Thursday, 21 November 2013

21 - A Nightmare to Write About

I’ve covered Michael and Jason, so it’s only fair to turn to spotlight onto the Springwood Slasher – Mr Freddy Krueger.

As previously mentioned, my Freddy fandom  came when I was fairly young – I’d estimate it at some time in 1989, around the time A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master was released on video in the UK (which would put me around 13). Unfortunately, my Freddy evangelist friend could only get the first 3 out from Video World, so we had to stick with those.

We started with Part 3, and it’s probably still my favourite – I’ve said before that it’s the mid-point between scary Freddy and wisecracking Freddy. It has a good cast, including future stars Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne, and features probably the best death scene of the series –

We then watched the original, and then Freddy’s Revenge. To this day, that’s probably my least favourite of the series – I somehow managed to miss the unsubtle gay symbolism on the first viewing, so it’s not a remnant of teenage homophobia, I just don’t think it’s a very good film. Except maybe for the scene by the pool.

I’m not going to break this series down film by film, but I will talk about the lead character. More than Jason, Michael, Chucky or Leatherface, Freddy Krueger was the main character of the series and had a marketing blitz behind him. Rather strange, given that he was a mass-murderer of children even when he was alive. It has been said that Wes Craven originally wanted Freddy to be a paedophile, but I’m glad he changed his mind. Frankly, Freddy as child molester doesn’t really work for me. Child killer makes far more sense.

Remember, the parents of Elm Street who burned Freddy did so because he killed their kids or to ensure that he didn’t. But that would have been years ago, meaning that his original victims were young children, not the teens he kills through eight movies and a remake. If his interest in the young children was sexual, he wouldn’t want the teens. He just wants victims.

“If he was a molester, and he loved the kids the way he says he did, he still wouldn’t want to frighten and kill them. If you turn Freddy into a child molester, then you also have to turn him into a dream rapist, and not a dream killer. And I’m guessing you couldn’t make an R-rated film with that notion in place. A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Rapist is not opening soon.”

Freddy, to my mind, has no interest in sexual interaction with his victims – rather, his stalking and killing of them is the sexual interaction for him. He plays the pervert angle to scare them, but he doesn’t want to touch them or to rape them. He wants to terrify them and then kill them, as that’s where he gets his release, that’s where he gets his power. Freddy thrives on fear, that’s an established element of the series. Robert Englund has said that part of his motivation when playing Freddy was his frustration at being sat in the chair being made up hideously for hours on end while the pretty “teen” actors came in and got made even prettier. For him, Freddy hated the kids because they represented a bright future he didn’t have.

I would like to see a full origin story for Freddy, expanding on what we’ve seen in all the films (and, to a lesser extent, the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares), but I doubt that will ever happen. A film about a man who stalks and kills young children wouldn’t be made as part of a big horror franchise.

The best part of all these films, more than the teen characters or the innovative death scenes, is Robert Englund. No matter how far away from the original more serious horror version the character goes, Englund’s performance is nothing short of spectacular. Freddy’s aura of menace never quite goes away – he’s still scary.

Truth be told, I think the appeal of these films to me is mostly nostalgic. I don’t feel they’ve held up as well as the Friday the 13th series, and despite the innovative death scenes, they’re very formulaic. I feel that the character of Freddy and the idea of the films resonates more with me now than the films themselves. The only ones that really interest me nowadays are 1, 3, New Nightmare and Freddy versus Jason. 

Sorry, Fred-heads.

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