Picture this: It’s been a long day, you get home, put the kettle on and make yourself a cuppa. You can’t wait to get into that lovely comfy bed of yours, settle in for the night and drift off into a deep, peaceful sleep. But then you remember the burned man with the brown fedora, just waiting for you to give in. Once you slip into the realm of dreams, you’re his. You can’t close your eyes, even for a second, just in case you drift off. If you do, you might never wake up.
A Nightmare on Elm Street perfectly encapsulated this fear, with poor Nancy and her ill-fated friends becoming the first to experience the dangers of a good night’s sleep. The late Wes Craven’s creation, first released in 1984, has been terrifying audiences around the world since. It has spawned 7 sequels, a remake (in which Robert Englund did NOT play Freddy, shock, horror) and two TV series’. Freddy Krueger has become a household name.
Trawling through the hundreds of facts and pages of trivia out there, it is easy to get lost in the franchise all over again. There is some pretty interesting stuff. Did you know that in the first film, Freddy managed to spread all that terror in under seven, yes SEVEN minutes of screen time? Over five hundred gallons of fake blood were needed during the film, and it was shot in just 30 days. This was Johnny Depp’s first film, and he was chosen because Wes Craven couldn’t decide between two actors, so asked his teenage daughter who should play the heartthrob and she chose Depp. Oh how different the world could have been if she’d chosen the other guy.
The film franchise was never an intention of Craven, who envisioned a stand alone film, and refused to work on the second, returning for the other productions. The idea of people being murdered in their dreams was actually based on a real-life event, as Craven read a story about something which would later be named ‘Asian Death Syndrome’ in which victims went to sleep and never woke up, but had no injury or obvious cause of death. They did however, suffer from terrible nightmares. Spooky eh?
Freddy Krueger’s name and signature hat were actually products of Craven’s childhood fears - Freddy was the name of a bully who beat him up in elementary school and the hat was stolen (not literally) from a local drunk who scared Craven as a child. The glove, now infamous, has a whole story of it’s own, inspired by Craven’s cat, vicious retractable claws and all, and a series of late-night commercials selling sets of knives. Makes sense really, doesn’t it? Freddy (or rather the actor who plays him, Robert Englund) actually cut himself on it the first time he held it. And that jumper of his? Not an accident. Craven designed it after reading in Scientific American that those specific shades of red and green confuse the human eye, so they are unsettling to look at. All of these things combined make for a pretty terrifying villain.
But while Freddy Krueger has certainly given me a fair few nightmares, his human counterpart, Robert Englund, is a pussy cat in real life, and not the kind who inspires deadly weapons. Englund recalls seeing a scary movie when he was 9 at a birthday party and being terrified for months after. He started his career playing good-natured characters, until Freddy came along and gave him a taste of the macabre. Englund is a keen surfer, something he likes to do alone. Freddy Krueger boogie-boarding - there’s a mental image for you.
While the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street seems to have put the franchise to bed (see what I did there?) at least for now (some of us live in hope of a reprise for Robert Englund, just one, go on, you know you want to!), there are still plenty more scares to be had. The 7 film box-set is definitely a must have, and Freddy Krueger will live on for years to come in that tiny space in all of us (unless you’re a serial killer) reserved for our darkest fears. Freddy Krueger - coming soon to a dream near you.
By Danielle Allen