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Dreams, Nightmares, and Freddy Krueger – How Wes Craven Impacted Our Views on Sleeping

By: - September 22, 2015
Category : 80's, People, Toys/Nostalgia

On August 30, 2015 the world lost one of the pioneers responsible for turning the masses onto horror, while creating a string of iconic films that re-sparked a stagnating genre, and cemented his status as a classic visionary. That man is Wes Craven.

Wes Craven's characters

The many faces in Wes Craven’s films.

Craven first took audiences by storm when he released his directorial debut with The Last House On the Left in 1972. After a string of successful horror movies he made his true mark on film history when A Nightmare On Elm Street came out in 1984. Audiences loved it and couldn’t get enough of the terrible Freddy Krueger, who would carve his victims like honey baked ham through their subconscious. You know the story.

But after years of featuring the character archetype that would live on for generations, Craven decided to take it one step further.

In the mid 1990’s the idea of a slasher horror movie was becoming old hat and audiences were falling asleep. Freddy Krueger was becoming less scary, and more of an anti-hero you would almost root for. Sequel upon sequel were being churned out and diminished the integrity of the originals. To combat this, Craven created probably one of the most well known if not the first horror films that played on its self-awareness. But not in the B-budgetthis is going to be terrible, so let’s make it as bad as possible sort of way. No this was entirely fresh and new. The movie I’m referring to is A New Nightmare. The film is an example of what great writing can do to a stagnating franchise. It is the last in the Freddy Krueguer series. But it’s all different. It’s done in a pseudo documentary style where the cast including the actor who plays Freddy (Robert Englund) does a behind the scenes film on the making of the films. While the cast goes on to talk about it, weird things begin happening. People begin dying. Freddy Krueger begins to kill the cast off one by one. Nobody is safe including the actor who plays Freddy.

The film was a testament to Craven’s writing, and directing. Creating memorable stories that terrorize the viewer, but also taking something a lot of people take for granted, and turning it into a mega-franchise.

Take the idea of dreams and nightmares. Alone they’re pretty interesting. But after waking up you usually move on and go on with your day. What if someone could take that innocence away from you? What if your nightmare killed you for real?

Nightmares Sleep When We’re Awake

Freddy Krueger

For most of the late 80’s people couldn’t seem to get enough of this guy Photo Credit:

It’s interesting to note that even if you’re not a fan of horror in general, the words Freddy Krueger conjure up an image. The unmistakable green and red striped gnarled sweater that oddly doesn’t make you think of Christmas. Instead, it brings to mind that gruesome gloved hand and half-melted bubbly face to the forefront of your imagination. I think Craven’s film became a household name with the general public for several reasons.

  1. There’s something about a killer on the loose in the midwest that people love.
  2. Dreams and Nightmares — The idea of someone chasing you in your dreams is something many of us have experienced.

We’ve all woken up in a cold sweat and could swear everything that happened was so real you could print it, and frame it on a wall. The mystery surrounding dreams and nightmares is also something that holds mass appeal. How real are our dreams, and do they reflect our daily lives? Where do they stem from?

 

Beetlejuice Hallway

The end of the hallway is where our imagination unfolds. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

My personal take on the whole dreams and nightmares thing…Imagine for a moment a hall of doorways. Let’s label a few of them. Logic, reasoning, verbal communication, things to do, etc. At the end of the long hall, there are doors labeledimagination. These doors stay shut when the outside world bombards us with everything else that makes us open the other doors first. The vibrations of brain signals keep the creative doors slammed shut, while we feverishly open and close the others when necessary. The everyday noises of the world — the radio, television, billboard ads. The sounds of traffic and focusing on other things that distract our brain and imaginative powers. But at night, there’s nothing blocking these doors. The silence is the key that unlocks these passageways. Kinda like the movie Dreamscape, only not so 80’s.

We’re free to wander around. We all have an infinite and limitless imagination. Our minds walk us through these doors, and we see what’s on the other side, until we wake up. Then it’s rinse and repeat.

That’s just my personal belief, feel free to create your own thoughts on it. Back to Freddy…

The first time I had seen anything related to A Nightmare on Elm Street was around the time I was in 6th grade. I used to bike across town to an old comic book store about 3 miles from my house. It had a simple office door, but when you’d open it you felt like Charlie Bucket seeing Wonka’s candy factory for the first time. The place was tucked away in a really eclectic plaza that featured: a movie theater framed with a classically lit marquee, and posters of films that would be hitting the screen (when movies used to stay in theaters for almost a year), a bowling alley, and a Baskin-Robbins. The name on the door was Cards, Coins, and Collectibles and looked like a boring office doorway at first glace. Except when you walked in you were blown away by how much stuff they stocked on those floor-to-ceiling shelves. Everything was organized by dates and genres.

The 15 foot high shelves were littered with every action figure I could possibly want similar to the Frank and Son’s Collectible Show. If eBay had a warehouse this is what it would have looked like. And standing at the center of it all was this talking Freddy Krueger doll. It was on the top shelf, so you could never really reach it or get a good look at it, but it was the coolest thing I had seen. Still in its pristine original box featuring a boiler room diorama, and pull string so you could be extra creeped out. There was something captivating about it. I told myself I would pull as many lawn mowing jobs as I could to buy it.

Freddy Krueger doll

Still have this guy sitting on a shelf in my room. Mine is in near mint condition, while this one has seen some time in Freddy’s world.

 

Since I didn’t know much about Freddy Kruger at the time, my only option was to rent it. The fact he could reach you in your nightmares, combined with the imagery — it was all so well done. I had to find a way to get a viewing of the other ones, and buy that damn doll. The store ended up closing before I could get my hands on it, but I did manage to buy one on eBay a few years later. My parents would frequently find ways to ask me if I wanted to sell it. From the photo below, you can kind of understand why. He was creepy.

I wasn’t the only one though. Back in 1988 there was some statistic that came out stating more kids could recognize Freddy Krueger than Abraham Lincoln. Sometimes reality is scarier than fiction! To say Wes Craven cemented his status in society is an understatement. His concoction of Freddy Krueger, the creepy guy from Shocker, and Scream will go as one of the great contributions to the genre…and also our nightmares.

Freddy Krueger

The pictures really don’t do the detail justice.

 

Wes Craven

R.I.P Wes Craven the father of modern horror.