New Line Cinema/1984/Directed by Wes Craven
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray
Years before Peter Jackson’s excellent Lord Of The Rings trilogy made New Line Cinema a household name, the company was best known for its other “cash cow” franchise- the Nightmare On Elm Street series. The first entry in the series, A Nightmare On Elm Street, came along in 1984, laying the foundation and setting the standard for cinematic “slasher” films for years to come.
Written and directed by Wes Craven (the same man responsible for bringing us The Hills Have Eyes, Last House On The Left, Swamp Thing, and the Scream franchise, to name a few), A Nightmare On Elm Street may seem like a typical boogeyman tale on the surface, but dig deeper and you’ll find more meaning in this seminal horror classic. Subversive and scary, the film speaks volumes about the nature of dreams, individual inner strength, vigilante justice, and conquering one’s fears. It’s certainly a horror film, to be sure, but it’s a smart horror film, and that may be the main reason why it’s still talked about and referenced today.
A Nightmare On Elm Street centers around teenager Nancy Thompson, who, along with her group of friends, is plagued by nightmares of a horribly-burned, razor-fingered boogeyman named Freddy Krueger. One by one, Nancy’s friends are hunted, tormented, and killed in their dreams by Freddy, which causes them to die horrible deaths in their sleep. Ultimately, the film climaxes in a duel to the death between Nancy and Freddy, where she must make the choice to give in to her fears or turn her back on them.
A great film with a stellar young cast- the excellent (and fan-favorite) Heather Langenkamp plays Nancy, leading the cast of teenagers (which also included Johnny Depp in his first film role, as Nancy’s boyfriend Glen). A Nightmare On Elm Street introduced us to the immortal film monster in the form of Freddy Krueger, the role that actor Robert Englund is best known for. Englund played the maniacal Freddy for six Nightmare sequels, a television series (the short-lived Freddy’s Nightmares), and one crossover (the fan-favorite Freddy Vs. Jason), truly making the role his own. Writer/director Wes Craven is known as the “Father of Freddy”, and this is the film that started it all. He returned to contribute his delightfully deranged talents to two more films in the series, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Part 3- The Dream Warriors and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and his three entries are widely considered to be the best of the franchise.
A Nightmare On Elm Street is still worth revisiting today. Like all films from the eighties, it has aged, but endearingly well. The same cannot be said for the film’s sequels, however, but we’ll save that for another review. A Nightmare On Elm Street was remade in 2010 (with a follow-up currently in production) and although it was a noble effort and is a good film in its own right, for my money it lacks the charm and scares of the original version, which is a great film to watch during the Halloween season and a worthy addition to your horror film collection. Freddy Forever!