Having never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, the re-release of the New Line Cinema crown jewel on the big screen in its re-mastered entirety got the horror fan in me excited. How can I call myself a fan of the horror genre and have waited over twenty years to see Wes Craven’s haunting masterpiece? The truth is, when I was a kid Freddy Krueger scared the pants off me, that’s how.
The beauty of the booming, early eighties home video market certainly helped many box office successes become legendary hits, but it also opened an avenue for the youth to catch glimpses of films which formerly had been reserved for older crowds at the movie houses. The concept of a burned, disfigured serial killer with sharp, metal claws should be enough to terrify any reasonable five-year-old, and just the visual alone left a scarring, indelible impact.
When we were invited to a special screening of the digitally re-mastered transfer of A Nightmare on Elm Street on the big screen, I braved my fears and entered Craven’s original nightmare. Unlike later incarnations of Freddy, who turned into a wisecracking serial killer/comedian, Robert Englund’s original take on the monster is not a pretty one. Suprisingly billed as “Fred Krueger”, Wes Craven realized one of cinema’s most foul creatures in the first Nightmare on Elm Street. Not only is Fred Krueger visually disturbing, his background as a pedophilic child murderer who has come back to haunt young, suburban teenagers in their dreams should manage to send more than just one uneasy tingle down audience’s spine.
Like the Universal Monsters before him, Krueger and other legendary slasher characters have been canonized in modern horror. With the recent installment of Freddy vs. Jason, these reprehensible monsters have become so deeply ingrained in popular culture that we forget why they were truly terrifying in the first place.
The re-release of the original Nightmare on Elm Street reminds us why Fred Krueger is one of the most terrifyingly original creations of modern cinema. Tied together on a shoe string budget, Wes Craven’s pet project that no one believed in turned the world upside-down with its unique twist on the slasher film. With some of the most imaginative and horrifying deaths for the time A Nightmare on Elm Street is an important, historical piece of cinema which transcends its genre. Granted some of the synthesized music distinctly places it as a mid eighties production, but the visual prowess and innovative concept which blurred the dream world with waking life revolutionized horror films. When audiences witness the character of Tina, who we are made to believe is the film’s heroine, being viciously slashed to ribbons while struggling to free herself from her killer’s claws pinning her on the ceiling, they will remember what Fred Krueger really stands for, a new era of horror, one where not even dreams offer solitude.
While this theatrical run of Nightmare on Elm Street may be limited, releasing the DVD just weeks before this special, two week engagement wasn’t the most brilliant marketing campaign. While I am sure there are plenty of Freddy fans who will be dieing to see their favorite killer on the big screen, those of us who are not lucky enough to live near Los Angeles or have connections with New Line will have to suffice with the exceptional two disc set the studio has released.
Known for their exceptional transfers and extensive DVD treatment, New Line has finally brought their crown jewel of horror to DVD in the prestigious treatment it deserves. Once again the studio has delivered a top notch DVD, which gurus of the medium will really want to sink their claws into. Boasting a re-mastered transfer from the original film negative A Nightmare on Elm Street has never looked or sounded better on a home theater. When Freddy rips Tina in two or causes teen heartthrob Johnny Depp to explode into an unforgettable pool of blood, you will be in awe of how well this horror classic has been preserved on this two disc set.
On top of this gorgeous transfer New Line has crammed in a plethora of documentaries and special features to make this the definitive Nightmare on Elm Street DVD. While the disc boasts commentary tracks, trivia challenges and alternate endings, one in which Freddy drives away with the film’s true heroine, Nancy; it is the three documentaries which are the DVD’s real prizes. Comprised of interviews with cast and crew, film historians, studio executives and even Freudian psychologists, the two disc Infini-film treatment of A Nightmare on Elm Street answers anything you could ever want to know about the picture. While the feature entitled “Night Terrors” explains the scientific and psychological significance behind dreams and nightmares, it is really nothing more than added fluff. The real meat and potatoes lay in the documentaries “The House that Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror” and “Never Sleep Again: The Making of Nightmare on Elm Street”.
Exploring the origins of Wes Craven;s fantastic vision, from concept to budgetary hardships, these documentaries make you appreciate the true labor of love that was A Nightmare on Elm Street. New Line and Craven put up everything they had to bring Freddy to life and thanks to the imaginative efforts of some truly talented filmmakers Nightmare on Elm Street became one of the most successful, low budget horror films of all time. When you discover just how little they had to work with and how some of those horrifying visuals were actually created you will really be in awe of just how far a little money and a lot of ingenuity will get you. Just wait until you see how terrifying they made Spandex look!
When you think of classic, cinematic monsters Freddy Krueger certainly ranks up amongst the upper echelon. Not only did he terrify audiences in A Nightmare on Elm Street, but he also helped establish one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, one that would go on to make The Lord of the Rings! If you are lucky enough to catch this film on the big screen this October, don’t miss out. Otherwise hurry out to the store and add this gem to your DVD collection, it truly is one of the most important pieces of horror film history.
–Joe Russo, MoviePule]se