At the time of this release, the 1978 horror masterpiece “Halloween” and the 1980 cult classic “Friday the 13th”, absolutely changed the genre for the rest of the decade. The “slasher” era of film was born and then there were endless amounts of new slasher films coming out each year, each with a different theme or gimmick that followed “Halloween’s” blue print. Most of those films were instantly forgettable and were lost in the public mind. Then horror master Wes Craven penned a script for a brand new slasher flick with a brand new monster. That film would be “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the monster would be Freddy Krueger. “Elm Street” is not only able to rise above its contemporaries but raised the bar for horror films at the time. “Elm Street” provides plenty of scares, a well told ingenious story and premise, and an incredible performance by Robert England. Some of the special effects may not have aged well but this film mostly stands the test of time and after 7 sequels and a remake this still remains the best.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” follows a group of teens who start to share dreams of a burnt man named Freddy Krueger. The teens start to realize that when you die in your dreams you die for real then discover that Freddy might have a connection to the parents of the teens in a deep dark past.
Drawing inspiration from real life events the story of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” combines normal slasher flick conventions (with a group of teens being stalked by a killer) while adding a whole different layer to it with its supernatural element. When I write “supernatural element” I don’t mean supernatural element as in Jason coming back to life after getting killed 50 times before it. This supernatural element is that Freddy doesn’t exist in real life, he only kills when the teens go to sleep and in their dreams he slaughters them. Not only does this give the film a unique feel but also entrances the viewer to keep their eye on the screen.
The premise alone gets the viewer interested on what is on screen, but it’s the execution from Wes Craven that cements it. Craven builds up tension quickly and doesn’t waste much time getting in the plot of the narrative. The dream sequences are dark and gloomy, and the daytime scene are filled with excitement as the plot establishes the main character’s struggle to not fall asleep. In turn, I was kept on the edge of my seat hoping they would find a way to stay awake.
Craven is able to create these horrific kill scenes that delivers from the tension he was able to build up for audience. Craven to understands that blood alone, as an aesthetic, isn’t scary but mix it in with tension you’ve already built up, use the pulse pounding score to add to the effect, and a good dose of intensity then it’s a tool that really adds something to the scene. (Spoiler) There is a sequence where a character is getting killed in their dream and she getting pulled all over the walls and ceiling with the hair raising score blaring and she is getting bloodier and bloodier and it’s getting all over the walls and dropping onto the bed below and when I first saw it my jaw dropped because all of these various effects came together to make something horrifying and impactful.
Craven managed to assemble a good cast of young talent with such names as Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp (in his first starring role), Amanda Wyss, and John Saxon. All talented and give fine performances. Of course the real star of the film was Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. Before the character evolved into a joker, Englund played the character straight and was a presence on screen. He personified evil but had a certain type of charisma to go along with it. Unlike Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Freddy had personality and Englund helped create a monster that could compare to the Universal monsters of old.
After 7 sequels and a remake this film is still the best in the series and has left its mark on the genre(even with its low budget). This is one of Wes Craven’s best films and if you’re a fan of horror and looking for a good horror flick for Halloween this is one to check out.