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Old 04-05-2010, 04:32 PM
Scored: 9
Views: 18,716
Nightmare on Elm Street, A (Warner)

Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: April 5th, 2010

Format: Blu-ray
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 4/13/2010
MSRP: CAD$24.98
Region Free, HDTV
Codec: VC1, 1080p
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes

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Warner Blu-ray
Alliance Blu-ray
Original DVD

We’re at a weird time for Elm Street. The house that Freddy built is, well, no longer a house. It’s more like the guest bedroom at Warner’s headquarters. The old series and mythology seems to be completely finished. A remake is on the doorstep, and Englund is no longer Freddy. Bob Shaye’s no longer producing but Michael Bay is. Now THAT sounds like the basis for a real nightmare! It’s tough to guess what’s next for the series, but whenever a franchise is in limbo it’s nice to go back to the source and determine just whether it’s all worth fussing about. With a $7.50 coupon for the remake included, Warner’s done just that by revisiting Wes Craven’s original, A Nightmare on Elm Street, on Blu-ray. I’ll avoid the song and dance – it’s a masterpiece, no question, but how sharp are Freddy’s blades in Blu-ray…especially compared to the Canadian-only Alliance release? Let’s blow them up and do some R.E.M. to find out.

The Story

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The film begins with the pounding of brass. In this boiler room a man sharpens and pieces together five fractures of steel into a torn and ragged glove. That man, of course, is Freddy Krueger. He inserts his hand into the glove and heads after a pretty teenage girl. She runs, screaming and crying through the dark and desolate area as Freddy follows close behind. Standard stuff so far...but then she wakes up. It was all just a dream. If this is a slasher, then where is the signature opening murder sequence? Wes Craven catches his audience right from the start, and he keeps them held throughout.

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The film then cuts to a bunch of friends heading to school. Included in the pack is Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), Glen (Johnny Depp in his first role), Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Rod (Nick Corri). Tina speaks of the bad dream we just witnessed, and the rest of them follow suit in admitting that they too had a nightmares. "Everyone has a bad dream sooner or later" Nancy boasts, but little did Nancy know that Tina's bad dream would be her last. Later that night as the group bunk over at Glen's house, Tina is slain in horrific manner while she is in mid-dream. Nancy's father, Donald Thompson (John Saxon) is called in to investigate, and they all believe Rod killed her.

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We, the viewers, of course know otherwise. Nancy too begins to figure out the secret, as her friends begin dying off one-by-one. Her nightmares are becoming more real and more prevalent, and the man in the green and red shirt is all she ever sees. She dopes herself up on stay-awake pills, but eventually she is going to have to face the scarred child murderer once and for all and disclose the horrible secret that binds the victims together.

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This film was the eighth work of Wes Craven, and even by this stage, he had already established himself as a horror relic. He had given audiences The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes back in the 70's, and with Elm Street he shocked the world once again. If Wes Craven will ever be remembered for anything though, it will definitely be as a trendsetter. He may not be a true auteur, he may not even be a great filmmaker, but nobody can deny that he has been a visionary in the field of horror for the last thirty years.

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Last House on the Left is a film responsible for ushering horror moviemaking away from pulp monsters and happy endings. The Hills Have Eyes followed with a bleak look at American life, and was a key influence to films like The Evil Dead. Even years later, Craven would bring forth a new wink-wink post-modernism in American film with his horror send-up Scream. But A Nightmare on Elm Street may perhaps be his most notable triumph.

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Rather than creating his own type of genre film as he had done before, and would do again later, he instead ingeniously reworked the clichés of a genre already set in stone. He took the conventions that his buddy Sean S. Cunningham exploited, and gave them a layer of originality. Slasher films have always been read as expressions of the subconscious, so what better to do than to make the film all about dreams, which are the most potent expression of the mind. By having the killer stalk and slash in the victims' dreams, it allows not only for intense Freudian psycho-analysis, but also for a much more expressionistic and artistic window through which to view the film.

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Halloween aside, slasher films were basically the lowest common denominator of filmmaking. It was more or less a point and shoot affair. Craven had already done that with his amateur Last House, and instead infused A Nightmare on Elm Street with some amazingly fresh and refined visuals. Craven's nightmare worlds come alive with interwoven layers of fear and mystique. The first murder of Tina is arguably the benchmark of the slasher genre, and Glen's death is nearly as jaw dropping. Craven's Elm Street dream world is frightening in that it takes ordinary surroundings and laces them with unsettling characteristics, like the defiance of gravity, the hole in the bathtub, and the seemingly unending arms of Freddy Krueger.

