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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

April 30, 2010

7/10 Bed-Wetters

The scares don’t hold up like they did in ’84, but then again, Freddy’s the man.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is about a group of suburban teens who all start having the same vivid dreams about being chased around a boiler room by a guy with really mean tan, a nasty-ass sweater his grandma probably knitted for him when he was six and eventually grew into twenty years later, and a custom-made glove fitted with razors at the tips to tie the whole getup together. The kids shrug it off as strange, but then – in a totally rude gesture – this nutjob starts bumping them off mid-dream. So the kids wise up, chug some Red Bulls and take it upon themselves to stay the hell awake for as long as they can while figuring out a way to take this guy down before they’re sleeping in a ditch.

With the exception of Chucky who scared the living daylights out of me for most of my youth, I’ve never been all that impressed by a lot of the horror icons like Jason Voorhees or Michael Meyers and I’ve never really understood how two mute, lumbering bastards with some big ol’ blades managed to garner so many shitty sequels. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t get it. And while I can’t say that I’m all too frightened by our icon of the hour either, Freddy is still a pretty badass idea for a horror movie.

The whole concept of having a guy who kills dumb, horny teens in their sleep instead of in a log cabin in the woods because they’re too damn dumb and horny to simply run away is just freakin’ awesome. It doesn’t quite work like Jaws where you can hardly take a bath without waiting for a great white to pop out the faucet, but since everyone goes to sleep and everyone has nightmares, it does taps into that same realm of inescapable fear in a way that a lot of horror movies don’t. The day I have a nightmare involving Freddy is the day I start downing NyQuil.

But when push comes to shove, a big reason why this movie works is because Freddy Krueger‘s just a cool villain. Even though his backstory is pretty by-the-books, it’s nice that he actually talks and has a sick sense of humor about all the murderin’ he’s up to. The whole “silent killer” thing gets old kinda fast and I like to see a guy who takes pleasure in speeding up social Darwinism one bleary-eyed teen at a time.

Robert Englund’s also good in the role, but I feel like he hams it up a bit too much to the point where he stops being sinister and starts being a joke. Nonetheless, he makes it work and something tells me he gets it down to a science by the 46th entry in the series.

But another of Freddy’s strong suits is that he’s a creative killer, and all the credit there is due to the brains behind this whole operation, Wes Craven. Like I said, this isn’t the scariest two hours I’ve sat through in recent memory, but it’s still easy to admire how original all the kills and dream sequences are, especially considering how limited special effects were back then. Some of the stuff is totally nuts and totally ridiculous, but those are also the kind of things that stick with you after a movie that’s working off a kind of ridiculously nutso premise to begin with.

And as far as the acting goes, it sucks, but it’s got a perk or two here and there, the “here” being a super-young Johnny Depp and “there” being a guest appearance by a much younger Magda from There’s Something About Mary. The rest sucks.

By the time the movie ended, I was pretty close to giving this one a 6 because it does feel totally dated 26 years down the road, but there’s also enough original and effective horror elements going on here to warrant it a 7 and the last thing I need is to get into an argument with Freddy fanboys about how wrong I am about this movie. The point is, there are only so many horror movies out there that truly stand the test of time, and while A Nightmare on Elm Street might not be setting the bar or anything, it’s easy to see why so many consider it a horror classic.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Darren permalink
    April 30, 2010 4:28 am

    Yep – great film. It’s a horror classic. You can make an argument as to whether the sequels are “hokey” fun or just terrible, but the original is certainly a highlight of the horror genre. I think you’re right, some moments don’t quite hold up – without spoiling anything, the vomiting bed, for example – as particularly scary these days, but still a good film.

    I actually liked the only “real” sequel, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which is a really cool meta-film.

    Word on the remake is, as expected, terrible.

  2. April 30, 2010 7:00 am

    Yeah, this a good film, but not scary at all. Englund just turned out to be a joke after awhile with this character, and anytime he does anything of this nature, he’s always caught hamming it up like no other. But that’s just how the script has him as.

  3. April 30, 2010 9:43 am

    You are right that the scares don’t necessarily hold up, but for nostalgia purposes and appreciation for the history of horror cinema, this is an utter classic.

    In general it’s not as scary, but Robert Englund is one bad mother fucker.

  4. Sarah permalink
    April 30, 2010 11:03 am

    I like the poster for the movie. Why is she naked?

    • April 30, 2010 11:39 am

      It’s harder to kill people when they’re sleeping commando. Little known fact.

  5. April 30, 2010 2:13 pm

    The one coming out this Friday has a 12% RT rating. I wanted to see it but damn, I guess not…

    • April 30, 2010 2:22 pm

      Yeah, I’m in the same boat. What a bummer, I thought it’d be a sure thing with Jackie Earle Haley on board.

      • Marc permalink
        April 30, 2010 5:51 pm

        Totally thought JEH would “make” this new movie, apparently it looks like it’s going to “break” sadly.

        I actually just watched this last night…but like everyone points out, this doesn’t age very well. Great concept, very original back in the day and it is in fact a legendary neo-horror classic. But looking back it seems that while the effects fail to stand the test of time, the “idea” of Freddy as a legacy that remains far more frightening than the film itself.

        Also, I love how Nancy’s “last stand” make her seem like the horror equivalent to Kevin from Home Alone:P

  6. May 1, 2010 2:19 pm

    Haley does break the film, but only because he is so good! He just steals every scene so that all the terrible acting everyone else turns in looks even worse by comparison. Haley is the only reason you should even consider going to see it.

    • May 1, 2010 2:50 pm

      Not surprising, Haley is the man. Can’t say for certain that I’m gonna dish out 12 bucks to see it with all these shitty reviews going around, but who knows, stranger things have happened.

  7. May 2, 2010 10:52 am

    I still love watching the original, and think it has survived the years well. Not as a horror film, but as a horrmedy (horror/comedy)…when his arms stretch out across the alley…it kills me every time!

    I’m not surprised the remake is getting such terrible reviews, but I am extremely disappointed. If only one of these remakes could get it right…

  8. May 8, 2010 1:49 am

    That body bag scene gave me nightmares. I still think it’s scary. But you’re right, some of Freddy’s jokes took me out of the zone. And I think the soundtrack is even funnier.

    I liked the newest installment in the franchise. It’s more of a reimagining, really. No more horny teens. But the body bag scene remains. Yeah, it still scared the crap outta me.

    • May 8, 2010 9:45 am

      DAMMIT! I totally forgot to write about how strange that soundtrack was and how it always cut to synthesizers making lightning sounds whenever it wanted to make things really scary. There’s that one scene in the beginning where Freddys’ flicking his tongue out at a girl and it sounds like he’s shooting lazers out of his mouth at the same time. The ’80s, man. Strange times.

      And why can’t I remember this body bag scene you’re talking about?

  9. May 13, 2010 12:56 pm

    This is one of my favorite horror films. It’s imagination, visual style and iconic villain make for a fantastic series of events. And the way that the film makes you question what is real and what is simply a dream bends my mind.

    Also, I totally agree about the silent horror villain. Jason is such a boring villain who lacks any kind of real malice or presence in my opinion. I’ll take the cheesiness of Kruger any day over tall, dark and boring.

  10. Branden permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:11 pm

    I still enjoy the movie. The blood coming out of that hole. NICE. Nancy is awful, but Robert Englund is fucking awesome.

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