The Creepy True Story Behind ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’

The teens are gaslit by their parents who insist that these are only bad dreams and no one can be harmed by a bad dream. It turns out, the adults in town understand precisely who this mysterious dream villain was. At some point, Krueger ended up being a vengeful spirit and established the ability to really harm individuals in his lunatic dream world.

Of all the horror movies to be based upon a true story, A Problem on Elm Street seems like a not likely prospect. The movie follows main character Nancy Thompson as she and her high school pals discover a murderous mad guy called Freddy Kreuger haunts their dreams.

Problem was written and directed by Wes Craven who has long been interested by the relationship between dreams, the world of a horror movie, and truth. He would go on to explore all three in Wes Cravens New Nightmare which starred Heather Langenkamp both as her renowned Nightmare character Nancy, and as herself– the actress who is getting involved in movies about Freddy Krueger while being stalked by him in her “reality”. Craven continued play with the concept of a meta slasher motion picture with the Scream franchise, which feature a cast of characters who are aware of the tropes and “guidelines” of scary movies while being unaware they themselves are in a horror movie.

Heres a good example from Scream (1996) where Jamie Kennedys character, Randy, an obsessive scary fan, screams at Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (1978) that the killer lags her while the “real” killer lags Randy, prompting the audience to mirror the characters action. Its all really meta:

Its easy to see how this kind of claustrophobic inability to get away from horror would influence a frightening motion picture, but its crucial to remember that even in genuine life, problems can be more than just a problem. Stress factors are stress factors and even if they are “simply in your head” your body will respond as if the stress is genuine given that it does not share our cultural predisposition that psychological health is somehow unique from and less “real” than physical health.

ScreamAll of this playing with truth makes it a lot more weird that Cravens well-known Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is based on genuine life occasions. Craven was influenced to write the script after checking out a series of posts in the Los Angeles Times about Hmong refugees who had escaped genocide in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam only to be haunted by severe headaches. When they were exhausted and in their dreams they were returned to the horrors they had actually run from, the security they worked so tough to experience throughout the day disappeared.

With that origin story in mind, take a look at Glenns death scene:

Makes it a lot creepier?

Problem was written and directed by Wes Craven who has actually long been captivated by the relationship in between dreams, the world of a horror film, and reality. Craven continued play with the idea of a meta slasher motion picture with the Scream franchise, which feature a cast of characters who are aware of the tropes and “guidelines” of horror movies while being unaware they themselves are in a scary film.

My hope as a horror fan is that one day this franchise will be revamped by somebody who both deals with Cravens tradition with pride and wants to check out the even creepier elements of the storys real life motivation– the idea that some horrors are so traumatic we can never truly escape from them.

The safety they worked so difficult to experience throughout the day vanished when they were tired and in their dreams they were returned to the horrors they had run from.

Whats the point of a frightening dream being “just a dream” if it can kill you all the same? Its a quite frightening idea, maybe a lot more so than that of a mad man with knives for fingers looking for to enact vengeance. My hope as a horror fan is that one day this franchise will be revamped by someone who both treats Cravens tradition with pride and desires to check out the even creepier aspects of the storys genuine life motivation– the concept that some scaries are so distressing we can never really escape from them.