THE NIGHTMARES ON ELM STREET: FREDDY KRUEGER’S SEVEN SWEETEST DREAMS paperback promises the reader what they’d likely expect from an original collection of Krueger-centric short stories — death, destruction, and bad dreams.
Released in 1991, the same year as FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, this book doesn’t have any hard and fast rules about the franchise’s timeline, so the authors have all picked their own spots in the universe in which to set their tales. All of them go for the scare, by trying to make Freddy back into a monster and less of a punny, one liner-spewing, melted-pizza clown.
But is it worth trying to track down a copy, other than to display next your DREAM MASTER video store cutouts? Maybe the following synopsis will help you decide.
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead!]
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
A hallucinogenic tale about the goth band Nancy Thompson Gravewatch, who move into Nancy’s old house, ASLEEP is a bad fourth sequel in a horror franchise. The band’s three young men and two women move into the old Thompson house, idolizing Nancy as they write music “as dark as the clothes we wore.” They play shows around Springwood, building a cult following, as their moniker brings threats from the town’s adults. The band decides to move to their music mecca, aiming their tour van towards Athens, Georgia for a permanent relocation.
During the drive, they all nod off… and each one has nightmares in which Krueger kills them. They wake up, still alive and in the van, certain they’re slowly falling apart from the wounds inflicted in their dreams.
The story ends with them hoping to make it to Athens before their bodies catch up with their brains… and they die for real.
BRIEFCASE FULL OF BLUES
Louis and Bobby are grade school friends — neither of whom is allowed any type of physical activity. Bobby brings Louis a pen he stole from his father’s briefcase… and when the boys look through a tiny lens at the end if it, instead of a kaleidoscope, they see a lady who removes a piece of clothing with every twist of the pen. This is no typical naughty novelty — the pen has the ability to affect the boys’ minds, and each one starts to hear his father telling him to kill his friend.
The boys decide to take matters into their own hands and go to the factory that makes the pens after hours… and this is where things get weird. They’re not asleep, they may or may not see Freddy, and Louis learns some disturbing things about his dead mother. Then there’s a twist ending no one would see coming — so wrapped up in dream upon dream, it’s unclear if it’s real, a nightmare, or a hallucination. This story is odd, unsettling, and very effective as a NIGHTMARE companion piece.
MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP
A high school janitor dreams of slowly turning into someone else… and finds a red and green sweater, a dirty hat, and finally a set of finger-knives around the school. The students — his daughter included — grow to fear him… before they start to die.
At one point, the football team surrounds the janitor in the parking lot, violently confronting him about the murders. You don’t often see the “jocks taking on the killer” trope, and it works until the janitor remembers he has the Freddy glove, and chases them off.
The janitor starts to have blackouts, during which he can’t recall swaths of time; after one of these he finds a bunch of new toys in his trunk — toys that could be used to lure kids into his car. Becoming Freddy at different times both empowers and terrifies him; the finger knives become a substitute for a man who’s literally castrated to figuratively regain his masculinity.
LE MORTE DE FREDDY
A direct sequel to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, this story takes place at the same psychiatric hospital. Late one night, Dr. Gordon (the handsome young shrink from DREAM WARRIORS) calls psychiatrist Dr. Curtis to tell him Freddy is too close to one of his teen patients. Right afterward, the hospital calls Curtis to tell him his patient is dead.
When Dr. Curtis flies to Florida to recruit Dr. Gordon, he finds out that Gordon is a patient, self-institutionalized and taking Hypnocil, the dream-suppression drug from DREAM WARRIORS and FREDDY VS. JASON. Curtis and Gordon decide the best way to take on Freddy is to take the monster out of the man… so Gordon hypnotizes Curtis, in a full SOMEWHERE IN TIME story arc, to go back and save Amanda from rape. Curtis ends up getting there too late… and instead of trying to go back again, he stays, marries Amanda, and becomes the father Freddy never had.
Gordon and Amanda manage to raise Freddy as a good person, thus preventing him from becoming a killer, and Gordon comes back to the present after living 19 years in the past in a few moments… and is now an old man! It’s an interesting twist in an otherwise so-so story.
DEAD HIGHWAY, LOST ROADS
This story is the most dream-like of the book — in that it makes no sense and is boring. Elm Street has been bulldozed and turned into a mall, in an effort to finally rid Springwood of its boogeyman. Alice from NIGHTMARE 4: THE DREAM MASTER and NIGHTMARE 5: THE DREAM CHILD now lives across from the mall with her husband Steve and son Jacob — who was fathered by Dan before he was killed in DREAM CHILD.
Meanwhile, serial killer Karl Stolenberg — nicknamed “Roadkill” — is waiting to be transferred to the prison where he’ll be executed. Karl is a lucid dreamer, and learned how to escape into his desert highway dreamscape when he was abused as a child. As an adult, he’d been searching for an angel to save him, killing the people who didn’t measure up. His lucid dreaming awakens Freddy — who’s ready to come back and finish Alice off.
The prison bus transferring Karl gets hit by a Domino’s Pizza truck (whomp whomp), causing a huge crash that involves Alice’s car. Each prison guard has their own Krueger death dream, and Alice is thrust into Karl’s highway dreamscape. Karl, while trying to find the highway in his own post-accident unconscious dream, finds Jacob instead. The three of them, accompanied by a six-foot tall armadillo in western wear, converge on a ghastly dinner party Krueger is throwing for the dead.
Karl and Alice manage to kill Freddy — and back in the real world, the comatose Karl has somehow left his hospital bed and died on the floor, his hand curled in Alice’s, as she wakes up.
CLOSE MY EYES AND I’LL KISS YOU
Fornix, an ex-con, kills himself in a cheap hotel by repeatedly smashing his head into a radiator. Two detectives investigate and read Fornix’s diary, which details his time in prison with Wexler, a murderer on death row. Wexler has been dreaming about Freddy, and begs Fornix to kill him before he can be executed. All of these Freddy tales are told as journal entries, read aloud by one detective to the other… which is exactly as exciting as it sounds.
Full of stunning lines like “Leland had a sharp chin that had a cleft in it the size of a whale’s blowhole,” and horribly inept Freddy one-liners like Krueger cutting himself out of a prison laundry bag and quipping, “You’ll look better in a sweater washed in Woolite,” this story is worse than DREAM CHILD, and reeks of a kid’s first attempt to write a story after reading NIGHT SHIFT.
NOT JUST A JOB
22-year-old Billy is still living at home with his mom and stepdad, hounded by them for not having a job. He sees an ad in the paper, and when he goes to apply, Mr. Krueger interviews him. It seems Krueger knew Billy’s deceased father, and wants to help the kid out. When the receptionist at the real job interview shakes Billy awake in the waiting room, Billy is surprised — but not too bummed.
Billy then has a nightmare that seems to be a memory of himself a toddler, watching his dad kill a young couple. Then he’s taken to the Elm Street house where Freddy tries to get him into the cellar, and a book spews vile blood and viscera on him a la EVIL DEAD.
Billy wakes up, goes to the library and finds the book; it’s about serial killers, and features chapters on Jason, the Sawyer family of Texas, Michael Myers, Freddy (of course) and Billy’s father. Freddy slowly starts to influence him, until Billy agrees he should continue his father’s work.
SWEETEST DREAMS does bring some new ideas to the table, but most of them are pretty unsuccessful. If you can find it at a thrift store, it’s worth it for a Freddy fan to have on their shelf — but it’s best left as a display item.