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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET - 1984
New Line Cinema
Rated: Australia, USA: R / Finland: K-18 / France: -12 / Germany, Norway, UK: 18 / Sweden: 15
When A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET introduced Freddy Krueger to the horror world in 1984, there was scant
competition from the film industry, and nothing to prevent this monster's
subsequent rise to stardom. That same year, FRIDAY THE 13th: The Final
Chapter proclaimed the end of Jason Voorhees (yeah, right). HALLOWEENs
Michael Myers was persona non grata in SEASON OF THE WITCH, and would not rear his William Shatner-masked head again until 1988 in the fourth
film. Leatherface's first (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE)
sequel was still two years away, and Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites
(HELLRAISER) wouldn't debut until 1987.
So that left Freddy as the horror champion of the 80s - as famous as those Universal
and Hammer stars of yesteryear, Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf
Man, and the Mummy. The brainchild of writer/director Wes Craven (LAST
HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, DEADLY
BLESSING, SCREAM), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET would not only make Freddy Krueger a household name (whether
one saw the film or not), but it would also catapult New Line Cinema
into a major film studio, and become a merchandizing franchise that included
sequels, a television series, magazines, toys and more.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The film opens in a dank, dark workshop to the sounds of dripping water and hissing
steam. A pair of hands are busy with tools - bending and shaping metal
to attach four long knives to the fingers of an old rotting right-hand
glove. Utilizing only a small square in the center of the movie screen
for this prologue, Craven draws the audience in to the intimacy of the
craft, and the pleasure of the artist as he completes his homemade weapon.
Metal shrieks as the finger knives are dragged across pipes, echoing throughout a boiler
room labyrinth where Tina (Amanda Wyss: TO DIE FOR,
TO DIE FOR II, BLACK MAGIC WOMAN) is desperately searching for
a way out. Her stalker calls out her name, keeping to the shadows, and
waiting for Tina to step into one. And just as he pounces upon her, she
awakens with a scream, bringing her mother to her bedroom. It was just
a dream, but if that's true then why are there four open slits in Tina's
Confiding in her high school friends the next day, Tina learns that Nancy (Heather
NIGHTMARE ON ELMSTREET 3: The Dream Warriors, Wes Craven's NEW NIGHTMARE) has also been dreaming of the fingernail
creep - as have Tina's bad boy boyfriend Rod (Nick
Corri: PREDATOR 2, A VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN,
CANDYMAN: Day Of The Dead) and Nancy's boyfriend Glen (a
pre-21 Jump Street Johnny
Depp: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE NINTH GATE, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN [all]). The teenagers learn that their shared nightmare
monster can do more than simply disturb their sleep as one by one their
dreams of being killed become reality.
Heading the investigation into the deaths is Nancy's father, police Lt. Donald Thompson
(John Saxon: BLACK CHRISTMAS, TENEBRE, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), who, along with his estranged wife Marge (Ronee Blakely: MANNIKIN, A RETURN TO 'SALEM'S LOT) are concerned that their daughter's belief in a dream murderer is due to shock and lack of sleep. But when they learn
the identity of Nancy's sleeptime stalker, Fred Krueger (Robert
Englund, previously best known to genre fans
as friendly alien Willie from V), they're confronted by the sins
- and guilt - of their own past.
Wired on caffeine pills and coffee, Nancy's fear of sleep is taking its toll on
her. But in order to stop Krueger, she must fall asleep, and bring him
out of the dream world when she awakens.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is more
of a nightmare for adults than for kids. It's a film about parents' inability
to protect their children, who are paying the price for their sins. In
fact, the parents portrayed in the film can't even communicate with their
teenaged sons and daughters. When Tina awakens from her nightmare in her
torn nightshirt, her mother tells her to "cut her fingernails or
cut out that kind of dreaming." Marge is an alcoholic and overprotective
mother who insists that a good night's sleep is all Nancy needs to curb
As for Freddy Krueger (whose filthy red and green striped sweater
and battered fedora are as familiar to viewers as his clawed glove),
he takes perverse delight in tormenting his victims (especially
when it involves self-mutilation). He is a monster - not because
he is hideously scarred with burns, or endowed with supernatural powers
- but because he is a killer of children, and for a parent there is nothing
worse than outliving their own child. His ability to kill through dreams
gives him an added edge. Everyone must sleep, so no one is safe. With
minimal special effects courtesy of Jim Doyle (THE STUFF, HELLO MARY LOU: Prom Night II) and David B. Miller (THE TERMINATOR,
Wes Craven's NEW NIGHTMARE), Craven
blends the waking and dreaming worlds of his characters with disturbing
imagery - a body bag-clad ghost, an impression of Krueger stretching through
a solid wall, and finger knives rising from bath water* towards a sleeping Nancy.
Despite some flaws (Krueger stretching his arms across an alleyway
like Plastic Man was laughable when I first saw it, and remains so; as
is Nancy's ability to booby-trap her house "A-Team"-style in
ten minutes time), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET revitalized
the teenage slasher flick. But at the time, not even Craven could predict
just how much of a monster he actually created.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET deserves
five girl shrieks.
copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.
Return to Movies
The helpless woman in the bed or bath is a re-occurring theme in Wes Craven
Watch for the
"Bed spider scene"
"Bathtub snake scene"
Besides the NIGHTMARE series (of course) the helpless woman in bath or bed also occurs in
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
THE HILLS HAVE EYES
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE
STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE [TV]
VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN
(though really, a vampire coming upon his female victim, in bed, is a given)