The dark, twisting endings of Freddy’s films are one of the franchise’s trademarks. The killer comes back to life at the last moment was already a trope by 1984, but Freddy’s particular abilities and the “Nightmare” movies’ dream logic allowed for considerably more spectacular final shocks. These endings were occasionally followed up on in subsequent films, and other times they were entirely ignored over the span of nine films. For fans of the series, however, they’re all memorable in their own right.
Elm Street’s Nightmare (1984)
Aside from the fact that it’s a fantastic surprise ending that’s become a key part of a legendary film, the ending does raise some interesting concerns regarding the nature of reality. Is Nancy supposed to be caught in a nightmare? Is she just dreaming right now? Is this a sign that Freddy has won or that he is still a threat? Is Nancy, like her pals, dead, or are they still alive?
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Viewers are once again left to wonder what is real and what isn’t, and whether the monster we believed had been destroyed has resurrected. The second film in the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series is one of the more unique entries, yet it’s no less interested in endings than the others.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
This stinger is clearly more unclear than the previous two. While the light could indicate that Freddy is still alive, it could also be Nancy’s spirit or another entity. After all, this film reveals for the first time that Freddy isn’t the only dead person who communicates with the living, nor is he the only one with dream abilities. Regardless of who turns on the light, it still acts as a reminder to viewers that the drama isn’t over.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
The reflection suggests Freddy’s presence is still present, yet the audience isn’t sure if it’s only in Alice’s head. It’s also unclear what her wish is, however it’s safe to assume it’s for Freddy Krueger to leave. Freddy is certainly still haunting Alice from beyond, even if he is gone forever (which he isn’t).
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Alice and her baby are having a picnic at the park with Alice’s father (Nicholas Mele) and Yvonne in yet another bright, sunny epilogue scene. Nothing interrupts their pleasant day, but as the camera pulls back, a group of white girls jump rope to the Freddy Krueger rhyme, just as they did at the conclusion of the original film. Although Freddy is not present, his presence is sensed in this world, and it is all too close to Alice and her kid.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Maggie learns that all past attempts to kill Freddy have failed because the trio of demons who endow him with his abilities can resurrect him as long as he dies in a dream. With this information, she is able to drag Freddy into the waking world, stabbing him with his glove, and inserting a pipe bomb into the wound before fleeing as Freddy explodes. Because they are unable to resuscitate Freddy in the actual world, the three demons are seen departing him. Maggie smiles at Doc and Tracy as the group walks away and declares, “Freddy’s dead.” This is the first film in the series where there isn’t a single ominous scene at the end. In the case of “The Final Nightmare,” the title was literal, and Krueger was never seen again. Of course, that is, until it isn’t.
So, is Freddy Krueger’s storey truly over? Has an unpopular remake and a poor recasting finally done what decades of fictional youths have failed to do, and killed Freddy for good? On the other hand, it’s difficult to kill a successful franchise, and there may come a moment when New Line Cinema decides it’s time to reboot “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” most likely with a third actor dressed as Freddy, complete with a glove, scars, and fedora. And who knows what might happen? It could work the next time. It’s not like dreaming hurts – or does it?