4. Death by Motorcycle
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, 1989
If you saw “The Dream Child” up there and are wondering how we found something redeemable about one of Freddy’s arguably worst, unarguably most uncomfortable movies: Good for You. You clearly know your Nightmare movies! So you are also no doubt aware that Freddy’s fifth movie was also his most censored film ever.
Which is a tragedy. Given where we are in the timeline of movie special effects, this is the last Nightmare movie made before CGI became ubiquitous in the film industry. This is essentially the apex of practical effects and make-up… and it’s a shame you couldn’t really see it. Despite the lowest body count in the Nightmare series thus far, Dream Child lays claim to some of the most elaborate Dreamworld murders in the series history, all of which were demanded cut by the MPAA for being too graphic. (Thank God, the uncensored version is out there on the internets.)
Of those three scant kills, the coolest/least stupid kill goes to the motorcycle sequence, where a moving motorcycle fuses with Dan’s body, digging into his veins and ripping his skull apart, before transforming him into a hulking Mad Max character smoking across the freeway. Even though the cuts are subtle in the edition most of us saw, thank Jebus the original footage still exists so you can see exactly how many punches were pulled just by excising a couple of seconds of footage.
3. Death by TV
Movie: Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987
As one of horror’s mouthier heroes, Freddy Krueger is no stranger to catch phrases, puns, and yes, dad jokes. But Dream Warriors offers a rare instance where the quip is arguably more famous than the kill. Having earlier confessed to dreams of being a famous actress, Jennifer has provided Freddy with all he needs to exploit her to death. Krueger takes the form of Dick Cavett on TV, who then kills Zsa Zsa Gabor, which are proper nouns I assure you we explain further on Elm Street Nightmare, kids.
As Jennifer comes close to the TV. Freddy’s head emerges from the set, and whether you want to assume Jennifer is killed by electrocution or blunt force trauma is up to you. Bear in mind, Freddy Krueger was always chatty, but he wasn’t yet the Scary Terry character the zeitgeist mistakenly remembers him as.
As many of you know, the line “Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch!” was ad-libbed by Robert Englund on set, and not only did it make the sequence much more memorable, it changed the tone of Freddy forever after. The B word essentially became Freddy’s catchphrase after that little bit of improv, and Englund has remarked that he’s been asked to call people “bitch” on thousands of autographs and answering machine messages ever since.
2. Death by Ceiling
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984
“There’s nothing quite like your first kill.” That’s probably a quote from some ruthless bounty hunter, right? Maybe a mentally-ravaged Vietnam vet? I hope so. I’m terrible at intros and had to write ten of them, so I fucking need this. Well, that possibly nonexistent quote rings triple true for Freddy Krueger’s very first onscreen murder. Throughout the first act, we see the him taunt his victims, special brand of goofy mirth in tow. But only when Tina becomes the first Elm Street kid to eat it are we truly introduced to the lethal power wielded by the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.
Tina is dragged and stabbed up the walls and ceiling by an unseen force. Not only is the sexually spent Rod incapable of helping his lady, he’s also going to be blamed for the crime because Freddy is still a mystery to everybody. This stunning sequence comes courtesy of a custom-built, rotating room and a camera bolted to the “floor.” You may’ve seen similar effects in… Man, I really want to say something other than Sugar Ray’s “Fly” video, but hey, that’s what comments are for.
Either way, the illusion room was so crucial to the production, they used it again, in the very same movie, during the sequence where Johnny Depp is sucked through his bed and a geyser of blood pools on the ceiling. For yet another callback, the scene was again recreated for Julie’s death in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare 10 years later.
1. Death by Roach Motel
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, 1988
You’d be forgiven for thinking Debbie’s roach death is stupid. It’s most likely because you’re stupid. Or at least don’t realize that part of what makes the Nightmare on Elm Street series special is being a showcase for horrific practical effects. Yes, it’s supposed to be scary, but the movies remain special because in between the tension, they delivered astoundingly grotesque music videos vignettes, featuring some of the most disgusting shit worth loving.
The only stupid thing about Debbie’s death, is while everyone else is killed in a way that is reliant on their fears, anxieties, addictions or hobbies. Debbie gets skeeved when a roach crawls on her food. Who the fuck doesn’t hate roaches?! Everyone hates them, Freddy! But even though Krueger didn’t seem to get to know his victim enough, how can you not like Debbie’s arms cracking in half as Freddy draws insect legs from her severed elbows, in a sequence I would describe as Kafkaesque if I were pretending to be intelligent.
The cockroach transformation gets even more grotesque as Debbie skin is pulled off by a sticky substance lining the floor, where it’s then revealed she’s warped inside a roach motel, which you may remember as one of the most ineffective methods of one-at-a-time pest control the 80s had to offer. Yes, you could call it silly. But love it or hate it, the roach sequence remains one of the more unforgettable, more disgusting, and needlessly brutal kills in Freddy Krueger’s history.
And there’s nine, with insincere apologies to Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Freddy’s Dead, the 2010 remake and Freddy vs Jason, where Freddy kills almost no one. Here more about our thoughts and the behind the scenes details on the entire Freddy series on An Elm Street Nightmare, where ever you listen to podcasts.
And be sure to check out the Nightmare on Elm Street 7-film Blu-ray collection. It’ll give you all the ammunition you need to prove us wrong!