There is a great originality to Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea of your own nightmares being able to kill you is a fantastic one and a concept rich with creativity. Luckily, writer and director Wes Craven runs with this idea and uses it to create a horror movie with plenty of visual scares and a fantastic, iconic protagonist.
This is Nightmare on Elm Street’s biggest selling-point: Freddie Kruger. Robert Englund’s burnt child-killer is literally the stuff of nightmares and is a creative masterpiece, being the kind of “bogeyman” that would haunt children’s dreams. Although he says very little, the way he stalks his victims, his manic run with his arms outstretched and some of the more horrific characteristics he has, for example chopping his own fingers off to reveal green blood, are all ways Wes Craven keeps the screams coming.
If this wasn’t enough, the deaths are as gruesome as the person orchestrating them. Using nightmares as the playground, the deaths can be as creative as you want and this is shown in abundance here. From a blood-fest of slashing, to a far from relaxing bath and through to the most use of blood in a bedroom ever seen, the deaths match the murderer and play with the ideas of nightmares very well.
Outside of the dreams, things become slightly more problematic. The teenagers beings stalked by the murderous Freddie are far from appealing. They feel very generic, from the ditzy blonde, the obnoxious jock (who of course is framed for murder) through to the innocent heroine. Even a young Johnny Depp struggles to act his way into any sort of charm (although seeing him without make-up or prosthetics is quite novel).
There are some very cool ideas explored here. The idea of being afraid to fall asleep, the methods people use to keep themselves awake and of course a great movie trope of characters (and subsequently the audience) not knowing if someone is dreaming or awake, are all used to good effect here but never save the poor acting from the younger cast.
The film also suffers from an ambiguous, nonsensical ending. It feels as if Craven wasn’t sure how to end his movie and although an idea about removing the power of Kruger with your lack of fear is explored, the execution of the finale is so poor that you are left wondering who has died, if anyone survived or if the film is a dream itself. The search for the “final scare” feels like it may have tainted the ending of a credible and creative horror movie.
Overall, Nightmare on Elm Street takes a very interesting and original concept and creatively scares the audience. From the memorable and iconic “villain” through to some gruesome but excellent death scenes, Elm Street is a horror classic. Unfortunately, even classic movies have to often contend with dubious acting.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)