A Nightmare on Elm Street
|A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American slasher film directed and written by Wes Craven, and the first film of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The film features Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers who, if they fall asleep, will be killed by Freddy Krueger in their dreams, thus causing their deaths in reality. The teenagers are unaware of the cause of this strange phenomenon, but their parents hold a dark secret from long ago.
Craven produced A Nightmare on Elm Street on an estimated budget of just $1.8 million, a sum the film earned back during its first week. An instant commercial success, the film’s total United States box office gross is $25.5 million. A Nightmare on Elm Street was met with rave critical reviews and went on to make a very significant impact on the horror genre, spawning a franchise consisting of a line of sequels, a television series, a crossover with Friday the 13th, a remake, and various other works of imitation.
The film is credited with carrying on many tropes found in low-budget horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, originating in John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film Halloween, including the morality play that revolves around sexual promiscuity in teenagers resulting in their eventual death, leading to the term “slasher film”. Critics and film historians argue that the film’s premise is the question of the distinction between dreams and reality, which is manifested in the film through the teenagers’ dreams and their realities. Critics today praise the film’s ability to transgress “the boundaries between the imaginary and real”, toying with audience perceptions.
As the film begins, we see an unknown person in a dark boiler room create a glove with razor-sharp knives imbedded in the fingers. High school student Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) has a disturbing nightmare in which she is stalked through the dark boiler room by a severely burned figure with the bladded glove on his right hand. When he finally catches her, she awakens screaming in her own bed. However her nightgown has four slashes in it, identical to the ones that she got in her dream by the figure’s razors and is less than convinced it was just a Nightmare. The next day, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) recalls a nursery rhyme from Tina’s description when they meet up with Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp). Tina’s boyfriend Rod Lane (Nick Corri) shows up as well, but all of them avoid the topic of the nightmare though Tina is visibly disturbed.
That night, Nancy and Glen go to Tina’s house when her mother leaves town because Tina didn’t want to sleep alone. Tina describes the killer in her dream, which intrigues Nancy who adds to the description having seen the same killer herself, also getting Glen’s silent attention. Rod crashes the party and he and Tina make love while Glen and Nancy sleep in adjoining rooms. Rod also tells Tina he’s been having nightmares, but neither of them think about it and go to sleep. Once asleep, Tina is once again stalked by the figure, this time from outside her house. She attempts to confront him, but he attacks her. Her struggles awaken Rod who watches Tina get slashed by the glove and dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling, screaming his name and alerting the others before she falls dead onto the bed. Because Rod was the only one in the same room as Tina, he is suspected of the murder and is arrested the next day. While at school, Nancy has a terrifying nightmare in class where she is chased by the killer to the dark boiler room. He corners Nancy, who barely escapes from her nightmare by burning herself on her arm from a steam pipe to wake herself up. She later notices that there is a burn mark that she’d gotten in the dream; she couldn’t have possibly gotten in the classroom. Nancy leaves the school earlier and goes to the jail to talk to Rod, who describes four “invisible razors” cut Tina while he watched and that it reminded him of his own nightmares. To her shock, Nancy realises that Rod did not kill Tina and leaves. Later, she pleads Glen to watch her while she sleeps so she can investigate her dreams further. Glen hesitates, but accepts. When Nancy goes to sleep, she sees in her dream the killer hovering over Rod asleep in his cell. When she awakens, she sees that Glen has already fallen asleep. Nancy is convinced that Rod is in danger and rushes to the police station to see if he is ok. But it’s too late. Rod is dragged up into the window by his bed sheet and hanged. Everybody, except Nancy, believe that he committed suicide.
At Rod’s funeral, Nancy’s mother, Marge Thompson (Ronee Blakley) insists on getting her psychiatric help. But while at the clinic to evaluate her dreams, she has a violent encounter and awakens with a streak of white in her hair. She also got the killer’s battered hat, having pulled it out of her dream with her, much to Marge’s horror who is clearly hiding a secret. After Nancy is attacked again in her bathtub when she falls asleep, Marge begins to drink heavily and installs security bars on all the windows and the door. She reveals her secret to Nancy that the owner of the hat and the burned figure from her nightmares is a man named Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Years ago, he was arrested for murdering children, but due to a technicality (someone not signing the search warrant correctly) he was released. However, the enraged parents of the murdered children burned him alive. It now appears that Freddy manipulates the children’s dreams to get revenge on the parents who killed him from beyond the grave. Nancy tells this to Glen, who advises her to turn her back on her fear, to take the energy of the killer away from him, but she plans to pull Fred from the dream where she and Glen can gang up on him and surrender him to the authorities. But Glen’s parents won’t let him out of their house. Nancy is locked inside her house due to her mother’s protective methods keeping her from getting to Glen. Glen falls asleep as he is killed in his bed. Nancy then receives a phone call from Krueger, who tells her: “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy”, implying that he has killed Glen. Still unable to get her father to believe her, she resolves to Don to break down the door of her house in 20 minutes and then goes to sleep to hunt down Krueger.
She finds Krueger in her last few minutes of sleep and gets ahold of him when her alarm goes off; at first when she doesn’t see him she thinks she’s gone crazy, but Freddy appears suddenly. Nancy proves to be a match for him, having set up several booby traps and making him fall into every one, lighting him on fire and trapping him in the basement to call her father. Don and his department come over to put out the fires, but Nancy and he follow a trail of footsteps up to Marge’s room and discovering him smothering her with his flaming body. They knock him out but Freddy disappears, the body of Marge Thompson vanishing slowly into the bed. But Nancy knows that it’s not over yet, she sends her father from the room and turns her back as Freddy rises from the bed. She proclaims she is no longer afraid of him, causing him to lose his powers. Freddy lunges forward as she walks out of the room and he vanishes. Nancy steps out into daylight from her front door and her mother appears well and sober, promising to stop drinking as her friends pull up in Glen’s car. Suddenly, the roof clamps shut and the car starts moving of its own accord. Nancy screams as she is driven off with her friends, and Marge is pulled suddenly through the front door’s window.