On March 5th, 2013 Warner Brothers released a Blu-ray collective of the original Nightmare On Elm Street movies, ranging from 1984 through 1994. In honor of this momentous occasion, Horror News Network has asked me to create a Top 10 list cataloguing some of the best scenes from the decade in which Freddy Krueger truly established himself as a titan of horror movies. While this is an honor as the Elm St. series is probably one of my favorites, it is also a pretty daunting task. How does one pick just 10 scenes out of 7 movies that are chock full of awesome moments? I know some of these might not make most other top 10 lists on the subject, but in my eyes these are the most standout.
Before I jump into the list I just want to give a bit of praise to this series. The original A Nightmare On Elm Street is basically the movie that initially turned me on to the entire horror genre. As a kid I held it as one of the movies that set the benchmark by which I would judge other scary movies. The concept of an already evil person getting revenge on his vigilante lynch mob’s children from beyond the grave is brilliant in itself, but to have the ability to attack them in their dreams adds an entirely different element. Everyone needs to sleep. This provides Freddy Krueger not only with an infinitely ample playing field but the ability to define the rules as he sees fit and typically (at least until the end of each movie) completely of his own accord. It doesn’t hurt that as the series grew, the characters in each film would have certain specific qualities that would lend a bit of foreshadowing to the creative ways in which they were eventually slaughtered. This is would be the perfect segue into the top ten list, so here we go:
10. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
It would be a crime not to mention this scene. While Debbie has a tremendous distaste for bugs, she’s still a tough broad. Tough broads need to work out, particularly doing bench presses without a spotter. That’s ok though. Freddy soon shows up to lend her a hand. What results is a scene Kafka might have been proud of as Debbie slowly transforms into a cockroach, only to end up in a roach motel which is crushed by Freddy who quips, “You can check in, but you can’t check out.”
TRIVIA: Brooke Theiss, who played Debbie, was on a sitcom in the late 1980’s called Just the Ten of Us, a spin-off of another, more popular show called Growing Pains. The show was centered upon a family of ten which had four teenage daughters, one of which was played by Brooke. One of the other sisters was played by none other than Heather Langenkamp, Nancy Thompson from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.
9. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
An aspiring actress, Jennifer’s demise still leaves me scratching my head. In most cases, Freddy tends to make his handy work look like incredibly coincidental inconveniences that can be explained away (in the non-dream world) somehow. This one is a bit harder to explain. While trying to stay awake after other deaths have occurred, Jennifer is occupying herself watching TV with dreams of one day being famous. These dreams eventually get the better of her as first Freddy attacks Zsa Zsa Gabor and then the TV conks out. While she investigates further, Freddy’s head pops out of the top and the TV grows arms which pick Jennifer up. Before smashing her head through the screen, Freddy acknowledges Jennifer’s desire to be an actress by uttering, “Welcome to prime time, bitch.” The reason this stands out to me (as completely unexplainable in the real world) is that Jennifer would have had to get a good running start and jump at least 2 to 3 feet in the air in order to end up with her head stuck in the television – and some of those old 4:3 TV screens were built to last. Even a young Larry Fishburne doesn’t know what to make of it. The reason I like it is because it shows that Freddy sometimes just doesn’t need to have his work easily make sense outside of dream land. What does he care anyway? He’s already dead.
8. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
This was toward the end of the original franchise (and was actually supposed to be the last one in the series – which didn’t end up being the case), so the death scenes were becoming more elaborate and, as a result, more humorous. Carlos’s background involves physically abusive parents who left him with a hearing disability and thus a hearing aid. Carlos’s final nightmare is just all-out comedic. It begins with an apparition of his mother who turns into Freddy and (neglecting what doctors have been saying for years) jams a gigantic cotton swab into his ear. After pulling the swab out (which should have killed him in the first place) Carlos is rendered temporarily deaf while Freddy literally dances all around him. This scene will forever make me laugh just for the sheer ridiculousness of Freddy’s mockery. Of course, Freddy provides him with a new hearing aid – the kind that forms an unbreakable bond with the person who wears it and amplifies everything to the nearest million decibels. Freddy tortures Carlos through gradually increasing volume levels, culminating in Carlos’s head exploding. “Nice hearin’ from ya, Carlos.”
7. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
I almost feel bad for Dan. Almost. Despite the events of the prior movie, Dan still doesn’t seem to grasp what Freddy is capable of. First, after Dan nods off at the wheel and it’s pretty evident he’s dreaming (Freddy appearing in the cab and ripping his own arm off are dead giveaways), he is thrown through the windshield only to end up inside of a building. Not being too quick on the uptake, Dan then goes back out to his truck to try to get to Alice. When he’s locked out of his truck, a motorcycle conveniently happens to be nearby. Oddly enough, Dan has the keys to the motorcycle and off he goes. While travelling at breakneck speeds and weaving through traffic like a reckless animal, the wiring and mechanical pieces of the motorcycle begin to attach themselves to Dan and Freddy’s face appears explaining that he simply “feels the need for speed.” Dan eventually becomes one with the motorcycle (which actually looks really cool) shortly before he wakes up, behind the wheel of his truck, destined for the head-on collision which ultimately takes his life. At this point, the dream child is now a dream orphan.
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
Who hasn’t had a gym teacher that they just couldn’t stand? In the second installment of the Elm St. series, Jesse’s gym teacher Schneider is the epitome of horrible gym teachers. This could be partly due to the fact that he’s more than just slightly into sadomasochism. We don’t really find out this tidbit of information until just before he shuffles off this mortal coil, but we are pretty aware of the fact that he’s a dick. Due to this it’s pretty fitting that that he dies tied up in a shower after making Jesse run laps as punishment for simply trying to drink some booze. In all honesty, Schneider deserved to die. What I liked best about this scene is that Schneider is attacked before Freddy even appears. He is alone in his office when the equipment starts flying off of his shelves at him. Just being in such close proximity to Jesse leaves Schneider open to an attack. Awesome.
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
You almost can’t help but feel sorry for Sheila. She’s smart, quiet and has asthma. A little bit on the nerdy side, one would wonder why Freddy would target her. Then again, Freddy was also a child killer previous to his career as the boogeyman so I don’t think he generally follows any type of standard. While Sheila is sitting down to take a test things begin to get a bit strange for her: the words on her test are moving around by themselves before eventually turning into a message from Freddy, her pen begins dripping blood, and among other things her arm is sucked into her desk. That’s when she realizes that the teacher of this class is Mr. Krueger. He begins taunting her, slowly getting closer until he finally picks Sheila up from her desk and asks, “Wanna suck face?” He then proceeds to suck her face, literally, while the rest of her body deflates – which has forever elicited a more than modest chuckle from me. Of course in the real world Sheila has just suffered an asthma attack.
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street
No Top 10 list created for the Nightmare franchise could ever be complete without the first, introductory death scene. This one really set the pace for what became a dynasty in the horror movie world. Good looking Tina has been having nightmares that seem to be getting worse and worse. She asks friends Glen and Nancy to stay at her place so she feels safe and Nancy reveals that she too is seeing the same evil figure in her dreams. Soon after, Tina’s boyfriend Rod shows up and eventually whisks her away for a romp around her bedroom. After their merriment, Rod admits to Tina that he too has been having bad dreams before they both go to sleep. Tina’s dreams are again invaded by the man we eventually come to know as Fred Krueger. This time though he catches her and kills her. What’s so great about this scene is that Rod watching it all happen. He can’t see Freddy but he can see the damage Freddy’s glove is doing to Tina as well as her body being lifted through the air. Her lifeless corpse falls to the bed, splattering Rod with her blood. Since Rod is the only other person in the room the blame is placed on him. That’s what was great about this scene. What he saw is too insane for belief so the next logical idea is that Rod did it. Plus, at this point in the series nobody knows who Freddy Krueger is - just that he can kill you in your dreams.
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Phillip is into puppets. He’s also a patient at Westin Hills psychiatric hospital due to nightmares that have made him terrified of going to sleep (which seems to be a major problem for some of these kids in these movies). I’d imagine the fact that he has a sleepwalking problem isn’t alleviating his nightmare issues too much either. Lo and behold, Phillip does eventually go to sleep one night, only to have one of the puppets in his room morph into Freddy who is able to reach up and cut himself down from his marionette strings. Freddy then grows to his original size, much to the displeasure of Phillip. Freddy then makes four cuts, each one beginning at Phillip’s torso and ending at his hands and feet. From each of these cuts comes one of Phillips tendons which are then used to turn Phillip into a gory albeit makeshift marionette puppet. He is then led through the hospital (which has a highly attentive staff mind you) to the top of its tower. Then, much to the horror of the other patients, Freddy cuts his strings, leaving an off-balance Phillip to plummet to his death. I just loved how creative this scene was.
