There are only a few things in this world that I love more than Halloween. The seminal holiday is a time filled with atmosphere, costuming, partying and the non-stop marathon of horror film watching. All of us horrorphiles watch genre cinema year round regardless but during the daily countdown to All Hallows Eve it just seems more appropriate to re-watch classics, introduce yourself to unseen gems and it’s probably the only time people won’t shake their head at you for annually subjecting yourself to dreck like Halloween: Resurrection because it’s part of the franchise. Well, maybe. Another favorite ritual of mine is to scour TV shows for the inevitable macabre themed episode, which leads us to this weeks episode of Freddy’s Nightmares appropriately titled “Freddy’s Tricks and Treats”!
Airing on October 29th, 1988 (did anyone catch this during it’s original prime-time run?), it’s Halloween night in Springwood and college girl Marsha (Mariska Hargitay, paying her bills here before Law & Order) has a a date with her Anatomy book instead of partying downstairs. After being repeatedly annoyed by her boyfriend Mark, Marsha heads down to the party where she meets up with her friend Gary (Cameron Thor, Dodgson from Jurassic Park!) and his weirdo science partner Zack (Darren Dalton, Red Dawn) who flirts with girls by telling them his thesis experiment of transferring dreams to video tapes. Marsha then retreats to the college medical building to dissect cadavers and learns of Springwood’s ghost, Freddy Krueger, from a bumbling night guard who mocks Marsha for being “too educated”. Bumbling night guards mocking is deserved, how the hell has Marsha not heard of Krueger since living in Springwood? It’s sorta like living in Germany and being completely unaware who Hitler was.
This is usually where the first tale ends and the second beings, but the formula deviates from that tier and opts for a single narrative structure. Freddy also takes center stage here instead of previous episodes where he shows up in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. I don’t think I understood the concept of anthologies when I was a kid, so I more than likely would have been screaming, “Where the heck is Freddy?!”, “Who are these other people?!”, and most importantly “Mom, is dinner ready yet?!”. I guess the writers figured kids would want to see their favorite horror icon for more than 30 seconds on TV before Halloween, so “Freddy’s Tricks and Treats” gave kids their Krueger fix and Mom’s everywhere hopefully served them their dinner.
Marsha experiences Krueger’s existence first hand after a series of torments that include carving “Boo!” into a dead man’s head, hallucinating flashbacks of her hypoallergenic dead Grandmother who wants to scrub her clean and a pumpkin mask that won’t come off her face. It’s a little nod to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, not sure if it was intentional but it’s still pretty cool since that film was met with much hate in 1982, but is much more appreciated today. We discover why Marsha is such a dick to her boyfriend Mark after Marsha relives her Grandmother having a heart attack after catching her making out with a random 80’s guy. In a completely left field reveal, we find out Mark isn’t real and Marsha is losing her mind. Aforementioned friend Gary (“Dodgson, we’ve got Dodgson here!) and weirdo science partner Zach begin to experiment with transferring Marsha’s dreams (one of which includes her awkwardly strip teasing) to VHS, which leads them into getting sucked into the dream world to become Freddy’s next victims.
“Freddy’s Tricks and Treats” is another fun and trippy episode that is surprisingly coherent unlike previous episodes that are equally fun and trippy but narratively bizarre. Horror veteran director Ken Weiderhorn, known for such films as Shock Waves & Return of the Living Dead Part II, helms this episode which has a bit of a Night of the Creeps vibe with the college and med lab setting. It also has a darker tone feel towards the end but still a lot of humor thanks to Krueger’s endless wisecracks throughout. I’ll definitely be revisiting this particular episode once Halloween rolls around in 6 months. I’m up to Episode 4 and still digging the hell out of this show, it’s gloriously 80’s and exaggeratedly weird so this should be right up my alley till the end. Join me back here next week for Episode 5, titled “Judy Miller, Come On Down” which deals with a game show winner who’s life turns into a living nightmare! Till then, keep dreaming readers! – Justin Edwards