Written & Directed by Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, and Johnny Depp
In the dreams of his victims, a spectral child murderer stalks the children of the members of the lynch mob that killed him.
Before I was old enough to run around my small Midwestern town and get into real trouble, we had sleepovers. It was the standard stuff; Tombstone pizzas, a few gallons of Mtn. Dew, and a stack of horror flicks from Main Street Video. It was a Friday night at the Kirk Residence, a frequent hangout spot for my friends and I. George’s parent’s were cool as hell and would usually give up the living room television for their son and his spastic friends. It was either metal or horror movies claiming the bulk of our time there; that and eating them out of house and home. Once again, a testament to how groovy the Kirks were. We had no idea what we were in for when we shoved this into the VCR.
A group of parents band together and kill a local child murderer after he gets off on a technicality. Now, all these years later, he’s back for revenge in the dreams of the offending parents’ kids. Makes sense, roll with it. Slasher flicks were never my favorite of the horror genre, but this movie separated itself for a number of reasons. Writer/director, Wes Craven, based this story on several Pol Pot survivors that escaped only to die in America after suffering terrible nightmares. Much like the kids in the film, the victims refused to sleep for several days after their terrible nightmares began. It’s a bizarre story for sure, and Craven brings the most terrifying elements out in his film.
Freddy Krueger. What kid from the 80s doesn’t know that name? The film opens with shots of Fred working in his boiler room shop. He’s making his iconic murder weapon: a customized glove with razor-sharp blades attached to the fingers. Craven knows how to tap into suspense well. They don’t show Fred’s face in the shop scene, but you’ll be shitting your pants by the time they show that.
Fred has one motivation: to hunt down and murder the children of the parents that killed him. Fred attacks in his victim’s dreams, a place where we seem to be defenseless. Nancy (Langenkamp), feels the initial fear and hopelessness early in the film. She eventually sets her jaw and learns effective ways to protect herself from this nocturnal evil, even gaining the power to hurt Fred. One of this film’s best qualities is the eerie, shadowed way they film the dreams. It’s hard to tell if Nancy is dreaming or awake at times. The dreamy, blurred scenarios become terrifying to the protagonist and viewer. The slow cat-and-mouse approach in horror movies is often times unnerving, but the dream factor turns the horror up significantly.
Fred is a disgustingly awesome character, unfortunately, the remaining films in the long-running franchise use Fred as a one-dimensional character more concerned with one-liners and killing zingers. The first film is the only solid entry in my opinion. If you enjoy cameos, this has one of horror’s best, so keep an eye open. Clever and creative, wrought with over-the-top kills; A Nightmare on Elm Street is a dreamy slasher treat.