A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Robert Shaye
Written by Wes Craven
Director of Photograpy Jacques Haitkin
Music by Charles Bernstein
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley
1984/92 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1 EX/DTS-ES 6.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the New Line Home Entertainment DVD
I love reviewing movies and DVDs. (Even casual visitors of DVD Crypt should realize that.) I really enjoy discovering new movies and giving my opinion (positive or negative) on them. Some may be surprised that it's much more challenging to review classic films. When a movie has been examined and critiqued hundreds of times, it can be hard to find something new to say about it. But, as New Line Home Entertainment releases A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in a new Infinifilm DVD edition, I'll give it a shot.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET focuses on four high-school friends -- Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), a clever, nice girl; Glen (Johnny Depp), Nancy's boyfriend, a preppy, upstanding jock; Tina (Amanda Wyss), a somewhat troubled girl who comes from a broken home; and Rod (Nick Corri), a "bad boy" who Tina is dating. Tina has been having some violent nightmares, so her friends volunteer to spend the night with her while her mom is out of town. That night, Tina has a particularly disturbing nightmare in which a horribly disfigured man wearing a battered hat and a dirty red & green sweater torments her. Thing go from creepy to genuinely disturbing when Tina's dream seemingly becomes reality as she is thrown about the bedroom and essentially torn apart.
Rod is taken into custody for the murder by Lieutenant Thompson (John Saxon) (who also happens to be Nancy's father). Meanwhile, Nancy realizes that her recent nightmares are similar to those described by Tina before her death, and Nancy's nightmares suddenly become more vivid. Doing some research, Nancy learns that the man tormenting her and her friends in their nightmares is a man named Fred Krueger (Robert Englund). As Nancy fights to stay awake, she realizes that she must take it upon herself to defeat this dream demon.
Although I was only in my early teens when A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was released, I was fortunate enough to see the film in the theater. The movie had an effect on me then, not only because it was scary, but because it was so creative. Today, even after all of the sequels and imitators, the movie still packs a punch. The term "classic" is thrown around way too much, but A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET certainly deserves the moniker.
Again, there's not much that I can say about A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET that hasn't been said before. The movie introduced a horror movie icon to the world, and brought renewed energy to horror films when the slasher cycle was far beyond dying. The movie has obviously spawned a slew of sequels and its influence can be felt in dozens of films that have come along since its initial release. So, I will analyze the main pros and cons that I noted about the movie after watching again for at least the twentieth time.
Something that really stood out about A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET on this viewing was how Wes Craven really played upon the creepy nature of the film. Many have noted that in the sequels, Freddy Krueger became more of a stand-up comedian than a serial killer. But, in this movie, Freddy is a very dark character who only has a few lines in the film. Also in the sequels, the nightmares became very elaborate and over the top. The dreams in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET are very sparse and subtle. The epitome of this angle is the dream which Nancy has in English class. That scene is my favorite in the film and epitomizes how the "less is more" approach truly benefits this movie. The image of Tina in a bloody body bag whispering "Nancy" over and over is far more effective than any green-screen effects. (The way that the guy reading the poem in front of the class begins to whisper as well only adds to the scene.) While A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is clearly a fantasy, Craven's bare-bones approach truly brings a realistic feel to the film which allows the overall effect to resonate.
The nature of Freddy in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET versus the character in the sequels can be compared to the way Michael Myers was portrayed in HALLOWEEN and its various chapters. In their original films, both Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers are clearly out to kill their victims, but they also place a great deal of emphasis on stalking and scaring their prey. Whereas Michael Myers would watch his victims before finally striking, Freddy haunts the person's dreams for several nights before taking them. In the sequels of both films, it all became about the killing and not about the nuance of the hunt.
