Monday, November 16, 2009

Freddy Krueger At 25: Some Thoughts On An Icon

So here I am on the other side of the weekend faced with writing about the first entry of the other granddaddy horror franchise. Who says there’s no such thing as kismet. Its ironic that I’ve written more about The Friday The 13th franchise then I have The Nightmare one, because I’ve always considered myself a Freddy man rather then a Jason guy.

Which brings us to an important question. Why? Why after all the terrible sequels, and corny jokes, and VJ-esque minstrelsy, after and I never get tired of stating this, he was resurrected by Dog Piss, and backed by Doken, and had his stop motion skeleton fought John Saxon, and was a squeamish metaphor for Homosexuality, after he killed someone with a power glove and terrorized Rosanne, Why after all of this stupid shit is this character even remotely scary? Because make no mistake, good old Fred Krueger, at least in his debut film is still a fucking scary guy.

I’m not going to talk much about the film, it’s already been covered. It’s probably Craven’s most elegant (which isn’t saying much but oh well) the young cast sells their roles well, the dreams feel like real dreams, and the atmosphere of dread is overwhelming. I just want to talk about the character of Krueger and why he’s lasted.

Part of it is of course the look. Freddy was an instant icon, while Michael and Jason are designed with a certain amount of anonymity, it could be any butcher knife that does you in, Freddy’s glove is purposeful, lethal, specific, and just plain nasty looking. The fedora and sweater help too, as does the awful magnetic face. Its all that sense of purpose. While we’re never quite sure why Myers and Jason feel the need to decrease the surplus population, Freddy’s motivation is literally all over his face. Once again, purpose.

That Purpose extends to Englund’s performance, and while it would eventually devolve into sub Borscht Belt schtick, here Englund strikes just the right note of conscience malice. Because that’s the thing while Myer’s and Jason go about their business almost like forces of nature, its no more use to be mad at them then it is a cyclone or a house fire. Freddy knows what he does, and what’s more he enjoys it. Not only is he going to cut you up, he’s going to laugh while he’s doing it.

But I think at the end of the day all this is secondary. I think the real reason that Freddy Krueger still scares the shit out of people, despite all the bad puns, and all the lame kills, and the fact that “Bitch” is now a national catchphrase, is that Freddy is the slasher whose closest to death.

Like the characters in the movie who know that they will die if they go to sleep, we can postpone but never escape the inevitable. Go ahead work out, quit smoking, drive the speed limit, cut out red meat, and cut back on the old drinking, sooner or later something will get you. And even if you do beat it back momentarily and that ugly lump goes into remission, well there’s always a sequel.

At the end of the day we all go to sleep for good and meet what ever is out there. We can only hope it won't call us Bitch.


Wings said...

Good take on Freddy. He has always been the "goofy one", to me. Too much joking when it didn't appear needed. But, your arguments for why he is scary, and still can be scary, are pretty spot on.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Thanks alot. I'm fond of this one myself.