A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
One, two, Freddy's coming for you
One, two, Freddy's coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, better stay awake. / Nine, ten, never sleep again
It's strange, as a movie fan I have never been a huge horror fan and as such in my teens I didn't care to watch "A Nightmare on Elm Street" yet thanks to it's iconic status I knew so much about it. So now over 25 years after Wes Craven updated the horror genre with the first "A Nightmare on Elm Street" I finally got around to watching it and to be honest there was part of me which was disappointed and part of me in awe of what I watched. You see "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is imaginative, tense and considering it's age has some spectacular effects but then it's also a little corny and compared to today's gore fests isn't that frightening.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is having some very strange dreams, in fact they are nightmares and she is not alone as her friends Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss), Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia) and Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) are all having similar nightmares featuring a man with razor finger knives. But it soon becomes apparent these nightmares are not just bad dreams and they are being targeted by a killer known as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) who attacks them when they sleep. It's up to Nancy to try and lure the evil Freddy out of her dream before he manages to kill her and her friends in their sleep.
So the actual idea behind "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is pretty spectacular turning are dreams and nightmares into reality with what happens in them physically happening. It's a neat idea because let's be honest we all have nightmares and to sow the seed of thought that maybe nightmares can come true, that you can be killed in your sleep by a boogie man, monster or in this case Freddy Krueger is clever. And the way Wes Craven incorporates this into a storyline touching on elements such as sleep deprivation in spinning his scary story is masterful.
As such "A Nightmare on Elm Street" has a great atmosphere a real edge of tension as you start to wonder whether you are witnessing the characters reality or dream and it brings you to the edge of your seat. Now I am a lover of classic horror where you get the shit scared out of you by the unexpected and that is what you get with "A Nightmare on Elm Street" but at the same time it delivers the visual horror of a slasher movie. For me that is perfect because you get the best of both worlds and although in comparison to today's horrors it's not as scary and visual it still delivers a few classic frights.
And tying into the horror side of things you have to say that on a visual effects level "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is still pretty classy. Scenes which see Freddy appearing to come out of walls, baths or beds look better than what you would expect from CGI. And the various death scenes in particular the now famous Johnny Depp death scene as he is sucked into his bed and then spat out just works perfectly. In many ways Hollywood should re-watch movies like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" to see how good real special effects are rather than the CGI tricks they throw at us with these days.
But whilst between the clever story and the effects "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is a good movie it is also at times friggin' corny. When Nancy nearly dies in the equally iconic bath scene she heads into the medicine cabinet and discovers some fast acting stay awake tablets with such blatant labelling it's laughable. And there are various other moments which are just as laughable especially some of the dialogue which now borders on the crass rather than the clever.
Now I am not going to lie and say that "A Nightmare on Elm Street" features great performances because quite frankly it doesn't. It had a young central cast with the likes of Heather Langenkamp, Jsu Garcia and Johnny Depp in his first movie role and their inexperience at times really shows with some nervous acting especially in the opening scenes. It does get better as the movie progresses and Langenkamp in particular does a good job of finding the right balance of scared teenage and confused heroine.
But whilst there are also the likes of John Saxon and Ronee Blakely who make up the cast "A Nightmare on Elm Street" really is about Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. It's with a doubt a vile creation and Englund does a good job of creating him, making him evil but also with a sense of mischief about him so instead of just murdering these teenagers in their dreams he scares them and plays with them first. It is the sort of thing which would give younger audiences nightmares.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is still a very good horror, one which helped to breathe life into the horror genre it has with age become a little corny. Some of the dialogue is crass as are a few scenes but then these moments are made up for by a clever storyline, a great atmosphere and Robert Englund masterfully creating a horror icon in Freddy Krueger.
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