This is the ultimate cult classic. This is possibly one of the best slasher films of the 1980's right beside the Friday The 13th films. It is innovative, creative, interesting, and intelligent. And it takes the Master Of Suspense Wes Craven to convey such an original story.
I remembered this movie scared the shit out of me when I was five years old. It took me about five years later to watch the whole movie and I was still terrified. I could barely sleep that same night. If a horror movie scared you way up until your elementary age, it's a good damn horror movie. And by the age of twelve, I have love this movie ever since.
Here's the story: Nancy and her friends are beginning to have terrifying dreams of a mysterious man in a boiler room, trying to kill them.
Little do they know, their dreams are becoming more intense, more visceral. So scary, in fact, that if they die in their dreams, they die for real. So it's only up to Nancy to fight this evil being from destroying her life and taking it once and for all.
The cast is phenomenal. The chemistry between the actors seemed real and genuine. It seemed like the actors understood their characters and that's why the cast is so good, they really don't have to act their roles, it all comes naturally.
First, let's get to the red herring as I always do in these movies.
As the movie begins the main focus is on Tina, who is (supposedly) treated as our main character. Her mother is pretty apathetic towards her and the only people she seems to confine in is her friends, the closest being Nancy. She has a sort of shaky relationship with Rod but seems deeply committed to him, craving for male affection due to a lack of a father figure. The movie doesn't really have to show or tell us about the character, it frames a much more bigger structure to the situation at hand. Tina thinks she can fight the monster but her fears get the best of her. Not just the fear of Freddy but her inner fears which he feeds off of.
Which leads us to our true main character Nancy Thompson played by the awesome Heather Lagenkamp. Nancy is not as strong as Tina, physically, but emotionally, she is able to find an inner strength she never thought she had.
Nancy isn't your stereotypical final girl that fades in the background until the end or runs and screams most of the time. She is portrayed as a real person with real issues that anybody can relate to. She has an alcoholic mother, a distant father, and a useless boyfriend she can't seem to depend on (I'll get to him later). When her friends start dying, there is no one to relay to at this point.
So she uses her smarts and wits to defeat the monster and eventually succeeds by turning her back towards him and letting her fears and anxiety go away. She doesn't have to hide anymore. She doesn't have to be scared anymore....
Some say that Heather Lagenkamp's acting isn't all that good but I think she did a stellar job. She probably isn't the most best actress in the world, though after all, it was her first role and I really thought she put realism and true honesty to her character. She was born to play this role.
Now let's get to the boys. They are great actors in their own right but sometimes the way their characters react to things tend to confuse me.
Let's start with Rod, he comes off as this stereotypical(not to mention hot) bad boy type with a 1950's greaser attitude. It's kind of amusing at first. But then what baffles me is in this scene right after the death of Tina. I know the cause of his actions were in a matter of shock but it's quite stupid at the same time too. He just stands there while his girlfriend gets slaughtered, keeps yelling and screaming, and eventually leaving the scene of the crime, pretty much making himself look guilty. Then the next day, he tries to explain to Nancy that he's innocent. Therefore, she asks questions like any other rational person would do. Rod, on the other hand, just threatens her out of nowhere, making himself EVEN MORE guilty.
Although, he does show his vulnerable side, flaws and all.
Then there's Glen, Nancy's cute but utterly unreliable boyfriend played by Johnny Depp in his first role. He's practically the more underdeveloped of the four characters. He does seem like a nice guy and all but there were moments where he comes off like a careless douche. First of all, he doesn't seem that all affected over Tina's death. I mean he seen her dead body for Christ sakes! And he doesn't seem all that comforting towards Nancy, after all the shit she's been going through, even though, he does give her advice but at least he should have a little empathy towards her since she's been having nightmares. Even when she begs for him to help her, the moment after that, he just goes off to sleep. Wow, just wow. Yeah, he gets the most brutal death of the movie, but I can't seem to stop myself from saying he had it coming.
I liked that the adults are full front and center in a slasher film, though mainly the focus is on Nancy's parents. They never seem careless or apathetic and truly wants to help Nancy, even though they have emotional baggage of their own, including keeping a dark secret.
