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STUDIO: New Line Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
• “Ready Freddy” Focus Points
• Interactive Trivia Track
• Audio Commentary with Director Wes Craven, Co-Stars Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon and Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin
• Audio Commentary with Director Wes Craven, Co-Stars Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, and Ronee Blakley, Producer Robert Shaye and Co-Producer Sara Risher
• Alternate Endings
• “The House That Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror” Featurette
• “Night Terrors: The Origins of Wes Craven’s Nightmares” Featurette
• “Never Sleep Again: The Making of A Nightmare on Elm Street” Featurette
Jaws made you fear water, Psycho made you not shower, A Nightmare on Elm Street made you never sleep again.
“Your Lampfather and I are very disappointed in you.”
Written and Directed by Wes Craven
Starring: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langencamp, Robert Englund, and introducing Johnny Depp
Freddy returns in Hi-Def back to where it all began. A stepping stone for many other films of its time including numerous sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street is considered by many as a classic of 80’s horror.
Seeing a so-called classic film out of context years later can be a mixed blessing. This is a sort of “late to the party” review, because despite having seen innumerable other revered films, the A Nightmare on Elm Street films were always ones that seemed to elude this reviewer. At this point, you can’t talk about horror films without Freddy Krueger coming up at some point, right alongside his slasher-like brethren Leatherface and Jason. So going in I was aware of many of the aspects that made the film unique for its time, whether it be the infiltration of dreams or Freddy’s trademark appearance and weapons of choice. But whereas sitting down to a classic horror film like the original Wolf Man or Psycho drew me in just as they had for audiences decades before I was born, Nightmare feels terribly dated and doesn’t hold the same attention it must have upon initial release.
The majority of readers here are certainly familiar with the story of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langencamp), one of four average teenagers haunted by nightmares of a man in a striped sweater with knives on his fingers. Nancy is a difficult character to pull off, and Langencamp does an admirable job, assisted by her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp). Unfortunately they are surrounded by a cast of adult actors who are given nothing to do. John Saxon and Ronee Blakley as Nancy’s divorced parents never truly sell their motivations, which is a shame because then we are left with a very flat feeling explanation scene of who the nightmare man Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is, and Saxon as a policeman just seems like a plot device.
Being a Polygamist teen was hard, especially when your first two girlfriends would make fun of you for waiting for the third to call on a Saturday night.
My suspension of disbelief never truly gelled on this film, as the logic of how this nightmare man Freddy Krueger operates is never consistent, and like dreams themselves, cannot be explained. I get that I might be blaming the film for its own reliance on the mystique of nightmares, but if Freddy can manipulate the dreamscape so easily, why are there so many twists where it seems he is at the mercy of the dreamer? We think we get an explanation (spoiler?) by the end, but then that just goes out the window so that a final shock can drop on our protagonist. Why aren’t other teenagers also haunted by Freddy? Wouldn’t this be a revenge epidemic sweeping all the teens whose parents rounded up the killer/molester? And why isn’t Glen killed just as quickly as the other friends; he seems to sleep fine for the most part until he is suddenly and illogically turned into a fountain of blood.
There are plenty of effects at play here, all pulled off admirably for an independent film of this low budget in the early 80’s. Combining inspirations from Psycho and The Exorcist, the introduction and then evisceration of Nancy’s best friend Tina, who we think is the protagonist until she is killed is well done. Certainly the trick of Tina being dragged around the room as we watch from her boyfriend’s perspective is the piece de resistance of the entire film, which is frustrating because then all other kills after that point pale in comparison. Especially the lowering corpse of Nancy’s mother, which would be a lame scare even in an amusement park haunted house.
If I don’t move, the fire can’t get me.
In the current state of horror, where films like Nightmare were parodied by their own makers (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare or Scream) and then those films were in turn parodied themselves with the likes of the atrocious Scary Movie franchise, it seemed for a moment that new ideas needed to come from elsewhere. And some have. But now the classics like Nightmare have been remade for a new era, and from what this reviewer hears, they’re terrible. As much as A Nightmare on Elm Street is a sometimes cheesy and often ridiculous product of its time, this reviewer will still take low-budget originality over a major studio cash-grab any day.
A Nightmare on Elm Street comes packaged in a standard blu-ray amray case. The film is presented in a 1080p 16×9 transfer that looks good for the age of the film, including in the many dark and dingy scenes. This is probably the best a film like this will look. The audio is a DTS-HD 7.1 mix (a mono mix is also available) and isn’t so aurally impressive, but again, this is the best the film will sound. Blu-ray interactivity has enabled the use of a trivia track that can play during the main feature, and is full of middling details. The Ready Freddy Focus Points take it a step further and allow you to jump to making of featurettes while watching the movie, but these are actually just selected scenes from the 50 minute “Never Sleep Again” documentary also on the disc.
“This is a sleep study! Why is there a catheter!!??”
“Never Sleep Again” is a fairly comprehensive walk through the making of the film in its many capacities. It is highly informative and helps give a context for those like myself who may not understand the impact the film had upon initial release. Touching upon the various aspects of inspiration, production and release, it features most of the cast and crew explaining how the film became what it is. Particularly interesting is the tremendous work Robert Englund put into bringing life to such a now iconic character. Obviously absent is one Johnald Depp, who was never heard from again after this film. Though they do discuss what it was like working with him and the fact he only got the part because Wes Craven’s daughters thought he was a hunk.
Also included are the featurettes The House That Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror and Night Terrors: The Origins of Wes Craven’s Nightmares. ‘House’ goes through a bit more of the impact the movie had on New Line Cinema, who got their stripes as a production company from Nightmare’s success. Everything from Friday the 13th to Critters to Blade and Final Destination is touched upon, and highlights New Line’s focus on horror through the years, even leading directly to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. ‘Night Terror’s is a bunch of talking heads discussing professional opinions on dreams. It comes across like a bad show you might see on The History Channel and was mostly worthless.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Screamquel.
There are also two commentary tracks included on the disc, one of which is ported over from the previous DVD release of the film. This track, featuring Craven, Langencamp, Saxon and Haitkin, has a nice amount of information and the participants seems genuinely interested in discussing the film and play well off each other. The other, with a wider array of participants, is one of those tracks that is cobbled together from various interview sources and is not scene specific. This reviewer found it less enthralling, though both seem repetitious with the other features on the disc.