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Introducing Johnny Depp
A Nightmare on Elm Street (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
A Nightmare on Elm Street (DVD)
Disadvantages: Not as good as it's cracked up to be
A group of friends who live on Elm Street are being plagued by nightmares of a serial killer with razor blades for fingers. What seems to just be a communal nightmare soon turns into something more horrific as one of the friends, Tina, is brutally murdered one night, and her boyfriend, Rod, is framed for the murder. Nancy, however, is convinced that someone else is involved, and as her dreams continue, she realises that the killer must be the madman of her dreams, known as Freddy Krueger. Together with her boyfriend, Glen, she vows to do something about the dreams and therefore the killer. However, in order to do so, her mother has to tell her the horrible truth about the nightmares - they are based on something that happened many years ago and everyone thought was long forgotten. Can the ghosts of the past finally be laid to rest? Or is Freddy Krueger here to stay?
Although The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes had already made Wes Craven's directorial name to a certain extent, it was probably Nightmare on Elm Street that really cemented his success. Made in 1984, for the time, it was incredibly gory and frowned upon by parents everywhere. That didn't stop its popularity though - and a string of sequels has since been launched on an originally unsuspecting public. The original is nearly always the best though - and that is certainly true in this case. Nightmare on Elm Street is not the masterpiece that so many people seem to think it is, but it is a very entertaining film that manages to combine horror with psychological terror very successfully. Many directors have since tried to cash in on the success of Nightmare on Elm Street, but have not managed to pull it off.
Acting is not the strongpoint of this film. I don't understand why directors/script-writers don't put a bit more effort into developing characters and finding someone to portray that well on screen. The horror films I like best are ones where I actually care what happens to the characters. Here, once again, I was underwhelmed. Heather Langenkamp plays Nancy, the main character. She isn't dreadful, but doesn't really stand out in any way, and, as a character, she is really rather dull. For some reason, her mother, played by Ronee Blakley (that's apparently how it is spelled - not typos), was much more noticeable, although her role was very short. Johnny Depp started his film acting career with this film, as Nancy's boyfriend, Glen, but I didn't see any sign of the greatness that he was to show later on in his career. Glen is dull - although to be fair, he was just a filler character - and I didn't even realise that it was Johnny Depp at first.
The rest of the characters are also very ordinary - with the exception of perhaps one. Tina, played by Amanda Wyss, is very pretty and, from that point of view, is the more obvious choice for the main character. However, she's shallow and into sex, which immediately means she has to be one of the first ones to die. Her 'boyfriend', played by Jsu Garcia, is an angst-ridden musician - unfortunately Garcia is a terrible actor, so that doesn't work out too well. Probably the highlight of the film is Robert Englund as Freddy. He is so well covered in make-up that he doesn't really need to do much, but the odd bit of acting that is involved is well done and he is actually quite scary - especially the first time that you see him. He has become an iconic character in horror film history for a reason.
Apart from the fact that it got in early, what makes this film slightly different from many others of this genre is that the story actually is very original. The idea of a serial killer who reaches people through their dreams, but then manages to spill over into real life, is something that could have been very difficult to pull off - but Wes Craven did manage to do so. I think it's a combination of scares, excellent pacing and a good dose of cheesiness that make it work so well. As a middle-aged woman watching it, the cheesiness stands out a lot more, but I remember being terrified by it as a teenager. As a result, it's a film that appeals to more than just one age group. It is always going to be most appreciated by the young, but it will retain a place in many older people's hearts - it certainly has in mine.
The special effects were good, although not brilliant, for their time - the film was made on a budget and the production team had to work with what they could. They have done a reasonable job though - although by today's standards, the blood and gore is not as effective as it could have been, it got the message across. At one point, Tina is shown climbing the walls and clinging to the ceiling as she is attacked by Freddy; if you look too closely, then the flaws can be seen, but when watching it from a reasonable distance, it is actually very effective. Generally, the effects are passable and although I'm sure that the re-make will be technically of a much higher standard, it still isn't necessary when this version is only thirty years old.
It should go without saying that this is a horror film and it isn't appropriate for children. However, just so there is no doubt - there is sex, violence and murder galore and the classification of 18 is there for a purpose.
There are a few extras with this version of the DVD, but nothing really worth watching. There is a collection of the nightmares that the teenagers have, so if you want to watch a particular nightmare again, you can. I don't really see the point of that - surely you can just skip through the film if you want to watch certain parts again? There are written biographies for the cast and crew if you're interested, but it is much easier to just look them up online. The ubiquitous audio commentary is there - lead by a couple of the actors and members of the production team. It's clumsy and only worth watching if you're a real fan. Finally, there's the trailer.
Nightmare on Elm Street has become a cult favourite - and it's easy to see why. It isn't flawless though by any stretch of the imagination, and in many ways, there are plenty of other films from this period and since that are just as good, but haven't made the big time in the same way for one reason or another. It's an absolute must-see for anyone who is interested in horror films, just because of its position in film history, but don't expect something momentous, because it isn't that good. Still, it is very entertaining and not too long that there is ever time for the film to become boring. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 91 minutes
Summary: A must for horror fans