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'A Nightmare on Elm Street Review': A Unique Take on Slasher Movies

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

A Nightmare on Elm Street is the 1984 slasher/horror movie directed by Wes Craven, starring Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakley, and John Saxon. In this movie, a group of teenagers are being terrorized by Freddy Kruger, a child murderer. Unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, who came before him, Freddy Kruger terrorizes these teens in their dreams. It’s later discovered he was a real person once killed by the parents in real life after killing multiple children and getting off free due to a mistake.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a special movie for me. It was the first horror movie I ever watched. I used to be part of a movie club in high school, and around Halloween, we got to watch this movie if we got permission slips signed. I got mine signed and experienced A Nightmare on Elm Street, and this movie got me into the horror genre, especially the slasher genre. Without this movie, I would never have given movies like Halloween and Scream a chance and they later became some of my favorite horror movies ever.

A Nightmare on Elm Street has an interesting story behind it. Freddy Kruger is named after a real-life childhood bully of Wes Craven’s called Fred Kruger. He’s based on an old guy who once freaked out Craven as a kid. Kruger was also going to be portrayed as even darker, but that was changed due to certain real-life cases in the 1980s and Craven not wanting the movie to be accused of exploiting these cases.

A Nightmare on Elm Street starts strong with Freddy terrorizing a teenager named Tina in her dreams. The settings of these dreams Freddy terrorizes are captured well, giving a dark, creepy feeling. The best settings are the boiler rooms, where Freddy used to kill his victims before his death. Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy is one of the best in a horror movie. His costume and makeup design were done so well to show how terrifying he is. He uses a glove with four knives on it to kill his victims. Unlike Michael Myers, Freddy talks a lot and taunts his victims. Freddy doesn’t have a lot of screen time compared to other slasher villains, but the stuff Freddy does besides slashing his victims without being seen adds to how scary he is. You never know when Freddy could strike or how he could manipulate someone’s dream.

Heather Langenkamp delivers a great performance as Nancy Thompson. We get great character progression from her. At first, she tries to help Tina with her nightmares. We then see Nancy dealing with Freddy in her nightmares, becoming Freddy’s next target. After a few incidents and not getting any help from the adults, she decides to take matters into her own hands. The ending where she sets traps in the house reminded me of Home Alone, but with the hero stopping Freddy Kruger instead of two idiot bandits This movie is also Johnny Depp’s first movie as Glenn Lantz, Nancy’s boyfriend. While it’s not Depp’s most iconic performance, it’s a solid performance.

Another aspect of the movie I enjoyed was Nancy's relationship with her parents, played by Ronee Blakely and John Saxon. Her mom drinks a lot and doesn't take Nancy's fears of Freddy seriously, and her father seems to care more about his work than his daughter. The conflict with her parents adds to Nancy's struggle to take on Kruger. The score from Charles Bernstein is one of the best in a horror movie. It adds a lot of suspense and a creepy atmosphere.

The only big issue I had with the movie was the ending. It ends in a way that confuses some viewers the first time they watched it, and even Wes Craven didn't like how it ended. According to Screen Rant, Bob Shaye, who founded New Line Cinema and was a producer for this movie, wanted the movie to end with a twist. There were disagreements between Shaye and Craven on how the movie should end, and they came to a compromise, combining what they wanted. Despite this, Craven wasn't satisfied.

Overall, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a great horror movie with an iconic villain. The other performances are great, and Nancy is one of the better horror movie protagonists. The soundtrack is one of the best soundtracks in a horror movie. Wes Craven did a great job of making a slasher movie different from Halloween and Friday the 13th. The ending did hurt the movie, but not by a lot. While I enjoy Wes Craven’s next big slasher Scream more, this movie helped pave the way for the Scream series.

My final grade for A Nightmare on Elm Street is an A for being a great movie. This is one of the best slashers in the horror genre with an iconic performance from Robert Englund. If you haven’t seen A Nightmare on Elm Street and love horror, I highly recommend you check it out. What are your thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street? Let us know in the comments below.

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