It’s week 2 of the Sunday Night Slashers series, and given that I’ve named the series after my favorite sub-genre of horror, the slasher, I don’t know why I didn’t start with this one. When you think of a good old fashioned slasher, one from the glory days of the genre in the late 70’s and early 80’s there are plenty of crazed killers to choose from, but one of the absolute most iconic of them all has got to be Freddy Krueger. Everything about the character screams nightmare on elm street and from the iconic costume & make up to the weaponry and ground breaking story line, you’ll find few people (whether horror fans or not) who don’t know who Freddy Krueger is. When you talk to people about some of the other icons like Jason or Michael Myers you can often see them scratching their heads to remember which masked maniac is which… there’s no mistaking the man with the melted face!
I think this movie could have scored much higher in the star rankings for me, but it’s just the fact that it was made back in ’84 that lets it down a little, so its at no fault of its own. As you watch the film, OK, the make up is amazing, and the gore effects are absolutely brilliant (when it comes to gore, there’s nothing better than good practical effects and makeup), but there are just other parts of the effects around how Freddy does certain things, that just look dated. You might not even have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the film being remade in 2010, with a version which visually, I actually prefer. What remains though is that this is a movie which started an 8 movie franchise (not counting that remake) told a story which hadn’t been told before.
What we are faced with when watching this horror is a culmination of lots of sub-genres… There’s of course the slasher element as the man with 4 razor blades attached to his fingers literally slashes his was from one end of this movie to the other. He’s however not a living character, he comes to his victims in their dreams – no spoiler alert needed, its the entire premise of the film and becomes clear right from the start, so it’s a supernatural horror as well. Finally, in a sick and twisted kind of way it’s actually a revenge horror as well – although in this case it’s not the victim, the good guy, getting their revenge on the evil characters in the film – it’s the evil character getting his revenge on the living.
As Freddy has had 9 films in total (with that remake), he has so much backstory and lore attached to him that it’s difficult to say too much without delving under his scarred and blistered skin, so I’ll try not to go in to too much, although surely even without having seen the film, if you have any sort of interest in this movie, enough to read my drivel, then surely you already know who Freddy is and why he is where he is?
That being the case, it’s insane that this character who we revere so much in the horror fandom, and who is so well known in the general population is actually a movie glorification of one of the worst kinds of killers – a serial child killer. This guy really is DARK, and that part of him – that inner evil, is played absolutely perfectly, and some might say scarily good by Robert Englund.
Englund played the part for the whole of the original franchise and got the part not because he’s big or because he’s mean looking, but because he plays crazy better than just about anyone. If anyone can act and put a serial killer in the eyes of his characters, it’s Robert Englund. Even today when it comes to doing photo-ops at comic cons around the world, Englund hasn’t lost grip of the absolutely terrifying nature of this character and continues to scare the pants off even the biggest fans of the franchise.
Even though Englund is the run away star of this film and cements himself firmly as one of the best of the best when it comes to playing some of the darkest characters in film through this role, he doesn’t carry the film alone!
Among others, it’s worth noting (because to be honest his performance is quite easily forgotten) that a Nightmare on Elm Street introduced us to Johnny Depp in his first movie role… And OK it was his first ever film so we can cut him some slack, but his performance was a far cry from what we’d expect from him in the future, and showed that maybe his slightly crazy, possibly drunk or drugged typecasting he’d get in later years is his true acting calling. On the victim side we do have to also applaud the leading girl Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp – absolute sweetheart and bad-ass all rolled in to one in this film which again also cemented her as a future scream queen legend of the genre.
This film is absolutely wall to wall thriller, gore fest, one liners and iconic scenes… remember that one where his tongue comes out the phone… remember that one where Nancy goes all home alone, remember that one where Freddy’s dirty perv hand comes out of the bath water (which is actually one of my favorite scary movie scenes)…. you get the idea – the more I think about how awesome it was, the more I want to see it again. Maybe I’ll have to sneak in the updated version – to wet your appetite here’s the trailer for that one too, but don’t let the historic cinema of the original elude you!