I recently saw a Twitter exchange that went a little like this:

Girl: "Hey, who's your favorite slasher villain?"

Boy 1: "Jason!"
Boy 2: "Michael!"
Boy 3: "Freddy!"
Boy 1: "Oh please. Freddy is horror's Carrot Top."

And I chuckled. I'm afraid I have to side with Boy 1. Aside from Mr. Krueger's antics in Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street, which were darkly clever and insidiously menacing -- there's nothing all that scary about Freddy Krueger. The sequels took a sick and twisted undead pedophile and turned him into a catch-phrase-spouting comedian of carnage. Watching the Elm St. films in order is sort of like watching the horror genre do battle with Spencer's Gifts. (And the merchandisers ended up winning.) Hopefully the upcoming remake is bereft of groan-worthy one-liners.

So while I'll absolutely join you in a discussion about the classic status of Elm Street 1 and/or the relative quality of Part 3 (and, fine, some of Part 7), the schtick you're about to read is the main reason I don't like Freddy Krueger all that much. Or maybe I'm just disappointed that one of Hollywood's most potentially interesting maniacs got turned into a vaudeville huckster -- because cornball humor is a lot easier to write than is actual horror.
In the first Nightmare, Freddy sorta "licks" Nancy through the phone and we hear him say, "I'm your boyfriend now!" That's about as close to "wit" as Fred Krueger got when Wes Craven was at the helm. Beyond that...

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) -- written by David Chaskin

"You've got the body, and I've got the brain!" (Freddy rips his scalp off.) OK, not too corny, and it actually fits the scene. Fine.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) -- written by Wes Craven, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell & Bruce Wagner

To the nerdy role-player victim: "Sorry, kid, I don't believe in fairy tales!"
To the junkie chick victim: "Let's get hiiiigh!"
To the girl he just smashed into a TV screen: "Welcome to prime time, bitch!"

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master
(1988) -- written by Brian Helgeland, Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat

"Tell 'em Freddy sent you!"
"Why don't you reach out and CUT someone?!?"
"Welcome to Wonderland, Alice!"
"Wanna suck face?"
"I wanna draw some blood!"
"How's this for a wet dream?"
"If the food don't kill you, the service will!"
"You can check in but you can't check out!"
"Your shift is over!"

Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) -- written by Leslie Bohem

"It's a boy!"
"Kids ... always a disappointment."
"Fuel injection!"
"This boy feels the need for speed!"
"Put your pedal to the metal!"
"Better not dream and drive!"
"Told you comic books was bad for ya!"
"Bon appetit, bitch!"

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) -- written by Michael De Luca

"No screaming while the bus is in motion!"
"Kung Fu this, bitch!"
"What's with kids today, huh? No respect."
"Now be a good little doggie and go fetch!"
"Great graphics!"
"Now I'm playing with power!"
"I beat my high score!"
"Lend me your ear!"
"Father knows best!"

New Nightmare (1994) -- written by Wes Craven

Practically nothing! (More on that in a minute.)

Freddy vs. Jason (2003) -- written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift

"How sweet, dark meat!"
"Man the torpedoes!"
"Got your nose!"
"That hockey puck!"
"Penny for your thoughts, chief!"
"Miss your wake-up call?!?"
"Welcome to my world, bitch!"
"There's a face only a mother could love!"
"The only thing to fear is fear himself!"
"The first time tends to get a little ... messy!"
"Now it's time to put this dog to sleep -- for good!"

So what's my point? I guess I'm pointing fingers at franchise producer Robert Shaye, as he's the only one attached to all the flicks. (Aside from the great Robert Englund, of course.) My assumption is that Shaye kept forcing some really good writers to churn out some really lame quips, one-liners, and gallows-style sight gags ... because that's what he thought the Freddy franchise should be: cornball jokes ready-made for T-shirts. bumper stickers, and movie trailers. It was only in Part 1 and Part 7, when Wes Craven was in charge, that the comedy was dumped in favor of, get this, scary stuff.

So while I'd contend that the Freddy franchise has isolated moments of twisted inspiration in virtually every flick, I'm hesitant to list it among the best horror series of all time -- simply because what started as great genre material quickly turned into '80s-style vaudeville claptrap. And as a pathetic horror nerd, that really bugs me. Yep, still.

[Huge thanks to the IMDb for helping me with all these movie quotes.]

categories Features, Movies, Horror