The demonic child killer Freddy Krueger, who is noted for combining murder with mirth, became one of the most memorable screen baddies in horror movie history. With his horribly burnt face, gangster-style hat, striped sweater and, of course, the most frightening aspect of his appearance, his razor-fingered glove, the nightmare man from Elm Street ranks right up there with the likes of Frankenstein’s Monster, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers as the ideal monster for a long-running franchise. And a franchise is exactly what the Elm Street series became, for Krueger was resurrected again and again for sequel after money-spinning sequel.
And as if all those sequels weren’t enough, there was even a TV series spin-off made featuring the character of Freddy Krueger, which was called, appropriately enough, Freddy’s Nightmares, where his framing role was reminiscent of that of the Crypt Keeper from Tales From The Crypt. For me, this series was nowhere near as good as other, more quality horror series like Masters of Horror or The Twilight Zone. In fact, in my opinion, the poor quality of Freddy’s Nightmares was parallel to the poor quality of the later Elm Street movie sequels. I can only attribute this weakening of the Freddy character to the way they started injecting elements of comedy and wise-cracking into the character’s persona, which I think was a BIG mistake.
I think the producers, rather than going forward with Freddy’s menace, were going backwards in making him utter those corny wisecracks. In the first Elm Street movie, which was undoubtedly the best of all, Freddy Krueger is presented as a real, dark, bogeyman, stalking Nancy in and out of her dreams, and with an element of mystery attached to him. We don’t really get to know too much about him until we learn from Nancy’s mother all about his nefarious antics with the local children, and how this led to all the vengeful parents of Elm Street banding together to burn him alive in his boiler room.
If the producers had kept to the dark, disturbing spirit of the first film, and omitted thd pathetic wisecracks, the Freddy Krueger character would have become a much stronger horror character. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the character was completely ruined and weakened – and, to be blunt, made to be hardly scary at all – by diluting his threat potential and, instead, concentrating more on making him a kind of wise-cracking pantomime villain. Admittedly, there are some who don’t mind a facetious Freddy, but then again, there are thousands that do, myself included. Serious horror is best kept serious.
If you are a horror movie scriptwriter, you’ve got to be very careful when mingling humour with the scares. Sometimes it works – and good examples of this are Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and American Werewolf In London (1981) – but it other times it doesn’t. Sadly, in the case of the Freddy Krueger movies, apart from the first one (which was an absolute masterpiece), it was the latter result.