You could probably make a great argument that the only reason why I love “Freddy’s Dead” is because of the memories attached to it. Back in 1991, Freddy Krueger was still a household name, and him dying on film was a big deal. My dad took my brother and I to see “Freddy’s Dead” when it premiered and it was the first (probably only) 3D movie going experience I’d ever had. We had a great time, and then afterward we went to have pizza and we were allowed to blow quarters on a Simpson arcade in the pizzeria. We then went home to watch “Eerie, Indiana.”
You could reason that the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia blind me, but over the years I’ve come to really appreciate “Freddy’s Dead.” I won’t argue that it’s a good movie, or even a great film, but it’s a bizarre and bonkers movie that in many ways felt like it was bidding goodbye to a bonkers decade. The eighties turned Freddy Krueger, an undead child murderer who delighted in violating teens in their dreams, in to an icon as big as Santa Claus or Superman. So to see him taken out on film once and for all was a big event. “New Nightmare” didn’t really bring him back as that isn’t really Krueger, and “Freddy vs. Jason” feels more like a stand alone issue in a comic book series when all is said and done.
That said, “Freddy’s Dead” is a celebration of everything Krueger that also lampoons the weird and wild eighties. It features an inexplicable cameo from tabloid giants Roseanne and Tom Arnold, a wacky cameo from exploding movie star Johnny Depp, and reveals that Springwood has transformed in to a childless, deranged, moving monument to Krueger. He’s won. He’s not only taken down so many children but the grief has driven their parents absolutely insane and frozen in to this moving museum to this endless nightmare.
“Freddy’s Dead,” like the previous films in the series has a strong message to it, and it’s not too often explored. The first film was about sins of the parents, the sequel was about repressed homosexuality, the third was about the demonizing of mental illness, part four was about our personal demons, part five was about abortion and nature vs. nurture. And then there’s “Freddy’s Dead.”
This movie is a striking often deranged look at how parents can often and will often decide who we become in life, and how their infliction of pain can take a toll on us. Maggie Burroughs, whether consciously or sub-consciously, is a guardian of lost children and seeks to protect them at all costs. When she realizes she is the daughter of the Springwood slasher, she realizes much of her repressed trauma living with him decided her fate for the better. Krueger however is the other side of the coin. Growing up in a brutally abusive household, he hardened himself in to a maniac and murdered his parents.
This once again hearkened back to “The Dream Child” on the idea of nature vs. nurture. Was Krueger born an absolute maniac? Or did a childhood stinking of abuse, sadism, and pain turn him in to a monster? Freddy never had a chance. But then, neither did Maggie. Maggie’s charges are also children of abuse, from Miguel the partially deaf boy who lost his hearing thanks to his mother. There’s Spencer whose addiction to video games helps him escape his abusive father, and of course there’s Tracy, the result of sexual abuse whose sense of aggression is her sub-conscious way of getting back at her father.
While Krueger is pretty much a clown throughout “Freddy’s Dead” he remains the sadistic bastard we all know him as until the very end. Not only are the flashbacks of Krueger’s life played straight, but the way he tries to prey on Tracy is by taking the form of her sexually abusive father. Rachel Talalay’s handling of the “Final Friday” is fun, kind of stupid, but also bold and digs a lot deeper in to childhood trauma than a lot of other movie geeks give it credit for. And you know what?
It also give Krueger, the eighties icon one last, memorable hurrah ushering in the nineties where a different sentiment toward the horror genre would be set for a new generation. You might say Freddy deserved more, but I think “Freddy’s Dead” is a great, well rounded finale that I enjoy without apology.