A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★

Summer Director Project 2016: Wes Craven #1

Yet another significant first viewing! Believe it or not, this is not only my first time around with A Nightmare on Elm Street, but my first encounter with Wes Craven as well. The original Nightmare gets a lot of hype as one of the seminal slashers of the 70s/80s (along with Texas Chainsaw and Halloween), and I thought it held up to its reputation rather well.

There's plenty of cheesiness, for sure, but Craven has a distinctive directorial vision that catapults this beyond weak sauce Halloween wannabees of the era like Friday the 13th. The dream setup gives Craven a huge sandbox of surreal and creepy imagery to play with and while the film never truly frightened me (admittedly a difficult thing to do at this point), I loved horrific moments he concocted.

I mean, these are the kinds of images that will stay firmly rooted in your mind for as long as you live: the bathtub scene, the upside down ceiling kill, the elastic wall, Johnny Depp's bed, that moment where a person is pulled through a small window in a door. Very creative and impressive from a practical effects standpoint.

I also really appreciated the attempt to develop some plausible characters. This isn't some masterful character study or anything, but the people involved the story aren't purely fodder and there's real human tension and concern amongst them.

Additionally worth mentioning is Craven's clever self-awareness and little winks to certain tropes/fixtures of the genre. Nancy's comment about her looking 20-years-old, was particularly memorable.

One thing that continually bothered me throughout, though, was the murky line between the dream world and the real world — what was possible and what wasn't possible. What exactly are the rules here? Freddy seems to hop in and out of dreams. I would think that the dream world would be his prison as well as a hunting ground where he holds more power (power he might lose if he were to somehow break out of this prison and re-enter the world of the living. It was just a bit confusing how that worked, especially toward the end.

Anyway, mostly good stuff. I will definitely be getting to the sequels at some point down the road.

Boonmee liked this review