This series will be split into four posts starting with his films from the 1970’s and moving on to his Nightmare on Elm Street series before finishing with the Scream franchise. In between I will look at some of his other work as well.
4- A Nightmare On Elm Street – Tina’s Death
Visually, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a real treat hovering somewhere between gothic, supernatural imagery and the typical 80’s slasher fare. Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin’s work here is innovative and atmospheric, capturing a malevolent mood with light and shadow, most notably in the surrealistic basement scenes set around the furnace. Like so many films of this genre, its artistic ingenuity is intensified with various bloody set-pieces and visual effects. A Nightmare on Elm Street boasts several impressively conceived and well-executed dream/kill sequences. During production, over 500 gallons of fake blood were used for the special effects production. The special effects, most of which are low-tech, are surprisingly effective, and this was the first film to use a breakaway mirror.
Craven’s probing of the waking/dreaming barrier results in some memorable kill sequences. Tina’s (Amanda Wyss) death scene, which featured her trashing across the ceiling, was partly inspired by the movie Royal Wedding (1951), which was the first movie to use a rotating set. The set here slowly spun to allow her to roll into position, with a camera bolted to the wall and a cameraman strapped into a chair beside it, which turned in tandem with the room. It’s important to remember that this was a low budget film shot in 30 days. For the two shots where Rod (Jsu Garcia) and Tina reach out for one another, Tina is actually lying on the floor and Garcia is hanging upside down with his hair pasted to stay flat.
5- A Nightmare on Elm Street – Glenn’s Death
FX man Jim Doyle was responsible for designing and constructing the ingenious full-scale gyro rotating room which was again used for Johnny Depp’s kill. For the famous blood geyser sequence, the furniture, cameraman, director, and actor were fixed in place, and the room would spin upside down, thus allowing the rigged room to appear right side up while thousands of gallons of fake blood would seem to gush, erupt and ejaculate from the bed. On the DVD commentary, Wes Craven remarks that the room spinning the wrong way was like a “Ferris Wheel from hell.” This scene was partly inspired by the elevator scene in The Shining.
6- A Nightmare On Elm Street – The Famous Bathtub Scene
Particularly effective is the scene where Nancy is attacked by Krueger in her bathtub and pulled under the water into a pitch-black pool leading to a back alley chase where Freddy stalks her. To achieve this effect, the tub was put in a bathroom set that was built over a swimming pool. During this underwater sequence, Heather Langenkamp was replaced with a stuntwoman.
Also, worth noting is the “melting staircase” as seen in Nancy’s dream, which was created using pancake mix and directed by Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham (who is uncredited).
Finally, the sequence in which Freddy is set on fire, shot in one long take (with several cameramen), featured one hell of an elaborate and dangerous stunt by stuntman Anthony Cecere (who won best stunt of the year for it).
7- Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – Julie’s Death
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is not just another cash grab in a series of increasingly silly sequels, but rather, a startling and original reinvent of the popular series. Craven sets this version in the ‘real’ world where the original is only a film and Heather Langenkamp is playing herself (along with Wes Craven, Robert Englund, John Saxon and various New Line Cinema executives). It’s a movie within a movie and much like the original film, New Nightmare has some standout scenes of horror. Wes Craven creates a number of effective surprises but the best scene calls back to the 1984 original and features a rotating set in the hospital room as Langenkamp tries to save young Dylan (Miko Hughes) from the deadly claws of Freddy. The special effects team supervised by William Mesa do a superb job and even though New Nightmare isn’t quite as scary as the original made ten years prior, the entire production is steeped in an unsettling atmosphere that makes this a solid entry in the series.
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