Blu-Ray Review: Original ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ Still Shocks

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CHICAGO – I haven’t seen it yet but just watching the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in gorgeous HD has me pumped up for the Platinum Dunes remake about to be released. The world could use a little more Freddy Krueger (played by the excellent Jackie Earle Haley in the remake), one of the most memorable creations in the history of horror. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

Until the new “A Nightmare on Elm Street” hits theaters on April 30th, pick up the wildly influential 1984 Wes Craven film, available in HD for the first time. Even though I’ve seen “Nightmare” several times over the years, I’m still impressed by Craven’s best film, one that would change the horror world forever and one of which the quality has been kind of dismissed due to the inferiority of so many of the sequels that followed.

Subsequent Freddy films, chronicled in the special feature “The House That Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror,” turned Krueger into something of a joke. He’s even described as “the Henny Youngman of horror,” a transition in the sequels that mortified Craven, who would return for the second best Krueger film, “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” before things went camp again in “Freddy vs. Jason”.

A Nightmare on Elm Street will be released on Blu-ray on April 13th, 2010.
A Nightmare on Elm Street will be released on Blu-ray on April 13th, 2010.
Photo credit: WB Home Video

What’s often forgotten is how straight-up scary Krueger was in the first film. There’s a difference between maniacally smiling as Freddy cuts off his fingers and the camp of the sequels. The first Freddy was a force of nature, not a stand-up comedian, and I hope the remake returns Freddy to the villain he deserves to be. (And in Haley’s hands, I believe that will happen.)

As for the plot of the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” it too is more cleverly refined than most people remember. It’s essentially a timeless tale of the past coming back to haunt the next generation as a murdered child killer finds new ways to unleash pain on a cast that includes the debut of Johnny Depp.

Craven’s direction of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is perfect largely because he focuses on imagery over concrete plot. He’s not asking you to understand “Nightmare” as much as be frightened by its imagery. So, there’s the little girls jumping rope to “1, 2 Freddy’s coming for you…”. There’s the claw, the sweater, and the hat. It’s all designed to linger in your mind to the point that perhaps you hear a scary tune or see an image of Freddy the next time you go to sleep. It’s a film intended to work its way into your cortex of fear and it has lost NONE of its power in the last quarter-century unlike so many of its ’80s peers.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is presented in 1080p with a great DTS-HD Master Audio English 7.1 audio track that simply rules. It’s technically perfect. All horror fans should definitely pick it up.

Special features:
o “Ready Freddy Focus Points” - See Alternate Takes and Learn Filmmaking Secrets Behind the Nightmare by Jumping to Video Highlights While Watching the Movie
o 2 Commentaries: Director Wes Craven, Co-Stars Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon, and Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin; Craven, Robert Englund, Langenkamp, and Ronnee Blakley, Producer Robert Shaye and Co-Producer Sara Risher
o Alternate Endings
o “The House That Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror”
o “Never Sleep Again: The Making of A Nightmare on Elm Street”
o “Night Terrors: The Origins of Wes Craven’s Nightmare”
o Interactive Trivia Track

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is released by Warner Brothers Home Video and stars Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, and Johnny Depp. It was written and directed by Wes Craven. It will be released on Blu-ray on April 13th, 2010. It is rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

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