A movie that rejuvenated the slasher genre10/10
By 1984, the slasher genre was wearing thin. Halloween bombed out with number 3, and Friday the 13th was falling into the dreadful mix of completely cliche horror. Without A Nightmare on Elm Street, that could have been it for the slasher film. With it, however, the genre was brought off the respirator for another 10 years when Craven did it again with Scream, but I digress. Wes Craven delivers a very original, creative, and well played out horror film that has the perfect level of plot, fright, gore, and imagination. The balance of these elements is key, as it gives you the best of all of them, without becoming too cliche, too bloody, or too silly. The movie keeps you with the characters throughout, who, unlike in the Friday the 13th series, aren't there only to be lined up for slaughter. To top all that off, there's the smart, fear-inspiring bogeyman Freddy Krueger, who is one of the greatest villains in cinema history. The combination of all these factors makes A Nightmare on Elm Street easily recognizable as a landmark in classic horror.
Nancy and Tina are a little upset. They both are having terrifying nightmares of someone they can only describe as a man in a dirty sweater with knives for fingers, and Tina is having some guy issues. In fact, this nightmare shook Tina up so much that she has her friends over to keep her company, and has some great makeup sex with her man, Rod. Well, the man with the dirty sweater visits her subconscious once again, and she is inexplicably dragged to the ceiling and butchered, in an incredibly brutal, horrifying scene. Rod is arrested for the crime, and one by one, this mysterious specter assimilates Nancy and her friend's dreams. She keeps being stalked by this bogeyman, and after several episodes (that nearly puts her in the nuthouse), Nancy learns of a certain child murderer, Fred Krueger, who happened to use a glove with knives to kill the kids, and was also burned to death by the parents of the neighborhood. Now knowing what she's up against, Nancy prepares for battle, but how do you fight your dreams? An interesting approach is taken by Craven to solve that problem, leading to the final show down between the lion and the lamb. The whole ordeal ends with a twist so bizarre that you can't help but love it.
When this movie was made, Halloween had set the stage, and Friday the 13th turned into what is now known as a cliche slasher. Wes Craven picked up on the psychological terror of Halloween, and the gore in Friday the 13th, and made it a psychologically chilling gory movie, while not turning to exploitation just to keep your interest. It stays terrifying by unbelievably violent and scary scenes while not going over-the-top. What makes these scenes effective is not only Craven's imagination, but the movie has a good, fear-inspiring villain. Freddy Krueger is the perfect horror villain because he's so brutal that it's terrifying. He hits home with everyone's idea of the bogeyman, but instead of hiding in your closet (where you can be safe from), he gets you in your dreams. There's virtually no way to stop him. How do you resist sleep? How do you resist dreaming? Of course, the idea is so outrageous that no one believes Nancy, which leaves the audience and the characters frustrated. The problem is, the person with the power is the person whose in control, and that's him. That's what allows Craven to build the tension in the movie. Again, like Carpenter's Halloween, Craven gets you attached to Nancy and her friends, instead of presenting characters in hopes of you being scared when they die, or just to pad the body count (and he still makes it gory without that factor). They're ordinary teenagers that a young audience can relate to, which is the target audience for this film.
If you think about it, the movie is kind of goofy. A clown-like bogeyman who haunts your dreams with various wisecracks. I guess we needed something less cliche. This is one of the most original horror movies I've ever seen, and is one of my favorites. Craven brings the evil, scar faced bogeyman that was considered a flop by Hollywood into one of the scariest, most memorable movie villains of all-time. The acting by relatively new actors is pretty good (holy crap, Johnny Depp's first!), especially for Heather Langenkamp as Nancy and Robert Englund as Freddy. The screenplay is very well written, as the dialog isn't cheesy and it goes with the time period. No event is put in only for exploitation (like random strip poker in Friday the 13th), so the atmosphere stays chilling and doesn't turn stale. Not just a great horror movie, but a great scary movie. A real gem from Wes Craven (who gets to be called the master of horror for this epic) that arguably saved the slasher genre from itself.