Franchise: A Nightmare on Elm Street aka: A Nightmare On Elm Street Protege
The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs, The Springwood Slasher, The Man of Your Dreams.
One, two; Freddy's coming for you
Three, four; better lock your door
Five, six; grab your crucifix
Seven, eight; gonna stay up late
Nine, ten; never sleep again
— The song of the series
The Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise centers around Slasher Movie icon Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund in every film except the 2010 reboot) and his exploits in killing the teenagers of Springwood. The franchise features these films:
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — Directed and written by Wes Craven. In the original film, Heather Langenkamp plays Nancy Thompson, an average teenage girl who has nightmares for several successive nights. Her friends (including Johnny Depp in his first acting role ever) end up murdered, one by one, in their sleep — by the same man Nancy sees in her nightmares: a badly-burnt man who wears a red-and-green striped shirt, wields a knifed glove, and calls himself Freddy Krueger. Nancy confronts her mother, who tells her that Krueger, a child molester/murderer known as "The Springwood Slasher", died as the result of a vigilante murder by the parents of his victims after a botched police investigation let Freddy go free. Freddy wants revenge against his killers, so he decides to kill the children of those parents in their dreams, where their parents can't protect them. Can Nancy stop Freddy once and for all? Well...since several sequels followed this one, one can only assume...
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) — Wes Craven returns to the franchise (though not as director) in this film, set a year after the last. Freddy begins to kill off kids in their dreams again, with all the unusual deaths — which occur primarily on Elm Street — deemed suicides by the stumped authorities. The number of Elm Street teenagers eventually dwindles down to a small handful that the authorities wisk off to Westin Hills Sanitarium, where Nancy Thompson — now a recently graduated psychologist — works. Together with the skeptical Doctor Neil Gordon, Nancy sets out to help Elm Street's last teenagers, dubbed the "Dream Warriors" for their ability to manifest special powers during their dreams, defeat Freddy once and for all. Fans usually regard this film as good, as this film started the trend of creative (and ironic) deaths and introduced Freddy's now-trademark dark sense of humor (including his penchant for Bond One Liners).
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) — After appearing to kill Freddy off for good, the survivors of the last film return to their normal lives, but soon enough, the nightmares — and Freddy — return. Freddy manages to kill off the last Elm Street teenagers (and avenge his death), then sets his sights on the rest of Springwood's children. Only one person who stands between Freddy and hundreds of new potential victims: Alice Johnson, a shy girl given special dream powers by Kristen Parker (the last Elm Street teenager) just before Freddy kills her. Flashier and more "MTV-esque" than the preceding films, The Dream Master took what Dream Warriors introduced and rolled with it; some fans think it rolled a bit too far, as this film marks the point where Freddy became the wisecracking, death-dealing jester fans most often remember him as.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)— After his defeat in the previous film, Freddy finds a way to return to life: through the dreams of Alice's unborn baby son, Jacob. The dream demon intends to mold Jacob into the perfect little host body (or murder machine; the film leaves Freddy's exact plans for Jacob vague), and to do so, he kills off Alice's friends and feeds their souls to the developing bundle of joy. This film tried to combine the darkness of the early films with Freddy's new wisecracker persona.
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) — A Series Fauxnale vaguely set "ten years from now" (which is suppose to be 2001) and originally was released in 3D, with the last act being the only 3D filmed part. The Final Nightmare has Freddy, who has now killed off damn near every non-adult in Springwood, concoct a complicated scheme to escape Springwood's borders and begin his reign of terror elsewhere. Since Freddy can only hitch a ride in the psyche of his own flesh and blood, Freddy lures his long-lost daughter to Springwood as part of the plan to escape the dying town. The Final Nightmare explores Freddy's own dark background while ratcheting the campiness of the last two entries Up to Eleven. While the film has its fans, franchise devotees usually regard this entry as mediocre due to the farcical treatment of Freddy's Grand Finale.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) — As you can tell, Wes Craven returned to the franchise — this time, as writer and director for this meta picture. New Nightmare sets itself in our reality, where we think of Freddy as nothing more than a fictional horror film icon. After Craven starts to develop ideas for a new installment in the terminated franchise, an ancient evil — imprisoned in the film series since the first and released by Freddy's death in the sixth — decides it doesn't like the idea of getting trapped again; once it sets out to stop the production, it begins to target Heather Langenkamp (who the entity views as "Nancy", the only one who can stop it) and her young son. The arguable precursor to Scream (1996) (also written and directed by Craven), New Nightmare received a degree of praise for its study of the nature of reality.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003) — Stuck in Development Hell for years, the crossover between Freddy and fellow horror legend Jason Voorhees finally reached the silver screen in 2003. Trapped in Hell since his last defeat (The Final Nightmare) and unable to return due to Springwood's censorship of his name and exploits, Freddy uses what little remains of his power to assume the guise of Pamela Voorhees and resurrect her son, Jason. Freddy sends Jason to Springwood to kill the "naughty children" there, and as the bodies pile up, panic spreads among Springwood's populace and fuels Freddy, who soon gains enough strength to start his reign of terror all over. When Jason refuses to stop killing, however, Freddy gets rather upset...
