A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)★★★★★


This was one of the first movies I remember truly scaring me. “Nightmare” is right – Freddy Krueger haunted my dreams for months every time I’d watch it. And I’d watch it often, because it was also one of the first movies that made me realize…I love being scared.

Wes Craven truly understood how to scare his audience. Every aspect of the movie works in concert to evoke the most fear possible… the background music is perfect (that nursery rhyme sticks in your head in just the worst way), the sound effects are chilling (those “finger-knives” scraping across metal get me every time), and the pacing keeps you at the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Freddy Krueger is the perfect horror villain, and Robert Englund plays him admirably. “This is God” is probably my favorite line, and the scene that follows one of the most terrifying moments of the whole film. That first gory death sets the bloody scene for the whole franchise. The bathtub scene a bit later stuck with me so badly that for years I’d check behind shower curtains before closing the bathroom door behind me.

Even after more than 30 years, the movie doesn’t seem too dated (okay, except for the clothing…and that hair…). Most of the plot is relatable and the situations familiar – who among us hasn’t fallen asleep in class or lied to our out-of-town parents (or perhaps more commonly, watched our friends lie to theirs)? The dialogue holds up surprisingly well in spite of the overacting from most of the cast. Johnny Depp and Robert Englund are notable exceptions to that here, along with Lin Shaye in a delightful (if brief) role as the English teacher. Overall, this is horror done right.