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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Wes Craven
Year: 1984

When you talk about slasher horror cinema from the '80s, you have to mention the three big franchises: “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Their villains have become horror cinema idols and recognized by the general public. Freddy Krueger, villain of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” differences from Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees, villains of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, respectively, by not being hefty, being chatty and sarcastic, and because his weapon of choice is a crafted one and not a common object, as shown in the opening scene.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” presents Nancy, a young girl that starts having nightmares of a burnt man that stalks her and tries to kill her. Soon she realizes that he is not only stalking her, but also her friends and they start having violent deaths while sleeping. This killer is looking for revenge in the sons of those involved in his own death.

When “A Nightmare on Elm Street” appears, the slasher subgenre was well underway with four movies in the “Friday the 13th”  series and three in the “Halloween” series, just to mention the ones in these franchises. At this time the model of a built and silent killer delivering exaggerated death had been set. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” follows the slasher movie formula, but with a different villain and a more unrealistic and fantastic concept.

Betting for a more fantastic villain opens the opportunity to be more creative with the kills. The best example of this is the unforgettable scene where a young man is sucked by his bed and later pushed out as an eruption of blood, a scene as iconic as it is traumatizing. Having a killer that shows up in dreams also allows exploring disturbing imagery and locations without the need of being coherent, one of the qualities his movie exploits and that catapulted it to the highest pedestal in horror cinema.

In this era it was strange to see known names in the horror genre, but not uncommon to see young talents that later had successful careers, The protagonist Heather Lengenkamp did not have such a successful career besides appearing in other movies from director Wes Craven such as “Shocker” or “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”.  On the other hand, Robert Englund and Lin Shaye (“Insidious”, “Room for Rent”, “The Final Wish”) went on to become horror movie icons with countless credits in movies in this genre and Johnny Depp, who went on to have a very successful career. 

Unlike the actors, director Wes Craven was already a known name in horror cinema because of movies such as “The Last House On The Left” and “The Hills Have Eyes” that proceed  “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. However, this is the movie that assures his name will be stapled to horror cinema history which is later reinforced with “Scream”. Craven didn’t participate in the sequel, but wrote the script for this and the third and then didn’t had any more credits in the series until “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, where he offers a different vision of the villain and not a sequel to any of the movies.

Wes Craven through “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is responsible for creating one of the most beloved and feared villains in horror films and also responsible for some people not being able to sleep after watching his movies and consuming an excess of caffeine. There cannot be a horror movie talk without mentioning this movie, director, and villain and with good reason; this movie terrorized its audience in its release and continues doing it 35 years later through Freddy and his frightening image.

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