“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again…”
Wow. Just wow. This film scared me rigid the first time I saw it and I still believe it to be one of the most effective horror films I have ever seen. With A Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven bit back at his detractors who criticised him for films such as The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes and in doing so, made a film that has become nothing less than a pop culture phenomenon.
This is the film that introduced the world to child murderer, Frederick Charles Krueger, better known simply as “Freddy”. The scarred, razor-gloved, fedora wearer in the dirty red and green jumper has become one of the most beloved of all horror icons. His image is now legendary.
A Nightmare On Elm Street takes us to the town of Springwood, Ohio. To the titular suburban street. Many years previously, residents of Elm Street burned down the house of local child-killer Fred Krueger, killing him in the process. Now, Freddy is back and still stalking the children of Springwood in their dreams. Falling asleep could be fatal.
When her best friend Tina dies at the claws of Krueger, Nancy Thompson begins to suffer from terrifying dreams. It seems that Freddy has her card marked too…
Craven’s film is genius. There. I said it. Deftly blurring the lines between dream and reality, Craven created a film that had amazing technical effects, a fantastic young cast and a truly terrifying villain.
So what of the cast? Heather Langenkamp is great as Nancy. Langenkamp reprised the role in the third instalment, Dream Warriors and later appeared as herself in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Exploitation legend John Saxon (Enter The Dragon, Cannibal Apocalypse) puts in a small but effective role as her father, the local chief of police. Saxon also cropped up later in the same films as Langenkamp.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is also notable for featuring the first film role of a budding young actor named John Christopher Depp II. Yes, Johnny Depp. (HYSTERICAL SCREAM) OK… ok… As Nancy’s ill-fated boyfriend Glen, baby-faced Depp manages to stand out from the young cast. It’s an assured debut. Who knew, eh? Depp later returned for a small cameo in Freddy’s Dead.
Of course, these films have always been about Freddy. Robert Englund is just superb. He brings a real fun sort of menace to the role and although his character got cheesier and camper in the later films, there simply is no Nightmare on Elm Street and no Freddy unless it’s Englund in the costume.
The effects are stunning and many of the scenes from A Nightmare on Elm Street have become icons in their own right. Take Tina’s death, for instance, where she is dragged up the wall and across the ceiling before falling back to the bed in a splash of blood. An excellent set piece and a staggering accomplishment for the time. How about Glen’s death?? You know, where Depp is pulled through his mattress and explodes..No…ERUPTS…in a geyser of blood. Tremendous.
There should not be a single person reading my page who has not seen at least one of the Nightmare movies and even if there is, I am pretty damn sure that they know who Freddy Krueger is and what he looks like. To date, A Nightmare on Elm Street has spawned six sequels, a crossover with Friday the 13th in 2004′s Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy’s Nightmares, an anthology TV series in the vein of Tales from the Crypt, books, comics and videogames, most recently with Freddy appearing as a playable fighter in 2011′s Mortal Kombat.
And then there is the 2010 remake. Dark, brooding and boring. Jackie Earle Haley, though a fine actor, never feels like Freddy. Never will. It’s another tedious and unnecessary money-making effort.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic within the genre. Still frightening. Still wonderful. With the notable exception of Part 3: Dream Warriors, the series never came close to touching the first film. Few films have attempted to replicate it. Craven’s film is a timeless horror masterpiece and one that is definitely compulsory viewing.
DON’T FALL ASLEEP…