Welcome to Script to Pieces! This is a feature here at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting, and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, 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 the stories of those that do. In this installment, we will be taking a look at what would have been Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Lover.
Freddy Krueger skyrocketed to mainstream success in the late 1980s. He was an icon. But his success, all things considered, was relatively short-lived. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 struck huge at the box office and Nightmare on Elm Street 4 was even bigger. It was a sensation. This was Freddy the star, Freddy re-branded for the MTV generation. The film was swiftly followed by a weekly TV series.
But people suffered from oversaturation. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child was rushed into theaters without the time needed to properly make that story work. It wasn’t as good as the other films had been and fans quickly caught onto that. It didn’t perform at the box office and so Bob Shaye New Line Cinema found themselves wondering if they needed to rethink the Elm Street brand.
They began to meet with writers on what they believed would be the ultimate end to Freddy and the franchise. One of those writers was a young New Zealand man named Peter Jackson, who had just directed the virtually no budget features Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles in his native country. New Line was impressed with his spirit and his vision, they liked his ideas and so they sent him to work on writing the script.
Jackson’s script, which he co-wrote with Danny Mulheron, was titled A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Dream Lover. The plot was extremely interesting a sort of pre-New Nightmare meta take on the franchise. The idea was that Freddy was no longer being taken seriously, that the people of Springwood just saw him as a joke—much in the same way that the world did at this point in time.
In Jackson’s Clockwork Orange-reminiscent take, the teens of Elm Street would actually take sleeping pills to go into the dream world and beat up on a weak and defenseless Freddy for kicks. No longer feeding on fear, Freddy was nothing but a helpless old man in the dream world, neither scary nor threatening.
But at some point, a teen would slip up, and Freddy would gain the upper hand. All it would take was actually killing one of these kids to turn Krueger into a legitimate threat and start the process of him building fear once again.
Freddy would ultimately regain enough power to take hostage of a police officer trapped in the dream world, keeping him in a comatose state. The main idea seemed to be that the officer was the father of one of the main teens and he would ultimately have to back into the dreamscape even after it had become a legitimate threat once again to save his father and bring him back alive, defeating Freddy once and for all.
As is expected from Jackson, the script was rife with good ideas. It would have really given us a tour of the dream world for virtually the first time. The notion of Freddy having to regain power by becoming scary again, showing people he was not a joke, that whole concept is brilliant. I also like the idea of the teenage lead having to willingly go back into the dream world to face Freddy head-on because it parallels Nancy’s journey in the original film.
Obviously, it was not what we got. New Line passed on Jackson’s idea, but enjoyed his energy and remembered that years later when they brought him back in to meet on a project that would prove to be much more successful: The Lord of the Rings.
At the same time Jackson and Mulheron were writing their script, New Line was developing a script by in-house producer Michael De Luca titled Freddy’s Dead. This was of course the script they wound up going with, but it was initially very different from what wound up on the screen. In the early drafts John Doe is specifically Jacob Johnson, the then-unborn centerpiece of The Dream Child.
The early drafts of Freddy’s Dead also include a concept called the “Dream Police.” The Dream Police are apparent victims who have become stuck in the dreamscape and are trying to keep control of Freddy. It’s an interesting concept, but made better by the fact that the dream police would have been better recognized to fans as the Dream Warriors. Every single one of them would have been brought back, at least according to their appearance in these early drafts. It’s hard to say why any of that material was cut.
As it stands, we have a Freddy’s Dead that makes for an interesting movie, but a weird finale. I admittedly have fun with the cartoonish, over-the-top nature of Freddy’s Dead, but there’s no denying the interesting prospect of what could have been.
*Updated January 17, 2020