A Nightmare on Elm Street

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series Hallowe'en Horror Week

Released: 1984
Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Heather Lagenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund


A classic 80s teen horror

Just to prove I’m not completely averse to horror films I was given the choice the other night of what to watch.  A Nightmare on Elm Street or Saw .  Of course it was A Nightmare on Elm Street – I know a classic slasher flick when I see one.  For those of us who grew up in the 80s, Freddy Krueger is the ultimate bogeyman and it still causes a shudder when we see a green and red stripey jumper.  And not just because of the fashion faux pas of wearing red and green together.

Long before Christopher Nolan’s Inception took us into a dream world which impacted on the waking world, Wes Craven created a much more frightening scenario.  Four teenagers, including a very young and cute Johnny Depp, start to share the same nightmare.  In it they are pursued by a horribly disfigured man with knives for fingers.  It soon becomes apparent that the injuries inflicted on the teenagers in their dream states carry into the conscious world.  One by one Freddy hunts down the young people in their dreams and kills them in a violent and bloody manner.

I love A Nightmare on Elm Street.  It is one of the few horror films that really makes me jump. It is inventive and scary but has quite a sense of humour at the same time.  While the dream world is the stuff of fantasy other elements are recognisable and scary.  As far as I know my parents were never part of a vigilante mob who murdered a child killer, I can understand the fear created by not wanting to go to sleep and how bad dreams can stay with us for days.

The death scenes are appropriately bloody and gruesome and the small number of (potential) victims is much more effective than films where dozens of anonymous teens are dispatched.  We are given plenty of time to get to know the characters and Freddy’s pursuit of them is all the more suspenseful for the time that it takes.  We wait for the deaths to occur, but not for too long.  A Nightmare on Elm Street is only 91 minutes long and is perfectly paced to both create suspense and be action packed at the same time.

Robert Englund is great as the monstrous Freddy Krueger but I’m never entirely scared when he appears.  I see Englund much more as the Willie, the friendly Visitor from 80s sci-fi classic V.  It’s entirely possible that if I had seen A Nightmare on Elm Street before V, my opinion would have been reversed and Freddy would terrify me.

Heather Lagenkamp as heroic Nancy is also very good.  She’s scared but resourceful enough to work out what’s going on and develop a plan to tackle Freddy.  The other teen actors aren’t quite as good, not even Johnny Depp but they aren’t awful either.  And let’s be honest, no-one watches horror movies for the Oscar-winning calibre of the acting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic.  It’s engaging, scary and fun to watch.  If every horror film was this good I’d be the genre’s biggest fan.

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