Slasher films can run the entire race using just gore, nudity, and rather ridiculous deaths as their fuel. For the most part, that's what a slasher is going to give you. Not much more than that. Unless its "A Nightmare On Elm Street", which takes a rather hokey and easily forgettable genre and breathes an intelligence and unique vision into it creating one of Horror's most memorable and monstrous films.
Nancy has your normal high school dramas. She is balancing family, school, and boyfriend issues while her friends all struggle with the same problems. Unfortunately she also has to deal the fact that a burned face man with a knife glove is trying to kill her in her dreams. As he slowly picks her friends off one by one killing them in their dreams, she has to figure out who he is and why he has decided that the children on Elm Street need to perish.
"A Nightmare On Elm Street" is able to take a relatively familiar approach to Horror films (unique killer hunting down a series of teenagers) and gives it an impressive and rather intelligent twist to it. The story is the highlight of the film, pulling enough mythological elements of the mysteries of what happens in our dreams and nightmares to create a whole new world where the real world and the dream world collide in horrific ways. Throwing in little tidbits from the likes of Shakespeare and some of the theories on how to control your dreams gives the film an odd sense of realism despite its concept. Its this balance of the real and unreal that makes it work.
"A Nightmare On Elm Street" takes that interesting concept of how dreams affect our real lives written by Wes Craven and partners it with the visual ambition of the same man before he went into serious mediocrity later in his career. The visual side of the film is damn stunning. Considering the low budget format, this film makes serious nightmarish sequences seem so real and conceptually frightening that your guarenteed to have nightmares yourself. The hand raising out of the bathtub, the pressing face through the wall above Nancy's bed, or the liquidated carpet on the stairs all are instantly recognizable scenes that provoke pretty horrific feelings in its viewers. Even the smaller effects, like Freddy bursting through an empty mirror, Tina being lifted from the bed by an invisible force, or the Freddy's numerous leaps through space all create this weird blurred feeling of reality and dream that makes one question what's possible - all in a good way. The general atmosphere makes the rest of the film, the 'real' comparisons to the nightmares, build with a powerless tension until Nancy and company think they find their way out. The insanely 80s yet intense and creepy score only adds to this.
This film pulls so much heart and endearing elements to its characters that it rarely feels like the slasher that it actually is. The smart story, the spectacular effects that hold to this day, the sinister playfulness as Kruger fucks with the kids in the dream world, and the cast of heartfelt younglings (introducing a future big name Johnny Depp included) just make this film one of the greatest Horror films ever concocted. Easily, one of the best and a must own for any self respecting fan of genre films.
BONUS RANT: The ending for this film (despite how great the rest of it is) still makes me scratch my head a bit. Not to give too much away, but with the whole ideology that was created about how Freddy could be done away with, the final scare ending seems like a bit of a stretch. I understand the concept of it, and even can guess why the final moments happen the way they do, it just seems almost too low brow for the intelligence for the rest of the film. Not that it ruins it by any means, in fact, I still like the ending, but it does seem a bit of a stretch even in the limits of the film.
Written By Matt Reifschneider