The Boogeyman and the Passing of a Legend

It is hard for me to write this, but on August 30th, legendary horror director and writer Wes Craven passed away. His sudden death were a shock to fans. Wes had been suffering from brain cancer, and most of us were unaware that he was ill. Many heartfelt tributes poured from social media, and everyone from fans to actors and fellow directors expressed sadness. Wes had been an active director since 1972 and directed many popular horror films, but he was most popular for writing and directing the 1984 film ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ Wes created many lasting characters in film, but ‘Freddy Krueger’ remains one of his most popular. Wes revitalized the ‘slasher’ sub-genre and created a monster that was unlike all the others that came before him. He gave us a monster with a true personality. His amazing creation made a household name out of then fledgling New Line Cinema, and spawned six sequels, a television series, and a remake in 2010. This project was created to pay homage to the ‘Nightmare’ films and examine what it is about ‘Freddy’ that makes him such a pop culture icon, and I feel I am doing just that. What follows is my first interview after learning of Wes’ passing. It was a very emotional moment for myself and the gentleman I interviewed, Rob DiLauro. Rob is a popular radio personality on DreadCentral, as well Head of Film & Media at Metal Onslaught Magazine.

BB: When was the first time you saw a “Nightmare” film, and which one was it?

RDL: I have a funny story. When I was a kid, I think about five or six, I was spending time with my teenage cousin and her friend over a weekend, and they wanted to watch movies, mainly the original ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’, so I was sent to bed in her room. I could hear the soundtrack blaring through the door, and I bolted from the bed and whipped the door open, WILD EYED! I looked at my cousin and frantically said, “You’re watching ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’, aren’t you?!” She quickly turned off the VHS and I had a mild panic attack. I was a bit of a bitch when I was a child. (Laughs) The first glimpse I had of Freddy was not one of the movies, it was actually the short-lived television show, ‘Freddy’s Nightmares’, and I fell in love with the villain from that movie INSTANTLY. I was then introduced to the film series after that, and I was hooked. I love ‘Jason’, I adore ‘Michael’, and I embrace ‘Leatherface’, but there is no greater horror villain than ‘Freddy Krueger’, and that is a fact.

BB: Do you have a favorite film in the series?

RDL: This is a very hard question, but I will try to answer the best way that I can. I will ALWAYS have a deep love for the original, it is like a best friend, or a security blanket. But, my favorite of the series has always been  ‘Dream Warriors’, and the reason is simple. I had a very rough childhood, and as I grew up I had some mental deficiencies which grew into addiction issues, I was also defiant as all hell. I had unfortunately been in institutions when I was a teenager, felt like I wanted to expire by my own hand, I was a mess. The characters in ‘Dream Warriors’ was me, and I connected to them. At the same time, they had power, and I always wished I wielded something inside of myself that was powerful, I felt as if I had nothing. I was truly connected to Jennifer Rubin’s character, Taryn, and I had the pleasure of telling her that story, and instantly becoming friends with her. I also love that movie because Nancy truly became the ‘Professor Xavier’ for the kids, a Jedi Master in the fight against her arch-nemesis, and it was beautifully executed. So yes, I love the entire series, especially the original, but my answer has to be ‘Dream Warriors’.

BB: Why do you think Freddy has “aged well” and become such a staple in pop culture? He’s vile, disgusting, and not to mention a murderer. Why are we as fans infatuated with him?

RDL: Well, we can talk about the psychological aspects of that all day, but I think the main reason is because as human beings we secretly love to root for the villain, and Freddy makes it easy to fall for his evil charms. He’s a boogeyman, a guy who had a large sense of humor, and he looked BADASS! How could you not love that glove, and the way Englund looked in that prosthetic makeup, it is absolutely timeless! Yes, he is vile, and he does horrible things, but there is just something about him that is just as important as the monsters of old. A brilliant creation.

BB: Wes Craven’s passing has been all over media outlets everywhere. I understand you’re involved in a project about Wes. Can you give us some details?

RDL: Well, I am the Head of Film/Media for a site called Metal Onslaught, and I have a section called “House Of Blood, Scars, & Sinister Stars” where I do news and major horror interviews. When I had heard of Wes’ passing, I was crushed. I felt as if I had lost a family member, even though I had never met the man. But he was important to my creativity and my goals, he was a massive inspiration. So, when he passed, I wanted to show him love in my own way. I told the fans that I wanted them to regale me with their stories and show their love to Wes, and that became a monster! I also heard from people who had worked with Wes on all of his films, actors like Adrienne Barbeau, it was insane. A small memorial that I created to honor the man became a worldwide event, and I cannot wait to put it all together. I hope somehow Wes gets to see it. Maybe in my dreams.

