A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★

Wes Craven was somehow both inept at film form (some scenes are framed from shallow, awkward angles; others end with the equivalent of a pop-song fadeout) and masterful at conceiving of filmic images.

It's this capacity for imagery (the sheep running down the hallway, the swollen walls and bedsheets, the mattress abysses, the perpetual bare feet) that makes Nightmare's dream logic so on-target, giving it access to unexpectedly tender emotional territory. Even the easily criticized ending works at gut-level: we're thrown out into a frightening world, stuck in a sinister car going who-knows-where, fresh in the knowledge that our parents could do nothing to protect us.

We'll have to develop "dream skills," as an unrecognizably charming young Johnny Depp tells us; it'll take real work to feel alright.