in Review, Shocktober

“Freddy’s Tricks and Treats – Freddy’s Nightmares (1988)

Season 1 – Episode 4
October 29th, 1988

It’s weird that Freddy Krueger was such an iconic character of the 1980s. I would put him in the same category as E.T., Optimus Prime, or even Alf. Freddy had board games, a talking doll, he even did a music video with the Fat Boys.

Why do people love Freddy? I get that his look is iconic and his one-liners are funny but remember… Freddy Krueger murders children! That’s the whole reason the people of Springwood, Ohio burnt him alive in the first place. Yet somehow at some point in time, the character morphed from the evil incarnate to everyone’s favorite ‘lil stinker.

Case in point, in 1988 New Line Television gave him his own TV show. Freddy’s Nightmare was an anthology horror series that ran for three years in syndication featuring Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) as the master of scare-a-monies (my choice of words). Think of it as a pre-Tales from the Crypt but based around teens and with numerous stories featuring Freddy himself. That’s why I had to watch this show.

This isn’t some understudy filling in for Freddy. This is Robert Englund himself. Robert Englund as Freddy on TV killing teens on primetime. As someone who’s seen every Nightmare on Elm Street film, I couldn’t go on knowing there were Freddy stories I hadn’t seen. In fact, the pilot episode of the show features Freddy’s trial and murder by the people of Springwood. There’s important canon going on here!

But it is Halloween time so I had to go for the episode “Freddy’s Tricks and Treats” where Freddy torments a stressed medical student (Mariska Hargitay) on Halloween night. It’s also worth noting that whereas most episodes are an hour long with two segments this one is one story for the whole hour. Must be a great story, right? RIGHT?

Future Law and Order star Mariska Hargitay plays Marsha, a medical student new to Springwood trying to study on Halloween night for a big exam the next morning. Mark (Daniel McDonald) is either her pushy boyfriend or a boy who’s a friend trying to pry Marsha away from her books to enjoy the party downstairs. Is this like a sorority house? Party house? Marsha gives it a go but quickly loses interest and heads to campus so she can go mess around with dead bodies. Is this how medical schools work? You can just go at any time of night and cut open cadavers and what not? If I so I picked the wrong career path.

Marsha goes to mess around in some guts when she realizes she’s not alone. There’s a presence stalking her. Freddy’s ready. I should note that Mark mentioned Freddy earlier and Marsha didn’t know who that was but like how? You just moved to a town where like a hundred kids have been killed by a supernatural boogeyman. How do you not know? Though I will say that’s an issue with multiple Elm Street movies. No one ever seems to remember the events of the previous film.

Most of the scares are just spooky whispers and silhouettes but there are two in particular I like. One involves Marsha’s grandma (Elsa Raven)—who we learn was abusive in flashbacks. Marsha has a vision where her grandma appears wearing Freddy’s trademark fedora and bladed glove. Hilarious! Another good scare is when Marsha walks in on an anatomy skeleton dressed like Freddy and the skeleton says “Jump my bones, baby.” That’s just good writing.

The problem is every time we have one of these reveals it just cuts to Marsha waking up. How many times is she gonna fall asleep in one night? The gimmick wears thin and the scares are hampered by a severe lack of gore.

Marsha’s big moment comes when she is confronted by her dead grandma who turns into Freddy again. They tangle before Marsha manages to escape. The big reveal at the end of the segment is that Mark isn’t real? Like he was there to help her confront her past trauma but now that she has he doesn’t need to be there? So like Shudder Island except it sucks. I don’t get it.

The second half of the episode picks up with Marsha as a test subject for two other students, Zach (Darren Dalton) and Gary (Cameron Thor aka Dodgson from Jurassic Park who is now in jail for sexual assault. Fuck that guy) studying Marsha’s dreams. Like all they do is set up some machines with wires and diodes and they can watch her dreams on a computer monitor. Very science-y. They purposefully intensify Marsha’s dreams and torment her but uh oh FREDDY’S READY! And he kills those nerds. Mostly by showing up on TV screens.

Overall the show feels like a cheap cash grab but there are a few highlights. I actually liked Mariska Hargitay in this episode. She has to scream a lot and she’s convincing. But of course, Englund is the real star of the show. The fact that he can be so likable and terrifying from one moment to another is a testament to the strength of the character. I get now why the character was such a hit. He’s like a horror version of Bugs Bunny. If Bugs Bunny was a murderer. Though I don’t know maybe he was. Perhaps that’s a story for another time.

That’s all folks.