A Nightmare On Your Street, A Look at Freddy Krueger
A Fair Introduction
That dingy fedora hat, the tattered eyesore of a Christmas sweater, the glove tipped in razors and of course the horribly scarred face. It is safe to say few faces are as recognisable as that of Freddy Krueger. The "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise began in 1984 and since then visions of Freddy have kept child and adult alike awake at nighttime. What is it that gave Freddy the power to scare us so very badly? What made him more than just a big screen bad guy with a burnt face? Reality! Reality was the dagger that Krueger plunged into our very souls and sparked that element of fear and fright that others characters before him could not accomplish. Before we can understand fully how reality is Freddy's perpetual glove in the real world we first must know who Freddy Krueger is.
While relaxing from filming in the late 70s Wes Craven took a break to enjoy a copy of the LA Times. While thumbing through through the pages two small articles managed to catch the director's attention. On two separate occasions two teenage boys had died in their sleep. No reason could be found from doctors and the community was stunned at this strange loss of life, as is to be expected.
A few weeks later Wes would again open a paper, this time he would find a much larger story. It seems another teen had met his fate in his sleep. This time the story talked about what had been happening leading to the death. The boy had repeatedly told his family that his nightmares were real. They were unlike anything he had ever experienced and he feared they would kill him. One night after staying up for several days the young man dosed off on the couch. His parents were thrilled to see him get some sleep and assumed his nightmares were just inner problems that would work themselves out.
His father carried him up to his bed making mention to the mother that he was fast asleep and would get some rest. Little did he know the boy was not asleep at all. He had died in his sleep on the couch. No reason could be found. He suffered no cardiac arrest, and there were no signs of any life threatening illnesses. The teen simply died in his sleep.
The seeds of evil were sewn
Wes started to vision a killer, capable of entering the very to get to us when we are completely defenseless. This killer would need a name. For that Wes turned to his childhood. As a child Wes remembers a boy who had been a bit of a bully. The kid was a miserable lad who made other people just as miserable. sanctum of sleep
Wes named Freddy after this bully. This killer had a name but Wes tried to vision how he would look. Suddenly his childhood would come about again and he recalled a night that he was sleeping soundly in his bed. He was awakened in a jolt by a shuffling sound outside. He crept to the window, fearful of what he may see. There, on the sidewalk was an old man, possibly a drunk, maybe a killer, young Wes did not really know for sure. He watched as the old dusty fellow shambled down the sidewalk and then come to an abrupt stop. The man, dark and shadowy, turned his head and made eye contact with Wes. Fear shot through him and he could see the wrinkled face attempt to make a smile. Not a hello smile, but one that would scare the hair off bigfoot. Wes ducked for cover and waited for a few minutes, though to him it probably seemed like hours.
Wes built up the bravery he needed and back to the window he went. He peaked out and there stood the man, still cloaked in shadows. He looked at Wes and began to walk away. His gaze still pressed hard at Wes' eyes. This old man was not one bit squeamish about scaring the living hell out of a little kid. This childhood memory would be the basis for the appearance of Hollywood's greatest bad guy.
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Rooted in Reality
Freddy's very creation is rooted in real world events. This makes him stand out as a villain and it also gives him some human qualities that we don't see in other horror movie baddies. Jason Vorhees for instance. He has a tragic past but we don't really connect on the level we do with Freddy because Jason seems to be fiction, while despite the impossibility, Freddy seems more real.
The idea of Freddy Krueger plays on human emotion. Part of us hates the burnt boogeyman while part of us is drawn to him. He takes us on an emotional roller coaster where sometimes when he is about to kill one of the lesser characters in a film, we start rooting for him to win. The character of Freddy is not this massive giant of a man, who can throw cars, instead he is below average height and is not even all that muscular so the average Joe can relate to him. It really is mind boggling how much we see reflections of reality in the very being of Freddy Krueger.
Freddy in popular culture
Freddy in pop culture
Freddy in Stan Helsing
One of the most frightening concepts of Freddy Krueger is that of innocence lost. Few of us can stand to see a child hurt. In children we see innocence that cannot be found elsewhere. I recall the loss of Jon Bennet Ramsey several years back and the heart break the world suffered at the innocence of a child thrown away so tragically. Freddy takes the loss of innocence to a new level.
As a living member of society we have learned that Krueger was a child molester who had tortured and killed a great deal of Elm Street's children. This in and of itself makes him a monster in my book. It is here that we start to see a bit of reality play a part. Freddy is arrested but due to a technical fluke of the court system he is released and cleared of all charges. We now see two very tragic society flaws. Innocence lost and the failure of the court systems to be just and complete. Suddenly we start to see hatred for Freddy.
