A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Director: Wes Craven

As you may observe, it’s not all documentaries and factual stuff this month, it’s also cinema visits to fill holes in my horror film knowledge… yeah, I’ve never actually seen this until now for some reason, which baffles me as much as it may baffle you, my legion of readers. Is it ironic that I’ve seen Wes Craven’s Scream, which rips on the slasher genre, but hitherto not his own major contribution to the genre itself? Anyway, young master Steven Savona announced the other day he’d be going to see it tonight, cos Dendy Newtown were showing it as part of this year’s cult classics series, so I decided I’d go along as well. I suspect I was distinctly in the minority in the not awfully large crowd, most of whom I assume would have been well acquainted with the film already. What sort of experience would it be for me, the newbie on Elm Street, among all these other folks? Steven, at any rate, seemed slightly let down by it, which is interesting considering he has it as one of his top 20 films, but we both pondered how much of the other audience members’ reactions to the film affected ours. Cos as the film progressed, just about every appearance of Ronee Blakley (the then-Mrs Wim Wenders) and her bottle of vodka caused the crowd great mirth despite not really being, you know, inherently funny. (Neither is the “introducing Johnny Depp” credit, but I found that quite funny for some reason.) It’s interesting how other people’s reception of something impacts on your own, which is why I normally prefer to watch films by myself.

If Steven’s fondness of the film was perhaps dimmed slightly, I’m actually not sure of my own response. I was actually a bit surprised by how, well, undeveloped Freddy Krueger actually is in this film (IMDB says he only has a total of seven minutes actual on-screen time); there’s not actually much here to suggest an icon in the making. It was some of the other effects work—particularly the astounding geyser of blood following Depp’s murder—that really struck me more than Freddy’s own limited on-screen presence. Steven’s said on Twitter that he felt for the first time Nightmare hadn’t aged well, and to some extent I feel he may be right; it’s very obviously an 80s film in many respects, and it occupies a very particular place in 80s horror (and cinema in general, having basically saved New Line Cinema from implosion in its infancy), revitalising the already tired slasher film and giving Craven the big box office hit he kind of badly needed by this time. It’s good. I just don’t know that it’s the great classic it’s usually hailed as… mind you, I still liked it a lot more than most of the other big horror franchise initiators I’ve seen; maybe a second viewing at home by myself might be what it needs…

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