In honor of one of cinema’s greatest horror godfathers, Wes Craven (1939-2015), and Halloween almost here, let’s take a look at just what makes Freddy Krueger one of the most iconic bad guys in horror movie history…
He’s a serial killer.
What makes a serial killer so terrifying is that you cannot reason with him. To be able to commit multiple murders, the killer is so far beyond insanity that logic and rationality are not enough to defeat this abomination of a human being. Freddy Krueger is above all else, a serial killer. There is no redemption. There is simply pure evil.
There is a supernatural influence.
When the supernatural is introduced to a film, there is a level of understanding that goes beyond our comprehension. In our natural world, serial killers can be sent to prison for life, may be executed, or commit suicide, all of which are aspects of definitive finality that we can take comfort in. The bad guy is defeated.
But with the supernatural, we can never fully grasp the rules of the word. Krueger comes back to life in the nightmares of his victims. When he kills them in their dream, they die for real. Krueger’s ability to transcend time and space makes him incredibly dangerous, and makes him an even more intriguing cinematic bad guy.
He has an actual face.
Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are mindless automatons. They exist solely to kill. Their purpose is one dimensional. You never see their eyes. For these iconic baddies, this soulless drive in itself is terrifying enough to have spawned multiple sequels. But what makes Krueger unique is his face. There is a humanity behind his eyes. Robert Englund was able to introduce a multi-layered killer, one who exudes emotion. He will laugh hysterically when he tortures his victims. He will scream in pain when he is hurt. In later installments of the franchise, we see Krueger before he is badly scarred. There is a real person here, a real actor portraying the murderer. This makes him relatable, too close for comfort, and all the more scary as a result.
It all boils down to the Glove.
The burned face, the soiled red and green sweater, the fedora, all recognizable aspects of Krueger.
But it’s his glove that immortalizes Freddy Krueger as one of the all-time bad guys.
It’s more than the razor fingers that make your hairs stand on end when he scrapes them against a pipe in his boiler room.
It’s the fact that when it’s all said and done, after Krueger has tormented the innocent with demented nightmare sequences, more often than not, it comes down to his slaughtering his victims with the glove.
The sequence in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) in which we witness Tina’s chest get sliced open by an invisible Krueger and his four razor claws is one of the most terrifying moments in all of horror cinema.
Craven’s best contribution to cinema is also one of its scariest, one of its best, one of its most entertaining.
Make no mistake. Freddy Krueger will return. He always does.