A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)


Plot: Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.

The film that kicked of the GOAT horror series and haunted the dreams of an entire generation. Also Wes Craven's greatest contribution to society. The story came from a series of articles Wes read about young men in South East Asia having terrible nightmares. They would refuse to sleep for as long as possible, then die when they couldn't stay up any longer. He combined that idea with a childhood bully of his, and an account where a homeless man scared the living shit out of him, to create Freddy Krueger.

Our movie starts with a weirdly cropped frame of a man creating what looks to be a razor glove. We're then introduced to a young woman, who suddenly finds herself in a boiler room, being hunted by a man in a dirty sweater with knives for fingers. As he pops up to get her, she wakes up screaming. When she wakes up, her night gown is sliced. Her mother checks on her, but ultimately leaves to go back to the sack with her boyfriend or husband, leaving the clearly legit shook Tina on her own. Four minutes in, this is what has been established: There is a nightmare man in a boiler room, what happens in a dream happens in real life, and parents are more worried about themselves than their kids.


Tina heads to school with her friend Nancy, and her boyfriend, Glen. It's revealed that they've been have been having nightmares as well, although Glen and Nancy don't go into details. Here, we're introduced to the recurring nursery rhyme of "1, 2 Freddy's coming for you". In the story, this is a known nursery rhyme to the kids, and Tina said that her dream reminded her of it. It's often accompanied by little girls playing jump rope, which we see in a weird, dream like haze.


Tina's parents are leaving for the weekend, so Nancy and Glen will be staying with her. Glen lies to his mom to stay there. Tina is still upset about her dream, and as she explains the details, Nancy reveals she dreamed about the same guy. Glen doesn't say he did, but his reaction clearly shows he did as well. They hear a noise that sounds similar to the scraping noises from the dreams, but it turns out to be Tina's boyfriend, Rod, who tackles Glen as a prank. SWERVE! He pulled a switch blade on Glen, too. You see, he has a bit of a temper, and you can tell by his leather jacket that he's from the bad side of the tracks. Rod takes Tina upstairs to fuck. Glen thinks that's a good idea, but Nancy shoots him down. Well, if you thought Tina was the main character, this scene should be your tip off that she isn't. Nancy is chaste and pure, and therefore will definitely be the main girl. "Morality sucks."


After the sex, Tina wakes up to what sounds like someone throwing rocks at the window. The voice from the dream calls out to her, so it is safe to assume she's in a dream. Meanwhile, Freddy's head pops out of the wall in Tina's room, which Nancy is unaware of. It's one of the most iconic shots in the entire series and still looks amazing. The remake tried it with CGI 25 years later and it looked like shit. Tina gets stupid and heads outside, back into the alley behind her house. Freddy shows up. You never really get a good shot of him, but you can tell there is something seriously fucked with his face. Between the hat, darkness, and shadows from the lighting, all you know is that you don't want to see him. He chases her around the alley, seemingly being able to teleport and somewhat shape-shift. In the bed room, all Rod can see is Tina being sliced open and dragged up the walls by an invisible predator. It still looks awesome, too. Rod runs away, and Glen/Nancy call the cops. 


As it turns out, Nancy's father is a cop. He confronts Nancy's mom about why she was at Tina's in the first place. Pretty clear that her parents are divorced and not on great terms. The next day, Nancy insists on going to school, and her mom doesn't really put up a fight. Nancy is followed by what seem like G-Men, when Rod jumps out of the bushes to tell her he didn't do it. Obviously, the cops were watching Nancy, and they arrest Rod. Nancy is disgusted that her father would use her like that, while her dad wonders why she was going to school in the first place. But had she not being going to school, he wouldn't have been able to "use her" in the first place. Nancy dozes off in school and sees Tina's corpse talking to her in a body bag. She follows the blood trail and ends up in...THE BOILER ROOM! Freddy chases her, but she wakes herself up by burning her arm on a pipe before he can get her. She wakes up screaming in class, with a burn on her arm. 

The dreams have a deep blue tint to them, adding more to the shadows and weirdness. Except when in the boiler room, then everything is rust colored. Dreams in the day time tend to have a fog or haze.


Nancy dozes again in the tub and is pulled under, into a giant tank or something. Certainly not just held under water in the tub. Glen sneaks into her room so she can sleep. He's going to make sure to wake her if anything bad happens. Can you guess where this is going? She actually goes into the dream world to look for Freddy. Somehow, it seems that Glen is in the dream with her. She finds Freddy. This sequence has some common nightmare thmes, such as getting stuck while running away, creepy snakes and bugs, the monster in the mirror, and no one being able to help you. Even when they're asleep in the chair right next to you like a fucking bum. "Glen...you bastard!" Nancy had seen Freddy fucking with Rod in the dream, so she and Glen go to the precinct to check on him. When they get there, Rod appears to have committed suicide. Nancy's dad was there, at like 3 in the morning. After having been on the job when Nancy was going to to school the day before. And neither set of parents noticed their kid leaving that late. At the funeral, Nancy tells her parents about Freddy, and they know something is up. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? 


