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In Defense of FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE!

Freddy Krueger has always been my horror hero. Unlike many of the muted madmen in the slasher genre, such as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Freddy was extremely vocal about his kills. He didn’t just terrify his victims with physical pain, he got into their heads as well.

While A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET started out as a far more serious horror film, the series became campier as time went on, culminating in the most nonsensical one of them all – FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. That’s really saying something too, especially considering how we saw a victim from THE DREAM CHILD die in a comic book dream when “Super Freddy” literally slashed the ink out of a guy made of paper. Now, I know the sixth installment doesn’t frequently appear as a fan favorite when ranking the Elm Street movies – I go back and forth between parts three and four, myself – but if you look at it simply as a movie where they were just trying to give Freddy a whimsical send-off that didn’t take itself too seriously, there’s a lot to be appreciated here.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of my favorite things about FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, so let’s get right to it:

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1. The Wicked Witch of Elm Street!

The first time we see Freddy in action is at the start of the film when John Doe is plummeting from the sky inside a house. He hears something outside his window, and when he goes to take a look, he finds none other than Freddy Krueger flying in the sky on a broomstick. Invoking the spirit of the Wicked Witch from THE WIZARD OF OZ, Freddy quips, “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little soul too!” He then lets out a cackle and flies off into the night sky. It’s a brief comedic moment, but it’s classic Freddy. If they ever do a sequel to HOCUS POCUS, I sincerely hope the Sanderson sisters will consider adding Freddy to their coven.

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2. Chilling Chalk Art!

Children playing jump rope in suburbia and drawing eerie pictures of Freddy Krueger and his house on the pavement was nothing new to the Elm Street series, but this particular piece of chalk art was always my favorite. Freddy is drawn so large here that even with two adults standing over him, he still looks absolutely menacing. The bloody glove, the three fanged teeth, the red eyes… it’s all too perfect, and looks exactly like how a child would draw a scary monster like ol’ Fred. Top it all off with the beginning of the classic “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you.” children’s nursery rhyme written beneath the image, and you have a perfect homage to Elm Street. Come to think of it, somebody *really* needs to put this design on a t-shirt.

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3. The Map!

We all know how Freddy loves messing with people’s minds, and when some teenagers in the movie are stuck driving in one of his endless dream loops, they decide to consult the map. Carlos pulls out a paper map – for you younglings, printed maps are what we had long before cell phones and Google Maps came into play – and begins to unfold it in hopes of figuring out which way to go. Instead, the map keeps unfolding until Carlos finds himself completely surrounded by a never-ending mega map. He grabs a hold of one of the sections and notices that it has the words “YOU’RE FUCKED!” written in blood. When his friends ask him what the map says, Carlos wakes up, throws the map to the ground, and exclaims, “Yeah, well, the map says we’re fucked!” I’ll never not laugh at this scene. Never. Freddy’s one-liners simply never disappoint.

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4. Death Via Hearing Aid!

For an Elm Street flick, the body count in FREDDY’S DEAD is extremely low, and though the kills may be few in number, they’re certainly memorable. Carlos is one of the unfortunate souls who falls victim to Freddy’s twisted antics, and this time it’s at the expense of his hearing – or lack thereof. When he was younger, Carlos’ mother would clean out his ears with cotton swabs, which resulted in hearing loss so substantial that he had to wear a hearing aid for the rest of his life. Mom of the year, anyone?

Naturally, his hearing aid was perfect fodder for Freddy. First, ol’ Fred jabs an extra long cotton swab so deep into Carlos’ ear that it pops out the other side of his head. We’re then treated to Freddy comically sneaking around behind a now completely deaf Carlos as he makes his way through the boiler room. Freddy eventually returns the hearing aid to Carlos, but with some slight modifications. It latches on to Carlos’ one remaining good ear like a miniature facehugger and amplifies sound tremendously. And that’s when Freddy ramps up the fun.

