The neat thing about pop culture is that you don’t have to be familiar with the source material to recognize an iconic face. For example, somebody like James Dean: great actor, interesting person, yet he’s remembered for his brooding, rebellious look and not so much his great acting/driving skills. From looking at an image of his face, you can instantly tell his backstory: a misunderstood and troubled teen who wants to do good. Now when thinking of Freddy Krueger, we don’t need to see all the movies to know his schtick either: he’s a monster with razor-bladed fingers and a face only Little Caesars could love. So even while Eddie Spaghetti didn’t see any Elm Street films until he was in junior high, I had my own idea of who the burnt man in the red sweater was and I’ll explain it in this edition of VHS Memories.
My interpretation of the fedora-wearing psycho began after constantly questioning another kid on my school bus about the Elm Street series. I was raised on Universal Horror and had never even seen anything else in the genre besides black and white monster movies. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Phantom of The Opera, and the Creature From The Black Lagoon were not scary to me but rather cool and fun. My parents did not buy or watch nouveau-horror at the time (at least that I know of) and certainly if they did, would not expose myself to it (yet they gave the a-okay for Beverly Hills Cop). While I could easily take in werewolves and vampires with no blood shed, I’m pretty sure watching something like The Thing at that age would have traumatized me for life. I don’t think I’d dare go near my dog Bourbon from fear of him turning into a mess of alien tentacles. To the kids who were able to stomach that stuff at around the same age, I salute you bastards.
As for Freddy Krueger, I was still curious: who was he and why did he hurt people? Where did he live? Most importantly, how can he be stopped? Frankenstein’s Monster hated fire, Dracula didn’t like crosses, and The Mummy lacked speed: could Freddy be stopped with calamine lotion? Coming home from elementary school, the older kid on the bus explained the whole dream world concept to me and it somehow got processed into Freddy Krueger living in a cave. I have reason as to why I thought this: a nearby video store contained a life-size Freddy Krueger in a cage. Jumbo Video knew their customers well and took note of the horror craze, generally handling the best section of titles you could find in any video store. But they didn’t stop there: the Horror section was in its own back-room, designed like a dungeon. It was simply a part of the store that had to be visited just for the decor and while I’m sure plenty of the VHS boxes were scary enough to look at, I had to keep my eyes on the man in the cage at all times.
The store eventually closed up and I have no idea what happened to “Cage-Bound Krueger”. I would re-occuringly see his face on the cover of a box for Freddy’s Revenge in the entertainment section of Wolco, imagining that he was going to leap out and slash away at me. I even got the courage once to look at the back of the box to see an image of a man with a giant cut on his back, no doubt from the knife-glove. Avoiding going near the box was a priority afterwards, but I would purposely look at it regardless of what could happen. Ironically, it wasn’t until the age of twelve that I saw one of the Elm Street chapters: I rented Dream Warriors simply because it happened to have a really appealing box cover.