This was the combination Craven was working towards, mixing a fine blend of horror and fantastical which could work with the hardcore audience and the mainstream. Here he got the balance dead right. This is actually landmark film making, a milestone in the history of the genre. Back in ’85 I watched this film for the first time, as a young teen I was terrified and excited at the same time, knowing this was quite unlike anything else available at the local video store. It actually felt like this film was made for me, for my generation. It’s protagonists being average all American teens in an average suburb.
Nancy and her friends are all having the same bad dream. A spooky bloke, dressed in a red and green sweater, burnt skin and knives for fingers stalking in the shadows. But is it more than a dream? When Tina, Nancy’s best friend is brutally sliced up, it becomes clear that the monster in their nightmares is more than just a bad dream.
This is an amazing original plot which allows Craven to play about with dream sequences as the teens nod off randomly throughout the film, the viewer is left watching drifty, dreamy scenes which are perfectly composed, many scene not knowing what’s dream and what’s reality, especially in the closing moments of the film. The actors are of the usual Craven stock; young blood, unknowns with great talent. Heather Langenkamp takes the lead as Nancy and although she’s an unusual choice, being slightly geeky and not overly attractive, she works a treat. Amanda Wyss as Tina is brilliant, as is Nick Corri (Rod). The inclusion of a young Johnny Depp is a winning stroke, which highlights Craven’s eye for talent. And then of course, there’s Robert Englund as Fred. Never has there been such a perfect role for an actor within this genre. Englund gives the film an extra spark with such a subtle role for such an over the top character. His presence is magnificent here.
So we have this creepy bloke who can slice up teens in their dreams. This basically gives Craven the ability to do anything. Fred Krueger, the notorious child killer, now dead, haunting kids as a nightmare, has the ability to basically lay god. Anything is possible. He opens up his own stomach with his blades, cuts off his own fingers, can materialise physical objects into his own form. This is dream world. A great scene has a dead Tina in a body bag, corpse being dragged around a school by an invisible force. Her death is actually one of the best in the film, an incredible effect, after being sliced in the chest, she is levitated in the air before rolling up a wall and across a ceiling. Stunning.
A great thing about this film is its time stamp. It was released in 1984 and is a pure reflection and document of a time. TVs, cassette players, land line phones and this is before I mention hair and clothes, but unlike some films from that era, Elm Street carries its look with pride and holds up due to original plot and quality performance from is cracking cast. Wes Craven here hits the mark with his trademark strong leading lady, caught up in a troublesome scenario which is brought to the screen with real atmosphere and some vicious moments of violence and gore, implemented with one of the genres most exciting figures, a villain who is seen little in this first outing, mainly in shadow as he murmurs creepy one liners as he chases teens in their nightwear. And then there is the ingenious use of the screeching of knives against metal. Legend.