The Nightmare on Elm Street series gave birth to one of the most iconic boogeymen ever to stalk the screen: razor-clawed, Christmas sweater wearing, profoundly burned madman Freddy Krueger. With the ability to invade people’s dreams, Krueger was responsible for some of the most outlandish and imaginative death sequences in slasher movie history. Freddy is a killer that exists in the private, unconscious headspace of his victims and that means he knows everything that makes them frightened, anxious and vulnerable. And he knows exactly how to exploit their insecurities. Whether he is goofy, sadistic or just downright scary, here are ten of the most vicious kills Freddy ever committed.
Sheila – A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Sheila is an asthmatic bookworm, often noted as being more interested in bugs and books than in boys. When she falls asleep in class (which she was probably the least likely character to actually do), Freddy takes keen notice of her. He struts up to her, says “Wanna suck face?” and proceeds to suck the life right out of her.
It’s the silliest death from the silliest movie in the franchise, but Spencer’s death is nonetheless fun to watch. It’s a long one, too. Freddy toys with him quite a bit, even literally. The poor stoner is sucked into a video game (mind you this is 1991) where he is submitted to a “Super Mario Bros.” version of his own terrible home life. What really makes the scene is Freddy holding up his glove after his joystick is turned away, and revealing that the glove has been turned into a clawed version of Nintendo’s power glove, which was brand new at the time. The joke may have only really worked in the early nineties, but it’s still one that nostalgic gamers can enjoy.
Debbie – A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
The roach motel sequence in Nightmare on Elm Street 4 is probably the most well known from that particular movie, which makes a lot of sense because it is probably the most outlandish kill that the franchise ever came up with. Debbie is terrified of bugs. She hates them. She’s also a total health nut and nothing means more to her than body image. Freddy takes both of these strong aspects of her character and combines them by having Debbie mutate into a cockroach. The transformation is inventive, the cockroach bursts up from underneath her skin. The FX work is great. She then finds herself insect-sized in a roach motel that is picked up and crushed by Freddy.
This was the death that had everyone with even the slightest fear of needles wincing and covering their eyes. Taryn is a recovering heroin addict, trying to battle her personal demons and an actual demon at the same time. In dream form, she reimagines herself as a capable, badass punk-rocker who actually gives Freddy a run for his money in a one-on-one fight. But Freddy takes the upper hand by turning his fingers into needles and injecting into both of her arms, smiling and proclaiming “what a rush.” The characters in Dream Warriors were all fully-developed; we didn’t want any of them to die, and this one was particularly grim knowing a bit of what the character had already been through.
Part of what makes Carlos’ death so spectacular is just how prolonged it is. Freddy always likes to play a bit of cat-and-mouse with his victims, but he really draws this one out. Carlos has a hearing aid, without which he cannot hear anything. So Freddy takes it from him, stalking the poor guy in helpless silence, only to give the hearing aid back. Of course, it’s not an act of kindness on Freddy’s part, he instead gives Carlos super-hearing. With all sounds now pounding in his head, Freddy scratches his knives against a chalkboard until Carlos’ head explodes. This death is actually Robert Englund’s favorite of the entire series.
In a movie built on references and nostalgia from the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Julie’s death is a throwback to the original’s first iconic death scene. Where in the first film it was Tina dragged up the wall by an invisible Freddy, in this installment we’re seeing it through the eyes of young Dylan, who is falling asleep and can see Freddy behind Julie as he begins to commit the act. This death is intercut from Dylan’s perspective of Freddy cutting her open and dragging her up the wall and the perspective of everyone else in the room to add the invisible aspect from the first movie. It is all the more disturbing in that young Dylan is forced to watch the whole thing unfold.
Jennifer has dreams of going to Hollywood and becoming a famous actress when and if she gets out of Westin Hills Mental Health Facility. She’s watching a late night TV talk show when she falls asleep. Dick Cavett turns into Freddy and slices up Zsa Zsa Gabor, and that’s when it becomes pretty obvious that Jennifer is dreaming. She is drawn to the TV, then a pair of mechanical Freddy arms burst out and grab her while Freddy’s head emerges from the top. He grins and hisses “Welcome to primetime, b*tch!” Which has proved to be one of the series’ most immortal lines, as well as one of the only lines Robert Englund ever improvised.
Philip – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
This scene is as iconic as it is really, really gross. Philip makes puppets. That’s kind of his thing. He’s the first death in the movie, so we don’t get to find out much more about him, other than the fact that he sleepwalks. Both, however, are contributing factors in his death. He’s fast asleep in bed when Freddy emerges to slice open the poor kid’s arms and legs, using the tendons as strings to turn Philip into a makeshift marionette puppet. Freddy marches Philip up to the tower and then makes him fall to his death while all of his friends watch, helpless. It’s definitely one of the most evil things Freddy has done on screen.
The first film to star Johnny Depp also sends him out in style. Glen is trying to stay awake and fails, (which is actually most of what his character does throughout the movie) and is then sucked down into his bed. Instead of simply getting sliced to ribbons, Glen is completely liquidated and a geyser of blood shoots up through the hole in the bed and fills the room. A deleted scene shows Glen’s body being spit back up afterwards, but the sequence works perfectly as is.
There’s no contest when it comes to the most vicious Freddy Krueger attack. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it happened so early in the film, maybe it was the fact that Tina had seemed to be established as the protagonist, or maybe it was the fact that people went to A Nightmare on Elm Street expecting the usual stalk-and-slash and could not be more unprepared for what they actually got. More than anything, though, the effect of this death comes down to the brutal nature of the scene itself. The great musical score cuts out, the scene is completely quiet, save for Tina’s panicked, wheezing screams as she is dragged up the ceiling after being sliced open and then dropped back down onto the bed. It’s one of the movie’s most chilling moments and one of the most iconic death scenes in film history. This scene told audiences exactly what they were in for and had them glued to their seats until the very end.