Written & Directed By: Wes Craven
Outside the wind is howling and the moon is shining bright in the midnight sky. It stirs up nostalgic memories of my early youth, when I would go to video stores on nights like this and spend a couple hours looking through the horror section, being absolutely thrilled by the grotesque monsters depicted on the VHS boxes. Even though I was too young to actually watch the films, the great movie maniacs still haunted my nightmares: though there was one in particular who stalked my dreams almost relentlessly. A gangly man who wore a dirty red and green striped sweater, had a terribly disfigured face, and razor-tipped fingers that surely meant a grim death if you crossed his path. Yes, even my early adolescent dreams were visited regularly by the infamous Freddy Krueger.
My dad, an avid 1980’s slasher watcher, was always renting horror films, and was inevitably always being questioned by me: “what happens if Freddy kills you in your sleep?”, “how did he get all burned?”, and of course “how did he get the knives on his hand?” Eventually he must have grown tired of answering my questions, because one Halloween night, we sat down with a pile of the classics of modern horror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Upon first viewing, all three became instant favourites, and I immediately understood why they were considered greats of the genre. ‘ Even at a young age I was able to recognize that ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ possessed all the elements that make a solid horror film: likeable characters, good atmosphere, a memorable monster, a well-planned story, and utterly repulsive death scenes. The early pioneers of the ‘slasher’ genre (Craven, Carpenter, Cunningham, Clark, etc) were making movies they wanted to make, and the low-budget wound up being more of a blessing than a curse. It forced them to do more with less, and what eventually wound up emerging were scenes that were financially affordable, but oh-so memorable (who can forget watching Freddy push through the seemingly solid wall above Nancy’s bed; or Tina’s bloodied body being dragged across the ceiling while her boyfriend stood by, unable to do anything but watch.)
The story is infamous and a lengthy description is not needed: the kids in the small American town of Springwood are having terrible nightmares, in which the same hideously deformed boogeyman is threatening their lives. The catch? If you die in your dream, you die in real life. The kids must figure out how to face an enemy that preys on you in your most vulnerable state before it’s too late.
I can’t say enough praises for this, nor should I have to. Accolades have been heaped on this film since its release, and you shouldn’t be spending another moment reading my nostalgic memories of it. You should be out making your own. It’s the perfect ‘feel-good’ horror film (yes, as any horror fan can tell you such a thing does exist), and a film that I find unable to turn away from whenever I see it playing on TV.
So tonight, as the wind continues to howl and the moon casts long sinister shadows across my floor, I feel a sudden desire to put in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and fall asleep. Though the immortal words of heroine Nancy Thompson ring loudly in my mind: “…whatever you do: don’t… fall… asleep.”