Saturday, November 22, 2014

Freddy's Nightmares (1988-1990) - Guest Article

Hey, guys.  Its an honor to have my next guest stop in to slide us a piece for the Freddy Retrospective.  His name is Cullen and he's one of co-hosts of the deviously funny podcast A TOUCH OF CRASS.  Most importantly, he's one of my longest and very best friends in both the conscious and dream world.  In my dreams, this guy is both beautiful and bad.  In college, I would join in on his "7 Nights Of Freddy" marathon he would put on at his apartment every fall.  So, there was no question he'd be contributing to this.  You can find their podcast by going to their website (its also on iTunes and Stitcher), and follow them and Cullen on Twitter; @mynameiscullen and @ATouchOfCrass respectively.  

In the late 80’s and early 90’s there were a number of horror anthology series (Monsters, Tales from the Darkside, Tales from the Crypt, etc.) however there was only one with a weekly installment of the 1980’s iconic boogeyman, Freddy Kruger. If you were an Elm Street fan here was your chance to see the K-man rip and slash through the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio. It was especially exciting for me because even though I watched R rated movies at friends’ houses, my parents didn’t allow me to view them. Finally with Freddy’s Nightmares on TV every week I didn’t have to sneak in horror movies on sleepovers. A Freddy TV show meant, as long as I was willing to stay up until the middle of the night, I could watch The Springwood Slasher without having to sneak behind my parents’ backs. What I got however, was a bit different than what I expected.
Every episode of Freddy’s Nightmares had Freddy Kruger in it, but he was more of a host than active participant in the actual show. It’s a bit confusing though because even though Freddy isn’t the antagonist, it’s heavily implied he’s involved. I’m not sure why this choice was made for the show. It’s a show called “Freddy’s Nightmares” because people want to see Freddy Kruger. Still it could be worse; at least this show had some involvement with killer from the movies unlike the Friday the 13th TV series.
The issue I have with the show is the same issue I have with the second movie: it didn’t stick to the rules it created. It’s been established in the other movies Freddy is only a threat when you are dreaming, so if you stay awake, you stay safe. However, in the series he affects things in the physical world. Like in the first episode he breaks a glass vase from outside a teenager’s house, BEFORE HE DIES AND GAINS HIS POWERS. In another episode a teenager is working all night in a burger shack and gets shot by a man on a motorcycle. It is implied that Freddy has something to do with the cyclist even though he must be awake because he is balanced on a bike and able to shoot a gun. And the kid can’t be dreaming because then the biker rides past the kid’s girlfriend, who just arrived at the burger stand and is clearly awake, and also shoots her. These inconsistencies make an already difficult show harder to watch.
Freddy’s character is also inconsistent, and sometimes comes off as more of a dick than a murder. In some of the episodes where he is directly involved in the story, he doesn’t even kill people. It would make sense if he wanted to teach the person some kind of lesson, but he doesn’t. He just screws around with his victims for a while until he’s done with them. Freddy does still kill people, but this switch up in his style feels really weird and out of place.

The show’s style also feels cheap because the show was shot of video instead of film. The visuals are less engaging for the viewer and make the series feel disconnected from the movies. We already know this show will not be considered in the same cannon as the films, but the low production value makes us demand it isn’t either.
I will say the show tried interesting things. Some of the early episodes tried to match the visual style of the early Elm Street movies by using a hazy filter for outdoor scenes, and it’s always super bright outside during the day giving the show an unnatural wholesome feeling. The most ambitious idea the show had was to make episodes be two different stories with the second story usually using following a minor charter from the first half hour. The execution was off, but at least they tried to do something to set it apart from other horror series besides having Freddy in it.

There was also an effort to make Freddy scarier. During the host segments Freddy was shrouded in darkness using a minimal amount of light to keep him mysterious. Freddy also wasn’t the constant pun machine he turned into in the later films. Freddy has always been a bit jokey, but some of the movies turn him into a perverse vaudeville comedian.

Even the show’s opening is kind of creepy. The photographs of Springwood children mixed with their laughter will make your skin crawl a bit. Unfortunately, some very 80’s looking peoples’ heads are superimposed screaming after the collection of pictures and, kills the unsettling feeling that was just established.
What I like most about the show was the first episode, directed by the creator of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Tobe Hooper. Here we see the Freddy on trial for sexual assault and murder. He’s dressed in his trademark sweater and hat in the courtroom instead of… a suit, but it’s still neat to see it happening. Plus we get to see the parents, the arresting officer, and even a D.A. hunt Freddy down and light him on fire after the trial is dismissed due to illegally obtained evidence. No explanation is given to how Freddy becomes a master of dreams, but he seems to know it’s coming because he is covered in flames from head to toe screaming, “I’ll be back. I’m free! I’m free! HA HA HA HA!”

If you want to watch the show there are a few on the Blu-ray box set, but otherwise there are only torrents and YouTube clips. Don’t expect a DVD release of the show because it honestly isn’t very good and only die hard Elm Street fans would be interested in watching it. I’m a huge Elm Street fan, and watching some of these episodes for this retrospective was a chore.

PS) Brad Pitt was in an episode!

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