A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984.
Directed by Wes Craven.
Starring Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Johnny Depp and Robert Englund.
A group of teens are all suffering from a spate of recurring nightmares in which they are stalked by a scarred psychopath with a knifed fingers, quickly discovering that if they die in their dreams they die for real.
I could write a wordy overblown introduction for this review, but with what I’ve chosen to look at today, do we really need one? From the late great horror master Wes Craven, it’s the film that warned us to never sleep again and introduced us to one of the genres most feared icons; A Nightmare on Elm Street.
As my rather sparse introduction would suggest, I’ve found myself at a loss to say something about what is easily one of the most iconic and beloved horror films of all time. Well, although I’m doomed to fail, I can’t pass up a challenge like this one.
The story of Elm Street follows a formula that, even by 1984, had become something of a slasher cliche. We have a gaggle of horny teenagers who, one by one, meet increasingly grisly ends at the hands of a seemingly unstoppable killer, with only a virginal “final girl” left standing with the strength to triumph over evil. However, with Elm Street, writer/director Wes Craven adds a nice little twist to the tale. That twist, as the title suggests, is that the killer strikes his helpless victims when they are at their most vulnerable; in their nightmares. That killer is the one and only Freddy Kruger, easily the greatest and still the most terrifying slasher killers in horror history.
While the sequels may have turned him into a comical figure, in this, his first (and still best) appearance, however, Freddy Kruger is evil incarnate. A depraved monster who loves nothing more than to stalk helpless teens, his chilling cackles echoing around the nightmares of his prey. This Freddy does make jokes, but they of the darkest kind, often involving him mutilating himself just for his own sick enjoyment and to show that his victims are in his world and there is nothing they can do to stop him. Freddy is a terrifying creation and much of that is down to the brilliant performance of Robert Englund who plays the role with such demonic glee that you although we are dreading his next strike, we can’t help but also eagerly await it help but eagerly await it.
The nightmare sequences are, in my view, still the best of the entire franchise, as the filmmaker, working with a limited budget, are forced them to be extra creative, setting the film’s various nightmares in what appear to be entirely ordinary locations, albeit ones that have are gradually twisted to suit Freddy’s murderous whims.
The scene in which Tina meets her end at the hands of Freddy is, in my view, still one of the scariest and most disturbing death scenes ever depicted in a slasher film. It’s this sequence that serves as our first proper introduction to Freddy in all his ghoulish glory, and while the sight of his wonky long arms might be unintentionally funny, the creepiness and demonic malice he projects, as well as that low sinister cackle of his is more than enough to keep the laughs at bay.
Yet it’s not Freddy that makes the scene so upsetting, but it’s the fact that Tina’s murder itself is largely shown from outside the dream, forcing us to watch helplessly as she is brutally slashed and dragged up the walls, screaming for help before she splashes down into a pool of her own blood. It’s a deeply disturbing sequence that perfectly the tone for the horrors to come.
Although, if you’re looking an equally memorable death scene albeit one that is a tad more ridiculous, I point you to the death scene for some guy called Johnny Depp (I wonder what happened to him?) who finds himself being sucked into his bed before he is vomited up by a bloody great big bloody geyser. It’s a hilariously gory sight and something that I bet we all wish would happen so that we can’t suffer any more Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
Do I really need to say anything else? Still fun, scary and highly creative, even after over 30 years, A Nightmare on Street’s reputation as one of the beloved and iconic horror films ever beyond deserved and at this point, it should be mandatory viewing for all horror fans this and every October. Check this one out or Freddy’s coming for you.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★