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By 1984, the slasher genre was wearing thin. Halloween bombed out with
number 3, and Friday the 13th was falling into the dreadful mix of
completely cliché horror. Without A Nightmare on Elm Street, that could
have been it for the slasher film. With it, however, the genre was
brought off the respirator for another 10 years when Craven did it
again with Scream, but I digress. Wes Craven delivers a very original,
creative, and well played out horror film that has the perfect level of
plot, fright, gore, and imagination. The balance of these elements is
key, as it gives you the best of all of them, without becoming too
cliché, too bloody, or too silly. The movie keeps you with the
characters throughout, who, unlike in the Friday the 13th series,
aren't there only to be lined up for slaughter. To top all that off,
there's the smart, fear-inspiring bogeyman Freddy Krueger, who is one
of the greatest villains in cinema history. The combination of all
these factors makes A Nightmare on Elm Street easily recognizable as a
landmark in classic horror.
Nancy and Tina are a little upset. They both are having terrifying nightmares of someone they can only describe as a man in a dirty sweater with knives for fingers, and Tina is having some guy issues. In fact, this nightmare shook Tina up so much that she has her friends over to keep her company, and has some great makeup sex with her man, Rod. Well, the man with the dirty sweater visits her subconscious once again, and she is inexplicably dragged to the ceiling and butchered, in an incredibly brutal, horrifying scene. Rod is arrested for the crime, and one by one, this mysterious specter assimilates Nancy and her friend's dreams. She keeps being stalked by this bogeyman, and after several episodes (that nearly puts her in the nuthouse), Nancy learns of a certain child murderer, Fred Krueger, who happened to use a glove with knives to kill the kids, and was also burned to death by the parents of the neighborhood. Now knowing what she's up against, Nancy prepares for battle, but how do you fight your dreams? An interesting approach is taken by Craven to solve that problem, leading to the final show down between the lion and the lamb. The whole ordeal ends with a twist so bizarre that you can't help but love it.
When this movie was made, Halloween had set the stage, and Friday the 13th turned into what is now known as a cliché slasher. Wes Craven picked up on the psychological terror of Halloween, and the gore in Friday the 13th, and made it a psychologically chilling gory movie, while not turning to exploitation just to keep your interest. It stays terrifying by unbelievably violent and scary scenes while not going over-the-top. What makes these scenes effective is not only Craven's imagination, but the movie has a good, fear-inspiring villain. Freddy Krueger is the perfect horror villain because he's so brutal that it's terrifying. He hits home with everyone's idea of the bogeyman, but instead of hiding in your closet (where you can be safe from), he gets you in your dreams. There's virtually no way to stop him. How do you resist sleep? How do you resist dreaming? Of course, the idea is so outrageous that no one believes Nancy, which leaves the audience and the characters frustrated. The problem is, the person with the power is the person whose in control, and that's him. That's what allows Craven to build the tension in the movie. Again, like Carpenter's Halloween, Craven gets you attached to Nancy and her friends, instead of presenting characters in hopes of you being scared when they die, or just to pad the body count (and he still makes it gory without that factor). They're ordinary teenagers that a young audience can relate to, which is the target audience for this film.
If you think about it, the movie is kind of goofy. A clown-like bogeyman who haunts your dreams with various wisecracks. I guess we needed something less cliché. This is one of the most original horror movies I've ever seen, and is one of my favorites. Craven brings the evil, scar faced bogeyman that was considered a flop by Hollywood into one of the scariest, most memorable movie villains of all-time. The acting by relatively new actors is pretty good (holy crap, Johnny Depp's first!), especially for Heather Langenkamp as Nancy and Robert Englund as Freddy. The screenplay is very well written, as the dialog isn't cheesy and it goes with the time period. No event is put in only for exploitation (like random strip poker in Friday the 13th), so the atmosphere stays chilling and doesn't turn stale. Not just a great horror movie, but a great scary movie. A real gem from Wes Craven (who gets to be called the master of horror for this epic) that arguably saved the slasher genre from itself.
While I love horror films, I am not a big fan of the slasher genre,
which has come to dominate and indeed practically to define horror
since the late 1970s. While I do love the original "Psycho," most
slasher films follow a different, and far more predictable, formula.
The idea of a faceless killer going around stabbing teenagers just
doesn't frighten me a whole lot, though some of these films do fill me
with disgust--a rather different sort of emotion.
I am far more frightened by films that deal with distortions of reality, where it's hard for the characters to tell what's real and what's not. Admittedly, that genre isn't always so lofty either. Dreams are one of the most overused devices in the movies, having a whole set of clichés associated with them. We are all familiar with the common scene in which a character awakens from a nightmare by jerking awake in cold sweat. This convention is not only overused, it's blatantly unrealistic, for people waking up from dreams do not jerk awake in such a violent fashion. Moreover, these scenes are usually nothing more than little throwaway sequences designed to amuse or frighten the audience without advancing the plot.
