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Nightmare On Elm Street - The True Story Behind

Freddy Kruger became a serial killer of children because he was the child of a nun who had been raped by 100 criminally insane men at an asylum.
elm street
Elm Strees-Image by Raynor Garey from Pixabay 

Elm Street - Wes Craven, director of "Nightmare on Elm Street," believed that he and his family were a textbook example of suppression of emotion. Craven had lost his father, an alcoholic and factory hand, at a young age. And he grew up in a strict Protestant household. In fact, not unlike theplot of "Footloose," he was not allowed to dance, drink, or go to the movies. Craven said he finally saw his first movie, "To Kill a Mocking bird" when he was a senior in college. But instead of angry dancing and doing a full gymnastics routine in an abandoned warehouse to let out his repressed emotions, Craven turned to gore. He said, "As they say inpsychological circles, my family never got intouch with their rage. So making movies, these awful horror movies no less, was I guess my way of purging this rage." His first movie, "The Last House on the Left" released in 1972, at first received scathing reviews.

A New York Times movie review stated, "The party who wrote this sickening tripe and also directed the ineptactors is Wes Craven." Nonetheless, the movie was later viewed as a landmark in the genre of horror. Taking out the typical supernatural prompt of movies at the time, and instead amplifying terrifying potential realities, as the concept of thefilm is two young girls who are kidnapped and slowly tortured by escaped convicts. Director Ang Lee who worked on "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon"and "Brokeback Mountain" said, "It's one of the greatest films ever. And now that I've seenit, it should be banned." After the success of "TheLast House on the Left" and "The Hills HaveEyes," released in 1977, Craven's career seemed to plateau.

But then he saw an article in the LA Times about the mystery of sudden unexpected nocturnal death syndrome, or SONS, a case of unexplained cardiacarrest while in slumber, which inspired the conceptof "Nightmare on Elm Street." Craven had a fully developed script by 1981. Like "The Last House on the Left" Craven had taken theliteral heart-stopping possibilities of real lifeand created a movie concept, escalating the fear ofdying in your sleep. Wes Craven's "Nightmare on Elm Street" was released in 1984. The movie follows four teens who are terrorized by as a reall killer, Freddy Krueger. The villain haunts the teens in their dreams. And by killing them there he also kills them offin real waking life. By the end of the filmonly one teen survives, Nancy Thompson, who becomes the protagonist for the franchise's subsequent movies. Throughout the franchise, it is revealed that Freddy Kruger became a serial killer of children because he was the child of a nun who had been raped by 100 criminally insane men at an asylum.

And he grew up in an abusive household. An angry mob of adults from the area he terrorized then burned him alive. But even after the burning, his spirit continued, and he took out his traumaby killing teenagers through their dreams. Craven says he had come across an article in the LA Times in the '70s about a family who had escaped Cambodia's Killing Fields and fled to the US. There, the young son had disturbing dreams about something or someone chasing him. Quote, "He told his parents,he was afraid that if he slept the thing chasing him would get him. So he tried to stayawake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep his parents thought the crisis was over. Then they heard screams inthe middle of the night. By the time they got to him he was dead. 

He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street." There were other cases ofmen dying in their sleep under similar context. 10 cases of SONS occurred between October 1st, 1986 and April 30th, 1988, thatwere reported to the CDC. Each victim of these SONS cases was a Southeast Asian refugee. All of the deceased were maleand ranged from ages 19 to 57. They had experienced someform of cardiac arrest in their sleep, perhaps due to stress. But the direct causes are unknown. Craven was also inspired to maintain the concept of the parents who neglected their son's genuine fear of whoever or whatever was taunting his dreams in the Elm Street film. The adults in the movie are disconnected from reality, dealing with their own issues as pill poppers and alcoholics, leaving the teens of Springwood abandoned and defenseless. Despite the film's title, the street name is never actually mentioned in the movie. Robert Englund, who portrayed Krueger, observed that everytown has an Elm Street. 

To this day, Englund regularly autographs stolen Elm Street signs becauseof how common the name is. Craven also deliberately chosethe street name for the film because of real life events, which occurred near areal life Elm Street. Notably, Craven has pointed to the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, as Elm Street ran past the book depository where the US president was shot. Craven noted that Elm Street is where the innocent world ended. When considering the contentof the Elm Street franchise, and the ways in whichits young protagonists horrifically lose their innocence, it makes sense that this provided inspiration for the director. Craven had also used the plot of the joys of youth corrupted by terror to reflect the anxiety of stranger danger in the United States during the '80s. In 1986, Weekly Readerreported a poll that stated, children in grades twothrough six perceived stranger danger as moreof a potential threat than a nuclear war. 

During the Reagan era, much of the conservative political platform, with a focus on fighting crime and strengthening the American family unit, was justified with the mission to save the children. Awareness of stranger danger came to the forefront of the American public with increased worry that pedophiles and sex offenders couldlurk in safe neighborhoods. This also explains why"Nightmare on Elm Street" is located in what appears, at first, to be a suburban utopia.

Not only did Craven draw inspiration for violence in suburbia from the nation's panic of stranger danger, butthe concept of Elm Street also came from personal experience. Craven reportedly once witnessed an old man walking along the path beside his window, when he was home as a child. The man stopped and peered atCraven, frightening the child. And then wandered off. Reportedly, this inspired Craven when coming up with his villain, pondering the psychological factors that would compel someone to simplyscare a helpless child. The name of Elm Street's Freddy Krueger was also influenced by Craven's youth. Allegedly, Craven's childhood bully was named Fred Krueger. 

This bully also inspired the name of The Last House on theLeft's villain, Krug. And this is why youshould be kind to others. You never know if they'll become big Hollywood directors and repeatedly use your name for evil. The villain Freddy Krueger was also set apart from most horror antagonists of the time because of his costuming. Craven wanted Freddy to bescary in a different way. Without a mask as manypast villains had worn, such as Leatherface from"Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Jason from "Friday the 13th," and Michael Myers from "Halloween." Craven wanted his killer totalk, and taunt, and threaten. So he chose to give Freddy acharred and disfigured face. When it comes to Freddy's iconic weapon, the razor claw glove, Wes Craven wanted Freddy's weapons to bequote, "Something somebody 1,000 years ago could have related to. What is one of the first things that really terrified humans? One would be a knife, certainly. Predators like cave bears,and saber tooth tigers, and all of those creatures. If you look at them they're just knives, hands full of knives. That became the basis for the glove." The fedora needs no explanation. It is simply called fashion. 

As the film "Nightmare on Elm Street" ages it's easy to perceiveit as another kitschy, '80s Halloween film,that one LA speakeasy bar projects on the wall with no sound. But ultimately there's no denying the movie is a classic for a reason. Director Wes Craven was ableto warp relatable nightmares from his own youth, his childhood bully, the stranger outside his window, and combine them withconcerns of the time, stranger danger, and sudden unexpected nocturnal death syndrome,to create a layered conflation of anxieties, cleanly packaged in the suburbs of Springwood, and the fashion icon of anantagonist, Freddy Krueger.
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