A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★½

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8 of 31 films,
8 of 6 decades: 1980s COMPLETED

New Line Cinema presents...

In the great tradition of Eighties supernatural serial killer movie series, A Nightmare on Elm Street main attraction takes a back seat. Before Freddy Krueger became the insult comedian of horror, he was a silhouette from Hell invading your nightmares, more like a a Shadow Person and very effective early in establishing a surreally spooky atmosphere. A Shadow Person coming at you down an alley way arms monstrously extending, reaching for you? That scene stayed with me longer than any other from my first viewing back in the day. And the sound of razor metal grinding on rusty pipes sends involuntary shivers through me. What's up with the lamb in Tina's nightmare? Who knows, it's a nightmare. Those early elements were good enough to make me forget that this first Nightmare kinda peters out into an action movie where our Final Girl becomes Kevin from Home Alone.

“God, I look like I'm 20 years old.”

Heather Langenkamp is perfect as Nancy Thompson, our Final Girl. In a cast of 22 year olds playing high school juniors, she is utterly believable. I feel like my 16 year old self is sitting in that English class with her when she falls asleep. She has great daughter-mother scenes with Ronee Blakley, alternately spiteful and dependent with her mother, who has a secret she needs to tell. I'm not sure about her performance as mother Marge Thompson, is she so subtle that she doesn't seem like she acting at all or is she just bad at acting? From scene to scene she looks slightly different like she's got a golden tan and lopsided wig in one scene, paler skin and a different lopsided wig the next. But she convincingly exudes a haunted presence...she knows all about the subject of her daughter's nightmares: she was the one who killed him.

“Get my dad, you asshole!” “Come and get me, Krueger!” “[to Krueger] You're shit.” Heather Langenkamp is pretty kick ass and actually gives as good as she gets, she might have more diss-lines than Freddy. The booby-trap end set piece is admirable to watch with all the stunts, especially the fire stunt of Freddy running up and falling down stairs while ablaze. But it stops being a supernatural spellbinding horror flick and becomes more of an action movie. The soundtrack also leaves me cold. It's more like music from an episode of Hunter than dreamy-weird gothic-horror music.

The movie ends on an nice horror movie trope I like, just when you thought it was back to normal again.... Not really sure about the Freddy Kruegerverse logic of his movie, is it a dream is it not, is he now vulnerable- yes no what? And frankly I stopped caring and just got wrapped up in catching Freddy Krueger conclusion. Something about the wrap-around with those creepy kids, that fog, the slow motion, that creepy song...

Where the floating white feather Nancy sees floats next...

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