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
The Pool Scene
While this scene leaves the remaining cast of main characters intact, it is just completely ridiculous. The very moment that Freddy bursts out of the ground absolute pandemonium ensues. Every exit is blocked by fire, teenagers are hurled into a boiling pool which soon ignites into flames, bodies are used as stepping stones to try to escape and Freddy kills no less than 4 people in under three minutes (including one person who tries to act like some kind of peaceful diplomat). This is all before he turns to the rest of the party guests and declares, “You are all my children now.” He then casually strides away before disappearing into a ball of flame. The whole scene is just completely badass.
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street
Johnny Depp. Seriously, what hasn’t this guy done? He’s been a soldier, a 1950’s rockabilly crooner, an FBI mob informant, a cocaine smuggler, a pirate, Ichabod Crane, and most importantly: Hunter S. Thompson. I thought about not mentioning Edward Scissorhands so as not to take the limelight away from Freddy Krueger, but let’s face the facts: in a fight, Freddy’s one razor hand and keen wit completely outmatches Edward’s two hands of scissors and his trusting naivety. In any case, suffice it to say that Johnny Depp has done a lot of great things throughout his acting career but before all of that he was Glen Lantz, Nancy Thompson’s boyfriend in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. And while Freddy makes Tina’s and Rod’s deaths look like a murder and eventual suicide there is no way of explaining just what happens to Glen Lantz in his final moments. All we know is that we see Freddy’s arm pull a dozing Glen into his bed followed moments later by copious amounts of blood (much more than the usual 8 or 9 pints the human body is capable of holding) shooting from Glen’s bed to the ceiling. Personally I think the effects people were so happy with how Tina’s death scene looked using the revolving room that they figured why not use it again here. It doesn’t make much sense but it’s easily the best death scene from any of the Nightmare films.
Part 1: Nancy’s mother being pulled through the window at the end of the movie. This follows a scene that almost ended up on the blooper reel – the convertible top slamming down wasn’t supposed to happen as it did, but it seemed so genuine that they left it in the movie.
Part 2: In the beginning of the movie, the scene which shows the school bus teetering precariously while perched on a skinny rock formation. Having a fear of heights has never helped watching this scene. There’s something else I feel the need to discuss here as well. In the scene where Jesse’s friend Ron Grady dies, we see that Ron has a Limahl poster on his bedroom wall. When I was a kid this wouldn’t have made much of a difference to me. Looking back though, it makes me wonder why any male would have a Limahl poster ever. Ron Grady apparently was not Too Shy (hush hush, eye-to-eye) about his affection for The NeverEnding Story.
Part 3: Nancy’s death. You knew her father was dead, you knew she was next (she’d already survived one Elm St. movie), but you almost didn’t want it to happen. I also can’t speak about part 3 without mentioning the Freddy worm. You know what I’m talking about. So does Patricia Arquette.
Part 4: Can somebody please explain to me how in the hell Joey ended up INSIDE of his waterbed when Freddy killed him? Seriously.
Part 5: Mark being killed while inside of a comic book, reminiscent of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” video.
Freddy’s Dead: Cameos. At the time, Roseanne was already a successful sitcom beginning its fourth season, so it makes perfect sense that Roseanne Barr and her then husband Tom Arnold were given spots in this movie. Additionally, Johnny Depp made another Elm St. appearance along with Alice Cooper.
So there you have it, folks. I wracked my brain to try to put some kind of order to my top ten favorite scenes from the original Nightmare On Elm Street series. I personally can’t wait to receive my copy of the Warner Brothers collection so I can sit down and watch these classics again in a new light.
While you may love him or you may hate him – regardless of that, Freddy Krueger transcends being termed “iconic.” His is a legend that deserves to be told to each generation because for every generation, every city, every town… all of them have an Elm Street.