Wes Craven’s sweet dreamscape premise behind A Nightmare on Elm Street is what continues to work in this little jewel of horrific fun from 1984. Terrifying and clever (even if that intelligence is somewhat dated), Nightmare – trying to reign in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween series – offers a bit more humor and modern-like psychosis for fans of slasher films by introducing audiences to the wise-cracking psychotic nature of Freddy Krueger. His type of bladed fun at the expense of stupid teenagers manages to produce an unforgettable amount of kills that remain blood-soaked highlights of the Slasher genre.
To recap the events of the movie seems a bit redundant; it’s that engrained into our society, but for the neophytes out there (or those storming to see the remake to be released at the end of April), it goes like this: a screaming Tina (stage actress Amanda Wyss) is being haunted by something in her dreams. In those dreams – which seem more and more real – she is chased by a man with knives for a hand and a maniacal laugh. He also loves to stab himself and show her what is beneath his rotting flesh. Thing is, Tina isn’t alone. Her friend, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is having them, too. And so is Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen (Johnny Depp). What it all means, the teenagers don’t know, but they do know – as the film progresses – that it has something to do with the sins of their parents and one burned-up and pissed-off child molester named Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).
Even if Craven had trouble finding a studio to fund the movie (due to its similarity to Paramount’s Dreamscape), the end result of Krueger returning from the dead to avenge his murder through dreams is a wicked concept for the slasher genre and fueled enough sequels (and now a remake) to make an entire studio, New Line Cinema, profitable. Craven, as a director, has never been this focused – even his gimmicky Scream franchise pales in comparison to the intelligence on display here – and he balances the dreamlike world of a bladed Krueger with the mechanics of the world the teenagers live in with such precision that it toys with its audience and shakes them into a reality in which nightmares become real; it’s an incredible feat that none of the film’s sequels managed to effectively pull off again.
While the acting is poor on Elm Street, Englund’s Krueger is engaging and horrifying. He makes jokes that are funny while disgusting the audience with his vulgarities in features and performance…and in concept. It’s an interestingly managed performance – while Englund would later go overboard with Krueger’s eccentricities – here, in the original, it is a captivating performance of duality: equally magnetic, yet scary as hell. Insanely quotable, it is easy to see how Krueger charmed an entire generation with his wicked tongue. Much has been made of A Nightmare in Elm Street being Depp’s introduction, too. His role is a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why. Of all the performances, Depp is the only actor who shows life behind the eyes; there is a consciousness there and it is more intelligent than the entirety of the film. As a result, Depp is playing along with the joke of the movie and, because he gets it, his performance – out of all the human characters – works best.
Even if the film suffers from some poor, poor acting (even back then it was awful), one certainly can’t knock the lasting nocturnal effect of A Nightmare on Elm Street to the Slasher genre and a whole generation of fans. An urban epic in its own right, Nightmare is reminiscent of “The Little Engine That Could” in feat and function and, continuing to hold a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, doesn’t seem to running out of steam yet. It might not be as solid a feature due to the overacting of its cast, but certainly has an intelligence that gives it a bit more steam than the entire Friday the 13th franchise. As far as nightmares are concerned, A Nightmare of Elm Street (circa 1984), is one hell of a sweet dream.
To my knowledge, there is nothing special here as these are the same features that were included on the Special Edition DVD release a few years back. While there is a free movie ticket (or $7.50 off the price) for the remake, there is little necessity, if you own the original on DVD, to rush out and purchase this blu-ray.
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Italian, Italian SDH, Dutch, Korean.
Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English: Dolby Digital mono French: Dolby Digital mono German: Dolby Digital mono.
- The first is entitled the “Filmmakers Commentary” and includes writer/director Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and cinematographer Jacques Haitkin waxing poetic about the film’s production.
- The second is the “Cast and Crew Commentary” and features Craven, Langenkamp, Haitkin, New Line executive/founder Robert Shaye, Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, Ronee Blakley, producers Sara Risher and John Burrows, composer Charles Bernstein, editors Rick Shaine and Patrick McMahon, effects supervisor Jim Doyle, makeup artist David B. Miller, and film historian David Del Valle.
Focus Points: A feature that, while watching the original, allows you to access all other special features and alternative scenes (only accessible this way). The repetition with the interviews is a bit grueling, but the feature is worth it for the alternative scenes.
Never Sleep Again: A fifty-minute feature that looks at the production of the film from beginning to end (including its reception by the public). It features interviews, behind-the-scenes footage from everyone involved in the movie.
The House that Freddy Built: a twenty-two minute feature about New Line Cinema’s history.
Night Terrors: a fifteen-minute feature discussing the role of dreams in the lives of human beings.
Alternative Endings: take you pick, you get the Happy Ending, the Scary Ending, and the Freddy Ending; all run about a minute in length.
Number of Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc Single disc (1 BD)
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