Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)
Release Date: November 16th, 1984 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Wes Craven Actors: Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Robert Englund
his is just a dream! It isn’t real!” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is writer/director Wes Craven’s slasher masterpiece, brilliantly torturing the audience with dark reality versus darker fantasy. It’s an examination of the ultimate nightmare – the kind that merges with the real world, where premonitions foreshadow death, and not waking up on time means not living through the night. Unforgettable antagonist Freddy Krueger represents another monstrous creation that instantly became more popular than his victims, ensuring many sequels, most made simply to exploit the bloodthirsty creativity behind his remarkable design.
Several of the teenagers on Elm Street are plagued by similar nightmares, all involving a hideously burned, monstrously disfigured man in a dirty red and green sweater, with a tattered fedora perched on his scarred pate. And he’s sickeningly outfitted with a makeshift glove that features razor sharp blades affixed to the ends of the digits. He’s a ghastly apparition, a terrifying boogeyman, whose cackling laughter and screeching metal-fingertips-on-metal taunts are so vivid they’re almost real. One by one, the young adults are attacked in their sleep, unable to escape the clutches of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who is quickly beginning to breach the line between dream state and reality.
“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” Another fascinating aspect about “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is the idea that the murderer is a mystery. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) collects clues about the killer through her delusional confrontations, and must figure out his origins and motives to stop him before everyone she knows becomes his prey. While many horror films find the moronic characters endangering themselves by wandering through isolated locations alone, this film makes the encounters with Freddy unavoidable – no one can fend off sleep forever.
The film revolutionized the bloodcurdling dream sequence, as well as providing fiendishly atmospheric sets and visuals. When Krueger’s first victim, Tina (Amanda Wyss), is dragged across the ceiling by an invisible assailant, screaming hysterically and spurting blood from knife wounds, it breathtakingly establishes the gruesome chaos to come. Freddy’s base of operations is in a humid boiler room, dripping with sludge and crawling with steam, filled with dark corridors like something out of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Claustrophobic and filthy, it’s the perfect setting for an inescapable hell.
Nancy may be unbelievably brave, a few of the effects are slightly outdated, and the electronic rock music occasionally betrays the tone, but Krueger’s makeup is still awe-inspiring and the onslaught of innovative ideas are sinisterly unique. Plus, the film features Johnny Depp’s first role and a stunning theatrical poster. With its infamous villain forever ingrained in popular culture, this 1984 shocker was followed by seven theatrical sequels (all with Englund reprising his role), a video game, a TV series, and a 2010 reboot.
– Mike Massie