Which brings us to the mastermind of the story, Freddy Kruger. He is a mix of Nosferatu and James Cagney, He is the eternal boogeyman that haunts dreams and feeds on fears. He is the disease in these kids' lives. I like how they kept him in the shadows and didn't really give him too much dialogue. It makes the character more mysterious and creepy. What sets him apart from most antagonists of the slasher golden age is that he's a really hateable villain. Most slasher villains of the 80's tend to be more sympathetic than the victims, having a tragic backstory to fill out the motivations of their killings. But Freddy Kruger is not so sympathetic at all. Before his "death", he was a ruthless child murderer, who had no qualms on human life. So this is where his backstory begins. Once he is caught for his horrible crimes, the cops finds no evidence since he burns most of them, so the judge has no choice but to release him (by the way, this was way before CSI). The parents were completely outraged, setting up a plan to get rid of this monster once and for all. So they hunt him down and burn his warehouse with him in it. So that's where his reign of terror begins years later... Soon, Freddy becomes a manifestation of the parents' guilt. But instead of haunting them, he haunts their children...The creation of Freddy Kruger is an original ghost story that is both effective and creepy.
And then there are the special effects which are eye-catching, elaborate, and even sometimes brutal.
The most memorable is Tina's death which terrified me as a kid.
Then there's Glen's death, which really freaked me out when I first watched it. Just imagine something out of nowhere pull you under the bed and that's just the end of it. Here are the scenes.:
There are quite a few scenes that are extremely suspenseful. Like the bathtub scene which came out of nowhere and the scenes involving Nancy seeing Tina in a body bag.
The only downfall to this is Rod's death scene, it wasn't at all effective like most of the special effects and it was kind of cheap looking but overall they are still worth-watching.
I like how the filmmakers set up the dream sequences, without making it otherworldly or over-ambitious. They had very little money at the time but was still able to make an atmospheric, eerie setting by making the elm street neighborhood a desolate ghost town.
The boiler room scenes are just as atmospheric. It is very horrifying and you can feel the sweat and heat boiling in your skin just by looking at it.
Now for some behind the scenes scoop. The concept of A Nightmare On Elm Street was based on an article Wes Craven read on the newspaper about a young man who died in sleep in Korea. Very scary once you think about it. The character of Freddy Kruger was based on, of course, inspired by his childhood fears such as a run-in with a bully and a creepy homeless guy who scared him while looking outside of a window.
There were 200 actresses who tried out for the role of Nancy. Examples include:
Courtney Cox (who would've thought she would work with Wes Craven again in the Scream Movies. Wow!
And lastly, Tracey Gold of Growing Pains fame
I even heard a rumor that Winona Ryder tried out for the role. Now that would've have been interesting.
But Heather Lagenkamp was the true pro for this role. She had the look, the grace, and the presence of the character.
Then there was a few actress who tried out for the role of Tina. Examples include:
Jodi Benson (Ariel in a horror movie? could you believe that? lol)
And Laura Dern
Just to add this little fact here, Amanda Wyss, who finally got the role of Tina, never even watched a horror film before. Imagine what she had to go through. Yeesh!
Before Johnny Depp was cast as Glen, the actors who auditioned were:
C. Thomas Howell
And lastly, Jackie Earle Haley who will ironically play Freddy Kruger in the 2010 Reboot.
And a few actors auditioned for the role of Rod, such as:
Ralph Macchio (yes, The Karate Kid)
And Darren Dalton
But I wondered If Matt Dillon auditioned as well...would've been quite interesting.
There was once a veteran actor David Warner who was approached for the role of Freddy Kruger but due to scheduling conflicts he couldn't no longer accept the role. So eventually It was Robert England who would don the makeup, the hat, the sweater, and the overall malicious Freddy Kruger is known for.
Now, just to make things clear, I really didn't care for the ending. What I heard from Behind the Scenes, the filmmakers had to do at least four re-shoots until the final edit. Wes Craven originally wanted a happy ending as he wasn't too keen on a sequel. But Producer Robert Shaye insisted on having the ending to leave out with a bang. and that's the start of the Nightmare sequels to come. The good....and the bad.
This was one of the most successful horror movie of 1984. Even though, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter beat it out of it's running game, it was still the highest grossing film.
This was a true classic. I still watch it til this day. It is probably the best out of all the sequels and it really keeps you invested into the characters and the story because of how original and intelligent it is.
Suspenseful, Hair-raising, and creative, A Nightmare On Elm Street brought back the gold to the golden age slashers and it also built New Line Cinema, once an obscure film distribution company, to a comity of the 80's and 90's
My Last Word: A Total Must See. Period.
P.S. Johnny Depp in a jersey shirt.
Very hot in the 80's. especially for macho jock types.