31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #14 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

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Tagline: One, Two, Freddy’s Coming for You…

Director: Wes Craven

Writer(s): Wes Craven

Studio: New Line Cinema

Budget: $1.8m

Box Office: $25.5m

Release Date: 9th November, 1984

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Heather Langenkamp – Nancy Thompson

Amanda Wyss – Tina Gray

Jsu Garcia – Rod Lane

Johnny Depp – Glen Lantz

John Saxon – Lt. Donald Thompson

Ronee Blakley – Marge Thompson

Robert Englund – Fred Krueger

Trailer

Plot According to Google: In Wes Craven’s classis slasher film, several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger, a disfigured midnight mangler who preys on the teenagers in their dreams – which, in turn, kills them in reality. After investigating the phenomenon, Nancy begins to suspect that a dark secret kept by her and her friends’ parents may be the key to unravelling the mystery, but can Nancy and her boyfriend Glen solve the puzzle before it’s too late?

Inertia’s Insight: A Nightmare On Elm Street burst on to the saturated horror scene in 1984, with audiences expecting to see a new slasher villain in the same old vain, but what they got was something completely unique.

The teenagers of Springwood, Ohio are being haunted by a scarred man in a tattered green and red jumper with claws for fingers, stalking them in their dreams with the overriding chant: One, two Freddy’s coming for you

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The film starts with a tense showdown between Tina and Freddy, in which we see the infamous boiler room as well as Freddy’s ability to be in many places at once. This is Freddy’s world we’re in, a dream world made of nightmares, of terror that Freddy controls. As the teenagers share their experiences of their nightmares and realise their common theme, it’s not long before the first unexplained murder happens. Tina, in bed with Rod after some loud make-up sex, is elevated from her bed and rolled around the ceiling before her stomach is torn open with three slashes, before falling to the bed, dead. This scene is shocking, as it cements the reality of Freddy’s ability whilst underpinning the teenagers’ struggle for the rest of the film.

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It’s testament to Wes Craven’s writing that he manages to mix the teenage angst of the 80’s with a perfectly crafted horror. In this film, much like It Follows, the teenagers find themselves isolated in this nightmare. Though the adults are present (and are, in fact, the cause of the problem) they are unwilling to help or believe their struggling children as the death toll mounts. And so it is down to Nancy, the Final Girl, to discover the true nature of Freddy, what motivates him but most importantly, what can kill him.

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It’s a slasher film of an entirely different ilk, where the killer isn’t a faceless masked stalker but rather a known entity that hunts its victims in the place they’re supposed to feel safe. It’s a certainty that eventually, they will have to sleep. And when they do, he’ll be waiting for them.

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The beauty of the film is the way in which Craven blurs the line between the real world and the dream world. When your alarm screams in the morning and you hit the snooze button, you often enter that lucid state in which reality and fantasy blur together and its hard to tell until you’re awake what was real. Here, Craven blends seamlessly between the two, leaving you to question the reality until you see that element – that confirmation – that it’s actually a dream.

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A Nightmare On Elm Street is famous for the villain Freddy Krueger, who would go on to be the lunchbox anti-hero of several sequels and even a TV series, but here he only manages a total of seven minutes screen time. But you can’t tell: the fear of the man known as Freddy Krueger and how he is referenced and feared by the teenagers embeds you in his mind as if he is in every scene. He would go on to become gimmicky, but here he is a terrible force of power that has one agenda: their death. The film has striking imagery, from Freddy stretching the wall above Nancy, to the claw emerging from the bath, to the fountain of blood in Glen’s room, Craven crafted a film that re-invented the expectations of the 80’s slasher horror film.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • Freddy Krueger has under seven minutes of screen time.
  • New Line Cinema was saved from bankruptcy by the success of the film, and was jokingly nicknamed, “The House That Freddy Built”.
  • Wes Craven developed the idea after reading an article about a group of Southeast Asian refugees who died in their sleep after experiencing horrific nightmares.
  • The film cost $1.8m to make – it earnt this back in the opening weekend.

Quotes

NANCY THOMPSON: Whatever you do… Don’t fall asleep.

CHILDREN (singing): One, two Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four better lock your door. Five, six grab your crucifix. Seven, eight gonna stay up late. Nine, ten never sleep again.

FREDDY KRUEGER: I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.

All images courtesy of Blu Shots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Tomorrow: Night #15 – The ABC’s of Death (2012)

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