Freddy mania didn’t take off until the late ‘80s. It was in that period between Dream Warriors and The Dream Master that he broke through into the mainstream and cemented his place as a major cinematic icon. But the horror fans, those people not nearly connected with one another in the ‘80s as they are today, the ones who would rent every horror film they could get their hands on, who collected tapes and T-shirts and posters—in other words, Fangoria readers—they loved it. The magazine had championed Wes Craven from its debut, and while they were a little skeptical in their initial set report on A Nightmare on Elm Street, they celebrated the freshness it brought to a slasher formula that the magazine was never shy about calling stale and tired. The magazine played a massive role in promoting the burgeoning series, championing Elm Street—and Freddy as a character, in particular—by the time the first sequel was in development.
The original film spread by word of mouth. By 1985, many had caught up with the first movie. People knew what A Nightmare on Elm Street was, even if Freddy hadn’t become a massive icon yet. So, for some, those Fangoria fans especially, the two year wait between Freddy’s Revenge and Dream Warriors was excruciating. Fangoria, to their credit, smartly played to that and kept Freddy content running in the interim. One of the best examples of that coverage, easily, was an interview by Carr D’Angelo in The Bloody Best of Fangoria #6 with Robert Englund in the downtime between Nightmare 2 and Nightmare 3, just before the third movie was finally gearing up to enter production, in which he broke down his own rejected treatment for the sequel.
Englund’s treatment had been written before Wes Craven came aboard to write his wild first draft with Bruce Wagner, which over the course of many rewrites evolved into the fan-favorite Dream Warriors we all know and love. While Craven’s original script is a totally different beast from the movie we got, it’s still telling—for the most part—the same basic story.
That is definitely not the case with Robert Englund’s treatment for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Freddy’s Funhouse.
While it’s been reported a couple of times (he mentioned it in an interview last year that he had written it at one point) all that he really said about it at that time was that it had been planned to revolve around Tina’s sister. This Fango interview seems to be the only time Englund actually went into detail about what his treatment entailed.
Titled Freddy’s Funhouse, Englund’s third movie would have indeed revolved around Tina’s sister, but that would only have been the jumping off point for a much more ambitious and inventive story. According to Englund, the treatment began with the sister “being away at school and having horrible dreams about the specific carnage that happened to her sister. It bothers her so much that she decides to find out the truth about this whole thing.”
Naturally, her traumatic dreams bring her home to Springwood and to Elm Street, where the movie would have apparently taken on the more traditional look and feel of an Elm Street flick. Like the second movie, Nancy’s house would still be a key component and is—in fact—the genesis for the title. “The title of my script was Freddy’s Funhouse,” Englund noted in the interview, “because Freddy has booby-trapped the Nightmare house’s dreamscape. It’s like Freddy’s own demented art direction mindset of the house’s interior—like a carnival’s funhouse, madhouse or spookhouse, but with all the debris and detritus of the prior movies lying around.”
With that in mind, though it’s not booby-trapped, it’s worth noting that Dream Warriors did wind up heavily featuring a nightmare version of the house from the first two films.
Englund, who has always been a fan of the idea of a prequel going back to explore Krueger’s days as the Springwood Slasher, naturally included some of that into his treatment as well. “The film would open with her going through all the microfilm at the local library, and the newspaper clippings pertaining to both Nightmare on Elm Street and Nightmare on Elm Street 2, as well as some local news station footage of Freddy on the City Hall steps with his lawyers after he got off from the very first case. So you would see me playing Freddy as this disgusting janitorial Lee Harvey Oswald-type. I liked that sense of summation. Maybe we’ll still do something like that.”
While Englund didn’t ultimately get to do anything like that in Nightmare 3, he did get to do something very similar in the pilot episode for Freddy’s Nightmares. Though the budget was incredibly low, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” did get to explore those same themes, spotlighting not only Freddy’s time in the days before his fiery death at the hands of a vigilante mob, but also the media circus that surrounded him, as it sounds like Englund wanted to showcase in his treatment as well. It’s also worth noting that even though it would be incredibly different, Dream Warriors would take the same basic approach in revealing much more of Freddy’s backstory than had previously been known.
But there was apparently an even more intriguing attempt to tie things back to the original in Englund’s treatment. As the male lead, he introduced a Cambodian parapsychologist that he envisioned as “a teenage John Lone” (of Enter the Dragon fame) to tie his idea all the way back to Wes Craven’s initial inspiration for A Nightmare on Elm Street as a whole.
In case anyone doesn’t know the story, Craven was inspired by a real life article he read in the L.A. Times about teenage refugees dying in their sleep after coming to the states, and no one could figure out the cause. There was one teen who had been so terrified to sleep that he had stashed a coffee maker under his bed—something Nancy does in the film as well—and told his parents that he knew that if he fell asleep he was going to die. And he did.
Englund wanted his story to reflect the unnerving phenomena that had sparked the inspiration for Nightmare on Elm Street as a whole. Thinking back on the series, it’s actually incredible that no one has ever actually done that in any of the later sequels, or even tie-in novels or comics. Although, on the other hand, it introduces another disturbing element to the series to start making actual references to real-life instances of sleep-related deaths.
The actor also noted in the interview that he just wanted to go bananas with the third act. “The story was OK but I didn’t have an ending. I got it right up to the ending, but I didn’t know where it would go, so I opted for a David Cronenberg type of ending. I think that’s one of the things that hurt me, although the producers really loved one of my ideas. I had the characters coming out of the dreams, waking each other up and writing down everything they had seen so that when they went back into the dreamscape, they could hide weapons to use against Freddy.”
That is actually a great idea, the notion of using a dream journal as a way of fighting back against Freddy. Even now, the concept of a dream journal is sort of the last dream-related thing that the franchise has yet to find a way to exploit. Englund noted that the producers loved this aspect in particular, saying that they said, “’Ooh, we love it,’ so they’ll probably borrow that idea.”
The idea did not make it into Dream Warriors, nor any of the later Elm Street films. However, an incredibly similar concept does come into play in a major way in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which was indeed produced by one of the Nightmare producers, Michael S. Murphey. So it’s still entirely possible that Englund could have been right about that.
Ultimately, it sounds like the producers weren’t sold on Englund’s idea for Freddy’s Funhouse in general, though it’s hard to say exactly what kept it from being made. On an obvious level, it does sound like it probably would have been expensive, so if there’s anything that kept it from happening, it’s likely that. Even at the time of the interview, Englund had absolutely no hard feelings about the producers passing on the story because, as he said, “Wes Craven coming back to write it sure makes me happy.”
One of the most fascinating things about this treatment in general is the idea of Englund writing it before “Mainstream Freddy” took off. The Krueger of the first two movies is still very dark, very far from the comedic, easily digestible villain who would start appearing on MTV and have his own hotline around the time of Nightmare 4. The idea of Englund working with that early, sinister, shadowed Freddy on a creative level is kind of fascinating.
While Englund’s treatment boasts some great ideas, we can’t be too sad it never saw the light of day because we eventually got A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the most celebrated sequel of the franchise and probably one of the most beloved horror sequels of all time. Still, it’s impossible not to be excited at the prospect of an Elm Street sequel conceived by the man in the sweater himself. Even if it never happened, it’s fantastic to see Englund’s love (and ownership) of the character was established so early on, and so deeply that he wanted to try his hand at telling one of these stories himself.