A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★★

On Elm Street, teenagers are being terrorized by dreams about a diabolical killer with a glove of razor-edged fingers. When they realize that they are all dreaming of the same person, they must fight for their lives while uncovering a sinister secret about their neighborhood. 

I will forever associate Wes Craven's 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, with my first viewing during my middle school years, shortly after its theatrical release. The clothing and hairstyles of the characters, the synth score, and the overall setup, even down to a poster of The Police in one character’s room, all trigger my nostalgic for that decade in a glorious way.  

It is interesting, in retrospect, to see this movie's emphasis on teenagers who are growing up in broken homes. This certainly reflected the climate of the 1980s, where the hardships of kids who dealt with divorced parents, alcoholic parents, and such were pushed closer to the forefront. I like the idea that A Nightmare on Elm Street, with its tale of teenagers battling a menace who was burned to death by their parents years before, serves as a metaphor for the way that the choices of parents can haunt children in the real world.

John Saxon, who will forever have coolness points because of his appearance in the 1974 martial arts film, Enter the Dragon, has the most grounded role in this first film of the Elm Street franchise. Heather Langenkamp is forever memorable as Nancy, the intelligent and resourceful heroine with whom Freddy Krueger meets his match. Ronee Blakley, who starred as a country singer in Robert Altman's Nashville, is excellent as Nancy's mother. Amanda Wyss, who played John Cusack's snobby ex-girlfriend in Better Off Dead (1985), does well as the curveball potential-lead-actress who is a stand-in for Janet Leigh's role in Hitchcock's Psycho. Of course, Johnny Depp, in an introductory career role as Nancy’s boyfriend, graces this movie’s most unforgettable kill scene. 

Robert Englund, who had formerly starred as a kind alien in the television miniseries, V, hits the ground running in this first film that would have him riding high through the rest of the franchise. Englund's Freddy Krueger is a trip, and he is at his best in this first outing that allows him to be truly menacing without overstaying his welcome with wisecracks.

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