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A Nightmare on Elm Street

1984 American horror film directed and written by Wes Craven

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A surrealist horror classic.

  • Oct 2, 2011
**** out of ****

Back in the day, when people like Wes Craven and John Carpenter could still make pretty good films, good ol' Wes made stuff like "The Last House on the Left" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street". With the latter, he was able to pull elements from our deepest nightmares and edit them for added fright and stylistic value. I kind of have to admire that; his film was relevant for its time, and it's still relevant and pretty darn good now. It's one of those horror films that is so good, that I do believe it hasn't aged a bit; which is odd. It must be something quite special...and it is. In fact, it's a masterpiece of horror; an undeniable classic. There are many reasons why I love it, some of them which you may already know, but nonetheless, I felt the need to revisit the film and review it once again just so that I could, for a good night, clear my mind and watch something that I already liked. However, something more happened this time around; I lost the ability to "like" the movie, and discovered how to "love" it. I understand that, as a slasher picture, it follows formula and runs it into the ground; but it has a unique, original concept, and unlike many slasher flicks before and after it, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is nothing less than what its name implies.

And yet, while it's scary, freaky, gory, and atmospheric; the heart comes from the unexpected sense of humor contained within it. Craven's film has these random, surreal moments of slapstick horror-comedy that pop up wherever - and whenever - they please. These are the moments that make the film fun; not to mention the concept, which turns into something much more as the film goes on. Sure, it deals with familiar motives and characters; but there's no denying that "A Nightmare on Elm Street" has something going for it that I might have been missing all these times that I've watched it. I have always admired it and considered it a minor classic, but I've finally looked into it and saw a reflection worth talking about.

A series of bizarre murders involving teens being slain by unseen forces with sharp razor claws and demonic cackling gets the attention of fellow teen Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), who has lost some friends to this bizarre and seldom discovered killer. Who is he? What is he? The only evidence of his existence lies in the dreams that seem to be dreamt up by the circle of friends within the story; Nancy, Tina (Amanda Wyss), Rod (Nick Corri), and Glen (Johnny Depp). Eventually, after a few friends go and her overly-protective mother finally goes over-the-edge, plunging head-first into insanity; our heroine is able to pull out a name from her dreams; Fred "Freddy" Krueger. It is implied that he was once a man; but, known as a rather sick and depraved one from the opinions of those who once surrounded him in a happy little community. So basically, here's the story in a nutshell; there's a pedophile serial killer who stalks and kills you in your dreams, but nobody else can see him because, of course, he's IN YOUR DREAMS. But that doesn't mean you can't fight back.

The film is as great - and unforgettable - as it is because of this "world" that Wes Craven is able to create. It's outstanding that the guy went from his outlandishly violent first feature ("The Last House on the Left") to this magnificent, dream-like work of art. I am not, in any way, saying that Craven's debut picture was a bad one; in fact, I kind of liked it. But "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is something significantly different; a slasher horror film that covers new ground and invents even more. It's impressive; it really is. There are some pretty radical and iconic scenes in particular that I enjoyed and shall remember forevermore. One that I feel is worth mentioning would be the one in which the heroine sets up a booby trap for Fred, in the form of a sledge-hammer that is released onto he who walks through the door that is set above when triggered. This kind of moment defines what I liked most about the film. It's goofy, playful, and a nice, pleasant getaway from any of the violence that could potentially disturb people; much like its villain, the cunning, burned-up bastard.

Stairs turn into the equivalent of pudding. A bathtub becomes a shadowy, underwater abyss. Anything can happen here, and more than often, it will. This very horror film is pure nightmare surrealism; and I loved it. Surrealism adds so much to a horror film; it's even saved a couple when it comes to my personal verdict. Since its story is simple, its characters are mostly one-dimensional, and its acting is mostly forgettable (with the exception of Robert Englund in a legendary performance as the hilariously energetic Fred Krueger, as well as John Saxon); the film has to turn somewhere. It will get most of its audience, perhaps, for its visuals alone. And that's reasonable enough. Last time I checked, there isn't another film out there that features Johnny Depp getting eaten and regurgitated by his bed. Blood everywhere. Not a pretty picture. But still fun.

If you can find humor in the genuinely morbid, and entertainment out of fun little dream vinettes, then this film is for you. It requires everyone in the audience to succumb to dream logic and forget about what they have come to expect out of movies. Horror films exist to scare us, creep us out, thrill us, and perhaps even inspire us. When one comes along that shows us new images, and new situations, why not just accept it for what it is and enjoy all the grotesque whimsy while it lasts? What I hope is that the film will continue to grow in popularity, as there are most definitely people out there who need to discover it. The film was remade in 2010; and it was a bad remake indeed. It had good visuals, but they weren't "good" in the sense that these ones were. The remake showed nothing new. For its time, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was almost revolutionary. It puts special effects to wondrous, otherworldly good use. Few horror films today can do that. This is Wes Craven's best film. There are few additions to his filmography that can top it; although a couple might come close to rivaling it in quality and quality alone. But there will never be another Wes Craven film quite like it. I'm glad he hasn't really tried to top it. He's a man who knows his limits; but still isn't afraid to put them to the test when he's behind the camera, filming his ghastly killers and ghouls.

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More A Nightmare on Elm Street (198... reviews
review by . April 30, 2010
A horror masterpiece? More like a horror catastrophe.....
Wes 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 known worldwide for his original touch when it came to horror, for his films and his originality and flare for theatrics helped, shoot him into super-stardom …
Quick Tip by . May 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
For me this is an essential '80s horror film. It's low-budget, which means the filmmakers had to be creative & not rely on fancy effects. =D
review by . November 01, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
If I was asked my opinion on the slasher branch of horror films my comments would be primarily negative. In general the concept of teenagers (or occasionally adults) being systematically killed for the sake of being killed does not appeal to me. There are movies like Halloween, and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that are exceptions to this, but that has more to do with the directors than it did to do with the stories actually being gripping...that being said I find A Nightmare on Elm Street …
review by . April 28, 2009
The first film in the Freddy Krueger series.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is the first film in the franchise series that featured serial killer/child molester Freddy Krueger. After being set free from prison on a legal technicality, the parents of Springwood meter out some vigilante justice against this psychotic pervert. Years later, he's back from the dead terrorizing the children of the parents who murdered him. He's become a real life monster invading the dreams of his victims. But there is one teenager who's brave enough to stand …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American slasher film directed and written by Wes Craven, and the first film of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film features John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers who, if they fall asleep, will be killed by Fred Krueger in their dreams, thus causing their deaths in reality. The teenagers are unaware of the cause of this strange phenomenon, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago.

The film is credited with carrying on many clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s, originating in John Carpenter's 1978 horror film Halloween, including the morality play that revolves around sexual promiscuity in teenagers resulting in their eventual (usually graphic) death, leading to the term "slasher film". Critics and film historians argue that the film's premise is the question of the distinction between dreams and reality, which is manifested in the film through the teenagers dreams and their realities. Critics today praise the film's ability to transgress "the boundaries between the imaginary and real", toying with audience perceptions.

Nightmare on Elm Street contains many biographical elements, taking inspiration from director Wes Craven's childhood. The basis of the film ...

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Director: Wes Craven
Genre: Horror
Release Date: November 9, 1984
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Wes Craven
DVD Release Date: September 07, 1999
Runtime: 1hr 32min
Studio: New Line Cinema
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