Please visit Rob and check out his body of work (pardon the pun) at and!

Razor-Fingered Fiends!

This project has been such a treat; I’ve learned so much about the special effects, but I’ve learned even more about the people who follow Freddy. Fans just like me are getting out there and making ourselves present in the “Nightmare” community. We’re artists, musicians, writers, actors, collectors, and special effects creators, but most of all, we’re fans. We are united by our admiration and love of the boogeyman, and we revel in meeting others like us.

I had the privilege of speaking with artist/filmmaker and collector Nathan Thomas Milliner. Nathan’s work as an artist has gained notoriety among the ‘Nightmare’ community, as well as the praise of actors and actresses from the original films. He was very candid with me, and spoke about both the films and Freddy   just like the fan that he is!

BB: Nathan, you have gained notoriety among the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ community with your impressive artwork. When did your infatuation with the films start?

NTM: The night ‘Dream Warriors’ premiered on cable TV in 1988. In all honesty,  I think it was the Fresh Prince’s song “Nightmare on My Street” that made me curious. I had that tape and loved that song, but had never seen the films. I was 12 years old at the time. I knew of the films, as I remembered the TV spots when the original film was released in 1984. But I was never big into horror. So I saw the 2nd and 3rd films were going to play on HBO or something on the weekend so I asked my mom if I could watch them and we did. We recorded them on a VHS tape. I wore that tape out I can tell ya! (laughs) I Just fell in love with the films and the horror genre as a whole, really. Horror was just all so new to me and Freddy helped me go from being a scaredy cat to realizing what fun this type of film is!

BB: In addition to your artwork, you’ve been working with Mark Patton (“Jesse”) from the second film. What has that been like?

NTM: It’s been sort of this strange full circle thing. Nightmare 2 was literally the first one I had ever seen, so it is very special to me. To have Mark be somewhat of a social media friend at this point and have him compliment my work and say no one draws him better than I do is unreal for a fan. Mark is such a nice and sweet guy and it has been very cool to have a chance to work with him on his documentary in any way.

BB: You are going to be debuting your fan film ‘The Confession of Fred Krueger’ at Horrorhound Weekend 2015 in September. Can you tell us a little bit about your ideas behind the making of the film?

NTM: It all started that same year in 1988. Following that screening of Parts 2 and 3 I sought out Part 1 on video and went and saw ‘Dream Master’ (the fourth film) on the big screen as well. Obsessed, I went to the book store to try to find any books on the films. The clerks ordered me a book called “The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion” written by Jeffrey Cooper,  who also wrote the film novelizations. In that book, Cooper wrote a short origin story about who Freddy was before the lynching. It was dark and very intriguing. So from that moment I was dying to see a film made about Freddy’s early days. The films gave us tid bits but nothing like I really wanted to see. ‘Freddy’s Dead’ gave us the most but it strayed from the original ideas Wes Craven had when creating this story and character and it was extremely different than Cooper’s short story. Underwood (Interviewer’s Note: Underwood was Freddy’s abusive stepfather in ‘Freddy’s Dead’, shown in flashbacks) was the only thing that really resembled it. In my head, Freddy was this drifter, a hobo who lived in a small corner inside the boiler room (the first film shows his room briefly and his bed). I saw him as an outsider who hated the beautiful people of Springwood and that envy, hate turned him into the monster he became. He was punishing them for never letting him be one of them. So the suburbanite Freddy just wasn’t right to me. There had been talk for years about a possible prequel being made. Robert was definitely wanting to do one as I have read. But it wasn’t happening and a few years ago on facebook I was discussing it with some friends and fellow Fred Heads and one suggested I write a script. I didn’t see any sense in writing a feature length prequel but I thought maybe I could write a short film. Or at least a short story. So I chose to write the one scene I’d most want to see or write if I were to make a fan film. And that was the interrogation of Freddy Krueger. I kept thinking about how compelling Richard Kuklinski (serial killer who was contracted by Mafia crime families) was to watch and listen to in those HBO documentaries from the 90’s, ‘The Iceman Confessions.’ Here is this sociopathic killer who has done terrible things and has no remorse whatsoever but you kind of like him. You can’t stop watching. So I thought it would be interesting to hear Freddy tell his tale. I wanted to take it back to the roots and bring the scary, dark, vile Freddy back. So I chose to focus only on the first film along with Cooper’s short origin story and some of the deleted stuff from the first film. Trying to stay true but also leaving room for something fresh and new. While making my film ‘The Encyclopedia Satanica’ and working with a local actor named Kevin Roach, I was suddenly inspired to make the film a reality having found the right actor and crew to do it justice.

