A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

By Cal Wayne

Released: 1984

Written and Directed by Wes Craven

The original Nightmare film did for supernatural serial-killers what the Star Wars prequels did for shitty movies; completely re-defined the genre. While the film didn’t exactly send people running out of the theaters vomiting popcorn and praying to their God for forgiveness (i.e. The Exorcist, Last House on the Left (1972)) it did award a very dark brand of fantasy that troubled many gullible viewers. At the times of its release, Wes Craven was hailed as a Demigod, creating what would become a horror masterpiece with basically no money, and a little Johnny Depp.

The original Nightmare film used a very simple, yet unnerving concept to base its plot around: the fear of nightmares. The idea that a man (or being) could kill a person in their dreams probably scared the shit out of those simple-minded 80's people. The plot centers on Freddy Krueger, a local school janitor from Springwood, Ohio that has a nasty habit of killing children. Krueger is eventually caught, and taken to court to be sentenced for his crimes. Unfortunately, through some kind of legal technicality, that isn’t really explained, Krueger walks away a free man. Naturally, the parents of Springwood are not pleased with the turn of events, so they chase Krueger down and trap him at some kind of abandoned factory that he apparently lives in and then murder him with fire. Years later, Krueger returns to haunt the children of his oppressors in their dreams and kill them …in their dreams, using a process that closely resembles this:

-Find kid on Elm St.

-Establish worst fear.

-Kill them in their dreams.

-Repeat.

Run out of kids?

-New movie.

The original Nightmare movie had many aspects that I personally thought were quite eerie, and stuck in my head for a little while. Remember the scene where Nancy's recently-deceased best friend is standing in the hallway of her school in a blood-soaked body bag? That scared the shit out of me. In fact, here: (spoiler alert) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnT3ndUIuxg, it's after like the first minute or so. Those kinds of ghostly scenes will keep viewers on their toes the entirety of the movie. Wes Craven also employs that 80’s styled confusion where you literally have no idea what the fuck is going on, but it only adds to the film. The creative plot, mixed in with a genuinely scary antagonist, makes it easy to ignore the fact that Heather Langenkamp is a God-awful actress.

Unfortunately, Freddy's character dies a slow death that involved another 7 or 8 pointless movies that really killed a lot of what the original created. Freddy was transformed from a character that struck fear into the hearts of us all, to a wise-cracking ass hole that the film industry and Robert Englund raped for years to come. To be honest, the 30 years of horror that came after Nightmare has really diminished the shock-value the movie used to maintain. It's still scary, even after all of these years, but your average horror fanatic will not find anything overly disturbing in this movie. It is creative; it is a great movie; and if you haven't seen it before, you quite literally have to, but don't be expecting anything that will keep you up at night.

Rating: 7/10

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