Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Return to the original nightmare to remind yourself of a time when Freddy was actually frightening.
By  · Published on October 26th, 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Synopsis: And the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children… Local teenagers are being slaughtered in their sleep by a burned man who haunts their dreams. Who is he and why is he murdering the children of Elm Street? Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) discovers the truth behind Freddy Krueger and decides to fight back (even if it does mean missing an acting lesson or two…)

Killer Scene: Glen (Johnny Depp) has promised Nancy that he’ll stay awake, so he puts on his puffy eighties headphones and gets into bed. Not surprisingly, he falls asleep, and while Nancy tries to wake him with tongue-jobs over the phone, Freddy makes his move. Freddy’s claws shoot up from Glen’s bed and drags him down into the mattress itself along with his TV and stereo. Glen’s mom walks in to witness an enormous geyser of blood pouring up from the bed to settle on the ceiling.


Violence: Freddy’s weapon of choice is obviously the razor-lined glove he made in shop class, which means most deaths are of the bloody variety. Teens are slashed, stabbed, and gutted with glee.

Sex: Very little in the sex department, but that may be due to the fact that the one time Tina’s boyfriend, Rod, sneaks into her room for some late night fornicating, she gets dragged up the wall by an invisible killer and disemboweled on the ceiling. And I think Nancy gives a little side-boob action.

Scares: It’s hard to believe now after seven sequels filled with quips and one-liners, but Freddy Krueger was once incredibly fucking scary. Almost all of the dream sequences are terrifying to varied degrees… the sticky stairs, the arms stretching in the alley, the classroom speech that turns dark and creepy, friends in bloody body bags, the sound of the blades scraping across the pipes. Scary shit.

Final Thoughts: This film kicked off a long running franchise (as well as New Line Cinema) that never quite reached the intensity or terror of the original. Freddy Krueger became a horror icon in the process, but he lost any real sense of menace. If you’ve forgotten how scary he can be, or if you only know him as the razor-wielding wise-ass who dispatches whiny teens with a smile, then you need to watch this film. A remake is due next year, and while it will be glossier and have better effects, it’s almost guaranteed to pale in comparison.

Did A Nightmare on Elm Street scare the shit out of you too the first time you watched it?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.