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This is a genre classic. Ask anyone to name some iconic horror movies from a bygone era and chances are that even non genre fans are going to name or at least have heard of this. I grew up in the Eighties and this was the stuff of legend in the playground, everyone wanted to see it and those who had talked about it in hushed tones. Well, you get the idea.
About the movie itself, it was penned and directed by horror director legend Wes Craven (think Hills Have Eyes, Scream, Left House on The Left etc), he actually was inspired to write this after reading a factual article referring to phenomena where people were actually dying during their sleep. This of course in turn helped to create the one of the most famous of modern movie monsters, the claw handed and badly burned child killer Freddie Kruger. It is a glorious invention, on par with Frankenstein's monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man, and of course Freddie was so popular an icon that in subsequent movies he became more of a wise cracking anti hero, with cinema goers reportedly cheering as Kruger picked off his hapless sleeping victims.
Freddie here isn't the hero of course, this man is undoubtedly a monster of the classic sort, murdered as revenge by the mother's on Elm Street for killing their kids by burning him in his boiler room (this is not a neighbourhood you'd want to grow up in!). The trouble is Kruger has found a way to return to haunt the remaining children on the mother's of Elm Street, uniquely by entering their dreams, however, whatever punishment he doles out in this realm is spectacularly recreated in the real life (see Johnny Depp's debut in here for reference!). Our main protagonist is a plucky teenager named Nancy, whose alcoholic mother was one of those involved in exacting the original revenge on the child killer. Nancy and her friends are now however very much alone in their battle with Kruger, as he stalks them individually through their dreams (well, nightmares).
The film has some excellent set pieces, fantastic (for the time) special FX, and clever use of the 'is it a dream or is it reality?' theme that pervades through the movie. Plus, unlike the many inferior sequels, this film has a suitable air of menace and tension that would be expected dealing with such dark subject matter. It has got some unintentional 80s hilarity inevitable for a movie from this decade. The music is a little hammy and seems by today's standards slightly intrusive, but this shouldn't detract from what is an excellent period piece and truly a classic slice of horror, would highly recommend even with only a passing interest in the genre.