Robert Englund Still Has Nightmares About The Original Nightmare On Elm Street

Horror legend Wes Craven ("Scream") released "A Nightmare on Elm Street" to an unsuspecting public in 1984, ensuring that a whole generation of kids thought twice before going to sleep after watching a horror movie. A large portion of the movie monsters audiences had been accustomed to prior were largely regional, or at the very least, bound by the laws of physics and rationality. And now here came a screen slasher that can follow you no matter where you go. Long before "Paranormal Activity" violated the safe space of sleeping in your own bed, Robert Englund gave his all to a new nightmare whose potency is still felt today.

Try as we may, it seems nearly impossible to recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle magic that came with casting Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Wreaking vengeance on the parents of Springwood, child serial killer Freddy invades the dreams of the children to get his fix, and Englund plays the sly menace to arch perfection.

I understand New Line Cinema wanting to try again in 2010 with Jackie Earle Haley ("Watchmen") as the dream slasher, but it just couldn't compare to Englund's fierce presence and twisted sense of humor. Some actors are just so intrinsically tied to their character that it's difficult to separate the two. For someone who made us scared to fall asleep, should we be tossed around the room or eaten by worm Freddy, there's a wonderful irony in Englund's makeup being so good that it gave him a taste of his own medicine.

Welcome to my nightmare, oh wait, it's just me

While being interviewed by The Guardian, Englund spoke about a little cat nap in the Freddy makeup that gave him a rude awakening he'll never forget:

"I had a little tiny honeywagon about the size of a urinal, with a Formica table, a plastic chair and a mirror with lightbulbs around it — the classic backstage makeup room. The lights were on a dimmer. I had them turned down low when I was taking a nap at about 4am, with my head resting on a tightly rolled towel so I wouldn't smear my makeup. I was waiting to be called on set and heard this banging on the door. As I sat up, I saw this disfigured face looking back at me in the mirror. The shock made me jump out of my skin. I brought my hand up and I realized: 'Oh my God, it's my own reflection!' But it was such a startling moment that it still inhabits a variety of nightmares."

Haven't we all been there before? Maybe not with Robert Kurtzman's incredible prosthetics, but looking in the mirror to see your reflection can be a nightmare in itself. It can feel impossible after a long day to do all the things you need to do before falling into bed — wash your face, turn off all the lights, etc. Sometimes I just need to rest, so everything that I have on is just coming with me. 

It would appear that Englund found himself in a similar situation while filming the original "Nightmare on Elm Street." The cramped quarters probably made it even more disorienting — the horror star hadn't a big enough icon to merit a decent sized dressing room.

How Freddy first entered my nightmares

Like a lot of people, my introduction through the screen's most iconic slashers was through cultural osmosis. Beyond his makeup, I didn't exactly know what made Freddy scary. I just knew that he was a movie baddie that people were frightened by. One thing that somewhat surprising is that my introduction to Freddy was not through Craven's film, but "Freddy Vs. Jason."

As someone who had never seen a "Nightmare" movie prior, the opening sequence, which is a rundown of Freddy's greatest hits, quickly informed me of his threatening presence, and the kind of power he possesses within his dreamscape playground. The bit that still gets me is that brief glimpse of Phillip (Bradley Gregg) from "Dream Warriors" being engineered like a puppet through the tendons that had been ripped out of his body, until eventually falling to his death from the top of a hospital. It's such a grueling way to go, and it told my younger self that I was in the company of a monster who's not to be messed with. Of course, "Freddy Vs. Jason" doesn't hold nearly the same power anymore, but when you're around that age, the exposure to all of these horrible things happening to you in your sleep was enough to make the hairs raise on the back of my neck.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is currently streaming on HBO Max and Netflix