A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
US (dir. Wes Craven)
Cast: Amanda Wyss, Charles Fleischer, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Jsu Garcia, Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, Ronee Blakley, Joseph Whipp
Synopsis: A group of teenagers are terrorized by “Freddy Krueger,” an evil being from another world who gets to his victims by entering their dreams and killing them with gloves that have knife blades attached to each finger.
Review: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is, and will continue to be, one of the all time greatest classic horror films of the 1980s as well as one of the most enduring franchises in the horror genre. Freddy Krueger is a perfectly created movie monster, complete with a tragic and twisted backstory, a great overall look, and a killer M.O. Despite being plagued by less than awesome sequels (and threatened with a Michael Bay remake), the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a certified awesome film. It succeeds in being both intelligent, scary, and even a bit fun. With a director like Wes Craven, you are almost guaranteed to have a solid film, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a prime example.
One of the things I absolutely loved about this film is this script. It’s a smart, tight script, with very little filler. I also loved, and continue to enjoy, the entire concept of dreams/nightmares as a central concept to the film. A lot of Craven’s films deal heavy-handedly with the concept of fantasy versus reality, or films and dreams versus life. In “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, you are plunged into a terrifyingly original setup: a killer who stalks you in your dreams. With this, the film has a lot of freedom. Much of the horror comes from the dream/nightmare sequences. The best thing, and the scariest thing about these dream sequences, is how utterly surreal they are. Craven really captures the essence of a dream or a nightmare in this film during any of the dream sequence related killings. Some examples include his use of inexplicable set changes, bizarre imagery, character shifts, etc. A wonderful example of this would be Nancy’s dream sequence while she is in school. It is an amazing scene, and fucking scary to boot.
Another plus that this film has is the inclusion of a fresh-faced Johnny Depp. Depp, as well as the other teens in the film, hold their own remarkably well and are fairly decent actors especially in comparison to present day’s batch of generally terrible young horror movie actors. The main character, Nancy, can become a bit tiresome at times, but she manages to do a fairly good job overall. Some of the adult actors aren’t too spectacular, but luckily they aren’t significantly important in this film.
One thing about this film that helps secure it as superior to its predecessors is its legitimately scary (and not over-the-top or completely bizarre) kill scenes or near-kill scenes. Whether it’s Glen’s death by being swallowed whole by his bed and then spit back up it a deluge of blood and gore, Tina’s shredding alive on the ceiling, or Nancy’s near drowning in the bathtub-turned-bottomless pool, each scene is wonderfully crafted, scary, and neither ridiculous or overly lengthy. This film is truly a marvel. It’s amazing how original the concept is and it certainly has stood the test of time in terms of retaining its scare factor. This is a must-see horror film.