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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The primary themes here are vengeance, denial, and fear. Rather than alerting the authorities of Krueger, the parents of his victims hunt him down and kill him. Returning through dreams and nightmares, Freddie then takes his revenge by hunting and killing the children, now teenagers.
Positive Role Models
While heroine Nancy is smart and resourceful in fighting against the evil Freddy, her friends are a little less so, and the neighborhood grownups and authority figures are secretly vigilante murderers who cause more harm than good.
Violence & Scariness
Much gore -- with the qualifier that it's often "nightmare," surreal violence, like Freddy's face getting torn off to reveal a staring skull, an endless fountain of blood pouring out of a victim's bed, and so on. Freddy's fingers are sliced off, and he's set on fire.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen lovers in bed together (exerting themselves loudly, though nothing is seen). Brief female nudity (a profile in heavy shadow).
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R-worthy profanity including "f--k" a few times and "s--t" uttered by a few police officers.
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Products & Purchases
None, although a Freddy Krueger industry of toys, models, books, and even software ensued.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The heroine's mother is a heavy-drinking alcoholic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Nightmare on Elm Street is a slasher flick with a lot of over-the-top gore and violence, with the qualifier that it's often "nightmare," surreal violence. Nightmare visions include a face being torn off to reveal a staring skull, a geyser of blood pouring out of a victim's bed and pooling in defiance of gravity on the ceiling, and so forth. It's dream-like, but fatalities still result. The young people at the center of the film, though very highly evolved for horror-movie teens circa 1984, are still sexually active and at odds with their parents. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Part of this film's success was that writer-director Wes Craven made it at a time when banal, bloody copies of Friday the 13th (starring hockey-masked Jason) commonly filled theaters. Any teen-themed horror film that was even halfway original and imaginative would have stood out refreshingly, and this one did. A Nightmare on Elm Street's cast of teenage characters was a shade more sympathetic and well-drawn than Jason's victims.
The dream-attack gimmick (which is never really explained as clearly as it should be) makes for lots of shock scenes and visual surprises, teasing viewers about what is or isn't really happening, and filmmaker Craven also plants more sophisticated seeds of unease. Parenting and family life -- touchstones of reassurance and protection in horror movies like Poltergeist -- aren't sources of comfort here. Mothers and fathers killed Krueger and covered it up, and now the villain is punishing their children for it rather than them -- the old sins-of-the-fathers biblical warning (in slasher-movie clothing).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.