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Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 335: A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street
I hope that's just sweat in the bed

When I was young, I was scared of Freddy Kruger. I mean, he's get the messed-up face, the glove with blades on the fingers, and a horrific cackle. What kid wouldn't be afraid of that? The Freddy Kruger character was revolutionary for horror films. Up until he came out, most slasher villains were unstoppable hulking monsters, hacking and slashing their way through a group of unsuspecting teens. Freddy is different, though, frequently speaking and even toying with his victims. He also went after people with a purpose rather than a random group of people. But what separated Freddy the most was how he killed you; in your dreams. I have previously reviewed the remake to A Nightmare On Elm Street, but I thought I should give the original it's due.

And give Johnny Depp's hair it's due too

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a 1984 slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven (Scream, Last House On The Left). The movie stars Robert Englund (Urban Legend, Wishmaster) as serial killer Freddy Krueger and Heather Langenkamp (Growing Pains, Just The Ten Of Us) as Nancy Thompson. Both Nancy and her friend Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Silverado) have intense nightmares about a man with razor-sharp knives on his hand chasing them. Tina even wakes up with slashes through her nightgown, but her mother blows it off as her having long fingernails. The next night, the girls go over to Nancy's boyfriend Glen's (Johnny Depp, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands) house. Tina's boyfriend Rod also shows up and they sleep together while Nancy and Glen sleep in separate rooms. Tina has another nightmare where she is once again stalked by the hideous figure. In her dream, he finally catches her while in reality, her body begins to levitate around the room and slam into the walls. She calls out the name “Freddy Krueger” before dying. Rod is the only person in the room when Tina is called, and is taken to jail for her murder. While at school, Nancy has another nightmare about the man who taunts her as he stalks. That night she asks Glen to stay awake while she sleeps just in case she looks like she's in trouble. Through her dream, Nancy sees the man go into Rod's jail cell and kill him, making it look like a suicide. Glenn falls asleep and Nancy is almost killed. Terrified of her dreams, Nancy goes to a sleep clinic to be evaluated. She has another dream of the man and is actually able to pull the fedora he wears out of her dream and into reality. Nancy's mother reveals that Freddy Krueger was a child murderer who escaped imprisonment due to a technicality. The enraged parents took the law into their own hands and killed Krueger by fire. Somehow, Krueger has risen from beyond the grave and is now killing the children of the town through their dreams. How will Nancy be able to stop something that isn't even real?

It's the Silly Puddy Killer!

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a special horror movie because it took a popular genre of horror and injected it with new life. It is something completely different from what had been done prior while still being true to the basic tenants of slashers. Like other slashers, the victims are helpless teens and two are killed after having sex. Typical slasher movie with an atypical twist. Rather than just having a faceless, speechless monster as the villain, A Nightmare On Elm Street employs Freddy Krueger. Krueger loves to speak, taunting his victims and playing with their minds. We also see his face for extended periods, something not too common in slashers, even if it is disfigured. Ultimately, the roll works because Robert Englund is just that good. He captures the sinister evil of the character while still showing a deranged flair for his “work”. Other slasher icons like Jason and Michael Myers kill because that is what they do. There is no real purpose, people just happen to get in their way. Freddy kills with a purpose, making the kids pay for the sins of their fathers, so to speak.

Paging Dr. Freud

The movie manages to blur the line between reality and dreams which make the shocks more shocking and the scares scarier. Craven does a good job of never allowing the audience to know just what is real and what is dream. The various kills in the movie are incredibly entertaining in their creativity and variation. With the large amount of violence comes an even larger amount of blood. One scene can accurately be described as a “blood geiser”. Craven captures both the violence and the horror very well, never shying away from either. Krueger is still scary before he became watered down in subsequent sequels, cracking wise and spouting bad puns. Heather Langenkamp is very good as a believable heroine. It's also fun to see a young Johnny Depp before he became life partners with Tim Burton.

"Gimme five!"

A Nightmare On Elm Street is highly imaginative and creative when slasher movies were just about out of gas. It's a smart horror film that doesn't require the audience do dumb themselves down in order to enjoy. There is a good amount of fear and suspense throughout the movie thanks to Craven's solid writing, good pacing, and competent direction. Robert Englund is fantastic as Freddy Krueger giving the character a sadistic glee to his murderous intent. There is a wide variety and creativity in the kills doled out by Krueger, keeping the movie from lapsing into a generic slasher. A Nightmare On Elm Street is well-made and incredibly fun. It's no wonder it's considered a classic.


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