A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

nightmare on elm street

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Freddy’s in their dreams.

Teenager Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) starts having nightmares about a strange man (Robert Englund) with burned skin, a green and red sweater and wearing a glove with sharp finger-like blades. She finds out that her friends are having the same type of dream and that this man is a former child murderer named Fred Krueger who is reaching out from his grave to attack them.

This movie has been parodied and imitated so much over the years that one forgets what an original idea this was. Writer/director Wes Craven uses stark, shadowy lighting and a distinctive music score to build a great horror atmosphere. The name Freddy Krueger, which he named after a childhood bully of his, is inspired. The scene where he appears in a dark alley as a midget with extremely long arms is a creepy image and possibly the scariest moment in the film. The pace is good and the scenarios imaginative making this well above average when compared to a typical 80’s slasher film and a definite classic.

The special effects are also quite creative and although not completely successful still a lot of fun to watch.  I loved the whole bathtub scene as well as the segment where Glen (Johnny Depp) gets sucked inside his bed, which creates a big hole in his mattress where a giant flow of blood comes gushing out of it and covers the entire ceiling and walls of his room. It may not make complete sense, but cool to look at nonetheless. The part where Tina (Amanda Wyss) gets pushed up the wall and ceiling of her room by an invisible force while being slashed is quite scary to watch despite the fact that when a close-up is shown of her skin getting cut it looks more like it is made a of clay and her bloodied body on the floor appears like it where drenched with a bucket of red paint.

heather 2

Langenkamp is fantastic in the lead and I would nominate her as the all-time best heroine of a slasher film. Her face is beautiful, but also quite expressive and she seems to show genuine emotion and far exceeds the typical cardboard scream queen. Her presence and not that of the villainous Freddy, whose screen time here is more limited than you think, is what carries the film. There is also a fun in-joke when she looks in a mirror and states “God, I look like I am 20”, which is funny since despite playing a teen character she really was 20 at the time of the shooting.  (I realize on the DVD commentary she states that she was 18 or 19, but the truth is she was born July 17, 1964 and this was filmed between June and July of 1984, so she was either 20 or very, very close.)

It’s great seeing Johnny Depp in his film debut. He still looks boyish at 50, but here looks like he is barely 10 years old. It is amusing seeing him play a sort-of doofus and he also gets a good line when after hearing Tina and her boyfriend having sex in the other room states “Reality sucks”.

amanda wyss

I also enjoyed Wyss for her amazing piercing blue eyes, but having her willingly go to bed with Rod (Jsu Garcia) an obnoxious, crass, Fonzi wannabe makes her character seem kind of stupid.

John Saxon is competent as Nancy’s father who also works as the town’s police chief, but I couldn’t say the same for Ronee Blakley as the mother. She was unforgettable with her brilliant performance in Nashville, but seemed to be miscast in every film that she did afterwards and it should probably be no surprise that she hasn’t been in any film since 1990. I also didn’t care for her sprayed-on tan look either.

Despite being an enjoyable film there are a few logical inconsistencies that I feel should be addressed. One is that I would argue it is virtually impossible for someone to know that they are in a dream when they are dreaming even though the characters here do. It should also have been better explained how the Freddy character is able to come out of the dream and into real-life, which gets confusing.  The part where Nancy states that she hasn’t slept in seven nights, but doesn’t show any physical or psychological signs of it are too much of a stretch.  Also, I had to chuckle at the part where Nancy comes home to find that her mother has had bars placed on all the windows of the home for added security, but then doesn’t bother to lock the front door as Nancy is able to walk inside without having to use a key.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Wes Craven

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

2 responses to “A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

  1. Nice review. I love this film, it is one of my favourite horror films of all time. I like how it combines slasher elements with a more supernatural approach as well. Tis pretty original I think. And I love the first kill as well. I only watched this for the first time last year and I still found that moment pretty shocking.

  2. Great review 🙂 I enjoyed Wyss too. Her acting was the best of the film, which is why I was so sad when she died (I wish she was the lead instead). Nightmare on Elm Street scared the hell out of me the last time I watched it. I haven’t screamed that much in a long time… haha.

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