jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the most defining films of my childhood; my parents used to sit my brother and I down and practically force us to watch Horror films that both frightened us and, in their own way, shaped us to who we are now and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," after this umpteenth viewing, still manages to be one of the great Horror films and, for me, one of the great films. This has to be one of the most textual Horror films out there; at once, one of the defining slasher films ever made and another, one of the greatest films about teenage-adolescence disassociation and lack of fulfilment, lack of stability with their parents, and probably the greatest film about sleep deprivation.
Because in "A Nightmare on Elm Street," Freddy's manifestation isn't just of someone who's simply come to disrupt the sleeping habits of Nancy and her friends - it's nice to think that way when you're younger, but Craven isn't fucking around on this one . Freddy is the manifestation of every peaceful thought gone sour at the simple change of thought and some form of anxiety consumes you: worrying over a test, realizing you're in love with someone, getting detention, having your parents constantly on your ass. And what makes Freddy even more frightening is how he moves: through the people's dreams, where their innocence can run free and their anxiety can be left at the door. For eight hours a night, Nancy and her friends can't worry, can't fear. But with Freddy, their Eden is disrupted and their lives are stopped.
What makes this film completely interesting is how Craven shows the strained relationship between the four principle teens and their parents, even though it's initially thought to be endearing and loving; Rod's parents seem to not have a grasp on their kid being off his rocker (and Rod would probably claim that they "don't understand me" or something like that), Tina's mother doesn't seem to gather the fact that Tina longs for affection, and Glen's parents seem to be so disassociated with him as a person. But Nancy's situation is more complex: her mother decides to jump to certain conclusions in order to protect her and her father doesn't really seem to understand anything there is about her. She really doesn't have that person to relate to at all. Add in the fact that they can't use their escapism because of Freddy: they've become lost.
Once they learn of their parents involvement in Freddy's rampage, Craven liberates his characters from feeling trapped by the parent's embrace; in order to become better than the predecessor, you have to prove that their mistakes won't affect you in shaping you. Nancy doesn't become the boozehound mother or the emotionless father: she, through defeating Freddy, becomes something stronger, more knowledgeable of the world and more welcoming of it, too. Not to mention Craven's accuracy of sleep deprivation affecting the mentality of a person; it's about as real and authentic as it gets - I've got insomnia and have stayed up for four days at a time back in my high school days and the dreariness of Nancy is something that rings all too true for me. Your eyes deceit what you see, you can't trust anything about yourself anymore.
But besides that, this is a goddamn play house for Craven, messing around with every capacity of film - ranging from atmosphere, illusion, and technique, among other things - and just clearly having a ball in crafting this film. I love how it's never really clear if we're dreaming with Nancy or we're in reality; dream logic is so hard to differentiate whether we're living or just imagining and we're always disappointed when we wake up from the dream, realizing the world we were living in was false. Craven takes this idea and spins it: we're never certain of our reality and dreams and that frightens us because we long for that reality. Craven messes with the dream-like cinematography, keeping us on our toes the entire time.
Our fears will never remain dormant if we can't sleep.