Most of the major successful slashers of the 2020s are unconsciously indebted to the little-discussed element of the revolutionary idea of the “Nightmare on Elm Street”. Much has been made of the similarities between Vecna, the villainess from season 4 of “Very Strange Cases,” and the villain of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, Freddy Krueger. The Netflix hit admitted that the Springwood slasher had a big influence on the supernatural villain of the season, and original actor Freddie Robert Englund even plays a key role in the action of the series.
However, this is not the first time that a modern hit has borrowed the successful formula of “Nightmare on Elm Street”. The original film directed by Wes Craven revolutionized the slasher subgenre after its release in 1984, adding a new element to the teen horror formula that has since been seen in almost every successful slasher of the 2010s and 2020s. The extent to which this influence is taken for granted shows how the “Nightmare on Elm Street” formula has become the norm for slashers.
Popular hits, from “Freaky” to the trilogy “Fear Street”, from the 4th season of “Very Strange Things”, to “Candyman”, “Happy Death Day”, to the SyFy series “Chucky” and the movies “Nanny” — they all combine fantasy and horror with elements of slasher, such as ghosts, witches, curses, time loops, demons, obsession and time travel. Although it may seem like part of the slasher formula to modern viewers, most slasher films before “A Nightmare on Elm Street” were thrillers about serial killers influenced by Giallo with little or no fantasy elements. Hits such as “Black Christmas”, “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” did not rely on supernatural elements in their slasher stories, while most modern slasher take Freddy Krueger’s contribution to the genre for granted. While the popularity of slashers in 2022 proves that A Nightmare on Elm Street can still successfully reboot the franchise, it also shows how much Freddie’s contribution to the genre has changed its modern existence.
The reboot of Chucky and Candyman reinterpreted characters who were originally in creative debt to Freddie in their 80s incarnations, as the concept of an urban legend-killer or possessed doll acting as a slasher villain would have been untenable before success. A nightmare on Elm Street. Meanwhile, Freaky and Happy Death Day have incorporated time loops and body swapping into the sets of slasher films, just as “Fear Street” and “Nanny” have added witchcraft and demons to their slasher stories. It’s a far cry from the mundane horror narratives of slasher films to “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” most of which centered around a human killer like Pamela Voorhees from “Friday the 13th,” stalking and killing victims.
Although some slashers before “Nightmare on Elm Street” included fantasy elements, none of them received the close cultural attention that Freddie’s first appearance deserved. Not only did none of these earlier slashers get a sequel or spawn franchises, but even the second series of early slashers, such as Sleepaway Camp, Slumber Party Massacre and Silent Night, Deadly Night, did not contain fantasy elements. It was “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and Freddy Krueger that made this plot element profitable, as a result forever changing the trajectory of the slasher subgenre.