The Unseen Freddy: Part Two
The contributing screenwriters reveal the Nightmare 5 that almost was, could have been and may return.
By: Philip Nutman
Published in Fanorgia #88.
“One of the things we wanted to do was give you a sense of what it’s like to be Freddy,” claims writer John Skipp. “The soul of the monster is not a happy place in which to dwell.”
“With our script, you got to go inside Freddy’s character and recognize there’s a bit of Freddy in you,” adds Craig Spector, co-author with Skipp of the original screenplay for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
As was stressed in the first part of this article last issue, which detailed the evolution of the film’s story: Movies aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Along the way, ideas are often substantially altered. Since by this point we’ve all seen Freddy square off with Alice and friends over the soul of Jacob, the Dream Child, the main writers involved can now discuss their original plans for Krueger and the Elm Street clan.
Five writers worked on the script: Skipp & Spector, Leslie Bohem, Bill Wisher and David J. Schow. Of the five, Skipp & Spector’s intention was to take the dream stalker back to his roots to explore the nature of his murderous desires; Schow, on the other hand, concentrated on giving Freddy a more vicious edge.
Initially, New Line Cinema and director Stephen Hopkins viewed the project the same way. As Hopkins stated in Fango #85, “I felt that in Nightmare 5, Freddy should step back into the shadows and be the darker creature he was in the first film.” Yet along the route from first draft to shooting script, Skipp & Spector’s vision became diluted, as did that of Bohem, who took up the narrative reins after they left the production. Although the finished film is far removed from their treatment, Skipp & Spector’s work entitled them to story credit alongside Bohem, who penned three drafts and a polish and holds credit for the screenplay. The script received further polishes from Wisher and Schow.
“The most important thing we wanted to do was to show Freddy’s lost years,” Spector states. “How he came to be, how this genetically monstrous innocent became this incredibly twisted guy. We tend to lose sight of the fact that Freddy was a child molester and murderer.”
“And now none of that’s in the film,” frowns Skipp.
Conversely, Leslie Bohem’s approach was a straightforward Freddy’s-back-and-we’re-in-trouble scenario built around the basic elements Skipp & Spector had developed with New Line. “[The producers’] brief to me was: Alice is pregnant, Freddy wants the baby, and Dan is the first to die,” Bohem recalls. “There was no suggestion I explore Freddy’s background other than to have his mother appear, because that tied in to the theme of parenthood and the thing with the baby. New Line encouraged me to run with the story, so I decided to go for everything that ever scared me, to just take it as far as I could.”
Although big fans of the series, both Skipp and Spector felt Freddy had become somewhat removed from the dark drama that made Wes Craven’s original film so memorable. Rather than just making him malicious, they were concerned with giving him more depth of character and opening up new possibilities for future films. “We wanted to do two things,” Spector lists. “We wanted to show that killers are made, not born, and we wanted to find new avenues of growth for the Freddy mythos, to create directions that future Nightmare on Elm Streets could go into—because if you don’t, you’re led down a regressive path where Freddy becomes a little simpler every time and loses touch with his heritage.”
The authors immediately felt a connection with the material that had been hinted at in the last two sequels. “We had to fill in the gaps based on what little we knew about Amanda Krueger: her rape, her guilt over Freddy and the attitude of the other nuns,” explains Skipp.
The writers believed labeling Freddy evil simply because he is the progeny of madmen was too facile an explanation for his actions. “He definitely has the bad seed in him due to the nature of his conception,” Spector concurs. “It was partly that and his brutal, loveless upbringing that twisted him out of shape.”
One of the most jolting scenes in the Skipp & Spector screenplay is Freddy’s birth, which bears similarities to the scene in the film but was treated more realistically in the first draft. Alice witnesses Amanda in the throes of labor, then the sequence rips into painful cesarean as Freddy, fully formed, bursts forth from his mother’s womb to proclaim, “It’s a boy!”
The birth sequence in the film moves full-tilt into the church scene when the Bohem-created Freddy baby scampers off to his adult clothes, transforms into the adult Krueger and delivers the “It’s a boy” line. From that point onward, we see almost nothing of Freddy’s background. There are hints in the news cuttings Mark obtains from the library to show Alice, but nothing is explored. The authors took this material much further in their draft of the script.
