A Nightmare on Elm Street (18)
On its original 1984 release, and before it became weakened and corrupted by a slew of increasingly insipid sequels and TV shows, A Nightmare on Elm Street presented audiences with an insight into the sheer terror of dreams, sleep and the horrors that lurked there.
And in Freddy Kreuger writer/director Wes Craven gave cinema one of the all-time villains – a child killer back from the grave to claim more victims courtesy of a wicked razor-sharp bladed glove.
Freddy ranks alongside Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter as one of the premier bad guys of 20th century cinema. The others were cannibal killers, deranged maniacs and insidiously intelligent manipulators. Freddy was a spectre from childhood – a dread memory that lurked in the shadows of sleep, ready to pounce on the unwary.
The ‘80s were the period of the slasher and video nasty. A Nightmare on Elm Street fulfilled the first criteria but avoided the second, albeit narrowly. What it did achieve was the concept of an unstoppable killer in the mould of Michael Myers (Halloween) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th).
The overwhelming desire for box office bucks combined with lazy scripting eventually diluted Freddy’s impact and scarifying appeal. But in this first outing – reissued in time for the Halloween period – he skulks in the background as he stalks the children (among them Heather Langenkamp and Johnny Depp) of the vigilantes who killed him.
Thirty years may have dulled Freddy’s blades but this first tale still packs a gloriously gory wallop.
Star rating: ****