Wes Craven’s classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a masterful and horrific exploration of the surreal world of dreams, which also introduced the world to an iconic slasher villain: Freddy Krueger. Krueger and the film’s premise terrified me as a child growing up in the 80s, long before I ever sat through a screening. Now, having seen the film many times, it’s evident that its wealth of bloodcurdling imagery and symbolism could keep a psychoanalyst or film critic busy for days. In this most recent viewing, I found myself preoccupied with subjectivity in the film— which scenes are meant to occur in the dream world and which are real? Whose dreams are whose? Are we to believe the film’s ingénue?, Nancy, in her final confrontation with Freddy, when she realizes that “this was all a dream”—presumably her dream?
Tag: Wes Craven
Among director Wes Craven’s earliest films, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) represents a breakthrough.
Craven, a former English teacher with a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins in writing and philosophy, cut his teeth in the film industry in the early 1970s by editing and directing hardcore pornography. He rose to prominence with THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and later, THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) — films legendary for their savagery, unrelenting ferocity, and bleak nihilism.
By KJ Hamilton
Dreams do become reality. But, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. A Nightmare on Elm Street, in my opinion, is one of the scariest horror films of all time. I tried to figure out why as I screened the film for about the fiftieth time.
I think I have figured it out. It is one thing to be chased by a machete-wielding psychopath when you’re awake. You might have half a chance to escape, depending upon your role in the plot. But, when we sleep, our subconscious reigns; anything is possible. It is in this state that we are at our most open, most vulnerable. There are only two options: be asleep and dream or wake up. It is during sleep that the body replenishes itself; with the goal of awaking refreshed and renewed.
By Julie Lavelle
For fans of the horror/exploitation genre, Wes Craven’s early films are required viewing. For newcomers to the genre they are a great starting point; the films genuinely terrify despite their lack of production value, experienced actors, or special effects. In his second film, 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, Craven revisits themes from his profoundly disturbing directorial debut, Last House on the Left (1973). The film initially asks us to identify with the Carters, a white-bread, gun-toting, RV-driving, blonde haired archetypal American family. When they set out on their ill-conceived search for a defunct silver mine in the southwest, you want them to listen to the old gas station attendant (and progenitor of the evil breed who will ravage the Carters) who sagely warns them to “stay on the main road, you hear?”. Soon the unwitting family is terrorized by a family of cannibals who live in the barren hills of the desert. Craven locates monstrosity or “otherness” within the family by setting up a mirror image between the “normal” family and the “monstrous” cannibal family. However, the lines that divide these two families blur as the narrative progresses, and the viewer is left unsure where (if anywhere) their sympathy lies.