The Truth About The Glen’s Death Scene In Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Released to little fanfare in the fall of 1984, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” promptly became one of the years biggest hits, making an A-lister of writer-director Wes Craven. It also became an instant classic of the slasher genre, with both the film and its horribly disfigured, knife-fingered villain Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) maintaining a legitimate all-time great status even decades after release.
Time has done nothing to lessen the impact of the film’s ingenious, and utterly terrifying narrative, which found Craven turning the seemingly safe space of sleep into a legitimate hell-scape beyond any moviegoer’s worst nightmares. In doing so, the director and his creative team utilized groundbreaking effects to bring forth ghastly scenes of blood and gore rarely glimpsed in the cinema of the 1980s, or beyond. But perhaps the bloodiest scene of all in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” comes with the death of Glen Latz (Johnny Depp), the earnest boyfriend of the film’s final girl Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp). It’s a legitimately shocking, and unfathomably bloody scene, and it turns out shooting it was equally terrifying for everyone involved.
Glen's gruesome Elm Street death scene almost became a real life nightmare
If you’ve never seen “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Glen’s grisly death comes just after Nancy discovers a vital bit of information about their nocturnal tormenter. Unfortunately, she’s unable to reach Glen in time to save him. And once the doomed lad nods off, Freddy promptly pulls him into his own mattress, with a ceiling-spraying geyser of blood erupting from the resulting cavern. For point of reference, according to Craven’s own 2014 tweet, that geyser required upwards of 500 gallons of fake blood.
According to Rolling Stone’s 2014 behind-the-scenes look at Glen’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” death scene, it seems creating that geyser almost led to an on-set disaster. And per that RS article, the set used for the shot was the same rotating beast built to shoot the death scene of Amanda Wyss’ Tina, another of the film’s most iconic kills. In order to create the effect of the blood spewing from the mattress, Craven and crew used the rotating set to shoot the scene inverted. That means the blood is actually flowing down out of the mattress instead of up from within, with the plan being to control the flow by subtly rotating the set.
Things did not go according to plan. And unfortunately the crew had failed to insulate the countless exposed electrical wires powering every device on set, which proved a potentially deadly oversight.
The near disastrous shoot still made for a truly unforgettable moment
Indeed, a full-blown disaster was only narrowly averted when, as Heather Langenkamp told Rolling Stone, the moving set was apparently rotated the wrong direction, leaving all those gallons of fake blood to spill everywhere. “It was supposed to revolve clockwise, but the grips pushed it the wrong way, and nobody could stop it. The blood just flew out onto the ground, where all the electrical equipment is.” Englund confirmed as much, stating he was quick to get himself and his young co-star out of harms way, “There was this two-inch tsunami of blood. The floor of every soundstage I’ve ever been in is covered in electrical cables, so I ran like a girly man. I grabbed Heather’s hand and we ran into the corridors of Desilu studios.”
Though cast and crew largely escaped unharmed, Craven notes he and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Director of Photography Jaques Haitkin found themselves in an even more precarious situation amid the chaos, “There were these huge sparks, and suddenly, all the lights went out. Everybody’s screaming, and the only two people inside the room were Jacques and myself. We were in five-point harnesses, strapped to the wall in some racing-car seats, hanging upside down in the pitch dark with all the fuses blowing. When they finally were able to get some light in there, we had been hanging upside down for half an hour.”
In spite of everything, Craven dryly quipped of the near disaster, “But we got the shot, as they say.” And if you’ve seen the finished project, you know it was worth every perilous moment.