A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
March 25, 2016 1:10 PM - Subscribe

Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. When the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.

NYTimes: In ''A Nightmare on Elm Street,'' several teen-agers start sharing the same dream in which a long-dead child murderer attempts to carry on his mission from the far side of the grave. That he succeeds for a while should come as no surprise to anyone who keeps up with horror films, especially those in which the mortality rate among sexually active teen-agers is always alarmingly high.

Chicago Reader: Here the idea of sleep as the ultimate threat is still fresh and marvelously insidious, and Craven vitalizes the nightmare sequences with assorted surrealist novelties (carpeted stairs that behave like quicksand, a victim sucked into a sinkhole in his mattress).

Empire: And if that isn't enough to put ice in your veins, try this: Craven based the whole thing on a true story. The film stemmed from a series of articles in an LA paper about a group of Southeast Asian kids, all from the same neighbourhood, who died mysteriously in their sleep after a string of vivid nightmares. They probably weren't massacred by a stiletto-fingered sicko in a rugby shirt. But even so, the next time you find yourself back at school with no trousers on and the most frightening thing you've got to contend with is an "A" level physics exam you haven't revised for, count yourself lucky.

Robert Englund Talks Nightmare on Elm Street El Rey Marathon & Wes Craven Legacy

Every ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

posted by MoonOrb (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The good ones are the ones with Heather Langenkamp.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having seen them all in one single, surreal sitting, this is by far the best of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
posted by town of cats at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2016

I wish you had done this as a Mefi Horror Club selection. This is the best of the entire franchise, and it holds up even after all this time. I remember seeing ads for this movie (the creepy shadow of freddy on the wall of an alley). It was creepy then. It's pretty creepy now.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:03 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's really this one and Dream Warriors. The incredibly gay subtext of Freddy's Revenge makes it notable and even worthy of dissection, but it's not actually good. The meta nature of New Nightmare means it probably should be really interesting, but it's really not. I like Alice, and The Dream Master is pretty decent, but The Dream Child...no. Freddy's Dead is better, but needs some work. Freddy vs. Jason is entertaining, but feels like a parody. The remake is just a huge waste of potential.

This one, though! Dream Warriors has more fun with the possibilities of a movie set in a dream world, but the atmosphere and storyline here are just perfect. Freddy isn't quite the Freddy we will come to know later on; Englund's charm is dialed down and his menace dialed up, making Freddy fucking terrifying in a way he will never be again. It's strange how dissimilar this one feels from every sequel, really.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:15 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

The first murder, of Tina (I think?) is a truly intense and terrifying sequence, possibly the best kill in the whole series. Her creepy dream followed by her freaked out boyfriend watching helplessly as his girlfriend is cut open and smeared across the ceiling by some unseen force. It's been a long time since I've seen it and it makes me uneasy just thinking about it.
Totally agree that the presence of Heather Langenkamp is the lynchpin of all good Nightmare movies. You could probably just watch this one and "Dream Warriors" and "New Nightmare" and you'd get all the good of the series and none of the bad.
And hey, whatever happened to Johnny Depp?
posted by wabbittwax at 5:07 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is where I get to propose that everyone should watch this movie and Labyrinth back-to-back because they're essentially the same film, right?
posted by darchildre at 5:17 PM on March 25, 2016

This is where I get to propose that everyone should watch this movie and Labyrinth back-to-back because they're essentially the same film, right?

Throw Helllraiser II in and call it a trilogy.

(Also, I am Team Dream Warriors all the way. In my opinion it is the best.)

And hey, whatever happened to Johnny Depp?

He's a character actor now. Bit parts under make-up.
posted by Mezentian at 3:05 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Apart from how well-made this movie is, I've always held that Freddy is one of the few monsters that makes the horror movie tropes make sense. Freddy will always ensure that you think you got away only to discover that the monster was right in front of you because that's how he squeezes the last drops of fear out of you; he actively gains benefits from toying with his victims before he finishes them.

As a random side note, a while back I was watching this terribad film called The Stranger or The Traveler or some such, and it involved a mysterious guy coming to a police station and confessing to crimes that didn't exist, only to be revealed that like something something demons secret police conspiracy nonsense gibberish. Except that instead of finally giving up when the dumb got too thick on the ground like I often do in these cases, I found myself getting drawn back in repeatedly by the villain, even though the lines the villain had were demonstrably stupid and melodramatic.