BB: What are your goals with this film?

NTM: My goals are simply to just pay homage to a film and story that has meant so much to me. It’s like an itch that has been waiting to be scratched. I need to get this film out of my system so I can move forward. It’s been on my brain for so long. My goals were simply to put the image of Fred Krueger I always had in my head out there and hope that other fans appreciate it. I know many won’t as change is always hard to swallow for fans. Which is weird because Freddy changed literally from film to film. There is no definitive Freddy Krueger really. In each film we were given a new version with a new look and everything. So I really don’t totally understand those who reject change. But the goal is simply to celebrate the film and share it with others.

BB: What is it about the ‘Nightmare’ films that you love most?

NTM: When I was 12, I was entering a time of depression in my life for the first time. At 11, we had moved into another part of town and I was beginning middle school. That pre-teen time in one’s life is rough. I was a quiet, sensitive, artistic type and I was the new kid. So I was bullied. I was an outsider. I didn’t fit in. It caused depression. I had low-self esteem. And there are many cases where kids in my situation gravitate towards something that is also on the outside of the norm to grab on to to make them feel special. To make them feel like they have something that is theirs in a way. Horror tends to be that outlet for many fans, and I think it was mine. I think horror gave me an escape. What I have come to discover over the years is that the entire Nightmare series is really about standing up to your bullies. Fred Krueger is the ultimate bully. Think about it. How do you beat a bully? How do you get them to stop messing with you? You stand up to them. You show them that they don’t scare you anymore. That takes away their power. When I was around 9 I had a bully. Kid was 16. One day I stood up to him. He knocked me down over and over and I kept getting back up and staring at him. He saw he no longer scared me and he never bothered me again. How does Nancy beat Freddy? She turns her back on him. She tells him “I’m not afraid of you.” She takes his power over her away from him and he loses his control over her and vanishes. The whole thing is a metaphor for standing up to bullies. Plus I just love the imagery and the design of Freddy. The story and the imagination within the series. I always said Friday the 13th was the fun series, Halloween was the serious one and Nightmare was the most creative.

BB: There has been a trend of ‘Nightmare’ fan films the past few years. What are you thoughts on that?

NTM: I honestly have not watched them. I’m not well versed in fan films. I have seen a few. Usually the really good ones that get some real life behind them. Mostly Batman or Star Wars fan films. Some are extremely well done. Some I have seen have been really bad. The only ‘Elm Street’ fan films I ever saw was one where Freddy was fighting Michael Myers and then I saw those ‘Krueger’ films that Roberto Lombardi was in. Oddly enough, I never saw the first one until we were in production. Kind of kicked myself as I learned it was an interrogation film. But after watching it I felt okay about it because ‘Confession’ is drastically different than theirs. Their’s is good. They are very well made films and I totally see why Lombardi has impressed and captured the love of the fans. But I honestly haven’t seen any others; I couldn’t even name any. Which I think is for the best. The last thing I want to do is feel influenced by or intimidated by what other fan films have done or are doing. Bottom line, I wrote this one before I even knew there were Freddy fan films.

BB: Who designed the glove that actor Kevin Roach wears? Are there any special details about that glove?

NTM: Kevin wears a replica of the original glove designed by Jim Doyle and constructed by Lou Carlucci. It was built by Brian Sills, a good friend of mine. The most special thing about this particular glove is that Brian put a p210 blade on the index finger. The p210 is the tomato knife that Lou used on the original hero glove from 1984. These knives are rare today and are highly coveted by Freddy glove enthusiasts. They aren’t cheap and Brian had one and decided to surprise me by putting it on there. That brought up a choice to be made. Not everyone knows this but in the original film, the index blade broke off. So in most of that film you will see that the index blade has been welded back together. It is a detail from that first glove that most never notice. When Brian was making our hero he asked me if he needed to break it or not. We went with not because we were screening the glove construction scene in the movie and it didn’t make sense to have it broken for what we were filming. Another little detail I threw in for fun and those who are in the know, in one shot in the film, we see Freddy wearing a stunt glove I own made by Brian. In the original film Robert in many scenes is wearing the stunt glove which is very different than the hero glove in many ways. For one it is very banged up and the blades are shinier. But the main detail is that the finger stalls are not riveted together. They do not connect at the knuckles. So if you see any images or stills from the film when Robert is wearing it, you can see the fingers aren’t connected. The stalls attached to the backplate will stick up and it allowed Robert to grip things which is not easy with the regular glove. You can see him wearing it in that classic, “This is God” moment.

