This is an odd confession, but the first time I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street I was in the fourth grade. I was making a float of Six Flags Over Georgia for the parade that all fourth graders had to make at Clarkdale Elementary. At the time, I believe the film was on UPN and I can remember hearing that if I could handle Freddy Kruger no horror film I could not handle. In many ways I still find an odd truth about that statement.
The character did not give me nightmares at first. However for years I have had this weird reoccurring nightmare where he appears in an Ice Cream truck, oddly enough this was in my dream before seeing the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares where I learned Freddy picked up children this way, trying to capture me. For some reason running inside of my home always helps deter him from capturing me and then Stone Cold Steve Austin comes to my rescue. This is something I never thought I would admit publicly, but here we are now.
Freddy Kruger is one of those characters that manage to get deep within one’s mind. This was even before the remake in 2010, which I wanted to hate because Jackie Earle Haley was taking over Robert Englund’s role. While Haley’s performance was terrific in its own right, nothing beats the way Englund plays Freddy and no one will ever be able to capture the mix of humor and fright ever again. This is why they knew they had to make Haley’s Freddy darker, more sinister than in the original. This is why the remake works to be honest. They were not trying to recreate the first one, but had just enough elements to make it amazing and memorable.
Within the original film, written and directed by horror legend Wes Craven, audiences met four teenagers who would eventually have to fight for their lives. These teenagers live on Elm Street and must pay the price for their parent’s past sins. Freddy Krueger (Englund) begins to haunt and torment the teens in their dreams. As the teens dream more, they quickly realize that if Freddy kills them in the dream they die in real life. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends learn this because of his first victim. Their friend Tina (Amanda Wyss). No one believes that Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia), did not committ the murder. No one wants to believe that Fred Krueger is back.
As Nancy and her boyfriend, Glen (Johnny Depp), grow closer putting together the pieces of the puzzle no one is willing to speak about, Freddy’s determination to take revenge on the teens in the neighborhood increases. Can Nancy figure out how to defeat Krueger before he kills everyone she loves? These are the questions the original 1984 audiences found themselves asking while sitting in the theater.
Wes Craven did a magnifcient job creating a character that makes one not want to sleep. After all, most horror films jobs are to make it difficult for one to sleep and Krueger manages to do that on most nights with the teenagers within the film. They will do anything to fight sleep, including keeping a Mr. Coffee in their room. The most famous line within the film, and one of my favorites, is “Whatever you do don’t fall asleep,” which Nancy reminds Glen of as his parents force him into his bedroom. Simple rules, but not so easy of a task for the human body.
Two main characters I want to address. However, I must say I am still fascinated in knowing that this was Johnny Depp’s film debut. A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced to the world a talent that continues to the world on by storm no matter what role he chooses for himself.
However, I choose not to focus on him all the same, but instead gush about the one and only Robert Englund. In the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010), audiences learn that in the beginning of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) they tried to replace Englund. Production realized quickly however that Englund had made Freddy what he was with all the subtle mannerisms that Englund brought to the role. Hiring Englund back while already into filming the sequel was the only choice and the best choice they could have made. Englund made Krueger so iconic to the point that people, myself included, felt that no one would ever be able to hold a candle to his eight performances as Krueger. No one can.
The other person I have to mention is the one and only Heather Langenkamp. She is Nancy. She even produced a documentary, which I still need to watch, entitled I Am Nancy (2010). This is not to say I dislike Rooney Mara’s portrayal of Nancy within the remake, but no one can ever take Langenkamp’s spot in my mind either. She created such a strong willed female and one that did not need protecting from anyone. This continued to help the way horror films portray their females. Our heroines did not, and do not, always have to be the helpless victim, but one who is not afraid to fight back making her performance beyond empowering.
Overall, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic horror film for a reason. In many ways Craven reinvented a new way to portray the horror villain. Plus when it comes to the horror genre Krueger is one of the three characters that all horror fans know. Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger. The original three film franchises. The originals whose remakes I wanted to hate. A true horror fan owes it to himself or herself to view the original film. A Nightmare on Elm Street will always hold a special place in the horror genre and my favorite horror film of all time. With the current resurgence of the genre, hopefully the genre will not be dying out anytime soon. Just remember that the boogie man does exist and he has no qualms going after anyone.