So I googled up the movie on my computer while I watched the TV and saw "[Demon's Name]: Robert Englund." And suddenly I understood how even this rubbish, claptrap dialogue was somehow being transmuted into creepy-charming gold.
posted by Scattercat at 7:24 AM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

r while I watched the TV and saw "[Demon's Name]: Robert Englund." And suddenly I understood how even this rubbish, claptrap dialogue was somehow being transmuted into creepy-charming gold.

I am of the age when I saw Willie from V, and then Freddy.
The man deserved a better career than he got.
posted by Mezentian at 8:12 AM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

While he may have deserved a better career, but please keep in mind he has played one of the most iconic film monsters of all time. For those who don't realize what an amazing job he did as Freddy, the reboot certainly proves that a lot of what made the original Nightmare work was Englund. In addition, Englund has been one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. His IMDB is chock full of movies including 2001 Maniacs (the sequel to the Hershell Gordon Lewis cult classic). He may deserve better, but that's pretty damn good.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:32 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

The great pity of this movie is that it is chock full of spectacularly frightening practical effects, but it ends with one of the most laughably unconvincing scare shots of all time.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:22 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah it wasn't supposed to end like that was it? Wasn't that a New Line Cinemas producers note made flesh or something?
posted by wabbittwax at 7:46 PM on March 26, 2016

If I recall my documentary viewing (with something like 48 hours of extras), yes, the ending was forced on them.

Aha: Wes Craven originally planned for the film to have a more evocative ending: Nancy kills Krueger by ceasing to believe in him, then awakes to discover that everything that happened in the film was an elongated nightmare. However, New Line leader Robert Shaye demanded a twist ending, in which Krueger disappears and the film all appears to have been a dream, only for the audience to discover that they are watching a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream, where Fred reappears as a car that "kidnaps" Nancy and her friends, followed by Fred reaching through a window on the front door to pull Nancy's mother inside

Personally, I always liked it because it basically says 'You Can't Kill An Idea' and I seem to recall something on the bridge supports this, but I am trying to recall my 14-year-old self).

Are we doing all the Nightmare films? Because I am in... and I haven't seen Nightmare 2 in a long, long time. But I won't rewatch it unless I have to.
posted by Mezentian at 4:02 AM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man, I haven't had a chance to rewatch it yet but scenes keep popping into my head and I'm remember how goddamn intense this movie is. I was just thinking of the sequence in the sleep clinic, which I recall being absolutely terrifying, despite the fact that I don't think we actually see the dream she has in that scene, just the effect on her, the screaming the strip of her hair shocked white from fear, all the instrument read-outs. Just masterful.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:53 PM on March 27, 2016

The man deserved a better career than he got.

Don't feel bad for Robert Englund. He's had a great life. He makes cheesy horror movies that pay the bills and then he gets to spend the rest of his time doing whatever he wants. I interviewed him once when Freddy vs. Jason came out and he was probably the best interview I ever had. The man is a movie encyclopedia.

He was getting ready to go to Venice at the time, to a film festival, because he'd just made The Return of Cagliostro, where he stars as a fading Hollywood icon hired by a bunch of Sicilians trying to make a movie. He had a blast. He's enjoyed the hell out of his career.
posted by Naberius at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2016

The scene that stuck with me most from this was the walls scene, very creepy and well done even if it's been done many times since (had it been done before, too?).
posted by Hoopo at 10:54 AM on March 30, 2016

I just wanna drop in now, five years late (but it's October and this is a classic, so maybe not too late) to say that kittens for breakfast's takes on the series are 100% spot-on. I was gonna add my thoughts, but there they are already. So an enthusiastic +1 instead.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:52 AM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also a pretty good turn by John Saxon as the dad.
posted by praemunire at 1:14 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

(So I patted him on the shoulder, said 'Thanks for stopping by', then I opened up the door and said, 'Take care, guy!' He got mad, drew back his arm, and slashed my shirt. I laughed at first, then thought 'Hold up, that hurt!' It wasn't a dream, man! This guy was for real! I said, 'Freddy, um, now, there's been an awful mistake here...')
posted by praemunire at 12:24 PM on October 26, 2021

We don't talk enough about how Ronee freaking Blakely plays Nancy's mom. She shows the same haunted energy she had as Barbara Jean in Nashville and she is a perfect choice here. It's not so much that she's doing great acting here, so much as she just always has a very weird distinct energy and this is a great use of it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2021

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