A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Review

RATING: 3.5/5

[SPOILERS]

A supernatural character haunts the dreams of teens to exact his revenge.

A slasher, at the time, that definitely took the genre to new areas.

The character of Freddy Kruger was something special. Robert Englund delivered a performance that only he could pull off for a character like this. Unlike Jason, Michael, and Leatherface, the character was given words to say and the manner he delivered them fit well. A dark, sinister, and black-comedic performance definitely gave this slasher an edge in personality.

As far as his design, easily recognizable. Now I do want to bring up “New Nightmare (1994),” for the Freddy design in that movie was originally going to be used here; while I do like that look more, the look here was still something I enjoyed. I love the knife glow aesthetic and the burnt appearance. It for sure had nightmare-type qualities, which was good for terrorizing the dreams in the teens.

When it came to the rest of the characters, they weren’t bad. In fact, like in “Halloween (1978),” there was some likability for the teen characters. I like the character of Nancy, as she was unraveling the truth behind what was going on and her plans in stopping Freddy. The history of what went down told by her mother was interesting in gaining insight of what happened and where it eventually led to. And, of course, this was the movie that introduced the public to one of the most popular actors working today, Johnny Depp. Now with most debuts, I’m not expecting hugely awesome performances. His performance, as Glen, was not bad. As I said, there’s likability with him especially when trying to help his girlfriend Nancy.

Now the one element that set the movie apart from slashers at the time, were the supernatural elements. To which I would say it was rather mixed. The film played games of reality to the viewer. Like a person wouldn’t know they were watching a dream as they assumed it was real. I say some of the transitions between the real world and dreams worked rather seamlessly. Primarily when it came to the character Tina walking out of her home and confronting Freddy in the alley. I would say the transitions worked in the first and third act. But for the second, the transitions felt abrupt. Thus I knew right away that I was in a dream.

When it came to the look or the effects done for the dream sequences, again, it was rather mixed. There was really cool effects that fit the dream and supernatural atmosphere. Like when Tina was forcefully being dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling in her room. Freddy pushing against the wall as he watched Nancy sleeping. The jet column of blood shooting out from the bed. These were done very well.

Where it did lose me was the look of the dreams. Thankfully the sequels did a better job at creating some wacky and distorted imagery as what dreams should be like. But in the first film, it felt lacking. The creativity was sorely missing, as the sets appeared very much like the real-world with little change.

The story of how Freddy turned from a human to a dream demon was never explained. Neither was why he was doing the things he was doing. But for the “why,” one could dive deeper to gain a feel when the backstory was being said. So for that, I didn’t mind that it wasn’t explained directly. Though the “how,” I felt that was something New Line Cinema did to bait the audience for sequels, to come and watch until the sixth installment for actual explanation. Which can be a tad annoying sometimes for other franchises. Going back to “explained directly,” the plot did feel predictable. The moment Glen told Nancy about how to conquer monsters in dreams, I knew exactly how the movie was going to end.

While I did like Freddy, his agenda in the movie was scattered. Specifically for how he approached Nancy. My main issue was why he didn’t kill Nancy earlier on. There were many opportunities for him to do so. There was a time where he actually scratched Nancy’s arm, but he doesn’t kill her. For other slashers, one “could” make a “valid argument” as to why the killers didn’t straight up kill the final girl. But here, it felt more in one’s face.

Something worth noting was that the scare factor wasn’t there for me. There were creepy moments; the best one had to have been the dream scenes revolving Tina. But I wasn’t on edge as say “Friday the 13th (1980)” or “Halloween (1978).” It kept my interest throughout, but I didn’t get any chills. An aspect that could possibly tie to the pacing, which felt quick for me. It took some time to establish a setting or environment, but not enough to really let the ambience or atmosphere envelope me.

An interesting and refreshing take on the slasher genre for the time. The film had good performances, showcased an iconic horror villain, the plot was intriguing, it had some creep value, and delivered some cool effects. However the movie was bogged down by some lack of creativity, the intriguing plot had questionable elements, and some of the slasher tropes felt more apparent here than others. But still, if one hasn’t watched this classic, give it a watch. One won’t be disappointed.

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

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