“At a later point in Amanda’s memory loop, we had Alice see Amanda hand over the baby to the orphanage run by the nuns, who immediately pronounce the child evil,” Skipp reveals. “Amanda is tortured by this thought and severs all contact with Freddy, who is consequently raised in this horribly strict environment, totally devoid of love. Loveless really is the key word here. From the moment his mother abandoned him, Freddy never had a chance. He was doomed, realized this and played it out. That’s what made him a monster.”
Although medical research is investigating the possible influences of biochemistry on murderous behavior, the question of parental responsibility is, according to the authors, the key element in the process of creating a serial killer. “Whatever genetic influences are present, not everyone turns into a mass murderer,” Skipp argues. “The question of parental responsibility is one Alice has to deal with when she decides to keep the baby. How we approached the abortion issue in general was by saying: If you’re going to have a baby, you should be responsible for the child, because unloved children of the world are the ones that have the real shot at turning into monsters. With Freddy wanting to become Alice’s child [another story aspect that was changed], he’s trying to get her to reject it, which in turn sets up the type of life he needs to guarantee him the kind of hideous treatment that would allow him to go that much further in his several-lifetimes-long pursuit of becoming the ultimate monster. We had Alice confront Amanda at one point over the question of her responsibility in turning Freddy into the creature he is, but again, that’s not in the movie.
“We felt this was important because if you’re going to make Freddy a real character, you have to give him an inner life,” Skipp continues. “To do that, we needed to set up the situation that would give him the necessary levels of bitterness and rage that would account for his desire to kill. Most killers are motivated by feelings of isolation, frustration, lack of love and anger. Freddy’s obviously one angry guy, but we’ve never been told why he’s this way.”
In their first draft, Skipp & Spector show selected details of Freddy’s childhood, how he was repeatedly punished by the nuns for being illegitimate, hung by his necktie in a dark closet, told he’s evil, beaten up by other orphans and finally driven to release his anger in acts of violence and vandalism. “You got to see things from Freddy’s side,” notes Skipp. “These people screwed with him. He had a horrible life, and that’s why he is the way he is.”
Taking the audience back to Freddy’s roots was one thing, but the team needed to find a plot element that would tie Alice’s pregnancy and the dreams of her unborn child to those of Krueger rather than just having Freddy invade Jacob’s mind as a way to get at Alice and her friends. To do so, they explored the concepts of dreams and nightmares through the questionable theories of bombastic Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, who posited that we share a collective unconscious where our dreams intersect.
To take the notion one stage further, the writers visualized the unconscious as a dream pool, a reservoir of thoughts, life experiences and images. If the unconscious is the back door to the mind, they reasoned, why can’t the door swing both ways? By tuning into Amanda’s memories, Alice discovers she can tap into Freddy’s and use his own technique against him. “That gave us the perfect opportunity to discover the causes of Freddy’s madness,” Spector assesses. “The way we presented the dream pool was to have Freddy like an oil slick floating on the surface, a black, eternal force that needs to get back to the physical realm because that’s where the action is.”
Les Bohem, who majored in mythology, had a similar approach to the subject, albeit one that drew on his knowledge of classical themes and images. “The notion of the dream pool seemed obvious because, with Freddy dead, you needed to go into the dream realm to find him,” he reasons. “Since water is a symbol for the unconscious, and that’s where he must be, it seemed logical to have such a place, though I referred to it as the dream well.
“It was interesting to see how we’d come up with similiar ideas,” Bohem adds, referring to the fact that he wrote his first draft simultaneously with Skipp & Spector’s, though neither he nor they were yet aware both scripts were being written at the same time. “Giving people certain parameters and discovering they’ve written almost identical material does seem to validate the concept of a collective unconscious. For example, I was amazed to find we’d all written a scene where one of the characters goes into a comic strip. To be honest, I didn’t create that idea; it was given to me by another writer friend, Larry Wilson, who had just written it in a draft of Beetlejuice 2 that was rejected by the producers. Rather than see the idea go to waste, he gave it to me for Nightmare 5. Then I read Skipp & Spector’s script, and Larry’s idea was very close to their scene. It was a surprise.”
Another idea rife with similarities between the two first drafts was the character list. While New Line’s brief to Bohem only specified Alice and Dan, the writer’s cast of kids were close to those created by Skipp & Spector, though with different names. In the team’s version, the artist character is Jen Valdez, a spunky Hispanic girl, and Greta was Ginger Becker, an aspiring actress. Even Bohem’s characters changed through successive drafts. “The character that stayed the same from the first draft was Yvonne,” he discloses. “She always worked for the doctor, so I could use her as a funnel for the information that babies are in a constant dream state.”
