FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES (1988 – 1990) – With Halloween just one week away what better time to examine this series! I’ve always been a Freddy Krueger over Jason Voorhees kind of guy. I found Voorhees a dull imitation of Michael Myers from the Halloween movies, plus it isn’t even Voorhees doing the killing in at least two of the Friday the Thirteenth films. Throw in a mention that the boring as hell slice and dice man didn’t even don his iconic hockey mask until the third movie. Now add the fact that no matter how bad some of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels were NONE of them were as lame as so many of the FT13 flicks.
I always thought the real rivalry should be between Krueger and Myers, with honorable mention going to Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies and the Tall Man from the Phantasm flicks. But at any rate in the 1980’s the competition between Freddy and Jason was very real and very intense. The two film series’ fought it out at the box office, in the merchandising arena and on early 1-900 lines. The small screen became another battleground for these two horror sagas and in my view Freddy won this round hands down. Friday the 13th: The Series had only a very tenuous connection to Jason Voorhees (if you’ve forgotten, there was an indication that Voorhees’ hockey mask was one of the cursed antique store items that the show’s protagonists were hunting down)
Freddy’s Nightmares, on the other hand, was explicitly tied in to the Freddy Krueger mythos and enhanced it very nicely. The previous year, 1987, A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master, made the most money out of all the films in the series, possibly because it featured the gory end of Krueger (or so it seemed) as his astral form was torn to ooey gooey and very gory pieces by the escaping souls of all his dead victims. It’s a tribute to Wes Craven and Robert Englund that the unique monster they created was so vile and repulsive that audiences flocked to see him at last get his. (Significantly the inevitable followup sequels made less money after this textbook case of “giving the audience what they want.”)
When Freddy’s Nightmares debuted it was specifically being touted as a prequel series to the NOES films, and the premiere episode, titled No More Mister Nice Guy, depicted events often referred to but never shown in the first four Elm Street movies. Freddy Krueger, the product of the multiple rape of nun Angela Krueger, was on trial in Springwood, OH for the torture, mutilation, molestation and murder of multiple children. Due to a technicality over a misstep by the arresting officer Krueger is set free and Robert Englund’s excellent portrayal of the gloating Krueger as he begins taunting the Elm Street families by night makes you want to enact vigilante justice on him yourself.
The mob of families, led by the initial arresting officer, attack Krueger in his lair, douse him with gasoline and burn him alive. Robert Englund’s defiant remark “Ya missed a spot” as he’s soaked in gasoline is in stark contrast to the whimpering, screaming Freddy Krueger in the Elm Street remake when the vigilante mob attacks him. Anyway, since we know the film series we know that with Freddy being a powerful dream stalker his soul is able to take refuge in the Dream Dimension to avoid going to Hell. (And I prefer this original notion to the revisions that came later)
The Freddy’s Nightmares series thus featured what Freddy was up to during the 10 years between being burned to death and the original NOES movie. The show was partially an anthology series with different residents of Springwood having their lives horribly altered by the menacing shadow of Krueger’s malevolent presence haunting the city. My favorite episodes were the ones where Freddy was the most active, and I’ve always considered them to be official NOES canon.
Unable to enter the dreams of insane people or of very young children Krueger must wait years until the remaining Elm Street children become teenagers before he can kill them. Undeterred, he spends the rest of the debut episode invading the nightmares of his arresting officer, at last killing him in a bloody finale. Other episodes that specifically advanced Freddy Krueger lore were:
Sister’s Keeper, in which Krueger invades the shared dreams of the arresting officer’s twin blonde teenage daughters. After slashing one of the twins to bloody ribbons Freddy made with one of his darkest quips: “NOW you can tell ‘em apart.”
Freddy’s Tricks and Treats, in which Freddy stalked Mariska Hargitay, playing a student who refused to believe that Springwood was haunted by Krueger.
Safe Sex, which featured a nerdy guy with a crush on a heavy metal chick (today she’d be a Goth) infatuated with the late serial killer Freddy Krueger. Freddy uses their nightmares to kill the nerd and, because being a hot chick gets you NOWHERE with Krueger, the heavy metal girl, too.
Dream Come True, in which Freddy stalks and kills a teen boy plagued by nightmares about him and also kills the therapist the boy was seeing about those nightmares. As a bonus Krueger preys on a news cameraman trying to prove Freddy’s continued existence.
Dreams That Kill, which featured Dick Gautier as a sleazy Geraldo-esque talk show host and star of Springwood Confidential. When his planned tabloid expose Dreams That Kill threatens to expose Freddy’s activities he intervenes, subjecting Gautier’s character to an especially horrific fate.
The graphic violence on Freddy’s Nightmares meant the series was always under assault by self-appointed watchdog groups. When one particular episode of the show ended with a little boy on a tricycle about to be killed by his insane older sister an enormous brouhaha broke out over the program’s tone and content. Chastened, the producers took to starting each episode of Freddy’s Nightmares with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer saying “No one under the age of 18 will be killed in the following program.” Stations began dropping the series during the controversy, however, and amid other problems the program finished out its second and final season with no new episodes scheduled to be produced.
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