“What the hell are dreams anyway?”
“Mysteries. Incredible body hocus pocus.”
Writer/director Wes Craven had already proven himself an astute horrormeister with The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes. It comes as quite a shocker then that he had such a difficult time getting A Nightmare On Elm Street made. Time and again, Craven’s script was dismissed; “the audience won’t be scared if they know it’s all a dream.”
But scared they were, to the tune of $25 million at the box office, six sequels, a perennial Halloween costume favorite and a DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince homage. (Not to mention putting New Line Cinema on the map.) The success of A Nightmare On Elm Street is owed not to Craven’s intricate script exploring the relationship between dreams and reality, nor to his high camp aesthetic. A Nightmare On Elm Street works because of Robert Englund’s personification of Fred Krueger.
Freddy Krueger is the perfect villain, and a villain, as it turns out, that audiences actually rooted for. “A filthy child murderer who killed at least twenty kids in the neighborhood,” Krueger walked on a technicality, but concerned parents burned him to death. Now, the vengeful Krueger haunts neighborhood kids--like Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Glen (Johnny Depp) in the first installment--in their dreams.
As the franchise continued, Freddy’s mythology grew. We soon learned that Freddy had been born of a nun raped by a hundred psychopaths. Freddy also became more and more sinister, but with each eviler incarnation, Freddy had an even bigger sense of humor about it.
As much as Krueger brings to the series, to be fair, Craven’s original script cannot be overlooked. Taking a song from the Rebel Without A Cause fake book, Craven taps into teen angst with glorious melodrama. Elm Street is populated with horny teenagers, boozy mothers, clueless parents and sixteen-year-olds that say with conviction, “My God…I look twenty years old.”
The best sequel by far is Dream Warriors. Freddy is at his nastiest and funniest, the effects are amazing even a decade later. The oddest installment, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, is a postmodern headtrip in which them cast and crew from the original film are haunted by Krueger.
Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.
One Two, Freddy’s Coming For You
Three Four, Better Lock The Door
Five Six, Grab Your Crucifix
Seven Eight, Better Stay Up Late
Nine Ten, Never Sleep Again
DVD BONUS MATERIALS:
Terrific. This seven disc retrospective of the dreamworld of the nefarious Freddy Krueger allows fans to explore the entire cosmology and mythology of the Nightmare series. The bonus disc contains a sterling documentary, an interactive game and an encyclopedia of the Nightmare films. The DVD-ROM content finally takes full advantage of the capabilities of ROM with an interactive screenplay and outstanding game.