One story element Bohem and Skipp & Spector felt strongly about was the question of the Elm Street teenagers remaining at high school. “In our script, we had everyone graduate from high school because people do grow and move forward in life, and we’d seen enough of the senior year state of mind in previous Nightmare movies,” asserts Skipp.
“I think the high school angle is tired,” opines Bohem. “I wanted to move the characters ahead so there would be a different situation to play with. In my first draft, I had the kids participating in a summer school theater project, which gave me the opportunity to use some Greek tragedy material tying into the parenthood angle.” Specifically, Bohem had the teenagers prepare a modern version of the story of Phaedra, wife of Greek hero Theseus, who hanged herself after falling in love with her stepson. In Greek tragedy, the chorus sings a commentary on the action; Bohem wanted to have the chorus in the play transform into the Elm Street girls, those creepy little tykes in white dresses that sing the Freddy song. “Those kids are really like a Greek chorus,” he notes. “With Wes Craven’s literary background, I wouldn’t be surprised if he admitted to being aware of that.”
Skipp & Spector, however, wanted to advance the characters for different reasons. “We wanted to open up the concept of nightmares, not have them simply be what happens when you fall asleep, but nightmares in respect to the dreams you have for the future,” judges Spector. “As a teenager, you’re under a lot of pressure to achieve, to be responsible in an adult manner, but you see so many adults you’d rather die than become. One of the worst fears of the teenage years is turning into your parents. We intimated that both with the characters that became Mark and with Greta and her mother.” Like many elements integral to the various drafts of the script, this was reduced to an incidental detail in the film.
“Freddy, like Jason, is basically the ultimate nightmare parent figure, and one of the points of my treatment was to take that further, to make him the ultimate nightmare authority figure—at one stage he’s a policeman, another he’s a priest—while at the same time exploring his background,” says David Schow, scripter of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3.
Schow’s treatment for Nightmare 5, written on spec, was titled Freddy Rules and had killer Krueger kicking some serious butt. Although it didn’t nab him the assignment to create a full screenplay, it was instrumental in garnering him a dialogue rewrite gig. Sadly, virtually none of his lines made it onto the screen.
“The treatment was written on the condition that it featured a pregnant Alice,” Schow explains, “which was the basic New Line mandate. The part I liked most, and this was usurped by the TV series, was that I planned it to be the first time we see Freddy alive, in a black-and-white videotape flashback. The scene was designed to be as creepy as possible, with Freddy in a straightjacket, strapped to a chair, but still running the show during the psychiatric evaluation.”
Schow’s treatment starts with a videotape of Alice being interviewed by a number of psychiatrists concerning her encounter with Freddy in Nightmare 5. A montage of photographic slides and newspaper microfiche records follows, detailing Krueger’s life, ending on the death of police Lieutenant Don Thompson. The Freddy investigator viewing the material is Arthur Thompson, the dead cop’s brother, who has recently suffered a double tragedy with his 6-year-old son Jaime lost in a coma state for the past nine months.
As the story develops, Arthur connects with Alice in the dream realm (where she has encountered Jaime), only to be killed by Freddy the motorcycle cop while on the way to the hospital. This acts as a catalyst, pulling together those Elm Street kids that will be Alice’s allies this time around: Arthur’s eldest children Marcus and Nyla, and their friends Ben Tavotai Pepperdine (a.k.a. Lobo, a native American), and Georgia, a feisty chick Schow describes as being in the Vasquez/Aliens “tough babe” mold. Alice, pregnant by Dan (who’s dead via a wreck on the highway scenario like that in the final film), is now surrounded by a surrogate family unit composed of these kids, “all remnants of the fractured ’80s families: adoptees, orphans and victims of divorce.”
Following the same pacing that made Nightmare 3, easily the best sequel to date, such a rollercoaster ride, Schow’s treatment pulls no punches, giving Freddy a mean streak not seen since the original. The story concludes with all the teenagers dead except for Alice and Nyla, who are saved by Jaime’s sacrifice when pulls Freddy into the coma pit, Schow’s version of the dream pool. Alice gives birth to twins.
“You have to remember, the treatment was just a blueprint for the movie. Had it been given the go-ahead, it would have changed as much as any other script via the evolutionary process,” specifies Schow. “I think maybe New Line sold themselves short by assigning so many writers to the project, though. I haven’t seen the finished film at this point, but the material I have seen indicates most of the really interesting stuff’s fallen by the wayside.”