October is one of my toughest months to curate a film series. The reason it is difficult is not from lack of options, but in fact, the total opposite: the sheer volume of ideas that pop up in my head. Last year, I curated the series October Movie Roll Call. This series included one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 paired with a movie under the same theme (for example: Werewolf). This was also the first time I dedicated each Friday to a movie series, and I have continued this trend for a whole year and have no plan to end any time soon.
This leads up to October 2015. I debated between funny and scary, but in the end decided to focus on some of my favorite movie franchises and what they had in common: "final girls," over the top kill scenes; best scream. In the end, I decided on a simple, but very important aspect: the opening scene, the introduction of what turned out to be not only a popular film, but a loved franchise. For our first installment, we are going to try very hard to stay awake, because this franchise haunts you in your dreams.
The first four minutes of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street sets not only the tone of the film, but also the franchise. You see the gloves with claws being constructed and how easily they slash through fabric. Everything takes place in a decrepit boiler room. The setting helps you recognize instantly that Tina Grey, high school student, is out of place in her nightgown as she wanders into the scene. Her walk indicates her fear and vulnerability. She sees a sheep, which is very odd. In the shadowers lurks the man in the fedora. Her fear escalates as she is stalked. When he finally grabs her, she wakes.
"Just a dream, Ma," she explains. Her mother then notes the slashes in her nightgown, which perfectly match the sharped glove. The scene is closed out with the haunting and always memorable: "One, two, Freddy's coming for you..."
In just a few minutes, you see glimpses of Freddy Krueger, know the devices he uses to terrorize his victims (both dreams and the glove), and know that dreams can in fact be more than dreams. These aspects are carried out through the entire franchise.
Opening scenes are important to any film, but when they launch an entire franchise, you should definitely take time to appreciate them. Check out the opening scene below and capture the suspense, terror, and maybe even respect for cinematic storytelling.