What makes "Nightmare on Elm Street" so clever is how it creates an entirely new convention for representing dreams on screen. The dreaming scenes are filmed with an airy, murky quality, but so are many of the waking scenes, making it very difficult to tell whether a character is awake or asleep. Indeed, the movie never shows any character actually fall asleep, and as a result we are constantly on guard whenever characters so much as close their eyes for a moment. In crucial scenes, it is impossible to tell whether what we are seeing is real or happening only in a character's mind. But the movie ultimately suggests that the difference doesn't matter. The premise of the movie, in which a child-killer haunts teenager's dreams and has the capability of killing them while they're asleep, turns the whole "It was all just a dream" convention on its head: in this movie, the real world is safe, and the dream world is monstrously dangerous.
The movie finds a number of ways to explore this ambiguity, including a bathtub scene that invites comparisons with the shower scene in "Psycho" without being a cheap ripoff. My personal favorite scene, and one of the scariest I've ever seen in a movie, is the one where Nancy dozes off in the classroom while a student is standing up in front of the class reading a passage from Shakespeare. The way the scene transitions from the real classroom to a nightmarish version of it is brilliantly subtle.
The director, Wes Craven, understood that the anticipation of danger is usually more frightening than the final attack. There are some great visual shots to that effect, including one where Freddy's arms becomes unnaturally long in an alleyway, and another where the stairs literally turn into a gooey substance, in imitation of the common nightmare where it is hard to get away from a pursuer. The movie continually finds creative ways to tease the audience, never resorting to red herring, that tired old convention used in almost all other slasher films.
Despite the creativity in these scenes, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is still a formula movie, with relatively one-dimensional characters and no great performances. This was Johnny Depp's first role, as Heather Langenkamp's boyfriend, and although he does get a few neat lines of exposition (his speech about "dream skills"), his personality is not fleshed out, and there is no sense of the great actor Depp would go on to become.
Within the genre, however, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is a fine work. My main criticism isn't its failure to transcend the formula, but its confusing and obtuse ending, apparently put there in anticipation of sequels, but managing to create a mystery that the sequels were unable to clear up. The climactic confrontation between Freddy and Nancy is weakly handled. The crucial words she says to him are surprisingly clunky, and her father's muted behavior during that scene is almost inexplicable. It has led me to consider an alternative interpretation of the scene, but one that feels like a cop-out. The scene that follows, and where the movie ends, is anticlimactic and unnecessary. These clumsily-made final two scenes come close to ruining the movie, and it is a testament to the film's many good qualities that it still stands as an unusually effective horror film that invites repeat viewings.
The "Nightmare" has been recently on in our TV and I must admit that even after those fourteen years it made a deep impression on me. I saw the film for the first time in 1989 and at that time I was scared because I was just a teenager then. But now, I can see that the film has got something unique, which makes the film different from other horror movies. I think it`s down to the basic idea of this film - dreams and everything that can happen in our dreams sometimes become true. The authors of this film did not have to be bound with the need to stay realistic and that opens a free way to their wildest imaginations. Charles Bernstein`s music in this movie has become clasic and we can hear the basic melodic motive in some of the sequels. Original music composed by different authors in the sequels to this first Nightmare stays far far behind Bernstein`s masterpiece.
Every small-town neighborhood has an old legend that never dies. For
the residents of Elm Street, Fred Krueger is the demonic soul that
plagues their nightmares. Krueger was an evil child molester, burned
alive by the parents of the children he had slain in the past. Now,
years later, he has reappeared in the nightmares of Elm Street's
teenagers. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) continually experiences these
haunting visions in which the permanently scarred man chases her
through the shadows of a boiler room -- the same room in which he used
to slay his helpless victims. Nancy considers her dreams to be typical
nightmares one of her best friends is apparently "sliced" to death
during a deep sleep in her home.
Soon Nancy's dreams become worse, and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) admits that he has also been experiencing unpleasant nightmares. Together they uncover the truth behind Krueger's death years ago, and vow to stay awake as long as they can and strategize a plan to bring Krueger back into the "real world" and kill him once and for all.
Loosely based on true events, Wes Craven's inspiration for the tale originated after he reportedly read that a number of people across the world had died in their slumber. Blending fantasy with reality, Craven wrote and directed one of the most iconic horror films of all time, which -- similar to "Halloween" before it -- spawned an inferior legion of sequels and imitators, all of which continue to pale in comparison to the original.
