(essay by Robert)
1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is a film that explodes beyond its slasher framework by transgressing the boundaries of reality and imaginary. The film makes no apologies for its preponderance of blood and abruptly challenges us to look hard at the psychological and sociological burdens of the characters. Craven created a film that is so violent that the true concepts can be lost. The real genius of the film is in the undertones of his commentary combined with the gripping dream imagery.
The dream motif and the concept of capturing the feeling and obscurity of dreams/nightmares was by no means original. It was Craven’s seamless connection between the dreamworld and real life that hit home: he does this both literally and figuratively. The dream/reality transitions in the film are subtle and are a wonderful horror mechanism. More symbolically, Craven built a relatively complex story-line going back decades to insert a very tangible and somehow believable link between the dreams being experienced and real “awake” events (most importantly death). Nightmares are a universal yet personal experience. Somehow, regardless of how silly they seem in the day-light, they are startling and trigger real fear. There is security in knowing that all we have to do is wake-up and the door is closed on the dream. The idea that this door does not lock and that somehow someone, other than ourselves, can penetrate and control both our dreams and reality is an amazingly chilling notion that touches at the most vulnerable place. This element undoubtedly is what makes the film so intriguing and relatable. (more…)