- This page is about the original film. For the remake, see A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010).
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American horror film directed and written by Wes Craven. The film features John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp (his feature film debut). Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers being terrorized in their nightmares by the ghost of a child murderer named Freddy Krueger.
Craven produced A Nightmare on Elm Street on an estimated budget of just $1.8 million, a sum the film earned back during its first week. Grossing $25.5 million at the United States box office, A Nightmare on Elm Street has become one of the most popular entries in the horror genre and the film's villain "Freddy Krueger" has become one of the most well recognized villains in cinema history. Both critics and Craven have mentioned that the film owes some of its success to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), which was hugely influential in spawning a long line of slasher films and originating many clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s.
The film's premise is the question of where the line between dreams and reality lies. The villain, Freddy Krueger, thus exists in the "dream world" yet can kill in the "real world". Sequels to the original would continue to blur the distinction between dream and reality before finally challenging the line between art and reality by showing Heather Langenkamp, playing a fictionalized version of herself, haunted by the villain of a series of films she has starred in. Critics encouraged and praised the film's ability to rupture "the boundaries between the imaginary and real", toying with audience perceptions. Some movie historians interpreted this overriding theme as a social subtext, "the struggles of adolescents in American society", and their overwhelming need to confront "the harsh realities of life".
A fifteen-year-old girl named Tina Grey has a disturbing nightmare in which she is stalked through a dark boiler room by a figure with distinctive razor-sharp knives for fingers on his right hand. Just as he catches her, however, she wakes up screaming, only to discover four razor cuts in her nightdress identical to the cuts in her dream.
The next day, she finds out that her friend Nancy Thompson experienced the same dream. That night, Tina, Nancy and her boyfriend Glen Lantz have a sleep-over to make a distraught Tina feel better. Tina's rebellious boyfriend, Rod Lane, crashes the party and goes to bed with Tina in her mother's bedroom. However, Tina has another nightmare, and this time the killer catches her and brutally murders her right then and there. Rod wakes up to find Tina being cut open by invisible knives and then dragged across the ceiling. Rod, being the only other person in the room at the time, is suspected of the killing and is arrested the next day.
Nancy then has three violent nightmares in which she is viciously stalked then attacked by the same terrifying figure who attacked Tina. These nightmares lead her to talk to Rod in prison, who tells her what he saw in Tina's mother's bedroom. Much to the dismay of her mother Marge, Nancy becomes increasingly convinced that the figure appearing in her dreams is the person who killed Tina. Nancy and a skeptical Glen rush to the police station late at night to talk to Rod, only to find that he's been strangled by his own bedsheets. To everyone except Nancy, it appears to be a suicide.
Nancy's mother takes her to a Dream Therapy Clinic to ensure she gets some sleep. Once again, she has a horrendous nightmare. This time, her arm is badly cut, but she finds that she has brought something out from her dream: the killer's battered hat. It arouses concern, but also other feelings in Nancy's mother, who is clearly hiding a secret. Eventually, Marge, increasingly drink-sodden, reveals to Nancy that the owner of the hat, and the killer, was a man named Freddy Krueger, a child murderer who killed at least twenty children over a decade earlier. Furious, vengeful parents burned him alive in his boiler room hideout when he was released from prison on a technicality. Now, it appears he is manipulating the dreams of their children to exact his revenge from beyond the grave. Nancy's mother, however, reassures Nancy that Krueger can't hurt anyone, pulling Krueger's knife glove from a hiding place in the furnace as a visual aid.
Nancy devises a plan, with Glen, to catch Krueger, but Glen succumbs to sleep and is viciously killed by being sucked into his bed and shot back up in a fountain of blood. Nancy is left alone with Freddy after pulling him into the real world. She runs around her house and forces him to run into booby traps she had set earlier. After setting Freddy on fire Nancy locks him in the basement, and finally gets her father and the rest of the police to help. After discovering that Freddy has escaped and that fiery footsteps lead upstairs, Nancy and her father, Donald Thompson, a police lieutenant, witness Freddy smothering Marge with his flaming body, disappearing to leave her corpse to sink into the bed. After sending her father away, Nancy faces Krueger on her own and succeeds in destroying him by turning her back on him and draining him of all energy. The scene shifts to the next morning, where it is revealed that everything was a dream as Nancy gets in a car with Glen and the rest of her friends, on their way to school. Nancy realizes that she is still trapped in the dream, as Freddy possesses the car just as she gets in. The car drives away with Nancy screaming for her mother, and Marge being pulled through the door window by a clawed hand.
The task of creating Krueger's horribly burnt face fell to makeup man David Miller, who based his creation on photos of burn victims he obtained from the UCLA Medical Center.
