Starring: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Robert Englund
Director: Wes Craven
Running Time: 91 mins
A Nightmare On Elm Street is an American film about a teenage girl who is haunted in her dreams by a mysterious murderer, who will stop at nothing to brutally kill her and her friends.
This is how you make a horror film. A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t exactly a terrifying movie that will make you hide behind the sofa, but it is a disturbing and enthrallingly mind-bending mystery, with such brilliantly captivating uncertainty from start to finish.
Not content with relying on puerile jump scares and excessive gore, the film first builds an exhilarating sense of tension, then hits you hard with its undeniably bloody violence. But it’s not the gore and horror that’s there to scare you, more the fear and total bewilderment you feel about what’s happening on screen.
A Nightmare On Elm Street is more than just a slasher movie. Yes, the main premise may be a vicious killer picking teenagers off one by one, but it’s actually a really engaging and mysterious psychological thriller, with fantastic ambiguity that makes it a completely mesmerising watch.
Its main villain, Freddie Krueger, is perfectly unnerving when he’s on screen, but it’s his dominating presence even when he’s nowhere to be seen that makes him such a fearsome monster. And the terror that he strikes into the teenagers who are stalked by him makes the film even more disturbing.
This movie has an almost unique blend of pure, violent horror and calm, patient and intelligent storytelling. If you’re a fan of the gory stuff, then there are some scenes you’re going to love, but if you’re looking for a great story that will really grab you, then A Nightmare On Elm Street has exactly what you need.
The principal brilliance of the film’s screenplay is scaring you by confusing you. As the story unfolds, things start to make less and less sense, and that mystery coupled with the intensifying violence of affairs makes the movie both intoxicating and all the more frightening. After all, it’s what you don’t know that’s always the most terrifying, and A Nightmare On Elm Street plays on that in brilliant fashion.
Meanwhile, Heather Langenkamp is fantastic in the lead role, and proves a really strong, likable hero in a genre where there are surprisingly few to be seen around. What’s more, her screams are just as chilling as Marilyn Burns’ legendarily chilling shrieks in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, bringing an extra level of fear to proceedings.
But even beyond the movie’s thrill and fear factor, there’s still a lot more going on in A Nightmare On Elm Street. On first viewing, I can’t say that I managed to grasp absolutely everything – such is the excitement of the main horror story – but there’s certainly more to be said about some of the film’s secondary characters, setting and emotional themes, all of which I really look forward to unpacking when I come to watch this movie again.
Overall, I loved A Nightmare On Elm Street. Gory and violent it may be at times, but this film is a well-plotted, intelligent and engrossing horror all the way through. With a clever use of violence in tandem with ambiguity and mystery, it’s scarier than any jump scare-heavy fright fest, proving an often intoxicating and powerfully suspenseful watch throughout, which is why I’m giving it an 8.1.