A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is perhaps most fondly remember for giving cinema two lasting icons, Freddy Kruger and Johnny Deep. This inaugural entry into the series that spawned six sequels, a television show and millions of dollars in Halloween costume sales, is a minor film with a great premise. Teens are dying in their sleep on the fictional suburban block of Elm Street. Director Wes Craven has delivered an entertaining and well-crafted horror tale on a limited budget. Each of the four teenagers seem to experience a shared nightmare about a disfigured child-killer, named Freddy who has come back from the dead to kill them in their dreams. The plot device of shared dreams, where reality and nightmares are difficult to distinguish, is a clever and universally frightening idea. Nightmare also plays with the childhood fear of falling asleep and never waking up, as showcased by the elaborate ways these kids attempt to stay awake.

The popularity of Nightmare is in large part due to the presence of a truly unique movie monster. Freddy Kruger became one of the most fondly remember cinematic villains of all time. Robert England dons the make-up, red sweater and dusty fedora as the burnt pedophile, turned nighttime terror. In future installments Kruger would evolve into an almost comedic character with a big chunk of screen time. In this original film, Freddy is seen in shadows and elongated shapes, which adds to the mounting dread of his nightly visits.

A very memorable score featuring the recognizable theme music is of great value in setting an ominous tone from the opening passage. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Wes Craven working with the elements that suit him best, characters rich with psychological complexities, a community hiding a shared secret, and haunting imagery. This Nightmare is unfortunately dated, but there is no denying Craven has delivered a clever and well told story.

Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon

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