Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Nightmares

So when was my last post, 1982? Well, this being October, I am getting into the Halloween spirit and thought it'd be fun to do a rundown of some of my favorite seasonal movies, TV, etc. I'll start with Wes Craven's New Nightmare, the end credits of which are unspooling as I type this. It's not a Halloween movie per se, but I'll always associate it with the holiday because a.) it was released in October and b.) I bought the *novelization* at Spag's, the awesomely kitschy Worcester department store, on one of my family's annual "fall rides." See every year we'd take a daytrip to see the fall foliage (my dad goes nuts for that, as well he should) and wind up at the Halloween Outlet, an amazing store packed to the gills with costumes, props, and just about anything else a horror-obsessed kid like me could want. (They used to display those giant animatronic props, like the crazy electric chair that would go off every ten minutes or so, stopping everyone in dead silence while the dummy writhed in mock agony and smoke plumed outward. Rock on.) On one of these rides, circa 1994, we stopped by Spag's and I picked up the New Nightmare paperback. I was psyched about the movie, though we ironically didn't get around to it until the video release. (Lest you think my parents wouldn't let me see an R-rated horror flick in theaters, I was corrupted at a pretty young age by my dad, who showed me the likes of "Halloween" and "Evil Dead 2" when I was, I dunno, 9? "New Nightmare" is something we totally would've seen at an after school matinee. Why we didn't is a mystery.) It was a typical novelization, I guess, but I liked the meta movie-within-a-movie storyline and the cheesy interludes supposedly detailing the author's own close encounters with Freddy. Plus there were 8 pages of rad black and white photos. So before long I'd read and re-read it umpteen times and was running around pretending I was Heather Langenkamp, wearing her hot skirt and blazer combo and making important Hollywood phone calls on my remote control, er, cell phone. (And yet my parents *never suspected* I was gay? Talk about mysteries.) So when I finally saw the sucker, I already knew everything that was going to happen but loved it anyway. There's so much cheese in New Nightmare-- Langenkamp's melodramatic performance, the stereotypical villainous doctor out to prove that horror movies ruin young minds, dialogue like "Everything is NOT FINE!" to name a few. There are numerous gaps in logic, like the relentlessly unprofessional staff at the hospital (prone to stage whispering and grimly pantomiming about a patient whose mother is IN THE ROOM). But damnit if it doesn't work like gangbusters. The premise was so different at the time-- sort of "The Player" meets "Nightmare on Elm Street," with Freddy spilling out into the lives of the movies' cast and crew (Wes Craven even plays himself near the end)-- and there was some awesomely over-the-top imagery, starting with a cooly redesigned Krueger. For the first time in a "Nightmare" movie, an actual kid was a central character (Heather's on-screen son Dylan, played by Miko Hughes of "Pet Sematary" fame), which allowed for all sorts of connections with Grimm's Fairy Tales and parental fears of death and screwing up your kid. It's just a fun, fast-paced, visually striking movie (the freeway sequence is a stunner), and I still watch it about once a year. "Nightmare 1" is the original, and "Dream Warriors" is probably the best (major soft spot for that one, too), but "New Nightmare" will always be my sentimental favorite.

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