Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Nightmare on Elm Street

"The Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984, Wes Craven, New Line Cinema) is the first and, in my opinion, best of the series of  the "Nightmare...." saga.. This film introduces us to famously unkillable and unavoidable, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Freddy's the stuff of nightmares. Not only are they his domain, but they are also his hunting ground. And his favourite kind of victim is? Oh, teenage cannon fodder, of course!

As Halloween approaches, I like to lace my usual random horror viewing with some real classics, because frankly, I like to be scared and sometimes the classics are the only way to do that. So I'm starting with some base fears (via yesterday's 'IT' and today's Freddy); the nightmare.

When a group of friends all have similar nightmares about getting hunted down and murdered by a mysterious and severely disfigured man with a glove which has knives for fingers, you'd think they'd be a little worried. But you know horror movie teens; they love sex... And to hell with everything else!

When Tina (Amanda Wyss) is then murdered in her sleep by said man, the teens begin to realise that there is someone stalking them in their dreams... A someone who can kill you, and whom you can't avoid, because... well... Everyone sleeps.

Poor Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Glen (a very young Johnny Depp in his first big screen film role) and Rod (Nick Corri) try to avoid ol' murderous Freddy as best they can, but can you just fathom it? None of the grown ups believe them! And instead think that they are all either crazy or mad killers!

The special effects are still admiral to this day (for instance the much copied bath scene), although often a little kitsch and corny (the mildly hilarious phone-tongue scene for example). The bit with the stairs was always my favourite, though! Really gave me the shivers as a kid.

The scary thing about Freddy is that he has utter control in the dream realm, and an uncanny knack of convincing you that you're actually awake and safe! The false-start dream sequence is overplayed these days, but "Nigtmare..." still brings it with the best of them.

Englund clearly relishes his role as psychotic child-murderer-turned-murderous-dream-ghost, bringing an edge of manic glee to the role. His iconic jumper, hat and glove is still a common sight on Halloween to this day on both males and females alike.

A real classic that suffers from the 'too-many-sequels-spoils-the-broth' mentality which threatens many of the greats (see 'Halloween', 'Friday the 13th', 'Poltergeist', 'Alien' and 'Predator' for evidence...) and not so greats (see 'Puppet Master'...). Craven is one of the few masters of the 'too-many-sequels' craft, however, and has enjoyed much success with his 'Scream' films.

The plot is actually pretty dark (as most horrors obviously are), and the adults in the film are way too busy trying to ignore their own dark secrets to admit that Freddy is killing again. This level can easily be ignored by the gorehounds looking for boobs and blood, but for those seeking something more, it can add another dimension.

A film everyone should see at least once, and one which manages to remain funny and jumpy despite it's rapidly ageing look.

[Picture: New Line Cinema]