A Nightmare on Elm Street (the 2010 reboot) — Jackie Earle Haley and Rooney Mara star as Freddy and Nancy in this Michael Bay-produced remake of the original film. It generally follows the story of the first film, though not without some alterations (including an attempt to make Freddy look like an innocent victim of a town of overzealous parents). Review buzz ended up as negative (going by Rotten Tomatoes), but the reviews themselves have a more lukewarm feeling to them, which reflects upon the generic-but-not-horrible feel of the film.
Freddy Krueger's a Nightmare on Elm Street — Story about Freddy Krueger, unrelated to movie series.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010) — The definitive documentary documenting the production of the entire series. Four hours long, it features many of the participants of the original films. Heather Langenkamp narrates.
Adult Fear: The very premise of the franchise is a nightmare to any parent — the possibility of your own child being horribly assaulted and murdered by a psychopath in a manner that you have absolutely no way of protecting them from. And worse, this psychopath is supposed to be dead, because you and other parents took the law into your own hands after his string of child murders went unpunished due to a technicality.
Adults Are Useless: With a few notable exceptions, the parents and adult authority figures of Springwood are all oblivious at best, or downright hostile jerks at worst.
A God Am I: Freddy has traits of this, especially in the dream world when he is a literal nightmare god.
And I Must Scream: Freddy's victims are left in this state after he absorbs their souls.
Asshole Victim: Coach Schneider in Freddy's Revenge, who's implied to be a rapist. And this trope is rare in the Nightmare movies, except Freddy vs. Jason, which is part Friday the 13th, which is the exact opposite and follows this trope all the time.
Bastard Bastard: Freddy isn't called "the bastard son of a 100 maniacs" for nothing. He was conceived when dozens of insane inmates in a mental asylum raped his mother Amanda, a nun who was working there. Freddy was a child murderer in real life, and became a spectral nightmare killer after his death.
Blade Below the Shoulder: Freddy Krueger's blade-fingered glove started out this way, when he was still alive and his glove, merely a homemade murder weapon. In dreams, it evolves into more of a built-in weapon, which alternately appears on his hand whole when he sheds a disguise, or sends its blades springing out from his (or a puppet's, or a possessed boy's, etc) fingertips. In Wes Craven's New Nightmare, a scene is filmed in which Freddy amputates his hand and replaces it with a razor-tipped robotic version, but this element doesn't seem to have carried over into the character's subsequent appearances. See also Wolverine Claws.
Blond Guys Are Evil: Freddy, back when he was still a human serial killer. After his death his preferred form as the nightmare monster that he became was to appear in his burnt body, but he could assume virtually any shape he wanted.
The Board Game: One of the many, many pieces of merchandise these movies gave birth to.
Broad Strokes: Freddy's Revenge and how it relates to the rest of the series.
Body Horror: Very common in the series, both to Freddy himself (often for his own amusement) and his victims.
Clothes Make the Legend: The red and green striped sweater, the fedora, and the knife-glove that make up Freddy's trademark attire (indeed, when Freddy wants to mess with a victim's mind, he'll usually appear as a seemingly innocent person who's nonetheless wearing his trademark colors). The knife-glove was an invention of Freddy's during his time as the Springwood Slasher.
Creepy Child: Young Freddy is shown to have been pretty creepy himself in various flashbacks, and he loves to populate his nightmares with pale, creepy children who represent his former victims.
Also, believe it or not, Freddy Vs DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in "Nightmare on My Street". Will Smith recorded the single as a gag, with Robert Englund providing dialogue. No, Freddy doesn't sing...but he does rap.
You turned off David Letterman - now you must die!
Dark World: Freddy's dream worlds often take the form of abandoned, decaying versions of everyday life.
