It’s remarkable to see perhaps the most popular horror franchise ever spawn as the progeny of this relatively low-budget title. Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (while sullied since by the festering ball-ache of a remake) remains a must-see for horror afficionados, and a truly seminal celluloid release. While the above trailer from HorrorMovieExtras is enough to evoke a violent onslaught of nostalgia-diahorrea, the movie warrants a closer look.
Get a mop for those shit-stains on the floor, and we’ll get to it.
The pioneering concept is one reason for the movie’s success. Slasher films are nary seen reinventing the wheel; preferring, like our ancestors themselves, to gaze at a newly-assembled cart or suchlike in awestruck wonderment. (“What the hell?” One of these ancient, hairy fellows grunted vacuously while scratching his balls, “that there giant box-with-seats is... rolling along the street! On circular propulsion systems of some kind! What kind of ACTUAL HOLY-SHIT SORCERY is this? I need to lie down.” I still maintain that my history teacher was an alcoholic, so don’t quote me on this. I’m fairly confident this is how it happened when this pivotal discovery was unveiled though.) The half-witted teenagers whose decrepit auto breaks down in the woods or suchlike is the usual fare, which is why I found A Nightmare on Elm Street such a revelation. Sleep and dreams are such enigmatic and abstract notions, and the impotence inherent in these states is a powerful tool of fear. As such, the plight of the children of Elm Street is both fantastical and relatable. After all, every child in the world ever has surely been afraid of the dark to some extent. (Indeed, I personally still have a little Snoopy nightlight and get a gold sticker every morning I haven’t pissed the bed.
“Look, ma! No urine!”)
Supporting the innovative premise is none other than Freddy Krueger himself. A true icon of cinema; the ubiquitous sweater, glove and fedora have achieved worldwide renown. Avid movie-goers, horror fans and Halloween revellers have all embraced this hideous pervert. This fame is primarily due to Robert Englund’s exemplary performance, the man effortlessly steals the show during every second of his screen time. (compared to the lobotomized display from the rest of the cast, this effect is only amplified. This came to a head in the 2010 remake, which seemed populated almost entirely by graduates of Professor Awful’s Dire Acting School of Excruciating, Tie-Your-Nuts-in-a-Knot Shitty Vegetable-Acting.) A charismatic villain like few others, whether he’s slicing his own torso to reveal his fluorescent green insect-blood or hanging a guy with appalling facial hair with his own jail-bedsheets, Freddy is a wonder to watch. Jackie Earle Halley’s take on the character was magnificently visceral; an angry, angry bastard. (I’m unsure what caused this frightful new demeanour. I daresay Mrs. Krueger was involved. “Freddy, have you been eviscerating the local youths again? When I was hoovering your room earlier, I found a couple of fingers, three eyeballs and a head under the bed. I’m very disappointed in you, young man. You’re grounded!”
“But mooooom! That’s not fair! I Hate You!”
And as the door slammed and max-volume rock music began to emanate through it, pissed-off Freddy was born.) While this certainly proved effective, many fans maintain that it’s not a patch on Englund’s portrayal. 1984 Krueger was more endearing, with his bizarre toddler-with-an-overloaded-shitsack run through that piss-stinking alley and stretch-tastic Mr Tickle arms just because he can.
It’s an eternally memorable movie. The school sequence, with Tina leaving a grotesque snail-trail of bloody viscera in her bodybag, remains a rather haunting sight. It’s also notable for being the first celluloid appearance from Johnny Depp, with his laughably inexplicable 80‘s afro-mullet of death. Not to mention his subsequent shower of actual bleeding blood on the ceiling death. A Nightmare on Elm Street displayed a wonderful smorgasbord of creepy ideas, from Tina’s inverted demise to the frightful frolics with the tongue telephone. The special effects were beleaguered somewhat by the constraints of the time (the farcical mother-grabbing denouement is quite plainly a doll being flailed ineffectually through a dollhouse window) and the ACME-esque antics near the end were a little ridiculous. Wile E. Coyote himself would have delighted in the sledgehammer-on-a-string trap (before setting it off himself and bruising his ballsack with it as the Roadrunner chuckles with schadenfreude). Even so, a fantastic horror movie, still remarkably entertaining and rightfully revered. The franchise became ever more Arnold Schwarzenegger quip-tastic as each new release arrived, but the original is where it’s at.
Whatever it is.