A Nightmare on Elm Street
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 American horror film directed and written by Wes Craven. The film features John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Robert Englund and Johnny Depp in his feature film debut. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springwood, Ohio, the plot revolves around several teenagers being terrorized in their nightmares by the ghost of a serial child murderer named Freddy Krueger.
Craven produced A Nightmare on Elm Street on an estimated budget of just $1.8 million, a sum the film earned back during its first week. Grossing $25.5 million at the United States box office, A Nightmare on Elm Street has become one of the most popular entries in the horror genre and the film's villain "Freddy Krueger" has become one of the most well recognized villains in cinema history. Both critics and Craven have mentioned that the film owes some of its success to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), which was hugely influential in spawning a long line of slasher films and originating many clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s.
The film's premise is the question of where the line between dreams and reality lies. The villain, Freddy Krueger, thus exists in the "dream world" yet can kill in the "real world". Sequels to the original would continue to blur the distinction between dream and reality before finally challenging the line between art and reality by showing Heather Langenkamp, playing a fictionalized version of herself, haunted by the villain of a series of films she has starred in. Critics encouraged and praised the film's ability to rupture "the boundaries between the imaginary and real", toying with audience perceptions. Some movie historians interpreted this overriding theme as a social subtext, "the struggles of adolescents in American society", and their overwhelming need to confront "the harsh realities of life".