Being a memorable cinematic serial killer is challenging work. It's all very well possessing preternatural strength, constitution, and tracking skills — not to mention ability to both wear a mask and fall neatly out of windows — but your Jasons, Shapes, Chuckies, and Leatherfaces can only go so far with the tools of their trade. There are only a finite number of ways to skin a brat, after all.
The Springwood Slasher, Freddy Krueger, faces no such limitations. Being a (mostly) unkillable dream demon with complete control over the realm of nightmares has its perks, and this clawed recidivist often exploits them to the full. Sometimes, he just wants to kick off and go old-school (I'm looking at you, "Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge"), but at others he wants to properly savor his kills, giving them a little panache and style.
Here are Krueger's very best (or, at least, most memorable) kills ranked, with more entries than Freddy could count on his steel-tipped razor fingers. One, two, Freddy's coming for you…
Hunted by our chargrilled child-killer in "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," Will finds himself in a poorly lit corridor, outrunning an out-of-control spiked wheelchair, narrowly avoiding being shish-kebabbed. When it makes another pass, Will remembers his powers in the Dream World.
"I am the Wizard-Master!" he yells. Suddenly garbed in an outfit that looks like a cross between classic Dracula and Presto from the old "Dungeons & Dragons" cartoon, he casts a spell that destroys the chair and strikes Krueger. Thinking that Freddy is defeated, he closes in, forgetting that spellcasters should leave melee combat to the fighters. Freddy pins him up against the wall, and poor old Will fatally fails his saving throw. Before you can say "Abra-Cadaver," he's a perforated prestidigitator.
This entry barely scrapes onto the list, being mediocre at best. What should have been an epic bout of spell-slinging ends up anything but. Still, this entry from the third Elm Street film is the closest you'll get to Harry Potter and "Nightmare on Elm Street" slash fiction — emphasis on the "slash."
When Mattel released the Power Glove peripheral for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989, I doubt the company suspected it would get the unlikeliest of movie tie-ins in "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," albeit with lethal razor-tipped blades.
Being a slacker and a stoner, Spencer's fate was sealed from his very first appearance. Falling asleep in front of the television, Spencer passes through some Jefferson Airplane outtakes before finding himself as the protagonist in a side-scrolling video game — imagine "Super Mario Bros." with repressed childhood abuse and trauma instead of Goombas and Koopa Troopas.
It's hard to take this one seriously, as Spencer bounces around like the Energizer Bunny on a sugar rush, but it's equally hard not to raise a smile at Krueger referring to his aforementioned power glove, even if the reference was instantly dated by the catastrophic failure of said peripheral. Ultimately, as in "Space Invaders," the game always wins — Spencer is sent plummeting off to Hell, and, breaking with the tradition of the video games of the day, doesn't get an extra two lives. Game over, Spencer. Game over.
While reading a comic book, Mark is horrified to see everything that has happened so far in "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child" laid out in black and white panels. Before he can do the right thing and skip to the end of the film, saving us all nearly an hour, he's pulled screaming into the book's pages.
Mark confronts Freddy in this weird monochrome world, eventually transforming into the kind of grimdark antihero that was all the rage in the '80s. He guns down Freddy, but sadly, Krueger responds by hulking out and slicing up his two-dimensional target like a weekend craft project.
The soundtrack is of particular note here, with heroic anthems sounding like a particularly well-done Danny Elfman pastiche. This kill may have aged immediately — it's clearly designed by somebody who hasn't glanced at a comic since the mid-'70s — but it's inventive, and a muscle-bound Freddy is clearly enjoying himself.
Dan, having survived "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4," didn't fare so lucky in its sequel, "The Dream Child." Speeding down the freeway on his motorcycle to save his girlfriend Alice, the jock meets a particularly grisly fate. As Freddy torments him, Dan begins to fuse with his motorbike. Wires, pistons, and cables pierce and burrow under his skin. As the bike continues to accelerate, the last of his skin is flayed away by the encroaching chassis. Dan, his lower jaw a tangle of wires and flesh, can only watch on in horror. He wakes too late to avoid a massive collision with an oncoming vehicle.
This is a particularly nasty kill, with effects that would seem more at home in the Japanese cyberpunk film "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" than in an Elm Street flick. Freddy has clearly been revising his Cronenberg movies, as this is as nasty a piece of body horror as you'll see in the series until — well, you'll find out later.
