Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Psycho Drive-in is joining in by sharing articles – some classic, some new – celebrating the greatest women in the genre!
[Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published on January 5, 2016]
In this 2010 remake (produced by Michael Bay and directed by music video auteur Samuel Bayer), A Nightmare Elm St follows supernatural child-killer, Freddy Krueger as he stabs his way through eternity. Based on Wes Craven’s characters (still crying), this new Nightmare does not disappoint. It’s got Michael Bay’s famous explosions, Freddy’s dry wit, and one badass Final Girl named Nancy. Say what you will of Bay’s Transformers¸ he’s the king of slasher remakes. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), and Friday the 13th (2009) were both better than any Halloween Rob Zombie attempted. What’s really cool about this flick is the modernization of the teen slasher. In 2010’s Nightmare, we get to meet the new Nancy, and she’s cool AF.
While older slashers like the OG Nightmare of 1984 was full of Johnny Depp, tits, and beer, this version is a little different. There are no dumb, misogynistic jocks trying to feel up girls in the back of a car. Unlike Scream, the teens aren’t sitting around getting drunk, they’re drinking coffee … at the library. Bay and Bayer’s Nightmare stars Final Girl, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her emo sidekick, Quentin (Kyle Gallnar). Instead of downing beers and taunting the killer, Nancy and Quentin use drugs and the Internet to combat one of horror’s deadliest killer’s, Freddy Krueger.
Yet fighting Freddy isn’t like it used to be. Gone are the days of campfires and bra burning. Nightmare is full of the millennials Scream warned us about. These kids do research on concepts like sleep deprivation and micro-naps. Nancy and Quentin know the value of a good Google search and a comfy knit hat. These millennials are also one of the reasons this film was so hated by some slasher fans.
Oh no, did the remake stray too far from the original? Yeah, it did, and somehow we press on.
I don’t mind a horror movie that’s missing blatant misogyny, tit shots, and slobbering drunk teens. (It’s hard enough to convince someone to watch a horror movie with you, and all those tit shots don’t help). Plus, it’s really cool to see intellectual feminists fight Freddy Krueger. After all, Freddy is a child-raping, dream-haunting murderer, so we need some feminism up in here. I don’t think a stereotypical douche-bag football player would get the struggle.
So what makes Quentin and Nancy feminist badasses? They believe women are actual people—and they kick some serious ass. Quentin and Nancy are such an awesome team because they intellectualize a plan that doesn’t relegate them to stereotypical gender norms.
For the most part, Quentin is in charge of substances while it’s up to Nancy to actually kill Freddy Krueger. Instead of Quentin taking a macho protector role, the two work together completing tasks as individuals, irrespective of their gender norms. Much like the 1984 Nancy, the 2010 Nancy is aggressive, smart, and strong – adjectives often specific to male characters. But the awesome thing about the Final Girl, is she gets to be as cool as she wants, regardless of her gender. And Nancy is the perfect Final Girl, independent, yet smart enough to team up with Quentin. When a killer’s after you, it pays to be with the guy who knows to grab an epi-pen, not a dead cell phone.
Quentin may listen to The Smiths alone in his bedroom, but he’s smart enough to pop ADHD meds to stay awake (and away from Freddy). When he runs out, the two millennials swing by a pharmacy to grab more uppers. The active ingredient in Adderall (or Zonerall, as it’s called in the film) would keep dreams and thus, Freddy, far away. But Quentin can’t get the pills they need because pharmacists are dicks. Yes, Quentin is sweating, shaking and trying to get a controlled substance on the fly, but that’s no reason to deny him speed. Seriously, pharmacists are dicks. Luckily Nancy’s BFF, Quentin is smart enough to steal a few epi-pens knowing they’re full of adrenaline, way stronger than pills.
And knowing when to ask for help makes Nancy even more badass. She’s the strong, silent, type, the one at the funeral, not crying. Her good friend, Kris (Katie Cassidy), however, is no Final Girl. Kris is the typical blonde-who-dies-next, whose fate is sealed early in the film. We know Kris is dead the second we see her rocking the #10 football jersey from the OG Nightmare of 1984. This jersey was first worn by Johnny Depp (who dies) then by Rose McGowan in Scream (who dies), so it’s safe to say that Kris ain’t gonna make it. Here’s a look at the people who died wearing that jersey, ending with Kris.
