This was obvious, right? Robert Englund as Freddy Kru(e)ger is pretty damn scary. And he’s at his scariest, I think, in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Even with the damn studio ending stamped on at the end.
The movie’s opening sequence of Freddy making his knife-glove nearly perfectly establishes his character… he’s a monster (look at his actual hands, not just his weapon), smart, and incredibly evil. He glorifies in his evil. The first maniacal laugh during Tina’s initial nightmare confirms it all. The audience is in for a terrifying ride… I certainly was, and having to go down to the rather spooky basement of my building to fetch the laundry after the credits rolled was not appealing.
Anyway, after Tina’s initial nightmare, she asks her boyfriend and a few other friends to spend the night with her, since her mother is on a trip with one of her boyfriends. That night she is killed, and the boyfriend arrested for her murder. The nightmares descend upon the boyfriend and kill him in his cell, then turning to Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), the cop’s daughter, who was onto the fact that these nightmares were no coincidence. As they take her toll on her, she realizes that if she dies in one of her dreams, she will, like her friends, die in real life. Until she can find a way to defeat Freddy Kruger, the only thing to do is “don’t fall asleep.”
Now, before I go back to Englund, I have to give a nod to Wes Craven– not just for creating the scariest horror movie your humble friend and narrator has watched, but also for making the crucifix cliche work. If you look at the religious imagery in most horror movies, you’d think all the characters were Catholic, which is statistically unlikely, especially in the States and UK, but not impossible. Tina grabs her crucifix for comfort/protection after the first nightmare, but then the Greek chorus of girls playing jump rope add a new twist on the old cliche with the line, “Five, six get your crucifix/seven, eight better stay up late….”
Back to Englund. It takes rather a long time for the audience to get a gander at his face, that’s easy to forget, given all the overexposure the Kruger character has today, but before we actually we get to see him, we get a perfect sense of his personality and menace. Especially the menace. Every hiss, rasp, or scratch on the wall establishes his sick sense of humor, and his malice. And when you do see his face– it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.