In "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master," Joey is relaxing on his waterbed and watching MTV. Suddenly, the quilt is a quakin', and the beautiful swimsuit model from the poster on his wall is swimming naked beneath him. The seductress beckons to Joey, vanishing from sight like a mattress-based mermaid. Then Freddy emerges, stabbing Joey and drowning him.
Joey's mother finds him dead inside his intact waterbed, resulting in yet another confusing case for the Springwood Police department. While this kill is worth it for the Freddy quip alone — ""How's this for a wet dream?" — it's also quite telling that Joey nearly met a similar fate in the previous film at Freddy's clawed hands, with the sizzled scamp disguised as a topless nurse. Joey's kryptonite is clearly just the straightforward fact that he's a horny teenager.
As a Freddy kill, Nancy's fate in the third Elm Street film is as vanilla as they come. There's no clever quip accompanying her demise. Her means of death is as simple as the series ever gets: a handful of razor-tipped fingers to the chest.
So, why is it placed so high? Well, it's Nancy, isn't it? She's the final girl from the first (and best) film in the franchise, the strong and resourceful student who refused to let grief define her. This is the girl who turned her house into a dream demon death-trap "Home Alone"-style (that the Springwood library has a book called "Booby Traps & Improvised Anti-Personnel Devices" is a topic for another day).
Nancy is the girl who finally beat Freddy by turning her back on him and refusing to be scared. That's why her death is to be mourned, and her life celebrated. Like the existence of the aforementioned tome, the fact that she's taken out like a chump by falling for the oldest trick in the book — Freddy pretends to be her deceased father — is unimportant.
Elsewhere in America, Nancy Reagan was championing her "Just Say No" campaign to keep kids off drugs, but in Ohio (or, more precisely, the unknown geographical realms of the Dream World) Freddy Krueger was cheekily urging the exact opposite.
In the third Elm Street movie, ex-junkie Taryn discovers that, in Freddy's realm, she's a kick-ass knife-wielding punk straight from central casting ("beautiful and bad," in her own words). After a short battle with the gauntlet-wielder, it looks like she has the upper hand, but then Freddy makes an offer she can't refuse. His blades become dirty drug-filled syringes, and holes open up in Taryn's arms like baby birds eagerly waiting to be fed.
An overdose is Taryn's unfortunate reward. It's a simple yet effective kill in a film packed with them, showing Krueger for the merciless and calculating monster that he is. He's far better as a villain when he's taking advantage of his prey's weaknesses, rather than being a generic blade-wielding slasher.
Given that this is one of the most sadistic kills in "Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child," it's almost hard to stomach that the original scene was far, far worse. Bulimic Greta falls asleep and wakes at a nightmarish dinner party hosted by her overbearing mother. Strapped into her chair, Greta is helpless to resist as Freddy — the reddest-faced, sweariest, and angriest chef since Gordon Ramsay — force-feeds her until her face is hideously bloated.
In the previously mentioned cut scenes, it's heavily implied that Freddy is feeding Greta chunks of herself ("You are what you eat!"). In the real world, she chokes to death at the actual dinner party, flailing around wildly before expiring.
This is Freddy as his most cruel. It's even worse when you consider that Greta is one of the gentlest and kindest characters in the entire franchise. Bon appétit indeed.
Taking an exam — or, more precisely, taking an exam that you haven't studied for — is, unsurprisingly, a common theme in anxiety dreams. However, Sheila is as smart as they come; I doubt she had any such nightmares.
This pivotal scene from the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street film takes place during an exam — a physics test, to be specific. Sheila falls asleep during the test, and Freddy's torment begins. At first, the words dance around on the paper, forming a threatening message ("Learning is fun with Freddy!"). Then, the sweater-wearing sociopath appears in person, instantly breaking the rules about talking during examinations.
Freddy proceeds to lift Sheila up and suck the very life out of her, causing her to deflate into a withered husk, her dead eyes sinking into their sockets, while in the real world she dies from an asthma attack. It's a nasty way to go, and that she dies in front of her friends as they're unable to help makes this a particularly cruel end.
Having already established himself as an equal-opportunity psychopath, equally at home slaughtering kids in wheelchairs in addition to everyone else, Freddy turns his hand towards the hard of hearing in "Freddy's Dead." Despite being able to hear in the Dream World, young Carlos gets his ear cut off by Freddy and is forced to use his hearing aid.
