Freddy Krueger is pretty much THE horror icon of the 80’s. He’s one of those characters who has entered the public conscience with such gusto and has remained there, festering like a mould Regardless of the fact that I think Nightmare on Elm Street is an only ok movie, I have to admire both the premise and the character of Freddy Krueger. So, what makes him such a horror icon?
Freddy Krueger was born to a Amanda Krueger who, whilst serving as a nun in a psychiatric ward, was gang raped by patients and fell pregnant with Freddy. Not being able to support the young boy, Amanda was forced to give him up to the state where he was eventually adopted by an abuse alcoholic named Mr Underwood. When Freddy grew older he took a job as grounds-keeper at a local school and it was there where he began to rape and murder young children, building a metal glove with finger knives to use in his crimes in the very foundries of his workshop. After many months, Krueger’s activities were discovered and he was arrested, an event which reached newspapers around the country. Freddy was later released due to a technicality in the fact that he had not been read his Miranda Rights when arrested and he was allowed to go home. The parents of Elm Street banded together and marched of Krueger’s house, burning it to the ground with him inside. Somehow Krueger survived and continued to murder the children of Elm Street through their dreams.
At the heart of it, Freddy Krueger is a character based very much on the power of dreams. Wes Craven said Krueger was the result of reading articles about young men in the Philippines and Thailand who suffered from a condition where they would wake up screaming several nights in a row due to horrific nightmares and then die in their sleep later. It’s a chilling thought because dreams have such a personal power in society. Our dreams are often said to reflect our nature and nightmares can stay with us for days, weeks or even months. Dreams are also personal in the fact that we are doomed to go there alone, we can’t bring anyone or anything with us and we are forced to go there. You can stave off sleep for as long as you like but sooner or later you’re going to have to succumb. The world of the dream is often a pretty strange one. 85% of people dream in 3rd person, the landscape varies from being slightly odd to being Salvador Dali surreal and it’s a world Krueger has complete control over.
Yes because I’m sure we all look at this and think “Ya know what this needs? Child murder”
In a way Krueger’s infestation of our dreams is reminiscent of Jaws, where the shark infects an entire landscape with fear. The same can be said here, sleep is no longer an option, you dream, you die, simple as. As I said before though, you can’t stave it off for long. It’s like hanging from a branch over a precipice. You can hold on as long as you like but sooner or later the branch will snap or your arms will ge tired. It’s inevitable, there is no escape.
The character of Freddy is also laden with fear. His horrific conception and terrible childhood should make us pity him but the abhorrent nature of his crimes mean that he becomes something of an allegory for evil and, due to his cover-up by the parents of Elm Street, it’s an evil that your parents never warned you about. His crimes play a huge part in the making of his character. He’s a child molester and a child murderer, the two most disgusting crimes, period and Krueger commits both of them. Furthermore he feels nothing for the victims and their families, in fact he loves it, there is no remorse, it’s hard not to be disgusted by this character. The fact that he murders children adds to why we fear him because children are the ultimate innocents. They’re ignorant of the worlds evil and darkness and Krueger thrusts that upon them. He’s forcing his cruelty and savagery on the purest members of the human race and that goes against everything that we, as a society, aim to do with children. We shelter and protect them from the bluntest of the world’s truths and Krueger takes the most depraved aspects of our society and rushes towards them in this horrific mass of evil. Again, Krueger’s weapon of choice is pretty important. He has this shabbily made glove with blades on the fingers which he made himself. It’s indicative of his own personality for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a personal object, more so than a gun or even a conventional knife. Why? Simply because it’s a hand with blades meaning he touches you whilst he kills you and Krueger is almost all about personal contact, especially in his crimes Secondly, it’s an object geared solely toward evil, as is Krueger. It’s only purpose is to rip, cut, mutilate and kill, nothing else. Thirdly, like the glove itself, Krueger was the result of an amateur childhood. He was the product of psycho-rape, he was given up for adoption and taken in by an abusive alcoholic. Likewise, the glove was thrown together by a grounds-keeper and, whilst he did a pretty good job, it isn’t perfect.
Am I the only one who thinks Psycho-Rape would be a great name for a band??
Finally, you’ve got his appearance. Krueger wears a shabby, torn jumper with a hat and jeans and that’s based on a tramp that used to scare Craven as a child. His clothing is important as it’s physically striking, the black and red stripes stand out as something that doesn’t really fit (seriously, where would you wear something like that?) and that can apply to Krueger’s character too. He doesn’t really fit into polite society, he’s an adopted paedophile not a massive niche. Of course when you talk about Freddy Krueger you have to mention his facial scars caused by the fire that killed him. It adds to the level of disgust with the character, his ugliness is reflective of his ugliness as a person. It also doesn’t help that, as a society, we tend to be a little iffy around people with disfigurements and we shouldn’t be. I’m sure most of them are very nice people and their disfigurement shouldn’t be the thing we focus on, there is more to a person than appearance and I get that, but there is this very undeserved, subconscious fear that we have around people with disfigurements, I guess it’s because there is this fear of the unusual and different, again completely unwarranted. Nevertheless it applies to Krueger, he’s repulsive in body and spirit.
Krueger combines the grossest evils of the soul with a damaged childhood, a damaged body and a desire to damage others. Couple that with a weapon designed purely for murder and molestation, a Godlike dominion over our dreams and the inevitability of confrontation and you have a pretty unique and unforgettable horror icon.