Out on Tuesday came the first hi-def release of Wes Craven's classic A Nightmare on Elm Street on Blu-Ray and thanks to the good folks at Warner Bros., they sent me copy.
What do you get on the disc?
Is it worth picking up?
Who invented liquid soap and why?
Settle down, I'll talk you through this.
I'm not going to bother going over the plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I'm guessing that you've seen it so why retread what you know. If you HAVEN'T seen it the below contains SPOILERS so go rent or buy the original right now and introduce yourself to one the greatest slasher villains in horror history: Freddy Krueger.
How's it look?
This being my first Blu-Ray I gotta say--- it's pristine. I'm not a techie who's going to talk about black levels, grain appearance and how many channels the audio pipes through. If you want that breakdown head over to IGN.com, I'm sure they can help you out. I judge it by doing this simple thing: I pop in the disc and watch it on my flat screen.
Anyway, the movie looks great. Thanks to hi-def I can clearly read the Los Angeles street signs in the background, see the flower sticker on Nancy's mirror and spot the jack o' lantern decoration hidden in the basement at the climactic end. Fun!
Interesting things I had forgotten about A Nightmare on Elm Street or hadn't noticed before:
- Lin Shaye, who will forever be burned into my brain as the super skanky Landlady in Kingpin, plays Nancy's Teacher in the Halloween-like classroom scene.
- A factoid I always forget 'til I re-watch (and apparently Brian at HMAD didn't know at all) is that Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit) plays the doctor who's trying to figure out Nancy's nightmare problem.
- When Nancy has the TV on trying to stay awake she's watching Sam Raimi's Evil Dead featuring a shot of Mr. Bruce Campbell himself.
- Johnny Depp is really really really young in this movie.
- The front door to the Elm Street house is blue in this movie. BLUE! I always thought it was red. Crazy.
- The guy who plays Saxon's deputy also played the Sheriff in Craven's Scream. Neat!
What Still Works:
- The Freddy head coming out of the wall above Nancy's bed looks fantastic. Amazing what a well placed light and some latex can do. No CG needed. So simple and yet really unsettling.
- Any dream stuff, for the most part. We've all had nightmares where things are odd: people talk in whispers for no reason.... leaves blow in the hallways... trying to run away is like running in quicksand. It works. The gags keep the audience off balance as to whether they're in reality or the dream world.
- Freddy (or actually "Fred" in this film) is actually creepy. When Krueger chases Nancy in the boiler room in a sequence earlier in the film, the combination of his porkpie hat, baggy sweater and pants and burn make-up give the impression that the then 30-something Robert Englund was a creepy old gaunt villain with a penchant for toying with the minds of the young before dispatching them. Of the few lines spoken by Krueger, "This [while raising a clawed hand]... is God." certainly unsettles the viewer more than the puns that followed later in the franchise like "How's this for a wet dream?" (Don't get me wrong, I loved Nightmare 3 where the puns really took off. I'm just sayin'...) Freddy's also not front and center like the character he becomes in the later films. In fact his face is often concealed by shadows... by darkness... by jail cell bars and steam pipes. You never get a good look at the killer so your mind makes up anything scarier than what you could see.
- The jump scares. There's a lot of them. Sure they're cheap. But that music sting got me a few times and made me giggle. Yes that's right. I giggled.
- The rotating room gag. When Tina gets killed, with all the screaming she does... it's definitely unsettling. And the way the stunt was done was really brilliant. No CG. Pure mechanics and trickery.
What Doesn't Work:
- Freddy clawing through the small window of the front door mimicking the mother's voice and then pulling off her face to reveal himself. Doesn't work at all. It looks like a crappy mask and the lips don't move. I'm sure they could do this better with CG.
- Freddy chopping his fingers off then the piddly squirting that happens afterward. Not scary... annnnd a little silly looking.
If you're a film buff like me Special Features on a DVD make or break your purchase. Well this has got plenty of them. Now, in full honesty, from what I can see these are the same special features that are on the Infinifilm edition. The only difference is that you get a great hi-def transfer of the film. But that's ok because the extras are great and the transfer is great. Win/win.
You've got two commentaries. Commentary one is ported over from the Nightmare boxed set from 1999 (and apparently THAT is ported from the Laserdisc). It features Director Wes Craven, Actress Heather Langenkamp, Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin and Actor John Saxon. It's a good commentary. I'm a commentary snob and can attest to this being a good one. They all take turns talking, not overlapping much. There's a nice mix of stories from the set, technical specs, and reminiscing.
The second commentary is touted as "new" but is a port from the Infinifilm double disc DVD release. It's made up of on-camera interviews that have been stitched together and laid in to relate to the picture. It sounds odd but it works and a benefit because you get to hear from various members of the cast and crew who may not all have fit into a recording booth for a live commentary.
You also get:
- A mini doc called "The House that Freddy Built" that goes into how Elm Street MADE New Line. It's an informative, interesting watch for cinephiles.
- "Night Terrors" is a mini doc on sleep disorders and nightmares. Stuff like this is an interesting watch given the subject matter but I find they don't pay off as much as a full delve into the subject would.
- "Never Sleep Again" is the crown jewel and really goes deep into the film and the legacy the series left. If you're already a fan and have read a lot of trivia and watched a lot of making-ofs there might not be too much new for you here. But it's good to have it all in one documentary.
- "Alternate Endings" & "Trivia Challenge" are exactly what you'd think.
Should you get it?
In a word: Yes.
It's a great deal. For $16.99 (on Amazon) you get a hi-def version of a classic horror film along with all the great special features from the best release of this classic thus far.