The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is a haven for film buffs, the casual moviegoer and anyone looking to catch a movie on 35mm film. The staff creates a fun environment and the specially curated programming and double features are unbeatable, so you can imagine that spending an entire night there would be killer. That was exactly the case on Friday, May 13th when the New Bev decided to host An All Nighter on Elm Street, a marathon encompassing all seven of the original Elm Street films. It’d been a dream of mine (pun intended) to brave an all night marathon even before moving to LA recently, so I was pleased that I didn’t have to wait that long to see it come true.
Leading up to the event, anticipation was high and tickets went fast, selling out in a record three minutes! On the day of, my buddy Victor Jurado got in line at 4:30 in the afternoon, and I arrived a half hour later to find the line was about 10 people deep. Up until the doors opened, the queue slowly grew to wrap around the block. Come 7pm, we were finally seated in the theater, front row and concessions in hand. Little did I know that I was slowly making my first mistake: not bringing my own food. Attendees participated in a raffle with vintage episodes of Fangoria, Freddy Krueger Funko Pop figures, and Neca toys.
What struck me most about the entire evening was getting to re-watch and re-discover all of the Elm Streets to find very clear divide in the middle of the series. Though Freddy does grow more cartoonish in each appearance, the first three films are incredibly well made. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a film about parental distrust running in both directions – parents not trusting their children and children not trusting their parents. Solid performances from John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund bring depth to the primary characters on each side. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is a coming out story that’s divided fans with its not so subtle homoeroticism and a super dark suicide plot element. The third chapter, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, takes the series to new heights.
It was fascinating getting to see Dream Warriors on the big screen, in particular, how well its held up today. Despite the dated elements (fashion, synthy Angelo Badalamenti score, and somewhat stereotypical portrayals of troubled youth), it’s a particularly strong entry about using each characters’ unique angst and skills to bring down Freddy in their dreams. The characters click in ways that the casts of the first two movies don’t, lead by a strong returning Langenkamp and Craig Wasson. The film was still early enough in the series that the darkness of the first two are retained, and Krueger’s colorful persona still veers on the dark side. Teen self-harm and drug addiction is a theme that runs rampant throughout, but it still has time to deliver my favorite line in the entire series – “Welcome to prime time, bitch.”
Not a particularly fan of binge watching, I came close to throwing in the towel during A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child. After seeing Freddy turn into a giant sand shark in Dream Master, it was time for a coffee break. Another takeaway from the night is how important Freddy’s Revenge is to the mythos of the series. That film introduces Springwood and how it informed Freddy as a person. These later, big budgeted entries aren’t as good (except for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) with 4 and 5 obviously being the very commercialized entries.
As the evening wore on and the raffles and concessions ended, I began to feel like I was floating. A combination of no sleep, hot dogs, cheeseburger slider, and coffee was probably not the best way to survive a night on Elm Street. A quick trip to the bathroom had me asking myself if my feet were stepping on to the ground. Even in this surreal state, I pushed through to New Nightmare, and I’m glad I did. Taking a lot of the humor out of Freddy, Wes Craven takes us back to the dark, bleak roots of the series and why Freddy is a such a primally scary boogieman whose idea extends past his mythology. The most meta-film pre-Scream, Heather Langenkamp plays herself (as do a few of the key actors and filmmakers from the original film), as she discovers that Freddy, a sort of ancient evil that exists in Craven’s mind, is trying to cross over into the real world. Though the basis behind the plot seems ridiculous, the film is done with a great amount of verisimilitude and just enough camp to make it work as a film. That said, I had never noticed that Freddy wears leather pants in the film. If you were crossing over into the real world, why would you do so in leather pants?
Seven films later, I walked out of the New Beverly Cinema a champion along with about 50 others. It was about 8:45am on Saturday, May 14th. My head hurt, my stomach ached, and my eyes burned as I walked out into the gray, overcast morning. I felt victorious clutching my consolation prize – an All Nighter on Elm Street t-shirt and hat. I craved nothing more than a nap and huge amounts of water to flush the massive amounts of sodium and caffeine I pumped into my system, but it was a night to remember and perhaps the most surreal evening I’ve ever experienced. I had just sat through seven Elm Street films and my own sleep deprived self had gone through a journey similar to that of each film’s characters. Mistakes were made (not bringing my own food and snacks), lessons were learned (Elm Street 4 and 5 really are the worst in the series) and a lot of fun was had.
Marquee photo via