Unfortunately for Carlos, Freddy has replaced the hearing aid with a parasitic creature that burrows into his ear canal, making Carlos' hearing super-sensitive. Freddy toys with Carlos for a while, dropping pins on the floor before scraping the tip of his finger-blades across a chalkboard. The sound design is absolutely on point here, with the audience forced to share in Carlos' anguish. It builds to a crescendo as Freddy goes for it with a chalkboard solo, and poor Carlos' head explodes.
If the movie "Poltergeist" taught me anything, it's that if you hear weird voices coming from the static on your TV, it's time to take it in for a service. Preferably a church service, with an exorcist.
It's advice that "Dream Warriors" victim Jennifer would have done well to follow, confronted with a broken television in the psychiatric hospital's dorm room. Following Freddy's surprise appearance during a television interview with Zsa Zsa Gábor, bane of spell checkers everywhere, the TV breaks and Jennifer tries to fix it by randomly hammering at buttons on the set.
Clawed hands emerge from the side of the TV and lift the poor girl skyward. As Freddy emerges from the top of the appliance to taunt her, her head is plunged through the screen. Unlike the similarly ill-fated Mike Teavee from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," no Oompa-Loompas appear to mourn her demise.
It's easy to forget that, before Freddy had a pun prepared for each grisly dispatch, the character used to be a genuine figure of terror. Over time, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise became increasingly muddled, with Freddy's abilities and origins growing ever more convoluted, but it's key to remember that wasn't always the case.
Tina's death was the first kill of the franchise, and (briefly) set the tone for what was to come. Tired of toying with his sleeping prey in his surreal (and genuinely disturbing) realm of dreams, Freddy strikes. In the real world, Tina wakes up to find Freddy straddling her. Her boyfriend pulls the covers away and can only watch as an unseen force slashes at her and drags her flailing form across the walls and ceiling, only releasing her when she's a bloodied corpse.
The effect, achieved with a rotating set, would be repeated for Julie in "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," but was never as effective. This was Wes Craven proudly announcing the boundless powers of his new kind of slasher villain, one who possessed ultimate control over you whilst you slept. It was, and remains, horrifying.
The third film in the series boasts some of the franchise's most inventive and memorable kills. Poor Philip's means of shuffling from this mortal coil is no exception. Sleepwalking Philip is a puppet fan, and when one of his dolls comes to life as he sleeps (animated dolls: officially never not scary), it transforms into a full-grown Krueger. Slicing open the boys' limbs, he pulls out Philip's tendons and transforms him into a living puppet, ligaments taking the place of marionette strings.
Philip is wide awake yet unable to stop himself as Krueger walks him through the building, guiding him up to the highest point of the psychiatric institution. His friends see the monstrous form of Krueger towering over them as he slices through the tendons, causing poor Philip to plummet to his death.
Again, this is peak Freddy. Not only does he put his victim through sheer hell, but he forces Phillip's friends to watch in vain. Being the first victim of the third instalment, we sadly never get to see what Philip's powers would have been in the dream realm.
Much like Kevin Bacon in "Friday the 13th" and Renée Zellweger in "The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre," many young actors cut their teeth in horror. The first "Nightmare on Elm Street" is no exception, as it features a young Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz.
The cropped t-shirt already identifies fresh-faced Glen as a fashion victim, but he's about to be Freddy's third kill in the first Nightmare on Elm Street film, too. Pulled under his bedspread by a familiar clawed hand, the next time we'll see him is as a geyser, torrents of blood exploding from the bed and coating the room and ceiling.
It's brutal, memorable, and viciously over the top; how Glen's poor parents are going to explain this to the police, I'll never know. ("Yes, Glen was our son. No, we had no idea he had so much blood in him — he wasn't a particularly large boy.")
This is the horrific highlight of the franchise, with an "ick" factor that threatens to break the scale. Poor Debbie's workout in the fourth film is interrupted by Freddy, who breaks her arms, exposing hideous insectoid limbs beneath. She tries to flee, but the ground is covered with a thick, sticky glue, and she stumbles. As she tries to stand up, her face is torn away, exposing a cockroach beneath. We can hear her anguished cries of distress as we learn that she's inside a cockroach trap in Freddy's razor-clawed fist, finally dying as his grip tightens.
Like Vera's robotic fate in "Superman 3," this is one death that will linger in the memory long after watching. It's one of the more mean-spirited kills in the series, and one that truly takes full advantage of the surreal aspect of Freddy's dream realm — his powers there are godlike. In a series that often forgets its roots (and its own rules), this is an example of Freddy at his most inventive and cruel.
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