A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★

"Hey, up yours with a twirling lawnmower!"

When a group of high school friends discover that all of their nightmares have the same tormenter, they do everything they can to stay awake while trying to figure out the cause and identity of this monster.

I love the premise of this movie. It's so creative and has endless possibilities. Wes Craven really took advantage of this with the nightmarish visuals of the iconic character, Freddy Krueger. There are so many practical effects shots that are just gorgeous. For example, Freddy pushing through the wall over Nancy's bed as she's sleeping. Or the brutal upside down murder on the ceiling. The blood geyser that comes out of the bed, the bathtub scene and countless others that remind us that this is not reality, but Freddy's realm.

The characters are all pretty good in this one. The teenagers are all very troubled while the parents seem to be distant and struggle with their own vices. The lead girl is Nancy, and she seems like another Laurie Strode type character- average looking smart girl who somehow managed to land Johnny Depp (in his feature film debut) as her boyfriend. Then there's her friend Tina, who opens the movie with her nightmare and her bad boy, boyfriend, Rod. All of the group seems to be haunted by the same burned and scarred man with knives for fingers (except for Depp's character, Glen, curiously). Their parents ignore their cries for help and just tell them that they need more sleep, while they go back to their decadent behavior. Speaking of parents, Nancy's mom gives the best unintentional comedic performance of the movie. I know she's supposed to be a drunk, but she plays it off like she's stoned the whole time and it's great. Then there's Nancy's dad who is the police detective investigating the strange murders and that's about all he does. He and Nancy's mom are apparently separated or divorced. Glen's parents sit around and pretty much do nothing and the other kids parents are always out of town or whatever. 80s parenting, am I right?

Freddy is the star of the show and a real class act as far as slasher villains go. His look is really what sets him apart from other famous, masked slasher villains of the time, and the fact that he attacks you in your dreams. The origin of Freddy is a little vague though, with him being a child murderer that was caught but then released because of some legal loophole or the judge missed something. So the adults took justice in their own hands and burn him alive in his own lair where he killed the children. So now Freddy is haunting their kids in their nightmares because evil needs justice too? I suppose this just falls under the slasher movies rule of 'you can never destroy the evil, because it always comes back. You can only defeat it until the next movie.' Even so, the fact that this revelation was delivered by Nancy's drunk and stoned mom, ended up making it more comical than serious.

I'm happy to report that this movie still holds up. Freddy is still a haunting villain and the script and effects still feel fresh. My main criticism would have to be the score. The 80s synthesizer sound really kills the mood during the nightmarish murder scenes that are meant to be scary. That final scene is also pretty dated, which also made it more amusing than haunting. Otherwise, this is still a very sharp and imaginative horror classic that all cinephiles and horror fans must watch.

Philip Carroll liked these reviews