Introducing Johnny Depp.
I think it's safe to say that I share a birthday with A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was only two days ahead of it, close enough in my book. Going back to where I can remember things clearly and vividly, I was aware of Freddy Krueger. On my way to the Real Ghostbusters toys at the local department stores, Freddy was there. On the posters announcing the new arrivals at the video store, Freddy was there. Running the streets the first time I remember going trick or treating, adorned by one of the older kids in the neighborhood, Freddy was there. Thirty years later, he's still here and is sure to come back. The character, with his signature red and green sweater, fedora, and razor-fingered glove, has become ingrained into our cultural DNA. Whenever a character hits that level of recognition, it's easy for it to lose its power. This day and age, you'd be hard pressed to convince anyone over the age of 10 that Frankenstein and Dracula are scary. Allan Moore says we're currently turning that corner in which Lovecraft's creations cease to have any effect. Freddy and the Elm Street series has certainly been driven into the ground, but the strength of the first entry still stands.
One of the wonderful things that horror can do is change the way you look at something, be it the full moon, the girl at school nobody talked to, or the old house at the end of your street. One of the lasting strengths of A Nightmare on Elm Street is its premise: Freddy Krueger stalks a group of kids in their sleep. While the rest of the slasher genre was intent to keep terrorizing misbehaving teenagers, Wes Craven brought the genre to a universal place in which no one is safe. The horror taking place in dreams opened the door to some inventive film making, an opportunity that did not go to waste. There's some imagery here that is downright iconic. The silhouette of Freddy walking towards his prey, his elongated arms outstretched, the knives on his fingers screeching alongside the wall. The girl in the bloody bodybag being dragged down the sterile, white halls of the high school. The practical effects still hold up rather well. I caught myself holding my breath at the end of scene where Freddy makes his first kill. The first time I watched it I was left wondering how the hell they did it, and even now, knowing it was filmed in a spinning room, it still looks amazing.
If anything is working against A Nightmare on Elm Street, its the acting. The dialogue isn't always exactly sharp, but the delivery is what really sinks it. Nancy's father plays his role well enough and Nancy herself isn't half bad either. It's her mother. The orange lady. You know who I'm talking about. The part where she says, "I've got something better. I'm going to get her some help." Just the worst. I know horror movies don't usually fetch Oscar-worthy performances, but what makes it so unfortunate is that everything else it firing on all cylinders, it feels like it deserved better.
It does have this Johnny Depp kid in it though, but I'm not sure if he's really going to make it big.
SCARE RATING: 3/5
OVERALL RATING: 4/5