A horror movie for the dreamers. So this is about a quiet suburban town. A number of the high schoolers start to have similar dreams about a man with a disfigured face and knives for fingers. When children start to be murdered in their dreams, everybody has to do what they can to not only stay awake, but figure out what exactly is going on here. When you watch older movies, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what decade it is from. The only exception to this is the 1980’s; you can watch five seconds from a movie from the 80’s and immediately establish it as such. The reason why I bring this up is because this unwitting identifier makes it so films from this time period have a tendency to become very dated, and this goes for A Nightmare on Elm Street as well. That said, it is not without its merits, and it is still one of the most effective slasher films to date.
The strongest element about A Nightmare on Elm Street is the dream logic it utilizes. You get to see what is going on in the heads of these teenagers as they sleep, but it doesn’t have to adhere to the standard rules and laws of physics. You can put a lot of distance between you and your pursuer, round a corner and run right into him. Why? Because you are dreaming, and it doesn’t have to make sense. This is one of the two biggest things present that make this so terrifying. The other element that is truly scary is that you can only put off sleep so much; it doesn’t matter how much coffee you drink or loud rock music you listen to, there is no escaping it. You’re eventually going to succumb to slumber, and that’s when Freddy is going to get you.
Having 6-foot arms just seems like an unfair advantage, even in dreams.
Apart from the overall dated-ness of this, the acting also leaves quite a bit to be desired and is more wooden than it is not, which I suppose is par for the course given the genre and the date this was made. It is interesting to see Johnny Depp in his first movie role; he was in his very early twenties at the time, and the story goes that he just tagged along with Jackie Earle Haley to the audition and director Wes Craven asked him to read for the part… just a bit of trivia I found to be interesting. A Nightmare on Elm Street is inarguably dated, but between the disturbing imagery and the convincing practical effects, there’s still more than enough here to be worthy of your time any Halloween season.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) ****
– Critic for Hire