You can see our other Nightmare on Elm Street lists here. Today, it’s time for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), aka, the one with Freddy’s daughter, fake-son, and a bunch of celebrity cameos
New Line was the “House That Freddy Built,” but his presence had fed New Line so much capital in such a short time it no longer really needed him after Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child‘s poor box office indicated the well had run dry. They wouldn’t hold Freddy off the screen for a while to re-build interest/anticipation nor would they plunge into a Freddy Vs. Jason film. The slasher genre, in general, was dying [see: the box office for Jason Takes Manhattan in 1989]. It was time to move on. It was time for Freddy to die.
From this point forward, unless otherwise noted all quotes come from Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
1. It wasn’t a marketing ploy – Freddy’s Dead really was supposed to be The Final Nightmare
Everyone making Freddy’s Dead thought it was the end of Freddy Krueger just the same way everyone making Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or Halloween 2 thought they had a front row seat to the final deaths of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers respectively. Freddy’s Dead actor Ricky Dean Logan even claims the contracts they signed specified that this was to be the final Elm Street film. Little did they know that at that very moment Sean Cunningham was busy re-acquiring the rights to Friday the 13th, and beginning his decade-long quest to get Freddy Vs. Jason made. They also couldn’t have guessed Wes Craven would come along just three years later with his brilliant new take on the franchise, New Nightmare.
2. Peter Jackson wrote an early screenplay featuring an old, decrepit Freddy
By 1990, Peter Jackson had only directed two small New Zealand films, but New Line’s Mark Ordesky liked what he saw. So, Jackson and writing partner Danny Mulheron were brought aboard to write what they were calling Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Dream Lover.
Their concept: Freddy’s grown older, weaker, and more decrepit. Since the kids no longer far him he’s lost his power. In fact, Elm Street kids now take sleeping pills at slumber parties to team up in their dreams and beat the living crap out of the once-feared killer. However, when the father of one of Freddy’s tormentors slips into a coma the power dynamic changes. The comatose father lives in a permanent dream world and can’t defend himself, thus setting the stage for a throw-down as the son goes back into the dream world to save his father and encounters a suddenly renewed Freddy.
That would have been a much better movie than Freddy’s Dead, but the powers that be disagreed. Still, that was the moment Jackson got his foot in New Line’s door, thus beginning a professional relationship which ultimately culminated with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.
3. The director was a woman
Freddy’s Dead director Rachel Talalay remains the only female to ever direct a Nightmare on Elm Street film. She had worked in some capacity on Nightmare on Elm Street 1-4, earning official credits as a line producer for 3 and producer for 4. She sat out part 5, working instead on other New Line projects, such as producing John Waters’ Cry Baby (1990). Eager to transition into directing, she lobbied for the job to direct the final Nightmare on Elm Street, penning her own story in the process. New Line decided to go with her, thus abandoning Peter Jackson and his script which in no way resembled Talalay’s proposed story.
4. The original script focused on Alice’s son from The Dream Child, and featured the return of the Dream Warriors as Dream Police.
Working from Rachel Talalay’s story, Michael Almereyda’s script killed off Elm Street 4 and 5′s protagonist Alice right away, focusing instead on her now 16-year-old son Jacob, whom Freddy was attempting to use to gain access to children outside of Springwood. Jacob would be assisted in his fight against Freddy by Taryn, Kincaid, and Joey from Dream Warriors, whose souls had been freed from Freddy at the end of Dream Master and were now returned by an unknown force as super-powered regulators known as the “Dream Police.” The problem was Freddy couldn’t kill them and they couldn’t kill him either, resulting in a semi-climactic epic battle in which the Dream Police and Freddy literally tear each other part only to then re-form for another round of combat.
So, it fell upon Jacob and his love interest Karen to defeat Freddy, who was finally bested when Karen discovered Freddy had been raised by an abusive foster father whose form she took to reduce Freddy to a child-like state in the dream world. You can read Almereyda’s full script here).
Rachel Talalay hated (hated!) this script, and New Line power executive Michael De Luca stepped in to write Freddy’s Dead as far more faithful to Talalay’s original story pitch. De Luca had similarly performed emergency re-writes on The Dream Child.
