I am not sure that you can think about the horror genre without the burnt up terrifying nightmare that has been haunting peoples dreams since 1984, he has been butchering kids while they sleep for over 30 years, in some of the most gruesome ways that any on us could possibly ever dream off…I am of course talking about the legend that is Freddy Kruger.
When Wes Craven thought of this terrifying being I don’t think even he realised just how much of a horror icon Freddy was destined to be. A Nightmare on Elm Street is easily on of the most popular movies within the horror genre, whether you are a horror freak who loves all of this scary stuff (like me) or you are someone that prefers not to watch movies designed to scare you, you have undoubtedly heard of this horrific masterpiece. In 1984 this was a truly terrifying movie, Wes Craven truly did capture the horror, he made people believe that should they fall asleep Freddy would come for them. The riddle associated with Kruger says it all, 1 2 Freddy’s coming for you 3 4 better lock your door 5 6 grab your crucifix 7 8 better stay up late 9 10 never sleep again. Now I don’t know about all of you but the very first time I heard that rhyme when watching A Nightmare on Elm Street it gave me chills, for me it is a truly spooky rhyme that catches essence of what Freddy is doing to these kids.
There are many different reasons as to why this film has become of the biggest classics in the horror genre, with the front man being the biggest attraction. Freddy has always been very unique, by the time Nightmare on Elm Street hit theatres people had become considerably accustomed to the slasher section of the horror genre with 2 of the other biggest legends Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees having already established themselves with several films respectively. Slashers were still popular but people now knew the drill, deranged killer hunts down and slaughters a bunch of teenagers, it’s easy watching and difficult to mess up but it all had the same basic formula. Wes Craven came up with a slightly better formula for his horror classic, Freddy Kruger wasn’t your average serial killer, no he had an entirely different approach to how he slaughtered his victims. THEIR DREAMS!
This was something brilliant that hadn’t yet been done, every other slasher had their poor innocent victims terrified of what was around the corner to cause them to meet their maker but the poor kids of Elm Street had a bigger problem, one that they could never escape from, sleep. Freddy didn’t kill the living, Freddy wasn’t living, Freddy was alive in their dreams, he slaughtered them in the confines of their own dreams while they slept. The only way to avoid this killer was to not sleep, not something many of us can achieve for very long. Wes Craven gave his audience an all new concept to fear, he brought a new kind of terror to quite literally haunt peoples dreams.
The movie itself was amazing, it grasps the audience from the get go, as soon as you see the boiler room you are hooked, curious as to what horrors await you. The design of the boiler room where Freddy kills his victims was a crucial part in making this movie terrifying, the room itself was filled with a thick atmosphere, an atmosphere that screamed death. Another reason the boiler room had such a profound effect on the audience was it’s personal importance to Freddy, it was where he was burned alive, turning him into this grotesque being that now haunts nightmares. So the film starts with a girl who is clearly lost as she wanders through a tunnel finding her way into what appears to be a huge boiler room, it’s clear to see that she is being stalked, immediately the audience wants to know who this creep is, what is his purpose? When the girl wakes up frightened we realise that she has been suffering from a terrible nightmare, a nightmare that haunts her into the following day as she explains her dream to her friends Nancy and Glen. Fearing a further nightmare she asks them to spend the night at hers, upon discussing the nightmare it would appear as though Nancy dreamed about this strange man with knives on his fingers too.
This is the pinnacle moment where the audience realise that this person or thing can enter any persons dream, after all it is way too coincidental for both girls to dream about the exact same man, surely there has to be something more to this? After deciding it’s safe to sleep in the arms of her boyfriend Tina once again dreams, though this time she doesn’t wake up, we meet Fred Kruger as he brutally murders her in what has become one of the most famous scenes in film. Flying round the room being butchered certainly got the attention of all those who watched this movie. We now movie on to the primary protagonist of this movie, Nancy, that poor girl doesn’t know the horrors she is about to endure. Her first true encounter with Freddy comes when she falls asleep in class, following the dead body of her friend, Nancy finds herself in the exact same boiler room we saw Tina in at the start of the film. This is the first dream that ends with a survivor who has been injured in the dream.