The cast of A Nightmare on Elm Street included a motley crew of veteran actors such as Robert Englund and John Saxon, as well as several then-unknown actors including Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp. The low budget curtailed the ability of the number of big names that Craven could attract, and most of the actors received very little compensation for their roles.
- Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson: Nancy Thompson is an intelligent teenager that has recently been plagued by eerie, sadomasochistic dreams of a man in a dirty green and red sweater, later revealed to be Freddy Krueger. Craven claimed he wanted someone very "non-Hollywood" for the role of Nancy, and he believed Langenkamp met this quality. Langenkamp, before becoming an actress, worked as a newspaper copy girl, and saw an ad for extras needed on Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders (1983), which was being shot in Tulsa. She did not get the part, but it encouraged her to continue acting and she eventually landed the role of Nancy Thompson after an open audition, beating out more than 200 actresses. Langenkamp returned as Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and played herself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994).
- Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger: Krueger is a child murderer who killed at least twenty children over a decade before the film takes place. Furious, vengeful parents burned him alive in his boiler room hideout when he was released from prison on a technicality. Now, it appears he is manipulating the dreams of their children to exact his revenge from beyond the grave. According to Craven, Englund was not the first choice for the role of Freddy Krueger; they had initially wanted a stunt man to play the part. Englund, however, was sent a copy of the script, and agreed to star. Englund had previously had minor roles in Big Wednesday (1978) and Bloodbrothers (1978), but was at the time best known for his role as an alien in the mini-series V and V: The Final Battle (1984).
- Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz: Glen is Nancy's boyfriend, who is also experiencing eerie dreams, although he does not react strongly to them. Depp was another unknown when he was cast; and initially went to accompany a friend so he could audition, yet ended up getting the part of Glen. According to Wes Craven, his decision to cast Johnny Depp was influenced by his daughter and a friend of hers who thought he (Johnny Depp) was the "cutest" of the final three choices (the other two actors were blond surfer-type actors). Johnny Depp also appeared in the sixth installment, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991).
- Amanda Wyss as Tina Grey: Tina is Nancy's best friend who is also being traumatized by Krueger in her dreams. Wyss was a stage actress prior to being cast in her role. She had also appeared in Better Off Dead (1985), was cast as Tina Grey, and was the only cast member in Nightmare not to appear in any of the sequels.
- Nick Corri as Rod Lane: Rod is Tina's boyfriend who is charged with her murder, as he was the only one present during her death. Nick Corri also appeared briefly in New Nightmare.
- John Saxon as Lt. Thompson: Nancy's father and local police officer. He later played himself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994).
- Ronee Blakley as Marge Thompson: Nancy's alcoholic, but loving mother.
The origin of A Nightmare on Elm Street may lie in director Wes Craven's childhood. The basis of the film was inspired by several newspaper articles printed in the LA Times on a group of Cambodian refugees and their children, who, after fleeing to America from Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime, were suffering horrific nightmares, after which they refused to sleep. Acting on medical advice, their parents encouraged them to do so. However, each of the children died in their sleep soon after, following the second dream. In addition, one night, a young Craven saw an elderly man walking on the sidepath outside the window of his home. The man stopped to glance at a startled Craven, and then walked off. This served as the inspiration for Freddy Krueger.
Craven also stated that he came up with the overall concept of the film studying eastern religions. Other sources also attribute the inspiration for the movie to be a 1968 student film project made by students of Craven's at Clarkson University. The student film parodied contemporary horror movies, and was filmed along Elm Street in Potsdam, NY. Also, perhaps coincidentally, Canadian serial killer Peter Woodcock, who was jailed in 1957 for the murder of three young children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, officially changed his name to David Michael Krueger in 1982. Woodcock was remanded to a mental hospital, where he committed a fourth murder, and is still incarcerated today. Craven, however, has not credited Woodcock with serving any inspiration to Freddy Krueger. By Craven's account, the name had came from Craven's childhood. He had been bullied at school by a child named Fred Krueger, and named his villain accordingly. In addition, Craven had done the same in his earlier film The Last House on the Left (1977), where the rapist's name was shortened to 'Krug.' He based Krueger's appearance on another childhood experience in which he had been scared by a homeless man with a very distinctive red-and-green sweater; the same colored sweater he chose for his villain. In addition, it has been stated that Craven had read that those were the two hardest colours to visually process together, which is another reason as to why he chose the respective colored sweater. The 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright sealed the story for Craven, giving him not only an artistic setting to "jump off" from, but the synthesizer riff from the Elm Street soundtrack. Initially, Freddy Krueger was intended to be a child molester, however the decision was changed to him being a child murderer to avoid being accused of exploiting a spate of highly publicized child molestations that occurred in California around the time of production of the film.
