“Freddy’s Nightmares” is not known as one of the best television series based on a horror franchise, particularly now that we have shows like “Hannibal,” “Bates Motel” and “The Exorcist” constantly raising the bar. But in a world where we’re (mostly) coming to accept that we’ll never see Robert Englund take on the iconic role one more time, it can be a comfort to still be able to go back to this largely untapped well of Englund Freddy performances. Even if he was not always the focus, Freddy was a part of every episode, at least taking the time to break the fourth wall and comment on the story.
This, if anything, helped make “Freddy’s Nightmares” go down easier. When the episodes were interesting, Freddy was the icing on the cake. When the episodes were bad, Freddy got to play horror host, snarkily sending up his own show. The series wore its low budget on its sleeve, for better or worse, and Freddy had to do even more ridiculous bits and one-liners than the movies had seen up to that point, and yet Englund remained completely committed throughout all of it.
Because”Freddy’s Nightmares” is mostly known for those moments of Freddy popping out of the background to make some sly remark, I think people tend to forget just how many episodes actually do focus on Krueger as a character. There are several plot lines throughout the show that in some way revolve around Freddy himself.
Some of them are actually smart concepts that, with a little bit more focus and a much bigger budget, could have worked as full-fledged entries in the Elm Street saga.
“Freddy’s Tricks and Treats”
From the director of Return of the Living Dead Part II and Shock Waves comes this “Freddy’s Nightmares” Halloween special about an overworked college student being plagued by Freddy on Halloween night. The first episode to focus on Krueger after the pilot, it plays like a shortened version of a by-the-numbers Elm Street sequel, but having Freddy against the backdrop of Halloween is an undeniably cool idea that I think a full-fledged movie could really dive into.
Most movies in the Nightmare series are set during some undetermined time during the school year, but Springwood is a small Midwestern town and there’s no real reason for it not to have that crisp, autumn Haddonfield vibe. That would be worth exploring, at least for a single film, at least.
“Dream Come True”
“Dream Come True” deals with a young man going to a therapist because of his repeated nightmares about Freddy. It’s a simple concept, something that’s been skirted around in the first and third movies in the franchise, but it would actually have been cool to see dream analysis factor into an Elm Street movie in a very present, tangible way. The episode does its best with it, but it gets more interesting in the second half.
As with every episode, the latter half is a different story centering on a supporting character from the first half. This is one of the few episodes that’s more interesting after the weird shift in protagonist because it centers on someone absurdly trying to capture photographic evidence of Freddy.
“Dreams That Kill”
Occasionally, in true franchise tradition,”Freddy’s Nightmares” would cannibalize itself by producing sequels to its own episodes. “Dreams That Kill” is a sequel to “Dream Come True” about the host of “Springwood Confidential” who is pushing forward with his controversial new topic “Dreams That Kill” when he gets a personal visit from Freddy himself to warn him against moving forward with the episode.
This is a neat inverse to Freddy vs. Jason as this time it’s Freddy who tries to keep his existence a secret because he likes operating in the shadows as this unspoken dark secret in Springwood.
This sequel to the pilot episode, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” sees Freddy return to target the twin girls that led to his death to begin with. In the pilot, it’s revealed that Freddy was going after the daughters of a local police officer when he was caught, that it was their father who fudged on signing the warrant, allowing Freddy to go free.
If Freddy was about to claim another child when he was caught, it only makes sense that he would return to target them again after he came back. This episode also at least tries to strengthen the twins as characters, as they were barely present in the pilot.
“It’s My Party and You’ll Die If I Want You To”
For some reason, this is one of the episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares that really stuck with me, to the point that it was the first thing I thought of when I heard about My Friend Dahmer coming out. When you get the opportunity to do an Elm Street TV series, it seems natural to go back and fill in gaps or take an interesting approach to the mythology. This is one of the few episodes that at least tried to do that.
The concept is simple and hokey: what if Freddy crashed his high school reunion? The execution is no less hokey, but there’s something uncomfortably sympathetic about this sad, lonely guy who was Freddy’s one and only friend in high school. What would you do if your only friend turned out to be the Springwood Slasher? If you made excuses for this guy all through high school and he grows up to be an unspoken town legend? There’s something legitimately interesting there. Freddy crashing his own reunion is silly, but he’s maybe the modern horror icon with the biggest chip on his shoulder and the first to blame the whole world for the way he turned out, so it actually makes a weird kind of sense.
Again, like “It’s My Party and You’ll Die If I Want You To” this actually tackles an interesting larger concept in a surprisingly clever way. Basically, this episode uses Freddy to explore the die-hard serial killer fandom. You don’t have to venture far on Tumblr to see someone who considers Jeffrey Dahmer to be their boyfriend, despite all of the real, horrific things that he did.
This was the late eighties, when women were marrying guys like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy in prison. Falling in love with monsters, whether they believed them to be misunderstood outcasts or because they were simply attracted to someone who felt like they could kill them at any moment. This episode focuses on a guy who falls for a girl who only has eyes for Freddy. Again, it’s a silly and cheap take on the subject, but still a great subject to tackle and one of the better episodes.
“No More Mr. Nice Guy”
The pilot episode is the most obvious choice for an episode that should have been expanded into a feature film, because it’s something that New Line was actually trying to do for years. This is the Nightmare on Elm Street prequel fans had always been clamoring for. At roughly an hour in length, it only would have needed a little bit more expansion to be a feature-length work. There are places where it feels rushed, too, particularly in the formation of the parental lynch mob.
It’s still amazing that we actually got an Elm Street prequel directed by Tobe Hooper with Robert Englund in full-on Springwood Slasher mode. But man, those things alone would’ve been reason enough to put the extra cash into this one to make it a feature film. Even still, it serves as a solid introduction to the series and an example of what the show could achieve when it really tried.
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