The best thing I saw last week was the original A Nightmare on Elm Street by Wes Craven. After the recent loss of the talented director it made me pause and take stock of my influences. Three names instantly came to mind; Stan Lee, Stephen King, and Wes Craven. Without these three men I would in no way be the person I am. They are all phenomenal storie tellers and each has made almost unequaled contributions to their individual fields. Having lost one of these gentlemen I took the last couple of weeks to reexamine a lot of his work. I re-watched the Nightmare series. I watched the Scream films. Red Eye, The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes – original and remake, The People Under the Stairs, and The Shocker. Wes Craven was a fantastic director involved in a lot of the films that taught me what horror could be. He will be greatly missed by this viewer and if you haven’t seen his films treat yourself. I promise you’ll learn something about the horror genre. Today however I’m here to talk about what is probably his most important contribution to the horror genre, and the slasher film specifically, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Freddy Krueger was the huge curveball thrown at the slasher franchises of the 80’s. Michael and Jason are both great and I’ve always found them entertaining but Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street brought serious dark humor and wit to his kills. In the original Freddy is dark, gritty, and out to terrify each teenager before he kills them. In some of the dream sequences he does odd crazy things like chopping off some of his own fingers and laughing at the blood spurting out. Sneaking up behind someone and then laughing manically as he chases them. To me this was a huge change to the silent stalking kills I had seen of Jason and Michael, and filled with character unlike the crazy loud kills of Leatherface. Krueger will probably be Craven’s longest lasting creation, time will tell. But I mean really, a movie villain child molester and killer that murders children in their sleep became so popular in the 80’s there was a line of pajamas made for both young boys and girls. Think about that for a bit. It was a very different world I grew up in.
The cast of this film was packed with talent. John Saxon as the tough cop father of our heroine puts in a solid performance. Ronee Blakely delivers possibly the best performance of the film short of Robert Englund himself as a mother in denial drinking herself into oblivion as her daughter’s life is falling apart around her. Englund brings the monster to life. His charisma is palpable as Krueger. He’s charming as he’s scaring the shit out of you. In the original film you don’t cheer for him as you end up doing later in the franchise but you are transfixed by him. You want to see what he’s going to do next, how terrifying it will be, and who will be dead when he’s done. Heather Langenkamp is the star heroine of this film as Nancy Thompson, the girl that fights back against Krueger and isn’t willing to go quietly to her doom. She brought power to the role of a teenage girl frustrated by all the lying adults around her that prove to be no help as all her friends are dying. So instead of complaining she takes in upon herself to face, trap and kill Krueger. Langenkamp’s portrayal of Nancy had a lasting effect on me, I think it plays a lot into my attraction to strong brunette females. And last but not least let us not forget the young boyfriend Glen played by a complete unknown at the time named Johnny Depp. He gets a shot from Craven and turns in a strong performance as the great boyfriend of the hero and ends up with one of the most memorable deaths in film history. So all you Depp fans give a hardy thanks for Wes giving the kid a shot.
The film is currently available on the Netflix instant queue and I can tell you it holds up. Even better is the crystal clean version on the new Nightmare on Elm Street blu-ray box set, super crisp visuals and sound, a very fantastic buy for any horror fan. However you see it you’ll be happily shocked to see the comparison of how old the fashion choices make the movie seem while at the same time the horror pieces make it feel just as relevant as ever. It’s still one of the only films I find scary. You get to see a group of teenagers basically picked off one by one for the sins of their parents as one smart teenage girl Nancy tries to piece together why a dream demon is killer her friends in their sleep. It’s bloody, it’s shocking, it’s funny, and sometimes so twisted you wonder where these ideas came from. In the best way possible. Thanks Wes.
Tags: A Nightmare on Elm Street, film, Freddy, Heather Langenkamp, horror, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Krueger, Netflix, New Line, Nightmare, review, Robert Englund, slasher, TV and Film, Wes Craven