A Nightmare on Elm Street

With nine or so sequels, re-makes, re-boots, or meta-versions, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is one of the most prolific films in cinema history. It will be the signature film of Wes Craven’s career and it will also be the film that first starred Johnny Depp. Talking about the movie at this point may seem unnecessary, but historical context and  some personal touches might give you a couple of reasons to bother with another post on an iconic horror film.

nightmare_on_elm_streetThe horror genre in the early eighties was dominated by slasher films. Sequels to “Halloween” and “Friday the Thirteenth” came up almost yearly, copy cats like “Terror Train” or “The Funhouse” were everywhere. It’s true that occasional supernatural films broke through and grabbed some attention, but the reliable killer in a mask usually came back to haunt the teenagers of the time. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” crosses the slasher film with a ghost/demon story and then finds the perfect twist to work as the spine of the enterprise. Freddy Krueger is a slasher, but he is a dead slasher. He also has supernatural powers that he will use to take out his victims but best of all, the attacks happen in the nightmares of the kids he is stalking. This was something fresh.

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A Science Fiction film that predates “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Matrix” and “Inception” yet has key ideas that each of those films exploit as their main plot devices. This is a thriller with horror elements and a good dose of 70s conspiracy thinking behind it. It also stars several notables who are recognizable in other more well known films. The special effects are dated but they worked well at the time and the story does make you do a little thinking as you go along.

dreamscapeThe film has some dark aspects to it and those might have been explored in more depth with greater meaning if this was an attempt to make an artistic statement. With the pulp marketing of the poster and an August release, you can tell it was really designed to make money not art. There is however a lot to admire in what is accomplished here. It was not successful at making much money but it is successful at being entertaining.

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