[Review] A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.”  Oh hell no, he’s not!  Gimme the coffee, gimme the Stay Awake.  Nancy’s got 3 bottles in her room, I seen em!  So we have all seen the Wes Craven classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund as the most recognizable movie killer of all time.  If there was a Mount Rushmore of horror movie icons, Freddy would undoubtedly be a shoe in for it.  Since the moment I saw this movie as a kid (What were my parents thinking?) I have, like millions of others, said the original Nightmare is a horror classic and that it belongs among the greatest horror movies of all time.  After watching this movie again for this blog, however, I am wondering if we’re not dead wrong (no pun intended).  Is A Nightmare on Elm Street really one of the most iconic horror movies ever created, or have we all been dreaming this entire time?

PLOT/PREMISE:

The premise of this movie comes from a story Wes Craven read decades ago about people in Southeast Asia who were having nightmares and dying in their sleep.  No one could figure out what made these people die from their nightmares.  Fast forward to 1981 and Craven would begin the screenplay on his most memorable film ever made.  Our plot centers around four teenagers who are getting picked off in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, a man who has been burned and uses a razor glove as his weapon of choice.  If you just go by this plot, in the early 80’s, it really is a fresh take on a horror film.  You don’t really know why Freddy is tormenting these kids in their dreams, or at least you don’t until later in the movie, so that makes it even scarier to watch.  The teenagers (Nancy, Glen, Rod, and Tina) have no idea what is causing this strange phenomenon, and little do they know their parents hold a deep, dark secret that unlocks all this mayhem.

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THE SCRIPT:  GENIUS OR RIDICULOUS?

Watching this movie in 2018, I have come to the realization that the script for this movie is just downright terrible.  The dialogue sounds like something a third grader came up with.  At one point Tina describes the bad dream she had, Nancy said she also had a bad dream, and when Tina asked what hers was about, Nancy basically just says everyone has bad dreams.  Umm, yeah, we all know that Nancy. Would you like to answer Tina’s question now?  This may have saved a couple killings….or at least delayed them a bit.  When Nancy isn’t sure about whether Rod killed Tina or not, Rod tells her not to look at him like some *bleeping* “fruitcake”.  Ok, I know I was just a kid in the early 80’s, but were people really using the word “fruitcake” to describe crazy people?  Or was Rod telling her not to look at him like something family brings over at Christmas time but nobody likes?  Either way, the writing is just lame.  Even when it comes to the scenes the writing is just way off.  First of all, why does Freddy immediately kill everyone in the movie, but when it comes to Nancy, he always delays the killing?  Is this some kind of psychotic foreplay for Freddy?  After all, he did tell Nancy on the phone that he was her boyfriend now and tried to stick his tongue in her mouth through the phone….literally.  So maybe this is just how Fred wooed the ladies back then.  Maybe he never wanted to kill Nancy, he just wanted some of that sweet virgin loving….seeing as how Glen wasn’t getting it anyway.  Nancy actually asked Glen to come over in the middle of the night to watch her sleep.  Sorry Glen, you just got put in the friend zone bro.  Maybe Freddy just saw this as his opening.  Anyways, I digress.  Near the end of the movie, Nancy calls her dad (who is across the street dealing with Glen just getting killed) and tells him to come over in 20 minutes, because she’s gonna drag Freddy out of the dream world so he can be arrested.  After hanging up, she then goes and begins a very intricate series of booby traps around the house, lays down in bed, says a prayer, and goes to sleep.  This would have easily taken an hour to pull off, so what was that “20 minutes” nonsense?  No wonder her dad didn’t even take her seriously!  All in all, I have to grade this script as an ‘F’, as I think it could have been written a lot better than it was.

CHARACTERS/ACTORS: WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

I really wish I could blame the dislike I have for these characters on just the script.  Even if you hand a great actor a bad script, it’s hard for them to make chicken salad out of chicken(bleep).  However, it didn’t take long for you to really not care one bit for any of these characters, and the acting was horrible.  One of the things I’m gonna be keeping an eye on as I get through this series, is whether Heather Langenkamp got better as an actress over time, cause I just found her acting to be choppy and the Nancy character to be annoying.  I’ll give Johnny Depp a bit of a pass cause this was his first movie, and he got a LOT better as an actor over the years, but the Glen character was so boring, you really didn’t feel bad for him getting friend zoned the way he did.  That brings us to Rod and Tina.  Rod was supposed to be the bad boy of the group but just came off as really lame and unlikeable for all the wrong reasons.  Tina, the first victim of the group, was just plain as vanilla and although her death scene was really cool, you didn’t have any kind of connection with the character or the actress.  Let’s face it, there’s really no wonder why Freddy Krueger became such a popular character.  You spent most of his movies hoping he would hurry up and kill everyone off in a very cool and grotesque fashion.  Think of the Halloween series (1-5 anyway) and the Friday the 13th series, and you’ll see that in most of them, there was at least one character you rooted for to beat the bad guy.  One character you cheered for when it seemed they got the upper hand.  Now think about the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and name one character you pulled for over Freddy.  That’s right, zero, and it all started with this movie.  We should have been pulling for Nancy and cheering her victory over Freddy, but I don’t think too many of us did.  Credit Robert Englund for his incredible job pulling this role off.  Without him, the series would have ended at one film for sure.  I guess that is why New Line Cinema is referred to as the “House that Freddy built”. 

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THE ENDING:  WAS EVERYTHING WE JUST SAW A DREAM?!

I’m ok with a twist or surprise ending, I think most of us are.  But watch this movie again and see if you don’t feel a bit jerked around by the ending.  So was everything we just saw a dream?  Was everything throughout the movie real and the ending was a dream?  Why did the alcoholic mother suddenly quit cold turkey and start wearing all white?  What was with the car being seemingly possessed?  What happened to the kids when they drove off?  What was with the creepy girls jumping rope in the next yard over?  Why didn’t they do something to make it not look like a mannequin was being pulled through the window?  And the ultimate question….why would you make a sequel and not even touch on what happened at the end of this one?!

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FINAL CONCLUSION:

Despite everything I’ve just said, and despite the way I see this movie now, I still hold A Nightmare on Elm Street in high regards and consider it a classic of a horror film.  Freddy Krueger definitely belongs on the Mount Rushmore of horror (along with Jason, Michael Myers, and Leatherface).  I will absolutely watch this movie dozens of more times and still love it everytime, no matter how critical I’ve been.  However, just based on my ratings system, I cannot give Nightmare a high rating at this point.  There is too much wrong with it, as I watch it in 2018.  Would I recommend this movie to watch?  Absolutely.  Was it a cutting edge horror movie in 1984?  Definitely.  If you watch it in 2018, will you think it’s a well written or acted movie?  Probably not.  But just remember, whatever you do……Don’t. Fall.  Asleep!

Check out the trailer below….

 

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