A Nightmare On Elm Street begins with a mysterious figure crafting an all-purpose murder glove in a boiler room somewhere. Coincidentally, Tina (Amanda Wyss) has a nightmare where she is chased by a mysterious figure wearing a murder glove! It's always nice when you don't have to wait for plot points to pay off. Tina runs from this creepy, fedora-and-ugly-sweater-wearing, razor-gloved meanie, but he catches up with her.
|Maybe he just wants a hug|
|Or props that make sense in their scenes. What is with the birds by the boombox?|
|He becomes the Magneto of flesh?|
|...before he falls through that latex wall and lands on her damn head!|
The acting in A Nightmare On Elm Street is not very good. In the lead role, Heather Langenkamp is pretty awful and sadly doesn't die (or does she...?). She didn't annoy me, but she's not very likable and has trouble with any part of her character that can't be described as a "wet blanket." Amanda Wyss was a little better as Tina, although she was also pretty basic. Jsu Garcia was one-dimensional, but his one dimension was that of an insensitive rebel-type, and he did that fairly well. Johnny Depp wasn't much better, with some of his line readings (especially "WoooOOOOoooo") being painful to watch. On the bright side, his character didn't demand much acting, and Depp at least managed to get the most memorable death scene in the film.
|If you're not going to be good in a movie, at least try to die well|
|That's a great introduction shot|
A Nightmare On Elm Street was written and directed by Wes Craven, after he read about (I shit you not) Asian Death Syndrome. The basic idea here is a chilling one: what if the danger in your dreams was real? As such, Craven goes out of his way to make a menacing villain, and he does so with some great visual scenes.
|That's not Freddy. That's a subtle warning to not date Nancy.|
The special effects in A Nightmare On Elm Street had some definitely good moments, but it's pretty inconsistent overall. Glen and Tina's death scenes are pretty great, no doubt about it. I don't know what it is that makes them so memorable --- is it just the fact that they wind up on the ceiling? --- but they definitely stand out in the genre. I also really like the moments where the audience is aware of Freddy's presence, but Nancy is not, like when he pushes his face in the wall above her bed, or when she is sitting in the bathtub. Unfortunately, there are also moments like this:
|Unless those are expanding dildos coming out from his shoulder, I'm not impressed|
|Is that supposed to be silly putty?|
What about the horror, though? For being a slasher movie, the Nightmare movies have always had a fairly low body count, and A Nightmare On Elm Street definitely sets that precedent. Four people officially die in this movie. Granted, two of those kills are pretty awesome, but...just four?!? LAME. Worse than the low blood and gore count is the fact that this film completely ignores the easiest and most fun possibility for horror: the dreams. Aside from a few bits with Nancy dreaming about Tina's talking corpse, the only dreamscape we see is Freddy's Land of Boiler Room Fun. Dreams offer so many possibilities and even one good, weird one would have made a huge difference to the tone of this movie. It might have even added *gasp* suspense to this slasher pic!
Don't get me wrong, A Nightmare On Elm Street is definitely better than most movies starring Freddy Krueger (noteworthy exception: Freddy Vs. Jason). I just had a memory of it being actually good instead of just promising. Really, how many horror franchises have a villain that has at least a kernel of justification in his back story? Yes, he was evil, but the dude got lynched --- that may not be the best reason to kill teenagers, but at least he has a small excuse. Unfortunately, most of the promising ideas aren't fully formed. What makes Freddy Krueger stand out from his slasher movie brethren is his personality, and that is sorely missing from this movie. Well, that and any logic whatsoever when it comes to when Freddy can kill you --- I'm pretty sure that only one person was actually asleep when they died, which makes no sense. Even considering its many shortcomings, A Nightmare On Elm Street does have a unique feel to it, which goes a long way for the discerning fan of 80s horror movies. Is it a classic? I wouldn't say that, but it has its moments.