When Wes Craven conceived Freddy Kruegera boogeyman who haunts your dreamsit was a brilliant coup. On a primal level, the notion is terrifying and taps into the universal anxiety surrounding nightmares. However, on a cinematic level, A Nightmare on Elm Street also represents the logical extension of the slasher movie: by 1984, the genre had almost become comfort food for audiences thirsting to watch their on-screen counterparts die in increasingly horrible fashion. Films like Friday the 13th and its sequels served up death sequences like amusement parks provide thrill rides.
With the Springwood Slasher, Craven simultaneously reclaimed these acts of violence as frightening episodes and imagined them as even more elaborate attractions. Only his own mind could limit what Krueger could subject his victims (and audiences) to, and even the films relatively meager budget was hardly a constraint. Once Craven turned the reins over for the franchises sequels, his successors only built upon the foundation to the point where 1428 Elm Street practically became a funhouse in its own right, with the attractions ballooning into insane death coasters once the series was consumed by 80s excess. Here are 16 choice cuts from Freddys two-decade reign of terror as the architect of our wildest dreams and ghastliest nightmares.
Brett Gallman is a member of the Online Film Critics Society. He was raised in and around video stores and hasnt stopped talking about horror movies since. You can find him on Twitter @brettgallman.