Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Movie #480: A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a supernatural slasher flick directed by the late, great Wes Craven and starring Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri), Ronee Blakely, and of course, Robert Englund.

The kids living on Elm Street - Nancy (Langenkamp), her buddy Tina (Wyss), Tina's rough boyfriend Rod (Garcia), and Nancy's boyfriend Glen (Depp, in his film debut) are having nightmares about a dude in a sweater with finger-knives. And then said dream-monster actually murders Tina while she's sleeping, and it all gets weird - Rod is initially blamed, but he dies in a cell. Nancy sees the killer in her dreams, too, and then grabs his hat and brings it into the real world, and there's the name: Freddy Krueger (Englund).

Turns out Krueger was a serial killer who murdered 20 kids (!) in the neighborhood, was caught, walked on a technicality, and was burned alive by the parents. Now he's back to murder the teens of Elm Street in their dreams. Eventually Nancy figures out that she can pull Freddy into the real world and, perhaps, kill him, but Glen dies before she can figure out how, so she booby-traps the shit out of her house and takes on Freddy alone.

I think that it's important to note that while subsequent films in the franchise got sequentially stupider (Part 2 is considered especially bad, as I recall, but I'm not sure I've seen it), the original Nightmare is a goddamn horror masterpiece. Freddy isn't campy or silly, he's purely evil and violent. He's never shown well-lit, but his burnt face is always in shadow. The effects of the violence are still there in the morning, and there's no explanation or apology - sure, maybe Rod hanged himself, but Glen was liquified and no one has a good way to explain that. And the end of the movie, where we're apparently all alive and Freddy's dreams have been vanquished...but no, we're back in the dream, is perfect, as we question how much of what we saw really happened.

One of my favorite horror movies, and continuing proof that you don't need the huge body count or the "carnage candy" (as Randy says in Scream 2) to make a good one.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge