During the mid 1980s the slasher film genre was in dire need of help. The once great genre had consumed itself with sub par sequels and extremely low budget cheesy movies that had no real plot at all. The movies that were coming out during this time were basically this: a big breasted girl and her friends (who love to get naked) decide to hang out somewhere away from civilization. While there they are stalked by some random killer, killing for some non-developed reason (if a reason at all). So, needless to say, the slasher film was dying and dying hard by 1984.
But, a man by the name of Wes Craven changed that. And with his little film that no one had any faith in, he breathed life into the slasher film and kept it alive for a couple more years. Wes Craven had all ready established himself in the horror genre by 1984. He had made the classics: The Last House on the Left in 1972 and The Hills Have Eyes in 1977. As well as some other films that weren’t as successful. He had written a film about a killer who is killing people in their dreams. But, the twist was, if he killed you in your dream, you died for real. This idea hadn’t really been done before, at least not in a slasher film. As creative as it may have been, no one wanted to make the film. He finally found New Line Cinema, a small film company on the verge of bankruptcy, that was willing to produce the film. Robert Shaye, the co-CEO of New Line had enough faith in the script and in Craven to make the film, hoping it would save his dying company.
The story was about a group of teenagers, all having the same nightmare about the same unknown man. The only things they know are that he is horribly burned, wears a red and green sweater and has a brown hat, oh and that he has knives for fingers! As each one of them is killed off Nancy (Langenkamp) is the only one willing to stand up to him. Oh, and did I mention the adults in the film don’t pay any attention to what she is saying. That’s classic slasher film rules right there!
Although Craven and Shaye butted heads over the ending of the film, that didn’t do anything to ruin this film. With a great cast including John Saxon playing a police officer again and Robert Englund, a virtual no one at the time, he gained major success and a huge fan following after this film hit it big at the box office. Also along for the ride was Johnny Depp in his very first film. The film was extremely ingenious at the time, not only for the storyline of the film but also for some of the camera techniques used. Including a very interesting special effects shot of Freddy Krueger jumping through a mirror. And a very nice shot of Nancy waking up from her nightmare having parts of the roses from her nightmare with her, but when the camera pulls back they are gone. A very cool shot, that you should probably check out!
Wes Craven did not want nor did he intend this film to be the beginning of a franchise. Robert Shaye had different ideas. A Nightmare on Elm Street hit it big at the box office grossing over $25 million domestically, just enough to save New Line Cinema. A sequel was immediately planned. The film spawned six sequels, a TV series and an eventual face off with the other 1980s slasher Jason Voorhees. Though none of the other films ever lived up to this one, as a whole the series was phenomenal. Heather Langenkamp said it best in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, “Everyone knows who Freddy Krueger is. He’s like Santa Claus or King Kong!”.