A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street ★★★★★

94/100

"THIS is God."

Never has a film displayed such a potent and unnerving stream of dream imagery, and even with its blend of the fantastical and the real, that very line is continuously blurred in terrifying and chill-inducing ways. A Nightmare on Elm Street takes archetypal teenagers, their cozy neighborhood, and sends in a force of nature to rip their sense of comfort to shreds. Much like in John Carpenter's Halloween, the monster has risen from the past, but Wes Craven extends the concept even further by slowly colliding buried secrets with a current mystery.

It is the parallel structure of the foggy past catching up with the characters' feeling of danger within the now that propels Wes Craven's masterwork into a realm all its own. Freddy Krueger, a boogeyman who soon turned into a sort of goofy clown with subsequent sequels, is relentless in his scare tactics. With a lesser director, A Nightmare on Elm Street could've been a campy mess, and more of a comedy than a piece of horror cinema, but Wes Craven commits unequivocally to his vision.

The result, in my mind, is one of the great works of cinematic playfulness, delving into dreams and teenage stakes within a previously hidden world like a gushing geyser of blood. Wes Craven is up there with the minds of Alfred Hitchcock and James Whale in terms of crumpling audience expectations to shreds, and A Nightmare on Elm Street visualizes his delirious sense of black humor and simultaneous tragedy.

In particular, An infamous scene involving a dream, a wall, and a girl is so double-edged in its audacity and HOLY FUCKING SHIT queasiness that you can't help but be in awe of Craven's conceptual inventiveness. Almost every image throughout A Nightmare on Elm Street is burned into your mind, and it's burned in a way that will leave an ever-lasting impact.

We all dream, and ANOES taps into that very vulnerability with ease and eerie randomness. I distinctly remember having a dream about a monkey chasing me with a clown mask on, and it scared the shit out of me. And yet, thinking about it now, why would that scare me? It's a monkey with a clown mask, and I'm scared of neither. Dreams have a sense of potency when we're in them, and Freddy Krueger is a devilish creator of dreamscapes and environments that feel startlingly alien. The audience follows the various teenagers through their dreams, and Craven enables the viewer to sympathize with their fears and their personalized nightmares, allowing for both connection and visceral thrills.

Many films have tremendous, ingenious concepts, but they squander all that potential with terrible screenwriting and/or wimpy direction, but Wes Craven was a sweet-natured guy with a dark side, and he wasn't scared to go for it. He changed the way we see our dreams forever: not as the freedom of pure thoughts but as a time when our bodies and our minds are enclosed in an internal war between good and evil.

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