Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare — A nuanced take on abuse?!

After some time away from writing at 1428 Elm, I decided to mark my return with a piece on Rachel Talalay’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Yes, 1428 Elm is part of the address associated with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund),  but Freddy is also my favorite slasher villain, due to some of the issues involved in his story. That’s right, I said issues. Fred has plenty of them, and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare — one of the least liked of the franchise, perhaps 2nd only to the 2010 reboot — elaborates on what made Freddy turn out so bad.

It’s not enough to say that Freddy was bullied, abused, emotionally scarred, etc. Like real-life serial killers, he most certainly had psychopathic tendencies early on. The question is, to what extent did others push (or at least nudge) him in a killer direction?

In that film’s underrated flashback scenes (among the creepiest in the entire film series), we see some of the mental building blocks that created Freddy’s mania, including an abusive foster father ( Alice Cooper, who has recovered from COVID-19 and urges everyone to be vaccinated!) and a number of people in town who verbally abused him for being the son of a nun who was raped by “100 maniacs.”

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare — Let’s take it a bit seriously

Yes, this movie has plenty of intentional absurdity, caked-on thick like layers of greasy cheese. Nevertheless, the topic of abuse and bullying is a pretty common feature here, which oddly adds some seriousness to the story. I can’t speak for everyone, but I respect the fact that Freddy’s background is made a little more complicated, and we see he was bullied before becoming one himself. Could the Freddy Kruegers of the world have turned out differently?

I think Freddy’s Dead also complicates the common perception that some people are bullies while others are not. In reality, practically everyone can play the role of the bully, even in the name of being good. The people who belittle the young Freddy (Chase Schrimer) no doubt felt morally superior to that little weirdo and wished to let him know it, too. So what happens when all you ever do is reinforce the perception that someone is flawed, evil, irredeemable, etc.? They may just lash out and become more of the monster they’re creating.

Is there a little bit of Freddy in us all?

In one of this film’s cruelest scenes, Freddy psychologically tortures Tracy (Lezlie Deane) by exploiting her fears regarding her dead, abusive father (Peter Spellos). It’s really Freddy at his worst, but possibly (perhaps subconsciously) one of the reasons people don’t like this film. Basically, Freddy does some truly corny one-liners during these moments, and it almost exposes the viewers, many of which simply viewed Freddy’s story and M.O. as a pop-cultural joke. Of course, it was never hidden that Freddy was an abusive, violent character, but this scene calls into question how we relate to him.

Despite the imperfect IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, I would say Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare merits some reappraisal for these reasons alone. No, I am not saying it’s necessarily some profound philosophical movie, but the potential is there with the right viewer to re-examine their relationship with this villain. In other words, the self-awareness of this supposedly final Freddy film doesn’t just subtract from it. After all, what’s scarier than having your death being the mere butt of some maniac’s corny joke?

“Final” thoughts on Freddy’s memories of abuse

There are plenty of secretly complex moments in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, or things a person should probably examine a little bit more. Yes, I am suggesting this movie requires a bit of work on behalf of the viewer for all of its abuse themes to be better appreciated. In addition to Freddy being bullied in school, we see Freddy murder his wife, Loretta Krueger (Lindsey Fields), suggesting a serial killer whose mask of normalcy was slipping. His daughter, Katherine (Cassandra Rachel Freil), who witnessed the murder and saw her father’s deadly razor gloves, was so traumatized that she forgot the crime and even grew up under a different first and last name, Maggie (Lisa Zane).

You also see a teenage Freddy Krueger (Tobe Sexton) who has grown so accustomed to abuse from his stepfather that he seems to embrace pain, then “uses it” against him. Though some fan sites suggest the stepdad, named Edward Underwood, was stabbed in the eye with a razor and killed, that is not actually shown in the movie (and therefore might not truly be canon). What is clear in this scene is that Freddy had an affinity with razors early on in his career of violence and that he likely considers it retaliatory against a world he felt wronged him. Plus, let’s face it, he does get off on being violent to people, which is standard serial killer stuff.

We also see that Freddy had experimented with different gloves, which were hidden in his secret little trophy room. Whatever one says about the rest of the movie, in my opinion, these flashback scenes are some of the scariest of any Freddy Krueger film. When Loretta drops to the ground lifeless and Freddy tells Katherine her mom was given “medicine” for “snooping in daddy’s special work,” it is a dark moment indeed. Also, hell with it: I like the cornier, less scary moments, too, alright? That’s right, I am a Freddy’s Dead defender!

What are your thoughts on Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare? Let us know in the comments!