Welcome to Script to Pieces! This is a new feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that didn’t ever come together, sometimes they will original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than those that do.
After Freddy’s Dead and then New Nightmare brought what seemed to be a definitive end to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, New Line tried to figure out a way to bring Freddy back to cinemas while they were trying to crack the code of Freddy vs. Jason. Both before and after the crossover hit screens, producers determined that the best route to see Freddy take would be in the form of a prequel. Franchise star Robert Englund was—and still remains—an adamant champion of this idea.
The picture was meant to tackle Freddy’s life before his return as a dream manipulating boogeyman in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, covering his career as the Springwood Slasher to his death at the hands of a vigilante mob and everything in between.
Of course, the Elm Street series has never shied away from exploring Freddy’s backstory, so the question remains how much of the prequel would have been redundant. We even got something of an hour-long prequel directed by Tobe Hooper in the pilot episode of Freddy’s Nightmares.
With a concept that looked strong but could go either way, everything for the Elm Street prequel would come down to the director. On a project as different for the franchise as this would be, the right or wrong director could completely make or break the final product. New Line made a smart decision by taking the concept of a psychological thriller centered on Fred Krueger, the serial killer, and then reached out to the man who had directed the best serial killer profile up to that point: John McNaughton, director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Hiring McNaughton proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the project. New Line reached out because of his proven success on a film of this type with Henry. It had been his first feature, made for very little money, and went on to become a beloved cult classic. Henry is revered by horror fans and critics alike. The problem, however, is that for McNaughton, Henry was something he’d already done. He wasn’t interested in remaking it. If he was going to be directing a Freddy Krueger picture, it was going to be different from anything he had done in the past. And it was going to be different from any previously seen Nightmare as well.
McNaughton thought about where he could take Freddy that could be interesting and thought of where Freddy would have been before we meet him in the original film. The answer, of course, was hell. According to McNaughton: “I started thinking about what we haven’t seen before and the idea came of well, where did Freddy come from before he returned in the first picture? Hell. Nothing could keep me from going to Hell and the idea of actually setting a story in Hell, that to me, I was just like a pig in shit.”
Of course, it wasn’t meant to last. For one thing, the film would have been expensive. The idea of starting off as a realistic serial killer movie before moving into full-blown horror fantasy, that was something studios were hesitant about after the troubled production and poor box office returns of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
But, surprisingly enough, these weren’t the obstacles that kept the prequel from getting made. No, according to McNaughton, that obstacle was Adam Sandler.
During the late 1990s, when this project was coming together, Sandler was at the top of his game. He was an international comedy superstar. But all it takes is one big failure at the box office to send you crashing back down. The film in question was Little Nicky and New Line considered it a huge loss.
“New Line didn’t want to go back to Hell,” said McNaughton in an interview with Bloody Disgusting. “So I basically told them to go to Hell. Just the idea of being under the thumb of the studio and being called on to satisfy genre expectations, it’s not something that would make me happy. They were unwilling to go to Hell with me and it just came apart.”
So, according to McNaughton, it was the dismal box office of New Line’s Little Nicky that kept them from pushing the director’s ambitious, hell-bent Freddy prequel into production. It’s also worth pointing out that just before Nicky they had also done Spawn and may have been feeling some hell fatigue from that, as well.
Either way, the project never materialized in any form although Englund still holds out hope to see it in some form or another. Even if we never get to see it, the script for either the courtroom drama or the Dante’s Inferno version would be a fascinating read.