BB: In your opinion, what is it about Freddy that continues to attract new fans from all around the world?

NTM: Curiosity about the dark side of the human psyche. People are drawn to boogeymen and darkness. Freddy has personality and flair, not to mention one of the coolest movie weapons ever made. In my opinion, only the lightsaber can contend. And a lot of it has to do with Robert Englund. The guy created an amazing character in his choices. It is just hard not to be drawn to such a huge personality. Freddy has become an icon. He will never die. He’s as big as Dracula and The Wolfman. I am not sure we will ever see any horror character as big as him and Jason. That is why I have no issues with remakes or sequels of it. The character deserves to live on as this tale and this character are just too good to go completely away. Christopher Lee was able to reinvent Dracula to a whole new generation of fans. I think down the line, someone will be able to do the same. It will just take time. Like Lugosi, Englund will always be “THE” Freddy Krueger. But I think Freddy isn’t going anywhere.

Thanks again for contributing to this project Nathan!

Visit Dread Central for more information about Nathan and his work:

Also visit Brian’s amazing glove workshop, Demented Glove Works, here: and here:

You’ll love his gloves!

More Nightmares…

In keeping with my recent topic, I wanted to discuss the growing industry of the fan film. Fan films have been produced for just about every popular mainstream film you can think of, but the “Nightmare on Elm Street” fan films have grown by leaps and bounds. I recently interviewed another actor that has donned the sweater and claws, Adam Sterczala. We discussed several different facets of his project, and we geeked out over a few glove makers too!image

BB: Adam, you were involved in a fan film project. You played Freddy, but who directed/wrote the story?

AS: The story was my idea and I write a treatment but a friend of mine, Brendan Millet of Crazed Weasel Entertainment wrote the script. He used some of his Kevin Smith influence to write some really nice casual idialogue between the friends of the protagonist. We were working together to direct which was useful when I was trying to get into makeup (laughs).

Originally the film was for Crazed Weasel Entertainment, but since it never took off and wasn’t completed that was the end of the project. It was a real shame because we had a great cast and I think the makeup would have worked well in the lighting of the junkyard that we had.

BB: I wish it would have been completed so the fans could see the work you and the other cast and crew put into it. You had a junkyard set?

AS: We felt the same way. We filmed a good portion of the film, which was originally called “Hallowed Ground.” It was being filmed in a real auto junkyard that was our “Penny Brothers Auto Salvage.” (Interviewers Note: Fans of the original films will remember that junkyard from the third and fourth films. Freddy’s bones were discovered in the trunk of a red Cadillac and buried. The fourth film had him resurected in the aforementioned junkyard.) We had four kids dressed in white to  perform the trademark hopscotch and jump rope bit. We were going to slow the footage down and dub the nursery rhyme over it. We filmed most of it; however we weren’t able to shoot the Freddy scenes before the weather turned too cold. By the following spring we lost the ability to shoot in the junkyard.

The idea was to bridge the gap between the older films and “Freddy vs. Jason” to explain how Freddy came back again to kill Lori Campbell’s mother before “Freddy vs. Jason.” So we set the story in the junkyard Freddy’s bones were buried in, hence the Hallowed Ground name. The idea was, if the ground was leveled and the glove was brought to the surface, Freddy could start to haunt the dreams of the owners son and come back.

BB: Did you create and apply your own makeup? How long was the process?

AS: Yes,  I did that makeup with my sister’s help since I couldn’t reach the back of my head (laughs). The application was about two hours from scratch. I mostly worked on the facial features whie my sister textured the rest of the makeup and glued the bald cap.

BB: The glove featured in the movie poster is fantastic! Was that glove used in the production? Who designed it?

AS: Yes, it was used in the production. It’s a custom VS (as in Freddy vs. Jason) that was made to look really charred and rusted. It was  made special by Anders Eriksen of Nightmare Gloves for the film.

