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 Tracks, Featurettes, Alternate Endings, Trivia Track

Generations of horror fans have been following Freddy Krueger's sadistic escapades in eight movies and as the remake of the original slasher film is preparing to hit theaters, now is the time for an entirely new generation to explore and experience Freddy Mania. What better place to start than with the actual original, the 1984 iconic slasher flick by Wes Craven, which New Line Home Video and Warner Home Video have now made available on Blu-Ray Disc for the first time.

When a number of teenagers find out that they all have had the same nightmare, they are getting a little worried. All of them have seen 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. However, there is no protection from Freddy Krueger in this world, 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 Rod is watching in horror as she is sliced up right in front of his eyes. Rightfully afraid of being accused of her murder, he flees as soon Nancy (Heather Langencamp) and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) enter the room.

Rod is instantly suspect number one, and the police start looking for him. As soon as they find him, they put him in jail for the murder, 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. Convinced that Rod was committing suicide to escape justice, the police considers the case closed. But Nancy knows the truth. She is panicked and fears to fall asleep, all the while none of the adults seem to take her worries and stories about the nightmarish creature seriously. In the end, not even the booster pills she takes to keep her awake help any more, And Nancy falls 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 the idea for this scenario from newspaper reports of teenagers that were dying in their sleep after having mentioned frightening nightmares. Craven used these mysterious events to create a villain that hunts people in their own dreams. Instead of casting a stuntman for the part of the villain, which had been common practice in those days, Craven 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.

Traditionally, New Line has been 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. Now, that New Line is fully owned and operated by Warner Home Video, I was curious to see how the resulting high definition version would look like. Fortunately for all fans, Warner did a wonderful job and presents the film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this disc in a 1080p high definition transfer. The image is wonderfully detailed and reveals a level of definition previously unseen in any of the "Elm Street" movies. The format's incredible color range and black levels make it possible to render an image that has brutal visual depth and wonderfully defined shadows, while maintaining a faithful color palette throughout. Certain shots and sequences in the film are more colorful than others by design. Particularly the dream sequences are abound in vivid hues, while the awake scenes have a tendency to reveal a more muted color palette. All of that is nicely preserved here, giving the film a look as if it were just created. The previous DVD transfer had a slight discoloration issue that I did not notice on this release. Evidently, the new high definition transfer has been once again reworked to make sure to get the maximum of quality and faithfulness out of the print.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track accompanies the movie, which offers a wide sound field and a noticeably improved presentation of the film's score. Like the previous DVD remix, this track has a wonderful spatial integration, with finely tuned placement of effects in the sound field to make sure they are never drowned out or overpowered by the music, the dialogue or other effects. Add to it the clarity and transparency of the lossless format we have here, and you get the idea. In addition, the release also contains the original mono audio track that accompanied the film during it's theatrical release in 1984.

The disc contains many of the extras that were previously available on DVD also. First up is a track featuring 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 10 minutes and reveals a lot of additional information about the film, sharing technical aspects as well as entertaining anecdotes.
In addition, a commentary track featuring Craven, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Ronnee Blakely, as well as producer Robert Shaye and co-producer Sara Risher is also included.

Alternate Endings, as well as the featurettes "The House That Freddy Built," "Never Sleep Again" and "Night Terrors" are also included on this disc, culled from previous DVD versions.

The release is rounded out by an interactive trivia track.

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 from all the other slasher/stalker films that had been sucked lifeless by that 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.

Warner and New Line are delivering a solid release here, that makes sure to bring back the most important of the previously released bonus materials. With its marvelous transfer, the cool audio presentation and its solid supplements, this disc is prime material to upgrade your collection.