Kris is blonde, sweet, and definitely doesn’t understand the medical benefits of an epi-pen. So while Nancy is off doing research to fight Freddy, Kris gets stabbed levitation style, like the busty blondes of 1984. This kill scene illustrates one of the strongest points of this film, homage without sentimentality. Screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer do an amazing job giving constant nods to horror great, Wes Craven (the football jersey, the “I’m your boyfriend now” line, Freddy’s glove in the bath tub). And with each of these nods it feels like Wes is still with us for a brief moment.
Then something blows the eff up, because it’s Michael Bay paying the bills.
From the very genesis of the film, we find out that this isn’t your typical horror flick. The opening is chilling, showing a montage of the children Freddy Krueger has molested and killed, displaying building blocks spelling the word, STOP. Then within minutes, a former Twilight star is brutally murdered in an abandoned diner. As if the writers were saying, “fuck you, Hollywood.”
It’s that subversion of the typical slasher that makes this movie so awesome. Taking on the legendary Freddy Krueger is no small feat, and Jackie Earle Haley plays him well. Freddy’s origins are dark as shit, so having a heavy-hitter like Haley really brings the character to life. When I say dark, I mean Batman shouldn’t be allowed to call himself dark just because his parents died. Freddy Krueger is the original dark knight. There I said it. Just check out his bio.
Also known as the Springwood Slasher, Freddy Krueger is the son of a nun and 100 mentally insane rapists. Dark enough? Freddy was then adopted by an abusive alcoholic asshole (played by Alice Cooper) who beat him daily. Tired of the abuse, Freddy killed his adoptive father by stabbing him through the eye with a straight razor. Then Freddy raped and killed a bunch of children, was burned alive by their parents, and lives on (supernaturally) to haunt the dreams of any surviving children. When he haunts these survivors, he uses their repressed memories to kill them in their sleep, which is how Kris died. Did you forget about Kris already? Let’s have a moment of silence for poor Kris.
Moving on. I would argue that the 2010 Freddy Krueger is infinitely creepier than the 1980’s Freddy. While Wes Craven based Freddy Krueger on a real child molester, he was not allowed to add that character history to the film. It was totally cool to tell the story of a nun getting raped by 100 inmates, but getting revenge on a child molester? That would’ve made the film NC-17.
Jump to 2010 where horror films are forced to show fewer tits and less gore. However, horror movies are now allowed to punish child rapists. Which means, that although the original Nightmare began in 1984, it wasn’t until 2010 that we were allowed to say Freddy Krueger was guilty. So finally hearing that, and seeing Freddy get torched was awesome. After all, he says things like, “Your mouth says no, but your body says yes” and “I’m your boyfriend now” to five-year-olds. So watching him get stabbed doesn’t suck.
But nothing’s as cool as the final scene, when the Final Girl gets the killer. Nancy was Freddy’s #1 girl, meaning he abused her the most. When Nancy and Quentin find Freddy’s lair (in the basement of the preschool? WTF parents?) they find pictures of naked children, mostly of Nancy.
It is revealed that Nancy suffered the most sexual trauma, which means she has the greatest chance of killing Freddy. Characters who don’t face their repressed memories, like Kris and Jesse, got killed quickly. Yet Nancy forces herself to look at pictures of her own rape when she was merely five years old. She surveys the lair where the abuse took place, and even holds a piece of Freddy’s sweater. Nancy feels no fear as she lives by the motto, “memories don’t kill you.” This allows her to hold the greatest power over Freddy Krueger because she isn’t afraid of him.
Then suddenly, when Nancy falls dangerously deep into Freddy’s dream world, her bro Quentin stabs her with the epi-pen, bringing her back to life. With newfound consciousness and a heart full of actual adrenaline, Nancy attacks Freddy one last time, slashing his neck open with a machete.
Then she torches Freddy’s lair and his Jared Fogle-sized collection of kiddie porn. Which would be the end of Freddy, but alas we must pay homage to horror great, Wes Craven. So Freddy comes back and kills Nancy’s mother, pulling her eyes out through her brain.
But don’t worry, Nancy survives, because this is A Nightmare on Elm St.
P.S. Michael Bay, if you see this, please make a sequel (to Nightmare, not Bad Boys). Thanks!