A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) (R)
















Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" remains one of the most highly revered horror films of all time. Possibly because of its original premise and memorable killings, this film has safely landed in all sorts of 'top 10 horror movie' lists around. With good reason, the film is very entertaining and, at moments, genuinely thrilling.
Yet the overwhelming thought in my mind goes something like this: "Blah-blah-blah-blah-SCARY MOMENT blah-blah-blah-blah". The only good parts of the film are the suspense sequences and those are spaced apart between ridiculous dialogue and irrational characters.
I would like to see a movie where teenagers are not stupid...I made this comment in my review on "The Evil Dead". But compared to Wes Craven's dream infused horror staple, Sam Raimi's characters look like geniuses. In "The Evil Dead" they stood by the windows and went looking in the dark woods at night for things that go 'bump'. In "Nightmare" the teens go looking for creepy sounding voices that call their name, don't bother to bring back-up, don't follow good advice, and find every which way to blunder their way to the movie's next scare.
In the moments that are not frightening, we get parents who don't listen to their kids, boyfriends who don't listen to their girlfriends, and no body who listens to Nancy.
The movie's opening, which is marred by the big-block credits that distract from the terror, sets us right down in the middle of a nightmare. Tina (Amanda Wyss) is in hell...at least, that's how I see it. She's in the kingdom of Freddy Krueger, a man with a fiery past. This horror baddie has a glove with knife-like devices attached to each fingertip...like that chick from that X-men movie. He lives in a steam-punk world with boiling pipes and sooty floors. Tina is there in her dreams and Freddy is chasing her down corridor after corridor. Finally, when she is cornered, he sneaks up behind her and—bam!—she wakes up. Once awakened, she finds that she has four holes in her nightie the roughly the shape of a tiger's paw.....or the hand of a mystery man with knives for nails; but no matter, we happily cut the next scene instead of exploring what happened when you wake up with gaping holes in the front of your PJs.
Tina goes to school with Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Nancy's boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp...yes that's right). The three share stories of nightmares and dreams. In the end, Tina is quite sure that she doesn't want to go to sleep again.
The movie makes a narrative shift from Tina to Nancy. Nancy starts to figure out what's going on. She delves into the past of Freddy Krueger to find out why he is haunting the teens' dreams.
I hate the idea of this movie because it states the the smartest teen out of a group of dumb teens is the one that is going to survive. Teens aren't, by nature, stupid creatures...but this film implies so. I would like to see a horror movie that had a villain so good that he could kill everyone, and the most wily and survival oriented teen would survive.
Instead, Freddy picks off the teens like he was lion and they were a sick and/or baby zebra...Sigourney Weaver narrates if you were wondering.
Nancy's mother, Marge (Ronee Blakley) is a real piece of work. She starts becoming an alcoholic in the last half hour of the film. I don't know where that came from, but they seemed to need a reason to create a setting for the unsatisfying finale.
You can't deny that "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is original, because it is. What you can do is criticize the way the movie handles its two-deminsional characters with cheesy dialogue.
What you watch the movie for is the killings, because they are so darn enjoyable to see.
Who can forget a bathtub sequence or a Johnny-nom-nom-noming bed?
After all is said and done, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is not the smartest horror film or the scariest, but it is entertaining the whole way through.






Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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