Dead Unicorn Trope: In pop culture, Freddy is often referred to as "The guy with the long fingernails", despite the first film clearly pointing out that they're not fingernails, they're knives attached to a glove. Very rarely do other media notice that he only has them on one hand either. Freddy's Revenge, Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare don't help shoot down the misconception, since all three have scenes featuring Freddy sprouting blades directly from his fingers.
Diminishing Villain Threat: Freddy got less and less scary/menacing in the sequels, resorting to outright gimmicky and comical methods of doing in his victims in the later movies. (New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason are generally regarded as exceptions.)
It could be seen as part of his character development. In the first film, he's generally quiet. It's his first time using the powers, so in a demented way, you could say he was nervous. In 2 he's still relatively "in the shadows" but is also bit more playful ("You got the body... I got the brains"). By 3 he's been killing for a good amount of time. He's tormenting them while having a good time. This goes for the fourth and fifth films as well. By the sixth movie, where he's the silliest, he's just having a good time. Why does he need to worry? He's all powerful in Elm Street. Though this may count as Wild Mass Guessing...
It could also be a weird case of Becoming the Mask: Freddy needs fear to access dreams, so he lets a few victims live through their first few encounters, ensuring they'll talk to their friends about the scary freak they've been dreaming about. He starts making wisecracks and taunting these chosen survivors because it makes him seem more powerful, free to gloat and toy with them with impugnity. In time, he starts to enjoy the taunts for their own sake, and does them naturally rather than as part of a deliberate pose.
Dream Land: This is particularly seen in the later films, where the children discover they can use hypnosis to enter the dream world together and give themselves superpowers.
Dream Weaver / Dream Walker: These tropes are what Freddy Krueger's powers ultimately boil down to, as he can enter dreams at will and alter them to his choosing.
Up to Eleven in the reboot, where his bad puns are always related to terrifying yet mundane topics and things.
Evil Makes You Monstrous: Freddy Krueger somehow managed to become an undead dream-dwelling human monster just by being really nasty to kids. Freddy's Dead reveals that he was given his powers upon dying by several nightmare demons.
Evil Makes You Ugly: Freddy Krueger. It's partially justified since he was burned to death, but the deal with the dream demons probably contributed to his ugly, disfigured look too.
Evil Sounds Deep: In the first several films, Freddy spoke with a very deep, sinister voice (in the first film for instance, he sounds almost demonic). It became less deep in later films as Freddy became more comedic in general.
Evil Sounds Raspy: Helped by the fact that Robert Englund had a raspy voice to begin with.
Faux Affably Evil: Freddy. He's good at making a sardonic joke every now and then, but he's scary, at least partially because of it. This is more apparent in the sequels — in the first film, he doesn't talk much.
Flanderization: Freddy himself. Part of the appeal of the character for the first couple of films was that unlike a lot of slasher film killers, Freddy talked and would make the occasional wisecrack to his victims as he kills them. Sadly, as the sequels progressed, the writers would make Freddy a literal wisecracking machine, with lame puns and other jokey dialogue. At the sixth film, he was completely comical and only his killing characters and his scary-ass look kept him from being dismissible as a joke. New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason reversed this decline, though Freddy vs. Jason still features callbacks to past one-liners, such as referring to an African American girl he kills as "Dark Meat" and playing pinball with Jason. According to interviews before it's release, Freddy Vs Jason's portrayal was intended as a sort of Adaptation Distillation. Using the wise-cracking nature of the later movies, but taking it to levels that they summed up as "A sick dog".
For the Evulz: Freddy doesn't have any motive for killing people beyond the fact that he finds it entertaining. The sixth film suggests that his abusive foster father had a hand in making him such a sadist, although his Child Of Rape (of a nun, by 100 different psychopaths) origin implies that at least some of it was In the Blood even beforehand. The remake tries to change this and make his character slightly less of a monster than his original incarnation.
Ghostly Goals: Freddy started out avenging his own death, but after he succeeded, he decided to stick around and continue killing (he was, after all, a sadistic serial killer even before he died; even with his revenge complete, he probably saw no real reason to stop killing).
Holy Burns Evil: The jump rope song about Freddy Krueger implies Freddy can be effected by crucifixes ("Five, six, grab your crucifix"), but no one actively tries to use them to repel him, though they do seem to make him nervous. In one movie, holy water and a crucifix were used to kill him off at the end, however. Justified as his power comes from a trio of Dream Demons, and considering he feeds off of fear, having faith he can't hurt you if you have one would probably protect you from him.