Wes Craven began writing A Nightmare on Elm Street's screenplay around 1981, after he had finished production on Swamp Thing (1982). He pitched it to several studios, but all of them rejected it for various different reasons. Interestingly, the first studio to show interest was Walt Disney Productions, although they wanted Craven to tone down the content to make it suitable for children and pre-teens. Craven declined and moved on. Another early suitor was Paramount Pictures, however the studios passed on the project due to A Nightmare on Elm Street's similarity to Dreamscape (1984), a film they were producing at the time. Finally, the fledgling and independent New Line Cinema corporation — which had up to that point only distributed films, rather than making its own — gave the project the go-ahead. During filming, New Line's distribution deal for the movie fell through and for two weeks it was unable to pay its cast and crew. Although New Line has gone on to make much bigger and more profitable movies, Nightmare holds such an important place in the company's history that the studio is often referred to as 'The House That Freddy Built'.
The fictional address of the house is 1428 Elm Street that appears in the film. The actual house is a private home located in Los Angeles, California on 1428 North Genesee Avenue. During production, over 500 gallons of fake blood were used for the special effects production. For the famous blood geyser sequence, the film makers used the same revolving room set that was used for Tina's death. They put the set so that it was upside down and attached the camera so that it looked like the room was right side up, then they poured gallons of red water into the room, due to the fact that the normal movie blood would not make the right effect for the geyser. The scene where Nancy is attacked by Freddy in her bathtub was accomplished with a special bottomless tub. The tub was put in a bathroom set that was built over a swimming pool. During the underwater sequence Heather Langenkamp was replaced with stuntwoman Christina Johnson, who is also married to sound effects man Charles Belardinelli. The "melting staircase" as seen in Nancy's dream was created using pancake mix.
Wes Craven originally planned for the film to have a more evocative ending: Nancy kills Freddy by ceasing to believe in him, then awakes to discover that everything that happened in the movie was an elongated nightmare. However, New Line leader Robert Shaye demanded a twist ending, in which Freddy disappears and the movie all appears to have been a dream, only for the audience to discover that they are watching a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream, where Freddy reappears as a car that "kidnaps" Nancy, followed by Freddy reaching through a window on the front door to pull Nancy's mother inside. Both a happy ending and a twist ending were filmed, but the final film used the twist ending. As a result, Craven (who never wanted the film to be an ongoing franchise), dropped out of working on the first sequel, Freddy's Revenge (1985). Production wrapped in July, and was rushed through editing at breakneck speed to get it ready for its November release.
There were scenes cut from the finished film due to timing and to obtain an R rating. Tina's bloody body hitting the bed after her death was cut, as was Glen's body rising out of the bed after his death. There are also a few scenes of dialogue between Nancy and each of her parents, that was cut for timing. Some of these scenes can be seen on the 2 disc DVD set that was released in 2006, but only in the documentary and not as a separate feature. All of these scenes and more can be seen on the limited edition VHS set that was released in 1996, but is long since out of print.
The film performed moderately well commercially with little advertising — relying mostly on word-of-mouth. Variety said the film was "A highly imaginative horror film that provides the requisite shocks to keep fans of the genre happy." A common criticism, however, was that the content and amounts of gore were a put-off to the film.
Since its initial release, critics have encouraged and praised the film's ability to rupture "the boundaries between the imaginary and real," toying with audience perceptions. Some film historians interpreted this overriding theme as a social subtext, "the struggles of adolescents in American society", and their overwhelming need to confront "the harsh realities of life". The film first opened in 165 cinemas in the United States on November 9, 1984 and grossing USD $1,271,000 during its opening weekend. The film eventually earned a total of $25 million at the American box office. Additionally, it was released in Europe, China, Canada and Australia. In early 1985, the film was released on the home video market by Media Home Entertainment and eventually in a laserdisc format. Sales and rentals were strong, and the film achieved status of a cult classic. It has since been released on DVD, first in 2001, and once again in restored "Infinifilm" special edition in 2006, containing various special features with contributions from Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and the director of photography.
Since its theatrical debut, A Nightmare on Elm Street has been awarded various distinguished honors. In 2003, the American Film Institute awarded the film's villain Freddy Krueger a place at #40 on the list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains, a list that ranked culturally significant film heroes, heroines and villains. The film was also ranked at #17 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004), a four-hour programme that selected cinema's scariest moments.
New Line Cinema announced on 29 January 2008 that they were in-talks of remaking the hit-horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street which was released in 1984. The film is slated for a 2010 release. Platinum Dunes is going to product the film, and the film will be distributed by New Line Cinema. Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Bradley Fuller are said to be producing the movie. Robert Englund has stated that he is to old to play Freddy Krueger.
