A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★½

Sure-footed and mechanically effective nonsense that remembers that one of the best attributes of horror isn’t just gore but a sense of mystery and maybe even a divine one at that - the why, not just the how, of slicing-and-dicing and the place of such things in the bigger scheme.

Compared to the corporatised ‘slasher’ horror that preceded this - not to mention this film’s own direct progeny - Craven confidently crafts an inventive riff on genre cliches within the delicious dream-state twist. Not everyone has been stalked through the woods with a pickaxe glinting in the light behind you, but we all dream and sometimes unpleasantly so. This common currency is craftily mined but beyond such associative atmospherics there are deeper seams signposted if not convincingly mined here.

Whilst morality isn’t the core concern of the film it’s filleted with pin pricks of probity: not just the expected rearguard positioning of Nancy as, if not virginal, then chastely sensible, but more interestingly the problematic backstory of child abuse, murderous retribution and subsequent irresponsibility (promiscuity and alcoholism middle, not teen, age godless problems). 

Although a cliche from earlier in the genre, Nancy’s turning to God for support reminds one that some of the best horror - The Exorcist, The Omen, any number of crucifix wielding affairs - not only liberally help themselves to blood and thunder from the Bible, but also provide darkest hour reassurance that recourse to its teachings is the surest countenance to the easy demands of evil.

The hurried and venal ending undoes some of the above - perhaps true admission that God is only expediently called upon for temporary help in life as well as fiction - but then again the primrose path is as well trodden as that to the cash register and thus God must be called upon another day.

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