A Nightmare on Elm Street
Dir. Wes Craven (1984)
Teens are haunted by a horrific murderer who stalks them in their dreams.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
After starting my month with two B-movies, I realized that this month was the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to one of the greatest horror directors of all time, Wes Craven, who unfortunately passed away this year. The man was a legacy as a director, producer, and all-time horror thinker, and while no list of horror movies would ever be complete without his presence, its especially important to honor him and his game-changing additions to the horror genre after his passing. It was with this in mind that I decided to polish off an old classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Based on a series of news stories at the time of its release where members of a certain tribe would die screaming in the night of no apparent cause, this film is one of the OG's in the slasher subgenre of horror. It's a fantastic movie, and a whole lot of fun. It also introduced Johnny Depp to the world, which may or may not be a good thing with his recent production. There's tons of blood and gore, and a genuinely scary lead villain in Freddy Krueger, played (of course) masterfully by Robert Englund. One of the things that I always loved about Freddy was that he was the one villain you couldn't run away from. Ya know, Michael Meyers, don't run in circles with any of the Strode family. Jason Voorhees, don't go to Camp Crystal Lake, you should be alright. Chucky... don't play with dolls who are enchanted by a voodoo serial killer. Pinhead, don't mess with the box. Uh, lets see... Candyman, don't say Candyman five times in front of a mirror. Most of the slasher baddies established the whole "don't have sex or do drugs and you'll be just fine" trope. Freddy Krueger... don't fall asleep. Well that's certainly a lot harder than any of the other ones... In fact, Heather Langenkamp did more to fight any of the bad guys than any other members of the "Last Girl" tribe, really. She didn't just run away and wait to be rescued, she took the fight to Freddy. She was the victor in the end, and she did it pretty much all by herself. Of course, it didn't keep Freddy down for long, but it did work for a time, which was certainly a change from most of the movies circulating at the time.
I mean, she set him on fucking fire…
The scariest thing about this movie to me is the folklore around it. Starting with the LA Times articles about the deaths of the Hmong tribe, their unexplained deaths "from nightmares" contributing to the origins of the ideas behind the film, there was obviously a lot of time and energy devoted to the NOES series. From the backstory of a child murderer (who later was revealed to be a child rapist as well), to the horrible little nursery rhyme the ridiculously creepy little girls sang while playing jump rope (Fun fact, the little girl jumping rope was the daughter of the people who owned one of the houses in the film), this movie singlehandedly saved New Line Cinema. For most of my childhood, when I saw that familiar logo (which I always thought was a ladder on a house, btw), I knew I was in for a treat.
Not that kind of treat...
One of the things I love about this movie, and really this whole series, was the dreamlike haze that was over a lot of the scenes. You generally can't tell the difference between scenes in which the characters are awake or asleep, which further lends to the surrealism of the whole film. It's pretty incredible, really, what Craven was able to do in a time when these WERE the B-movies. He, along with Carpenter and the Friday the 13th crew, helped bring horror into the mainstream. Arguably, with the success of his later projects like Scream, he continued the development of horror into what we know and love today. And for someone who started out directing a porno, he had a pretty meteoric rise to fame. No one did it like Craven. No one took the stuff of his own nightmares and put them on screen like he did, before or since. The man clearly has a love affair with horror, and he knocks it out of the park with this one. We'll miss him, but his legacy will live forever in celluloid, bringing nightmares to us all.
Who this movie is for: Classic horror fans, Slasher aficionados, Dream lovers
Bottom Line: Filled with great performances from Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund and directed by one of the best horror directors to ever live, ANoES is a classic that everyone should see. Of course you've seen this one. If you haven't, what the fuck are you doing here? Watch it again, in memory of one of the greatest who ever lived.