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Monday, May 6, 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Catchphrase
A Nightmare on Elm Street - Catchphrase

Say what you will about the horror genre, but from Dracula to Jigsaw, no other genre has given the movie-going audience more endearing, beloved, and downright frightening characters in the history of film.  Some of the most recognizable characters come out of the 1980s Slasher Film boom, and without a doubt, while I give Jason Voorhees a heaping helping of blood-soaked credit, you still have to give it up to Wes Craven and his greatest creation, Freddy Krueger from 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

"Nightmare" is the tale of a group of high school friends, including a young Johnny Depp, as they are plagued by the vengeful spirit of child murderer Freddy Krueger, who haunts their dreams.  One by one the teens are dispatched in often-graphic ways while they sleep.  While the plot might seem a little more far-fetched than your standard slasher film, that was the touchstone for "Nightmare."  While still in it's infancy, the slasher genre received a huge shot in the arm and deviated from the traditional "killer in a mask" scenario that was popularized by "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween."  It was fresh, new, and terrifying.

What John Carpenter did to William Shatner masks, is what Craven did to fedoras and Christmas sweaters, he made them scary.  What also works for Craven was the timing of creating Freddy.  While Michael Meyers and Jason were scary, they didn't talk.  With Freddy, we got a walking, talking boogey man who haunted us in our most sacred of places; our bed and dreams.  Dreams are supposed to be a safe haven, especially for kids.  We should be able to control our dreams, and escape from the daily grind of life.  But Freddy pretty much takes a piss on that notion, and whether its beds that eat you, or stairs that give way to quicksand, the Springwood Slasher was always there to haunt you.

Craven, usually known for some type of social or political statement in many of his films, created "Nightmare" with a fairly basic premise, by horror movie standards, but he did just enough to separate it from what people had been used to from the previous six years (using 1978's  "Halloween" as a landmark).

While the sequels got goofier and goofier, and Freddy pretty much became the poster-boy for bad horror movie puns, the original "Nightmare" still stands as one of the most lasting horror films produced in the last 25 years.  The later sequels, including the fantastic "Freddy vs. Jason," tried to really squeeze out a plot about a town conspiracy involving Freddy, the use of the sleep drug Hypnocil, and of course "A Dream Child," worked for the jokes, but nothing else.  While I do appreciate the fact that the writers attempted to make sense and legitimized the series, what people really want is for Freddy to say a line or two, whip out his clawed glove, and killer teen stars from the 1980s.

On this "National Nightmare Day" (actually famed psychologist Sigmund Freud's birthday) pop in your Blu-Ray, or even better, your VHS, slid on your favorite Christmas sweater, shout a one-liner, and enjoy "A Nightmare on Elm Street."  And after you get done with that, creep over to Slaughterfilm.com for more hot Freddy action with their video review of the genre classic.

See you in your nightmares!

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