The A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises had always been in competition, so it came as no surprise that when the latter created its own TV spin-off that the other would soon follow. Yet, unlike Friday the 13th: The Series, the Elm Street show would star the antagonist that had made the films so successful and would be aimed at fans of its big screen counterparts. Developed when the franchise was at the height of its popularity (the fourth movie had been the most successful entry to date), Freddy’s Nightmares would be a TV anthology much like The Twilight Zone, which had made a recent comeback. Each episode would be presented by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and would tell a different story, some relating to the mythology of the character that been previously explored in the movies and others designed as stand-alone tales.
The pilot episode, entitled No More Mr. Nice Guy, was directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper. Fred Krueger has been arrested under suspicion of murdering countless children in the Springwood area and awaits sentencing at the courts. The jury are subjected to a slideshow detailing each of his grizzly deads as the arresting officer, Lt. Tim Blocker (Ian Patrick Williams), watches from the back with his twin daughters (Gry and Hili Park), who had narrowly escaped his killing spree. Despite the overwhelming evidence indicating his guilt, the defending lawyer reveals that Blocker had failed to read Krueger his Miranda rights and, much to the disgust of the judge, due to this legal technicality she is forced to release him back into society.
Some of the parents blame Blocker for his incompetence and they run from the courthouse in an effort to stop Krueger but he is nowhere to be found. Blocker confesses to his wife, Sarah (Anne E. Curry), that even after two years of chasing the killer he was unable to stop him, even stating that when he first found Krueger with his daughters he almost shot him. The parents of the victims express their utter disgust at how the legal system had failed them and, heralded by the prosecuting attorney, Deeks (William Frankfather), decide to take the law into their own hands. He heads back to the boiler room where he would take his victims and finds the old ice cream van which he would use to seduce them. Heading into his workroom, he finds his weapon of choice – a tatty leather glove with razor-sharp blades as fingernails. Struggling to live with the guilt, Blocker constantly argues with his wife about how the image of his daughters facing death had caused him to forget procedures, which unfortunately had resulted in Krueger being set free.
The angry parents head out to the boiler room but when Blocker hears of their intentions he orders a unit out to the industrial site to stop them. Back at his home, Sarah has been left with a single police officer as protection, who is promptly dispatched before setting his sights on the daughters, but thankfully the vigilante mob arrive in time to unknowingly scare him off. They head back to the site but as Deeks is about to shoot Krueger, Blocker arrives and orders him at gun-point to stand down. But when he realises that his daughters will never be safe whilst he is still alive, Blocker empties a cannister of petrol over him and sets him on fire. They make a pact to take the secret to their graves, although Blocker remembers his daughters’ warnings that Krueger cannot be defeated. Unable to cope with the grief, Blocker is suffering from nightmares and begins to suspect that it is not over.
Visiting the dentist, Blocker is administered gas in an effort to clam him down, eventually falling asleep to find that the nurse has become Krueger. With his blades having been replaced by dental drills, he claims his revenge against the inept cop that had been responsible for his incarceration. And so begins Krueger’s never-ending reign of terror. The remaining forty-three episodes would mainly focus on different characters who would usually only appear for one story and then never be seen again, Krueger as the presenter being the only recurring one. Blocker’s twin daughters, Lisa and Merit, would reappear in the seventh episode, Sister’s Keeper, along with their mother, although most of the episodes would be stand-alone stories and have no connection to the pilot.
Had a slightly bigger budget and some decent ideas been used on Freddy’s Nightmares then this could have been a worthy successor to the movies, but unfortunately instead it just comes across as a feeble and ill-conceived cash-in on a profitable film series. There are plenty of recognisable names on display – Hooper, Brad Pitt, Mick Garris – but for some reason their talents do not translate well to the screen. By 1988, when the pilot premièred, Freddy was no longer the scary child killer he once was and had been reduced to merchandisable pop culture icon. Despite Englund’s best efforts, the TV show fails to even come close to even the worst of the movies and, along with Friday the 13th: The Series, would eventually be cancelled. Three episodes would be released on region 2 DVD in 2003, though no plans to release any more, either in the UK or US, have been announced.