Given Hollywood’s obsession with the origin stories of iconic characters, it’s somewhat surprising that the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has never spawned a full-on prequel. Oddly enough, it was the pilot episode of Freddy’s Nightmares – a show that didn’t have much to do with the character – that delved deepest into Krueger’s origins, as the various sequels only briefly touched upon his past.
Artist Nathan Thomas Milliner, most known for his collaborations with Scream Factory and HorrorHound Magazine, is one of many horror fans whose love for the genre began with Wes Craven’s introduction to Freddy Krueger, and he recently set out to tell the origin story he’s been itching to see for many years. This past weekend, at the HorrorHound convention, he premiered his own contribution to the franchise.
Titled The Confession of Fred Krueger, the 30-minute film is now available for viewing online (you’ll find it below), and Milliner dedicated it to the late Wes Craven. He describes the prequel tale as a tribute to the franchise we all hold so near and dear, and he based it on the original film as well as a short story published in the late-80s book The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion – penned by Jeffrey Cooper.
Set in November of 1973, The Confession of Fred Krueger takes place an hour after police have arrested the alleged “Springwood Slasher” – who claimed the lives of 20 children beginning in 1968. In his own words, Krueger confesses to the dastardly deeds, telling Senior Lieutenant Thomas Russell about his tortured childhood, and the various life events that transformed him into a ruthless serial killer.
Fan films aren’t exactly known for being very good, and fan-made Elm Street shorts over the years have been particularly awful. There’s just something immediately corny about watching an actor run around in a mass-produced Freddy Krueger mask, doing his best/worst Robert Englund impersonation, but Milliner’s short smartly avoids all that inherent silliness by taking before well before Freddy became Freddy.
Set primarily in one location, and driven by dialogue, The Confession of Fred Krueger is reliant on the performance of actor Kevin Roach, who was put in the unenviable position of playing a very human incarnation of the horror icon. It’s clear that Roach set out to channel his inner Robert Englund, and he does an admirable job making you believe that his Freddy is the same character we met back in 1984 – albeit less burnt.
Milliner’s script is a smart one, staying true to the established backstory of Freddy and very much selling the idea that the short is a canonical prequel to the Elm Street film franchise – even though, by the very nature of it being a fan film, it of course is not. The supernatural, burnt-up version of Freddy is one that fed on the fear of his victims, and this origin story depicts a man who similarly derives power from fear.
As Krueger relays, he was abused by his step-father as a child – as we learned in Freddy’s Dead, which delved further into the character’s origin story than the other sequels – and made to believe at a young age that he was completely worthless. But, he tells the Lieutenant, he found his purpose in life by becoming a monster, and robbing the Springwood children of the happy childhoods he wasn’t allowed to have.
I haven’t read Jeffrey Cooper’s short story so it’s impossible for me to say what came from that and what Milliner himself brought to the table, but as a lifelong Freddy Krueger fan, what I can say is that The Confession of Fred Krueger feels very true to the mythology of the character. It brings to the table an origin story I can get behind, and one that leads wonderfully into the original Nightmare on Elm Street.
It was of course the failure to convict Fred Krueger of his crimes that led to the Springwood parents taking justice into their own hands and burning him alive, and Milliner’s short posits what that “technicality” might have been. Much of the short shows Freddy confessing to his crimes, true to the title, but by the end it makes total sense why he would’ve been set free after the confession.
Another aspect The Confession of Fred Krueger explores is the creation of the villain’s iconic glove, which is shown to be a natural progression of the weapon Fred’s step-father used to inflict pain on him as a child. Milliner even provides an explanation for precisely why Freddy chose to make his weapon of choice the way he decided to make it, though I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.
One other thing I want to mention is the score, which remixes Charles Bernstein’s iconic Nightmare on Elm Street theme into something both familiar and new. According to Milliner, Bernstein gave composer Lito Velasco his blessing to put his own unique touch on the theme, and Velasco did a terrific job paying tribute to the track. It evokes the spirit of Craven’s classic, which is what the short is ultimately all about.
Simply put, The Confession of Fred Krueger is the best Nightmare on Elm Street fan film to date, and it’s a real treat for fans of the franchise. Best of all, it offers up a glimmer of hope for the future of the franchise, as a pitch black origin story is what is needed right now to make Freddy Krueger a scary villain again. Milliner and Roach accomplished that goal, and left me itching for a feature length expansion.
When you watch the short, and you definitely should, be sure to stick around after the credits for a fun treat!
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