During the seventies, movies goers developed a taste for the gruesome and gory, and with the eighties and the increasingly impressive nature of special effects, we saw the birth of the splatter-fes
During the seventies, movies goers developed a taste for the gruesome and gory, and with the eighties and the increasingly impressive nature of special effects, we saw the birth of the splatter-fest.
Horror film-makers became obsessed with how grotesque they could make their movies, with it all about trying to find new and creative ways for people to dismembered, decapitated and disembowelled.
The slasher film became the flagship product of Hollywood’s horror industry, with killers like Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, Michael Myers from Halloween and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre being their chief export.
Director Wes Craven decided he was going to put his own creative spin on the slasher genre, serving up a rather unique take with Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Set in a small suburban town, Nightmare on Elm Street follows a group of teenagers who are terrorised and brutally murdered in their dreams by the ghoulish Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). As the friends are gradually slaughtered in their sleep, it is up to Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) to find out how they can bring an end to Freddy’s killing spree.
While the convention of a killer that stalks a group of teenagers had already been done, and has been done hundreds of times after, Nightmare on Elm Street is a film that manages to transcend its roots as a slasher film.
You are never more vulnerable than when you are asleep, so the Wes Craven’s idea for a killer that can kill you in your dreams is both brilliant and terrifying, immediately setting Nightmare on Elm Street a cut above the plainer slasher flicks of the time.
The idea of basing a horror film in dreams opened the door to an abundance of possibilities and allowed some very creepy and very gross moments. A lot of the time, both the characters and we the audience don’t know what is a dream and what is real, so we are constantly on the edge of our seats waiting to see when Freddy will strike next.
Freddy himself is also a fantastic change of pace from the normal lumbering silent slasher killer that audiences were used to. Unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, who simply walk around butchering people, Freddy Krueger has a personality and controls every scene he is with his malicious wit and morbid sense of humour.
Robert Englund does a fantastic job as Freddy, making him scary but at the same time interesting and, in a strange way, likable.
Nightmare on Elm Street was a massive hit, and spawned an entire franchise, with six sequels, a crossover with Friday the 13th and an exceedingly bland remake in 2010.
Throughout the series’ original run the films gradually became less frightening and more over the top, with Freddy Krueger playing more for laughs than for scares and the dream scenes being more for cartoonish antics than thrills.
The only truly worthy sequel is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). It is the only sequel that Craven was actually involved with, and can be viewed as his attempt to rectify his mistake of allowing the franchise to run on for so long.
Nightmare on Elm Street is a quintessentially eighties horror film. It follows all the tropes that were popular at the time, with lots promiscuous teens, lots of kills, lots special effects and lots of gags. But its unique premise and brilliant villain set it apart from the crowd, giving us a very enjoyable and delightfully creepy flick that could leave you never wanting to sleep again.