Directed by: Wes Craven
Source: DVD (Own Collection)
Average IMDb Rating: 7.4
Average Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Plot: Nancy Thompson is having horrible, reoccurring nightmares about a gruesome, badly scarred figure who wears a glove with razor sharp knives for fingers. At first, she thinks they are just bad dreams, but when she finds out that her friends are also having similar nightmares with the same eerie figure stalking them, she begins to think that this is no coincidence. One by one, all of her friends begin to die in their sleep, and Nancy soon realizes that the only way to survive is to stay awake, by any means necessary. Nancy begins to investigate who this mysterious figure is, but she soon realizes that this phantom dream killer is linked to a conspiracy that involves her father, a police officer, and other parents in the neighborhood. With lack of sleep beginning to take its tole on her, Nancy decides to fight back against this deranged killer, and will do anything she can to get him out of her dreams, and into the real world where he once existed.
This film was released during the peak of the “slasher era” of the 80s. Before A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted, every slasher film had the same formula: A mysterious, disfigured stalker targets a group of teens or young adults and kills them in the most graphic way possible. Sometimes the killer would kill his victims on a holiday or special occasion, like on Valentine’s Day or on prom night, or the setting of the killings would be at a usual teen/young adult hang out spot, such as a sorority house or at an amusement park funhouse (I just referenced 4 slasher flicks without giving out the movie title, damn I’m good). Usually one final girl would be left who kills the stalker and saves the day. End movie, roll credits, begin to prepare for shitty sequel.
Audiences at the time became jaded of the slasher film. There were so many slasher films that had the same plot that each new one began to saturate the market. They wanted to see something new, something different, and that’s where Wes Craven came in and altered the genre forever. Craven follows the same basic formula as the other popular slashers before him, but he introduces a new little twist that makes his killer, Freddy Krueger, more terrifying than Jason or Michael Meyers: He can come after you when you are in your most vulnerable state, in your dreams!!!!!!!! Holy shit, that is scary! You can, in theory, outrun Jason Voorhees (good luck with that), get in a car, drive to the airport, get in a plane and get the hell out of dodge, and you will survive. But at some point, you have to go to sleep. Hell, you can fall asleep on the plane ride getting away from Jason, but once you do, Freddy Krueger will be there, waiting for you, in his world where he is basically God (How much does that above scenario suck? You just got away from a crazy fucking guy who wears a hockey mask with a big ass machete chasing you through the woods and you fall asleep and now you’re being chased through a boiler room by a crazy fucking guy who is burned with a glove that has knives for fingers).
This supernatural twist on the slasher genre made Nightmare an instant classic and introduced the world to Freddy Krueger, the new kid on the block of horror icons, alongside Leatherface, Michael Meyers, and Jason (Come to think of it, if I had to create a Mount Rushmore of horror icons, these four would be it). The supernatural twist of a killer killing you in your dreams probably kept a bunch of kids up all night, terrified to go to sleep. And the fact that Wes Craven says that the idea of dying in your sleep is based on a true story, that increases the fright factor even more.
The Nightmare franchise would go on to produce 6 sequels, a collaboration with another horror franchise, and a shitty remake, but I will always remember this first film as the best of them all. This movie had Freddy at his scariest, not cracking jokes and looking like a shell of his former self. This was the first movie I saw with Robert Englund, and he would go on to be one of my favorite genre actors of all time, ranking right up there with Bruce Campbell. A classic which should be viewed by any fan of horror.
Until next time,
Matt De Luna, the DeLunatic