He watched it for the first time on a small TV at his friend's house on a Saturday afternoon. For me, it was on a small TV in my cousins' basement on a Saturday afternoon, and it was TERRIFYING.
I think A Nightmare On Elm Street was the first straight-up horror movie I ever watched from beginning to end. As I have probably written before, when I was a little kid, pretty much everything gave me nightmares. Watching Godzilla fight other rubber monsters on Channel 13's "3:30 Movie" after school? Check. Random snippet of an advertisement showing a baby crib in a dark room? Check. My friends talking about a scene from Salem's Lot? Check.
So, horror movies just hadn't been a thing for me. NOES was showing on cable, though, and my cousins wanted to watch it, and, well, okay–what the hell.
It wasn't just the blood and the killings that freaked me out. It was the surrealism–the very first dream sequence, where Freddy is chasing Tina down the alley, and his arms stretch out longer than they should to scrape his blades along the metal fencing. Watching that scene now, it is pretty laughable, mostly due to the obviously dodgy effects. But back then, not so much.
The whole point A Nightmare On Elm Street is the terror of not knowing what is real and what isn't–the idea that the crazy stuff that happens in dreams and nightmares might actually be able to happen in real life. The film is not in the least bit subtle about pounding away at theme over and over, and for twelve-year-old me, it was highly effective.