***This is my contribution to The Class of ‘84 Blogathon that is being hosted by the always terrific This Distracted Globe.***
While many of my favorite horror films that I grew up with are now mostly just products of my own nostalgia, a few still manage to thrill, terrify and scare me the same way they did when I first experienced them as a youth. A key film from my teenage years that continues to haunt me is Wes Craven’s enduring A Nightmare on Elm Street, an ingenious work that hasn’t lost its ability to shock twenty-five years after it first terrified audiences in 1984.
Often undervalued by film fans and critics, Wes Craven is one of the few American directors who managed to delivery seminal works in not just two, but three different decades. Regardless of some career inconsistencies, his Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream continue to resonate in popular culture to this day. His greatest works continue to be some of the most copied films in modern American cinema as well as some of the stylish. He was never greater though than he was in 1984 when he warned audiences around the world to not go to sleep.
The genesis of A Nightmare on Elm Street is the stuff of film legend now so there isn’t much need of going into much detail on it here. After getting the idea of from a 1981 Los Angeles Times story about a youth who was convinced he would be killed if he fell asleep, Craven began shopping around what would become his most legendary film to every studio that looked like they might have a partially open door for him. After being turned down by everyone he pitched to for nearly three years, Craven was finally given the green light by the visionary Bob Shay at the young New Line Cinema, a company hungry for a defining hit.
Indeed it was the defining hit that both New Line and Wes Craven needed. It was one of those films that seemed to instantly catch fire with film fans, and its critical (albeit mixed) and popular success was more than justified. While most of the mid eighties horror flicks have long since faded from memory, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddy Krueger continue to loudly reverberate.
Like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the power of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street has been partially diminished by its highly inferior sequels. While most of them are inconsequential to say the least, I will always stand by Part 3’s The Dream Warriors as being one of the most flat out entertaining horror films of the eighties (not to mention the fact that it introduced the world to the wonderful Patricia Arquette), and I quite admire Craven’s own New Nightmare as well. The diminished returns of the majority of the sequels (and the dreaded remake on the horizon) shouldn’t take away from the power of Craven’s original film. A Nightmare on Elm Street remains a masterful piece of filmmaking from a clearly frustrated artist looking to unleash a very clear, personal and quite startling vision.
I have elected to not write any sort of review or history of the film. Instead I just wanted to offer up a tribute in stills to some of my favorite moments, and offer a big thank you to Wes Craven for creating such a wonderfully provocative and entertaining work. I will always love this film...