A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★★

Hooptober #18

One third of the holy trinity of slasherdom (along with Halloween and Friday the 13th), A Nightmare on Elm Street is terrifying, still. I've seen it dozens of times, and though that first time stands tall for the sheer terror I felt as a child on that cold October night, many parts of this film still manage to unsettle me all these years later. Totally different from the cheesy, one-liner ridden sequels, the original that jump started the franchise plays it completely serious and still manages to frighten given the borderline ridiculous fantasy element to the plot. In fact there are multiple moments in the film that I could imagine others would find unintentionally funny (Freddy's long arms when he's introduced, the way he scampers after Tina like a deranged midget) yet somehow remain bizarrely creepy.

This film can be seen in a lot of ways as bridge from Craven's earlier, almost nihilistic and violent exploitation fare to his more serious, cerebral affairs in the 80s and 90s. In particular Tina's death scene is filmed in a way that isn't in any way shlocky or focused on the gore, it's focused on the terror of the moment itself. A great young cast here on display, everyone knows the film for introducing us to Johnny Depp (who's great), but Heather Lagenkamp, John Saxon, and of course Robert Englund are all excellent. Can you even imagine someone else playing Freddy? Well, minus that godawful remake we shall never speak of again. There's something creepier about Freddy than all of the rest of his villainous slasher peers though, because the concept itself of being attacked when you're asleep is such a disturbing one, striking you at your most vulnerable. The sequels get goofy (though I still love every last one of them...well, maybe not so much Dream Child) but for sheer horror the original is a classic for the entire genre.

Watched with my autographed copy of the original New Line DVD release. RIP Wes.

Colin liked this review