A Nightmare on Elm Street
Dir: Wes Craven
Star: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Johnny Depp
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1984
Format: DVD R1

The teenagers of the small American town of Springwood or more specifically Elm Street are disturbed by recurring nightmares of a mysterious and sinister horribly burned man in a dirty brown fedora, tattered red and green striped jumper who wears a metal glove on his right hand tipped with razor sharp blades. Disturbed by the strange apparition which is apparently stalking her in her dreams and convinced that it is more than a mere dream Tina, (Amanda Wyss) explains her dreams and fears to her friends Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Glen (Johnny Depp). After speaking with them it is apparent that they too have also dreamt of the razor gloved psychopath as have many others but it seems to Tina that she is likely to die at the hands of her dream demon. As they all seem to share a common fear Nancy and Glen agree to stay the night at Tina's house whilst her parents are away. That night events take a shocking turn for the worse as Tina is brutally slain in her sleep by by the mysterious Freddy which results in her death in the real world (disturbing but memorable scene). Tina's boyfriend Rod (Nick Corri) whom was with her at the time and witnessed the unbelievable and inexplicable event is blamed for the murder and is soon arrested by Nancy's father John Saxon. After speaking to Rod in his jail cell Nancy concludes that there is a connection between Tina's recurring nightmares and her untimely demise. Eventually devoid of sleep and herself now pursued by Freddy, (Robert Englund) Nancy learns from the gin soaked ramblings of her alcoholic mother Ronee Blakley that Freddy was a real person. Fred Kreuger had been a vicious child murderer in their town who was released from prison after the police bungled his arrest but enraged by his release a group of vigilante parents chased him down and murdered him in his own boiler room by setting him alight. As if that wasn't bad enough it turns out that Nancy's own parents were implicated in his demise. Now as Nancy continually deprives herself of sleep her friends one by one are dying in theirs and she knows that she must now face her worst nightmare to try to stop the maleavolent Fred Kreuger.

The revolutionary horror movie that spawned 7 sequels to date, a television series and a cult following which is lets face it unrivalled first took the cinemas by storm in 1984. A Nightmare on Elm Street broke all of the moulds and the rules for horror movies at the time and became one of the most influential movies that helped shape the modern genre. Inspired by a series of small and seemingly unrelated articles in the LA Times concerning the deaths of some children whom had been troubled by nightmares since their escape from Cambodia, writer / director Wes Craven set about writing a daring story about a dream demon killer that stalked the sleep of adolesents. Essentially Wes Craven set out to create a pure horror movie which he wanted to be different and that all importantly would be able to scare the pants off of most if not all of the audience by constantly keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. A tall order at a time when most horror films were woefully predictable and the studios had specific ideas concerning horror movies and their content. Eventually Craven found financial backing with a small movie company called New Line Cinema who until that point were specialist in small "student" films and were eager to make their mark on Hollywood. Through the manic advocation of New Line's boss Robert Shaye they managed to raise the meagre budget of $1.5 million Dollars to make the picture. The film was a huge success and little did they realise what a profound effect the film would have or how popular this monster that they had unleashed would become as people around the world soon trembled at a new and shared nightmare.......that of Fred Kreuger.

The film itself manages to combine many of the traditional horror film elements with some very impressive direction as you would expect with Wes Craven and a few impressive special effects encompassed neatly within an intelligent and subtle script. Wes Craven even uses the relative safety of a middle class suburban American town as the setting for this roller coaster ride of horror in order to drive the story firmly home. "It couldn't happen here"....oh but it could and that is just the point. The film's reputation undoubtibly preceeds it but don't be under any misconceptions about A Nightmare on Elm Street because it is much more stylish and surrealistic than a mere "slasher" movie. The movie also has many subtle levels and to some it may be viewed as a cultural parenthetical of the time or by others a gutsy horror fantasy movie firmly interwoven within a metaphysical fabric or even as a coming of age thriller or parable. This is of course in addition to the more deeper seated and basic angle of a kind of beauty and the beast or the more standard good versus evil. The film also comes full circle and begins as it ends......with a dream but you are kept guessing throughout what is a dream and what isn't which includes the ending.

A superb and evocative performance by Robert Englund which is as startling as it is powerful and more than adequately fleshes out the crispy and well done Fred Kreuger. The charred and horrific scarring of Freddy were designed by David Miller who did an intensely disturbing job even though the original make-up was redesigned for the later movies. As you watch Fred Kreuger display a flagrant disregard for himself or his "safety" it is apparent to his victims that they cannot win or harm something like that which serves to make him that much more terrifying. A lot of the credit for the remarkable and enduring popularity of this movie bad guy is undoubtibly due to the fantastic performance of Englund. Despite the machiavellian homicidal and malicious tendencies, Freddy Kreuger rapidly became one of the most popular movie bad guys ever which has elevated him to the dizzy heights of a cultural icon.

A good cast provide some captivating and memorable performances even a young Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Despite occasionally being a little cheesy the performance of Heather Langenkamp as the courageous and increasingly resourceful Nancy is marvellous. Shortly into the film you begin to feel for her character as she questions her sanity whilst enduring the loss of her friends, the increasingly wayward behaviour of her alcoholic mother (Ronee Blakley) and the brief affections of her estranged father the police officer who is inspirationally played by John Saxon. On top of her parents divorce the young Nancy has to cope with her mothers alcoholism, the amourous attentions of her boyfriend Glenn (Johnny Depp), the dwindling number of her friends as they succumb to their nightmares and of course the maleavolent spirit of the murdered child murderer who invades her dreams intent upon her demise.

We all have to sleep, to dream. It is one of those frustrating inevitabilities that binds us all together and makes us human. With A Nightmare on Elm Street the films writer and director Wes Craven effectively exploits our most basic weakness to offer us a glimpse at real horror. The mere prospect that whilst the body is at slumber, it is wide open and defenceless against a myriad of night terrors in this case the mutilated and maleavolent spirit of child murderer Fred Kreuger is in itself terrifying.

This dark, moody and very atmospheric film is a testament to a true exponent of the cinematic art. Over the years many directors and film makers have tried to emulate or mimic the unique visual style and complexity used in this particular film by it's writer and director Wes Craven. Due to the huge advances made in the fields of computer effects and camera technology one or two of the films effects look a little basic and perhaps dated but retain their realistic and visceral charm and can be easily overlooked. This is definately a film which deserves it's true credit and merits, of which as a tense and disturbing original it undeniably helped to shape the modern horror film genre.


Whatever you do, don't fall asleep

Rating: 5 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Great digitally remastered transfer
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 & Original Mono soundtrack Teeth achingly splendid Dolby mix.
Great commentary track by director Wes Craven and director of photography Jacques Haitkin plus stars Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon.
Cast & Crew Biographies.
"Jump to a Nightmare" scene selection.
Cool interactive menu
Verdict As this disc is part of The Nightmare on Elm Street "Platinum Series" boxed set the disc is different to the standard release and minimal extra's on this disc are reflected by a seperate disc within the collection which contains the bulk of the extra material for this and the other films. On the whole this is a good disc with an excellent presentation of the movie although I have to admit that it is hard to believe that we used to enjoy films with a Mono soundtrack. A balance which is evident with the two soundtrack options available on this disc.

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home