Nostalgia can be a bitch, especially when it comes to the movies we loved as children — whether it be Star Wars or Dirty Dancing. We tend to cherry pick the good moments and overlook the real stinkers.
For this budding film geek, one particular evening in April 1985 was unquestionably a defining moment. As a 10-year-old boy with an active imagination and a fascination with monster movies, I was first introduced to A Nightmare on Elm Street when film critic and conservative commentator Michael Medved called it a “turkey” on the PBS show Sneak Previews. Within his minute-long review, Medved railed against the movie’s silly premise, the directing, and, perhaps most memorably, the sleepy performance of the then unknown Johnny Depp.
As luck would have it, my older cousins, Johnny and Brian, were being dropped off at the Mt. Pleasant Cinema 3 to catch A Nightmare on Elm Street for a second time. After getting picked up by my uncle, Johnny made his best attempt to scare me.
“Tonight you’re going to meet our friend Fred,” warned Johnny.
I asked, “Who’s that?”
Brian then got in on the game, “You’ll see.”
When the lights dimmed in the theater, my eyes gazed at the screen in anticipation. Early in the film, Brian and I snickered at the naked boobies while Johnny complained about our lack of maturity. But my heart quickly raced to a million BPMs once an invisible Fred Krueger, in one of the film’s more gruesome scenes, dragged his blood-drenched victim, Tina, along the bedroom ceiling. Later that night, I was too scared to fall asleep, yet still completely in awe of what I had just witnessed. Up yours, Medved.
Twenty-five years have passed since A Nightmare on Elm Street first made such an indelible impression on me. Since then, Johnny Depp has become perhaps the finest actor of his generation; New Line Cinema, the struggling studio that distributed the film, has gone on to untold riches; and Fred Krueger, the filthy murderer with the uncanny ability to invade the dreams of teenagers, became Freddy Krueger, the wisecracking monster of multiple successful sequels.
Now, on the eve of New Line’s release of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, many horror movie fans are crying foul. In the internet world, this is nothing new. When Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace was released, geeks wailed that George Lucas had raped their childhood, a charge they leveled again following the equally dreadful Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.
Similar sorrowful yowls are echoed each time Hollywood abandons the search for original ideas and opts to shoot a remake or a reboot. The horror genre has recently been overtaken by the remake bug, with second stabs at My Bloody Valentine, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday the 13th, and that doesn’t even take into account the Americanized remakes of Asian horror classics like The Ring, The Grudge, Pulse, Dark Water, and The Eye. Naturally, the results have been mixed; for every pulse-racing, visceral remake (Zack Snyder’s version of Dawn of the Dead), there is a lazy, sterile remake (like Rupert Wainwright’s adaptation of The Fog).
But there is one question the horror-loving movie nerd must pose to himself: How much of their vitriol toward remakes is based on the film’s actual quality versus the nostalgic buzz one experiences when they rewatch a so-called classic? When the mind floats to the time when said classic was first viewed, it usually attaches the film to a slew of external stimuli that have nothing to do with the action on the screen: the busted drive-in you were at when you first saw Darth Vader, the loud dude who stood up and yelled at the stupid virgin chick to kill Jason Voorhees, and the pretty girl you took to that god-awful Warlock: The Armageddon so you two could swap a little spit.
Whether or not the Nightmare on Elm Street remake will trump the original is debatable. The idea of not being safe in your own dreams is no longer innovative. Nostalgic horror nerds will stand behind the original film’s director, Wes Craven, while casual moviegoers may give it a shot since they can’t find anything else to check out.
Then again, there’s a large possibility that many of those same disdainful, yet loyal nerds — masochists that they are — will watch the remake en masse on opening weekend, just to make sure that it does indeed suck and that they can once again proclaim that some director raped their childhood.