(Major spoilers for the first episode.)
I recently wrote an article announcing Freddy’s Nightmares, the short-lived small screen outing of the beloved horror icon, was available to stream for free on Tubi. The show was released in 1988 and lasted only two seasons, ending in 1990 with a total of 44 episodes. Although we get appearances by Robert Englund as Freddy, introducing each episode with real Tales from the Crypt pizazz, the main stories rarely featured Freddy Krueger.
Though I’d watched episodes in the past, admittedly it had been quite a while since I’d partaken in the questionable entertainment of the television show. If I’m being honest, I also have the tendency to don enormous, bejeweled, rose-colored glasses when it comes to pop culture of my youth. With more than a little effort, I yanked the bedeviled things off my face and rushed to put on the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares so I may see the show in the clear, harsh light of day. Would it hold up to my memories or would it crumble to dust?
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t great.
Episode one of Freddy’s Nightmares is entitled “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and yes, that should have been warning enough as to the quality of what I was about to watch. But before I crap all over this thing, I want to be fair. There were things to enjoy in the first episode, directed by none other than Tobe Hooper, and the opening is high up on the list.
We start with a fake news report: Nightly News Break. The '80s news vibes alone here are wonderful, but it gets better. The newscaster calmly reports on multiple murders and bank robberies when he begins to fade in and out of existence like a static laden television channel. Smash cut to a dead signal designed like Freddy’s sweater, then to a “Please Standby” screen through which Freddy rips with his bladed glove, revealing the man himself, hamming it up and letting us know that this time it’s his nightmare!
The reporter fades back into existence in front of the Springwood Municipal Building, where someone runs over to hand him a script and microphone. I love the surreal nature of this moment. He seems confused before reorienting himself to this new reality, then reveals the episode to be Freddy’s origin story. Everything from dismissed trial to inevitable burning and beyond.
I guess that’s my main issue with the episode. Is it fleetingly interesting to get a prequel to the first movie? Yes (and here comes the “but”), but the proceedings are overtly familiar. We already know the history, so there are very few surprises here. It’s like watching yet another Batman or Spider-Man origin story. They can throw a new twist or new perspective, but at the end of the day it’s all just a little too familiar to be interesting.
By time Freddy’s Nightmares came out, we already had four movies under our belts (The Dream Master having come out a couple months earlier), and much of Freddy’s history had been revealed by this time. There would of course yet be revelations, especially in the forthcoming The Dream Child, but what I watched in the first episode of Freddy's Nightmares felt too familiar. Too safe.
However, my biggest issue with the episode was how one of the children somehow knew what Krueger was capable of becoming. Early in the episode, while Freddy was still “Fred,” the girl tells her police officer father, “You can’t kill Freddy. You’ll only make it worse.” As the episode goes on, she has similar (seemingly psychic) insight into Freddy’s nature, though there’s no reason why she should. Similarly, Freddy himself welcomes the flames, laughing as he burns, as if he too knows what awaits him, yelling "You think you is gonna get rid of me?! I am forever!" Maybe he did know, but it was still strange to watch Freddy allow the police officer to douse him with gasoline and set him ablaze as he welcomed death.
While the Freddy interludes are great, the rest of the acting left something to be desired. The episode often felt like a Lifetime movie, verging of melodrama. Still, there were also some decent kill scenes and gore for something that aired on television.
While my gut tells me this episode (and probably the rest of the series) could have been a lot better, I’m also just happy that Freddy’s Nightmares exists at all. Despite my misgivings, I plan to watch the rest of the series, whether masochistic or not. You really can’t beat the show for the old television vibes alone.
What are your thoughts about Freddy’s Nightmares?