CHARLES BERNSTEIN/A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

When one mentions composer Charles Bernstein, it is often the horror scores he composed for movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Cujo that come to mind.

The composer’s career in scoring film began in 1969, when he worked on a documentary entitled Czechoslovakia 1918 to 1968. He worked steadily throughout the 1970s and as the 1980’s dawned he began to become associated more and more with the horror genre, writing music for movies such as The Entity, Love at first Bite, and scoring TV movies such as Covenant and Malice in Wonderland. In fact, a lot of Bernstein’s scores were for TV movies during the 1980’s and continuing into the 1990’s. But not all were horror movies or films related remotely to the horror genre. Which displays how flexible and talented the composer is, being able to adapt his musical styles to varying subject matters, working on dramas, romances and comedies, films, and documentaries.

If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming she won’t wake up at all.

I am however going back to the 1980’s and to the year of 1984, when Fred Krueger (Robert Englund) first came onto the big screen to conjure up mayhem and terror as well as inflicting pain both mental and physical upon his victims. A Nightmare on Elm Street was a lower budget affair and who would have thought that this first foray into the mysterious, creepy, and surreal world of Kruger would have spawned so many sequels and assured the series a place in the history of horror cinema.  

1,2 Freddy’s Coming For You!

The central character is a child killer who appears to people who were responsible for his death and begins to have his revenge on their children and family members in dreams. The residents of Elm Street are terrorised by this cruel and sadistic figure, Nancy Thompson and a group of her friends (comprising Tina Gray, Rod Lane and Glen Lantz) are being tormented by a clawed killer in their dreams named Fred Krueger. Nancy must think quickly, as Fred tries to pick them off one by one, but what can you do if you are asleep?

The kids of Elm Street don’t know it yet, but something is coming to get them in their dreams.

Bernstein’s score is highly effective especially in the dream sequences with the composer creating atmospheric and sinister sounding compositions via conventional and electronic instrumentation, adding to this unusual sounds and voices to fashion an eerie, unsettling, and menacing soundtrack. It is a score that has always been popular and has recently been re-issued onto digital platforms as part of the Warner Brothers Archive Collection, with thirty-four cues included and a running time of nearly fifty minutes.

She is the only one who can stop it… if she fails, no one survives.

The movie directed by Wes Craven is an effective slasher/serial killer film and was probably the inspiration for many other films in the same genre that followed including Scream which was also directed by Craven. It is surprising that Bernstein never returned to the franchise, the sequel being scored by Christopher Young and composers such as J Peter Robinson, Craig Safan, and Angelo Badalamenti working on other entries. On revisiting the soundtrack recently I was still impressed by the inventiveness of the composer, check it out.