Dir: Wes Craven, 1984
One of the most important horror films of all time, Wes Craven’s masterpiece introduced to the cinematic universe, the frightening and, now iconic, Freddy Krueger.
Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss) suffers a nightmare about a horribly disfigured man in a red and green striped jumper, wearing a Fedora and a glove with blades on the end.
Talking to her friends at school the next day, Tina becomes aware that best friend Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) had the same dream.
Scared by it, Tina has Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (a very young Johnny Depp) stay the night.
However, Tina’s on-off-on again boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri), gatecrashers the sleepover.
After having sex, they both fall asleep where Tina has her nightmare, again. In the dream, the figure brutally murders her by slashing her torso open.
Awakened by Tina’s thrashing around, Rod witnesses her murder by an unknown assailant.
He goes on the run, knowing the police will blame him.
Nancy’s father, Don (John Saxon), is the police Lieutenant assigned to the case.
Following the death, Nancy often falls asleep and always has the same encounter with Tina’s murderer, waking up with physical marks picked up in the dream.
The police have arrested Rod and have him locked up in a cell. Fast asleep, the disfigured entity penetrates Rod’s dream and hangs him with a bed sheet.
Knowing something is up, Nancy confides in her alcoholic mum about the dream only to be told that the person she is describing is child killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).
In an act of vengeance many years before, the parents of Elm Street children tracked Krueger to his hideout and torched the place with Freddy inside, killing him.
Nancy’s mother still keeps the murderous glove in the basement.
Nancy is left with no choice but to bring Freddy out from her dream and do battle.
The eighties was an excellent time for horror. It gave birth to so many characters and catchphrases, all recognisable by their clothing.
A Nightmare On Elm Street is often referred to as the first slasher film but I don’t see why. Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th came four to five years earlier.
But Craven’s contribution to the genre is the better of the two.
Whereas Friday followed the tried and tested formula of suspense and stalking, made perfectly by John Carpenter in his 1978 film Halloween, Craven ditched that and went for the fantastical approach and all out horror.
This works, as Freddy is scarier than Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. The latter two icons are mute but Freddy is given a voice and this allows Englund to play around with the character injecting some fun and say amusing, while unsettling, lines.
Nobody can play Freddy like Robert Englund. Jackie Earle Haley attempted the task in 2010’s remake but failed, miserably.
Continuing the friendly rivalry of The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi, Wes Craven tried to go that little bit extra with the blood letting.
Raimi poured buckets of claret in his first film but to humorous effect. Craven just poured it to outdo him.
It’s a very effective horror film that still stands the test of time, today.
I’ve always felt that it’s very unfair to call it a slasher movie. The fact that Freddy isn’t real and people die in fantastical circumstances rather than just an axe to the head, take this firmly out of the Jason and Myers genre.
Although a horror film at heart, Craven does inject a very thin strand of black comedy. Depp getting sucked into the bed is a good example. Or the infamous ending of Nancy’s mum being dragged the door window is another.
Craven is out to scare you but also to have a chuckle as well.
On its release in America, the MPAA demanded that the splash of blood caused by landing on the bed after being cut up had to go. The scene cuts to a shot of Rod just as she makes contact.
In Britain and many other countries, the scene was left intact and the good fortune to be watching the uncut version for many years while the US had the slightly one.
Unfortunately, when it came to releasing the DVD, all prints were struck from the US master which had the censorship. Even though the majority of countries had the uncut version on video, they were now lumbered with the cut version and nobody seems to care about this or has any interest in making a global release of the uncensored print.
A thoroughly enjoyable horror which can still send a chill up your spine.