The film that launched both Wes Craven's career and a major horror franchise is definitely no nightmare. A Nightmare On Elm Street remains to be one of the most classic horror films today, containing probably the most memorable horror film villain, an excellent cast, a distinct plot, and an entertaining mix of creepy imagery and cheesy kills. It feels much like going through a haunted fun-house, causing you to scream in terrifying enjoyment.
PLOT: Things start getting strange on Elm Street when the local teenagers start dreaming about a man named Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a burnt serial killer with knives on his hands who seems to be killing them in their sleep. One concerned teen in particular, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), starts to notice and spread the word as quick as she can, to the disbelief of her parents but the undying support of her boyfriend, Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) and framed "killer", Nick Corri (Jsu Garcia). Things start to get weirder as Nancy delves deeper into the mystery and finds out Freddy was a real local serial killer who used to murder children but was burnt to death in a not-so-accidental fire. Now, he's come back in teen's dreams to torture and kill once again in his humorous way. The plot was very unique and distinct for its time. The plot finds strength in its impressive storytelling and proper use of suspense, prompting just the right time for a jump scare, every time.
ACTING: The performances in this film are pretty excellent for a horror film of its kind. Heather Langenkamp seemed shaky at some points as the tormented Nancy, but during the most critical times of fear and intensity, she owned the role like no one else would ever be able to. Robert Englund established the part of serial killer, Freddy Krueger, almost as infamously as Krueger's crimes in Elm Street. The rest of the cast played their roles very well, including the career-launching performance from Johnny Depp as Nancy's love interest/best guy friend, Glen. The cast may not be perfect (excluding Englund), but I couldn't picture it any other way.
SCORE: Charles Bernstein creates a truly chilling yet simple theme for Krueger's character and many entrances, while adding plenty of emotion and paranoia to each moment of suspense leading up to the jumps. The score isn't as memorable as that of such horror gems like Halloween and The Exorcist, but it's still nevertheless chilling.
EFFECTS: The special effects in this film are pretty awesome and well done. The gruesome outcomes of Krueger's kills are created in such a way that it seems almost believable and not an obvious trick of technology, as these modern horror flicks seem to embrace. The blood is real and flows as true and plentiful as the Mississippi River, the make-up effects of Krueger seem authentic and very well done, and the many little scares along the way are enhanced by each effect used.
OTHER CONTENT: This horror film is one of the most memorable and even a classic in horror film history. However, don't take it too seriously. Nightmare is very authentically creepy and shocking in parts, but the many strange perks to Krueger's scares and methods almost seem darkly comical. The cheesiest of scares seems like a fun laugh, as of that in a haunted house attraction. This film is a very memorable and creepy one, but it's also a lot of fun for true horror fans everywhere. It doesn't create a very serious mood, like that of the two classics I've mentioned before, but it's definitely a more fun classic in the true horror canon.
Wes Craven truly did strike gold with creating A Nightmare On Elm Street, establishing a horror franchise more memorable or infamous than any other you could name, including Friday the 13th or Halloween. An excellent cast, unique plot, very real-looking effects, fun-yet-creepy scares, and a truly memorable horror villain all lead this film's way into the hearts, memories, and of course, dreams, of horror fans all over.