A Haunted Childhood Courtesy of Wes Craven – A List of Nightmares

wesNine, Ten, never sleep again.

Walking to King Soopers at eight-years-old with a friend, having zero trouble from the clerk renting a copy of A Nightmare on Elmstreet and watching (through my fingers) Tina in a bloody t-shirt as she was dragged across the bedroom ceiling.

Johnny Depp not doing a funny accent or being weird and just acting, without pretense then being good enough to get murdered in a very bloody and wet way in a water bed with headphones on!

The appropriated and haunting nursery rhyme, “One two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix…” was repeated, mantra-like at the playground on the four square court to fuck with and or intimidate opponents into foul or error.

Seven, eight, better stay up late.

Dressing up like a child-murdering psychopath who was burned alive by a vigilante group of grieving parents and returning as a nightmare-controlling demon in a dirty red and green sweater seemed totally appropriate in 1985, for Halloween or just for fun.

With a little bit of effort and some resourcefulness, an old garden glove, four popsicle sticks, red magic markers and scotch tape made for a quick and dirty way to make a semi-decent Freddy glove or pair of “fingerknives…something he’d made himself. They made a horrible sound.” Extra points for using Grandpa’s dusty fedora.

Add some Mr. Pibb, handfuls of dime store candy and easily frightened siblings at a sleepover and the screams would wake the neighborhood at 3am.

Five, six, grab your crucifix.

Of all the well established global franchise cults, Catholicism has a corner on the market for being the most frightening, steeped in violence and blood rituals. Catholic school was constantly infiltrated by dark powers. Most of these forces manifested as whispered fart jokes, dick jokes or vile new curse words used to battle bullies on the monkey bars. After being kicked painfully in the tail bone by a knucklehead bully who, today, is likely a successful dentist, big game trophy hunter and card carrying asshat for life, I was asked not to return to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School for calling him a “retarded bastard shit mouth.” They took issue with the “bastard” part as they have fairly rigid strictures about sex out of wedlock. I also attribute my expulsion to my constant crude drawings of skeletons, demons and, yep, Freddy Krueger slicing and dicing through teenagers in skimpy outfits and the school’s Nuns in a rain of Crayola red blood and gore.

Three, four, better lock your door.

In the basement of my friend’s house we devoured Dream Warriors through multiple screenings. It was gritty. Punk rock. A world that still had Psychiatric Hospitals. Misfit suicidal kids from broken homes and estranged families were locked in a mental ward and terrorized by Krueger. Dream Warriors was the first Go Team-style film that really worked well. Each teen had a special skill they brought to the table to battle the master of nightmares.

Lagenkamp reprised her role as Nancy Thompson and had to follow through with some weird ritual burial of Krueger per her alcoholic father, played with aplomb by John Saxon. It was a return to form for the franchise after a fairly unsatisfying Nancy Drew/possession trope of the second film of the franchise, Freddy’s Revenge. Craven had story and screenwriting credit for Dream Warriors. It stared a young and volatile Patricia Arquette as Kristen Parker (and it seems fitting to add that by the time she played Alabama in True Romance she had her siren scream nailed down). Patricia’s angst and anger were palpable. Believable even if it was a little over-wrought.

Freddy was hilarious. Three had the best one-liners like Robert Englund’s famously ad-libbed Freddy line, “Welcome to Prime Time Bitch” as he shoves the head of teen speed lover into the television screen. Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett made cameos! Laurence Fishburn. Naked boobies were visible in the scene with Joey, which turned out not so good for Joey.

We wore out the tape rewinding that bit, one of us checking the stairs for curious parents while the other hit pause at just the right moment [nipple framing]. Along with director Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont (Walking Dead) was involved in the rewrite and according to some shit I just googled, most of the original script by Craven was deemed too dark. Craven based the setting of Dream Warriors on a prison-like “tough love” institution that were common in the late 80’s and into the 90’s and run with fervor by religious zealots and unqualified “counselors.”

It’s hard enough being a teenager without worrying about getting shot for wearing a hooded sweatshirt while strolling through the neighborhood, but add abduction, idiot bureaucrats and Nurse Ratchet-like wardens and you’ve got a stellar recipe for nightmare juice.

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.

Wes Craven was a pioneer in the genre. Ahead of his time. Say what you will about franchises and the inherent cheesiness of the slasher genre. Craven created worlds (Nightmare, Scream) and tapped primal fears. Freddy’s Nightmares, an American Horror Anthology series that had two new stories per episode starring the how sweet, fresh meat of Brad Pitt and punk rock babe/Tank Girl, Lori Petty. Oh Lori Petty you were the bee’s knees in my adolescent fantasy.

Nightmare is being asleep and killed by your dreams. Strange to think about Craven’s body of work with the benefit of hindsight but those films seem much tamer by today’s standards.

You could turn on the news and have nightmares for weeks. Years if you’ve been paying attention since the Bush administration.

Craven was a brilliant creative force and he will be missed.

Thanks for the nightmares!

Rest in Peace.

You can check out the original script for Dream Warriors by Craven at http://nightmareonelmstreetfilms.com/site/films/a-nightmare-on-elm-street-3-dream-warriors/a-nightmare-on-elm-street-3-dream-warriors-scripts

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