A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Film Review

Freddy Krueger invades the nightmares of a group of teenagers in Wes Craven's 1984 classic.

Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street has all the elements that make for an 80’s horror.

Scary bad guy who just wont die? Check. Imposing soundtrack? Check. Good use of people stupidly thinking all is well when it clearly isn’t? Check. An incredibly young-looking Johnny Depp? Well maybe not all 80’s horrors had this last factor but this is the movie that launched his prolific career.

The film’s premise is simple enough – a group of teenagers begin to be harassed and killed by a prolific child murderer in their sleep – but it is its execution which strays away from its simplistic course. The blurring between reality and the teenager’s dream worlds is neatly done whilst the concept itself is a terrifyingly good one. With dreams being things that everyone has and yet no-one can control the film manages to instil fear into one of the fundamental aspects of life. The nightmares the characters have and the fatal outcomes they suffer go beyond over-the-top; the fact that over 500 gallons of blood was used in the production of the film (when considering the rather small death count), although being rather impressive, underlines this.

Freddy Krueger is one of cinema’s greatest monsters; highly recognisable for his scarred face, striped jumper and knife-fingered glove, he has embedded himself in our social consciousness. In this, his first stint in cinemas, he is highly theatrical and truly maniacal. Whereas in the countless sequels he begins to take on a darkly comic persona, in A Nightmare on Elm Street he lacks logical direction, instead aimlessly torturing the teenager’s nightmares.

A Nightmare on Elm Street utilises some ingenious (and rather pioneering) uses of special effects – from moving walls to endless blood splattering the film ticks all the horror boxes. Unfortunately the script itself doesn’t live up to the film’s effects and huge loopholes are overlooked. Viewers will find themselves asking just HOW quickly funerals are arranged in America whilst questions regarding how Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) discovers she can start pulling things out of dreams, why the teenagers had not heard of Freddy’s child murdering history before and just how anybody is meant to stay awake for seven days on a diet of caffeine alone are all left unanswered.

The film’s director, Wes Craven, has carved his name into the horror genre and this is one of his kookier works. At its heart A Nightmare on Elm Street consists of slow walking and heavy synth 80’s beats. The story that evolves around this core has its fair share of jumpy moments but most of them are sadly negated by some awful suspense scenes and an even worse ending (trust us, it’s bad). Despite its flaws the film will have you wondering whether it’s safe to fall asleep again….

Best bit: The death that involves a stream of blood pouring upwards from the victim’s bed is pretty gore-tastic.
Best line: The film’s creepy chant – ‘one, two, Freddy’s coming for you… three, four, better lock your door… five, six, grab your crucifix… seven, eight, better stay awake… nine, ten, never sleep again’.
Watch this if you liked: Any 80’s horror.

Gore Factor: 6 / 10
Spine-chill factor: 6 / 10

The words ‘Elm Street’ are not mentioned or alluded to in the film.

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