A Nightmare on Elm Street turns a surreal nightmare in a scary all too real slasher.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a supernatural fantasy teen slasher with a surreal atmosphere. Dream and reality blend together to form a unique slasher that has set off a brilliant franchise with Freddy Krueger as super villain.
With excellent practical effects and great cinematography a very creepy atmosphere is created with a tenacious final girl and an unreliable surreal ending. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic and a must see, that has built a big legacy in horror.
Nancy Thompson has a strange dream about a man who wears a red and green striped sweater, wears a hat and has razors attached to his fingers, who is trying to kill her. But she is not the only one. Her best friend Tina and her boyfriend Rod and Nancy’s boyfriend Glen all had nightmares about the same creep.
So Tina asks them to stay the night while her mother is in Vegas. But when Tina actually does get killed by Freddy, Rod is the usual suspect. Nancy knows he is innocent and she is determined to find out who the man in her nightmares is and to defeat him, although none of the adults believe her.
Why you should watch it
The film does not start with the final girl, but with Tina who in her nightmares runs for her life to escape the revenge of Freddy. It jumps right in with a surreal nightmare and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It also states very clearly that reality and dreams are going to blend until it’s getting harder and harder for the viewers and for Nancy to discriminate between what’s real and what’s not, although Nancy seems pretty sure of herself.
The story delivers a creative and original take on the teenage mind, that can’t fully differentiate between smart and less smart choices. This is also shown when Tina reluctantly lets Rod in, because they had a fight, while Nancy and Glen are smart and sensible and watch over Tina instead of fooling around themselves.
The film, as all teen slashers succumb too, has a little moral to the story. Nancy, the only one who is sensible, who doesn’t let her emotions or hormones take over, is the only one who survives. She stays true to her senses, keeps a clear mind and trusts herself even though both her parents don’t believe her. So it isn’t just a battle between the final girl and the killer, like in most slashers, but she has to overcome prejudice and has to grow up, be brave and totally depend on herself, and to leave fairytales behind. To turn her back to fantasy, she is reeled back into reality, or is she?
That’s what makes this film so great. It’s a coming of age story, a teen slasher, but it also plays with your mind and perception up to an extent you don’t know what’s real or not, because fantasy slowly seeps into reality.
The surreal parts are excellently executed. The creepy image of Freddy is scary and original and it is true that the green en red stripes have an effect of bringing about an uncomfortable feeling. The way Freddy is shaped, how he toys with the teens, by using his own body is something that indeed belongs in a nightmare world, it is creepy but it still has a big fantasy level about it.
The dreamworld really becomes surreal horror when Nancy dreams about Tina. But the actual horror lies with the gruesome deaths, especially those of Tina, which is the first and most gruesome kill, and of Glen which is definitely the most bloody kill. While Tina’s death is seriously horrible, Glen’s death is over the top camp and is finished off by the bucket placed in the hall to intercept the dripping blood from the ceiling.
It is a gruesome slasher at times, but also with a big nod to the over the top campy fun it delivers.
My favorite part
Nancy is a super final girl. She’s brave, has a lot of resolve and is determined to defeat Freddy. While she tries to figure out how this dreamworld works she relies on Glen, but he lets her down and she knows it’s up to her now.
Her outings in the dreamworld are created to be fun and smart and frightening at the same time. But how scary it gets, she doesn’t let it stop her. Even if her parents don’t believe her or even try to stop her, lock her in, she gets even more determined.
Her believe in herself is strengthened when she pulls Freddy’s hat off his head and takes it with her into reality. Her boobytraps are brilliant and show the typical mind of a teenager. If you’re scared or not that strong, be smart. And she pulls it off.
It’s original and fun and it makes Nancy one of the most bold and assertive final girls. She doesn’t hide or flee, but takes the battle to the killer, and chooses her own battleground on her terms to finishes him off.
Or does she?
The ending is so great, and really messes with the viewer. It starts when Glen is in danger. The moment Nancy gets a call from Freddy while the cord isn’t connected anymore, she’s awake, but already fantasy is mixing with reality. When she goes to sleep to catch Freddy and takes him back, then the real mind-bending surreal-reality mix gets confusing. Things start happening in reality that are only possible in dreams and the final scene gets you really confused. Is she still dreaming, was it all a dream, or did it all become a dream at one point?
It’s a brilliant ending that befits the whole story. It’s a big fairytale about being brave, growing up, trusting yourself and to fight your fears especially when they become all too real.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Surreal factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
A Nightmare on Elm Street is directed and written by Wes Craven. It stars Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) Robert Englund (Freddy), Amanda Wyss (Tina), Johnny Depp (Glen), Nick Corri (Rod), John Saxon (Donald Thompson) and Ronee Blakely (Marge Thompson).
Duration: 91 minutes. Music: Charles Bernstein. Cinematography: Jacques Haitkin. Edited by: Patrick McMahon, Rick Shaine. Produced by: Robert Shaye. Production companies: New Line Cinema, Media Home Entertainment, Smart Egg Pictures. Distributed by: New Line Cinema.