In February 2009, The Hollywood Reporter revealed Robert Englund would not reprise the role of Freddy Krueger for the remake; Englund had performed the role for the eight previous films. On April 3, 2009 Entertainment Weekly reported that Jackie Earle Haley was cast to take over Englund's most well known role. Initially, the studio wanted to cast an unknown for the role of Freddy Krueger, but it was Haley's performance in Little Children that impressed Emmerich enough to cast the actor against the original intentions. Emmerich explained, "Freddy is this incredible stew of malevolence and anger, but he also has a hint of vulnerability, and Jackie really has all of that and more. He just seemed completely right for the part." Bayer stated that he and producers Form and Fuller managed to acquire the screen test Haley gave as Rorschach for Watchmen; after viewing it, Bayer said it "blew [his] mind", and that he knew Haley would be able to go deep and create a believable character who was a "[psychopath] with a burned face and a claw".
A Nightmare On Elm Street was released on April 30, 2010 to 3,332 theaters and approximately 4700 screens, making it the twelfth largest opening for an R-rated film in the United States. Comparatively, the original Nightmare on Elm Street was only released to 165 theaters on its opening, November 9, 1984; its widest release by the end of its box office run was 380 theaters. The 2010 remake holds the record for widest Nightmare on Elm Street release, beating out Freddy vs. Jason by 318 theaters. A Nightmare on Elm Street was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 5, 2010. The DVD's only feature is a featurette, "Freddy Krueger Reborn". The Blu-ray special features include the DVD's featurette along with a deleted scene, an alternate opening and ending, and the "Maniacle Movie Mode"
A Nightmare on Elm Street and all the 6 sequels are released on DVD including the boxset containing all the 7 films in a collectors edition sleeve with a booklet with production notes, press releases and about the actors and the 7 movies.
- ↑ John Kenneth Muir, "Career Overview" in Wes Craven: The Art of Horror (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 1998), p. 18, ISBN 0786419237.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 A Nightmare on Elm Street at Box Office Mojo; last accessed August 30, 2006.
- ↑ Jim Harper, Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies (Manchester, Eng.: Headpress, 2004), p. 126, ISBN 1900486393.
- ↑ Rick Worland, The Horror Film: A Brief Introduction (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), p. 106, ISBN 1405139021.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Ian Conrich, "Seducing the Subject: Freddy Krueger, Popular Culture and the Nightmare on Elm Street Films" in Trash Aesthetics: Popular Culture and its Audience, ed. Deborah Cartmell, I. Q. Hunter, Heldi Kaye and Imelda Whelehan (London: Pluto Press, 2004), p. 119, ISBN 0745312020.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 James Berardinelli, review of A Nightmare on Elm Street, at ReelViews; last accessed August 30, 2006.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Kelly Bulkeley, Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, and Psychology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), p. 108; see also chap. 11: "Dreamily Deconstructing the Dream Factory: The Wizard of Oz and A Nightmare on Elm Street," ISBN 0791442837.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Channel 4's 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' Review at Channel 4; last accessed August 30, 2006.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Rockoff, Adam, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986 (McFarland & Company, 2002), p. 151, ISBN 0-786-41227-5.
- ↑ Wes Craven interview at Twitch Film; accessed November 23, 2007.
- ↑ A Nightmare on Elm Street at PotsDam; accessed November 2, 2007.
- ↑ Biography of Peter Woodcock at Serial Killer Calander; accessed November 22, 2007.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 A Nightmare on Elm Street at Hollywood Gothique.com; accessed November 22, 2007.
- ↑ Wes Craven. A Nightmare on Elm Street DVD audio commentary.
- ↑ A Nightmare on Elm Street at DVD Revire; accessed November 2, 2007.
- ↑ Site with a picture of the house; Site with the actual address and floor plan and indoor photos
- ↑ "Frightful Facts" at House of Horrors; last accessed November 22, 2007.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Never Sleep Again: The Making of A Nightmare on Elm Street, documentary on the Special Edition 2006 DVD of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2006, New Line Cinema Entertainment), B000GETUDI.
- ↑ A Nightmare on Elm Street review at Variety; accessed December 15, 2007.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 20.2 A Nightmare on Elm Street business statistics at Internet Movie Database; last accessed December 15, 2007.
- ↑ Review of A Nightmare on Elm Street musical score at MP3; accessed February 23, 2008.
- ↑ Bravo TV's 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004) at Bravo.com; accessed December 15, 2007.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) at the Internet Movie Database
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) at AllMovie
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Nightmare on Elm Street at Wikipedia
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) at Horror on Screen
- A Nightmare on Elm Street official website
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