Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

"Whatever you do, don't fall asleep!"

I'd never seen this film before. Yes, I know. It's bloody good, though. It isn't exactly the most expensive film ever made, the dialogue is a little ropey, and the obscure cast (including a very young Johnny Depp!) are not that good. But the direction is inspired, the set pieces are amazing, and it's so very, very, scary, even for someone like me who is far too conscious that what I'm watching is a piece of artifice to be easily scared. Plus, the whole style evokes an '80s video  by The Cult or Bauhaus or some such band, which is delightfully cool. The music, too, is wonderfully of its time.

The children's rhyme which pervades the film is hugely effective in building up Freddie. Robert Englund is superb. The whole concept of a monster that gets you in your dreams if you fall asleep is inspired. There are so many good things to say here. I don't know all that much about slashers of this vintage, but I wonder how innovative it might possibly have been to mix the slasher with the supernatural as this film does. The use of dreams just makes everything so, so much scarier. And the bath scene... brrr!

Of course, we start out with some hoary old tropes: four teens are in a house, ready to be picked off one by one. But the film is cleverer than that, and has a lot of fun with them. I couldn't help reflecting, though, that the plot sort of revolves all around the only means of communication being a house phone, which can be left off the hook by a stray parent. I remember 1984, but this sort of thing makes it feel so very long ago. 

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