John Saxon as Lt. Thompson
Ronee Blakley as Marge Thompson
Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson
Amanda Wyss as Tina Gray
Jsu Garcia as Rod Lane (as Nick Corri)
Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
Freddy Krueger. Nancy Thompson. These names have become engrained in the minds of movie-goers everywhere…horror lovers and non alike. In Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street these names are of the monster that comes in your dreams, and the heroine determined to stay awake until she finds a way to defeat him.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is, for so many reasons, one of the classics of horror that shall outlive us all. This movie broke many “rules” of horror, and demonstrated to everyone that no place is safe, not even dreamland.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is a typical American teenager with troubles galore: Her boyfriend (Johnny Depp) wants their relationship to be more “physical” than she’s comfortable with, her parents are divorced and don’t get along, her mother (Ronee Blakley) is a raging alcoholic with liquor bottles hidden all over the place (including in the hall closet with the towels) and her father (John Saxon) is simultaneously over-protective and never around. Plus she has bad dreams.
One morning at school Nancy learns that her best friend, Amanda (Tina Gray) has been having bad dreams also. And so has her boyfriend…and so has Tina’s boyfriend (Rod Lane). In fact, they are all having the SAME bad dream.
A man, with a dirty striped shirt, brown hat, scarred face and knives for fingers is terrorizing the teens in their sleep. And there’s more…injuries received in the dream miraculously exist in “real life” when they awake. This dream thing is getting serious.
The man in their dreams is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), and it turns out that he is the spirit of “the bastard son of a 1000 maniacs” – a child murderer who was later murdered himself by the parents of his victims, and who now exacts his revenge on those who burned and killed him by attacking their descendents while they sleep. Nancy and her friends are, of course, those descendents.
A Nightmare on Elm Street has several elements that make this horror movie one of a kind:
• The monster in Freddy Krueger is original, VERY scary, seemingly immortal and comes to his victims when they are most vulnerable.
• The hero in Nancy Thompson is a REAL teenager, with a real life and real problems. She could be ANY teen in a small town, which makes the whole thing more horrifying.
• Some people die in A Nightmare on Elm Street that just shouldn’t if the “rules of horror” are followed…i.e. No sex, no drugs, no sin.
• Nancy doesn’t take all of this “lying down” (ha) but fights back, actually giving ole’ Freddy a run for his money.
A Nightmare on Elm Street has a highly original twist on the slasher theme, and Wes Craven seems to delight in surprising the audience and keeping everyone on their toes. The storyline is rich, the characters are deep, and the scares intense. Craven even adds those strange “dream things” (seemingly illogical happenings that we experience in our dreams that make perfect sense at the time) to create a horror experience that gives us pause to the very act of retiring for the night. There have been several sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the first is the best. Add this one to your library of the classics, and recognize that in a genre that can tend to be somewhat lacking in truly original concepts, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a distinguished exception.