Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Tag line: "Whatever you do, don't fall asleep...or you'll meet the terrifying Freddy"
Trivia: Heather Langenkamp beat over 200 actresses for the role of Nancy Thompson, some of the other actresses who auditioned for the role of Nancy were Jennifer Grey, Demi Moore, Courteney Cox and Tracey Gold
Believed by many to be director Wes Craven’s crowning achievement, 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced a character who, in the decades to follow, would become as well-known to horror fans as Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. I’m referring, of course, to Freddy Krueger, the killer with the razor-tipped glove who stalks his victims in their dreams. In fact, of all the cinematic mass murderers, Freddy is probably the hardest to elude. Want to steer clear of Jason? Don’t visit Camp Crystal Lake. But how do you keep yourself from falling asleep? Let’s face it: you can’t stay awake forever!
Teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) has been having terrible nightmares, in which a man whose face is badly burned attempts to kill her. What’s unusual is that her friends have been having the same nightmare! Things take a tragic turn when Nancy’s best friend, Tina (Amanda Wyss), is brutally murdered in her sleep. Tina’s boyfriend, Rod (Jsu Garcia), who was with her at the time, is being sought by police as a prime suspect in her killing. Nancy tries to convince her father, Police Lt. Donald Thompson (John Saxon), that Rod is innocent, but he doesn’t believe her story about a murderer who attacks people while they dream. Eventually, Nancy learns the truth: the maniac stalking her and her friends is Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), a suspected child killer who, years earlier, was burned to death by a mob of angry parents. Vowing revenge on those responsible, Krueger now slaughters their children, doing so the only way he can - by invading the world of their dreams. With the help of her boyfriend, Glen (Johnny Depp), Nancy concocts a scheme to lure Fred Krueger into the real world, where they might have a fighting chance against him. But can the two stay awake long enough to pull it off?
The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street can be traced to a couple of key factors, the first of which is the movie's premise. Think about it: is there anything more frightening than being attacked in your dreams, a time when you’re at your most vulnerable? What’s more, we all have to sleep at some point, and Fred Krueger knows it. In most slasher films, the killer comes looking for you, but in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy realizes that, If he waits long enough, his prey will come to him. The second vital element is Freddy himself. Robert Englund brings the right mix of sarcasm and menace to the part of Freddy, rattling off a series of one-liners as he savagely butchers his victims. It was the role that made him a star (and rightly so).
Alas, not all of the performances are as strong as Englund’s. As Nancy’s mother, Ronee Blakley is downright awful, walking around in a daze through much of the film, and, oddly enough, I felt the second-weakest performer was none other than Johnny Depp, who’s practically lifeless as Glen (in his defense, though, A Nightmare on Elm Street was Depp’s screen debut). Fortunately, neither weakness hurts the movie, which has taken its rightful place as one of the all-time classics of the horror genre.