Hope Spot: Freddy loves these. The one at the end of the original film is probably the most well-known. He lets Nancy believe that she actually defeated him and that her mother and friends are still alive, and two minutes later he reveals it was just a cruel illusion.
Hurricane of Puns: In the latter films, Freddy often made cheesy puns before killing his victims.
Ironic Nursery Tune: The quoted nursery rhyme, a jump-rope song for the children of Elm Street that often puts in a creepy appearance in the dream world as the prelude to Freddy's arrival.
Freddy Krueger: "Come to Daddy, Peter... *starts licking Peter's face and rubbing it with his bleeding stump of a hand*
Looks Like Orlok: Freddy Krueger's appearance is somewhat based off of this. In fact, Robert Englund even once stated that he based some of Freddy's movements on Orlok's.
Make Them Rot: Freddy does this to the main characters in the first story of The Nightmares on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger's Seven Sweetest Dreams.
Man on Fire: This is how Freddy Krueger died at the hands of the parents of Springwood.
Manipulative Bastard: Freddy loves to distract and torture other people by appearing as their loved ones. Especially in Freddy Vs. Jason, where he enters the dormant Jason's dreams and takes the form of Pamela Voorhees to revive Jason and get him to go wreak havoc in Springwood, all in an attempt to regain the power to kill again.
Motive Decay: Subverted; after slaughtering the children of the parents of Springwood responsible for killing him, the film franchise changes Freddy's motives to collecting souls to increase his powers, occasionally trying to find a way to transfer his powers into the real world, and sometimes just killing for the sake of killing. By Freddy's Dead, he becomes an Omnicidal Maniac, intending to kill the children in every town in the world he can spread to.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: A running joke in the series is that Freddy's powers are pretty much limitless, as far as changing from film to film. It does make sense however. Since Freddy has effectively become the king of nightmares, his powers in the dreamscape would be virtually unlimited. On the rare occasions he manifests in the "real" world, he generally gets his ass kicked (most notably, at the end of the first film).
Nigh-Invulnerability: Freddy Krueger is a combination of Fighting a Shadow and in some movies The Proxy. He can be pulled out of the dream world, and then either made to disappear, or with opening an old-fashioned can of whoopass. Freddy's Dead states that every time he is killed, he will be resurrected by the dream demons who gave him his powers in the first place.
Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Chalk-drawings of Freddy by dead children appear twice in the series (The Dream Master and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare).
Off on a Technicality: The police failed to get the search warrant for Freddy's home properly signed off, which prompted the parents of Springwood to kill Freddy on their own; this mistake was famous enough to be critiqued in the column "The Law Is An Ass". Averted in the remake, where the parents skipped the authorities and immediately went after him.
Omnicidal Maniac: Freddy became increasingly worse over time. He was always a sadist, but at first he pretended that he wanted revenge for his death at the hands of a lynch mob until he just dropped all pretense and continued killing when this goal was already completed. With nothing to stop him, he eventually murders every child in Springwood and drives their distraught parents to utter madness. With the entire town destroyed, he just creates another "Elm Street" in a neighbouring city and reveals that he'll never stop killing until everyone's dead.
Our Liches Are Different: Freddy is technically a sort of "astral lich". He would definitely qualify as a powerful sorcerer, and his appearance just screams "undead". Also, killing him tends to involve some rather unusual methods, most often dragging him onto our plane, and, even then, nobody has ever managed to kill him permanently. An easier parallel is that Freddy is some sort of ghost or a demon (he is in service to nightmare demons after all).
Primal Fear: The whole idea behind this series was to make a film and boogeyman who is a compendium of all the primal fears that are known to be the subject of nightmares for people in every single part of the world (drowning, falling, being chased and finding yourself unable to run away, being eaten alive, being forced to watch helplessly as a friend or loved one is victimized, etc.), and actually uses those nightmares to get to them. The only universal nightmare that seems left out is end of the world dreams. That might be because, as he's tied to the dream world itself, its ending is his primal fear.
Reality Warper: Freddy's a consummate reality warper in the dream world, changing the setting, the laws of physics and his own nature at will. He can also subtly influence waking reality, and becomes better at it throughout the sequels.
Resurrective Immortality: Freddy Krueger is killed several times by the heroes, but he returns each time. The dream demons who are the source of his powers promised him that he would indefinately resurrect no matter what anyone does to him. He even boasts about it.