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The creative visuals certainly add a new dimension to a tapered genre, but equally responsible for the change is the horrific Freddy Krueger character. Wes Craven introduces him to the audience right off the bat, and his identity is never hidden. The mystery murder of gialli and slashers past was no longer, Freddy wore his nametag right from the get-go. He wasn't afraid of the camera, and in a way that made him scarier. Robert Englund's performance as the gloved killer in this film is one of horror's scariest.

Freddy is a killer so confident and so horrifically disgusting that it sets up an unsettling contrast. The contrast is further reinforced by the simple design of his sweater: red and green. Those two opposite colors are unsettling in a pattern together, and their coupling with the confused characteristics of Freddy Krueger make him a truly bloodcurdling killer.

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There is gore and bloodshed throughout Nightmare, but it always feels original and never exploitive. It fits with the film, it seems to have a purpose, and its use is much more justifiable than in most slasher/gore extravaganzas. Precious time is spent developing the characters too, making them seem much more as people than as mere victims. Heather Langenkamp adds an honest charm similar to that of Jamie Lee Curtis, and Johnny Depp gets the kid-next-door routine down pat. Saxon plays himself, but he is so good at it that it doesn't matter.

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Even today, after all the sequels and all the parodies, this film still emits an unparalleled level of freshness. After all the attempts at carbon copying, this still remains a unique and titillating viewing experience. Last House on the Left is a great film, but it has dated over the years. A Nightmare on Elm Street however, manages to transcend the time in which it was made to become a timeless classic. The ultimate test of a film is to see how it holds up over the years, and Craven's film is as everlasting as the steel of Freddy's blades. A masterpiece.

Image Quality

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Freddy had 2 DVDs in North America, and now he’s got 2 Blu-rays. Color timing was quite different between the original 1999 DVD and the Infinifilm release a few years ago, and the Alliance Blu-ray reflected that with the similarly blue-hued Blu-ray. Well, this new WB disc favors the same blue tinting during the night sequences, but does look different still than the Alliance disc. It has an overall cooler look, slightly bluer during all scenes. It appears slightly more saturated overall, but at the price of increased contrast which at times makes some of the darker scenes render perhaps a bit too dark. The other difference with the Alliance disc is another catch 22, the Warner disc is a bit sharper, but also a bit grainier. When watching the Alliance disc, there is often the feeling of 3D given the clarity and lack of grain. Images may be a touch sharper on the Warner disc, but all the added film grain sort of ruins the effect of transparency. For me, the color timing and the clarity are better on the Alliance disc, but I’ve included as many screenshots as I can to let you make your own decisions. Also note, this new disc is framed at 1.85:1, whereas the Alliance disc was stretched to fill the 1.78:1 frame as most theatrical films on DVD are.

Whatever Blu-ray you get, though, be prepared for an incredibly cleaned up picture. A Nightmare on Elm Street simply looks beautiful. Hardly any discernable dirt and no print damage whatsoever, as far as 80s horror films go, this might be one of the best looking Blu-rays out there along with Night of the Creeps. Dreams are said to be an extension of reality, and if these Blu-rays are any indication, so are Nightmares.


inline ImageNew Line Warner presents the film in a newly mixed 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Although the mono origins of the film are readily apparent by the lack of any left to right directionality between dialogue or sound effects, the track here still does sound a might fuller this time around. The woofer lands a few good punches during some of the attack scenes. Also, there is fair activity in the back, with a good backend use of Bernstein’s highly effective score and all those great synth cues. Now, about those cues. This mix, like the Infinifilm DVD and the Alliance Blu-ray before it, are missing several synth cues throughout the film in the surround mix. Stingers when Freddy comes through the door to Rob’s cell or when Rob’s neck is strangled by the sheet are missing, as is a tearing sound when Tina rips off Freddy’s face or a screech when Freddy runs his hand along the furnace in Nancy’s basement at the end. They may seem insubstantial, but actually add quite a bit to the intensity of each scene, and knowing they are there and not hearing them really makes the track seem incomplete. The 1999 New Line DVD, although it doesn’t have the range of these newer remixes, at least kept the cues in for its 5.1 upgrade.

