In recent years, there’s been a lot of overlap between the magical girl and horror genre. While series such as Devil Hunter Yohko, Shamanic Princess, Uta∽Kata, and Red Garden actually predated the trend, since the release of Puella Magi Madoka Magica there’s been an uptick in magical girl stories told through the horror lens.
However, works such as Madoka Magica, Magical Girl Raising Project, Magical Girl Apocalypse, Magical Girl Site, and Miss Guillotine are more about the horrors of being a magical girl, rather than magical girls being in a horror story.
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You wouldn’t think it possible to find overlap between the magical girl genre and A Nightmare On Elm Street but by the series’ fourth and fifth installments, you could make a clear argument that its heroine, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), is as close to a magical girl as one could get within a slasher feature.
Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) is the Dream Master of Elm Street. When her friend Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight) is killed by Freddy Krueger, Alice is given Kristen’s power to pull people into dreams. Unfortunately, that comes with a connection to Freddy which lets him use Alice’s dreams to kill the teenagers of Springwood. However, Alice begins to gain the powers and abilities of Freddy’s victims which she uses to turn the tables on him. Taking the fight directly to Freddy in the dream world, Alice exhausts the powers of her loved ones until she finally unlocks her own power. Alice frees the tortured souls trapped inside Freddy, allowing them to destroy him.
Alice is an unusual spin on the final girl trope and an unorthodox magical girl. She’s one of the rare final girls to make it through two films in a row without getting killed, putting her up there with Laurie Strode and Sidney Prescott. As a magical girl, Alice exhibits several common traits of the genre.
The Chosen One: Many magical girl stories introduce the heroine with the idea that she has a grand destiny before her. That she’s been chosen for a specific reason, to vanquish evil, fulfill a prophecy, become a queen, or to simply save the world. Sometimes that includes picking up where someone leaves off, or maybe it’s a family job. Devil Hunter Yohko is a prime example of the Magical Girl role being a family legacy.
Alice starts off as an outsider to the Freddy Krueger conflict. Her family doesn’t live on Elm Street, and her parents weren’t involved with the mob that killed Freddy all those years ago. As such, she had no reason to be involved in the fight against Freddy. But when Kristen, as the last Elm Street child, is killed, Alice gains her power and has to continue the battle to stop Freddy Krueger.
However, there are subtle hints given to the audience that Alice already had something inside her before she gained Kristen’s power. Alice is shown capable of seeing a chalk drawing which only existed in Kristen’s dream. When Kristen is drugged and forced into a nightmare, she encounters a little girl named “Alice.” Finally, when Kristen is shown trapped in the boiler room with Freddy, the scene is cut with images of Alice in a fretful sleep. Before Kristen pulls her in.
There’s also talk of the “Dream Master” rhyme Alice was taught by her mother before she passed away.
Now I lay me down to sleep
The master of dreams, my soul I’ll keep
In the reflection of my mind’s eye
Evil will see itself, and it shall die
It’s implied deep down that Alice was always going to become this Dream Master, and Freddy made the biggest mistake possible by linking himself with her dreams.
A Blossoming Wallflower: Some magical girls begin their story believing they aren’t special, that they lack what other girls have. Maybe they’re not as pretty, or as smart, or strong, as the other girls. Or more accurately, they don’t believe they’re as pretty, smart, or strong as the other girls. When they receive their new identities, they develop confidence in themselves in their ordinary lives. This trend was especially prominent in the Magical Idol stories created by Studio Pierrot in the 1980s, like Creamy Mami and Magical Emi. Ordinary girls gain magic power, and use it to achieve their dreams and seek out the boys they love under a more confident persona.
In the beginning, Alice is depicted as meek and dowdy compared to the other girls in Dream Master. Not as smart as Shelia Kopecky, not as tough as Debbie Stevens, and not as unique as Kristen Parker. She finds comfort in daydreams where she can call Dan Jordan a hunk, or scream at her father for being an abusive drunk.
