Friday, November 13, 2015

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) written and directed by Wes Craven

Nancy Thompson and her friend Tina have nightmares where the same man is stalking them. They decide to sleep in the same house and their boyfriends come along. Tina's beau is ready to enjoy a night of "sleeping," while Nancy puts off her boyfriend (played by Johnny Depp in his first role!). Being an '80s horror movie, the girl who sleeps around is the first one to get killed in a very blood-soaked and harrowing scene. Viewers don't see her dream, just her shouting and being tossed around the bedroom and getting cut up and bleeding everywhere. Her boyfriend is the prime suspect since the dream killer is (naturally) nowhere to be found. Can the adults be any help at all or will Nancy have to fight and capture the dream killer alone?

The blurring of lines between dreams and reality is a natural source of terror for people and works very well in a movie. Viewers are left to guess when the characters are dreaming and when they are awake, though occasional dead-giveaways help. The movie relies a bit more on gore, shocks, and jump scenes than it needs to with such a great premise. The few final twists are good because they are unexpected and they make sense.

Freddie Kruger, the dream killer, is well portrayed through minimal exposure. He's mostly a creature of shadows or the guy who's sudden behind you or he slashes his way through some obstacle with his knife-fingered glove. The few details (knife glove, old-fashioned hat, striped sweater) give him an iconic presence even when the viewer can't see him clearly. His growly, threatening voice also works well without being over the top in this film. I wonder if they take these elements too far in any of the sequels, which I haven't seen. It's easy to imagine lesser filmmakers would.

I liked the movie but wasn't wowed by it like I was by John Carpenter's original Halloween.

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