While watching the movie again, I also noticed two minor flaws in the film which have always bothered me. While we learn who Fred Krueger was, we're never given any idea about how he's able to invade the dreams of the film's characters. This point may not be that important to the story, but it's always bugged me. Did he study some kind of occult practices while he was alive which would have allowed him to do this? Is he a ghost? I know that I'm nitpicking but I think about this every time that I see the movie. The other thing that always gets me is the scene in which Nancy claims that she will accomplish something in 20 minutes and then we are treated to a montage scene of her performing tasks that would have probably taken hours. Is this a flashback? Are we seeing things which were done hours before? These two demerits certainly don't detract from the power of the movie, but I just wanted to point them out.
Twenty-two years after it first terrorized filmgoers, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is still an effective film. Freddy Krueger may have long ago been neutered, but the character presented here is down-and-dirty and very mean. The movie introduced a new kind of supernatural film to the world, and it's still effective today. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT may have introduced Wes Craven to the world of horror, but A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET solidified his place in the pantheon of fright films.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET conjures up visions of DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. This newly released Infinifilm DVD features a newly remastered video transfer taken from the original film negatives. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Let's make this simple -- Is this the best that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has ever looked on home video? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Given the fact that the movie is a low-budget film made 22 years ago, it's probably impossible to make a pristine transfer of the film, but this DVD certainly comes close. The image is truly sharp and clear, and the colors look fantastic. Still, the image is somewhat dark at times (and not just in the nighttime scenes) and there is a vague trace of grain on the image. This transfer is not plagued by any major artifacting or edge-enhancement issues. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track and a DTS-ES 6.1 track. Both of these tracks sound fine. Each provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no hissing or distortion. The stereo effects are good and the surround sound effects have certainly been beefed up for this release, although the bass effects are a bit wimpy.
This two-disc set contains a number of extra features. The film is contained on Disc 1 and it can be viewed with an accompanying FACT TRACK which provides on-screen trivia and also links to behind-the-scene video snippets which give background on select scenes. (Oddly enough, one can also choose to see clips from other NIGHTMARE films, which is just odd to me.) These snippets are taken from the extras on Disc 2. Choosing to see a deleted scene during the scene where Nancy's mother describes who Freddy is, reveals a scene that I'd never seen before that contains an interesting plot point which was left out of the movie. Disc 1 also contains two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first is a modern track featuring Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Ronee Blakley, Sara Risher (producer), Jacques Haitkin (director of photography), John Burrows (associate producer), Charles Bernstein (composer), Rick Shaine (editor), Patrick McMahon (co-editor), Jim Doyle (mechanical special effects), David B. Miller (special makeup effects), and David Del Valle (film historian). This is one of those commentaries where all of the speakers were (seemingly) recorded separately and their comments have been edited together (with an announcer introducing each speaker). There are some good facts revealed here, but I've never been a fan of this kind of commentary because there's no flow or rapport amongst the speakers. The second commentary features Craven, Langenkamp, Haitkin, and John Saxon. This is an older chat (which was recorded for the Elite laserdisc if I'm not mistaken). This is a good commentary as the speakers recount the making of the film and Craven is especially good at given background on certain scenes or discussing how scenes effected the audience.
The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 2. "The House that Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror" (23 minutes) contains comments from Robert Shaye, Sara Risher, Wes Craven, and many others as it explores the history of the NIGHTMARE films. (Peter Jackson wrote a treatment for NIGHTMARE 6?!?!?!) It then examines the other scary movies which have come from New Line. "Night Terrors: The Origins of Wes Craven's Nightmares" (16 minutes) has little to do with the movie as several experts discuss the science of sleep and dreams. (There are clips from the NIGHTMARE films.) "Never Sleep Again: The Making of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET" (50 minutes) is a very in-depth featurette which examines the origins of the script, the involvement of New Line and the securing of financing, the casting, and the production, including mechanical and makeup effects. The featurette contains comments from nearly everyone involved in the film save for Johnny Depp and Nick Corri. The DVD contains three ALTERNATE ENDINGS, which all only differ slightly from the theatrical ending. "Freddy's Coming for You" Trivia Challenge is a set-top game. The extras are rounded out by the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©