Was Freddy Krueger Really Innocent in A Nightmare on Elm Street?
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street is a horror classic that is still loved by genre fans across the world. The film created one of the most recognizable horror movie villains of all time, and is also one of the longest and most well-known horror franchises
The inspiration for the story came to Craven whilst reading a newspaper article printed in the Los Angeles Times about Hmong refugees. According to the article, some of these men, who had fled from the genocides in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to American shores, started to suffer from disturbing nightmares and many died in their sleep. Medical authorities called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome and is generally unexplained. For Craven, it was the perfect basis for a horror film that would shock and terrify audiences.
Every horror film needs antagonist, and Craven found his in a scary looking man in a fedora and striped sweatshirt. Created as sadist and child murderer, Freddy Krueger was introduced as a child killer from the fictitious town of Springwood, Ohio, who was caught but set free on a technicality when it is discovered that the search warrant wasn’t signed in the right place. The town’s vengeful parents formed a mob and tracked him down to an old disused boiler room. The mob douses the building with gasoline and set it alight, burning Krueger alive. However, his spirit persist
Whether he is a ghost, demon or something else entirely, Freddy Krueger is a personification of evil that has haunted our nightmares for over 30 years. He’s the dream master, the man of myth who’s name must not be spoken. He’s the boogey man.
The movie, however, does give us an alternative view point to Krueger’s motivations. Whilst this may never have been intention of Craven or Newline Cinema, the facts themselves can be painted to show a very different motivation for the dream master. Look deep enough, and the cracks start to show. So put on a tin foil hat, and join us for a fan theory that look at the possibilities that Krueger’s backstory is much darker than your first thought. Was Freddy Krueger Really Innocent in A Nightmare on Elm Street?
( For the purpose of this theory, we are looking at just the first film from 1984, as the themes may not carry over into other films)
The Springwood Slasher
One of the films key plot points is that Freddy Krueger was discovered to be the dreaded Springwood Slasher, the murderer of several local children. It’s important to remember that Krueger was never officially found guilty of any of his crimes. In fact, very little evidence is provided to substantiate these claims. He did end up in court, and the judge saw fit to let him go. So what if he really was an innocent man? Panicked people often jump to the wrong conclusion, and when the law is not allowed to be played out, things such as evidence and circumstance are often ignored. It’s very possible that the people of Springwood needed to point the finger at someone, and they found their scapegoat in Fred Krueger.
One of the few people that could disclose the truth is Krueger himself, and his action in the film are very telling. Having come back as vengeful spirit, he haunts the dreams of the adolescent teens of Springwood. But actually, it’s not really the “teens of Springwood” but Nancy Thomson and her friends. It’s very specifically them and not any of the other children seen throughout the film. In fact, Krueger seems to keep things very close to Nancy and her mother Marge Thompson. Throughout the film, Krueger seems to have a ferocious vendetta against Marge, and is intent on torturing her daughter to get at her. When Nancy pulls Krueger into the real world, it’s Marge that he kills. Is it possible that Krueger set this up? Krueger never kills Nancy, he only plays with her, enough to give her the idea of pulling him into the real world.
At the films end, where Nancy “defeats” Krueger, everything seems to have been returned to normal before Krueger’s nightmares. But the dream master returns for one single victim, Marge Thompson. Whilst this sequence could easily be seen as another dream conjured up by Krueger, his choice of target tells us that Marge is important to him.
So why is Marge such an important character in the eyes of Krueger. The key to this is in the scene where Marge’s reveals Krueger’s glove in the basement of their home. Hidden in the basement boiler is a cloth wrapped bundle, is a bladed glove which Marge claims belonged to Krueger. The very fact that she has this glove hidden away, and that it was never produced for court, tells you a lot about where Marge is coming from.
In the TV series Dexter, the shows serial killer protagonist would often hold back or hide evidence from the police, so that the suspects would be let go and Dexter could then kidnap and kill them. In a similar thought process, is it possible that Marge hid the glove, and the police botched the paperwork, in the hope that Krueger would be let go? It’s important to remember that her husband, Donald, was a police officer at the time of the crime. It’s easy to paint a scenario where Marge and Donald conspired against Krueger, where Marge would stir up the other parents and Donald would fudge the search warrant. Maybe for them, mob justice was the only way to deal with the Springwood Slasher? In this scenario, Marge Thompson is the main protagonist in the unlawful murder of Freddy Krueger.
If there had been enough evidence to put Krueger away, then there would have been no need for “botched” search warrants. But this was clearly not the case. The townsfolk had conjured up their very own boogie man, but had no way of convicting him. Marge found a way to create enough ambiguity of Krueger’s guilt to warrant mob justice. A faulty search warrant was the perfect catalyst to rile up the parents of Springwood, and to sentence a (possible) innocent man to die.
Ultimately, the idea behind Krueger being innocent leads to a much better story, one in which his otherworldly motivations are much more clearer. If Krueger was innocent, then the Springwood townsfolk murdered him in cold blood, burning him alive. His return from the grave would be one of revenge rather than petulance. I’d like to image that a remake of the series taking on this plot line would have a much better scope in which to end Krueger’s retribution. In this story, Krueger can’t be defeated by the power of love, nor can his spirit be freed by dousing him in holy water or by simply ignoring him. Here, in the world where Krueger was brutally murdered for a crime he never committed, his spirit can only be satiate by vindication.
One last thing to leave you with, a lingering thought that just may eat into your brain as you sleep tonight. Marge has the glove of the Springwood Slasher hidden away in her basement like a dirty secret. She never got rid of it, she kept it. Why would she do that if the owner of that glove was one that she hated enough to murder? Maybe the answer lies in her own personal vendetta against Krueger. What if Marge Thomson was actually the real Springwood Slasher, and her obsessive need to pass the blame onto Krueger wasn’t done out of anger but to simply cover up her own terrible crimes?
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