A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert Englund, John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Jepp
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer, Screenplay and Trivia (DVD-ROM)

Generations of horror fans have been following Freddy Krueger’s sadistic escapades in seven movies and now it is time also for a new generation to explore and experience Freddy Mania. New Line Home Video is releasing all films from the series in a box set and we have had the chance to give the first film from the release a close-up look. Incidentally it is also the only film of the series that is released individually. For more general information about the box set, please visit our coverage of New Line’s Editor’s Day, and for additional information of the Nightmare On Elm Street series, don’t miss our brand-new interview with the series’ star Robert Englund.

When a number of teenagers find out that they all have the same nightmares they are getting a little worried. All of them have a man in a red-green-striped sweater, a worn out hat, burnt features and fingers like knives stalking them in their dreams.
The dreams seem incredibly real and out of fear they decide to stay together for the night to protect each other. There is no protection from Freddy Krueger in this world however, as they will soon learn in a very harsh way.

When Tina (Amanda Wyss) falls asleep Freddy, the stalker in their dreams, returns and hunts her down relentlessly. He viciously attacks her with the sharp-bladed glove he wears on one hand and while in the real world nothing visible is physically attacking her, her boyfriend is watching in horror as she is sliced up right in front of his eyes. Afraid of being accused of murder he flees when Nancy (Heather Langencamp) and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) enter the room.

The police starts looking for him and put him in jail for the murder as he had expected but before he can prove his innocence, Freddy pays him a visit in his dreams. Soon after, the police find him dangling strangulated from the ceiling of his cell, firmly convinced he committed suicide. Nancy knows the truth however and gets increasingly afraid of falling asleep while none of the adults seem to take the nightmarish creature for real. She starts taking pills to keep her awake but before long she too is falling asleep. In her dream world Freddy is already awaiting her.

"A Nightmare On Elm Street" spawned a phenomenon and a devoted following when it was first released in 1984 and looking back today, the impact the film and its main villain Freddy Krueger have had on the horror genre are immeasurable. The film feasts on people’s fear of not being in control. We all sleep and dream, and we are all very vulnerable during our sleep. Writer/director Wes Craven took this scenario after reading newspaper articles of teenagers dying in their sleep after having reported frightening nightmares to create a villain that hunts in people’s dreams, the time when they are the most vulnerable. Despite casting a stuntman for the villain which had been common practice then, he decided to have respectable actor Robert Englund play Freddy Krueger, and the result was a personality that scared and intrigued at the same time. The possibilities were practically boundless and it was hardly surprising that the film became an instant fan favorite, spawning a series of sequels.

New Line is taking the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series very seriously, well knowing it was the foundation on which the success of the studio was originally built upon. While they have since grown and consolidated quite a bit, New Line has always show a lot of respect for their most eagerly asked-for franchise. Many of the films in the series were hard to find on video at times due to licensing issues, and the quality of the available releases was often less than impressive. All this will change with this release. New Line Home Video took it upon themselves to completely restore and re-master all seven parts in the series to make sure this DVD release will be the best the films have ever looked. A quick look at the disc shows that they have been absolutely successful. The film is presented in its 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets as well as a <$PS,pan & scan> version. A <$RSDL,dual layer> disc has been used to allow selection of these presentations from th emain menu. The image on the disc is astonishingly clear and devoid of any film artifacting. Especially the original Wes Craven film has always been a tough cookie on video due to its dark visuals and the strong colors, both of which pushed existing home video formats to their limits. Not so on DVD. The image reveals solid blacks that maintain a good level of detail throughout. There is some minor discoloration evident in the transfer in certain scenes where black tones take on a slight bluish tinge on the left side of the screen, but overall the transfer presented on this disc is stunning and allows you to see the film in more detail than ever. Colors are strong and very faithfully rendered throughout, giving especially the dream sequences a truly nightmarish look at times. With that in mind I can’t wait to see some later parts of the series where the dream sequences are much more emphasized, like "Dream Warriors" or "The Dream Master".
The disc’s compression is very well done, leaving no trace of artifacting and no noticeable dot crawl. It leaves the picture fully intact with all its details and creates a truly great looking image that looks better than any version of the film I had seen before.

Also the disc’s soundtrack has been remastered for this release. Although still featuring the original monaural audio track, the disc also contains a newly mixed <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack with enhanced clarity, especially in the music track.
Actually, I found myself hearing musical cues that I had never really noticed before, but switching back to the film’s original soundtrack revealed they have always been there but mostly overpowered by ambient sound effects and other effects. While not necessarily louder in the new mix, these cues stand out much more than before due to their spatial integration and the more balanced placement in the track’s sonic spectrum. Dialogues too sound much less muffled and have a better bass extension than in the original soundtrack, creating a more natural sounding experience.

The disc contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Wes Craven, together with Heather Langencamp and John Saxon who starred in the film, as well as director of photography Jacques Haitkin. While it starts out a little slow, the commentary develops really nicely after about 10minutes and reveals a lot of additional information about the film, sharing technical aspects as well as entertaining anecdotes. The film’s original theatrical trailer can also be found on the disc as well as the full script, accessible through a DVD-ROM. One of the nice things about the script is the way it allows you to read the script while the film is running in a small window. That way you can directly compare the script and its implementation in the final film. Also accessible through a DVD-ROM are biographies from the film’s original press kits, as well as up-to-the-minute information on the cast and crew. In the final box set New Line is releasing there will be a separate disc that is completely dedicated to special features for all the films.

I have been a Freddy fan since day one and I vividly remember the fascination that came with this film. Its approach was so different form all the other slasher/stalker films that had been sucked lifeless by the time that it immediately got me hooked. The idea of having a villain who lives in people’s dreams is material for nightmares and Craven mastered these emotions sensationally well, creating a film that oftentimes leaves the audience dangling and wondering whether what they see is a dream or reality.

New Line Home Video has to be lauded for the effort they put into this release of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series. The disc looks and sounds incredible, and with this disc as a foretaste I truly can’t wait to rediscover the other six parts on DVD.