Freddy Krueger’s origin explained

Our guide to Freddy Krueger's origin looks at the killer behind all A Nightmare on Elm Street horror movies, including his ever-changing powers

Freddy Krueger origin explained

What is Freddy Krueger’s origin? One of the great horror movie icons, few killers are as recognisable and entertaining as A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger. At the very least, nobody else is as funny while they’re slicing and dicing their victims.

Across nine monster movies and counting, Freddy has terrorised the dreams of many an inhabitant of Elm Street and quite a lot more besides. Created by the legendary Wes Craven, he first slashed his way onto the silver screen in 1984 and has been keeping us awake ever since. Consistently played by Robert Englund, Freddy’s a distinct flavour of menace that few have come close to.

Not many fictitious murderers have been so relentless they manage to mash their franchise with another in order to see who’s the greatest on the big screen. That’s Freddy’s greatness. With quite a few entries behind him, you might be left pondering Freddy Krueger’s origin, and what he’s truly capable of. Well, we’re experts in nightmarish murderers here – something that really doesn’t sound good out loud – so we have everything you need to know about him right here, to allow you to sleep that bit easier.

What is Freddy Krueger’s backstory?

The Freddy that we’re introduced to in A Nightmare on Elm Street may be a sociopathic killer that stalks young people’s nightmares, but before that, he was just a regular human sociopathic killer. Before that again, he was a child born of hideous circumstances who was himself heinously abused.

The franchise has been mercifully concise on this timeline, fleshing out one relatively coherent, and quite horrendous, origin for the blade-fingered icon. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, it’s revealed that Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger, was a nun.

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Early in her sisterhood, she visited Westin Hills, a hospital for the mentally ill. She arrived near Christmas, and the guards that were supposed to be watching over her stay locked up early, leaving her stuck inside a tower where some of the worst inmates were housed.

Amanda is repeatedly sexually assaulted until someone returned, when she was found, beaten and now pregnant. Freddy was the resulting child, “the bastard son of 100 maniacs”.

We get a little more perspective on this in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child, where protagonist Alice is entered into a psychological recreation of Westin Hills, and Amanda’s ghost turns up.

Freddy Krueger origin explained: Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Freddy’s ultimately put up for adoption by Amanda, and his rough life as a foster child is shown in the following film, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. He’s adopted by Mr Underwood, played by rock legend Alice Cooper, but it isn’t his home life that’s the problem.

Endless bullying at school, on top of the inherited trauma from how he was conceived, warp Freddy’s mind. He starts abusing animals before moving on to human victims and becoming a serial killer.

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His killing goes on into adulthood, where, like many murderers, he lives what appears to be a normal life on the surface. He becomes a high school janitor and settles down with a woman named Loretta. They have a daughter, Kathryn. All the while, Freddy is butchering people, including children, and keeping their bodies in the school boiler.

Eventually, Loretta stumbles upon his secret stash of used weapons and souvenirs. When confronted, he kills her, but without noticing that Kathryn sees everything.

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She’s who contacts the authorities and has him arrested – the charges don’t stick, but local parents take the law into their own hands and burn him alive. Little did they know they were creating an even more insidious evil.

The 2010 remake follows this same story but puts a small twist on the victims. In the original, Freddy’s targeting anyone who lives on Elm Street. In the more modern version, he goes after the kids of the parents that killed him. It’s silly. An entry for completionists only.

Freddy Krueger origin explained: Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Who is Freddy Krueger in New Nightmare?

Wes Craven, ever the meta-textual auteur, rebooted his own villain for New Nightmare, a film that’s essentially a commentary on why he didn’t produce these flicks anymore.

Craven plays a version of himself that’s trying to stay away from making Freddy Krueger movies because, well, mysterious things start happening that suggest his fictional character isn’t so fictional anymore.

Robert Englund plays himself, too, as does Heather Langenkamp. To get into the weeds about it would run the risk of hurting some of the picture’s charm, but suffice to say, it’s a unique take on Freddy that examines what it’s like for filmmakers to feel stuck with a franchise for longer than they might like.

Freddy Krueger origin explained: Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

What are Freddy Krueger’s powers?

If he targets you, Freddy can warp and control your dreams at his will. He can make it so that if you’re killed by him while you sleep, you die in real life, usually in a very bloody fashion.

This makes facing incredibly surreal and terrifying, as he can pop out nowhere, often showing up on a TV in the background of your dreamworld, before transforming into some monster with a TV set for a stomach.

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His spirit can possess people, as evidenced by A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Freddy vs Jason, and if operating at full strength, he can drag people into their dreamscape, as seen in Dream Child.

This is rare, though, and is really an example of the franchise needing to raise the stakes since staying awake had been done for several movies.

Freddy Krueger origin explained: Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in Freddy Vs Jason

How is Freddy Krueger defeated?

By love, of course! No seriously, in Freddy’s Revenge, it’s the true love and acceptance of the protagonist’s friends that allow him to escape the monster’s clutches. Solidarity and relinquishing of fear are common themes, the latter doing the job in the first movie, the former in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

The Dream Child has Amanda punishing Freddy for what a petulant child he’s been, and in Dream Warriors, his bones are purified, an ending fit for an episode of Supernatural! He’s burned in a furnace in New Nightmare. He’s pulled into the real world and stabbed for the remake – a fittingly uninspired finish – and he’s beheaded in Freddy vs Jason.

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Freddy’s never really gone, though, and we hold out hope that his wink when Jason Voorhees is carrying his decapitated noggin means we might get one more go-round with him. We’d say it’s a dream of ours, but those are dangerous words in light of this franchise.

That’s Freddy Krueger’s backstory explained – if you’d like another some more horrifying fictional history, check out our guide to Michael Myers’s origins or if it’s pleasure you seek we have an article all about Pinhead as well.