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After being dragged into the fight against Freddy, Alice starts to change. While this is initially attributed to Alice inheriting parts of her dead friends, it’s soon clear they’re only unlocking the real Alice Johnson. By the end of Dream Master, Alice is a beautiful, dynamic woman who doesn’t hide from herself or from reality. At first a terrified bystander, Alice grows to take charge of situations while refusing to let anyone control her life.
The Transformation Sequence: All magical girls are granted a special sequence where they transform into their magical identities, accompanied by badass music. Usually this is done thanks to a charm or brooch, followed by some magic words.
For Alice, her transformation sequence is performed at her own hand. By the end of Dream Master, Alice readies herself for combat against Freddy by adorning herself with items gained from her dead loved ones. The transformation is framed alongside Alice removing the photos that are hiding her mirror until her reflection is fully visible. In this case, Alice is allowing herself to see the person she’s become after hiding for so long.
Saving The Day With Love And Friendship: The power of love and friendship is a key staple in the magical girl genre. When used properly, they allow the magical girl to save the day and those around them, even redeem villains.
Alice’s strength initially comes from her friends. Following Kristen’s death, Alice starts adopting traits belonging to those Freddy has killed. She finds herself about to smoke a cigarette like Kristen was known to do, adopts phrases frequently used by Shelia Kopecky and Roland Kincaid, is capable of shattering windows with her scream like Joey Crusel, and is immediately proficient in karate to the same level as her brother, Rick.
Freddy: You’ve got their power, I’ve got their souls!
The strength Alice gains from her friends and brother allows her to face herself and take Freddy on to save Dan Jordan, but it can only take her so far. What ultimately defeats Freddy is when Alice uses the strength of her friends to find her own strength. As she had to face her own reflection, Alice makes Freddy see his and gives the tortured souls trapped inside their chance to break free.
By Dream Child, Alice is more driven than ever to protect her loved ones from Freddy, which now includes her unborn child, Jacob. This involves saving the lives of Mark Gray and Yvonne Miller, who prove to be vital allies to Alice when she needs them. While Mark is Freddy’s last victim in Dream Child, it’s Yvonne who proves crucial in freeing the last piece needed to lock Freddy away again.
More importantly, it’s Alice’s love for her child that really saves the day in Dream Child. Freddy circumvents Alice’s block by using Jacob’s dreams to kill. In the process, Freddy attempts to corrupt the child so he can make their link permanent. Freddy tries to convince Jacob that Alice doesn’t care about him so he’ll turn against his mother. Too bad for Freddy that Alice already showed compassion and empathy towards Jacob before she even knew he was her son. Because Freddy couldn’t turn Jacob against Alice, this allowed Jacob to turn Freddy’s power against him.
Comparisons With Other Magical Girls: There are several magical girls that share comparisons with Alice’s story as the Dream Master, even in stories released years afterwards.
Dream Hunter Rem: Initially created as a one-shot hentai OVA in the mid ’80s, Dream Hunter Rem was a magical girl detective capable of entering dreams to dispel evil forces. The narrative establishes that those who die in their dreams die in the real world. Several more episodes were created with the hentai aspect removed after viewers showed more interest in the story than the sex scenes.
Magical Girl Raising Project: Nemurin, a.k.a. Nemu Sanjou, is a magical girl with the power to enter dreams. In the waking world, she’s an unemployed 24-year-old still living with her parents. While unmotivated in the waking world, in the dream world Nemurin is shown capable of dispelling nightmares and giving people advice about their problems when they’re awake. Due to the character’s popularity, Nemurin was brought back into the story after being killed off rather early in the franchise’s first arc. Now a spirit in the dream world, Nemurin continues to act as a force for good by looking out for troubled dreamers.
Sailor Moon: Surprisingly, Alice racks up a lot of comparison points with none other than Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon herself.
Alice and Usagi are both in committed relationships, Alice with Dan Jordan and Usagi with Mamoru Chiba (Tuxedo Mask). The beginning of Dream Child shows us that Alice and Dan’s relationship has become a sexual one, and it’s implied to be fulfilling for both partners involved. Various pieces of artwork and implications from creator Naoko Takeuchi show Usagi and Mamoru are in a sexual relationship. While horror fiction and magical girl stories can make a big deal about girls needing to be “pure and innocent” by equating that with virginity, the narrative of both Elm Street and Sailor Moon does nothing to indicate Alice or Usagi are any less “pure” or “good” for having sex.
