Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema
Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

The Truth Behind The Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise

October 31, 2020

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s that time of the year where all kinds of horror movies are going to be playing every night up until the night of All Hallow’s Eve. Especially a classic like: A Nightmare on Elm Street.

We all know the 80’s horror slasher horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) by American filmmaker and Directed by Wes Craven. Where the teens of the fictitious town of Springwood, Ohio fall prey to the child killer: Freddy Kreuger (Robert England), that haunts their nightmares. If he kills you in your dreams, then you die in real life.  Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) begins to unravel the horrific dark secret of why she and her friend group are being targeted. Finding out her own parents and the parents of her friends were responsible for hunting him down and burning him alive. When they found out he was molesting their children when they were too young to remember. In hopes of making their children forget what happened to them, they never discussed or brought it up since they burned Freddy Kreuger alive. Freddy Kreuger’s vengeful spirit comes back and is getting his revenge on the kids of Elm Street one by one. Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp), start to try and defeat him, but then with Nancy being the only surviving teenager left on Elm Street. She realized that if you don’t fear Freddy Kreuger he has no power to hurt you anymore and therefore will cease to exist in her mind. 

Photo courtesy of GameSpot

Did you ever wonder where Wes Craven came up with such a story or if they were based on some resemblance to the truth? That it is possible for something like Freddy to kill you in your dream causing you to die in real life or is that too far out there? According to Cinema Blend News, Craven came up with A Nightmare on Elm Street after an article he read in the Los Angeles Times about how a family survived the killing fields in Cambodia. They immigrated to the United States, but their son still suffered terrible nightmares. “He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over,” Wes Craven stated in an interview, “Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare. Here was a youngster having a vision of a horror that everyone older was denying. That became the central line of Nightmare on Elm Street.” According to The Los Angeles Times, from 1987 around 130 deaths just like the aforementioned died mysteriously in their sleep, this became known as the Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (“SUNDS”) as most people who were affected were of Southeast Asia descent living in the United States. The unfortunate people who succumbed to this syndrome would suddenly scream in their sleep and then die. Southeastern Asian countries started to develop local slang for these random deaths, According to The Los Angeles Times, it is called bangungut in the Philippines and pokkuri in Japan, both of which roughly translates to “nightmare death,” and Dr.  Robert Kirschner, wanted to investigate this phenomenon a little more closely. Dr. Kirschner, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Chicago, undertook a systematic study of the problem. He found the only to be in common with the victims was that there seemed to be nothing wrong with them before they suddenly died. He was quoted in The Los Angeles Times, “These are all healthy men with no previous symptoms; the average age was 33,” he says. “The situation is almost always the same. It only occurs in men and it only occurs in their sleep. The report is they cry out and die or are found dead the next morning.” He performed all the standard autopsies and nothing came up, but then saw an anomaly. Dr. Kirschener noted that all 18 hearts of the victims were enlarged and that 17 had some kind of defect, where believes the hearts shorted out somehow. That the possibility of the stress of emigrating to a new country was a factor to the nightmares, but other than the possibility of stress there the stress of nightmares that can be put on the body. His ultimate theory after this long deep dive into this phenomenon is that “something at night, perhaps a random electronic discharge, and yes, perhaps a nightmare, overloaded these defective hearts, causing the sudden deaths. This makes the nightmare death all the more curious since studies of whites who die suddenly have not shown the same defect.”  There is nothing you can really do about this “nightmare death” because the human body needs sleep and the one and only thing that may mend this shortage is CPR. 

Just in time for Halloween, that is right around the corner, where this movie and its’ sequels will be playing non-stop leading to the eerie night of Halloween. This makes you think about how many other movies are based on real-life events that inspired the whole concept that Wes Craven came up with.  Uncovering the real-life events that inspired, The Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise makes the movies even scarier. Then in comparison to when you watched them the first time. When are you watching them, this information will be at the back of your mind, but remember that this is a movie and everyone has nightmares every once in a while whether you like it or not. So like the character, Nancy doesn’t let that fear overcome her don’t let it overcome you. Do this by taking control of it and enjoy the movie instead.


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