Every once in a great while, a character is born out of a movie; a character that works its way into America’s pop culture consciousness and leaves a lasting impression that will seemingly never die. It’s difficult to say what gives these characters such power, but it’s impossible to ignore the power they hold over audiences. One such character is Wes Craven’s incomparable creation, Freddy Krueger.
Freddy took America and its dreamscape by storm in 1984 with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and with the release of that film, Craven became a new face of horror to be reckoned with. But more than it is about the man behind the camera, it’s about the new name in evil he brought forth.
Even for those who don’t watch slasher films, the name Freddy Krueger means something. While some credit should be given to the exposure brought to the recent reboot, it would be foolish to dismiss the strengths of the original. Because when you look at it, A Nightmare on Elm Street, while a classic and a strong contribution to the slasher sub-genre, it is far from the perfect movie, but it does supply the perfect villain.
Part of the fear behind Freddy is his method of attack. He takes one of the only places we ever truly feel safe and he threatens it by any means possible. This isn’t an entirely new concept, considering most people have experienced nightmares before, but combining the sheer terror of a nightmare with a physical threat and you’ve got the makings of a screen legend.
Furthermore, it’s not just what he’ll do to you when you sleep, it’s what must be done to avoid falling into his hands. Once again, removing the safety of the dream state and turning it into a living nightmare of sorts. For those who have experienced sleep deprivation, it’s a horrifying experience in and of itself. Throw in a knife-wielding maniac and the inability to tell dreams from reality and it makes for one hell of a horror story.
But there’s more to it than Freddy’s plan of attack. It’s everything about the character; his mythos, his bloodlust, and the way he carries himself. It has yet to be matched by any of the other slasher greats. He’s not some man behind a mask or chasing down promiscuous co-eds, but rather, he is driven. he has purpose. As Hollywood sought to make A Nightmare on Elm Street a franchise, his incentive grew more and more unclear, but his motivation of revenge, which drives the first film, is indeed a powerful one.
What I personally will always remember about Freddy is another thing that makes him unique. He had a voice. All of the other slashers of the time hid behind the anonymity of a mask and didn’t dare speak a word, but Freddy? Freddy was evil incarnate. He toyed with his victims before killing them. In later sequels, it became a source of amusement for the audience, but it’s very clear early on, at least in the original, that its a source of moment for Freddy himself.
There’s really no one thing about Freddy that makes him a staple of the slasher sub-genre, but it’s unquestionable that he has provided countless nightmares to audiences since his incarnation in 1984.