Director – Wes Craven
Cast – Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Jsu Garcia, Amanda Wyss, Robert Englund, Charles Fleischer
Release Year – 1984
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Horror legend Wes Craven really did not have to do this. He had already solidified himself in the realm of horror with his 70s flicks “The Last House on the Left” and “The Hills Have Eyes”. Craven could have ended his career right then and there and been a name mentioned in discussions over great 70s horror flicks. Thankfully, he continued his co-dominance(John Carpenter was just as dominant during this same time span) of the horror genre at the time and gave us his best film to date, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Throwing in a very interesting character for the slasher genre, this flick is one of the genre’s most well known titles and is a staple for great and creepy filmmaking with a very low budget.
This flick centers on a group of friends who all have the same dream one night about a man with a charred face, worn hat, green and red sweater, and wears gloves with steak knives attached to each finger. The next day the friends are all spending the night together due to one of the girls really freaking out over her nightmare. During the night the girl is killed in very gruesome fashion by a killer that was never seen, yet her boyfriend could see the cuts happening in real time. A killer is one the loose, but this killer is like none other ever experienced by this small sleepy town. This killer kills you in your dreams as you sleep. He cannot be seen by those outside of the dream, yet the results are very real. Little do these friends know, their town has a deep and very dark secret. One that involved the vigilantic murder of a child killer named Freddy Krueger, a child killer who has vowed to take the children of those who murdered him so many years ago. As the number of deaths within the group increases, young Nancy Thompson must make her case to her naïve police Lieutenant of a father as she plans a final battle to kill Freddy once and for all.
Wes Craven did everything right when it comes to this flick. All the usual shout-outs/clichés he gives to the genre are well placed and somehow still wind up creepy even though we’ve seen them dozens of times in the past(example: the phone still ringing even though it has been unplugged). It just goes to show that with the right execution you can do anything you want and make it great. The creep factor doesn’t stop there, Craven did an excellent job using shadows and awesome camera angles to his advantage(example: the first kill where Tina is killed and dragged onto the ceiling). Craven doesn’t stray away from the gore either, which not only makes this film a very fun watch but adds to the pacing of the film as well. For a low-budget film with little money for gimmicks, this flick really paces well. I’m impressed Mr. Craven. Of course, all of this stuff is secondary to the real star of the film, Freddy Krueger himself!
I have always seen Freddy Krueger as the least special of my “Big Three” in the slasher genre. As you should have guessed by now, the three are Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and lastly, Freddy Krueger. This in no means is a statement that Freddy is not awesome, because in all actually…he is VERY awesome. He is the only big slasher figure to not be the “silent type” and speak aloud. Actually, he does more than speak aloud, he taunts and plays tricks on his victims. How awesome is that!?! His use of dark humor isn’t as present in this film as it is in the latter sequels, but this flick opened the door to the Freddy antics we have learned to love. I had always seen Craven as more of a director than a writer, but this flick really shows his great writing ability. The plot itself is a testament to great writing. For starters, it is one of the most interesting slasher/killer plots I’ve ever seen. A guy who kills you in your dreams? Not only is that scary itself, but the victim is basically helpless, which only ups the scare-factor. There is also a slight vengeance element thrown into this flick as well, and you know I LOVE vengeance. Sure Freddy pretty much deserved what happened to him, but nonetheless seeing him get revenge on those who are associated with his death was great to watch.
Now, as if this film couldn’t get any cooler…this flick marks the film debut of acting legend Johnny Depp. It is quite funny to think that Mr. Depp really had no intention of auditioning for this film, as he was merely accompanying friend Jackie Earl Haley to the auditions. Yes, THE Jackie Earl Haley who is now starring as Freddy Krueger in the upcoming remake of “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. Weird huh? Nonetheless, Craven asked Mr. Depp to audition for the piece and not only gave him his big break into the feature film industry, but gave us one of horror’s coolest and most gruesome deaths ever! Spoiler, I know.
I have no real complaints for this film whatsoever. Everything about this film is near perfect, and Craven gave us a rare gem that used very little to do a whole lot. If anything, I only wish we would have gotten more Freddy action in this flick. His scenes were spaced apart a bit far, and because he kills people in their dreams we don’t get to see him in each kill. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but because of that I would have like to see more kills so that we can get more screen time of this awesome villain.
Overall, this is an amazing horror film that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre and slasher sub-genre. We get a great storyline, awesome villain, and plenty of “goods”(gore, among other cool things) to please every fan of the genre. Watch this film, and appreciate some great low-budget filmmaking from a great horror legend.