Thanks so much for speaking with me about everyone’s favorite bad dream!

Visit and to see Anders’ beautifully crafted nightmares and to place an order!

And To Think I Saw It On Elm Street…Again

For those that do not know him, Roberto Lombardi is a veteran actor who has portrayed Freddy Krueger in a series of YouTube shorts directed by Chris R. Notarile. Roberto has received praise from fans of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films as well as fans of the original Freddy Krueger, actor Robert Englund. Roberto graciously agreed to take part in this project despite his busy shooting schedule.

BB: Roberto, you’re a veteran actor who has managed to do the near impossible: to be deemed a worthy successor to the original Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund. How do you feel about that notion, and why do you think Freddy is so popular among horror fans?

RL: I am honestly stunned by the amount of support and acceptance that I have received from fans of both the original series and of Robert Englund. Robert is a tough act to follow as he was so iconic in the original series, and for fans and even some of the original cast and crew members to welcome me as they have is flat out amazing! Freddy is so enduring and popular among horror fans because of a few things. Wes Craven wrote a frightening, original character who was played by the perfect actor. Freddy can’t really be vanquished, so the possibilities are endless for the continuation of the Elm Street story.

BB: You’ve portrayed Krueger both in and out of the elaborate makeup. This project focuses on the special fx and the artists behind them, but I wanted to include your thoughts on them since you have experienced the same lengthy application that Englund endured.

RL: I know Robert spent hours in the chair having the makeup applied, where my makeup was a combination of a latex head mask with latex appliances attached to my eye and mouth areas so I could speak and have facial expressions. It was important to be able actually act. Chris R. Notarile applied all my makeup. It took around an hour, give or take, to apply. There were many touch ups on set as I had fight choreography in almost every scene. Between the photo shoot and the actual film shoot for “The Nightmare Ends on Halloween II”, I had the makeup applied five times. It is very sticky, itches and is not comfortable to wear at all! It is just as hard to remove! Having said that, the visual results are worth it and I would sit through it again anytime (and I did for Episode 3 of Chris’s “Deadpool” web series).

BB: In keeping with the discussion of the special FX of the films, the razor bladed glove cannot be left out. How was your experience with the glove itself? Can you give us a little background on the designer of your particular model?

RL: Ahhh, the glove! In all but the first Krueger film my gloves were all made by the uber talented Shay Fogg. The first glove was a replica I bought online and we were not satisfied with it (I still have it), so for the second Krueger film onward we had Shay make all of the gloves. In interviews Robert has said that he naturally slouched to one side because the glove was heavy. I also found that to be true, so I was able to nail Freddy’s posture quickly. The glove really becomes an extension of the character when you play Freddy and it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing it. It feels like it’s part of your hand. In 2011 when we first attempted to film “The Nightmare Ends on Halloween II”, I actually broke both the primary and back up gloves on the very first take of the first shot on the first day of filming. Chris wasn’t happy! It turned out for the best as we got better locations and started over. The last glove Shay made for me was more of an original piece with thinner, more claw like blades. It has now become my signature glove!

BB: One last question: As a fan yourself, what do you have to say about the special FX and the impact the films (and Freddy) have left on you?

RL: I remember seeing the first film in theaters in 1984 and being blown away by it. I always wanted to play such an original and iconic character. The best part about the FX, both the makeup and the visuals, were that they were practical FX. You could see the effort that was put into making that film and it’s sequels really stand out from other franchises. When you watch Freddy and the Elm Street films as a fan and then get to actually play him as an actor is a very surreal experience.

BB: Thanks so much for your input and your time Roberto!

RL: You’re welcome, and thank you for including me! I’d also like to thank all the fans for their acceptance and support!

To check Roberto’s impressive filmography, please visit

Visit the Blinky Productions YouTube channel to see Roberto’s turn as Freddy Krueger!

And To Think I Saw It On Elm Street

Hey there folks! Just when you thought it was safe to leave Elm Street, I’m dragging you back! It’s been a while, but things like writing a book do take time, and besides, I want you to have the best product available (like you haven’t heard this at 2 am on an infomercial…)

I recently had the good fortune to obtain more great interviews about our favorite dream stalker, and as always, I got more than I bargained for! I love this job, and hope you all enjoy what has been compiled so far.

