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Why Freddy vs. Jason Is the Most Faithful Nightmare on Elm Street Sequel

As unprepared as fans might have been for Freddy’s racism (strangely, nothing is said about Kia’s homophobic slur that follows), Freddy vs. Jason at least brought the dream demon back to his roots, reminding viewers that he is, fundamentally, a child-murdering dream demon. 

Freddy’s History of Violence

The son of a repressive fundamentalist mother, Wes Craven used horror to attack the assumptions of the conservative mainstream. For his debut The Last House on the Left, Craven reimagined Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring for a world without God, letting the father of a raped and murdered girl go on a nihilistic rampage without the revelation experienced by the father in the Ingmar Bergman original. In The Hills Have Eyes, an all-American family on vacation falls prey to mutant cannibals, themselves the byproduct of nuclear bomb tests. 

In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven turned his attention to the hypocrisy of white flight, making suburbia into a death trap of their own making. In their attempt to protect their children, the parents of Elm Street gave Freddy even more power, effectively dooming their kids. Nothing captures that point better than when Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) tries to escape her house to evade Freddy and instead discovers that she’s locked inside. 

To ramp up the danger to the children, Craven imagined Freddy as an incredibly nasty figure of surreal menace. In the 1984 original, Freddy’s taunts are less comic and more inexplicable, as when he struts down an alleyway with his arms overextended, creating sparks as his claws scrape the side, or cuts off his finger and sneers, “This is your god.” Instead of entertaining the audience, Freddy’s jokes showed his victims just how powerless they were in the dream world he dominated. 

Freddy’s Nightmare: Becoming a Cheesy TV Host

That didn’t last long. When Craven returned to the franchise to co-write 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors, he inadvertently cheapened his greatest creation. The Dream Warriors applied the Aliens principle to Freddy, letting his victims gain powers to fight back in the dream world. It was an exciting approach, but it also reimagined his victims as would-be warriors who could fight back at any time. 

At the same time, Freddy grew in popularity and New Line Cinema took advantage of the marketing opportunities. In 1987, Freddy followed the footsteps of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hulk Hogan by releasing his own pop record, Freddy’s Greatest Hits. For an exorbitant fee, fans could call a telephone number and play a trivia game, which Englund himself hocked in a corny tv spot. In 1988, Freddy hit his nadir, embracing his inner Crypt Keeper to become the sanitized and goofy host of the anthology series Freddy’s Nightmares

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