Nightmare on Elm Street

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

R | 91 min | Horror

The monstrous spirit of a slain child murderer seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

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The teenagers of Springfield, Illinois are having nightmares. Tina and her best friend Nancy learn that they’re dreaming about the same creature, a hideously burned man in a dirty red and green sweater who bears an odd weapon; a glove with razor fingers. When Tina is brutally murdered in her bed one night, suspicion falls upon her volatile boyfriend Rod, who was the only other person in the room with Tina when she died. But Rod swears he didn’t do it, and tells Nancy that he too has been suffering from terrible nightmares in which a knife- fingered man is trying to kill him. Nancy begins to suspect that something evil is happening within their dreams, and that perhaps the boogeyman is real. When Rod turns up dead in his jail cell, Nancy is convinced that a ghostly killer is stalking them in their sleep. Her mother, worried for Nancy’s sanity, takes her to a dream clinic where her sleep patterns can be monitored. When Nancy awakens screaming from a nightmare with a bloody slash mark on her arm, she shows her mother and the doctor what she has pulled out of her dream: the battered fedora that the killer always wears. The hat bears a name tag: Fred Krueger. Nancy’s mother recognizes the name and soon tells Nancy the story of a brutal child killer who had terrorized the town many years ago. When he was released on a technicality, Nancy’s parents and the parents of the other nightmare-plagued children hunted Fred Krueger down and burned him alive. Fred Krueger is dead, but he’s found a way to return and wreak vengeance upon the children of his killers. Nancy knows that she must find a way to stop him before he kills her and everyone else on Elm Street.

I just sat down and watched this movie again the other day and it’s still damn impressive. The acting isn’t always the greatest and it looks just the slightest bit dated, but it’s still a really damn good movie. It’s power lies in the fact that sleep cannot be avoided. In so many other horror movies, the victims are nothing more than vapid cattle wandering dumbly up the slaughterhouse chute and calling out: ”Is anyone there?” as they go up. They purposefully get themselves into stupid and dangerous situations and therefore we feel no real pity for them when they are eviscerated. However, in A Nightmare On Elm Street, all the characters have to do to endanger themselves is to go to sleep. Even the most hardcore insomniac (like myself) knows that eventually, sleep will come for you; it is unavoidable. We cannot blame our cast for wandering around doing stupid things in their dreams, because how many of us have had dreams in which we show up for work naked? Very rarely are we in control of our dreams, and in A Nightmare On Elm Street, the only person in control is Freddy Krueger.

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Robert Englund as Freddy is flawless. Before this movie was released, the boogeymen of horror films had always been hulking, silent, expressionless shapes usually hidden way behind masks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But Englund gave us a new kind of Boogeyman – a smartass. Freddy is hideously burned, covered in scar tissue and has all the fashion sense of a wino, but he’s cool. Not content to simply disembowel his screaming victims, Freddy has to tease them a little first, flirting, humiliating or showing off. He makes Tina watch him cut off his own fingers and smiles at her like a drunken uncle who’s just pulled a coin out from behind her ear. He sticks his tongue in Nancy’s mouth via her telephone. He doesn’t waste his sense of humor on the guys in this film, but there’s plenty of sequels in which he makes up for that.

This is such a great, innovative film, filled with pretty cool special effects, disturbing sound effects (including scraping metal fingernails and baby goats bleating in terror) and creepy music. The boiler room is an especially unnerving set, complete with hissing pipes and dripping chains. A young Johnny Depp and his feathery 80s hair make their debut in this film as well, and though his character is about half a million miles away from Captain Jack Sparrow, the raw talent is still very much in evidence here.

This remains the best movie of the Elm Street series, with a few good sequels and some really crappy ones. But Freddy is always worth watching.

Every ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

by Haleigh Foutch October 8, 2020

Note: Collider’s Halloween horror month continues this week with a look at horror’s most iconic, enduring franchises. Today we’re looking back on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise!

When we lost Wes Craven, we lost one of the founding fathers of the modern horror film. His gifts to the genre were many, and while he would go on to reshape the slasher genre again with his meta horrors New Nightmare and Scream, Craven’s most influential contribution to the landscape of horror was A Nightmare on Elm Street, the brilliant, genre-bending movie that redefined the slasher film long before Craven started getting self-referential, and launched a decades-long franchise.

At a time when the slasher film was dying — flooded with the excess of thoughtless Halloween ripoffs and 1980s bloodbaths, Craven revigorated the genre by introducing an element of the supernatural and transporting the action to the world of dreams, where anything goes. With Freddy Kruger and the legacy of Elm Street, Craven created an iconic mythology that crept into the nightmares of generations and stands the test of time — well, most of the movies do, at least.

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