Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street hit U.S. movie theaters in November 1984, introducing one of the horror genre’s best-known (and freakiest-looking) maniacs, Freddy Krueger.
Not content with plundering dreams and fantastical feats of slaughter, Krueger attained further achievement while ensuring cinematic notoriety: Unearthing a suitably repugnant sweater to compliment his fire-ravaged face. And like most things associated with the creation of Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s an intriguing (comic book nerd-approved) story behind it.
The movie’s premise found partial inspiration in a series of 1970s LA Times newspaper articles, detailing refugees who’d fled to the U.S. amidst the Khmer Rouge Genocide. A number of the exiled Cambodians were besieged with hellish nightmares, prompting a refusal to sleep. Curiously, several of them died after eventually conceding to slumber. Medical authorities labeled the baffling phenomenon “Asian Death Syndrome.”
The concoction of Freddy Krueger, meanwhile, drew influence from a number of sources. One of them was Craven’s school bully, named (fittingly enough) Fred Krueger. Another was a hideous hobo he once saw shuffling through a city sidewalk. By all accounts, this gentleman of the road looked every bit as startling as the charcoaled child killer. Eek!
This brings me back to Krueger’s Ugly Christmas Sweater-approved attire. After reading a 1982 story published in Scientific American, Craven learned that a combination of red and green made for the human retina's two most clashing colors.
In addition to this, the director’s favorite childhood DC Comics character was the rubberlike paladin of freakish flexibility, Plastic Man.
As if a Borat-like mankini fastened with laces (AKA Plastic Man's costume) didn’t already provide daunting physical appearance, Craven adorned his infamous serial killer with razor sharp claws.
So, to evaluate, Freddy Krueger is the unlikely splicing of a school bully, scrotum-faced hobo, and bendable superhero. With claws.
Wes Craven truly was a master of the macabre...