35 Years of Freddy Krueger
November, 1984—that’s when Freddy Krueger was unleashed upon the world. He’d go on to become a pop culture phenomenon, with t-shirts, music albums, books, and much more bearing his name. What started off as an independent film, became a multimillion dollar franchise that’s just as relevant and popular today as it was in 1984. To celebrate this anniversary, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
First and foremost, the movies are what made Freddy Krueger popular. The original, which was written and directed by Wes Craven, is considered by many fans and critics to be the best in the series—as is typical of most horror franchises—closely followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The seventh entry in this storied series, New Nightmare, has received a significant amount of praise over the past 10 years or so, mainly because it has aged well and since it is abundantly evident how the movie was ahead of its time. With its self-referential premise, New Nightmare was Scream before Scream. Not only is it my favorite Freddy film, it’s my favorite movie of all time, regardless of genre.
While I appreciate elements of all of the Freddy films, my favorites are—in no particular order—the original, New Nightmare, Dream Warriors, The Dream Master, and Freddy vs. Jason. It’s worth noting that Freddy vs. Jason was my first time seeing Freddy on the big screen, and it was phenomenal. Not only was the movie a blast that exceeded my expectations, but the crowd was totally into it—cheering on Freddy and Jason throughout, making it feel like I was in an arena at a sports event rather than in a theater.
I also attended an advance screening of the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake in 2010 and I bought digital and physical copies of it later on. I appreciate what the writers and director tried to do with this re-imagining. However, it just didn’t work. The biggest reason is because Robert Englund wasn’t brought back to play Freddy Krueger. The fact that a sequel to the remake never saw the light of day is proof that what was tried didn’t work.The Music
Every entry in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has a unique score. Charles Bernstein scored the original movie, creating the now iconic piano theme that permeated the sequels. My second favorite score is the one composed by J. Peter Robinson for New Nightmare, as it pays tribute to the original while introducing a variety of new elements and themes that still hold up today. Thankfully, a beautifully produced 8-CD box set was released in 2015 with bonus tracks. If you love the music of Elm Street, it’s worth tracking down a copy.
There’s more to explore than the official soundtracks. Freddy has either appeared on or been referenced in popular songs by The Fat Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and others. Freddy even released his own album in 1987 entitled Freddy’s Greatest Hits, where Robert Englund—in full Freddy voice—laid down nine tracks for fans to enjoy.The TV Show
At the height of Freddy’s fame, he received his own TV show in 1988. It only ran for two seasons, for a total of 44 episodes, but it was yet another medium for “the bastard son of 100 maniacs” to explore. I’ve only seen a few episodes, and they aren’t that great. Think of it as a really low budget version of Creepshow, where Freddy hosts each episode. The only thing interesting worth noting is that some icons of horror, such as Tobe Hooper and Mick Garris, had the opportunity to work on episodes.The Legacy
Aside from what I’ve written about here, there’s much more Freddy Krueger for people to enjoy. Fan-films, books, halloween costumes and decorations, collectible figures, you name it—Freddy Krueger was merchandised at the level of a rock band like KISS. In addition to the commercial aspect of this film franchise, it has had a massive emotional impact on fans. People have tattoos of Freddy Krueger and Nancy (played by Heather Lagenkamp) on their bodies. They attend numerous events, multiple times a year, featuring those who had a hand in the production of these films. Every time I attend a horror convention and Robert Englund is present, his line is the longest. Heather Lagenkamp and Lin Shaye greet fans with warm embraces and spend time getting to know them. The same goes for the writers, directors, and supporting cast and crew for the sequels. Much of this was wonderfully captured in two documentaries—Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and I Am Nancy. The undying passion for these characters that started 35 years ago is still alive today, and may that always be true.