Dwilder’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the most enduring and popular horror features of all time Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street is indeed a strong feature.
Now first of all I must admit that I find A Nightmare on Elm Street’s script to be quite weak and unrefined. Craven never really seems to tie his admittedly brilliant concept down enough that it feels coherent and some of the aspects of the picture particularly in its final third feel a little rushed and clunky. This makes it feel a little more formulaic and messier than it otherwise could’ve been with a little more care. That’s not to say however that it’s a bad picture with many aspects of the screenplay proving to be hugely entertaining. The death sequences are hugely inventive and the switches between dreams and reality really are innovative and bizarre and add a fresh and original take on the horror of this picture which is very strange and unsettling at times.
Wes Craven it has to be said here does a marvellous job in redeeming A Nightmare on Elm Street and very successfully masks the screenplay’s flaws. His stylish execution of this picture makes for some terrifically entertaining and spellbinding moments. He successfully builds up the tension in the film’s opening period before unleashing some death sequences which are unbelievably gory, brutal and downright terrifying. Craven’s work on the dream sequences featured here is also stunning as these nightmares are downright horrifying and make the viewer feel deeply uneasy with the uniqueness of these surroundings creating a genuine sense of discomfort amongst the audience. We also have to give a lot of credit to the visual effects team for their terrific work in creating the various unpleasant surroundings seen here and also for making the deaths so memorable. The suspenseful score from Charles Bernstein also helps by making the atmosphere even moodier and darker than it is already.
The young ensemble cast are also wonderful it must be said. Johnny Depp in one of his earliest roles is very good here as are the rest of the young cast whose energy really help us to connect with the story. As “Fred” Krueger Robert Englund delivers a chilling performance as the haunting villain of the piece. His downright evil performance here is disturbing to the extreme and at times he is darkly funny to watch. This is Englund’s signature role and he really makes it his own here. His work a key reason for the film’s success. Massive kudos must also go to the makeup team for making him so hideous here.
To conclude although there are weak aspects contained here and it’s not the most polished Horror film ever made A Nightmare on Elm Street is still a pioneering, technically impressive and well acted slasher that inspired countless imitators and many sequels none of which come close to the original’s excellence.