That’s the truly terrifying thing, when you get hurt in a dream you wake up and you are fine. However if you live on Elm Street that injury will still be with you upon waking up. The film carries on in this fashion it’s different teenagers suffering at the hands of Freddy Kruger, Nancy being the main protagonist has a few horrific ordeals, the worst one for me is when she falls asleep in the bath tub, the way that Freddy’s hand comes slowly out the water is chilling, when he reaches over her body it is somewhat perverse, the attempted drowning itself isn’t what made that scene as chilling as I found it to be.
Watching Nancy solve the mystery of Fred Kruger as the movie goes on is interesting to witness, especially with people not believing her about what has been happening. She actually decides in a rather bold move to go on the hunt for Kruger, victims tend to run as far and fast as possible in the opposite direction as opposed to hunting their would be murderer. Nancy almost found herself on the murdered side of things thanks to her boyfriend failing to keep his eyes open, though her near death experience proved valuable in the sense of she discovered what Freddy planned to do to one of her friends who is currently in jail for the murder of Tina. Due to the disbelief of an officer and her father her information proved futile as she was too late to save her friend.
The suspense that is built up as the movie goes on is part of why the film was so successful, even when Nancy was awake we were just waiting, waiting for the ordeal she was bound to endure upon falling asleep. An interesting point was when she was in the sleep clinic, with doctors and her mother watching her sleep she once again dreamed. Once they woke her up they found some deep cuts on her arm, while Nancy discovers that she has brought something out of her dream, Freddys hat.
Eventually Nancys mum relents telling her all about Fred Kruger. He was a child murderer, killing more than 20 children, due to idiots in the justice system Kruger was freed of all charges. The parents took justice into their own hands, burning Fred in the boiler room where he took the children, explaining why he takes those whose dreams he invades into that same boiler room. The death of Glen proves to be the final straw for Nancy, she fought so desperately to save him, she gave her boyfriend all the advice she possible could, she tried calling, she even tried to get out of her house but to no avail. She knows what she must do in one of the best final showdowns I have ever witnessed, she evens the playing field, she brings Freddy into her world, its time to fight him but in her way. The use of traps to defeat an abnormally strong foe is common practice in every type of movie not just horrors, the reason being is that they are seriously effective, as proven in the final showdown of Freddy and Nancy.
The build up to this final connotation was very well done, we have been waiting for someone to truly stand their ground in the face of Kruger. He has taken so much from Nancy that she was going to have to confront her fears head on in order to find a semblance of justice for those she has lost to this nightmare. Using her earlier found knowledge she brings Freddy into the real world, something that he isn’t going to let stop him from sticking those knives in Nancy, the one problem being he wasn’t prepared for the traps. It was about time that we had another teenager show us how it’s done, it’s about time the survivor was strong in their approach to their enemy. Rather than kill the villain of this film like most other films do, Nancy defeats Freddy through not being frightened of him, through not being willing to give him her energy anymore.
As we see Nancy in a car with her deceased friends we know she is dreaming, this is proven to be the case when Freddy drags her mother through the door window, cue the rhym. 1 2 Freddys coming for you 3 4 better lock your door 5 6 grab your crucifix 7 8 better stay up late 9 10 never sleep again.
Nightmare on Elm Street has got be one of my all time favourite horror movies, I cannot sing its praises enough, the suspense, atmosphere, story and villain were all of a high caliber contributing to what has become a horror classic. The acting of Robert Englund as Fred Kruger was second to none, that’s the problem with remaking Nightmare on Elm Street, no one is ever going to match up to the original Freddy. While it does look a tad dated which is to be expected at 33 years old it still holds all those terrors all those nightmares that people have feared for those 33 years. There is a legacy to this film and unfortunately for all those who dream of there being a better one or even one that can equal its godfather then I am afraid that they are going to be sorely disappointed. I have no doubt that they will create a worth while remake though I know it will never beat the 1984 classic.