A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
a nightmare on elm street | wes craven | heather langenkamp | johnny depp | robert englund | fred krueger | freddy krueger | united states | john saxon | ronee blakley | amanda wyss | jsu garcia | lin shaye | supernatural | slasher | charles fleischer | joseph whipp
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp and Robert Englund
To start off this review, I’ll give a little background information about my history with it. This is one is one of the first horror films to scare me. I remember watching it all the time at my Grandmother’s house as I had older cousins who would show it to me. The concept of not being able to sleep and someone killing me in my dreams terrified me. Plus the villain, Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), had such a scary look as well. The synopsis for this film is the monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.
This film begins with a girl walking down a dark hallway. Things act weird, like a sheep appearing from nowhere and a creepy laugh. The girl is Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss). She continues to move through the large boiler room until she is attacked by a burned face man in an old brown hat and dirty red and green sweater, Fred Krueger. He wears a glove on his left hand with razor sharp knives.
She wakes up and we realize it is a nightmare. An image we are stuck with is that her nightgown has four cuts in it. Her mother comes in and asks if she is okay. Seeing the aftermath, she tells her to cut her fingernails or stop dreaming that way. Tina is spooked by the dream she had and tells her best friend Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) about it. Also with them is Nancy’s boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp, in his first film role). Wyss’ boyfriend shows up who is kind of a rough, greaser Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia).
Tina asks Nancy to come over for a sleepover when her mom goes away for the weekend. Also with them is Glen, who has to lie to his mother where they are staying. They are spooked when Rod plays a joke on them and he ends up staying over as well. That night though, Tina is murdered during the night and Rod is the prime suspect. We know that it was in her nightmare and that Krueger did it.
Nancy is torn on what she thinks happened, but the more she looks into she realizes that all of her friends are having nightmares on the same guy. When she goes to school the next day, she falls asleep in class and comes up against Krueger. She burns her arm and she wakes up because of it. When she leaves school that day, what happened in the dream did really happen to her and has a mark to show it.
Her mother, Marge (Ronee Blakley), is an alcoholic who is divorced from Nancy’s father Lt. Thompson (John Saxon). He is a detective who is looking into the murders. They start to pile up and he can’t make any sense of it. Nancy losing her mind from lack of sleep doesn’t help Marge as she spirals as well. She just wants her daughter to sleep and she doesn’t believe the man in her nightmares is killing Nancy’s friends and wants to kill her.
To get into this, there is something about the concept of this film that is scary in that he can only get you in your dreams. What makes it even scarier is the feeling that you get when you’re tired and the feeling you get from sleep deprivation. The story itself is quite interesting to me. It might have its plot-holes and I do think that nostalgia helps me to overlook some of the issues. I personally think it is pretty solid in this department as well.
The last viewing that I had, which is why I’m updating this review has me realizing that I don’t feel there as many plot-holes as I thought. Being that the film is about what happens in your dreams, I think nightmare logic really has to be taken into account here. There is one scene near the end where Nancy is awake and something happens with Krueger. I can’t explain that unless you think the whole film is a just a dream. That actually makes sense for what happens at the climax and the end of the film as well.
This film introduces it a bit as well, but I know an issue I have with films at time is the villain that doesn’t kill who he is hunting. It becomes more prevalent in later films, but Glen does say about a way of dreaming where we give power to the nightmare monsters. Krueger to me toys with them because if they aren’t afraid of him and feeding their fear to him, he doesn’t exist. He is out for revenge, but he is also out to feed on their energy.
This film’s editing is good and it creates some good pacing. The film wastes no time getting into it. From the opening credits we are seeing Krueger building his glove and then it goes right into Tina’s nightmare. When we start to realize all of her friends are experiencing it. On top of that though, the body will force you to go to sleep when it is terrified. Knowing that you eventually have to rest is pretty scary in that it can kill you. I think this one never hits any lulls and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
The acting isn’t all that great. I do tend to overlook this as I see this as a supernatural slasher. Many films in this genre lack in that department, but they experience fear which seems real and putting yourself into that situation is scary. Langenkamp has her moments of bad acting, but overall I do think she is a good final girl. Englund is very good as the killer. This isn’t the best performance for this character, but quite terrifying. We get a young Depp in this film, which is fun to see. He of course was really solid actually. It is also good to see Saxon and Lin Shaye in this film. Saxon at the time was a film veteran and now Shaye is as well. The rest of the cast do well to round the film out for what was need in my opinion.
Effects for this film are great. They were done practically which makes it even better. Tina’s death is great. I remember seeing it for the first time and being freaked out. It really is iconic. Glen also has one of the most iconic deaths too. Krueger’s make-up looks good and some of the scares from him are also as well. The only effect that really doesn’t hold up is the long arm thing that happens. It doesn’t bother me that bad, but the rest are really good in my opinion.
The last thing to cover would the soundtrack of the film. It is so well done. The music in it is so eerie that it really helps to build the scene. I do like the musical cues when information is learned. It is almost signifying that is important information. To be honest, the theme and the soundtrack itself are ones that I have a playlist to go back to when I’m writing actually.
Now with that said, this is one of the first horror films that scared me growing up and it really set me on this path that I’m on now. I think the concept is terrifying and the villain really helps that as well. Not being able to sleep is something that terrifies me and this film plays on that. The acting isn’t great, but I think it works for a supernatural slasher. The pacing of the film is good for building tension. Soundtrack for the film is really good as well. The effects are absolutely amazing to be done practically. I have to give this film credit, as it created one of my favorite franchises in the genre. I know some people have issues with some things that happen, but I think this is a classic. I would highly recommend this film.
My Rating: 10 out of 10