Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

It’s funny how you perception can changes with time when it comes to certain certain movies. At the tender age of ten years old, when I first set my eyes upon the visage that was Fred Kruger the pizza faced serial child killer and implied diddler, I was immediately converted into a hardcore fan until my late teens, when I kinda fell off the wagon when it came to horror movies. Primarily because so many of the new ones were just awful, I found myself dismissing the genre entirely until very recently. Hence the last time I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, something close to a decade ago now probably, I distinctively recall turning it off around halfway through because I found it being incredibly boring. Yet to my surprise, watching it again now (prompted by the death of Wes Craven) I found myself coming full circle: I was completely captivated by the movie again. It was incredibly creepy and atmospheric to watch, I was stunned. It feels like I’ve fallen in love with the franchise all over again. It couldn’t just be that it was so effective thanks to me watching it midnight, I’m not that impressionable.

There’s so much to like about this movie. It’s well written, it’s so original and imaginative the way it approaches the whole slasher genre, ithas some really good performances, it builds up Freddy and his looming threat perfectly and it actually feels a bit scary. There is a believable, real sense of palpable fear throughout the story until Nancy is finally strong enough to defeat Freddy. And the sexual undertones are brilliantly creepy. The scene where Nancy is sleeping in the bath and Freddy’s gauntlet emerges from the bath water and starts to approach Nancy through her open legs is insanely uncomfortable, not to mention truly iconic scene.

Considering how the movie at this point is over thirty years old, the effects and story still hold up impeccably well. Young Johnny Depp becoming a geyser of blood looked absolutely fantastic and the outline of Freddy’s face and body emerging from the wallpaper above the bed as he’s stalking his next victim at night was genuinely scary in its simplicity. Even the slightly goofy bits, like when Nancy’s friend is being dragged along the ceiling in front of her boyfriend still works. I even found myself enjoying the effect where Freddy stretches both of his hands to inhuman length, as silly and stupid as it looked. It’s almost sad how much the original movies puts the recent Jackie Earle Haley helmed remake to shame in the effects department, not that the plot or most of the acting had much to brag about either, but that entire movie is so terrible it’s best be forgotten entirely. It’s almost unfair to compare the two.

Freddy doesn’t really show much of his panache for the tongue in cheek dark humor here, but he’s already got the theatrics part done to a tee. You do already get a small glimpse of the iconic, gleeful malice of Freddy tormenting his victims before going for the kill, and it’s appropriately theatrical and menacing. The numerous dream sequences and the way the transition from being awake to Nancy dreaming were magnificent. Even when you are aware it’s just a dream, the transition from normal daylight school to suddenly ethereal dream space is incredibly smooth and effective. As you might now guess, my favorite dream scene was when Nancy falls asleep in class and she starts following her dead friend down the hallway that ultimately leads her down the stairs to Freddy’s lair. Everything from the fallen leaves on the hallway to the corpse in the bloody body bag being dragged and leaving a blood trail for Nancy to follow, it’s stunning how well composed and shot the entire sequence is, and that’s before you get to the lair where the hissing pipes, ill lid and claustrophobic maze  build a really intense sense of dread as Nancy descends to Freddy’s trap.

This really put me in the mood to watch more Freddy movies again, it genuinely revitalized my passion for the entire franchise. I probably have to cue up Wes’ New Nightmare next before plunging into the other sequels. I just saw the ultra gay second installment Freddy’s Revenge last year so I think I’ll opt out from watching that again. It really isn’t that great, the gay subtext is hilarious but not enough to carry what is very much a hastily done cash in sequel, though the basic idea of Freddy possessing a kid to continue his killing spree and some of the effects like Freddy physically manifesting himself  to the real world through the body of the protagonist (nice effect, complete misstep as a story idea) actually are pretty good. And what better time do jump back to the series than now, what with October and Halloween being just around the corner.

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