Nightmare On Elm Street, A (1984)


 They don't make poster art like they used to.
They don't make poster art like they used to.

Genre: Horror

Starring: Robert Englund (Galaxy of TerrorZombie Strippers!), Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream WarriorsShocker)

Directed By: Wes Craven (The Hills Have EyesScream)

Overview: The children of Elm Street are plagued by nightmares in which they are pursued by a burnt man with a razored glove. Nancy Thompson must sleep to fight for her life against Freddy Krueger, a ghost with the power to kill his victims in their dreams.

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a yardstick horror film, a part of Americana that could arguably help define its culture, as well known as Frankenstein, Psycho and The Exorcist. To be honest, it’s probably better known than these last three by those of our generation, if I may presume my audience. Freddy Krueger has the same level of fame as Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees, so much so that they were pitted against one another in 2003. All that to say that our good old full-O’-puns and downright lewd Freddy Krueger is one character that needs no introduction and the one that most exemplifies Robert Englund’s career. This second or third time around, now seen through the eyes of a critical film fan, I was astounded at how well A Nightmare On Elm Street held up as being original, beautiful and downright frightening.

Briefly, because you know this already, even if you haven’t seen it: kids are dying in their sleep, and not in one of those peaceful apnea ways. The teenagers native to Elm street are being stalked in their dreams by a malignant burn victim with a razored glove. He gores teens to death in their minds, while in reality their guts are being splashed all over the bedroom. Nancy Thompson is one such girl who believes the outrageous possibility that this is really happening, and chugs no-doze while trying to piece together the puzzle of why, how to protect her friends and herself, and how to defeat Freddy Krueger, the man she dreams is trying to kill her every night.

 People walking around in body bags, man! It's effin terrifying!
People walking around in body bags, man! It's effin terrifying!

The film where Johnny Depp got his start in cinema, and I’m guessing the film that was Wes Craven’s most successful until Scream in 1996, is actually quite beautiful to look at. Dare I even go as far as to say that it contains much in the way of avant-garde cinematography? Because of the frequent dream sequences, Wes had the opportunity to create fantastical scenes of horror rooted in primordial fear. I tip my beat up fedora to Craven and his crew for running with the potential he had and making it terrifying. The film is filled with memorable, suspenseful and terrifying scenes. These including Nancy Thompson, suddenly covered in mud-slick snakes; another has her asleep in class, tensely wandering through the strange school halls of her nightmares following a blood trail, heading down to the boiler room; another features Freddy’s clawed hand emerging from the bathtub foam, between Nancy’s vulnerable legs. My two personal favourite scenes are two of the most impressive kills I’ve ever seen, and I warn that these border on spoiler status, but I shan’t divulge the pour suffering souls: the first, an extended scene where a gored, blood-drenched victim is dragged up the wall and across the ceiling, shrieking as they die, and dumped unceremoniously back onto the bed in a heap as someone cowers in the corner of the room, helpless to watch the paranormal event. Next and perhaps even more impressive is a death where the victim is absorbed into their bed, only to have copious gouts of their blood erupt up into the ceiling, drenching the room completely like a tidal wave.

Yes, Wes, you’ve made something truly impressive. As I watched, I remembered how original a creature like Freddy was. A psychopathic monster able to stalk and kill people in their dreams is pretty frightening and not only because it’s a thing almost impossible to beat. Chilling. Naturally the franchise ruined the effect by taking it to ridiculous jump-the-shark extremes like a death involving a pizza covered in the meatball faces of victims only to be eaten on the ends of those razor sharp hand blades, but this first in the series is golden, and certainly worthy of recommendation.

 Spewing gore - honestly, how could you sleep after that!?
Spewing gore - honestly, how could you sleep after that!?

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 9 Script: 7 Plot: 9 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 82% (Don't Shut Your Eyes)

A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the films I’m surprised is not in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Those who haven’t seen it are most likely actively avoiding it. If you’ve seen it a couple decades ago and remember having fond memories, a re-viewing of A Nightmare On Elm Street will certainly not disappoint.

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