Freddy’s satirical take on the PSAs from the 1980s and the 1990s — this is your brain… complete with a cameo by former Freddy victim Johnny Depp and an extended Super Mario Bros. inspired — Kill is all you need to prove that he was a frustrated comedian.
During the casting for A Nightmare on Elm Street, director Wes Craven thought that he needed a big man. After all, it was a horror film about an evil dream-haunting psychopath who kills kids with a glove equipped with knives. In his mind, Craven followed the precedent established by Tobe Hooper in 1974 and John Carpenter in 1978 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween both displayed hulking, unstoppable man-monsters. Craven even interviewed Kane Hodder – the man who would wear the hockey mask once Jason Voorhees took center stage in the Friday the 13th series – for the role.
But a thin, young actor named Robert Englund thought that most child abusers were weasels and creepy little creatures, not Hulks. So he offered a different take on the lebious Freddy Krueger and not only would Nightmare suffer because of it, but horror films would be changed forever itself.
This week, 25 years after A Nightmare on Elm Street was published, it took the concept of bad guy as the marquee character – the one people come to see and actively cheer on – to whole new levels. The faceless, voiceless, mask-obscured killing machines that preceded Nightmare had to leave a mugging, self-referential, hammy villain-hero in place.
And yet by Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives, 1986, the film literally opened with a tongue-in-cheek James Bond parody:
What happened? Freddy occurred.
A Nightmare on Elm Street had the same bland, suburban setting as Halloween and a similar group of teeny teenage hotties as the Friday films, but there was a major difference. Freddy was not just terrifying; he was darkly witty. He was creative. He was a thousand times more interesting than everyone he killed.
Certain people went to horror films for the killer or the monster – this had been true since the 1950s. Vous went to see The Blob because you wanted to see the Blob. But this was different. Freddy’s audience liked him. He was the star, not just the threat, and the things hammered just as the franchise grew. It was because Craven and Englund delivered a performance, instead of going with another monster of the ‘big man’. Freddy was a diva of theatre.
Would a little cracker in a Fresh Prince video so work well?
The other competitors had no choice but to follow. Although somewhat hamstrung by their lack of personality, Jason and Michael continued to go through increasingly bizarre and funny incarnations in an effort to keep up with Freddy. This is why we eventually got cyborg space Jason and Busta Rhymes electrocuting Michael Myers in the top box after he shouted, “Trick or Treat, Motherf—er!
Movie slashers needed more than just killers after nightsmare. They had to be in the spotlight and not in the shadows. One-liners, theatrics and insane death scenarios became demands of all sorts. Without Freddy, we wouldn’t have IT’s Pennywise or Scream’s Ghostface.
Let us run his greatest hits to commemorate the wild, one-liner-spiring Dreamweaver on his 35th anniversary.
Freddy kills an asthmatic girl by dropping this one liner before squeezing the air out of her lungs and leaving her a deflated body.
Freddy’s satirical take on the PSAs from the 1980s and ’90s “This is your brain… complete with a cameo from former Freddy victim Johnny Depp and an extended Super Mario Bros. inspired kill is all the evidence you need to show you he was a frustrated comedian.
Dressing as a chef and slipping a girl with an eating disorder into a high chair for the sole purpose of force feeding her to death before her overbearing mother? Imagining what Leatherface would put in this kind of multi-layered effort?
A Nightmare on Elm Street went into full release on November 16th, 1984.
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To this day the intelligent premise of Wes Craven, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares.