Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Johnny Depp
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: When a series of unexplained murders plague the youth of an American town, teenager Nancy uncovers the horrifying truth of a monster who stalks their dreams. Fighting the urge to sleep, she must uncover the secrets the town’s adults hide to defeat this hidden terror.
Can’t believe it’s already the last week of October/Spooky Season. This year’s Halloween schedule has been a blast covering indie horror, classic horror, and foreign language horror, and it’s only fitting to spend our last week wrapping up on horror icons. The focus on horror icons means I’ll be choosing 3 infamous killers/monsters who created their own franchises due to their resonance with audiences. Whittling the list down to 3 was no straightforward task and some exclusions are because of future planned articles or covering others previously, i.e. Halloween. I’ll simply be selecting one film from each icons series.
Freddy Krueger may be the obvious choice, but here’s my horrid confession, I have not seen the original Nightmare on Elm Street until this week (may the shame on my family name echo for an eternity). Horror films were my kryptonite as a child; When asked to return The Mummy (1998) to the VHS store as a little lad, I ran screaming once out of eyeshot of my parents. I screamed the house down at the alien autopsy scene from Independence Day, even though I was peeking from the adjacent room. Basically, it took until my college years to develop the stomach to enjoy horror. One of the cable channels I got my horror fix was called The Horror Channel (points for originality) which had a few of the Nightmare on Elm Street films but never the original.
The late Wes Craven may be a legend in the horror community, but I really can’t emphasize my appreciation for his imagination and intelligence to create horror classics which lifted the genre and subverted it when it relied too much on tropes. Nightmare on Elm Street was the perfect film to turn the slasher genre on its head, a killer not just defined by his weapon of choice or appearance but rather his ability to kill outside the tangibility of our reality. Freddy may have his classic clawed glove and hideously burnt features, but the series was always founded on the originality of his method for slaughter. Craven based the story on articles about Asian men sharing a dream of dying leading to the unexplained death of a man in his sleep, a shocking morbid tale that inspired a renowned franchise.
Freddy is probably one of the most renowned killers in pop culture, a villain that became almost more comical than sinister due to the series increasing over-the-top nature and his penchant for one-liners and spouting the word “bitch”. The original Nightmare on Elm Street really hammered home why he was so terrifying. Despite a morbid backstory as a child killer, Freddy was far scarier in death. The embodiment of a vengeful entity, a curse to plague the children of those who wronged him. Freddy hunting his victims in their dreams is terrifying, as dreams are when we are most vulnerable. We all have to sleep whether we like it or not, so Freddy’s modus operandi feels inevitable.
Nightmare on Elm street is so effective because it plays its concept with sincerity and a straight face. Freddy’s first kill is horrifying and visceral. Tina’s death is all the scarier through the eyes of her beau, Rod, who can do nothing to help as his girlfriend is eviscerated before his eyes. None of the goofiness of the later series are present because Craven embraces the terror of Freddy Krueger. Nancy Thompson might just be my favourite Final Girl. Smart, determined and driven, Nancy is ground zero for Freddy’s vengeance but adapts with every little bit of information she learns through trial and error despite everyone she loves disbelieving her. Nancy’s last stand is a wonderful display of defiance, the horror equivalent of Home Alone.
Gotta give a shout out to Johnny Depp sporting a crop top as horrors original twink.
This review is a part of this month’s focus on horror films as part of Halloween season. You can find the full schedule, along with weekly subgenre and previous reviews here.
Swigs of Vodka from the towel press