A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984, USA)

  Director Wes Craven’s most iconic film, A Nightmare on Elm Street still holds up in 2020. While it does not reach the greatness of Carpenter’s Halloween, it is still a remarkable launch of one of the biggest horror franchises of all time. Freddy Krueger makes his first appearance in this film. Here he is far from the wisecracking figure he would become in later films in the franchise, and as such he is a much more menacing figure. The director and crew play within the confines of their budget to bring terrifying visions to life, straddling the boundary between dreams and reality.

The acting in Nightmare is serviceable. Johnny Depp makes his debut appearance in the film, although his performance is far from exceptional. Leading actress Heather Langenkamp does a decent job, conveying the terror and sleep deprivation of a teenager hunted by a killer in her dreams. Robert Englund doesn’t have much dialogue as “Fred” Krueger in the film when compared to later entries in the series, but he does a remarkable amount with body language. 

Craven’s script is successful now in that it brought more thematic weight to the traditional slasher. While the tropes of the final girl are on full display here, Craven also stresses the generational conflict on display in the film. The parents in the film are filled with problems such as alcoholism, and they refuse to acknowledge the plight of the teenagers.

The greatest moments of Elm Street are its set pieces. The death of Johnny Depp’s character is still shocking. Likewise, the scene in which Heather Langenkamp’s character is dragged into the underwater world beneath her bathtub is still inventive and great. Overall, Nightmare on Elm Street will continue to be viewed with appreciation, even as later films in the series have perhaps tainted the legacy of the franchise.


7/10

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