In Wes Craven’s classic slasher film, several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured midnight mangler who preys on the teenagers in their dreams — which, in turn, kills them in reality. After investigating the phenomenon, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) begins to suspect that a dark secret kept by her and her friends’ parents may be the key to unraveling the mystery, but can Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) solve the puzzle before it’s too late?
To say that Wes Craven’s 1984 horror feature A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic not only in the horror film genre, but as a film in general, would be an understatement to say the least. The iconic horror feature has since spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and even a 2010 reboot movie, which was met with mixed responses from critics and audiences alike.
The original 1984 film has been massively influential on horror filmmakers ever since its initial release. When a movie that has been released over thirty years ago is still being highly regarded today, you know that something was done right.
Right from the beginning of A Nightmare on Elm Street, we get an uneasy feeling due to the eerie atmosphere and brilliant cinematography that tracks down a creepy hallway full of steampipes. But something that I feel does not get enough attention in the opening titles are the credits that appear on screen during this scene. The font that is used on the names of all the cast and crew are jumbled around, making the overall feel of the picture that much more disturbing.
All of the acting is superb as well, but the true standout here is breakout child star Heather Langenkamp as the lead protagonist Nancy Thompson. Her performance here is without a doubt one of the best child performances of all time. Throughout the film, people that are close to her are found dead, and eventually, she suspects that something more supernatural is at play.
While at first, the deaths of the individuals close to Nancy seems like just another serial killer, she begins to think that the scary man in her dreams is the culprit. She explains that the man in her nightmare has long knives for fingers, a dirty red and green sweater, a hat, and a melted face. The setup to iconic horror character Freddy Krueger is absolutely incredible. Every time we hear about this entity, the buildup to his eventual reveal is haunting. That’s why when he first appears on screen, it is that much more jarring.
Nancy will stop at nothing to ensure that Krueger is stopped once and for all, but it is difficult for her once she realizes that he can attack you in your dreams, which then makes Nancy want to stay up all night in fear that he will kill her while she is asleep. She is constantly on edge the more nights she stays awake and it makes her character that much more interesting, because she desperately wants to defeat Krueger.
However, as great as A Nightmare on Elm Street is, I honestly do not view this movie as a complete masterpiece or a flawless work of art. There are a couple of issues that I have with it. The first one being that, at times, I felt like the story got a little bit messy and too confusing. There are a ton of things that happen in this film and some elements felt a bit rushed.
As for the second flaw, it has to do with the ending. It just flat out does not make a lot of sense. It’s genuinely confusing considering the events that happen in the previous scene and it seemed like it ended just so they could make a sequel.
An astounding performance from Heather Langenkamp, clever cinematography, a chilling score, and an eerie story make A Nightmare on Elm Street a horror favorite.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R
Cast: John Saxon, Ronee Blakly, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Directed by: Wes Craven
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Running Time: 91 minutes