Thankfully the cues are at least present on the mono mix also included with this Blu-ray. By comparison, the Alliance Blu-ray had only a 5.1 Dolby True-HD track. If you want a surround mix with all the cues, though, you’re going to need to hang on to that 1999 DVD that can be got for peanuts these days. Overall, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio certainly sounds good and fuller than any of the mixes prior, but without some of the cues from the original soundtrack, it’s tough to give it a full recommendation.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageWhen DVD was young there was the mentality that just getting the film out in the higher resolution was more important than preserving or creating extra features. Many barebones releases or pared down ports of Laserdiscs followed until the format really hit stride and became a dominant full package deal. It’s been four years since the launch of Blu-ray and two years since the format war ended, but still it seems we’re in the infant stages of the medium. Case in point, A Nightmare on Elm Street. No new extras this time around, and instead we get a port of the Infinifilm release minus a few of the smaller tidings. No trailers, trivia challenge, or DVD-ROM extras (which included the full screenplay) this time around. Still, let’s not sour this – what’s included is still a bountiful collection of extras that will please Freddy fans.

inline ImageFirst, the original Laserdisc commentary, which plays with an elegance since lost when it comes to commentaries, is included along with the piecemeal commentary made up for the Infinifilm release. The LD commentary is a group one with Craven, Langenkamp, Saxon and cinematographer Jacques Haitkin and for the horror community has always been one of those respectable early commentaries that stand up along with the Carpenter/Russell commentaries that helped elevate the genre and the whole notion of having a commentary as an extra. It still plays good today. The other commentary is very truncated, jumping back and forth between six participants, including producers Bob Shaye, Sara Risher, Ronee Blakley and Freddy himself Robert Englund. There are some new nuggets of info shared, like when Bob Shaye mentions they had almost cast Charlie Sheen in the Depp part before money became an issue. The commentary is topical to what is happening on screen, but it just lacks the intimacy and flow allowed by group commentaries.

inline ImageThe next batch from the Infinifilm release are three featurettes. The most substantial is “Never Sleep Again” (49:54) which provides a historical making-of. Craven goes into detail at the start in regards to his background and inspiration for Elm Street. Sean S. Cunningham is also aboard to give some good context to his good friend Craven’s struggle to get the film made and how he eventually linked up with Bob Shaye, who’s also aboard. It’s broken into manageable sections (and Nightmare City fans will like the inter-title “The Nightmare Becomes Reality”), although you can’t access them with chapter stops. Refreshingly key crew members who don’t get a lot of press, like the production manager or casting director, also get some mention in this thorough piece. The effects and makeup men, as well as many of their creations, also get some good play in the doc as well. The people you pay to see are also there too, with Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Ronnee Blakley and Robert Englund. What makes the documentary work, though, is the breadth of the participants involved. So many people, from the co-editor to the composer, get some face time, and I think fans will be hard pressed to find a portion of the production not addressed here. It should also be noted that there are plenty of alternate takes edited into the piece. There is a lot of great footage that never made the cut, and it’s great that it’s been preserved…too bad they aren’t included untouched in a separate extra.

inline ImageThe next big featurette is “The House that Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror” (22:47) which provides a nice background to the iconic horror studio. When it was made for the Infinifilm release New Line was still thriving on the success of The Lord of the Rings, but now that they’ve been absolved into Warner Brothers and Bob Shaye’s been sent packing, the piece certainly has a sad optimism to it. We get to hear right from Bob Shaye and a number of other participants featured in the “Never Sleep Again” documentary about how they first started out, how they grew and what they ultimately became. Most of their notable titles, from the Elm Street, Leatherface and Friday the 13th sequels are all covered, but there’s also a nice amount of time spent on their smaller horror classics like Alone in the Dark, Critters, The Hidden and, uh, Bones. Despite the optimism everyone seems to have for what New Line has in store for the future, the featurette works better today in the sense that we can now really look back and appreciate the enduring legacy that New Line created for the genre with its slick, edgy fare in the 80s and 90s.

The last extra is a throwaway, the one that always seems to be tacked on to any film dealing with supernatural elements. We got it in Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror et al. but here it is again, a piece on the psychological and supernatural qualities of dreams and visions. You get a bunch of doctors and scientists talking about stuff that you suspend your disbelief for in the movies because you’re entertained, but without a story, it’s all hot air. At 15:52, it’s good for a nice cat nap.

inline ImageThe last section of extras is the alternate endings. There are three in total, and all have their qualities. None really differ all that much from each other, or the final product for that matter, but the tone presented in each is a little different. There’s a happy ending, a scary ending and a Freddy ending. Without spoiling much, Freddy’s ending is interesting in that it would serve as the basis for the ending for Freddy’s Revenge, which is not surprising since in the “Never Sleep Again” featurette Craven reveals that ending was birthed by Bob Shaye himself. The ending used in the film is best, for sure, but these all work well in different ways. Craven’s favorite? The happy ending, oddly enough. Glad he didn’t go that route!

inline ImageLastly, there are two Blu-ray features that make use of previous footage. There’s the “Focus Points” bit that basically flashes a disc in the upper left corner whenever there’s an extra that pertains to the scene in question. Sometimes it is useful, like when there’s an alternate take or when the filmmakers explain an effect, but a lot of times this track gets cluttered with superfluous segments that basically just find a way to incorporate something from the three featurettes listed above. At least on the Infinifilm release you could select what extras you wanted before leaving the film, since a lot of these ones you won’t want to bother with and just bog the whole experience down. There’s also a really cheap trivia track that’s essentially just a plain jane subtitle track with some really bland and shallow notes and observations. Skip ‘em both and just watch the film and then plow through the extras afterwards.

