You’d have to be living under a rock if you’ve never heard of Freddy Krueger. The murderous, sweater-wearing character is literally the thing of nightmares. Arguably one of the most feared villains of horror, thanks immensely to his nature of existence. Whereas icons like Jason Voorhees appear suspiciously to torment and slash in real-world life, Freddy’s battleground is essentially your subconscious, something you cannot and will not escape. It makes sense that this evil fool appears in front of you just as you think you’ve gotten away. The fear is believable and Freddy feasts on it. Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street gave kids of the time something to be scared about when they’re about tuck into bed at night.
Before the franchise started blurring the lines and scratching the rules up, its origin story, as told in the first film, carves out a memorable rule of thumb: Freddy exists only in the dream world. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. And then there’s the chance that you may bring some things back from the dream world if awoken. Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss) sort of figures this out as she is chased in her dream by the mysterious figure, waking up to see that her nightgown has four slashes in it. This is a daring revelation to the viewer, imposing a much more sinister threat than that of one’s own imagination. Craven’s film is clever and paced with animosity to its young characters early on. Tina invites her friends, Rod (Jsu Garcia), Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), and Glen (Johnny Depp) to spend the night the day after her close encounter. To her demise, the viewer is placed relentlessly into Freddy’s carnage, seeping deeper into the fear of resting your eyes. The deaths that follow are seemingly hard to run away from, and it works wonders to the narrative at center.
Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger, the nefarious killer that lurks in the dreams of the Elm Street teenagers. Once a child murderer (and most likely molester) back in the day, Krueger was strangely released on a technicality, cornered by a group of parents in an act of just vigilance, and set ablaze. His burned face, covered vaguely under a brown hat, terrorizes the teenagers’ minds moving forward in the aftermath of Tina’s vicious (and artistically clever) death. The searing memory of Krueger’s death haunts Nancy’s mother to this day, as she was part of the group of parents who took matters into their own hands one night. Nancy Thompson, unaware of her mother’s involvement, narrowly escapes Freddy’s fatal attempts and begins to fight back this elusive figure. With the help of her boyfriend, Glen, she orchestrates a plan to bring Freddy out into the real world and burn him once more for good. Now, if only Glen can stay awake and help her out…
Robert Englund is the peculiar star of the film for his portrayal of the bladed glove-wearing maniac. Backdropped by an equally odd synth track by Charles Bernstein, Freddy chases his victims like they’re trophies. In Tina’s second encounter, Freddy appears to her at one point as a silhouette in the dark shadows, elongating his arms to scratch the fences. He then breaks into chasing her in such an exaggerated manner, as if this is all truly a fun joke to him and he knows he can capture you.
Certainly, there’s a cold hard foundation to Freddy’s demeanor this early on. His cryptic manifestations are what pedal A Nightmare on Elm Street as a shock of terror delight. If nightmares were real, this film delves into them brilliantly. It’s one thing to watch a scary film and try to sleep, but it’s a whole other beast trying to get Freddy out of your psyche before bedtime. For those who enjoy the thrill of our scary subconscious, this film is hound for horror. Wes Craven’s vicious evil of an entity helped propel New Line Cinema into “the house that Freddy built,” with its massive box office return and inevitable franchise. In some old stories, it was a myth that if you died in your sleep, you died in real life. This film does a spectacular play on those fears, cultivating the ingenuities of that kind of imagination and letting them run wild. We’re dreaming in Freddy’s world, and sooner or later, he’s coming for you.