Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Saxon (TENEBRE, ENTER THE DRAGON), Ronee Blakley (NASHVILLE, THE DRIVER), Heather Langenkamp (GROWING PAINS, SHOCKER, NEW NIGHTMARE), Johnny Depp (CRY-BABY, DEAD MAN), Charles Fleischer (DEADLY FRIEND, ZODIAC), Robert Englund (ST. IVES, EATEN ALIVE, DEAD & BURIED), Amanda Wyss (BETTER OFF DEAD, POWWOW HIGHWAY), Jsu Garcia (GOTCHA!, WE WERE SOLDIERS). Cinematography by Jacques Haitkin (THE HIDDEN, CHERRY 2000). Head makeup effects by David B. Miller (THE BEASTMASTER, COCOON, WILD AT HEART). Music by Charles Bernstein (MR. MAJESTYK, DEADLY FRIEND).
Tag-line: "If Nancy Doesn't Wake Up Screaming She Won't Wake Up At All..."
Best one-liner: "Okay Krueger, we play in your court!"
There was a time when Freddy wasn't plastered on squirt guns, board games, nite lights, novelty albums, squish-'ems, pinball machines, and yo-yos.
There was a time when Freddy was scary as shit.
He wasn't a one-liner dropping contrivance- he was a terrifying burn victim and possible-pedophile who had the confounding power to haunt kids' dreams from beyond the grave. He wasn't all powerful, not by a long shot: in a toe-to-toe wrestling match between him and a high school girl (which actually happens several times in this film), the girl has a pretty good chance of kicking Freddy's raggedy ass. The existentially frustrating thing here is that Freddy cheats.
Even as the hall monitor.
He gets you when you're at your most vulnerable, your least aware- in the sweet ark of slumber. And more often than not, Craven shows Freddy's attacks from the outside- the sleeping victim thrashing about, slashed and beaten- we can only imagine what's happening in their world, and that's truly frightening. The cast is solid- Heather Langenkamp is our heroine (and a far cry from the CW douches on summer hiatus who star in today's horror), John Saxon (a Bava/Argento alum) is the no-nonsense cop dad, Ronee Blakley is the habitually loaded alky mom (watch for her hidden booze stashes), Johnny Depp is the boyfriend (even at this young age making some impressively bizarre acting choices), and, of course, Robert Englund is Krueger- a sheer force of malicious exuberance.
The visuals are startlingly potent- Freddy's arms extending to an impossible length:
a bed swallowing a victim and spewing a sanguinary geyser, a spectral form emerging from a rubbery wall:
a Cronenbergian face-lickin' phone:
or a girl chased up the steps as the carpet transforms into bemiring white goop. All of this is pre-CGI, and, in fact, is frequently visualized by extremely primitive means- its effectiveness remains a credit to the conceptual hotbed of primal fears and visceral anxieties that (ex-Humanities professor) Craven dips into. This is focused, forceful storytelling at its best. Five stars.