Freddy Krueger turns 30 this Halloween season. Wes Craven’s 1984 supernatural slasher, A Nightmare on Elm Street, earned back its paltry production costs after just one week of theater runs, having ensnared its targeted teen demographic with the lure of body horror. Its infamous villain, Freddy—disfigured by burns, bursting with bile, armed with knife-fingers and the power to show up uninvited in teenage dreamscapes—was born to the '80s low-budget boom; he has since resurfaced in sequels, spinoffs, crossovers, and one (awful) 2010 remake.
Freddy still manages to resonate. And so, too, should his original vanquisher, Nancy Thompson: an obstinate, foul-mouthed, hyper-feminine high schooler, who remains one of the most progressive female representations in the teen horror genre.
Nightmare shares plenty of rhetorical patterns with its turn-of-the-decade predecessors—John Carpenter’s Halloween, Ken Wiederhorn Eyes of a Stranger, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th—particularly that of the Final Girl. Coined by feminist film scholar Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, the Final Girl is a filmic trope referring to the last female character left alive after a string of serialized murders. She survives, in part, by virtue of being both virginal and vice-free. She’s Not Like Other Girls. As Randy, the meta-voice of Craven’s '90s comedy/slasher Scream, informs a party of potential teenage murder victims: “There are certain rules you must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. Number one, you can never have sex. Sex equals death, okay?"