Written and directed by Wes Craven
Released November 1984
New Line Cinema
This is my all-time favorite horror movie. And unlike my friend Annie Riordan I don’t find it dated in the slightest, re-watching it today I find it just as suspenseful as I did when I first watched it as a wee lad. The main credit to the success of this film has to go to Heather Langenkamp who stars as Nancy Thompson, a teenage girl living with her alcoholic divorced mother (Ronee Blakley), and dealing with her overbearing father (John Saxon), who happens to be local Sheriff. Nancy has been having recurring nightmares about a strange man in the shadows who comes after her wearing a glove with knives on the fingers. But she’s not the only teenager in town with those same dreams, Nancy’s friend Tina (Amanda Wyss), her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp), and Tina’s boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia), all have similar nightmares (and are similarly talented young actors). As the nightmares escalate to the point where her friends start dying as a result of what happens to them in their nightmares, Heather uncovers the truth behind the myth of Freddy Krueger, and builds to a final showdown between her and him.
Pretty much everything about this film works for me. The way Freddy (played to perfection by Robert Englund) is portrayed here remains his scariest appearances (before later films turned him into a wise-cracking joker), as Craven only films him in the dark, never giving you a clear look at Freddy’s face. Scenes like when he slices his own fingers off or when he runs after Tina with his arms extended help make him seem like a monster from a child’s nightmares. I also like the slow revelation of Freddy’s origins, from when Heather first grabs his hat from the dream and sees the name printed inside to when her mother takes her down to the boiler room and shows her the glove (why would she keep that with her, it’s evidence of a crime? nevermind…) and tells her the story of Freddy Kruger, the serial killer of children who was then burned alive by an angry mob of parents, and says “He’s dead honey, because mommy killed him.” The death scenes were also brilliant in their simplicity, from Tina’s bloody body being dragged up her bedroom walls and across the ceiling to Glen being sucked into his bed and then a geyser of blood erupting out of it. Not to mention the sequence where Nancy follows Tina’s bloody corpse in a body bag down the school hallway, or the final jump-scare when Nancy pulls Freddy out of her dream and into the real world. That still gets my every time.
There’s also the iconic image of the young girls jumping rope will singing the nursery rhyme about Freddy. And that final ending with that twist that was so good because it was truly unexpected. Almost 30 years later, A Nightmare on Elm Street remains the standard by which all horror films should be judged by.
Just my opinion.