The brilliance of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is that it relies on psychological fear vs. cheap exploitation tricks. "Halloween," directed by John Carpenter and released in 1978, had re-sparked interest in the Hitchcock-style horror/thrillers, and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" builds upon this, cleverly channeling the mystery surrounding dreams and using it as a gateway for chills and thrills. Midway through the movie, a doctor played by Richard Fleischer tells Nancy's mother that the process of dreams -- where do they come from? -- has yet to be explained, and the fact that all humans tend to have dreams on a regular basis is essentially why this film remains so scary, even by today's standards. Some of the special effects are quite outdated but, unlike the "Nightmare" imitators, gore plays second to the plot and characters -- something rare in a horror film.
The sequels became sillier and gorier. Fred's name changed to the less menacing "Freddy" (which we all now know him by), he was given more screen time, the makeup on his face was not quite as horrific, he began to crack jokes more often and his voice evolved into a less demonic cackle. In the original "Nightmare" it is interesting to note that Freddy is rarely given screen time at all -- we see his infamous hands (wearing gloves with butter knives attached on the fingers to slice his victims), we see his hat, we see his sweater, we see his outline in the darkness of the shadows, but even when we finally see Freddy up-close, Craven manages to keep the camera moving so that we never gain a distinct image of the killer. Now, twenty years later, there's no mystery anymore -- Freddy's face is featured on the front cover for most of the films and his very presence has become the cornerstone of all the movies in the franchise. But in 1984, long before Craven predicted his character would become a huge part of modern pop culture, Freddy was mysterious and not very funny at all.
The acting is one of the film's weaknesses -- Heather Langenkamp is never totally awe-inspiring as Nancy, truth be told (although she does a decent job); Depp -- in his big-screen debut -- shows a sign of talent to come but basically mutters clichéd dialogue most of the time. The co-stars are acceptable at best. However the greatest performance is -- not surprisingly -- by Robert Englund, as Freddy, who is in the film barely at all. Ironically, as mentioned above, this only makes the film succeed at scaring us.
The direction is not as superb as "Halloween," and for that matter either is the film. Over the years, "Nightmare" has arguably been given an overrated reputation, although it is inferior to "Halloween." However, compared to some of the other so-called "horror films" released during the '80s -- including "Friday the 13th" and other dumb slasher flicks -- "A Nightmare on Elm Street" does seem to stand as one of the best horror films of the decade. Despite its flaws it is quite smart with a surprise "final" ending and one of cinema's greatest villains lurking at the core.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is really Nancy's story. The film focuses on Nancy's troubles, Nancy's dreams and Nancy's actions. The ending of the film becomes a bit muddled -- the booby traps are unfortunately a bit goofy and Freddy helplessly (almost humorously) chasing Nancy around her home supposedly trying to murder her is something the film could have done without -- but overall it is a satisfying mixture of horror, thriller and fantasy, a movie that taps into two seldom-recognized everyday events in human life, which are sleeping, and dreaming. Craven's ability to realize this unknown fear in a movie is, needless to say, quite fascinating. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is not a great movie but for horror buffs it is a must-see and for non-horror-buffs there is a fair amount of other elements to sustain one's interest.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of the scariest movies of all time, and
one of the scariest in the 80's. It also introduced one of the scariest
villains of all time, Freddy Krueger, one of the ultimate boogeymen
that you know who he is just by his name. Wes Craven brought us one of
the most terrifying ideas, what would happen if your nightmares were
real? That if you died in your dream, you died in real life? He brought
us A Nightmare on Elm Street, a low budget horror film that has made it
huge in the horror genre's world. The whole concept of the film is just
what makes it so brilliant. Not to mention how cool is it that this is
Johnny Depp's first film role? Who knew that that kid was going to be
so huge one day, right? But the entire cast made this into one of the
scariest movies that will always bring you a few nightmares on it's
Tina is a girl who has been having tons of nightmares about a scary figure, a man who is severely burned and has knives for fingers. She's so scared of this man that she asks her friends, Nancy, Nancy's boyfriend, Glenn, and her boyfriend, Rod to stay over. But Tina is brutally killed in the middle of the night, the only witness is her boyfriend, leaving him as the suspect of murder. But when he is murdered in jail, Nancy knows there's something wrong and soon she's having the same nightmares as Tina. Soon she knows that she might be next, no one believes her, until her mom reveals a deep dark secret about the mysterious figure, Freddy Krueger. He was a sick child molester/killer who the neighbors burned alive to keep him away, but now he's after their kids and he's not going to take it easy on Nancy.
A classic horror film that's perfect for a sleep over with your friends to watch in the dark. It's such a great film that sparked quite a few sequels and a new icon for slasher films. Freddy Krueger is so cool and extremely scary just for the fact that he's so confident in knowing that he will kill you. He's ruthless, scary, and clever and he's coming to kill the kids in their dreams. A Nightmare on Elm Street is such a great film and I highly recommend it, Wes Craven is an original genius who spawned a new type of terror.
This movie might very well be one of the best horror movies of all
time, together with movies like "Poltergeist", "Dawn of the Dead
(1978)" "The Exorcist" and "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)".
I didn't expected it to be but this movie was just brilliant. Certainly the best slasher movie ever made. There are several things that make this movie a good horror classic. Of course the classic 'killer' Freddy Kruger is one of them. Another thing is the concept. Yes, the story of course is just simply ridiculous at times but it's the perfect concept to fill a movie with, with some scary scene's and brutal killings with tons of blood.
The movie has the same scary gritty atmosphere like a horror movie from the 70's, when the horror genre was at an all-time high.
The actors are giving their best but some of the dialog is just plain cheesy. Still I think that the actors should deserve more credit then they are getting right now, especially Johnny Depp made a impressive movie debut. The talent was already showing, back then. His role in this movie was way bigger than I expected it to be by the way.
Really entertaining horror classic. Some things might look cheesy, especially the ending (I really laughed my butt off!) and the story in general but the atmosphere, gore and Kruger make up everything! Guess you have to be a fan of the genre to fully appreciate it though.
Wes Craven created Freddy Krueger and when he did the world of Horror
welcomed a great new character to its screens (or should that be its
Freddy, a child murderer in life, now hunts the children of the men and women that killed him, while they sleep.
Very gory, tense and full of over the top deaths scenes A Nightmare on Elm Street brought something new to the Horror Genre, and will go down in history in recognition of this.
The rarity of the film, is the character of Freddy, because he actually has character without distracting from the terror (in this outing at least)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If Sean Cunningham, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper defined the horror genre
in the late 70's, early 80's then Wes Craven destroyed it, not only once,
but twice, with Scream. However, before Scream, there was A Nightmare On
St and before there was the ghostface, there was Freddy Krueger, bastard
of 100 maniacs. Up until this point, horror was very predictable, most
adhered to the 'rules' of horror (if you have no idea what the rules are,
they are simply, the 'virgin' survives, if you have sex, you die, if you
drink or get high, you die and never say, "I'll be right back" cause u
won't, for more details, see Randy in the Scream Trilogy). In 1984, this
little film came out about a murderer who killed you in your
It was a seemingly simple concept, but it was terrifying to see the main character Nancy, (played brilliantly by a young Heather Langenkamp) battling not only her adversary, (the irrepressible Robert Englund) but the trauma's of her alcoholic mother, smothering and absent father, their divorce, her idea that she might be going crazy and sleep, as she deduces from fairly early on that if she sleeps, she dies. Nancy was a character that you cared about. She wasn't devoid of emotion or reduced to simply running and screaming from her attacker, she had emotion, she had issues, she was like most teenagers in America.
The film begins pretty typically enough. Freddy Krueger stalks those who according to the rules, deserve what they get. Freddy himself is frightening, with a very limited dialogue and terrifying persona. In later sequels, he becomes a humourous villain, but in the first of the series is where we see Krueger at his menacing best. But somewhere along the line, it all goes haywire, culminating in the death of Glen (Johnny Depp)Nancy's boyfriend, polite and sweet who doesn't have sex during the course of the film.You find yourself saying,"hey this can't be right, he shouldn't be dead". But that is exactly the kind of reaction that Craven wants from you.
The horror, doesn't end with the apparent death of Freddy, Craven still pays homage to the typical ending of his genre, with the 'he's-not-quite-dead-yet' ending, but it is the way in which he does it. Craven makes you comfortable by having you believe that everything is ok, that it was all just a lil dream and dreams can't really hurt you, that is until the very end. It shocks you, leaving to come to your own deductions, similar to the ending of The Exorcist, it is up to you to judge who triumphed, good or evil.
When you think about it, what was worse for Nancy, the stalking of Freddy or her gradual sleep depravation, how long can anyone survive in their right mind with no sleep. Plus it also demonstrates that at the core of those sleepy American towns, something is rotten. The image of these surbanites in the form of Nancy and her friends parents, forming a mob and setting fire to Freddy Krueger, is in a sense more frightening than the child molesting, murdering image of Freddy himself. Craven like Stephen King, likes to illustrate in his work that some of the most horrid things happen in small quite towns. Maybe because around these times, America was reeling from the emergence of numerous serial killers. Whatever the reason, this film is a classic for so many reasons, and I dare anyone to tell me different!!
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
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.
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.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is so original, realistic, and overall terrifying that it is easy to overlook the film's numerous shortcomings. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who cooked him to death. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger, a dark figure whose only purpose is to kill all the siblings of his killers. The knife-styled finger glove has become a trademark of this amazing character who was created by writer-director Wes Craven. The film goes for suspense, drama, and gore and delivers for the most part. None of the characters are developed very well, but most do not live to see the end of the film so it really does not matter. A great horror film that still delivers today. Ignore the endless sequels, they each detract from this truly original and interesting film. Look for a young Johnny Depp as one of the unlucky teens. 4 out of 5 stars
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