Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon
Running time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wes Craven
Towards the end of the seventies and beginning of the eighties, we were blessed with some great horror films that have become cult classics today. First off there was Halloween, that introduced us to Michael Myers. Secondly was Friday the 13th which gave birth to Jason Voorhees. Next came A Nightmare On Elm Street which unleashed a demon into our dreams in Freddy Kruger. Looking back on this film now, after having Freddy Kruger being a huge horror villain as I grew up, I see that in the very first film he is nothing like he is interpreted today. The sequels seem to have ruined the character slightly as in the first film he is frightening, unpredictable and kept in the dark for most of the film, leaving you anticipating his next move. There are none of the wise cracks that he is resembled with today, and he is nothing like the version we saw in the 2010 remake. This is Freddy Kruger at his best.
For those who don't know, the film follows a girl called Nancy (Langenkamp) and her group of friends. One by one they begin to have nightmares, each involving the same man, Fred Kruger. This man is heavily scared, wears a hooped red and green jumper, a tatty hat, and has knives for fingers. As the group begin to realise they are dreaming of the same guy one of the girls is killed in her dream by Fred Kruger, which kills her in real life. This is shown in a fantastic scene where this poor girl is dragged across the ceiling, blood spilling from her but no other person in sight. Once this girl is killed her boyfriend becomes the main suspect and he has no way to prove his innocence. The only one that believes him is Nancy, who has now started to have these nightmares more frequently, and finds herself attempting to stay awake for days on end in order to avoid her nightmare. Once the truth about Freddy is revealed she devises a way to finally bring a stop to her nightmare and sets up a trap involving her boyfriend (Depp) to finish Kruger once and for all.
What makes this stand out from other horror films of its time is that it explores the notion of dream against reality. At times during the film you are unaware of which reality we are in and this really adds to the visuals of the film, especially when we see Freddy's destruction in reality and he isn't even there. We are also introduced to another horror icon who doesn't remain silent throughout, and walk like a machine hell bent on death. We have a killer insistent on laughing at the poor children he is tormenting, and one that also looks feeble in comparison to other icons. He may not be as scary as Michael Myers but something about Freddy Kruger really sends a shiver down your spine.
Considering the film was made nearly thirty years ago, it is still pretty scary. Scenes that show a blood soaked girl calling out from inside a body bag is chilling, and the scene when she is dragged around the room by nobody is incredibly disturbing and one you won't be able to shift from you minds. The opening scene played with the opening credits prepares you for what you are about to see as Freddy makes the knives which become his fingers, a great way to set this character up. Other scenes however aren't as scary and can look a little comedic, but I think that is due to the low budget and standard of film making back then.
Robert Englund, who plays Freddy, is brilliant in this film. He brings the character to life and I'm sure would scare children if they watch this film. The make up for him is brilliant and his costume is now very iconic. Langenkamp unfortunately is not great in her role as Nancy, and it is her kind of performance that stereotypes today's horror female leads as poor actors. Her delivery of lines at times is amateurish which makes you struggle to route for her. Really all you want to see when you get into the film is Kruger. Depp is average in his performance, and it is hard to see the Depp of today in his performance here.
The film is full of clichés but you can over look these as horror in the eighties was designed like this. To watch it now you would cringe or roll your eyes at the character decisions to venture into the dark due to a noise, but when this was made that was brand new and wasn't as frowned upon. There are some scenes which are bad though and can't use the excuse of when it was made. One scene Nancy manages to set up a house full of booby traps in ten minutes, which includes setting a sledge hammer up above a door. There would not be enough time to set this up and certainly not if she had to find the items to use as well. Also she lives alone with her mother, what use would they have for a sledge hammer. It is parts like that in movies which is really frustrating. Also the ending disappointed me. I know it was supposed to be a twist but it didn't really make sense with the rest of the film. This ending also shows the worst piece of special effects on show.
All in all I can see why this is a classic. We are introduced to a new villain, and asked to believe in the notion of dreams being real. To look at it now it isn't as good as it would have been thirty years ago, but it is still better than the poor remake. The poor effects of this film really do add to the suspense of it all. Halloween this is not, but an influential horror film it certainly is.
3 / 5
Next film to review: THE ILLUSIONIST