ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bucket List Movie #465: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Updated on October 28, 2014
Wes Craven.
Wes Craven. | Source

Another day, another Horror-tober Bucket List Movie, and it's time once for again for yours truly, Miss Slow on the Uptake, to review one of the most influential slasher films ever, 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Let me just confess that for years I never watched horror films, because I was simply afraid, or at least afraid of being afraid. I can't help it, I wasn't a brave kid, and my inborn wimpiness carried on through adolescence. Then, in 1997, I was invited to a friend's birthday party, with other girls in the 14-16 age range, and we huddled together on the living room couch and watched what was easily the hottest movie of that time (before Titanic came along): Wes Craven's Scream. By this time, I was desensitized enough to enjoy it. Scream was everywhere in 1996 and 1997; young audiences loved it at face value, while adults appreciated how it wasn't just a horror film, but a pitch black comedy and a mouthy satire. I had a classmate who had an almost unhealthy obsession with Scream, bringing it up whenever possible, sometimes apropos to nothing. Long, long before directors such as Joss Whedon began making meta-commentaries on genre films (particularly slasher films, the tropiest of them all), Craven dared to take loving (and not so loving) jabs at classic horror film cliches in Scream: the couple doomed to die after having sex (because only virgins survive), the poor dumb girl who always runs up the stairs instead of out the door, and so on and so on. I haven't watched Scream in years, but it has stayed with me in a good way, and that's the mark of a darn fine movie.

I promise that there was a point to that lengthy intro, and the point is this: Scream is, for all its strengths, the type of movie that ruins other movies for you forever. I really, really shouldn't have watched Scream before I finally saw Wes Craven's even more beloved film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was not the first slasher film ever, and it certainly would not be the last. In fact, A Nightmare on Elm Street became a veritable cottage industry, with its plethora of sequels and a 2010 remake with Jackie Earle Haley taking over the role of modern day Bogeyman, Freddy Krueger.

Never caring much to begin with for slasher movies, and knowing that Craven is capable of making smarter movies, A Nightmare on Elm Street is stylish, but felt pedestrian and overly familiar to me. But since I had no moral qualms about seeing it, and lack of interest isn't a sufficient excuse to skip a BLM, I thought I'd check it out (a few years late, but whatever).

Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger… and also Stretch Armstrong!
Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger… and also Stretch Armstrong! | Source
Johnny Depp, I wonder whatever happened to him?
Johnny Depp, I wonder whatever happened to him? | Source

It doesn't take long for the cliches to start, especially with our main characters: Outgoing and popular Tina (Amanda Wyss), her douchebag jock boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia), nice girl Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and dorky Glen (Johnny Depp in his film debut and 80s chinos and feathered hair). Why do these types of kids always seem to congregate? Surely Glen would rather hang out with like-minded nerds, or Nancy would be turned off by Tina's abrasive boyfriend and steer clear, but we need our specific personality quartet, so what are you gonna do?

All four teens are being haunted by extremely gruesome nightmares, featuring a disfigured creep in a striped sweater and knives for hands. But the nightmares go beyond realistic: Tina is cut in her dream, and wakes up with her nightgown shredded. Her friends don't think much of it, but one night, Tina has the mother of all bad dreams, when her killer finally gets her, as Rod witnesses her levitating body and ultimately dismembered corpse. He is accused of murdering her, but Nancy knows something else is up. As she becomes haunted by the same horrific visions, she learns the truth about child murderer Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), his sacrificial burning at the hands of outraged parents, and how he now exacts his revenge from beyond the grave by killing children in their dreams.

Tiresome Trivia for the Day: Craven named Fred Krueger (he isn't referred to as "Freddy" until later in the film) after a kid who bullied him growing up. How's that for revenge?

Ugh, don't you just hate those gag loofahs?
Ugh, don't you just hate those gag loofahs? | Source

Yeah, I can't say I enjoyed A Nightmare on Elm Street very much. Mind you, it wasn't awful, but considering the much better horror movies I've seen (Scream is among them), it sits at the kid's table. The acting is rote, and while I like that Nancy is pluckier and smarter than your average slasher film heroine, Langenkamp's portrayal left a lot to be desired. Ever been torn whether someone is a bad actor, or something about them just makes them seem like a bad actor? For me, it was Langenkamp's whiny, prissy voice and constant, slack-jawed sneer. And, boy, it's amazing how the man who gave us Scream wrote a screenplay riddled with slasher tropes and cliches. First victim walks out, in nightie and bare feet, towards the obvious danger when she should be heading for the hills? Check. Jump scares? Check. Soft-focus, slow-motion shots of children creepily chanting a foreshadowing nursery rhyme? Check. Useless, clueless, and utterly oblivious adults? Check-eroo. There's no denying that A Nightmare on Elm Street is, technically speaking, a very well made film, with special effects that have aged a lot better than the story has. When Nancy sets up elaborate booby traps (the kind that would take days to devise and set up, but she pulls it off in minutes), I couldn't help but think of Home Alone, especially when Freddy gets it in the groin with a sledgehammer.

Robert Englund and his alter ego.
Robert Englund and his alter ego. | Source

Englund should be commended for playing Freddy Krueger with such zest and zeal and as well he should have, for that role was his bread and butter for years and years. I feel sort of bad for him, though. Like the late Jim "Ernest P. Worrell/Slinky Dog from Toy Story" Varney, Englund is a classically trained actor, has done various works on stage and screen, but Freddy Krueger is his legacy, whether he likes it or not. At least the critical disaster that was the 2010 Nightmare remake kept it from being Jackie Earle Haley's. But Hollywood just loves to recycle, and in 10, 15, 20 years, who knows who will be asked to don Freddy's striped sweater and clawed gloves? Hmm, I'm sure Justin Bieber will be angling for an acting career someday...


Submit a Comment

  • lukeellisreviews profile image

    Luke Ellis 

    3 years ago from Nottingham

    I watched this for the first time recently as well. Definitely a big disappointment. I'll be watching The Thing (1982) tonight. Now that's a great horror movie :)


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)