A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare On Elm Street, 194; directed by Wes Craven; starring Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

What to say about A Nightmare on Elm Street, the 29th entry on our Poptoberfest 2017 List of The Greatest Horror Movies of All Time For Ever and Ever Amen?

I’ve obsessed over this movie a few times in my life. First as a teenage horror fan, then as a 20-something wanna-be film maker, and most recently, as a middle-aged guy looking back in nostalgea.

2 years ago I threw a Movie Party to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the original film. I even went so far as to buy a costume (which I’ve only done a handful of times). We all joked about how dated the movie was and laughed at every sight of baby Johnny Depp. I followed it up with Dream Warriors and  skipped Freddy’s Revenge all together, because I always thought it sucked. In the lead-up to the movie party I had gotten wind of a 4-hour documentary about the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series and phenomenon called Never Sleep Again, so of course I put that on next and stayed up until 4 in the morning watching a video dissertation on the ultimate slasher film. After spending 6 hours visiting the trippy, 80’s, dreamscape of Freddy’s World, my obsessiveness was only kindled, so over the next week I watched every single Elm Street movie, including the reboot and Jason vs Freddy. I even watched Freddy’s Revenge, now with a whole new appreciation of it’s hilariously blatant homosexual subtext.

After all was said and done, I came away with a profoundly deeper appreciation for the cinematic genius of the original movie. It’s episodic, story structure. The use of clever (and narratively powerful) editing techniques to effectively replicate the unreality of dream experiences. Add to this a visually arresting and charismatic representation of sexual perversion turned vicious presented in Freddy Krueger. And some pretty clever dialogue and the original Elm Street movie created a formula that was not only original and wildly entertaining, but also (luckily for New Line Cinema) easy to imitate and build on.

Unfortunately the series got stuck in repeat and eventually lost it’s ability to interest modern audiences. The stale reboot proves they still haven’t found a way to extricate the brilliant concept of a cinematic dream/nightmare world populated by demonic representations of human evils, from the trappings of the movie’s birthdate. Unlike Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I think there is still fertile ground for the Nightmare series. They just need to abandon the external style and story elements and look deeper into the subconscious visuals and fears the original movie tapped into. IMHO.

– j.

Jacob Saariaho