Writer/director Chris Notarile has a passion for telling the best stories possible. He is the founder of Blinky Productions, an independent film company responsible for many amazing projects, including fan favorites “The Nightmare Ends on Halloween” and its sequel, as well as the immensely popular “Krueger” short films. I telephoned him this week and he and I talked shop, specifically of the red and green kind.

BB: What led to your decision to make the “Krueger” fan films?

CN: It started officially in 2003 when I saw the fan film “Batman: Dead End,” which pits Batman against the Predator. I immediately knew this was something we’d never see in theaters. So I thought “I should make a movie like that.” I decided that I was going to have Freddy, Jason (Friday the 13th), Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Michael Myers (Halloween), and Pinhead (Hellraiser) in the same film. I knew that was something that would never happen, and that was how the first “The Nightmare Ends on Halloween” came into existence. I was contacted by the first actor who played Freddy in the film. We made it, but after that I didn’t think I would do anything else with Freddy until I met Roberto [Lombardi, who will be featured in my next interview]. Roberto nailed the character; he studied Freddy. He is the only person I know that could handle it.

BB: I agree; he has no problem playing a villain and I think he revels in playing evil.

CN: Exactly! It was around that time that fans contacted me, asking if I was going to do a sequel. I decided to go ahead with it and cast Roberto as Freddy. It was and still is our long term goal to make an official release in the future. It’s easy to do these short films because so much is there [story from the original films]. After all, there is a 31 year fan base for Freddy Krueger! As far as the writing is concerned, I’ve created even more of a backstory for him, although a lot of “Nightmare” historians have tried to debunk my story (laughs). I think of it as the “Batman Begins” of the “Nightmare” universe!

BB: Roberto told me that you were responsible for the Krueger makeup effects in the sequel to “The Nightmare Ends on Halloween.” Details please! What was the process of the application?

CN: I want to share a secret with you…the key to any illusion is being a really good liar (laughs). The full headpiece was purchased from eBay for about $300. It was based on the “Nightmare on Elm Street 4” makeup. The problem with it was that Roberto couldn’t move his mouth or open his eyes; his movement was limited. I certainly didn’t have the ability to make a mold of his head, so I widened the eye sockets and cut out the mouth completely. I used spirit gum to attach the edges of the remaining part of the mask to his face. Then I used paper towels and latexed them over the cut portions of the mask and applied makeup over them.

BB: Seriously?! Paper towels?! (laughs) You could have fooled me! It looks like a three or four hour makeup job.

CN: Absolutely! The whole process of the makeup took about 25 minutes to apply. Lighting is the second part of the illusion. I never shot [scenes with] him in halogen light. There are lighting differences throughout the film.

BB: I need to “geek out” for a minute, Chris. I love the way the makeup looks in the confrontation with Jason. The closeup shot when Freddy says “Oh, great. The mama’s boy!”

CN: (laughing) I’m glad you liked it! We were shooting at a park in the rain for the Jason fight. The mask shifted on Roberto and I had to several touch ups on it! I am proud of the way it turned out for the scene, though. It was torrential rain too! A lot of people asked me about the rain. Yes it was REAL!

BB: I loved the lighting during the fight.

CN: That was a fairly simple effect. We turned on the headlights of Roberto’s car and a single streetlight.

BB: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy shooting schedule to talk Freddy with me! Truly amazing work, Chris!

CN: Thank you!

Please check out Chris’ company on Facebook at

as well as their YouTube channel:

The Road to Elm Street…Paved with Good Intentions

Since I started this project nearly a month ago, I’ve come to understand that the adage “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is as true today as when it was coined. In the process of speaking to the gifted individuals that helped bring the “Nightmare” films to life, I’ve been met with a considerable amount of opposition and uncertainty. “Why would you think this is relevant?” “What makes you think anyone would care about this aspect of the films?” These are the questions that I have been asked. My answers are quite simple. This project is relevant because it focuses on the artists behind the legacy of  Freddy Krueger. The thirtieth anniversary of the first “Nightmare” film passed in November 2014, and in order to keep its legacy alive, I decided to venture into a widely unexplored territory. The special effects of a film serve to accentuate the story that is being told. They help bring the aesthetic to a film and give it more dimension. The special effects of the “Nightmare” films are no different in that respect. They bring depth to the films. Granted, the line between dreams and reality is blurred, and often times crossed completely, but the effects allow us to experience the horror that follows in an unforgettable way. The special effects of that first film contributed to the rise of one of cinema’s most popular boogeymen. Had it not been for the special effects, we wouldn’t have had the fire-scarred countenance that fans all over the world have come to love. These effects not only applied to Freddy himself, but to the deaths he caused those unlucky kids on Elm Street. I have talked with many fans over the course of my life, and every one of them has a favorite death. Whether it was Tina being dragged across the ceiling and gutted in the first film, or Debbie being crushed in the roach motel in the fourth, every fan I have ever spoken with has a favorite kill, a different kill. However, the thing these kills all have in common are that they were achieved with some of the best effects artists in the industry.