Now Craven will tip the scales. Freddy loses his own daughter to the state. His rage and depression begin to rise and he kills again. This time his blades are being used for revenge. The town tracks him to a boiler room and we are introduced to true American vigilante justice as they try to coax him out buy lighting the place on fire.
As we know Freddy did not escape the fire, or at least not in the traditional way we would imagine. He was transformed into something a lot worse than the child molesting murderer on Elm Street.
With his new ability Freddy continues on that path of innocence lost, only now it is not just because he kills children. Now Freddy can enter the dreams of Elm Street's teen population, a population that is the offspring of the individuals who killed him in the boiler room. Dreams are our quite moments. They are supposed to be sacred and cherished. Freddy takes that away from us because if he lurks out there our dreams will be anything but cherished. He makes the dream world more frightening than the real world ever could be.
Freddy Vs Jason
Good VS Evil
The Age Old Battle
In the first installment of Nightmare we see the beginning of an epic, ongoing battle between opposing forces. In the first film we see Nancy (Heather Langencamp), who represents good. She is smart, attractive and maintains a life unlike typical teens of her generation. She would gladly die for her friends. Nancy becomes the archetype for good. On the other hand we have Freddy Krueger (Robert England). Freddy is the representative for evil. He is everything that we imagine bad to be. While I won't compare Nancy to the biblical Jesus Christ I will say Freddy could easily be compared to the devil. One might even compare the boiler room to hell.
Nancy serves to remind us of the enduring struggle that good must face. She loses friends and even the trust of her family but she maintains her focus on the bigger picture. Freddy on the other hand serves as a different reminder. he stands as an example of how evil may be defeated time and time again but it will always be there in some form or other. It has to be. Without evil what would we know of good. That balance has to be there and Freddy in many ways acts as a counter weight to that balance.
This struggle between good and evil is yet another way that Freddy flows reality into his game of horror. We are introduced to the concept every day whether we realize it or not. Law and Order, COPS, and even professional wrestling use good vs evil tactics to capture our attention. It is a common conflict of life. This makes Freddy more relatable to the viewer and gives him a great deal of human appeal that creates a lot more scare for the buck.
The Stage is Set
Looking at villains over the years we start to see echoes of Freddy Krueger. His dark humor and witty lines are very characteristic of serial killers. His mix of madness and genius is the very foundation that Hollywood has built a great deal of it's top movie bad guys on. Freddy is a force to reckon with in the movie world but what about the real world?
Jason Moore had been a die hard Freddy fan for years. It would be difficult to even count the times he had seen the films. His friends would say he quoted the films on a regular basis and tried to relate everything in his life to Freddy Krueger. He loved the menacing look and feel that Freddy brought to the big screen. Moore was 37 years old when his love of the films prompted him to create a set of claws just like his hero Freddy used in the Nightmare movies.
His last set not only captured the visual stunningness of Freddy's signature glove but also it's dangerous tendencies. He had created a glove with as much killing power as the one the nightmar creature himself sported.
Moore had been strolling through the park one night when he met a 59 year old man. The two talked and seemed to hit it off. They were quickly becoming friends when Moore asked the man back to his place for some cider. After several glasses of the tantalising drink the older man fell asleep on the couch. Moore would then don his glove and set fourth like Freddy to kill in sleep.
The man would awaken to the sight of the gloved madman clawing at him fiercely. Moore was aiming at the face, neck and hands trying to accomplish what he had seen Freddy do so many times before. This struggle would last for 10 minutes and than Moore would subside his rage. It was he, who called the police on himself swearing to have no clue what happened.
The prosecuting attorney would go on record stating "Moore enjoyed how the glove looked, menacing, and he enjoyed the power he felt when he wore it" The attorney would also state that Moore practised on curtains with the bladed weapon and looked at the glove as a "labor of love". The court was stunned and the sentence reflected it. Jason Moore was sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder.
What killed three LA teenagers in the late 70s? What prompted Jason Moore to become a living symbol of death. To become the "nightmare with the glove". Maybe Freddy Krueger resides in all of us. Perhaps our dreams breed a deep dark part of ourselves that we attempt to hide. Maybe Jason Moore could not control the Freddy within himself and it clawed it's way to the outside and released it's anguish on an unsuspecting victim of circumstance. Regardless Freddy will always be a part of pop culture and a part of growing fears as to what could be lurking in the dark. So the next time you nestle in the coziness of your bed and you tuen that lamp off remember, 1, 2 Freddy's coming for you. Sweet dreams.