It's past midnight, and I have an interview tomorrow morning, and I should be in bed asleep, so /of course/ I feel compelled to ramble about horror again.
So I'm trying to relax, watching /Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master/, and I am reminded of why I keep watching these damn things. There are a few good moments. A very few. And interesting ideas.
And Freddy Kruegar.
Who I think is possibly the most easily recognized movie monster villain of them all.
(I'm discounting the Universal Monsters, here. They're widely recognized, but I also don't think they spring so easily or reflexively to mind, and with the possible exception of Dracula and the Invisible Man, they aren't villains. Antagonists, yes. Through-going unredeemable forces of murderous evil, no.)
The ones I can think of most easily are Freddy and Jason. Michael Myers follows. Then there's Chucky, after a moment's thought. Then... hrm. I'd definitely toss in Leatherface (not so much the rest of the Sawyer family), despite the lack of supernatural compared to most; he's certainly *other* enough to ping all kinds of bells on the Dionysian-versus-Appollonian scale. Hannibal Lecter might qualify, but his movies are presented more as drama and as theweaselking
observes he is never the villain----sudden thought to be filed away for future reference, Lecter as *extremely* oddly socialized example of the Spooky Freak Making Pronouncements who Understands the Nature of the Monster, you get them in *all* the horror movies--
--and the zombies from Romero's /Dead/ are easily as recognizable, but again, they're not the villain. (Most zombies aren't. Zombies tend to be the environmental hazard/force of nature thing. They are not usually the problem. What they make people do to each other under stress is the problem.)
There are a ton of others. Some of them even had sequels. The Leprechaun. The Boogeyman. The guy from Slumber Party Drill Massacre, god help us. The Terminator, who's a recurring character in spite of the fact that it's not the same person/machine. The ghost-mask from Scream, in spite of the same. The things from Tremors (again, more of a monster than a villain, but four movies rates them a mention). That snivelly creepy little eunuch-styled Nazi with the amulet burned into his hand from /Raiders of the Lost Ark/. Bubba Hotep. Sadako. The Master from /Phantasm/. The Wishmaster. The Cenobites. Pumpkinhead. Angela from /Demon Night/. The Book of the Dead. And so on. And on. And on.
But I think none of them springs as easily to mind as Freddy, and I'm just thinking about what's unique about him.
First and foremost, personality. I think of Jason probably as soon as I think of Freddy, to be honest. I just don't *care*. Freddy's gleeful. He plays tricks, and puns, and they are terrible terrible puns, and he gets frustrated, and exuberant, and snarls and howls and giggles and shrieks and *emotes*.
(Jason has a machete.)
And Freddy's got style. He's the bastard child of a thousand maniacs who's as mutable as their madness. He becomes any part of your world in a way only nightmares can, and his hand is full of knives, and they click across chains and pipes and clatter at windows, and their shadows dance across your face. He takes the familiar, the ideal, and he kills you with it like a wedding cake with a poison centre.
(Jason --> machete. Oh, and I bet he can spit water real good.)
Personality (or the bad jokes that pass for it) aren't unique, though. Two other things set him apart, to my mind.
First, the dream shtick.
Most monsters have an avoidable area of operation. Don't go into Perfection, Nevada. Don't go into Crystal Lake. Actually, don't go anywhere even remotely rural. Don't have a slumber party in skimpy lingerie with a bunch of scream queens. Don't read aloud from any ancient book of evil. Don't steal the gold. Don't open the puzzle box that unlocks hell.
Don't sleep is a lot harder; the focus on where you are, which you usually need to establish isolation in a horror movie, gets yanked out. There's no question of getting away. And so the focus is on the thing you must fight, and Freddy gets that much more attention.
The dream thing also plays into a much more common question, I think; far more people have wondered what will happen if they die in a dream than have wondered what will happen if they read aloud from the cursèd /Necronomicon/.
Second, Freddy's got no excuse.
Jason has a reason to hate premarital sex. Chucky wants a body back; anyone would. A summoned demon is quite reasonably going to be demonic. But Freddy is a bastard who deserved to die, and he did, and then he came back to take it out not on the lynch mob who did what the law couldn't but on children. Horror movies usually have the bad and the guilty dying. It's not that he kills people when he's not their fault that makes Freddy unusual; it's that he kills those who don't deserve it. Sins of the fathers is rare (if not unheard of) in horror movies; combined with the ubiquity of dreams, the personality, and the sheer brand recognition Freddy's got going, it makes him stand out.
Dammit, he's the closest any movie monster villain has ever come to hitting the same iconic quality as Jack the Ripper in my mind. (Obligatory distinctions on JtR as person and as icon here
I spend way too much time thinking about this kind of thing.
...and I wonder why I have nothing to talk to my co-workers about...
 To those of you who got this joke, I apologize.
 Yes, the judicial system was circumvented. You know and I know and they knew and he knew that he was a murderous child-molesting bastard who got his face fried off. Even I would have to stretch to a ridiculous extent to see it as a wrong within the context of the movie, and I am a card-carrying bleeding heart.
 Often a very small, trite definition of "bad".
 This is also pronounced "stupid". See rule on reading aloud from ancient books of evil. Perhaps "unclean" would be a better term...