Sealed Good in a Can: With Freddy being the can. Everyone he kills in the dreamworld, their soul gets absorbed into him, enhancing his strength of power. Alice manages to free them completely in Dream Master, as does Jacob in Dream Child, but Fridge Horror comes into play when you realize the possibility that all the other characters from the previous movies Freddy has killed... they've been stuck inside him ever since. This gets doubled when you think about everyone he killed prior to the beginning of Freddy's Dead. If he was strong enough to be able to warp reality and erase the memory of someone from the world...
Self-Mutilation Demonstration: Freddy Krueger does this a few times in the series, mostly just to horrify his victims. In the first film, for example, he says "Watch this!" before cutting his own fingers off, causing a strange green liquid to squirt from them. Later, he answer's Nancy's "What are you?" by cutting into his own chest, revealing more green pus and what looks like maggots under his skin. In the second movie, he emphasizes his "You've got the body, I've got the brain" line by peeling back the skin on his own skull. In the sixth, he cuts off his fingers (again) while counting the ways people have tried and failed to put him down for good.
Serial Killer: Freddy Krueger, both in life (as the Springwood Slasher) and the afterlife. Made even worse because he targets children, and later teens as they've grown up since his death.
Shapeshifter Default Form: Freddy Krueger is an accomplished shapeshifter in the dream world, regularly appearing as other people, mechanical devices, and a host of other forms. While he can look however he wants, as a nightmare ghost he prefers to appear as his post-death burnt self, probably to scare his victims. His true form in the real world are his skeletal remains, but it remains to be seen if he even has a true specteral form.
Took a Level in Badass: Pretty much all the heroines, but especially Alice Johnson and Lori Campbell. Lampshaded in nearly every film. Mark turns into his superhero creation, Rick shows master karate skills, Taryn dreams she's a punk biker chick...and none of this does anything to stop Freddy.
Vocal Evolution: In the first film, Freddy's voice starts out closer to Robert Englund's natural speaking voice for a good chunk of it. About halfway through it starts becoming deeper, and by the end he regularly speaks in the trademark deep-throated growl he's known for talking in.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Freddy Krueger is a master shapeshifter through his dream powers. His favorite use of this is to impersonate his victims' loved ones or other related people so he can scar them emotionally before killing them, like appearing as a teenager's murdered brother in Freddy vs. Jason or as a girl's sexually abusive father in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Was Once a Man: Freddy Krueger. Once a human serial killer, he turned into something resembling a nightmare ghost/demon after his death.
Wolverine Claws: Freddy's primary weapon is a glove with blades attached to each finger. So iconic that for people who aren't superhero comic fans this trope could have been named "Freddy Claws".
Would Hurt a Child: Prior to Freddy Krueger's death by fire, he was a serial killer who targeted little kids. In fact, Freddy vs. Jason opened with him murdering a little girl in his boiler room. There's a Gory Discretion Shot as we hear her scream, but much later the girl appears in Final Girl Lori's dreams with her eyes gouged out.
Your Mind Makes It Real: If you're killed in a dream by Freddy, you die in reality. This applies no matter how outlandish or ridiculous the manner of death is in the dream, though Freddy does have control over which injuries carry over into reality (for instance, a boy changed into a gruesome living marionette merely seems to have jumped to his death in the real world, while Kincaid was stabbed, but is completely unscathed in the real world).
Your Soul Is Mine: Freddy grows stronger with each soul he claims, making him a one-villain Sorting Algorithm of Evil. This is best exemplified in Nightmare 4, in which Freddy conjures a pizza filled with the faces of his previous victims. Remarking that he loves "soul food", he promptly devours one in front of Alice. It's her brother Rick.
Freddy: You've got their power, I've got their souls. Come on!
Your Worst Nightmare: These movies are probably the best example of this trope, with hapless teenagers being tormented and slaughtered by the dream-walking, One-Liner-spouting psycho-killer Freddy Krueger.
alternative title(s): Nightmare On Elm Street; A Nightmare On Elm Street; A Nightmare On Elm Street; A Nightmare On Elm Street; A Nightmare On Elm Street Protege; A Nightmare On Elm Street Dreamspawn; A Nightmare On Elm Street Perchance To Dream; A Nightmare On Elm Street Suffer The Children; A Nightmare On Elm Street The Dream Dealers; Freddy Kruegers Tales Of Terror; Freddy Kruegers Seven Sweetest Dreams; A Nightmare On Elm Street Paranoid; A Nightmare On Elm Street The Beginning