A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Horror
Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon
In the dreams of his victims, a spectral child murderer stalks the children of the members of the lynch mob that killed him.
Wes Craven's intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.
  • New Line Cinema Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 16 Nov 1984 Released:
  • 21 Aug 2001 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:

Trailer:

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.
A horror classic...10/10

The "Nightmare" has been recently on in our TV and I must admit that even after those fourteen years it made a deep impression on me. I saw the film for the first time in 1989 and at that time I was scared because I was just a teenager then. But now, I can see that the film has got something unique, which makes the film different from other horror movies. I think it`s down to the basic idea of this film - dreams and everything that can happen in our dreams sometimes become true. The authors of this film did not have to be bound with the need to stay realistic and that opens a free way to their wildest imaginations. Charles Bernstein`s music in this movie has become clasic and we can hear the basic melodic motive in some of the sequels. Original music composed by different authors in the sequels to this first Nightmare stays far far behind Bernstein`s masterpiece.
Whatever you do, don't fall asleep10/10
A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of the scariest movies of all time, and one of the scariest in the 80's. It also introduced one of the scariest villains of all time, Freddy Krueger, one of the ultimate boogeymen that you know who he is just by his name. Wes Craven brought us one of the most terrifying ideas, what would happen if your nightmares were real? That if you died in your dream, you died in real life? He brought us A Nightmare on Elm Street, a low budget horror film that has made it huge in the horror genre's world. The whole concept of the film is just what makes it so brilliant. Not to mention how cool is it that this is Johnny Depp's first film role? Who knew that that kid was going to be so huge one day, right? But the entire cast made this into one of the scariest movies that will always bring you a few nightmares on it's own.

Tina is a girl who has been having tons of nightmares about a scary figure, a man who is severely burned and has knives for fingers. She's so scared of this man that she asks her friends, Nancy, Nancy's boyfriend, Glenn, and her boyfriend, Rod to stay over. But Tina is brutally killed in the middle of the night, the only witness is her boyfriend, leaving him as the suspect of murder. But when he is murdered in jail, Nancy knows there's something wrong and soon she's having the same nightmares as Tina. Soon she knows that she might be next, no one believes her, until her mom reveals a deep dark secret about the mysterious figure, Freddy Krueger. He was a sick child molester/killer who the neighbors burned alive to keep him away, but now he's after their kids and he's not going to take it easy on Nancy.

A classic horror film that's perfect for a sleep over with your friends to watch in the dark. It's such a great film that sparked quite a few sequels and a new icon for slasher films. Freddy Krueger is so cool and extremely scary just for the fact that he's so confident in knowing that he will kill you. He's ruthless, scary, and clever and he's coming to kill the kids in their dreams. A Nightmare on Elm Street is such a great film and I highly recommend it, Wes Craven is an original genius who spawned a new type of terror.

10/10
You'll never want to fall asleep again7/10
While I love horror films, I am not a big fan of the slasher genre, which has come to dominate and indeed practically to define horror since the late 1970s. While I do love the original "Psycho," most slasher films follow a different, and far more predictable, formula. The idea of a faceless killer going around stabbing teenagers just doesn't frighten me a whole lot, though some of these films do fill me with disgust--a rather different sort of emotion.

I am far more frightened by films that deal with distortions of reality, where it's hard for the characters to tell what's real and what's not. Admittedly, that genre isn't always so lofty either. Dreams are one of the most overused devices in the movies, having a whole set of cliches associated with them. We are all familiar with the common scene in which a character awakens from a nightmare by jerking awake in cold sweat. This convention is not only overused, it's blatantly unrealistic, for people waking up from dreams do not jerk awake in such a violent fashion. Moreover, these scenes are usually nothing more than little throwaway sequences designed to amuse or frighten the audience without advancing the plot.

What makes "Nightmare on Elm Street" so clever is how it creates an entirely new convention for representing dreams on screen. The dreaming scenes are filmed with an airy, murky quality, but so are many of the waking scenes, making it very difficult to tell whether a character is awake or asleep. Indeed, the movie never shows any character actually fall asleep, and as a result we are constantly on guard whenever characters so much as close their eyes for a moment. In crucial scenes, it is impossible to tell whether what we are seeing is real or happening only in a character's mind. But the movie ultimately suggests that the difference doesn't matter. The premise of the movie, in which a child-killer haunts teenager's dreams and has the capability of killing them while they're asleep, turns the whole "It was all just a dream" convention on its head: in this movie, the real world is safe, and the dream world is monstrously dangerous.

The movie finds a number of ways to explore this ambiguity, including a bathtub scene that invites comparisons with the shower scene in "Psycho" without being a cheap ripoff. My personal favorite scene, and one of the scariest I've ever seen in a movie, is the one where Nancy dozes off in the classroom while a student is standing up in front of the class reading a passage from Shakespeare. The way the scene transitions from the real classroom to a nightmarish version of it is brilliantly subtle.

The director, Wes Craven, understood that the anticipation of danger is usually more frightening than the final attack. There are some great visual shots to that effect, including one where Freddy's arms becomes unnaturally long in an alleyway, and another where the stairs literally turn into a gooey substance, in imitation of the common nightmare where it is hard to get away from a pursuer. The movie continually finds creative ways to tease the audience, never resorting to red herring, that tired old convention used in almost all other slasher films.

