Wes Craven brought cinema something new, fresh and original to both the horror genre and cinema itself. It was a movie about people’s fears, nightmares and worries. A film that caused the young generation to dig out skeletons from their parents’ closets. And it introduced us to a boogeyman named Freddy Krueger, in a 1984 film called A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I rewatched this film for the second time quite recently and I commend it for passing the test of time. It’s got thrills and chills, and a lot of substance to it, whether you’re watching it the first time or the hundredth time. A very well-crafted, low budget production which harkens back to the gritty process of making a great horror film in the same way as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street sounds basic by today’s standards, but it is fleshed out very well. A group of teenagers start having nightmares all involving the same disturbing haunted image of the aforementioned boogeyman. Initially they decide that it is just a bad dream, but as strange things start to happen, they realize that the dream is much closer to reality than they believe. As the dreams become more intense, Freddy Krueger unleashes his madness on the kids, who are helpless against him. Worse still, the parents of the teens don’t believe their childrens’ stories of the boogeyman.
I have to say that the movie’s production quality is great, because it really allows one to fall into the world where dreams and reality clash (a very important and relevant binary within the film’s context). Much of what goes on feels authentic and the eerie atmosphere definitely adds a lot to the tone of the film. The film uses special effects in some occassions, which do not usually overshadow the film’s story, and when they do, they are genuinely freaky as shit – quite the difference from today’s special effects-reliant horror movies! The famous wall crawling scene still looks great, and actually looks like something that could happen in our own reality, believe it or not. Everything in this film happens for a reason and the line between reality and fantasy is extremely blurred, and the world that these characters exist in is intentionally made to be very incoherent to us viewers. Wes Craven really does a good job directing this film, especially taking that theory and idea into consideration, making this movie the very artsy horror film that the mainstream audience should get today.
The performances from the young actors are mostly good. The lead actress, Heather Langenkamp, is not bad, but she does come off as very bland in various scenes. The rest of the teen/young adult actors, including a debuting Johnny Depp, do almost as good as Heather does. The strongest performance in the film is, as most people acquainted with the film know, Robert Englund’s turn as Freddy. Without kissing his ass too much, I will just say that Robert has manged to carve out such an iconic character with his portrayal of Freddy, combining dark, perverse humour with the very threatening intimidation that old school horror movie monsters are known for. Freddy is definitely up there with the likes of Count Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, Michael Myers and many others in being one of cinema’s greatest movie villains.
Freddy strikes me as someone who really is the stuff that nightmares are made of. One could associate Freddy with a fairy tale character, and this movie is a fable of sorts, that while very relevant to modern day society, is also timeless due to its themes and social subtexts. What makes Freddy really dangerous is the fact that he attacks people in their sleep! Just when you thought reality was brutal, your dream world will haunt the fuck out of you! Freddy’s ability to enter into people’s minds during their sleep causes them to battle him with insomnia. The psychological and physical affects take a heavy toll on the lead character, and are executed very well indeed.
All in all, great movie, well-written story, great villain (and performance) and mystifying special effects make this the ultimate Halloween film. When I watch this film, I forget that many of Wes Craven’s later films turned out to be pure shit, so make sure you do watch this and avoid My Soul to Take or the sequels to Scream. Oh, and make sure you watch this film in the dark.
4 out of 5