I created the QCK feature here on the Vault to celebrate the 25th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Make no mistake about that. And that's usually what I do on here. But after a recent re-viewing of the original classic, there's a matter that I feel I have to address. I've always felt this way, but this last viewing was really the straw that broke the camel's back:
Ronee Blakley, the actress who plays Nancy's mother Marge, is terrible. Absolutely dreadful. So bad that she almost distracts from how great the rest of the movie is.
As Wes Craven himself says in a very telling moment during the DVD commentary track, she seems as if she's in a completely different movie from everyone else. That's right, even Wes himself cannot help but poke fun at Ronee's performance, which he does throughout the movie, along with Heather Langenkamp, who joins him on the commentary. That really speaks volumes.
Not to say that Langenkamp is going to win any Oscars anytime soon, but her performance fits nicely within the context of the movie--as does that of the young Johnny Depp, or the terrific Robert Englund and the always-badass John Saxon. Clearly we don't expect Shakespearean level acting in a film like this, but at least no one else in the cast can be accused of stopping the proceedings dead like Ms. Blakley does.
I swear, there are times that I believe she really was drinking vodka throughout her scenes. Or maybe popping ambiens or something. That vacant stare. Her almost surreally melodramatic delivery of most of her lines. Even her movements are exaggerated and hackneyed. Check out that moment when she steps into frame and lights a cigarette, as she informs Nancy that she's locked her in the house. It's like she imagines she's Bette Davis or something. Only this isn't Mr. Sceffington; it's a 1980s slasher flick.
Even her look is wrong, and listening to the commentary, I finally understood why. Wes and Heather have a laugh at one point about how Ronee was never satisfied with the makeup and hair people on set, and would always disappear before shooting to fiddle with everything herself. This might explain why she often looks like something out of Madame Tussaud. I really believe she's trying to channel some kind of old-school Hollywood thing, but I have no idea as to why.
One wonders how she wound up being cast for the part. Everyone else seems at least adequate for the role they've been given--oftentimes far better than adequate. Yet Blakley sticks out like a sore thumb, almost ruining each scene she's in, taking away from the tension with her performance--which somehow manages to be simultaneously overdone and trance-like. I don't even know how she pulled that off. And worst of all, one even gets the sense listening to the commentary that Craven himself regrets casting her. Of course, he never comes out and says that, but take a listen like I did, and you might come away with the same impression.
And yet, unlike Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley actually was nominated for an Oscar--Best Supporting Actor 1975 for her role as country singer Barbara Jean in Robert Altman's Nashville. She didn't win, but it's still baffling to think that the same person who turned in such a painfully bad performance in NOES could have garnered such acclaim less than a decade earlier. Amazing. Maybe it speaks to Altman's better way with actors than Craven. Who knows. All I do know is Ronee Blakley is really bad in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
And that's really all I need to say. It's something that's bugged me for years, since I really like the movie and respect it's importance amongst '80s horror movies. I also know I can't be alone in this opinion.
See, just because NOES is a classic of the "horror canon", doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws, or that we shouldn't point them out and discuss. And Ronee Blakley is definitely one of them.
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