At the Coolidge, trying to survive a horror movie marathon


The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” was one of the many appropriate songs played by the marathon’s master of ceremonies, Mark Anastasio, program director at the Coolidge, who kept the audience amused and entertained between screenings. For this installment of the theater’s “After Midnite” series, 200 moviegoers were treated to an all-35mm rendering of Freddy’s oeuvre, from 1984′s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to 1994′s “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” both written and directed by Krueger’s creator, Wes Craven.

Craven also co-wrote the third film in the series, 1987′s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” widely considered the best of the sequels. Based on my impromptu audience survey, many believed it to be the best Freddy movie, period. It is certainly the most “I Love the ’80s” of the films with, among other things, its fan-favorite theme song by heavy metal band Dokken — impressive considering five of the seven movies were made in that decade.

Several people in the audience wore horror movie T-shirts. On mine, Freddy looked like he was shredding his way out of my Dad bod. Other folks followed the advice of the Coolidge’s welcome e-mail, bringing pillows, sheets, and blankets. I saw at least one person in pajamas and slippers. “He’s dead,” I muttered to myself. the burden thing you want at a movie marathon is anything that makes you want to go to sleep!

Odie vs. Freddy: Writer Odie Henderson counted on coffee to survive Coolidge Corner’s “Don’t Fall Asleep: A Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon.”Courtesy of the author

As a veteran of such events, I keep myself on the cusp of discomfort, wearing nothing that would even remotely remind me of bedtime. I also starve myself after the first movie, opting for only liquids. Fortunately, the Coolidge provided an endless supply of free coffee, which we could dispense into the cool souvenir mugs we were given with our tickets. In addition to the usual concessions, there was also pizza for sale. “None of that for you,” I told my stomach. Like Freddy, It would have its revenge.

the Boston horror crowd provided an occasionally rowdy moviegoing experience, reminding me of the people who filled the ‘hood theater where I first saw the series. I prefer the immortal Robert Englund’s Freddy to his fellow slasher film compatriots; he seemed tailor made for me, a guy prone to nightmares thanks to a sleep disorder.

Freddy had a slow, creepy jump rope chant/lullaby that little kids sang throughout the series. It begins “One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you” and ends “nine, ten, never sleep again.” but ultimately, the true villain isn’t the monster, the “bastard son of a hundred maniacs” as his lore tells us. The true villains of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series are the adults.

Ronee Blakley and John Saxon walking through a cemetery in a scene from the 1984 movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”New Line Cinema via Getty Images

They never listen to these poor kids, constantly sending them to their demise in movie after movie. Hell, the adults are the very reason for Freddy’s modus operandi: He’s killing the progeny of the parents who killed him in the first film. That vigilante mob included Marge (“Nashville”’s Ronee Blakley) and Don (John Saxon), the parents of the series’ main heroine, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp). Granted, Freddy was a vicious child killer who slashed his victims to bits with a homemade glove adorned with finger-knives — and who avoided jail on a legal technicality, and therefore deserved his fiery demise — but still!

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger and Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson in a scene from the 1984 film “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”New Line Cinema/Getty Images

Watching the films in order was like waltzing through my adolescence and early adulthood. Wes Craven’s original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” came out when I was 14, still young enough to require sneaking into this R-rated feature. A year later, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” would be one of the first movies I saw after losing the vision in my left eye, a traumatic event that would later prevent me from perceiving the 3-D effects in 1991 s penultimate Freddy flick, “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.”

I was reminded of that when we were given the surprise gift of 3-D glasses at the Coolidge, though I could still enjoy “Alien” alumnus Yaphet Kotto (of all people!) inviting me to put them on before being thrust into “Freddy Vision” for that film’s climax. Obsessive as I am, I had brought my own pair of 3-D glasses from my original screening. (Like the Coolidge’s version, they were printed with ads for the “upcoming” Hulk Hogan movie disaster, “Suburban Commando.”)

Odie Henderson in his 3-D glasses at Coolidge Corner Theater’s “Don’t Fall Asleep: A Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon.”Courtesy of the author

the “Nightmare” movies featured quite a few names before they “got famous.” The first one was Johnny Depp’s movie debut; he was given the series’ most memorable death scene. (It involved a revolving-room special effect and made the movie’s coroner character puke.) Charles Fleischer, four years before voicing Roger Rabbit, shows up as a sleep-clinic technician.

In “Dream Warriors,” Patricia Arquette plays a feisty heroine whose dreams of Freddy get her committed to a psych hospital; Laurence Fishburne is the orderly assigned to look out for her. She and her fellow patients battle Freddy with Nancy’s help.

Patricia Arquette in a still from 1987’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.”
Warner Bros. Pictures

And the cameos! There’s New Line Cinema staple Lin Shaye, Alice Cooper, Dick Cavett (who turns into Freddy!), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elinor Donahue (from “Father Knows Best”), and, scariest of all, Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold. Behind the camera was Renny Harlin, directing “The Dream Master” from a script co-written by Brian Helgeland (“LA Confidential”). Frank Darabont (“Shawshank Redemption”) co-wrote “Dream Warriors” with its director, Chuck Russell of “The Blob” remake fame.

The audience applauded Langenkamp’s return in the third film, cheered at some great Freddy quips (not fit to print here) and remained enthusiastic despite the major drop in quality during the fourth through sixth movies. By the time Wes Craven came back to helm 1994′s “New Nightmare,” his excellent meta attempt to return Freddy to the horrifying monster he was in the first film, my empty stomach was growling so loudly I had to block the noise with my book bag.

Thankfully, Craven’s film was the last, sending us out into the blinding sunlight to seek sleep wherever we could find it. My final ranking of the films, from best to worst: 1, 3, 7, 4, 5, 6, 2. That’s the same order they were in when I walked into the Coolidge at 11:59 pm Saturday night.

Because his series helped establish the studio that created it, New Line Cinema is sometimes referred to as “The House That Freddy Built.” mr. Krueger also built a successful horror movie marathon at the Coolidge.

Odie Henderson is a film critic who loves film noir, musicals, Blaxploitation, bad art, and good trash.

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