The Sandman of Reaganís dozy suburbia. ("Baseball bats and boogeymen. Beautiful.") Fred (not yet "Freddy") Krueger (Robert Englund) is not the rubbery vaudevillian of later installments but rather a maggot-bleeding visitor from Jungís "all-uniting depths," the undead child-killer who comes back to shred the spawn of the lynch mob who barbecued him. Return of the Oppressed and Sins of the Father? The infamous razor glove is forged during the opening credits, and put to bloody use at teeny sleepovers -- high-schoolers are his victims, the "incredible body hocus-pocus" of their dreaming consciousness is his highway. Puberty wounds and exhumed parental secrets inform the journey of the heroine (Heather Langenkamp), who defends herself with caffeine and learns of Momís (Ronee Blakley) vigilante past and the dangers of falling asleep to the Bard ("O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams"). The oneiric topography allows Wes Craven to traffic in particularly gutty and erudite psychosexual frissons: Metallic talons emerge between the heroineís legs during bath time, a centipede crawls out of the mouth of her body bag-cocooned friend (Amanda Wyss), and, above all, a gaping mattress swallows up Johnny Depp (TV set, stereo earphones and all) only to ejaculate him out as a tidal wave of raspberry gore. "Morality sucks." Craven builds very scrupulously on Fuseli (or is it Redon?) and arrives at the bold image of the beautiful white suburban home with barred windows, a bottomless bathtub, and a damp subterranean labyrinth for a cellar. Elsewhere, there's Royal Wedding for Wyssí slaughter, The Exorcist for Langenkampís test, and Vampyr for the ultimate awakening. The new generation is roused from its slumber, even if Krueger has the last laugh (and the unending slew of wisecracking sequels). With John Saxon, Jsu Garcia, and Charles Fleischer.
--- Fernando F. Croce