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The Nightmares on Elm Street

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Jeffrey Cooper
The Nightmares on Elm Street parts 1, 2 & 3: The Continuing Story
Futura, London, 1987
(price: £2.99; 216 pages)

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Joseph Locke
The Nightmares on Elm Street parts 4 & 5: The Dream Master & The Dream Child
Futura, London, 1989
(price: £2.99; 192 pages)

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ed. Martin H Greenberg
The Nightmares on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger's Seven Sweetest Dreams
Futura, London, 1991
(price: £3.99; 296 pages)

The blurb on the backs:

Freddy Krueger, terrifying killer who slashed children to death with razor-sharp finger knives, was dead - burnt alive by outraged parents from Elm Street.
Ten years had gone by since then, and only now were people sleeping peacefully at night.
But the nightmare was just about to begin...
Children are having hideous nightmares about a grossly deformed being with razor-edged fingers of death. Freddy is back; now neither man not beast, but a chilling embodiment of evil itself. And as the nightmares become reality, and Freddy's twisted will becomes the children's command, panic, terror and murder stalk the streets of Springfield again...

...seven, eight, better stay up late
nine, ten, never sleep again...
Just when they thought it was safe to snooze, the kids on Elm Street are waking up dead.
Freddy's back, looking for some 'soul' food. And he won't stop even when Kristen Parker - the last child of Freddy's killers - goes on a trip that puts her six feet deep. Now the fiendish phantom is using other kid's
[sic] dreams to find his victims - and to slaughter them in new and ingeniously gory ways.
His blades are razor-sharp, his jokes are improving, and he is eternal. Neither can his bloodthirst be stopped!
So beware: You doze...you die!

To sleep…
’It’s getting
awfully late. The sun will be rising soon. And you say you still aren’t tired? How’s that? You’re trying to stay awake? You’re afraid to begin … dreaming? You’re scared you’ll run into me?
…perchance to scream.

opening lines:

Tina woke up screaming, the covers clutched tightly in her trembling hands.

Kristen's dream began with a particular kind of dread - thick and heavy and oppressive - that she hadn't felt in a long time. Almost two years, to be exact.

She was a priestess of sorts

The pantheon of horror was set in stone a long time ago and, hugely successful movies and books over the last three decades notwithstanding, there hasn't been much change at the top of the tree: Dr Frankenstein (and his monster), Camilla, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, Dorian Gray, Dr Moreau, King Kong, Ambrosio the religious fanatic, the kids in The Turn of the Screw, the ghosts of MR James - these are difficult acts to follow. The waterfront (if I may mix my metaphors) is pretty much covered. Still, there have been a few intrusions into the lower end of this establishment: Norman Bates, George Romero's zombies and - above all others - Freddy Krueger.

In the original conception of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Krueger was genuinely brilliant. And scary. If you go to sleep, you may never wake up because Freddy will be after you: all your nightmares incarnated in the shape of a razor-nailed psychopath who may or may not be a returning psycho in the manner of Michael Myers. That first movie was absolutely superb: 'I'm into survival now,' declared one of the kids and - in the context of Reagan's Amerika - you couldn't help but feel there was a very interesting subtext going on here. A Shock-Headed Peter for the nuclear age.

As the movies went on, however, Krueger (played throughout by the very fine Robert Englund) became more and more of a parody. He developed a tendency to deliver one-liners that seemed more appropriate for Roger Moore's version of James Bond, and the spin-off merchandising soon reduced him to the level of a voodoo gonk. Partly, one assumes, this must have been the consequence of Wes Craven losing control of (or interest in) his creation; certainly the 1994 film Wes Craven's New Nightmare was a masterly reclaiming of the series, playing with layers of meaning and reality in a way that prefigured and overshadowed the much more successful Scream.

The first film and Wes Craven's New Nightmare are hugely recommended as movies, but I'm afraid episodes 4 and 5 leave a great deal to be desired. And - of course - all of them make for rubbish novels. But they do come with 8 and 16 pages of photos respectively:

Fat Freddy
Mr Freddy

The third volume here is an indication of how the franchise diluted the concept: it's a collection of short stories by Brian Hodge, Tom Elliott, Bentley Little, William Relling Jr, Philip Nutman, Wayne Allen Sallee and Nancy A Collins, all of which feature Freddy in original scenarios. And I don't rate it.


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