A Nightmare on Elm Street
Blu-ray Edition (1984)
Starring Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley
Directed by Wes Craven
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Release date: April 13, 2010
What gives the original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street such a potent effectiveness is its character Freddy Kruger. Director Wes Craven conjured up a character in Freddy who is unacquainted with reality, but has a sufficiently perceptive realization to a world where he is the embodiment of malignancy. He reigns supreme in the world of dreams, always constructing, devising, and manipulating situations that make it impossible for anything else that is not evil to prosper. Psychology may not seem like the appropriate term to equate Freddy with, but he knows his limitations, victims’ weaknesses and the little ways he has to seize his victims in order to satisfy his urges for human flesh. He is self-appointed to this world and this world only. The devilish delights he finds here come at the expense of those doing the dreaming. This is what makes Freddy the most plausible of all modern day horror characters; He endures in a world where anything goes, where humans become unconscious and succumb to the illogical sequences that dreams are known to possess. Freddy integrates himself into any dream in which he believes could further advance his infatuation with preying on the weak minded.
Everyone doesn’t run into a hockey-masked murderer every day. Nor do they happen to stumble into a chainsaw-waving leatherface monster thirsty for blood. But everyone does have to lay their weary bodies to bed every night, where, studies proven, dreams do occur every single time. When Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), a panicky teenager, tells her boyfriend (Johnny Depp in his debut role) to “not fall asleep tonight” or anytime soon, one has to laugh because teenagers find bliss while sleeping and their lusts happen to be fulfilled. They enter a realm that takes them on a voyage away from their parents, elders, authorities, school teachers, and crazy boyfriends and girlfriends. But this realm of once perpetual bliss becomes tainted with a nightmare and soon corrodes the blissful atmosphere to reveal terror.
Terror ensues in the image of Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund), who is sporting burned skin, a fedora, and a sweater that contrasts two of the harshest colors (dark red and olive green) known to the human eye. Oh yea, he also has razor sharp claws attached to both his hands that are readily prepared to deconstruct the human anatomy beginning with the tearing off of flesh. Nancy and her few high school friends, all who live on Elm Street, have all been experiencing this same evil incarnate in each of their dreams. Each reluctantly falls asleep to continuously meet this mad man time and time again, trying all that is in their will to defeat their fear of him. When Nancy’s friend experiences this nightmare for one last time we see the evilness that is capable of happening to all who can’t muster up enough courage to face evil.
What is fascinating is the little screen time Freddy receives, and yet he remains throughout the film as an unshakable force. The time committed to him is successfully used. We fear him because we see very little of him. He is portrayed as a figure that comes to represent our own dreams; we don’t remember the entire dream, only the bits and pieces that warrant our attention. Craven doesn’t wastefully or confusingly include Freddy into every scene. Moderation is something this film teaches and should be applauded for. The over-indulgence in a character can be loathsome, but every time Freddy happens to appear there is an extreme devotion to wickedness, energy, and vivacity. His scenes of fear and exhilaration (despite the archaic special effects) break-up the drabness of the high school story, while at the same time drawing attention to its mediocrity and mundane qualities.
Craven is obsessed with the terror that teens feel. A Nightmare on Elm Street can be seen as a precursor to his Scream franchise, films that indulged heavily in the maniacal fears of teenagers unlike any other horror film has done since. He is governed by fear. His films, mostly Nightmare and Scream, know when to expose terror completely and then diminish its magnitude. It is a trait that is rare in modern horror cinema. But the real power of this film comes by the way of Craven’s psychological concept: We have the potential or need to search for an ability in which we can use to face our nightmares and possibly defeat them. With this combination of psychology and horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street lives on the outskirts of the horror franchise, one that is incorruptible in its rationality and unafraid to relish the agonizing sensitivity that the human mind can possess.
HD Picture: This Blu-Ray transfer has achieved a remarkable task. While wiping clean the grittiness and haze that the original DVD laid claim to, the new high definition transfer still magically retains that 80s horror film quality. The night scenes in particular are wonderfully redone. They are no longer threatened to the decay that previous versions had problems with. Now the scenes are indeed completely visible. But when night turns to day that is when the transfer finds itself in disproportion. The brightness of nature’s light doesn’t fully receive the treatment that the night scenes received. Light is too strong and at times almost blindingly hazy. What is to behold here is the way Freddy is presented in all of his beautiful, high-definition physical decay. His scars are insanely visible and his cutting utensils are practically shimmering. Freddy Kruger has assumed his position as the King of Horror in the high-definition world.
Two Commentaries: The first comes from director Wes Craven, co-stars Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon, and cinematographer Jacques Haitkin. The second (and more interesting) involves Wes Craven, co-stars Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Ronee Blakley, producer Robert Shaye and Co-Producer Sara Risher.
Never Sleep Again: HD; 49mins: The making of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The House that Freddy Built: HD; 23mins: How the film gave life to a just starting out New Line Cinema Production Company. After the original Nightmare New Line was then seen as the new studio to produce horror franchises.
The Origins of Wes Craven’s Nightmares: HD; 16mins: Discussion of dreams and the effects it has on the mind.
Focus Points: Watch for an icon to display on the screen during the movie and press enter to view aspects detailing the making of that particular scene. This feature also displays some alternate takes and endings.
Interactive Trivia Track
MOVIE: *** out of ****
HI-DEF: *** out of ****
FEATURES: ***1/2 out of ****