There’s also the fact that Alice and Usagi are shown to be the ones who really do the protecting in their relationships. It’s Alice who has to save Dan by the end of Dream Master. And while Mamoru starts off as Usagi’s “mysterious protector,” it soon becomes the norm for Mamoru needing Usagi to save him.
Alice and Usagi are also magical girls who become mothers. Not only mothers, but mothers who need to protect their children from the corruption of outside forces.
Dream Child introduces us to Jacob, Alice’s child with Dan. Alice realizes that Freddy is using Jacob’s dreams, and trying to corrupt Jacob as he develops inside Alice, to use the child as a link between the waking and dream worlds. It takes both mother and child to defeat Freddy this time around, but Jacob is eventually freed of Freddy’s influence.
Sailor Moon R, or the Infinity Arc, introduces Chibiusa, a young girl who turns out to be Usagi and Mamoru’s daughter from the future. Wiseman, the puppet master controlling the Black Moon Clan, tries to corrupt Chibiusa by convincing her that her parents don’t love her. This brainwashing results in Chibiusa gaining an adult form as the Black Lady, and she spends the latter half of the arc trying to kill her parents and the Sailor Senshi under the belief they all hate her. It’s only thanks to Usagi convincing her daughter that she is loved and cherished that the girl is able to break free of Wiseman’s control.
Finally, Alice’s battle with Freddy Krueger has some similarities with Usagi’s battle against Queen Nehellenia in the fourth and fifth arcs. Introduced in Sailor Moon SuperS, or the Dream Arc, Nehellenia is a villain empowered by dreams and nightmares in a manner similar to Freddy Krueger, but done in a manner similar to a fairy tale.
Nehellenia is the queen of the Dead Moon, a woman who murdered everyone on her planet so she could eat their dreams to preserve her youth and beauty. In this situation, devouring one’s dreams is akin to devouring their soul, and Nehellenia’s people were all turned into living corpses called Lemures (or Remless). Similar to how Freddy devours the souls of his victims, becoming stronger with each child he kills.
Nehellenia spent centuries trapped inside her mirror, sealed away in the darkness of the new moon. Like Freddy, Nehellenia is a genocidal, opportunistic monster capable of exploiting nightmares to further her own selfish goals of transforming the world into a reflection of her true ugliness. And like Freddy, Nehellenia desires a freedom from her prison to extend her will across the universe thanks to the power of dreams.
Nehellenia has a blistering hatred of Usagi on a more personal level when compared to the other Sailor Moon villains, in a way similar to the hatred Freddy develops for Alice. She’s, in fact, one of the only villains to have tried to kill Usagi with her bare hands.
But it’s not enough for Nehellenia to kill Usagi. She wants to make Usagi suffer on every level imaginable, simply because Usagi is capable of growing as a person and being happy while Nehellenia is trapped in a hell of her own making. So she’ll torture and torment Usagi’s friends, her lover, her child, and make them all watch as she batters Usagi near to death.
Nehellenia: I will guide everything you love to destruction.
Freddy loathes Alice as the one heroine truly capable of sealing him away, and being unable to directly hurt her because she’s vital to his own existence. Alice is the one person able to make Freddy stop acting like he’s playing a game, becoming truly enraged as she calls him out for being a coward. Freddy will do anything to torment Alice, which involves playing mind games with her and torturing the souls of her friends and her brother.
Dream Master and Dream Child have always ben among my favorites of the Elm Street franchise, with Alice being my favorite of its heroines. Being a magical girl fan since I was a child, I was eager to realize there was so much overlap between that genre and one of my favorite horror heroines. While the idea of Alice Johnson filling the role of a magical girl probably wasn’t considered in her development, there’s too much evidence to ignore to deny that she fits the bill. Now it just makes me wish for more magical girls within the horror realm.