Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror staple. It’s one of those movies that everyone who enjoys the genre has either seen or knows all about. Its villain, Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund for all entries but the remake) has become a cultural icon, his razor knives, burnt visage, and dark hat immediate identifiers of his presence. With nine entries since 1984, including Freddy vs. Jason and the 2010 remake, Freddy’s impact on horror is undeniable.
However, in recent years there have been worries about how to continue that franchise. The aforementioned remake replaced Englund with Jackie Earle Haley, a move that angered many longtime fans of the series. While Haley was not all that bad in the role (he really wasn’t), the script just felt like a lifeless, lazy adaptation of the original film that offered barely anything of interest. The concept of micro-naps was new and should be given some merit but I’ll never forgive the remake for introducing the absolutely fascinating and wonderful concept of Freddy being innocent only to dash that away and confirm that, yes indeed, he was a child molester. What a waste of potential. Had they stayed that route, it would’ve set the remake apart entirely and allowed for the film to stand on its own two legs.
Because of the near universal distaste for the remake, which not only includes viewers and critics but also those who worked on the film itself, including makeup artist Bart Mixon, producer Brad Fuller, and stars Rooney Mara and Thomas Dekker, it almost feels like somehow returning to that world is an impossibility. How can we see another A Nightmare on Elm Street series when Robert Englund himself stated he’d never reprise his role as Freddy? Or now that Wes Craven has passed away, how can we continue on without his blessing?
Much like how my idea for how to fix the Hellraiser franchise wasn’t all that popular, I have one in mind for A Nightmare on Elm Street that will probably equally hated. However, I think it’s radical enough that it could work as a way to reignite the series and give us more reasons to fear going to sleep…
Alright, let’s start this off by talking a bit about Freddy, his story, and what makes him unique.
In the first film, we don’t really get too much of a history about Krueger, aside from the fact that he was a child murderer who got off because of a botched legal form. The parents of the deceased (and living) children who were shocked and horrified by his freedom, burned him alive. Somehow after that his demonic presence began haunting the nightmares and killing the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio in their sleep, which translated to them dying in real life.
As the movies continued, we found out that Freddy himself was the “bastard son of a hundred maniacs”. Put shortly, Freddy’s mother was a nun who worked at an asylum. One day, she was accidentally locked in the criminal ward where the inmates were allowed to roam free. Stuck during a long weekend, she was raped over and over again, ending up pregnant in the process. That’s how Freddy earned his nickname and is suggested as the reason for why he became the murderer he was when alive…and dead.
Now, all of this is fascinating and gives Freddy some depth as a character but none of it explains why he’s able to kill teenagers and children in their sleep. The answer to that conundrum comes in the sixth film, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Right away, I can tell you that the sixth film is almost as reviled as the remake. Personally, I adore it. I think it took the mythology of the series and went in some rather dark directions. Giving Freddy a child of his own opened the door to the series going on with his kin (which isn’t my idea, I assure you) while it also added in the rather haunting element where Freddy has killed all the children of Springwood. That alone is rather fucked up, if you think about it. It almost makes Freddy’s Dead the darkest, most sinister entry in the series. Freddy’s been a busy boy, that’s for sure, and now he’s destroyed an entire town and driven the parents insane thanks to his murderous rampage.
Where the sixth entry added the most crucial element to Freddy’s mythology was the explanation of how he was able to enter the dreams of people and commit his murders: the dream demons. As Yaphet Kotto explains, dream demons supposedly, “…roam the dreams of the living until they find the most evil, twisted human imaginable. Then they give them the power to cross the line, turning our nightmares into reality.” While Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare may have its fair share of issues, the dream demons are a rather interesting and fascinating concept.
And that’s where my idea comes into play: why do we need Freddy when there are plenty of other “evil, twisted” humans around for those dream demons to grant their power to? In fact, what if someone took A Nightmare on Elm Street and crossed it with Fallen, where the dream demons take their power and jump it from one evil person to another, making it near impossible to figure out who the actual killer was? Even better, this wouldn’t have to even take place in modern days. You can do it in the past, giving a new twist to a Jack the Ripper story or maybe have one set during the Salem Witch Trials.
One should also keep in mind that we don’t need a new “Freddy” character to be dead for them to cause mischief. After all, Brad Dourif’s character in The Exorcism III was alive and well when he was able to “possess” people into committing his murders during his near-comatose states. Why couldn’t that be the case for a new Nightmare entry? Make it a slasher mystery, one where investigative elements are just as crucial as the surreal nightmares our protagonists would have to endure, with many of whom not surviving the experience. At that point, you have a surreal, nightmarish horror film that could also add in some noir aspects.
Freddy is an icon that will never fade away. We have several movies with him that will always be there for us to fall back on. But if we really wanted to continue the mythology of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, why don’t we consider leaving him behind and venturing in new directions with characters and concepts that were already introduced and are considered canon?