Monday, June 18, 2012

Chapter Eight: Elm Street Superstar (or…“Sweet dreams are made of this...”)

In 1984, during the glut of slasher films, Wes Craven made strides to bring back the monster.  Nightmare on Elm Street would unleash a monster-human hybrid.  In life, Freddy Krueger was a normal, albeit twisted, man.  The “bastard son of a thousand maniacs" was an accused pedophile and child-murderer.  The community took justice into its own hands and burned Fred Krueger to death.

A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced a razor-fingered fiend who killed his victims in their dreams.  The sons and daughters of those who murdered him would be his victims of choice.  This insomnia inducing villain became a monster icon almost overnight.

Freddy qualified as a bona fide monster to horror purists.  While it was true that he had once been human, he certainly could not fit that category any longer.  Still, Craven tapped the slasher bag-of-tricks with an ending that left Freddy’s demise in doubt.

The franchise would follow the slasher trend of annual sequels. 1987 would be the turning point.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors would give Freddy “rock star” status. The character’s place in pop culture would solidify.  A new gimmick would strip Freddy of Monster status.  Freddy Krueger would spout punchy one-liners and witty remarks as he gleefully dispatched the seemingly endless descendants of the residents of Elm Street.

What had begun with such promise for the horror purist was now a farce. The possibility of a true monster enriching the pantheon was diminished to a figure more suited to open-mike night at the local comedy club.  Still, a generation of people had been infected by “subject zero” and were just now finding their voice.  A pale horse was approaching, and Death was riding on its back.

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