He tortures Carlos by dropping a single pin for starters. Sure, most people wouldn’t hear it, but with the Freddy hearing aid, that pin makes an extremely loud whistling noise. He then dumps out a full handful of pins, causing Carlos to drop to his knees, writhing in pain. The coup de grâce, however, is when Freddy whips out a chalk board and cartoonishly stretches it out to a larger size. He then begins scraping it with his razor glove, and while the sound is hard enough for audiences to listen to, the shrill tone makes poor Carlos’ agonized head pulsate so heavily that it eventually explodes. “Nice hearing from ya, Carlos!”, Freddy laughs. It’s a classic Krueger kill that still holds up today, and is easily one of the most amusing scenes in the entire film.

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5. Freddy Vision!

I’ve always loved old 3D effects, as they often appear to be shoehorned into horror flicks rather than being seamlessly blended in, and that was certainly the case with the “Freddy Vision” gimmick. Towards the end of the film, when Katherine puts on her 3D glasses, audiences were supposed to do the same. We were then treated to some cheesy effects featuring the Dream Demons, who were basically like flying skeletal sperm that gave Freddy his powers. We also get some blatant 3D shots reminiscent of FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART III, as a straight razor is shoved into our faces, and later, Freddy’s glove comes flying directly into the camera. As laughable as the sequence it is, I love that they went there. Shameless 3D cheese at its finest.

Also, in case you missed it on the big screen, you’ll be glad to know that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET DVD set includes a pair of glasses so you can opt to watch the final sequence of FREDDY’S DEAD the way it was meant to be seen – through flimsy red & blue novelty 3D glasses.

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6. The Power Glove!

In what’s easily one of the most lauded sequences of the entire film by fellow Fred Heads, Freddy drags Spencer into a video game dream involving his oppressive father. It features all the staples you’d expect to see in a classic video game, including power-ups that temporarily give Spencer the upper hand, but he’s playing by Freddy’s rules, and Freddy doesn’t need a Game Genie to cheat. After failling to make a kill with an Atari-style joystick, he whips out his own bladed version of the classic Nintendo Power Glove – complete with lights and buttons – and uses it to dispatch Spencer both in the game and in real life. He’s quite impressed with himself too, “Well whaddaya know. I beat my high score!” I haven’t played that particular game, but 99,999 does seem like a pretty solid score. Who knew Freddy was such a hardcore gamer? He should turn pro!

Now, I’m sure it’s a tricky licensing issue, but I’d absolutely love to see some mass-produced Freddy Power Gloves come Halloween this year. After all, the syringe glove was released a few years back, so it only makes sense that this should be the next one to hit stores. Seriously, who *wouldn’t* want their own Freddy Power Glove? Make it compatiable with the Nintendo Wii-U and it’d be an instant hit! And speaking of gloves…

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7. Freddy’s Other Gloves!

If there’s one moment in the movie I wish we could’ve spent more time with, it’s gotta be in Freddy’s cellar workshop where we see all the gloves he made when he was still a mortal. It’s a glimpse into his warped mind and all the trials and errors he went through while trying to craft the perfect nightmare glove. Seeing how crude some of his earliest gloves was an absolute treat; some had simple blades soldered onto the fingers, but with no hinges, while others had metal claws reminiscent of a tiger. There was even a glove with spikes sticking out of it, suggesting he’d actually have to punch his victims with it, rather than slash at them. My personal favorite is an early model on which he welded actual razor blades onto the tips of each finger. I can just picture Freddy holding that one up to his face and thinking, “Okay, this just isn’t gonna cut it.” But hey, when you’re making what’s arguably the most iconic weapon in the history of horror movies, you’re gonna have to break quite a few eggs before achieving perfection.

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8. Robert Englund — In the Flesh!

