Review this movie
Dec 30, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. The third of the big three slasher franchises came latest, well into the ‘80s, and has ended up being my favourite. Like Halloween it’s suburban, taking place in and around a few houses on the titular Elm Street as teenagers are picked off by a sadistic killer (with a relatively low, early instalment body count).
What sets A Nightmare on Elm Street apart from its rivals is Freddy Krueger, who again became a horror icon. With his trademark hat and clawed glove (long razor blades attached to each finger), he has a striking silhouette, which is played with during the first act of the film until his face is later revealed and a grotesque, burned visage it is.
Writer and director Wes Craven creates an altogether different villain. He does not stalk the woods with a machete, but is wholly supernatural, and inhabits the world of nightmares, playing off a typical childhood fear that things in your nightmares could become real.
This film is largely rooted in these childhood concerns; Freddy’s arrival is heralded by skipping children who sing an ethereal, unsettling rhyme, and another major theme is that of disconnection between children and parents.
Typically, the adults are worse than useless, dismissing the concerns of heroine Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) as mere dreams, even when her friends start dying in their sleep, and she pulls Freddy’s hat back into the real world with her.
But there’s more to this than meets the eye; hints are dropped throughout that Nancy’s mother knows more than she’s letting on, and it is later revealed that the erstwhile Freddy, a child murderer, was burned alive by the parents of Elm Street. Freddy’s plan is one of pure revenge.
As a character, Freddy is certainly unhinged and despicable, but is prone to more gags and wisecracking. In the dream world, he’s the boss, ands he likes to play around. He is not merely a lumbering stunt man in a mask, but is played by an actual actor, Robert England, who is now an established horror veteran as a result of his work on the series (he has played Freddy in nine Elm Street films between 1984 and 2003).
Unbound by the limitations of physical reality, he scares his victims with acts of self mutilation, which are not just body horror but also sight gags, another element of the series’ more tongue in cheek take on the horror genre.
He toys with his victims, slicing his gut to reveal maggots and green goo at one point, a victim grabs his face, and the flesh simply comes away. Freddy lets this happen, to display his control and the hopelessness of the situation.
All of this provides the opportunity for some great practical special effects to showcase Freddy’s dream manipulation, which may well be lost in a modern production (I’ve yet to see the 2010 remake, so the validity of this remains to be seen).
Freddy stretches his face through the wall above Nancy’s bed, and makes the staircase melt into quicksand. A scene where Freddy’s glove attacks Nancy in the bath (part of a limited scattering of sexual imagery) was achieved by building the bathroom set above a larger tank of water. Other gravity defying effects were shot on upside-down sets.
One of Freddy’s victims is a young Johnny Depp in his very first cinematic role, and his death scene reputedly holds some kind of record for the sheer volume of fake blood used in a single movie (500 gallons, according to IMDB).
If Freddy is a unique villain, Nancy Thompson is a refreshingly different final girl. She does not spend the entire film fleeing in terror, or cowering in cupboards like some of her predecessors, but is altogether more pragmatic and determined. She sets out to defeat Freddy, and constructs a gauntlet of Home Alone-style traps throughout her house before pulling Freddy into reality for the final showdown.
The nightmares themselves are a high point. If Halloween was set in suburbia, and Friday the 13th in the woods, A Nightmare on Elm Street really takes place in the mind. Wes Craven blurs the line between dreams and reality; although the nightmares have a darker atmosphere in terms of lighting and colour palette, the transition is almost unnoticeable until Freddy appears. Dreamlike location switches are also used Nancy leaves a boiler room, and appears on her front lawn.
The ending is strangely ambiguous, although slasher films frequently end with a final confusing shock or sequel hook. With this final scene, it is not clear how much of what we have witnessed was real, and what was just a dream, so while it’s a head scratcher, that’s really the point.… Expand
Mar 29, 2013Wes Craven is a great director, don't get me wrong. But this movie was kind of disappointing. Before I watched it I had heard that it was horrifying but it in the end it really wasn't. All in all it was ok though and at moments it was scary. I'll give it that.
Jul 20, 2011I watched this movie expecting too be scared witless. I was unfortunately not. Sure, the concept is fantastic and original. The villain in the first 3/4 of the movie is quite malevolent, when he isn't using cheesy one-liners. The music builds great suspense, and the movie as a whole does build suspense. But, those are the good things. The acting is sub-par, especially on the part ofI watched this movie expecting too be scared witless. I was unfortunately not. Sure, the concept is fantastic and original. The villain in the first 3/4 of the movie is quite malevolent, when he isn't using cheesy one-liners. The music builds great suspense, and the movie as a whole does build suspense. But, those are the good things. The acting is sub-par, especially on the part of Heather Langenkamp. I am pretty sure that the death scene with Johnny Depp had more blood then what is in 3 humans. I'll admit that from the start until the deaths of the first two characters, I enjoyed the movie. But, then it got bogged down with campiness. The whole fighting Freddy scene with the elaborate traps was a little far-fetched. I mean she shouldn't know how to do any of those things, but then she suddenly does. But, my main problem with the movie is how Freddy is vanquished. "I give you no energy", seriously? That is the campiest and cheesiest thing I have ever heard in a "horror" movie. It is the worst possible way I can think of to have killed him. Overall, it is a horror classic. However, it should not be a classic. It is not that good of a movie, and I unfortunately do not recommend seeing it.… Expand
Aug 11, 2010Wes Craven is know all around as the master of horror for decades he has been delivering original and horrifying films that have left a lasting impression on cinema. His first film "The Last House on the Left"(1972) help jump-start the slasher genre with John Carpenter's "Halloween" following right behind. Craven use to be known for his originality for his films and his originality andWes Craven is know all around as the master of horror for decades he has been delivering original and horrifying films that have left a lasting impression on cinema. His first film "The Last House on the Left"(1972) help jump-start the slasher genre with John Carpenter's "Halloween" following right behind. Craven use to be known for his originality for his films and his originality and flare for theatrics help shoot him into super-stardom in the early 1980's with his flimsy "masterpiece" "A Nightmare on Elm Street" widely touted as a horror classic. But in reality "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is nothing more than an exploitative , excessively gory, dull horror downer that offers more laughs than chills and takes you on a ride that you thought would be fun but then just turns out to be a boring time at the movies offering up today what filmgoers would call, "ClichÃ© thrills". I had always heard stories about this film; I heard stories of how terrifying it was. How it left viewers with nightmares for dayâ… Expand