Review 30: A Nightmare on Elm Street (original) (3.5/5)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Johnny Depp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Robert Englund

Released on November 9, 1984

Running time: 1h 31m

Rated R

Genre: Horror

This review is intended to precede my review of the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Wes Craven is a masterful director. He has had a very colorful career. He has had his ups and downs. He can direct something as disturbing as The Last House on the Left, something as good as Red Eye, something as inventive as Scream, something as mediocre as My Soul to Take, and something as cheesy and stupid as Deadly Friend and Shocker.

And something as surprisingly and enjoyably scary as A Nightmare on Elm Street.

We all know the story. Four teenagers dream of this scary guy. He wears a dirty red-and-green-striped sweater and a brown fedora. He has a horrifically burned face. And the most terrifying detail of all is his clawed glove.

His name is Fred Krueger. He was a child murderer. He was targeted by the parents of the kids he killed. They burned him to death. Now he’s very angry. He’s after the remaining Elm Street kids. One by one, they drop like flies

Freddy Krueger is a very interesting character. He is legitimately scary. Robert Englund himself said that Freddy is “…the guy who knows what’s in your underwear drawer. This is the guy who knows what you’re afraid of. This is the guy who knows what’s in your diary. This is the guy who knows your weakness…” and how to exploit it.

I like the Janet Leigh red herring being executed on the character of Tina (Amanda Wyss). I just wish that the gimmick hadn’t been wasted so early in the film.

The character of Nancy Thompson is admirable. Obviously, she’s the “good girl” character. She’s pretty, innocent, and nerdy. She has bushy, frizzy hair and front teeth that stick out a little. I think this helps to reinforce the idea that her character is good.

The story is pretty good for an ‘80s B movie. The characters are surprisingly well developed, despite being annoyingly stupid at times – oh, yeah, I forgot. They were actually using those clichés for the first time. Okay. I can live with that. The script is clever at times. The acting is pretty good for a B movie.

The casting is fantastic. Heather Langenkamp fulfills her most notable film role with finesse. Johnny Depp does surprisingly well with his first ever film role. Yes, this is Johnny Depp before he went crazy. And then we have Robert Englund. He brings so much to his role with just his eyes and voice. His eyes pierce. His voice gets under your skin almost as much as Hannibal Lecter (Lecktor?). He managed to make Freddy Krueger at least a little bit scary in every movie in this franchise…until he decided not to reprise his role in the remake. I will be discussing the remake later. I even had a “fangasm” on seeing that Lin Shaye had a cameo in this. Lin Shaye played Elise in the Insidious franchise, of which I am a huge fan.

Speaking of cameos, it was nice to see that Nancy Thompson is a fan of the Evil Dead franchise. I love it more than you, Nancy!

Another thing. The brassiere was invented in 1914. Why does nobody seem to wear one in the 1980s?

I think that the only major problem that I have with this film’s story is this: the ending. SPOILERS! I think I lost track of what in heaven’s name was going on when Freddy Krueger, while on fire, climbed on top of Nancy’s mother (Ronee Blakely). Nancy’s father (John Saxon) throws a blanket over them to put out the fire on Freddy. When he pulls it off, we see Nancy’s mother’s (burned? emaciated?) corpse slowly sinking into…a portal to Hell? the dreaming world? Then Freddy shows up again, attacking Nancy, only to fade away after Nancy tells him that she’s not afraid of him. Nancy then steps out of her mother’s bedroom door only to somehow step outside, where she is greeted by her mother. Tina, Rod, and Glen are already waiting to drive Nancy to school. Nancy gets in the car, but UH-OH! The canopy that goes up on the convertible car is striped red and green! The canopy locks, the windows lock, and the car drives off on its own! Freddy reaches through the front door window and pulls her inside the house and kills her. Our last shot focuses on a trio of jumproping kids saying the ominous rhyme, “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”

What the heck just happened? It took me five viewings of NoES and six viewings of Never Sleep Again, a documentary on the making of NoES, to learn that I was as blind as a bat and did not get the idea that this was a dream. This was Freddy’s plan. She has been awake for so long that now that she has fallen asleep, she is unable to wake up. This therefore brings the legitimacy of the stories of NoES 3, 4, 5, and 6 into question.

Despite the talent, effort, and heart that went into making the first NoES movie, I still say that the second one, Freddy’s Revenge, is still my favorite.

It’s a pity that New Line Cinema released this undeniable horror classic 26 years before they released the remake.

Well, I shall be spending the next week or less bracing myself for the inevitable failure that is the remake of A Nightmare of Elm Street.

Final verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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