- Movie Rating -

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

| November 9, 1984

Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street arrives at an interesting point for horror movies, just as the vogue for quickie gut-bucket stalk-and-slash shockers is wearing off.  Even those that were successful like Friday the 13th and Halloween are beginning to show their seams with duplicate sequels of lesser-to-nil value.

Craven’s film at least tries something new, a potent mixture of common-place teen bloodbath and pseudo-European film styles that help build a potent universe far from the trashy world of summer camps and sorority dorms.  This film uses a strange world indeed: kids are murdered in their dreams and by extension in the real world.  The dream world here is something that is not only creepy but unsettlingly unpredictable.  Viewed with the best sound system that you can find, the dream world is filled with ominous sounds, creaking, squealing, groaning, like being inside a hemorrhaging body.  It is also strangely random.  During the film’s opening, a girl runs down these bizarre corridors and spots a sheep running the other way.  Does it make sense?  Not really, but it makes you fear what else might be lurking about.

The story is pretty novel too.  A boogeyman – the demon soul of a dead child molester – returns to avenge himself upon the children of the parents who murdered him.  His stomping ground: their dreams.  Once you die in the dream world, you die for real.  Of course, done wrong this can be patently ridiculous but there is something in the approach that makes this feel somewhat palatable.  The movie gets inside our heads just as much as it gets into the characters.

The murders themselves are, I hate to say it, kind of creative.  There’s a guy who is hung in his jail cell by an invisible killer.  There’s a girl who is stabbed to death on the ceiling.  And there’s one poor sap who becomes a geyser of blood.  The body count here is alarmingly low but the impact of what is there has an extra punch.

Of course, the third act is the Final Girl trope, with the lone survivor declaring war on the killer in order to draw him out.  It’s pretty standard but the movie is kind of breath of fresh air given what has immediately preceded it.  A Nightmare on Elm Street does fall into a lot of horror movie clichés but it explores territory that I have never experience before.  It is creative, scary, creepy and that feels refreshingly new.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Horror