The Nightmare On Elm Street Prequel Pitch That Earned Robert Englund's Stamp Of Approval

Looking back, it's astonishing how large the character of Freddy Krueger loomed over the pop consciousness of the 1980s. Freddy, played by Robert Englund in eight of the nine "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movies, was a serial killer in the fictional town of Springwood, IL who had tortured and killed multiple neighborhood children. The adults of Springwood, in a fit of vigilante justice, ganged up on Freddy and burned him to death. Years thereafter, Freddy — burned and tattered and sporting a homemade glove with long metal claws — began haunting the dreams of Springwood's new generation of teens. Freddy, having mysteriously amassed new ghostly powers, could now kill the teens in their sleep. "Nightmare" is about his loose plot to enact supernatural revenge and continue his reign of terror. The sins of the parents were visited upon their kids. It would be up to Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) to solve the mysteries hidden from her by her parents and face Freddy before lack of sleep drove her insane. 

Wes Craven wrote and directed the first film, and each of the sequels that followed was helmed by interesting up-and-coming directors (Chuck Russell, Renny Harlin, Stephen Hopkins, Rachael Talalay) who brought a good deal of creativity and strange, increasingly wild dream images to each subsequent film. 

Although "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child" and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" did contain scenes of Freddy's conception and snippets of his childhood, there has not, to date, been a Freddy origin film (although his background was covered in an episode of the show "Freddy's Nightmares"). There was, however, almost a "Nightmare" prequel, which actor Englund recalled in a 2020 interview with Dead Central. Evidently, "Krueger: The First Kills" was almost a thing.

Freddy's origin

In "Nightmare 5," Freddy was revealed to be the result of a sexual assault on a nun working in a (very poorly run) mental asylum. In "Freddy's Dead," Freddy was depicted as being a bad egg from the start, killing classroom pets and, later, goading his father (Alice Cooper) into physical abuse. Freddy, by the way, once had his own holiday. On September 13, 1991, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared — controversially — that it is now Freddy Krueger Day. Knowing fans certainly observe. Indeed, looking into Freddy's dark past is something that would have certainly caught the eye of any Freddy Krueger Day celebrants. Englund recalls, in the Dread Central interview, the details of a script making the rounds that would have dramatized Freddy's evil actions prior to his death and passage into the dream realm. Said Englund:

"There was a great script going around, I think it was called 'Krueger: The First Kills.' I'm not sure if I'm right about that, though. At one time they wanted John McNaughton ['Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer'] to do it and it was Freddy as a killer and the cops have to catch him. So, it's the two bumbling police detectives that finally catch him, but then here's where it gets interesting: The whole middle and ending of the movie is the courtroom." 

Englund finds this interesting as, in the mythos of "Nightmare," Freddy is indeed apprehended and put on trial but, as Nancy's mom (Ronee Blakley) explained, he got off on a technicality. Nothing more was said of that in further sequels. It was a mere detail that inspired the vigilante's revenge that took Freddy out.

Krueger: The First Kills

"First Kills," it seems, would have been a lot about that technicality, but, more so, the utter failure of the justice system. McNaughton's 1986 film "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is one of the bleaker horror films of its era, depicting a nihilistic world where murderers are just sort of idly permitted to go about their dark business. According to Englund's description of the script, the same nihilism would have been a big part of "First Kills." Nothing supernatural. Just America's lazy inability to deal with brazen evil. 

"It becomes a courtroom drama with Freddy in jail, and Freddy going to court every day. And then the two courthouse lawyers, the ambulance chasing lawyers, they get Freddy off, and those are the best parts. Freddy's in the courtroom, and he takes the stand, and the parents of the victims take the stand with the lawyers blaming the parents for alcoholism and opioid use. It's crazy. And in the end, the parents just taking the law into their own hands and burning Freddy alive." 

There is no moral ambiguity to Freddy, by the way. With the exception of the painfully lackluster 2010 "Nightmare" remake, no attempts had previously been made to turn him into a sympathetic character, a victim of circumstance. Indeed, in "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," Craven (playing himself, in addition to directing) posited that Freddy was, in fact, an ancient and abstract being of evil that could be bound up inside stories. 

A lawyer trying to defend Freddy would have to know that he was defending an absolutely evil man. Hence, where the craziness comes in.

Documentary style

Englund revealed further details about "First Kills" in an additional interview he gave with Daily Dead, also in 2020. In that interview, he elucidated that he first caught wind of the script at a biz soirée. Englund reiterated several points, including McNaughton's intended involvement, only adding what the intended style was meant to be. In repeating the story, Englund's enthusiasm for the project appears to be palpable. Englund said:

"There was this great script called 'Krueger: The First Kills' and I talked to somebody from New Line about it at an Oscar party. At one time, they wanted to do it documentary style and I thought that was a great idea. And the best characters were the lawyers who get Freddy off during the courtroom scenes. The cops who catch Freddy were great characters, too, and of course it ends with Freddy being burned alive, and I heard that at one time they were thinking of John McNaughton as the director ..."

So why didn't "First Kills" happen? Since the film was never officially in production, it seems, there is no record of its official shutdown. It seems that "First Kills" never got past the early development phase, remaining in the realm of "this would be fun to do." It may be possible — and this is just speculation — that a studio wouldn't want to make a Freddy Krueger movie that didn't have him sporting his iconic "dream demon" look, nor any supernatural elements or creative dream sequences. 

It's been 12 years since the last "Nightmare." The time is as good as any to make another with Freddy entering the pop lexicon the same way Dracula might. Many versions, many actors, many interesting stories. Someone get on that.