The decision was made to take Nancy to a sleep clinic to track her dreams. This is my least favorite part of the movie, as it really seems to drag. She has a nightmare, gets cut, and brings Freddy's hat back with her. For the next chunk of the movie, Nancy is no longer taking any shit, and she calls her mom out for being a liar. And a drunk. School hasn't even started, and she's drinking vodka. FOR BREAKFAST. You see, her mom knew Freddy was real this whole time, but was acting like her daughter was just being crazy. What a shit. The parents in this movie suck. Nancy's parents are divorced and can't get along even for Nancy's sake, her mom knew she was telling the truth about Freddy, but tried to convince Nancy (and herself) that Nancy was just crazy, Tina's parents are too worried about fucking to deal with her issues (and then leave her alone for the weekend when she clearly does not want to be alone), Rod's parents look like drunks and can be assumed to be shitty based on Rod's criminal record being mentioned, Glen's parents don't notice him sneaking out on the regular. These kids actually know what they're talking about, but no one will listen to them.

"SCREW SLEEP!" Nancy gets a boobytrap book, then returns home to find all the windows on the house have bars on them. Her mom, obviously drunk as fuck, takes her down to the basement to reveal the Fred Krueger story: He was a filthy child murderer who killed at least 20 kids in the neighborhood. IN ONE NEIGHBORHOOD. Imagine that. Imagine the world wide headlines that would garner. 20 kids murdered in one neighborhood by one guy. Once he was caught, he was released on a technicality, so the parents tracked him down to his boiler room. Then lit the place on fire, killing him. Oh, and she kept his fucking glove in the basement. The fuck? Like a trophy. Who is the real psycho now? At least that might explain her alcoholism. She's trying to stave off her guilt and madness because she's been keeping the murder weapon of a dude who killed 20 kids and she burned alive. That probably would do a number on the ol' noodle, I suppose.

Nancy makes a plan to meet up with Glen, but his dick head dad hangs up on her, then leaves the phone off the hook. He thinks Nancy is a bad influence on his son. You know who is a bad influence on your son? You guys, you lynch mob mother fuckers. Keep a secret about torching a dude for 20 years, then blame the girl across the street for being not on the up and up.  During this, Freddy calls her even after she pulls the phone out of the wall. So, she's asleep, right? But then she runs downstairs, and drunk ass mom has locked her in. Glen then falls asleep, and of course is killed. Sucked into his bed, which then turned into a blood geyser. It's questionable how much blood the young, nubile Johnny Depp had in his lithe body, but it sure did look cool.


Nancy's booby-trap book comes in handy, and she sets her house up. Her plan is to bring Freddy into the real world to either kill or have him arrested. Before this, she puts her mom to bed. This isn't really touched upon, but clearly, Nancy is a lucid dreamer. Multiple times she's able to directly control her dreams and search for Freddy. What if she's really his daughter? Probably an angle that came up in the writing for at least one of the sequels. Anyway, she finds him and they fight. She has a hold of him when her alarm goes off, but she couldn't bring him back. And then...HE POPS UP! SWERVE! He falls for all the traps, but then kills Nancy's mom. By burning her alive in the bed. And then her skeleton vanishes into the bed itself, but not be waving goodbye. Well...weird.

 Then Nancy turns her back to him, saying she's no longer afraid of him, so he just vanishes. That's how the Malaysians deal with bad dreams, you see. She took away his power, something that Glen had mentioned to her earlier in the movie. Arguably, from the point of the Freddy phone call on, everything is a dream. Obviously she was asleep when Freddy's tongue popped out of the phone, and she was never shown to actually wake up after that. Even in dreams within dreams. Nancy could have been 3 layers deep by the end of the movie.


Nancy wakes up, and her mom is alive. Done with drinking and ready to move on with her life, by golly. Glen, Rod, and Tina are also alive. Then the car drives off without any of them in control and Freddy pulls Nancy's mom through the door window. 


A classic, although not without its faults. The 3rd act has very little drive and ends up dragging quite a bit. The thing is, everything set up is paid off, it just feels so much slower than the rest of the movie. From the sleep clinic on, it feels like the movie gets twice as long. It's weird, because there are some great moments in the last act, just getting to them can be a bit of a chore. Still, it's a pretty dope movie even today. The idea of what happens in your dreams happens in real life is always fascinating to me. In a lot of ways, this movie, and the whole series, is really about the sins of the father (and mother) coming back to haunt the next generation. Especially since this entire neighborhood has been keeping it secret for however many years that a bunch of kids got killed, so they burned the killer alive. Like...how does that not get out? Especially since the Freddy nursery rhyme is known to kids in the movie. And then Nancy's mom trying to convince Nancy she was crazy when she knew the truth the whole time, because she was protecting her own ass. Shameful shit. 

Freddy's portrayal in this movie is essentially a vengeful ghost. He does have a dark sense of humor, though, and also seems to be something of a masochist based on how many times he seems to cut himself. There is an implication that he was a pedophile as well. Most of the effects still hold up, and the ones that really do (the face in the wall, Tina's death, blood geyser) seem timeless. It's not my favorite of the series, but it is a hell of a start.