Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street Film Review


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One, Two Freddy’s Coming For You

A Nightmare on Elm Street has been regarded as a classic slasher film since it’s release in 1984.  Taking a look at it over thirty years later, this is a hot and cold movie. What it does well with, it does better than any of the other popular slashers, like the way it explores dreams and reality and the way it’s villain kills its victims. However, there are other aspects to the movie that haven’t aged well like it’s film score and terrible acting.

 High school student Tina (Amanda Wyss) has a nightmare where she’s pursued by a burnt man with a bladed glove (Robert Englund).  He slashes her across the chest tearing her nightgown.  When she wakes up her nightgown is torn in exactly the same manner as it was in her dream.  The next day she shares her dream with her boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia) and her two best friends Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Glen (Johnny Depp). They quickly learn that they’re all being pursued by the same man in their own dreams, and it’s only matter of time before he kills them all.

I guess it’s not much of a spoiler alert, but spoiler alert the man pursuing all of these rambunctious teenagers is Freddy Krueger. Freddy is out for revenge for his death which came at the hands of these teenagers’ parents.  What makes Freddy the best of the major slasher villains in my opinion is the fact that he kills people in their dreams.  He’s not a super invincible hulk like Michael or Jason, he’s a demonic spirit that can manipulate realities.  It makes for a lot of imaginative chase sequences and some really bloody, gory deaths. Although Freddy’s famous for the gloved knives, the deaths in this movie often go beyond just cutting people to pieces.  Two of these deaths have to be some of my all time favorites in horror movies.

The blending of dreams and reality is a concept that’s a bit more sophisticated for your typical slasher, but A Nightmare on Elm Street executes this portion of the story well. There a number of other interesting thematic concepts that are introduced like the fact that Freddy only attacks adolescents in this movie, which is symbolic of the difficulties of coming of age.  The false protections that many associate with living in the suburbs is shattered by the violent deaths that take place in this suburban town. The fact that the parents of these kids lynched Freddy long ago, and they still failed to protect their kids from him also plays into this film’s critique of suburban safety.

The parents in this film are particularly neglectful, and just all-around terrible parents. The worst of these parents are Nancy’s father Police Lt. Don Thompson (John Saxon) and her alcoholic mother Marge (Ronee Blakley). As the nightmares Nancy experiences begin to ruin her life, her parents only make the situation worse.  They try to get her to take sleeping pills, which in this case would certainly kill her, and then they lock her in her own home, without any supervision … which means if she does fall asleep Nancy’s going to have to face Freddy alone.

I believe music in any film is one of the most important parts of making it a success. That being said, the film score to A Nightmare on Elm Street is a catastrophe.  The overly loud music drowns out sound effects and dialogue with terrible 80’s synth-effects.  It makes it difficult to comprehend the melody, and even worse it tries to emphasize scares with these effects.  Moments that could be genuinely scary by themselves are turned into jokes by Bwwaaahhs!, Waaahhhhhs!, and Sch…Sch…Schs!.  John Carpenter’s Halloween was revolutionary with the way it used music and particularly with how it used silence, it’s a film score that has aged admirably.  These lessons in music seemed to be lost on Wes Craven and film composer Charles Bernstein, and it’s hands down the single worst aspect of the movie.

I don’t particularly like to rip a horror film for bad acting, it’s kind of a staple of the genre to have a number of cheesy lines of dialogue.  In A Nightmare on Elm Street nearly every line of dialogue sounds like a bad acting moment.  While this can often times be funny, it happened to take make me out of the movie so often that I still wouldn’t be able to stop myself from laughing once the film had transitioned to the scary stuff. The only consistently strong acting performance comes from Robert Englund who was the perfect choice to play Freddy.

One final note, this was Johnny Depp’s first movie. There’s nothing here that really showed he would become a huge star, but it’s a fun piece of trivia.  This is a must watch for fans of horror, or anyone who’s a fan of blood, guts, and nightmares.

Score: 8.0

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