Director: Wes Craven
I am a fan of horror and love scaring myself. Although I do generally end up watching horror films on my own during the day curled up with my dog for company/protection but that is mainly because nobody else I know particularly enjoys horror. I think I jumped in the deep end when it came to the horror genre because my first experience of it was watching The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin) aged about 15 or so. Since then I have watched the classics like Dracula (1931, Tod Browning); slasher films like Scream (1996, Wes Craven) and Japanese horror along the lines of Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata) and The Grudge: Girl In Black (2009, Mari Asato) And yet the slew of horror films made during the 1970s and 1980s are definitely some of the best.
“Nightmare combines elements of gothic literature – the seductive villain, the terrible place, the emphasis on dreams and subjective vision – with elements of the generic slasher movie – victims picked off one by one, the indestructible killer, the resourceful and virginal female survivor.” (705, Steven Jay Schneider, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of my favorites … and not just because it’s the film debut of the magnificent Johnny Depp. I recently watched the remake by Samuel Bayer (2010) and while it had been updated and very slightly altered, in terms of back story, it is essentially a carbon copy of the original. And yet there is something infinitely scarier about the original.
“Wes Craven’s signature film, A Nightmare On Elm Street was at once a critical and commercial success that managed to creatively combine horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary. And it let loose a new monster in America’s pop cultural consciousness: that wisecracking fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Krueger.” (705) Freddy Krueger is one of the most terrifying of those well-known slasher killers – I find him scarier than Jason (Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham 1980) and Michael (Halloween, John Carpenter, 1978) I think it’s because his domain is the world of dreams and consequently his ability to manipulate everything in it.
Krueger is so iconic in that grungy striped jumper with the gnarly razor gloves. And let’s not forget his horribly disfigured face. Robert Englund will forever be associated with Krueger, his truly disturbing creation. Although I have to say I thought Jackie Earl Healy did a masterful job taking on the iconic character in the remake. The associated song:
“1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you;
3, 4, better lock the door;
5, 6, grab your crucifix;
7, 8, gonna stay up late;
9, 10, never sleep again!”
is seriously creepy as it’s usually sung by little girls. It also stays in my head for days afterwards which does not help with the whole falling asleep thing I can tell you.
Heather Langenkamp is excellent as the lone survivor Nancy. She’s strong, resilient, persistent and absolutely determined. In short an excellent role-model for young women.
“The film’s spectacular set pieces, laden with special effects wizardry and gallons of fake blood, are balanced by an anxiety-inducing score and a gripping narrative, as we feel for the intended victims in their hopeless battle to stay awake.” (705) The score is excellent and key piece in creating the nail-biting tension of the film. It’s in the horror genre that the importance of a good score is really evident as it increases the scary nature of the images being cut together to form the narrative. A horror film with the sound turned down is far less scary than with the score playing.