A Nightmare on Elm Street

September 15th, 2009 by Perfesser Deviant

A Nightmare on Elm Street   noes poster 5 65x120 reviews horror Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Release Year: 1984

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

Teenagers Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss), Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp), Rod Lane (Nick Corri) and others are having bad dreams. When they compare their dreams, they find that there’s a creepy guy – who turns out to be Fred Krueger (Robert Englund) – in all of their dreams. Their parents get cagey when they start asking questions and, when the deaths start, it’s clear that something is horribly, horribly wrong….

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(Spoilers follow…)

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A typical Wes Craven fan.

Left adrift by their parents, the kids have to try to figure out what’s going on. Since the threat is distinctly supernatural, they have very little to go on, as parents tend to be less than forthcoming on such matters. When Nancy brings Freddy’s hat out of the dream with her, a hat that has his name written in it, she finally has the piece she’s been missing and gets her mother to tell her the story; the story of how mommy murdered a bad man is not something that most kids ever get to hear. Knowing what she’s up against, and that she’s not crazy – I’d rather not be treated by Dr. Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer) – helps Nancy to deal with the situation, but not to save any of her friends. Each of the young actors does his or her best to bring a sense of realism to their role, the casting of actual young people is very helpful in making the film seem authentic, and a film that deals with a killer who haunts dreams needs all the realism that can be begged, stolen or borrowed. The culture of teenagers is looked at a bit as the kids work their way around the issues, but as the body count mounts, it becomes clear that Nancy will have to face Freddy on her own.

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What a place to lose a contact.

Freddy Krueger is a bad man. During life he was a child killer – though it’s more likely he was also a pedophile – and after the townspeople got together and murdered him he became something worse. Unlike the other slashers that had been introduced at this point, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Freddy was able to communicate with his prey; in fact, he took delight in tormenting them. This, in and of itself, was new for a slasher villain, who had traditionally slaughtered they prey silently. That Freddy was an interesting character made the film better than the usual as the audience was just as curious as the kids about who this guy in the ugly sweater was. As the series progressed, the filmmakers were unwise enough to turn Freddy from a terrible child-killer into a joke with knives.

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Full-sized bath.

Aside from the chatty killer, the real element that set this film apart from others was the interweaving of dreams and waking reality. The careful balance of dreams and reality was expertly maintained throughout the film as there was rarely any doubt when Nancy was awake and when she was dreaming; it wasn’t until the sequels that the writer thought it might be fun to do a lot of “is she awake or asleep” stuff. Slasher killers in slasher films typically prey on those who are helpless, lost in the woods, or washing their pert breasts, but this film really found the moment in which people are completely helpless, when they’re sleeping. The raw fear that can come from a nightmare or even just being awakened by someone charging into your bedroom with a chainsaw, is something that all of us can relate to quite well, ensuring proper identification with the teens. Craven was also very good to make the teenagers act like teenagers, Nancy was not portrayed as a pure virgin in that she had a boyfriend – and how many young women could resist letting Glen plow them? – so the problems that she experienced came as the result of the sins of her mother and others.


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Johnny Depp in your bedroom and you sleep?

Craven, as usual, deals with his strange views of family in this flick. Marge Thompson (Ronee Blakley) is a useless mother whose every action – from killing a child-killer to putting up bars on the windows – leads to the near-doom of Nancy; Marge’s drinking and strong desire to deny anything that might be wrong make her nearly a worse villain than Freddy. Nancy’s cop dad Lt. Thompson (John Saxon) is equally disinclined to believe Nancy, despite the horrific death inflicted on Glen. Children in an adversarial relationship with their parents is nothing new, but typically, in reality, parents actually are doing the right thing for their kids. In this film, the parents’ attempts to keep their children safe backfire, badly. Glen’s parents (Ed Call & Sandy Lipton) don’t allow him to talk to Nancy which leads to him falling asleep and dying, horribly; they think they’re protecting him from the crazy girl across the street. Each of these parents, operating in a rational fashion, helps to doom their children.

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However, even bad parenting is harmful as Tina’s Mom (Donna Woodrum) is too busy with her boyfriend to notice or care about anything and Rod doesn’t seem to have parents.

Like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger has an iconic quality that transcends the horror genre. Everybody knows who he is, even people who’ve never seen a single Elm Street film. Freddy moved into the realm of popular culture, becoming a salesman for various merchandise and even as the host of a television show. Freddy began being marketed to kids and horror lost an icon of fear to the machine of commerce churning out a campy bogeyman.

Rating: A Nightmare on Elm Street   star reviews horror A Nightmare on Elm Street   star reviews horror A Nightmare on Elm Street   star reviews horror A Nightmare on Elm Street   star reviews horror A Nightmare on Elm Street   star reviews horror


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