The 80s were a great time for horror films. In the late 70s horror films turned from more suspense driven stories where the horrors were largely imagined to films that showed actual violence and even death on the screen. But 70s horror films like The Last House on the Left were largely based on shocking violence with no real story. What set 80s Slasher films apart from the exploitation horror films of the 70s was the morality play of the stories. In 80s Slasher films inevitably teenagers were punished for having sex by being murdered or being hunted by some type of murderous monster.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is widely considered to be the most iconic 80s Slasher film. The film, by Wes Craven, was the basis for many sequels and crossovers. Freddy Krueger, the villain in the story, is one of the most widely recognized horror movie villains. Even today Freddy Krueger with his battered hat, knife glove and trademark red and green sweater is a popular Halloween costume.
A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in 1984 and unlike many other horror movies that only find niche audiences it was an instant hit. The film made over a million dollars in the first week of release. Even the critics liked the film. Even though the special effects and campy stories of 80s Slasher films were supposed to be darkly funny even at the time movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street continue to influence today’s slick post-modern horror films. 80s Slasher fans still love watching the original Nightmare film and continue to find nuances in the film that were ahead of their time. The film also is memorable because it featured a very young Johnny Depp in his first film role. No one could have predicted then that he would go on to find such super success playing legendary roles like Captain Jack Sparrow.
The morality that was in play in 80s Slasher films was a throwback to the 50s which was seen as the perfect decade when parents were almost comically overprotective of their children who were always perfectly behaved. The original film lampoons that 50s ideal when it is revealed that the person hunting the teens in their dreams, Freddy Krueger, was a child serial killer who was hunted down and murdered himself by the parents of the kids who are now being killed by him. The dynamic between parents and teens is an ongoing theme of the movie and the sequels, when teenagers are shows as being much smarter than their parents think they are. They also prove to be much braver and more capable of taking care of themselves than they are expected to be. In the original film Nancy, played by Heather Langenkemp, is the bravest one in the film because she is only one who tries to draw Freddy out into the real world where he can be stopped instead of just confronting him in the dream world where he is the strongest.
The film has many memorable scenes that fans still talk about today, like the scene in which Glenn, played by Johnny Depp, is killed in a massive geyser of blood erupts from the bed he was on. Or the scene where Nancy’s mother disappears into the bed she is lying on and Freddy rises from the bed in her place. But probably the most iconic scene in the film happens in the beginning. One of the opening scenes where Freddy, in the boiler room, scrapes his knife gloved hand along the metal pipes that are releasing steam, is one that fans still talk about today.
The film has been parodied, rebooted, used in sequels and is an integral part of both pop culture history and horror film history. There are many film monsters that have influenced the genre but there is no other film that can sum up a genre as well as A Nightmare on Elm Street does. The iconic 80s Slasher film will live forever, much like Freddy Krueger will, in the imaginations and memories of fans who will never let the 80s Slasher genre die.