A Nightmare on Elm Street – The Inspiration
We all know it, we all love it, but where did the idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street originate?
A nightmare on Elm Street, a film that inspired countless filmmakers and many sleepless nights. A film that spawned multiple sequels, a tv show, a reboot and a video game. Ok, not a great video game.. but a video game nonetheless, how many video games have you inspired? Not to mention thousands of toys, props, replicas, games, videos, bootlegs, action figures and costumes. A Nightmare on Elm Street is deeply rooted in horror movie culture, and my personal favorite film of all time. The movie that saved a production company. New Line Cinema, dubbed “The house the Freddy built”. But the question is, what inspired something that would become the inspiration of so many other things?
Being a movie fanatic and outright fucking nerd, I had to seek out the answer to the question. Not only did I seek out the inspiration and researched it, I tracked down the original source material. I also tracked down interviews with the legend himself (not Robert Englund, who I have had the pleasure of speaking with) but Wes Craven, the creator and director of one of the greatest horror movie of all time.
Wes Craven’s first response when asked what led inspired him to come up with A Nightmare on Elm Street, he responded “It came to me in a dream.” (He was definitely holding onto that quote for a while just waiting for the opportunity) He then laughed and said “No, it was a series of articles in the LA TIMES, three small articles about men from South East Asia, who were from immigrant families and who had died in the middle of nightmares—and the paper never correlated them…” (After my research I have distinguished there were actually 5 articles over all published in the LA Times regarding this problem.) “…Never said, ‘Hey, we’ve had another story like this.’ The third one was the son of a physician. He was about twenty-one; I’ve subsequently found out this is a phenomenon in Laos, Cambodia. Everybody in his family said almost exactly these lines: ‘You must sleep.’ He said, ‘No, you don’t understand; I’ve had nightmares before—this is different.'” Craven continues “He was given sleeping pills and told to take them and supposedly did, but he stayed up. I forget what the total days he stayed up was, but it was a phenomenal amount—something like six, seven days. Finally, he was watching television with the family, fell asleep on the couch, and everybody said, ‘Thank god.’ They literally carried him upstairs to bed; he was completely exhausted. Everybody went to bed, thinking it was all over. In the middle of the night, they heard screams and crashing. They ran into the room, and by the time they got to him he was dead. They had an autopsy performed, and there was no heart attack; he just had died for unexplained reasons. They found in his closet a Mr. Coffee maker, full of hot coffee that he had used to keep awake, and they also found all his sleeping pills that they thought he had taken; he had spit them back out and hidden them. It struck me as such an incredibly dramatic story that I was intrigued by it for a year, at least, before I finally thought I should write something about this kind of situation.”
Before I post the actual articles that inspired A Nightmare on Elm Street, I’d also like to touch on the inspiration for the actual character of Freddy Kreuger while i’m at it. There were 3 different factors that inspired Freddy Kreuger and the general outline for the story. The first and most noticeable is that he named Freddy Krueger after his childhood bully Fred Krueger. Makes sense that if someone bullies you at 11 years old to grow up and build a huge franchise off of the guy, make him into a child murderer (the molester thing is a myth), make him wear an ugly sweater of the 2 colors that clash the most according to science and burn the shit out of him. The second inspiration was Gary Wright’s song Dream Weaver, this basic idea is that you can consciously control your dreams, the music was also in the inspiration for the Nightmare on Elm Street score. The look of Freddy was inspired by a homeless man that Craven saw when he was young.
During an interview, Craven said, “When I looked down there was a man very much like Freddy walking along the sidewalk. He must have sensed that someone was looking at him and stopped and looked right into my face. He scared the living daylights out of me, so I jumped back into the shadows. I waited and waited to hear him walk away. Finally I thought he must have gone, so I stepped back to the window. The guy was not only still looking at me but he thrust his head forward as if to say, ‘Yes, I’m still looking at you.’ The man walked towards the apartment building’s entrance. I ran through the apartment to our front door as he was walking into our building on the lower floor. I heard him starting up the stairs. My brother, who is ten years older than me, got a baseball bat and went out to the corridor but he was gone.” So, there you have it, that’s how Freddy came into this world… also when his mother (A nun) was beaten and gang raped while working at the Hathaway House (An asylum for the clinically insane), leading the monkier “The son of a hundred maniacs.”
Now, as promised, the actual articles that inspired A Nightmare on Elm Street…
February 26, 1981Deaths of Laos Refugees Puzzle Officals
July 12, 1981Men of Hmong Dogged By Death
July 14, 1981Mysterious Fatal Malady Striking Hmong Men
September 12, 1981Puzzle of Laotian Refugee Deaths Is Probed in S.D.
July 10, 1983Night Deaths of Asian men Unexplained