Over the years I have seen countless trick or treaters don the guise of Freddy Krueger, complete with mask (in some cases makeup), striped red and green sweater, weathered fedora, and bladed glove. The horror convention circuit sees multiple fans dressed as Freddy Krueger, and there are even those that build and sell lifelike masks and gloves, as screen accurate as I have ever seen. Obviously, people care about the special effects aspect of these films, or Freddy Krueger wouldn’t be one of the most popular Halloween costumes. There wouldn’t be a continually growing market of glove and mask makers, and there wouldn’t be consumers that spend their hard earned money on all things Elm Street.

Middle of the Street (Elm Street That Is…)

Special effects artist Steve Johnson has been in the business of dropping jaws for over thirty years. In addition to winning Emmy awards for makeup and effects on the television miniseries’ Stephen King’s “The Stand” (1994) and “The Shining” (1997), Steve has created effects/makeups on some of the most popular films in cinema. From the creation of “Slimer” for “Ghostbusters” (1984), to the beautiful alien creatures in “The Abyss” (1989), to his phenomenal work on the live action version of “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” (2003), Steve has left an indelible impression on the world of special effects. Horror fans have come to know his fantastic work through films like “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), “Night of the Demons” (1988), and “Species” (1995). He earned a special place among “Nightmare” fans, too. He worked on “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” (1988) and created one of the most well known effects sequences in the franchise’s history: the “Chest of Souls” demise, which was delivered to Mr. Krueger during the film’s finale. In this sequence, Freddy meets his end courtesy of some very angry and physical souls. These souls appear in his chest and proceed to literally tear him apart from the inside. Steve very graciously allowed me to interview him via telephone and he discussed his influences, his melding of practical and digital effects, and some facts about the famous sequence that will surprise you!

Steve Johnson

December 5th, 2014, 10:40 p.m.

Steve Johnson: (via Skype) Can you hear me?

Blake Best: I can hear you just fine, Steve.

SJ: Okay, I just wanted to make sure. I’m using Skype so I don’t have to hold my phone while I’m working. What did you want to talk about?

BB: First of all I wanted to thank you for taking time out of your very hectic schedule to talk with me. I know special effects crews keep psychotic hours anyway!

SJ:  [laughs] We’re the first ones on the set, and the last ones to leave. 

BB: Steve, what inspired you to be involved in special effects?

SJ: I started very young. I couldn’t not be [interested in special effects]. I loved the Hammer Films and the Universal Films. In the 1970s, there weren’t books or schools for special effects. Another influence was Dick Smith (for those who don’t recognize that name, Smith was a prominent and groundbreaking special makeup/effects artist responsible for effects on many films, most notably “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Exorcist” (1973). 

BB: He passed away recently, didn’t he?

SJ: Yes, he did.

BB: He seemed to be influenced by the makeup artist that worked on the original “Frankenstein” film. His name escapes me…

SJ: You’re talking about Jack Pierce. Pretty much every special effects artist has been influenced by him [laughs].

BB: What would you consider to be your favorite effects?

SJ: To be honest, every one of my favorites are the most recent ones I’ve worked on. When “Ghostbusters” came out, it was my favorite. When “Nightmare 4” came out, it was my favorite. I put myself up against challenges [in makeup and effects]. My belief is that if it [the effects] excites me, it will excite the audience. 

BB: Speaking of effects, I’m not a fan of the trend of digital effects being used more than practical effects. I feel that sometimes digital effects, especially those added in post-production, are used to cover up or rectify weak points in character development or plot inconsistencies. How do you feel about going “digital?”

SJ: I like mixing digital and practical effects. I recently worked on “Fear Clinic” with Robert Englund, and I was in charge of both practical and digital effects.

BB: How did you get the job on “Nightmare on Elm Street 4?”

SJ: It’s an interesting story, actually. Do you know who Linnea Quigley is? 

