Even before “Freddy vs. Jason” hit the big screen, the two icons were rivals within the horror genre. Their franchises spanned several decades, but it was the ’80s when they both emerged. It’s hard to not think of Freddy Krueger when talking about Jason Voorhees, and vice versa. Out of the two, Jason was always my favorite, but the premise of Freddy Krueger was downright scary.
Freddy’s past isn’t one to sympathize with. The serial killer, one who specifically targets children, was burned alive and murdered by the local parents who sought revenge. Unfortunately, the terror was only elevated once he was killed. Now a supernatural being, Freddy stalks his prey in their dreams, allowing him to bend reality at will.
It’s a much more frightening introduction than “Friday the 13th”. Although the film lacks in the mystery component that makes “Friday the 13th” so beloved, there are moments throughout “A Nightmare on Elm Street” that are truly terrifying. The imagery alone of a teenage corpse being dragged in an empty school hall, while wrapped in a body bag, is a chilling site. The transitions from the real world to dream is so fluid, that sometimes you don’t even realize a dream is occurring until something drastic occurs. This really puts you on edge while watching the movie as a simple dialogue scene can quickly turn south. The usage of dreams offers endless ways for sequences and kills for the franchise, this really lets the filmmakers be creative.
Freddy himself is the focal point of the franchise; not just as an antagonist but a star. Robert Englund makes the character his own with charisma and wit filling into the personality of Freddy. While “A Nightmare on Elm Street” sets the horror tone, Englund puts on a show. His playfulness with the victims tetters constantly from scary to hilarious; a standout for the genre. Eliminating the personality from the conversation, Freddy is iconic with just his appearance. Aside from his severely burned skin, the green and red sweater makes the once jolly color scheme associated with Christmas become a visual key of terror. If you see the colors in the film together, you know Freddy is just around the corner.
The film is very much fantasy as it is horror; resulting in heavy usage of effects. A combination of practical effects and camera tricks are beyond impressive for the ’80s. Sequences like a victim spasming over the walls and ceiling are pure magic as CGI is removed from the equation.
Majority of today’s horror films are doubling down of jump scares and eerie tones, but are missing the fun that can come with the genre. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” soars with flying colors in producing a film that encapsulates scares, humor and a compelling antagonist. Mixing dark imagery with groundbreaking practical gags creates a product that still holds up and one that is celebrated as one of the greatest horror films ever made.