And finally, a note on the packaging. As mentioned before, there is $7.50 worth of movie bucks to transfer towards seeing the remake in theaters at supporting theaters in the US. The remake is also casually plugged in the back write-up, and oh man, you’ve gotta read that. Nancy is dubbed “hottie mcsmarty” to Glen’s “ready steady”. Fiend seems used every other word, and overall the whole paragraph makes the film sound like some hip little teen flick. 10 Things I Dream About You or something. Really awful, offensive, even, and kind of demeaning to what’s probably one of the darkest and brutal horror films to ever come out of Hollywood.

Final Thoughts

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Wes Craven’s dark deliberation on the decay of the middle class family is rendered beautifully, harrowingly, as a special effects tour de force that seems to get everything right. From the performances to the score to the dreamy death sequences and to our favorite knife-gloved serial killer, this truly is one of the hallmarks of the horror genre. Warner has done a good job of this disc, which is essentially a high-def port of the Infinifilm release minus, sadly, a few of the smaller, but significant extras. That means that the missing audio cues in the beefed up DTS track are still absent (although all present on the original mono track). Visually, it does look pretty fantastic, although it’s give or take whether it’s better than the previously released Alliance disc. Having most of the extras here along with the top tier picture and sound make this the clear winner overall, and a must for any fan of horror. Now, hopefully Warner can give this same treatment to the sequels. One can dream, right Freddy?


Movie - A

Image Quality - A-*

Sound - B+

Supplements - A-

*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour and 31 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • English DTS-HD 7.1
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 EX
  • French mono
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

  • 2 commentary tracks with cast & crew
  • "The House that Freddy Built: The Legacy of New Line Horror" featurette
  • "Never Sleep Again: The Making of A Nightmare on Elm Street" featurette
  • "Night Terrors: The origins of Wes Craven's Nightmares" featurette
  • 3 Alternate endings
  • Interactive trivia track
  • "Focus Points" highlights track



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Hi-Def Reviews
« Previous | Next »

Old 04-06-2010, 11:35 PM
Fantastic review, every fan of the genre needs this in their collection. Come on Warner...your in stride...don't drop the ball !!
Old 04-07-2010, 06:18 AM
And to that, NightAndFog, I say: "Elaborate!"
Can't argue with a confident man.
Old 04-07-2010, 11:40 PM
I've seen ANOES more times than i can remember in every format since its theatrical release in 1984. Watching this Blu Ray I saw detail that i never noticed and the experience felt different than ever before.
Speaking of the ending.. the mother being pulled thru the door window? haha you thought it looked fake before, check it out in Hi-Def!
I noticed a few shots that reminded me of Craven's made for TV approach seen in Invitation To Hell.
and the classic lines...
"morality sucks"
"up yours with a twirling lawnmower"
"whatever you do, don't... fall... asleep!"
"it's just a dream" "that's enough!"

ahhh what a great time watching this on BluRay!!
Old 04-08-2010, 05:20 AM
WTF is up with the "English 1.0 EX" listing on the packaging? It should just say "original mono", since the infinifilm DVD's 5.1 EX track is omitted.
Old 04-08-2010, 11:04 PM
Closet SCREAM fan
Great review, buddy. I have to say I think the darker Warner screen caps actually look better to my eyes, this is a horror film after all and I think the darker look suits NOES better.

I own four Blu-Rays right now. I don't actually own a player yet, but I keep telling myself that if I just keep buying Blus I'll have no choice but to fork over for one. I think this Warner disc might become #5.
Old 09-16-2010, 02:28 AM
for some reason this movie takes the longest to load out of my 70 plus blu discs in my sony bdp s350 blu-ray player anyone else copy takes a long time to load but when it does it works perfectly fine though
Old 01-19-2014, 08:00 AM
Screamy Bopper
I see some edge enhancement in this shot.
Look, Dr. Lesh, we don't care about the disturbances, the pounding and the flashing, the screaming, the music. We just want you to find our little girl.

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