In addition to seeing Freddy’s original glove trials, one of the best things about FREDDY’S DEAD is we get to see Robert Englund as mortal Freddy, without all the burned skin prosthetics applied to his face. I remember being incredibly excited the first time I saw Englund in human form on the pilot episode of FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, even though they never showed his full visage. So, finally getting to see him living in suburbia as the world’s worst father was definitely one of the highlights of the movie. I can only imagine Robert relished the opportunity to actually play the role without having to go through five hours of makeup before stepping onto the set. If anybody in horror films deserved a break from sitting in that makeup chair for hours on end, it had to be Robert Englund. Plus, in all honesty, his performance as human Freddy was far creepier than anything we had seen in the Elm Street series in quite some time.

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9. Killer Cameos!

When it came to giving Freddy what they thought would be his final send-off, the filmmakers brought in some big names to bid adieu to the bladed bastard. Right off the bat, longtime Elm Street fans noticed Robert Shaye making a cameo as a wickedly creepy bus ticket booth guy, and you can tell he had a lot of fun with it. I could totally see him using that same voice on trick-or-treaters who knock on his door come Halloween every year. Well, one can dream.

Next, there’s a cameo from Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold that nobody saw coming. They play some crazed parents suffering from mass hysteria who clearly had their children taken from them by Freddy. Well, Roseanne sees some new teenagers wander into town and immediately starts pinching their cheeks, playing the old “I’ve got your nose!” trick, and promising to hide them so Freddy will never get to them. Tom, the husband, is more angered by their presence, for he knows that when children show up, so does Freddy. As the school bell rings, he shouts, “Now see what you done did!” and drags his wife off. If only we had a John Goodman cameo to complete the Roseanne trifecta.

We also learn that Freddy Krueger’s foster dad was none other than the godfather of shock rock himself, Alice Cooper! After seeing him in WAYNE’S WORLD, I always thought Alice Cooper was a reasonable and intelligent man with a soft-spoken side. Then again, he also played a murderous transient in John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS, so perhaps he wasn’t the best father figure for Freddy. We see him drunkenly giving a young Freddy his “medicine” in the form of lashes with his belt, until one day Freddy had enough of it and cuts up dad with a straight razor in 3D. I love his cameo, but I’ll never understand how they didn’t work Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to my Nightmare” tune into the soundtrack. Come on!

Lastly, there’s the fan favorite cameo by Johnny Depp, returning to the series for the first time since the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, in which he ended up being pulled down into his bed and shot out like a geyser of blood. This time around, Johnny’s fate is far less gruesome, and much more comical. He poses as an anti-drug public service announcement spokesman from the infamous “This is your brain on drugs” commercials. Freddy then pops up, smacks Johnny in the face with the frying pan while mocking his message, “Looks like a frying pan and some eggs to me!” Perfect. It’s a quick cameo, but horror fans such as myself really appreciated how Depp came back to pay his respects to the iconic horror film that gave him his first big break in Hollywood.

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10. Freddy Killed Elvis?

Now this is one moment that most Freddy fans are unaware of. Jason Voorhees may have a higher overall body count, but Freddy Krueger may have the best individual kill. If you look closely during the history class scene – which features a hilarious performance by Matthew Faison as the crazed teacher – there are some Freddy factoids written upon the blackboard. Of all the things written on there, what stands out most to me is that Freddy Krueger may have actually killed Elvis! If it’s in the movie, it’s canon. So yes, let’s all agree that Freddy killed the king of rock & roll. Besides, it’s a far better ending for Elvis than what happened to him in the real world.

Oh, and about Jason having a higher body count? Take another look at that blackboard in the bottom right corner. Looks like Freddy may have racked up many more kills while he was still mortal. Could Freddy actually have *more* kills than Jason? Food for thought. Bon appétit, bitch!

I know it’s not the most brilliant horror-comedy ever put to film, but FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE is still a damn fun movie, chock full o’ memorable morsels well worth watching. So what do you think about the sixth Freddy flick? Are you a fan too, or was it too absurd for your tastes? Drop a comment on Twitter or Facebook and let us know!

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