“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep”.
Are you ready for Freddy? In 1984, this film made former English professor Wes Craven into a horror legend, inspired six sequels and a short-lived TV series, and was also responsible for kicking off Johnny Depp’s career.
But this, the original – completed in just 32 days and made for less than $2 million – stands out from the rest as a perfectly formed horror movie that taps into that most terrifying of places: our own subconscious.
Using the same set pieces that defined Friday The 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978), this took things to a new level, as Freddy Krueger terrorised a group of LA youths, constantly flipping between the real and unconscious as grisly, blood-spattered mayhem ensues.
The film opens inside a surrealistic basement-cum-workshop, where a hideously scarred man wearing a red-and-green striped sweater and crusty old fedora welds razor-sharp blades to metal fingertips and attaches these to a battered leather glove.
As events unfold and long-repressed secrets are revealed, we learn that this inhuman dream invader is Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), a former child killer who was burned to death by a mob of furious Elm Street parents after being released from prison on a technicality.
Years later, Freddy has returned from the grave as evil incarnate, obsessed with taking revenge on the adolescent offspring of those who ended his mortal life. Residing in his young victims’ subconscious, attacking them while they sleep, wisecracking Freddy is virtually omnipotent, capable of rewriting the laws of physics and effecting all manner of grotesque yet creative killings.
Always creepy, with some great squirm moments (including a rather nasty bath-time sequence), this is an imaginative horror movie that kicked off an entire genre of inferiors.
The special effects wizardry and gallons of fake blood are balanced by an anxiety-inducing score and a gripping narrative, as we feel for the intended victims in their hopeless battle to stay awake.
Director Wes Craven got the idea for Nightmare On Elm Street from press reports of three young male Cambodian refugees who all died in their sleep after suffering nightmares and with no physical symptoms. The cause of death is now known as Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome.
Nightmare On Elm Street probably did wonders for the sale of No-Doz.
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you
Three, four, better lock your door
Five, six, grab a crucifix
Seven, eight, better stay up late
Nine, ten, never sleep again!
A 2010 remake directed by Samuel Bayer failed to live up to the original. While the new film turned a profit by grossing $117 million on a budget of $35 million, it was panned for making the wrong choices story-wise (such as making Freddy a full-on child molester) and for the confusing final act.