A Nightmare on Elm Street

Released:  1984

Cast:  John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund

SUMMARY:  In an old boiler room, an unidentified man (Robert Englund) is shown making a glove with knife blades attached to the fingers.  The film then switches subjects, from the mystery man to high schooler Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss).  Tina has a dream set in the same boiler room mentioned above, where she is being chased by a badly burned man who is trying to kill her.  Right as the man grabs her, Tina wakes up:  she then realizes that there are slash marks on her nightgown.  When she sees her friends the next day, Tina tells them about her dream.  Although one friend, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), remembers a sinister nursery rhyme, Nancy’s boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) tells her to remember that it’s just a dream.  When Tina is afraid to sleep alone that night, Nancy and Glen both come over.  It is revealed that Nancy has had the same dream.  Before long, Tina’s boyfriend Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia) shows up, and also ends up staying the night at Tina’s house.  Tina is able to fall asleep, but has the same dream.  This time, the killer corners her in the backyard; Tina’s screaming wakes up Rod, who sees her get stabbed by an invisible force.  The screams also wake up Nancy and Glen, but they are unable to get into Tina’s room.  When Tina falls on the bed, dead, Rod goes out the window and runs away.  Later, Nancy explains what happened to her father, who is a police Lieutenant.

At school the next day, Rod tries to talk to Nancy, but is arrested by her father.  In class, Nancy falls asleep, and enters into the same dream as Tina.  She follows the killer, who calls himself “Freddy”, through the school, until he tries to kill her in the boiler room.  However, Nancy burns her arm on a pipe, which wakes her up.  When she does awaken, Nancy finds that she has a real burn mark on her arm.  This makes her extremely afraid of sleeping, and goes so far as to sleep in the bathtub, thinking that the odd location will stop the nightmare.  It doesn’t:  when she falls asleep, Freddy tries to drown her, but again, she escapes.  When Nancy hears that Rod, who is in jail, has also been having the dream, she begins to think that Freddy is real, and has developed the power to kill people in their dreams.  That night, even though Glen is watching her sleep, Nancy has the dream, and also sees Freddy chasing Rod.  When Glen and Nancy are both awoken by Nancy’s alarm clock, they go to the jail to find that Rod has died, apparently by suicide (but really by Freddy).  Nancy’s mother, Marge, later takes Nancy to a dream clinic, where Nancy again has the dream, and corresponding physical symptoms.  This time, though, Nancy pulls Freddy’s hat off, and wakes up with it.  Marge sees it, and seems to go off the deep end:  she turns their house into a fortress and starts drinking heavily.  When Nancy finally pries the truth out of her mother, she learns that years before, a child murderer named Fred Krueger was released from prison on a technicality; Marge and the other neighborhood parents had attacked him and burned him to death.

By this time, Nancy has not slept for a week.  She finally decides to try to pull Freddy himself out of the dream; Glen will be waiting to attack Freddy.  However, Glen doesn’t make it to Nancy’s house, and is attacked and killed by Freddy.  Nancy takes matters into her own hands, setting up traps around her house before going to bed.  Before she does this, she calls her father and tells him to break into the house (her mother and father are divorced) in twenty minutes.  Although Freddy does not appear until very late in her dream, Nancy is able to pull him into reality, and he starts to chase her through the house.  She is able to lead him into the traps, and sets him on fire.  Nancy’s father arrives, and the two find that Freddy has killed Nancy’s mother.  When Freddy reappears, Nancy attempts to get rid of him by telling him that she no longer believes in him:  Freddy then vanishes.  Nancy wakes up and walks out of her house into the middle of the day, finding that her mother and three friends are still alive.  As the teenagers drive to school, the car traps them inside, and Freddy leans out to pull in Nancy’s mother, too.  At the end of the film, several children are shown playing to Freddy’s nursery rhyme (mentioned earlier by Nancy).

MY TAKE:  Personally, I was not that scared by this movie, for one reason:  Freddy only attacks in your dreams.  The solution seemed pretty simple to me:  either fall asleep with a weapon in your hand, or dream up one inside the dream.  When I have long dreams, I almost always realize that I’m dreaming, and am able to somewhat manipulate things.  Another solution would be to not fall into the classic horror movie trap – when the boogie man is coming for you, run at him, not away from him (especially not into a dark, creepy location like a boiler room).  You might still die, but at least you’ll get a crack at Freddy before you do.  The ending of this movie doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Does Nancy really get rid of Freddy when she tells him she doesn’t believe in him, or he is just yanking her chain?  If Freddy can only appear in dreams, how does he show up in the middle of the day at the end?  Is this like a dream-inside-a-dream thing?  Apparently, the original ending for the film was for the friends to drive happily and safely off to school, but things were changed to allow for sequels (of which there have been many).  I wish they would have kept the original ending, since for me, the weird and nonsensical ending totally negates the rest of the film (based on the ending, none of it makes any sense).

RATING:  Not that scary, and has a dumb ending.

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