Freddy Krueger is often considered what makes A Nightmare on Elm Street scary, but removing all the characters still leaves viewers with a pretty creepy movie. Wes Craven’s 1984 movie featuring the bladed glove-wearing killer who invades dreams was a hit with both critics and audiences, spawning a multi-film franchise that turned Freddy into a slasher icon. Though the 2010 remake was less well-received, the original remains a touchstone for the horror genre, with many ranking it among the greatest horror films ever made.
As might be expected in a pantheon horror movie, there’s plenty to be afraid of in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Based in part on the very real ’70s phenomenon of Hmong refugees inexplicably dying in their sleep after complaining of nightmares, the film is armed with a perfect horror premise: deceased child murderer takes revenge on the people who killed him by coming for their now-teenaged kids in their dreams. Parents are left completely unable to protect their children and teens can’t stay awake forever, giving every potential audience member something to dread. On top of that, Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger likes to play with his victims, and his kills became more creatively cruel as the Nightmare on Elm Street series progressed.
As it turns out, though, Craven’s film doesn’t need all those things to send shivers down viewers’ spines. The YouTube channel Hungry Creature Productions proves as much with a three-minute video that removes any footage from A Nightmare on Elm Street with characters in it to find out what is left of their story without them. The answer is a lot of inserts and establishing shots – which turn out to be really creepy. When cut to the movie’s iconic score (which certainly helps the fear-factor), the odd-angled shots of suburban houses, bloodied walls, and machines play like an abstract art piece, communicating a deadly invasion of domestic space without providing any of the details. While Elm Street fans know the significance of the boiler room, for example, someone watching just this video will find it ominously out of place.
Cutting out all the characters also means sacrificing many of A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s most iconic scenes. Aside from the actual kills, there’s no shot of a bladed glove reaching out of Nancy’s bathwater, and the striking image of Freddy coming through the wall above her bed is equally disqualified. However, there is one notable sequence that makes the cut: the back half of the murder of Johnny Depp’s Glen, when a geyser of blood erupts from the newly-formed sinkhole in his mattress. Filmed using a revolving set that allowed the blood to pool unnaturally on the ceiling, the moment retains an element of the movie’s supernatural horror, hinting that whatever happened on Elm Street was no mere home invasion.
A Nightmare on Elm Street fans probably still prefer the full movie, but Hungry Creature Productions’ video offers an interesting look into what actually makes a horror film scary. Craven is one of the genre’s unquestioned masters and it’s not unreasonable to believe there’s something frightening in just the way he frames or moves the camera, even when filming something innocuous. It’s sure to leave horror fans dreaming of which of their favorites they’d like to see get the same treatment next – here’s hoping it’s Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Source: Hungry Creature Productions