Despite the fact that thanks to the myriad sequels A Nightmare on Elm Street became more famous for the kill scenes and Freddie’s death quips than any other reason, I will happily declare the first film had at least one point which was genius.
That point being that the sinister slaughterer of pretty teens, Mr Freddie Kruger, operated in the dreams of the kids.
When the main issue for most horror films is whether to try to remain rooted in reality or to embrace impossibility and the illogical for scares, this decision was inspired.
After all, what could be sillier than a dream? Once that was defined the remainder of this film – and the countless dodgy sequels – writes itself. Dreams are supposed to be freaky and insane, they are supposed to make no sense and yet for that very reason are often incredibly interesting – unless you happen to be the one listening to the dreamer’s account the next morning… especially if you are chastised for things you did in that person’s dream!
The best moments in Nightmare are the ones that inspire you the viewer to wonder ‘is this the kid’s dream or a real bit?’, such moments are fleeting and usually answered when the kid walks on a staircase that melts beneath their feet or falls in a seemingly bottomless bath, or something similarly crazy.
The first kill scene in particular is especially creative and fun to watch as the victim appears to be thrown and carried about the room by an unseen assailant, before being partially eviscerated by same, much to the horror of her bedmate.
Freddie Kruger (Robert Englund) is a fine creation too, a gnarly faced burn victim with a razor glove and Dennis the Menace dress sense. In the original film his dialogue is limited to the simply menacing, no quips and ironic jokes here, he is simply a vicious killer of sleepy teens at this point.
Freddie’s main object of torment is the reasonably straight-laced and incessantly logical Nancy, whose dad happens to be the Police Chief and whose boyfriend is the simply dreamy Johnny Depp in all his teenaged glory. Being an 80s horror film the original Nightmare is a little light on for kills, from memory there were only a few and therefore they were all Big Events worthy of lavish setpieces, and not simply another large breasted statistic.
As with a lot of films from the era I am at a loss as to how this might be considered scary now – though I do remember packing my dacks at the prospect of watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 with some schoolmates when it was released on VHS, especially as some of them were girls and I had no idea just how scared I might be.
I’ve said it before, but many horror films are scarier in the time before you watch them.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is creative, original and well made, the acting as always in such films is 50/50, but Freddie is a big plus and I must once again mention the dream part. I like the film, I even recommend it to any horror fan who hasn’t yet seen it, but I can’t say that I found it even a teeny bit scary.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Yep Freddie has justifiably become quite the horror icon, but I can’t help but feel if it weren’t for the decision to use dreamland as the setting for the gruesome kills he might have long since faded from the consciousness, just like one of his soon to be victims.