Movie Review – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

1984 New Line Cinema

Three and Half Star

In a workshop a man constructs a gruesome weapon, a glove with blades attached to the fingers. In a boiler room a horribly burnt man chases a girl wearing a nightgown, taunting her by running the sharp fingers of the glove against metal pipes. Don’t worry though it’s only a dream.

So opens the first and best of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. After the creepy opening credit sequence we are introduced to friends Nancy, Tina, Rod, and Glen. It turns out that all of them have been having similar nightmares featuring the man with the dangerous glove and bad disposition. We soon learn that some nightmares have a lot more bite to them and you won’t be waking up if you die in dreamland. Thus begins the journey between reality and the dream world as Fred Krueger opens his bloody reign of terror on the young people of Elm Street.

Any fan of horror movies knows this was a big success and was the launching pad for a slew of sequels and merchandise. I found it interesting to go back and watch this after not seeing it for a number of years. After watching it again it’s not hard to see why this movie has endured.
This first Nightmare is a genuinely scary movie with a unique story that differentiates it from the usual run of the mill slasher movies. Yes there are the usual teenage characters and the somewhat dimwitted and annoyingly ineffective adult characters but wrapped around the usual horror trappings is the myth created around Krueger before and after his death at the hands of vengeful parents.
In this movie Wes Craven and crew created a very interesting reality with rules that bent the horror movie clichés a little off-kilter. The story is given just enough grounding in the real world to make the horrific dreams seem plausible and just as real.
Despite the low budget production this is the best Elm Street movie in terms of pure thrills and chills. This movie is a classic and a must have for any lover of the horror genre.

The stuff that nightmares are made of.

Before there was Freddy there was Fred.

Introducing the dead meat!

The good:

The imagery is awesome. There are so many scenes full of dark visions like Fred appearing in the wall over Nancy’s bed, Tina being dragged across the floor in the bloody body bag, Freddy with long spidery arms, and a bed shooting a fountain of blood.

Fred is a grim and shadowy barely seen nightmare come alive. This is how he should be and should have been in the sequels. In this movie he kills and vanishes into the world of dreams leaving torn and bloody bodies in his wake.

The music score by Charles Bernstein is really good. The main theme is a classic.

A classic scene illustrates the dangers of cheap construction material.

The original and the best.

You really can’t give enough credit to Robert Englund for the popularity of the Nightmare series. His portrayal of Freddy is just the right combination of creepy mixed with a bizarre charisma that is hard to explain. If they had miscast this part it just wouldn’t have worked as well.The not so good:

I found it hard to believe the bit at the end where Nancy booby traps her house, has a heart to heart talk with her mother, falls asleep, and manages to trap Freddy all within twenty minutes.

The ending is a little too open ended; it’s interesting but leaves too many questions hanging.

The acting is a little iffy at times.

Random thoughts and observations:

The makers of the sequels did a horrific job of following the rules laid out regarding the dream world. It would have made them much stronger story wise if they had been consistent throughout the series.

The new uniforms at Nancy’s school proved to be very unpopular.

The first and second movies are the only two with characters not defined by one character trait. All the other movies define a certain characteristic in each person for Freddy to use against them in their dreams.

Favorite Kill:

Tina cuts herself while shaving her legs on the ceiling. This makes me wonder how the police explained bloody hand and body prints on the ceiling?

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