top of page


Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Heather Lagenkamo, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

'A Nightmare on Elm Street' was released in 1984 and was single handedly responsible for saving New Line Cinema from going bust. It spawned numerous sequels (and an inadequate remake) and gave us one of horrors most iconic villains. Freddy Krueger. But how has it stood the test of time and how influential has it been on the genre?

Plot wise, it wastes zero time in setting up the story. The film opens with Tina, a high school student being stalked in a boiler room by a burnt looking man in a stripey jumper with 'knives for fingers'. When the figure finally catches her he slashes at her night gown. Tina wakes up and she (and we) realise that it was all just a nightmare. That is, until she looks down and sees the slashes in her clothes.

Bad guy and concept all nailed within the first few minutes of the film. It's storytelling at it's efficient best.

Shortly afterwards we are introduced to our heroine, Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp) and her friends – Tina (who we already know) Tina's boyfriend Rod (who's an ass hole) and Glen (played by a young Johnny Depp!) Turns out Nancy is also having dreams where she is stalked by a guy in a stripy top. This information only freaks Tina out even more. Coincidently, Tina's mum is out of town and her friends agree to stay at hers for the evening to ease her fears.

Classic horror scenario right there. In these situations, the teenagers (who usually seem to have a veracious appetite for alcohol and sex) are usually stalked by a masked psychopath etc. But the threat here is not that easy to deal with. Awake, the characters are safe. It's when they fall asleep they are in grave danger.

During the night, Tina has another nightmare and this time she doesn't manage to wake up in time and Krueger kills her. Her boyfriend watches on in horror as she is dragged around the bedroom by a seemingly invisible force. He then does a runner and as a result, the cops (one of whom is Nancy's dad) believe he is the culprit. We then focus fully on Nancy as she tries to work out what is happening as those around her gradually succumb to Krueger's nightmare killing spree.

It's worth talking about the special FX. For a film made in the mid-80's, the effects hold up remarkably well. The scene where Tina is dragged around the bedroom like a rag doll is as impressive as it is disturbing.

And all of the nightmare sequences are handled with aplomb thanks to the nervy sound effects and the visuals which make the scenes seem almost normal, but not quite. At times the over-the-top high energy music that accompanies some of these scenes threatens to damage the atmosphere but there is almost something darkly comic about Freddy Krueger that somehow makes this acceptable.

Krueger is visually one of the most terrifying bad guys to grace the screen and a lot of credit goes to the make-up department for this feat. It took around three hours to get Robert Englund made-up to look like Freddy at the beginning of every day of shooting. Time well spent if you ask me.