Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of horror icon Wes Craven, and to celebrate, we’re looking back at most accomplished work: 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. Welcome back to Wes Craven Week.
A year ago today, the world of cinema lost one of its most gifted visionaries. Taken by cancer, one of life’s biggest villains, Wes Craven was a man like no other. One of the most soft spoken men in the history of horror, Wes Craven was a man living his life without the restriction of convention; true artists know no boundaries.
So today, we honor the man we all love so much by taking a look back at Craven’s dreary dream of a film – A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Wes, wherever you are, this ones for you. We love you.
1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (#1)
Wes Craven’s one-sheet ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’-Courtesy of New Line Cinema
If Nancy Doesn’t Wake Up Screaming, She Won’t Wake Up At All.
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock unleashed the granddad of all slasher films. Psycho, originally a book by Robert Bloch of the same name, and the decades following Psycho’s release, saw a shift in the dynamics of the average horror film. Quickly vanishing the memory of big-bug movies, and not to mention creature features of the ’40s and ’50s, Psycho started a trend focusing on real-life humans inflicting pain on innocence.
I’m Your Boyfriend Now Nancy-Fred Kruger
Progressing with Tobe Hooper’s terrifying The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’74), and then continuing with John Carpenter’s holiday-inspired brilliant Halloween (’78), horror began changing from an escapist experiences to in-your-backyard situations.
Sure, we had Romero’s two Dead films to date (with Romero’s underrated Day of the Dead not premiering until 1985) and Don Coscarelli‘s Phantasm (’79), but those were hailed by true fear feigns and not the mainstream entirely.
Craven Changes Horror Forever
Then in 1984, the genres began shifting again. Wes Craven, after public ridicule for his first feature, 1972’s The Last House on the Left, began pushing the boundaries of creativity with a demented nightmare.
As a result, A Nightmare on Elm Street, mirroring the story dreamy setup, saw Wes Craven creating a film unlike any had ever seen; even imagined. After frequently being told the concept was lacking, and then only championed by New Line co-founder Bob Shaye, Craven provided our senses a surreal experience of fear and fright with Nightmare.
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Moreover, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s concept is devilishly creative, and yet staggeringly simplistic. After being burned alive by the grieving parent of Springwood, Fred Kruger returns from the dark abyss to wreak havoc on the town’s remaining children. Only, this time, the boss of the boiler room is somehow entering the dreams of the remaining kids; Die in the dream, and your real-life obituary is being written shortly after.
Also, Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is a telling tale of demented darkness and fighting fear. So much so, in fact, Elm Street’s thematic nature centers on facing your fears and fighting back against personal adversity. There’s nothing to fear but fear it self, indeed. In addition, on top of the film’s profound theme, which caused the film to ultimately be a cultural touchstone, the story is massively empathetic.
Starring Robert Englund as villain Fred Krueger, and Heather Langenkamp as the object of his demented desire, Elm’s plot-device truly works. We all sleep; It’s that simple. Everyone can relate – something the unintelligent producers found divisive before New Line came along. And thank Bod Shaye, as they led the pack in ushering a new line of superior horror.
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unforgiving masterpiece. While a work of art failing to be duplicated, the sensational slasher classic is completely unique, and most of all, creative. It’s a film still standing as a shining achievement of what can happen when you never give up on your dreams. Only, Wes’ dark dream is our never ending nightmare. RIP Wes Craven.
Missing Craven? Celebrating his life with A Nightmare on Elm Street? Let the other Craven Craver know how you’re remembering the icon in the comment section below.