blood were used in the filming of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Wes Craven chose red and green for the colors of Freddy’s sweater after reading an article which stated that those particular shades of red and green were the two most clashing colors to the human retina.
  • Freddy Krueger is a shape shifter, but his red and green sweater always gives him away. Cravens said he borrowed this concept from the Plasticman comic books.
  • Freddy Krueger’s claws were inspired by the claws of animals (bear claws) because of humans’  instinctive fear of large predatory animals.

Don’t forget to check out Tiffany A. White’s blog on the remake this coming Friday.  

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/05/10/us/nightmares-suspected-in-bed-deaths-of-18-laotians.html

Nightmare on Elm Street DVD commentary: http://youtu.be/2uKjYMgUHIQ

http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2008/10/wes-craven-on-dreaming-up-nightmares/

http://www.pitofhorror.com/newdesign/elmstreet/pages/elmtrivia1.htm

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