A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) | Movies to See Before You Die

A Nightmare On Elm Street
A Nightmare On Elm Street

How in god’s name have we gone more than 10 years without a new story set in the world of A Nightmare on Elm Street? Do we hate ourselves? Is this some sort of silent social contract where we all agree to pay the price for willing the 2010 Elm Street remake into existence?

While it’s fine to let a franchise rest in peace, I think there’s still a lot of potential in characters and concepts first introduced to us in 1984 by writer/director Wes Craven in what is now one of the scariest horror movies ever made. I believe there’s plenty of dreamscape left for Freddy to haunt, and for characters grounded in some sort of striking magic realism to stand against him in a world of his own making.

Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about a new Nightmare on Elm Street film in a long time. As we celebrate everything that’s fantastic, frightening, and still visually shocking about the Elm Street that started it all, we can also hope something new actively develops. Maybe before the end of the end of the decade?

A Nightmare on Elm Street begins with Tina (the effective and vulnerable Amanda Wyss) in a nightmare, being stalked by an unknown-to-her figure. He wears a crumpled hat, a red and green sweater, a series of what appears to be burns, almost comically horrific and yet instantly still horrible arresting, and a glove adorned with sharp knives. She survives this dream, because even if you’ve somehow never seen this movie before, you understand immediately that the danger posed by these dreams is very real, but it’s only going to get worse. Soon the movie shifts to her friend Nancy (an iconic and assured Heather Langenkamp), and we begin to learn more about Freddy Krueger.

I didn’t actually see the first A Nightmare on Elm Street until I was 9 or so. I had seen part 3 at the way too young age of four, and Freddy’s Dead at age six. Those scared me so much, I watched a trailer for the original somewhere and thought it might actually kill me. When I finally got to the first film, it lived up to every expectation I had, terrifying me with not only Robert Englund’s genre-defining performance, but also the low-budget ugliness of the film’s darkest scenes, as well as the inevitability of Freddy’s victories over his victims.

After all, sooner or later, you’re going to fall asleep. There’s an element of existential dread to the 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street, a trait the sequels and remake would fail to fully (and sometimes completely) emulate. This dread is pervasive, dominating the atmosphere of not only Freddy’s dream realm but also the fabric of the reality of the world the film is set in.

There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in slashers, or indeed, anywhere else in horror. A Nightmare on Elm Street is still a horror movie that works in every essential way a horror film should.

Wake up from the nightmare of not having enough movies to read with the rest of this column.

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