Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia
Written & Directed By: Wes Craven
A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most iconic and inspiring horror films. It is such a haunting film that has everything; great characters, gory and original deaths, a creative story, and interesting concepts. It merges the lines of reality and fiction; taking away any safety net and taking us in to a dimension where nightmares are a reality and nothing is impossible. You really care for the characters, which is one thing that makes it stand apart from the average slasher. Nancy is easy to sympathize with as one of the stronger female characters of horror. Freddy is such a darkly thrilling villain to watch in action. He is a fun yet creepy villain who takes his victims in to his own world where he is in control.
Nancy (Lagenkamp) begins having horrible dreams one night. A burned man with knives for finger nails is out to kill her. These nightmares seem so real. The only cure appears to be avoiding sleep. Anytime she drifts off she is in a world where she no longer has control. After her friend, Tina (Wyss), is murdered she begins to fear these nightmares even more. The suspect for the crime is Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Garcia). He was the only one in the room with her when she was killed but he insists that he is innocent. Nancy wants to believe him and is persuaded further when he tells her that there was someone else in the room. Rod tells Nancy about nightmares he has been having. He describes the man from her nightmares as a man in a red and green sweater with finger knives attached to his hands. Nancy realizes that this is the same man that has been haunting her. He might have been responsible for Tina’s death as well.
Upon hearing her theory everyone thinks she is crazy, including her boyfriend, Glenn (Depp). Nancy finds more out about this man. His name is Fred Krueger and he was a child murderer in life. When he was released despite his crimes, the parents in the neighborhood took matters in to their own hands and burned him alive. Now he is out for revenge and the unlucky kids of Elm Street are his target. Nancy realizes that her only hope in saving her friends and her own life is if she can take him out of her dream and bring him in to reality to defeat him. She just has to make sure she’s ready for him. Otherwise, Nancy will be his next victim and truly helpless from preventing Freddy’s terror reign.
Heather Langenkamp shines as Nancy. She is very likable and kind, yet determined and fierce. Many would be too afraid to even challenge Freddy and she is really the first to since his death. Her intelligence, resilience, and actively fighting for survival is intoxicating. Freddy would not be the villain he is without Robert Englund. So much of Freddy and the effectiveness of this nightmare is what Robert and Wes created together, each bringing a part of Freddy alive. Robert’s voice, mannerisms, wit, and dark presence fuels the character and makes him equally terrifying and thrilling to watch. He brings the evils that embody Freddy to life with that dark sense of humor that is both completely demented and frightening.
Wes Craven created a remarkable horror film with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although he has had many frightening and unique films, A Nightmare on Elm Street is his masterpiece in my opinion. It was one of the first horror films that really exhilarated me and explored deeper themes of fear and the need to always keep fighting no matter how hopeless or unreal the nightmare seems. Dreams have always been a safety net. No matter how horrifying something might seem, it’s only a dream. Craven takes away this assurance. Even though some people say that you can control your dreams that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Freddy is the one that is in control. Also there is a very strong psychological aspect; Freddy gets his power by those fearing him. It is all through the mind and dreams are the immediate connection that opens that portal.
A Nightmare on Elm Street gave birth to the most effective slasher villain. His supernatural abilities give him speed and time on his side making it impossible for his victims to get away. As he has knives for fingers he has weapons attached to his body ready to strike at any time. He battles his victims in the dream world, where they are most off guard and where he is the master.
One of the two most notable kill scenes is with the first kill of Tina. Her body is moving violently across the room. At times we see Freddy and what he is doing to her and at other times we only see what everyone else is seeing: the body being attacked, but no attacker in sight. It is clear she is in deep pain, but no one, not even her boyfriend can do anything about this. Blood is smeared all over the room; Freddy has now made his mark and will be back for more blood. The supernatural aspects to the film are a big part of what makes Freddy so frightening. He essentially is a ghost since he was killed. Yet this is something he kind of turns on and off. At times you can see him and times you can’t. He has a significant amount of control in this, but part of this is the questioning of whether he has gotten in to your head yet. Dreams are something that can seem very real at times but are just our imaginations at work. Freddy takes the control and lets his imagination go wild. He makes it real but on his terms of death and despair.