On Elm Street, Nancy Thompson and a group of her friends are being tormented by a clawed killer in their dreams named Freddy Krueger. Nancy must find away to stop the nightmare killer as Freddy begins to pick off his victims one by one. But when he has you in your sleep, who is there to save you?
Amelia: This was yet another movie that I probably saw too early in life. This was part of the double feature shown at my previously mentioned (in the Clive Barker triple feature article) eleventh birthday party. Two very gory, very violent movies back to back. Nightmare on Elm Street had a little less sex in it, so compared to Hellraiser, it was like a Disney movie! Ahahaha, thanks mom, some great parenting, amrite?
Billy: Well, this is pretty much a gimme. Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. It has a concept that sells itself immediately: if you go to sleep, you die. It’s terrifying because of how much it goes against human instinct. It will keep you awake at night and scare you just when you’re at your most vulnerable. Hell, this shit was scary in The Simpsons. If the idea is even scary in parodies of your movie, you know you’ve done well. It also taps into a lot of teen movie tropes of helplessness. The kids know exactly what’s going on but not one adult will believe or help them.
Amelia: I love Wes Craven. The man knows what he’s doing. The choices that Craven makes are perfect for making the nightmares in the movie feel like actual nightmares. The part where Nancy is running up the stairs and they melt around her feet is one of my all time favourite effects. It’s disorienting and makes me think of dreams where I’ve tried to run and it’s a slow slog through hazy misery. Amazingly done doesn’t begin to describe it.
Quick side note, something else that amazing doesn’t begin to describe? The poster in the dream doctor’s office. C’est magnifique!
Billy: I think my favourite moment is Tina in the body bag. It feels more like a Hellraiser moment, but completely right for the tone of what they were trying to accomplish. Some of the more extreme examples like Freddie Krueger’s noodle arms are what people know Nightmare on Elm Street for, but they’re honestly kind of distracting, and I prefer the simpler, scarier scenes. One exception to this is the scene of Freddie dragging Tina up the wall, standing on the ceiling. It was so good Wes Craven did it again in New Nightmare, where the even more terrifying demon-Freddie does the same thing to Julia. It’s the sheer amount of blood that gets me with this.
Amelia: Tina in a body bag is my favourite part of this movie! And it shows that Nightmare on Elm Street is another one of those series that proves that less is more. With seven sequels, crossovers, and a remake, nothing has ever proven as effective as the first movie. Come The Final Nightmare (movie six) with its video game killing sequence or The Dream Child (movie five) with baby Freddy (among many other stupid, stupid decisions; check out #MarathonOnElmStreet on Twitter for my live-tweeting records of every stupid thing that happens), the scene where Tina is in a body bag filled with blood and being dragged down the hallway becomes even freakier! It’s simple, it’s brutal, it was never duplicated.
As a sidenote, Dream Warriors (movie three) is probably the sequel that comes the closest to being most like one, but the first one is what started the mythology, and since Craven thought it would be a stand-alone piece, it’s completely self-contained. Everything that needs to be told is told, and it’s told damn well.
Billy: Can there be a more perfect killing machine than Robert Englund? Throughout Nightmare on Elm Street, you constantly get the feeling that Freddie takes delight in killing these kids, something that the remake completely failed to capture and what the continuing streams of remakes got wrong by making light of it. Freddie isn’t a sociopath. He’s a psychopath. And Englund hits on the right way to play that straight out of the gate.
Amelia: Seven dirty fedoras out of ten
Nightmare on Elm Street is a slasher movie with a supernatural twist. That evens it out for me and I can sit and thoroughly enjoy Freddy’s gory escapades. Nancy is a pretty badass lead, Wes Craven is great, and, after recent events concerning Johnny Depp and his shitty treatment of his wife, watching him get sucked into a mattress and then spit out as minced up flesh and blood is more satisfying than it’s ever been before!
Billy: Seven dirty fedoras out of ten
Watch Nightmare on Elm Street followed by Dream Warriors and New Nightmare to get the full experience. There are enjoyable aspects to the other movies (except the remake) but those are essential viewing. It’s probably not a coincidence that those movies all feature Heather Langenkamp as either Nancy or herself. The strong connection to this original film makes those select sequels feel great. Because this movie got it so right!
BILLY’S SIDENOTE: I couldn’t find a way to fit this into my other paragraphs, but it’s something I want to say: that is one judgemental priest at Rod’s funeral. Yes, I get that he was a suspect for murder, but does he really have to include “live by the sword, die by the sword” in the kid’s eulogy!!? He hadn’t even been convicted yet! It’s pretty much saying it was his fault he was murdered! By a dream demon! It makes me angry in an entertaining way. I kind of wish it had been the same eulogy in New Nightmare as well.