5. They re-used most of the crew from John Waters’ Cry Baby, including Traci Lords’ husband
Rachel Talalay’s time producing Hairspray for John Waters in 1988 and Cry Baby in 1990 translated to Waters letting her use most of his normal film crew for Freddy’s Dead. One such crew member who transitioned to Freddy’s Dead was prop master Brook Yeaton. Interestingly enough, Yeaton was married to Traci Lords at the time. The two met on the Cry Baby set, which was only Lords’ second mainstream film after having spent 1984-1987 performing in over 100 adult films before she’d ever turned 18.
6. Johnny Depp didn’t do the cameo because it was the final Elm Street film. He did it as a favor to Rachel Talalay
Rachel Talalay knew Depp from her time producing Cry Baby, and based upon that felt comfortable asking him to come in as a favor for a half day’s work on Freddy’s Dead. Once on set, Talalay’s direction to Depp for how to play the parody of the “This is your brain on drugs” PSA was “it should be dripping with teen sincerity.”
7. The guy who played Carlos, the hearing impaired kid, was originally supposed to play John Doe
Why did Ricky Dean Logan end up playing Carlos instead of John Doe? Because the role of Carlos simply spoke to him more, and that was the one he lobbied for even though that’s not who they had brought him to play. Shon Greenblatt then got the part of John Doe, i.e., the Janet Leigh-type we’re meant to think is the lead until he unexpectedly dies halfway through
8. They did not have Nintendo’s permission to mock the Power Glove
Nintendo first tried out the more immersive Wii-like video game experience at the tail end of the 1980s with the legendarily shitty Power Glove. Nintendo even produced a Fred Savage film which mostly served as a big commercial for the Power Glove:
So, Nightmare on Elm Street wanted to make fun of that, adding a power glove attachment to Freddy’s glove. According to Talalay, they didn’t actually have permission to do that, “We wanted to use the Power Glove, and Nintendo said no. But [New Line Boss] Bob [Shaye] said, ‘I don’t care what they want. I’m going to use it anyway.’ So, we used it, and it’s great, and it sold more Power Gloves, and Nintendo never sued.”
9. Freddy’s Dead helped Lezlie Dean realize she had repressed memories of molestation
It was surprisingly easy for Lezlie Dean to act out the scenes in which her character, Tracy, descends into a dream in which Freddy takes the form of her father, playing upon her past as a sexually abused girl. However, weeks after filming Lezlie began suffering flashes of memories of molestation in her own real life. Sadly, she had actually been molested, with the experience being so traumatic she had repressed it. Freddy’s Dead forced those memories to the surface.
10. Robert Englund accidentally punched Lezlie Dean in the face during their fight scene
According to Dean, “We were doing the fighting scene, and he went back like that to hit me with his glove. But he actually hit me. I had to go to the hospital, get stitches, get a tetanus shot. So, I have a scar. That scar on me I get to look at every day in the mirror and be reminded of Robert Englund.” Oddly, Englund was a big reason New Line auditioned Dean for the part of Tracy to begin with since he knew her from his time directing her in 967-EVIL.
11. To promote Freddy’s Dead, New Line held a public funeral for Freddy
The final 10 minutes being in 3D wasn’t the only gimmick or publicity stunt rolled out for Freddy’s Dead. New Line also held a funeral for Freddy Krueger at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary and invited the press to watch as assorted cast members and production people from Freddy’s Dead and prior Elm Street films mournfully watched over an empty coffin adorned with flowers and Freddy’s hat and shirt.
12. The city of Los Angeles declared September 12, 1991 (the day before the release of Freddy’s Dead) to be “Freddy Krueger Day”
It was a way of promoting the city of Los Angeles as well as celebrating Nightmare on Elm Street, which, unlike Friday the 13th, had filmed every franchise entry in Los Angeles, thus employing plenty of local labor and returning money back into the Los Angeles economy.
13. The producer actually had to step in and direct some of the final scenes
Talalay simply got really sick toward the end of their filming schedule, and being a low-budget flick they couldn’t delay production to wait for her recovery. So, according to Shon Greenblatt, “Aron Warner actually directed the last several hours of the filming of the movie,” including the final scene between Freddy and John Doe.
- $34.8 million, which would be like making $65.9 million at current ticket prices (i.e., around how much Warm Bodies & Jack the Giant Slayer each made last year). The appeal of 3D and being the final Nightmare on Elm Street allowed Freddy’s Dead to gross $12 million more than Dream Child, which had set a franchise low in domestic gross two years earlier. Among the original Elm Street films, only Dream Warriors and Dream Master posted a higher domestic gross than Freddy’s Dead.
Next time, we’ll answer where the heck Robert Englund disappears to in the second half of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.