“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a genre movie through and through, but it’s also one of the best, for this simple reason: like the original “Halloween” and “Hellraiser,” “Nightmare” brought something new to the Slasher genre. Besides introducing Freddy Krueger into the American lexicon, “Nightmare” was one of the most frightening movies I had ever seen as a kid.
Now, as an adult (an assertion that’s open to debate by intimate friends, natch), the whole premise of “Nightmare” still appeals to me. A serial killer that can stalk you in your dreams? The premise was horrifying. At least with a Michael or a Jason you had a chance — a small one, but a chance nonetheless — to defeat them. But how do you run from a killer that’s just waiting for you to go to sleep? The answer: not very effectively! Especially in light of the fact that if you’re killed in your dreams, you also die in real life!
Heather Langenkamp stars as Nancy Thompson, the Innocent Teen that has to battle Freddy Krueger. Because Nancy is the Innocent Teen (there is always one in a Slasher film, it’s a Golden Rule or something), she has a boyfriend, but she isn’t promiscuous. In fact, her promiscuous friend Tina (Amanda Wyss) is the first one Freddy visits and slaughters. (Ladies, remember, if you’re in a Slasher movie, whatever you do don’t (literally) screw around!)
You see, years ago Freddy was… Well, I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to see the movie, but needless to say, ol Freddy has plenty of reasons to stalk the children of Elm Street. It’s personal. Although the adults have all the answers (or at least the answers to Freddy’s true identity), it’s the kids, led by the independent and strong-willed Nancy, who must fight back. They have a big stake in the matter because Freddy is getting back at the adults through their kids!
Written and directed by Wes Craven, “Nightmare” is one of the most creative genre pictures to come down the pipe back in 1984; it’s even more special now, with the sea of “Scream” carbon copies flooding the market. (Craven, incidentally, helped bring the whole cheapo Teen Slasher film back into fad with “Scream”.) The whole concept of a bogeyman that can invade your dreams and kill you is a stroke of brilliance. The film spawn a string of sequels, with Heather Langenkamp returning for Part 3, then again in 1994’s “New Nightmare.”
“New Nightmare” took a very novel (and intriguing) approach by bringing back everyone, including Craven, Langenkamp, and franchise star Robert Englund (Freddy) to play themselves, as well as introducing a whole new angle to the Freddy mythos. The 1994 movie also brought back the horror element to the franchise, whereas the other sequels had journeyed into absurd and comedy territory. By the end of Part 3, Freddy seemed to have given up the whole notion of scaring the audience, and was preoccupied with making wince-inducing one-liners and bad puns.
Wes Craven (director) / Wes Craven (screenplay)
CAST: John Saxon …. Donald Thompson
Heather Langenkamp …. Nancy Thompson
Nick Corri …. Rod Lane
Johnny Depp …. Glen Lantz
Robert Englund …. Freddy Krueger