Despite the creativity in these scenes, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is still a formula movie, with relatively one-dimensional characters and no great performances. This was Johnny Depp's first role, as Heather Langenkamp's boyfriend, and although he does get a few neat lines of exposition (his speech about "dream skills"), his personality is not fleshed out, and there is no sense of the great actor Depp would go on to become.

Within the genre, however, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is a fine work. My main criticism isn't its failure to transcend the formula, but its confusing and obtuse ending, apparently put there in anticipation of sequels, but managing to create a mystery that the sequels were unable to clear up. The climactic confrontation between Freddy and Nancy is weakly handled. The crucial words she says to him are surprisingly clunky, and her father's muted behavior during that scene is almost inexplicable. It has led me to consider an alternative interpretation of the scene, but one that feels like a cop-out. The scene that follows, and where the movie ends, is anticlimactic and unnecessary. These clumsily-made final two scenes come close to ruining the movie, and it is a testament to the film's many good qualities that it still stands as an unusually effective horror film that invites repeat viewings.
Its reputation is a bit flattering but still a very good low budget horror film5/10

Every small-town neighborhood has an old legend that never dies. For the residents of Elm Street, Fred Krueger is the demonic soul that plagues their nightmares. Krueger was an evil child molester, burned alive by the parents of the children he had slain in the past. Now, years later, he has reappeared in the nightmares of Elm Street's teenagers. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) continually experiences these haunting visions in which the permanently scarred man chases her through the shadows of a boiler room -- the same room in which he used to slay his helpless victims. Nancy considers her dreams to be typical nightmares one of her best friends is apparently "sliced" to death during a deep sleep in her home.

Soon Nancy's dreams become worse, and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) admits that he has also been experiencing unpleasant nightmares. Together they uncover the truth behind Krueger's death years ago, and vow to stay awake as long as they can and strategize a plan to bring Krueger back into the "real world" and kill him once and for all.

Loosely based on true events, Wes Craven's inspiration for the tale originated after he reportedly read that a number of people across the world had died in their slumber. Blending fantasy with reality, Craven wrote and directed one of the most iconic horror films of all time, which -- similar to "Halloween" before it -- spawned an inferior legion of sequels and imitators, all of which continue to pale in comparison to the original.

The brilliance of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is that it relies on psychological fear vs. cheap exploitation tricks. "Halloween," directed by John Carpenter and released in 1978, had re-sparked interest in the Hitchcock-style horror/thrillers, and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" builds upon this, cleverly channeling the mystery surrounding dreams and using it as a gateway for chills and thrills. Midway through the movie, a doctor played by Richard Fleischer tells Nancy's mother that the process of dreams -- where do they come from? -- has yet to be explained, and the fact that all humans tend to have dreams on a regular basis is essentially why this film remains so scary, even by today's standards. Some of the special effects are quite outdated but, unlike the "Nightmare" imitators, gore plays second to the plot and characters -- something rare in a horror film.

The sequels became sillier and gorier. Fred's name changed to the less menacing "Freddy" (which we all now know him by), he was given more screen time, the makeup on his face was not quite as horrific, he began to crack jokes more often and his voice evolved into a less demonic cackle. In the original "Nightmare" it is interesting to note that Freddy is rarely given screen time at all -- we see his infamous hands (wearing gloves with butter knives attached on the fingers to slice his victims), we see his hat, we see his sweater, we see his outline in the darkness of the shadows, but even when we finally see Freddy up-close, Craven manages to keep the camera moving so that we never gain a distinct image of the killer. Now, twenty years later, there's no mystery anymore -- Freddy's face is featured on the front cover for most of the films and his very presence has become the cornerstone of all the movies in the franchise. But in 1984, long before Craven predicted his character would become a huge part of modern pop culture, Freddy was mysterious and not very funny at all.

The acting is one of the film's weaknesses -- Heather Langenkamp is never totally awe-inspiring as Nancy, truth be told (although she does a decent job); Depp -- in his big-screen debut -- shows a sign of talent to come but basically mutters cliched dialogue most of the time. The co-stars are acceptable at best. However the greatest performance is -- not surprisingly -- by Robert Englund, as Freddy, who is in the film barely at all. Ironically, as mentioned above, this only makes the film succeed at scaring us.

The direction is not as superb as "Halloween," and for that matter either is the film. Over the years, "Nightmare" has arguably been given an overrated reputation, although it is inferior to "Halloween." However, compared to some of the other so-called "horror films" released during the '80s -- including "Friday the 13th" and other dumb slasher flicks -- "A Nightmare on Elm Street" does seem to stand as one of the best horror films of the decade. Despite its flaws it is quite smart with a surprise "final" ending and one of cinema's greatest villains lurking at the core.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is really Nancy's story. The film focuses on Nancy's troubles, Nancy's dreams and Nancy's actions. The ending of the film becomes a bit muddled -- the booby traps are unfortunately a bit goofy and Freddy helplessly (almost humorously) chasing Nancy around her home supposedly trying to murder her is something the film could have done without -- but overall it is a satisfying mixture of horror, thriller and fantasy, a movie that taps into two seldom-recognized everyday events in human life, which are sleeping, and dreaming. Craven's ability to realize this unknown fear in a movie is, needless to say, quite fascinating. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is not a great movie but for horror buffs it is a must-see and for non-horror-buffs there is a fair amount of other elements to sustain one's interest.