BB: Yes. She’s an actress, and I believe I read that you and Linnea were married.

SJ: That’s right. When “Nightmare 3” came out, she and I went to see it at the movies. I thought it was fantastic. I told her after that I really wanted to work on a “Nightmare” movie. The next day, I got the call to come work on “Nightmare 4.”

BB: For many of the cast and crew, the making of “Nightmare 4” was a “nightmare” in itself. From the scorching temperatures on set, the rabid fans that nearly trampled Robert Englund and his makeup man Howard Berger, to the all-nighter John Carl Buechler and crew pulled to get the “Soul Pizza” to work, making a “Nightmare” film is a challenge. Did you experience any problems while making the film?

SJ: Actually, I had two very huge problems on the film. One was with an effect for the climax of the movie. This effect involved having Freddy’s head split in two from the power of the “souls” being released. I was working on it all night with another effects guy. It was a physical effect; all the wires and cables were in place, and I stayed until 3 am getting it put together and working. I was very tired, and thought I would go home and sleep for an hour, then come back so we could be on set at 5 am with Robert Englund. I came back an hour later, and the other effects guy had completely destroyed the effect, and he was gone! Nowhere to be found. Needless to say, I never worked with that guy ever again. 

BB: You mean there was no way to salvage the effect?

SJ: Absolutely not. It was in pieces, completely destroyed. Luckily [the director] Renny Harlin and the rest of the crew didn’t know about that effect, so I moved on to the next effect for the movie. In total I ended up doing 28 different effects for the movie. The face split would have been the 24th. 

The other problem I encountered was with the “Chest of Souls” sequence. It was two different effects; there was a life-size replica of Freddy’s body, and the chest contained puppets that tore through his chest which were operated by puppeteers out of frame. The other part of the effect was for the close up shots of them bursting through his chest. We constructed a 30 foot torso, which was completely articulated, and contained life-sized people pretending to be “12 inch souls” ripping from his chest. We didn’t put enough ballast in the torso (ballast is a material placed within an object to improve stability), and it toppled over with the people still inside of it. It nearly killed two of the actors inside, and sent an actress that was inside to the hospital. 

BB: That had to be terrifying for everyone involved.

SJ: It was. Have you seen the documentary “Never Sleep Again?” 

BB: No I haven’t, but I plan on seeing it soon.

SJ: There’s footage of the incident and photos in the documentary.

BB: It’s about the only piece of “Nightmare” media I don’t have, but I plan on buying a copy soon. Thank you so much Steve, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me!

SJ: No problem, Blake. We’ll talk again sometime. 

Be sure and check out Steve’s other films, as well as his upcoming effects in an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “The Crawlers.” Steve is also a teacher at the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, please check out Steve and this wonderful institution here:

It Started with a Dream…Does This Sound Familiar?

It should! Wes Craven said pretty much the same thing. His childhood experience with a sinister looking man in a misshapen hat and some disturbing newspaper articles planted the seed for one of the most enduring cinematic maniacs in horror film history. His “nightmare” launched a franchise of seven original films, a television series, a crossover film, a cinematic reimagining in 2010, and countless merchandise including action figures, comic books,  costumes, posters, t-shirts, phone cases, and scores of other memorabilia. The films made classically trained actor Robert Englund a household name, and a staple of the horror convention circuit. We all know that story.  The story we don’t know is that of the “stars” behind the scenes. The special effects crews. They are just as responsible for the popularity of the films as Robert Englund and Wes Craven.

These gifted geniuses brought the terror of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films to life. I want to give these artists the recognition they deserve, to tell the story of the “Nightmare” films from their point of view.  It is my goal to interview as many of the special effects artists as possible, so we can learn about what went into the making of our favorite boogeyman, and the scares and effects that have been burned into our minds, just like the flames that consumed Freddy Krueger.

The concept and story for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” belong to Wes Craven, but the special effects artists realized his vision and fleshed out (pun intended) his creation: the fire-scarred, claw-wielding Freddy Krueger and the twisted realm in which he exists. I have undertaken (no pun intended) quite a task in reaching out to these brilliant people, but it will be well worth it; giving these wizards the appreciation and recognition they deserve is the least I can do to express my gratitude. These films have left a lasting impact on my life and this project will be my way to share the magic of the movies. Thank you to all of the hard working special effects crews who have made these films as classic as a campfire ghost story!

The Unsung Heroes of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise…The special effects crews.