A Nightmare on Elm Street (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) has been having some horrific nightmares, ones that involve an eerie figure with razor sharp blades instead of fingers. She isn’t alone in these unusual dreams however, as she soon learns her friends have also had similar nightmares. The terror moves from the realm of dreams into real life however, when her friend Tina (Amanda Wyss) is murdered in brutal fashion. Although her boyfriend was there at the time, he insists he is innocent and claims some very odd things unfolded. Nancy believes him and starts to think Tina’s death was somehow related to the nightmares. She tells her father about the dreams, but he brushes her off and questions her sanity. But Nancy still believes the nightmares are more than mere dreams, especially when more young people start to turn up dead. If she and her friends are to survive, they need to stay awake at all costs. If they are killed by the dark figure in their dreams, they won’t wake up in a cold sweat and in fact, they won’t wake up at all. But who is this horrific stalker that slashes through their dreams and is there anything they can do to survive his wrath? 

This is a true horror classic and the start of one of cinema’s most extensive franchises, not to mention one of the all time great horror creations, Freddy Krueger. While Freddy would be best known for his one liners and dark humor, those elements aren’t on showcase here. Although later installments would blend black humor with the horror, the original film takes a more serious approach. Freddy is more villain than comedian in this first film and as always, the twisted slasher was played by Robert Englund. Englund is great in the role, as usual, but reins in his performance more here, for a more effective result. I don’t mind his over the top antics in later films, but this is my personal favorite kind of Freddy, as he is much more eerie. The concept of a dream world is well executed and used to create some impressive tension, so the atmosphere is excellent. You can never be sure what is real and what isn’t, which keeps the audience in constant suspense. In my opinion, A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the all time classics of horror cinema, a film no horror collection can be without. New Line’s Infinifilm release gives us a new transfer, new soundtrack, and a slew of terrific bonus materials. No, this isn’t a dream, so if you’re even a casual fright fan, this is one release you simply can’t live without.

Video: How does it look?

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is one of New Line’s cash cows and has seen nearly a dozen incarnations in VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and now Blu-ray. That said, for a movie that’s over 25 years old this 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer looks pretty darn good and is easily the best the film has ever looked. The palette is very dark, but yet has a “cooler” sense about it. Black levels are right on the mark and detail level is bumped up from the DVD counterpart. Yes we all know that Freddy’s face is nothing to look at, but darn it if I couldn’t keep my eyes from trying to count every single scar I could. I noticed no artifacting in the least. Suffice it to say that Warner (New Line) has done a fine job with this cult classic.

Audio: How does it sound?

What are new Blu-ray’s without a new uncompressed soundtrack? Well, nothing! Only kidding, and the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does sound good, though let’s be honest here – the movie came out in the mid 80’s and a lot of the music sounds a bit on the hollow side. What I mean by that is that the surround effects are there, but they sound artificial and manufactured (which they were) and by no means does this soundtrack compare to those of new films (or the new “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie). Dialogue is sharp and crisp, so you’ll have no trouble hearing all of Freddy’s one-liners. It’s a nice mix and will test your system in some instances, but sometimes less is more.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A few years ago New Line came out with an “Infinifilm Edition” of this and it appears that all of the supplements have made the leap to the HD format. The original release offered an audio commentary track and the film’s theatrical trailer, both of which have been ported over to this edition. In addition to those supplements, we have a wealth of new extras, starting off with a new audio commentary track. Wes Craven heads up the participants, which include various cast and crew members, quite a few folks when all told. A decent session, with several perspectives on the production, but don’t expect to learn a lot of new information here. The best of the extras is Never Sleep Again, a fifty minute documentary that takes us inside the production of this horror classic. The piece starts with how the concept was developed, moves through the various stages of production, and ends with coverage of the film’s success. A well crafted and fun to watch supplement, well worth a look. You can also check out two shorter featurettes, one on how New Line was able to expand thanks to the film’s success, the other of which examines the real life mysteries of dreams and how they impact our lives. This release also includes several alternate end sequences and if you don’t already own this title, this is the de facto version to get, for sure.

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