A Nightmare on Elm Street

(USA 1984)

I’ve seen A Nightmare on Elm Street twice: once as a teenager and once as a middle-aged adult. I can say with authority: no matter how you slice it, this movie sucks.

The plot sounds like a good idea: a knife-fingered ruffian in a tacky striped sweater reminiscent of the original PBS children’s show Zoom haunts teenagers in their dreams and kills them in their sleep. The problem is, A Nightmare on Elm Street just isn’t scary. It’s silly. Dumb, even. One by one, a bunch of kids gets offed by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund in the role of a lifetime). There’s a really cool scene of a blood geyser spurting from a bed. Heather Langenkamp’s overacting is amazingly bad. There’s that gorgeously diabolical line, “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy” followed by a tongue coming out of the receiver (never mind that the phone’s unplugged). A young, dumb, and full of you-know-what Johnny Depp is here, all dolled up in an incredibly gay softcore porn outfit. Bizarre. Nancy’s weirdo vodka-lush mother (Ronee Blakley) adds some much needed comic relief—that final scene! Oh, and that catchy nursery rhyme. Other than that, though, this is tedious slasher stuff warmed over from the ’70s but with a slicker ’80s look. I mean, fuck, do we really need that clanking noise to cue us in that Freddy’s coming? Every time? We get it.

Watching it, one is dumbfounded knowing that A Nightmare on Elm Street spawned an entire franchise let alone a sequel. Sure, it’s got kitsch value, and everyone knows this movie so the late Wes Craven did something right. I’m just not sure what. To be fair, I was well aware of what I was getting into here, so I can’t complain about the experience; I already knew this is bad. I’m glad the theater has a bar and we went early as a group to load up on liquor (not vodka) before siting down—that made it fun for a midnight screening.

91 minutes
Rated R

(Music Box) D-

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