Where Is Freddy Krueger in the Horror Legacy Sequel Craze?

Right now, in the world of horror, the legacy sequel is the key to success. After several remakes of classic horror came and went, the last few years have seen an influx of franchise films that embrace their history, to great success. Halloween 2018, Candyman, the Chucky series of Syfy, and most recently, Scream. Now, a Texas Chainsaw legacy sequel is hitting Netflix as well. The studios have realized that instead of trying to remake classic films, it’s far more lucrative to add to the existing mythology. But in this “requel” craze, where is A Nightmare on Elm Street?

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.
New Line Cinema

Aside from Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th (that’s a whole other article), there’s been one other name glaringly missing from this current horror cycle. And that is Freddy Krueger, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Robert Englund’s portrayal as Wes Craven’s dream killer traumatized an entire generation, and Freddy became a pop culture icon back in the ’80s. Once upon a time, he sold toys and pajamas and you name it. So why has he been sidelined? And how (and why) has he missed out on this pop culture moment?

The Remake Stink Needed Time to Wear Off
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
New Line Cinema.

The last entry in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise came in 2010. It was the last of the big horror/slasher remakes to come out from the 2000s. Starring Jackie Earle Haley, this remake followed on the heels of the 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the Friday the 13th reboot, both in 2009. All of these films opened well at the box office, and ultimately made money. But the critical consensus was mostly negative.

And the fan response to the Elm Street remake wasn’t great either. It felt overly glossy, just hitting the most well-known moments from Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, and yet leaving crucial elements out. And try as he might, Haley just couldn’t fill the sweater of Robert Englund. All this movie did was make folks appreciate the originals more. So, given how people felt, it makes sense that they gave Nightmare a rest. But it’s been long enough. And horror fans are now clamoring for Freddy to return, with Englund in the role.

A Sitcom Gives a Glimmer of Hope
Robert Englund's last appearance on ABC sitcom The Goldbergs.

In 2018, Robert Englund returned to the role of Freddy Krueger, putting on the razor glove of the Springwood Slasher for an episode of the sitcom The Goldbergs. Yes, Englund was in his 70s, but he still looked just like the Freddy we all knew and loved with that iconic makeup on. Fred Heads everywhere hoped it meant New Line Cinema was testing the waters for an Englund/Krueger return. But alas, they made no announcement. And with the success of so many horror legacy sequels subsequent to this episode airing, it seems like an even more glaring oversight. So what’s the deal?

Freddy Goes to Court
The late Wes Craven and his most famous creation, Freddy Krueger.
New Line Cinema

Part of the reason for a delay might be a legal one. In 2019, the U.S. rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street reverted back to the late Wes Craven’s estate. That means that the estate has sole rights to the franchise, while the original studio New Line Cinema has international rights still. That creates a complicated distribution picture for a potential sequel. However, New Line and the Craven estate could simply make a deal, and keep everything in-house. New Line was often called “the House that Freddy built” after all.

But so far, that deal hasn’t happened. Two years ago, reports surfaced that the Craven estate had taken pitches for a new Nightmare film, but not much has been heard about it since. We have to imagine, with all the money that can be made, that both parties will not twiddle their thumbs forever. Right now, the horror legacy sequel, both on film and TV, is a hot commodity. Why wait till the fad has passed for its biggest star to return? And for Robert Englund to get even older? Strike while the iron is hot.

The Needed Ingredients for a Nightmare Legacy Sequel

Speaking of Englund, he has spoken about a potential return to Freddy. Without him in some capacity, it’s just not the same. But Englund, now 74, has said he’s not up for the physical (and makeup chair) demands of playing the character anymore. He has been open to returning for a limited capacity. But not as he was in the old days. However, we live in a deep fake world now. One where a young Mark Hamill pops up regularly as Luke Skywalker. This technology seems tailor-made for Englund to come back as Krueger.

Heather Langenkamp as Nancy, and Robert Englund as Freddy, from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
New Line Cinema

So aside from Englund putting the glove back on, what would a Nightmare legacy sequel look like? Well, the consensus among fans seems to be that everyone wants to see Freddy face off against Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson one more time. Langenkamp was the franchise’s premier “Final Girl,” starring in Craven’s original, as well as the beloved third film, Dream Warriors. She also played a version of herself in Wes Craven’s meta-movie, New Nightmare. But they killed her character off in Dream Warriors. How could she pull a Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018 and come back? We doubt any fans would be happy if they erased Nightmare 3 from canon.

Cherry Pick from the Elm Street Expanded Universe

The key to bringing Nancy back as an adversary for Freddy is actually right there in Dream Warriors. When Freddy impaled Nancy with his glove and she lay dying in the film’s climax, the character of Kristen Parker, who had the supernatural gift of pulling people into her own dreams, says “I’m going to dream you into a beautiful dream… forever and ever.” Could she have transported Nancy’s soul into the dream world, where she acts as a kind of guardian?

Art from the 1991 comic tie-in series Nightmares on Elm Street.
Innovation Comics

They have explored this idea before, in some old Nightmare tie-in comics from the ‘90s. For long-gone publisher Innovation Comics, writer Andy Mangels conjured up a story where Nancy’s soul lived on in the Dream Realm. Why not use that idea to bring Langenkamp back into the fold? A movie where Nancy protects kids in the nightmare world from her old nemesis is ripe for storytelling purposes. Both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm have no problem digging for gold in older comics, and repurposing plot points. This one seems a natural. We bet that Langenkamp is game for a rematch.

Of course, a Freddy revival doesn’t have to be a movie. The recent Chucky series brought back another ‘80s slasher, and the serialized format totally worked. An HBO Max series spotlighting Freddy and his struggle against Nancy in modern-day Springwood would also be incredibly fun. When you’re dealing with the world of dreams, the sky is the limit. Now, all we need is all the interested parties to make the stars align for this to happen. It would be a shame for Freddy to miss out on what should be his comeback moment.

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