Showdown: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ vs ‘Scream’
It’s with great sadness that I learned about Wes Craven’s passing. He was my favorite horror director; a brilliantly creative man who helped to revolutionize the horror genre. In his honor, I will dedicate this Showdown blog to him. I will be comparing arguably his two greatest and most memorable films. However the breakdown turns out, we’re the winners here to be able to have two masterpieces created by the infamous Wes Craven.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is about a man who kills teenagers in their dreams. We find out that the man, Freddy Kruger, was a child murderer who the parents ganged up on years ago. Now he’s a sadistic burned ghost-like creature who stalks kids in their dreams and kills them with his creepy knife-fingers. Craven’s concept for this film was a combination of the real life night terrors that lead to the death of a few Cambodian genocide survivors as well as a homeless man who creeped him out as a kid. The end result is the most original slasher killer until then; instead of teens being stalked by a silent zombie, they have to fear going to sleep. Scream (1996) is a slasher film for a newer generation. Ghostface, aka two deranged teenagers, use cell phones and kitchen knives to terrorize Sidney Prescott and the other teens at her High School. There’s nothing bad I can say about Scream’s plot but the sheer originality of Freddy Kruger and A Nightmare on Elm Street, especially in the year it was released, gives it the edge here.
Point: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Let’s break this down. Wes Craven was known for creating some of the best final girls of all time. We have Nancy Thompson in ANOES who fights back and kicks Freddy’s ass. Then we have poor Sidney Prescott who survived four films’ worth of psychos with knives and did it with plenty of spunk. There’s no way to choose between these two. As for the villains, this one goes to ANOES. While Stu and Billy made for an excellent pair on screen, Freddy Kruger is truly iconic. As for side characters, this is where Scream pulls ahead. ANOES may have Johnny Depp but Scream has Tatum, Randy, Dewey, and Gail. The cast of that film is so perfect, it’s hard to beat. That makes this category a tie overall.
This is the most subjective category for sure. Everyone is scared of different things. Scream presents us with a creepy sadistic masked man who reminds us that we’re not even safe in our own homes. ANOES gives us Freddy Kruger, the monster who will make us fear even sleeping in our own beds. While watching the films themselves, being scared really comes down to the individual. From what I’ve gathered from the people I know, it’s ANOES that has stuck with more people and made them lay awake at night for a long time after the movie was over.
Point: A Nightmare on Elm Street
ANOES has the classic horror twist ending. Just when you think the characters will live happily ever after, it turns out that Freddy is still going to kill them all anyway. Scream’s twist is definitely better; the entire movie had us guessing who the killer would be and it turned out to be two of the main characters. This was a definite shocker to most people and worked so well that it spawned three sequels and many more villains.
ANOES will always be held up as a classic for all horror fans; there is no doubt about that. However, it came out during a time when slashers were big. Scream has the honor of having been fresh and new, revitalizing the slasher genre in the 1990’s. Without it, who knows where the genre would be now?
Overall Winner: It’s a tie!
When it comes down to it, you can’t objectively pick a better film. They’re both fantastically made by one of the best directors in horror history. Both feature stellar casts, awesome villains, kickass final girls, and quotable moments. They’re very different films so it will end up being subjective as to which the viewer prefers, but I think we can easily say that Wes has left a legacy behind him with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.