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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 movie review)

The classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, like many slasher films, was made for just $1.8 million dollars and created a franchise that scared the bejesus out of me as a little kid. Nothing is scarier than Freddy Krueger (the immortal Robert Englund, who I also remember from the original V tv series), the villain who waits to attack you until you’re at your weakest – when you’re asleep! (Spoiler, Freddy invades your dreams and kills you in your sleep. Betcha didn’t know that.)

This first installment in the series is one of the more effective horror movies out there. The tension is sustained for longer than in any other horror movie I can recall despite Freddy’s somewhat clowny attitude. All of the deaths in the movie are unique and memorable… well, I guess there are only the three, but that probably helps with the tension – since there are no cannon fodder characters, everyone matters more than they would if there were, say, six murders.

Despite its age, there are many effects that still hold up – Freddy coming through the wall, the bathtub, the blood geyser, Tina floating in the air, getting dragged up the wall and across the ceiling, and so on. The movie does come up in the stunt department; a mattress is clearly visible on the steps of Nancy’s house, and the giant airbag Heather Langenkamp lands on when she jumps out the window is easily spotted when she jumps out the window.

The Death of Tension
In many horror movies, there’s a point where the spell the flick is weaving dissolves and the movie gets kinda dumb. I wouldn’t say A Nightmare on Elm Street falls apart in the way most slasher films do, but once we get past the sleep therapy scene, the movie is never as strong as it was before Nancy pulls Freddy’s hat out of her dream. After that, all the other characters but Nancy become insane, doubting even the clearest of evidence that something is trying to get Nancy. (For example, Nancy’s mom insists that Nancy must have snuck the hat into the sleep therapy clinic… and cut her arm while she was asleep… and, faked the numbers on the sleep doctor’s equipment? Yeah, I don’t get it either.)

At this point in the movie, writer/director Wes Craven wants us (the audience) to both accept except that Freddy can traverse into the waking world and that Nancy can’t depend on anyone to help her in the fight to stay alive. The former works fine, Nancy pulls Freddy’s hat from the dream and into her bed in the sleep clinic, but the latter is a mess. Her mom, who has seen that Freddy is real via first hand experience in the sleeping clinic, decides to doubt the obvious – even Glen (a super young Johnny Depp), who gives Nancy the information she needs to beat Freddy, suddenly becomes stoic to Nancy’s fight against Freddy. The idea is (from a screenwriting perspective) to put Nancy at her weakest: she has no support from her family or friends and she’s weak from lack of sleep and the cut on her arm, which is still bleeding for some reason.

And then, Nancy goes all Home Alone on Freddy’s ass – and yeah, please note that this movie came out a full six years before Kevin McAllister burned Joe Pesci’s head with a blowtorch.

The point of all this is that while A Nightmare on Elm Street might not be flawless, it’s still a groundbreaking film for the horror/slasher genre. Finally, a villain that talks! And his face isn’t covered by a mask! (Or a sack.) And he doesn’t just sneak up behind you in the dark – there’s some real creativity going on in this flick! Freddy, the villain that terrified a generation, is clearly an icon for the ages that is just begging for a quality reboot. (Specifically, a movie where Freddy’s face doesn’t look like a wasp’s nest.)

It’s just a matter of time until we get a new Freddy movie… until then, sleep while you can.

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on October 28, 2014, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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