The nightmare officially begins in this instant horror classic featuring one of the most iconic killers in the history of the genre.
Tina Gray is a 15-year old girl who has been having nightmares about a mysterious figure sporting knives on a glove. When she wakes up, she finds slashes on her nightgown. She confides in her best friend Nancy Thompson, the daughter of local cop Donald Thompson. Nancy reveals to Tina she has had a similar nightmare. That night, while spending the night with her boyfriend Rod, Tina has the nightmare again, only this time, she is viciously killed which Rod witnesses and finds himself a suspect in Tina’s death.
The next day, Rod surrenders to police even though he claims his innocence. Nancy soon begins to have the nightmares again about the figure and believes that Rod didn’t kill Tina. However, when Rod falls asleep, he finds himself being hung in his jail cell and he too falls prey to the mysterious dream-killer. After an encounter leads to Nancy being able to pull the figure’s hat from the dream to reality, she learns the truth about the killer. His name is Fred Krueger and he was a child killer who was murdered by the parents on the street. However, Fred is alive and well and when he kills in the nightmare, the victims end up dead for real. It is up to Nancy to put an end to Fred’s terror once and for all.
Created by the late legendary Wes Craven based on experiences in his own life, this was more than the beginning of an iconic horror film franchise. It would be the film that took an independent distribution label, New Line Cinema, and made it into one of the most renowned production houses in films today. Despite New Line’s previous attempts into film production, this if the film that helped saved New Line Cinema and made it more than just a indie distribution. In essence, it would become Hollywood’s answer to Troma Entertainment, the New York-based house who combine both distribution and production before it becomes something even more bigger.
While John Saxon and Ronee Blakely have top billing, the real star of the film is young Heather Langenkamp, who brings us one of the most iconic final girls in Nancy Thompson. She brings a sense of innocence to the role with a film debuting Johnny Depp as her neighbor/somewhat love interest Glen. Depp makes the most of his first role when he appears and from his performance here, it is destined that he would become one of Hollywood’s most revered actors. As for Langenkamp, she would continue to appear in films and television throughout the 80s and mid-90s before staying with the industry in a different capacity: special effects make-up artist alongside her husband, David LeRoy Anderson. However, it is great that she has made a return to acting recently with her foray into indie horror films.
Despite only having about seven minutes of its ninety-one-minute screen time, Robert Englund makes an amazing impact as the legendary Fred Krueger, later to be called Freddy from its sequel on. Sporting make-up to look like a burn victim and sporting the classic hat, sweater, and razor-sharp knife-glove, when we see Krueger, he isn’t so much the smart-alecky type he would become later. Instead, he is a terrifying enigma who unleashes his fury in people’s nightmares. Two deaths in particular are very bloody and shocking, and this will appease horror fans very well.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is the quintessential 80’s slasher that spawned not only a successful franchise but unleashed one of the most iconic horror killers worldwide. It still holds to this day as one of the greatest from the late Wes Craven.
WFG RATING: A+
A New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures production. Director: Wes Craven. Producer: Robert Shaye. Writer: Wes Craven. Cinematography: Jacques Haitkin. Editing: Rick Shaine.
Cast: John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Charles Fleischer, Lin Shaye, Joe Unger.