36 years ago today, horror history was made. Wes Craven’s masterwork A Nightmare On Elm Street hit cinemas on November 9th in 1984. And even nearly 40 years later (!), it remains one of the finest entries in the slasher genre, revitalizing it at the time and still standing as a hugely influential movie to horror filmmakers today.
Nightmare follows teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) who, along with her friends, becomes the target for malevolent spirit Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured former school janitor who’s killing the teens from within their dreams. Johnny Depp famously co-stars in his breakout movie role as Nancy’s ill-fated boyfriend, Glen.
Many of the hallmarks of the franchise – Krueger’s wisecracking humor and the extension of his name from Fred to Freddy – would come later, but there’s no denying that the original is still the best. Though Craven would contribute to the screenplay for Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, this is the only one he’d direct until 1994’s New Nightmare, a meta take on the franchise that prefaced his Scream, which arrived two years later.
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New Nightmare wrapped up the original seven-film series, but Freddy returned to theatres for 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, a crossover with the Friday the 13th franchise. Englund also hosted the horror anthology TV series Freddy’s Nightmares in 1998. In 2010, meanwhile, Elm Street was remade with Jackie Earle Haley as a much darker take on Krueger. Fans didn’t take to it, though, and the reboot was torn apart by critics.
There’s just no beating the 1984 film, you see. Sitting at a near flawless score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, the critical consensus for A Nightmare on Elm Street reads: “Wes Craven’s intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.”
Happy anniversary, Freddy Krueger! See you in our dreams…