Yay! I have a Halloween special!
There’s one big area this column has only vaguely touched and that’s horror tie-ins. Horror is a strange subject in the tie-in field because the books are, to be blunt, absurdly expensive. Comic book novels freely circulate in cheap copies on eBay, Kindle Editions, or bootlegs but horror? Horror is the venue of collectors due to mountains of legal red tape that keep them from reprints.
Now there are exceptions and I must give a shout out to the crazy amounts of work The 80s Slasher Librarian is doing. Because of him, a number of books that would have vanished now exist as supremely engaging audiobooks. I’d hoped to cover one of his readings this season but sadly the 10 hours I needed to cover one of his readings don’t exist.
BUT I FOUND ONE!
So instead, we’re going to do a fun experiment. Every day for a week I’m reading a story from the anthology The Nightmares on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger’s 7 Sweetest Dreams, an anthology of tales featuring the bastard child of a thousand maniacs. I’m then reviewing them for this assembled piece.
“Asleep at the Wheel” by Brian Hodge: A band riffing on the lore of Freddy moves into the Krueger house almost as a laugh but one member quickly discovers the slasher is all too real. This is a good start. Designed as a way to quickly pump graphic kills out, it’s what a short story based on a license should be. That said, it’s so damn dated. This is late 80s but the image of a band is outright 60s down to a member having a Jim Morrison dream that ends in death. Everyone is all about free love. But thankfully the kills are so good and it’s short.
“Briefcase Full of Blues” by Tom Elliott. I think I’m actually angry I read this. I think I’m a worse person for reading this bizarrely leering, creepy story of adolescents who stumble into a mystery regarding one of their pasts. I can’t say coherently what the plot was. It’s extremely heavy in adolescent sexual awakening. It has a strange twist. But most importantly I can guarantee you the license was awkwardly crammed onto a short story with no ties to the franchise. This was bad.
“Miles to Go Before I Sleep” by Bentley Little. This was weird. A tale of a janitor possessed by Freddy. I’ll call it good not great. Definitely written for this. But still at an angle to the material. Freddy isn’t really in this as much as his imagery. It’s well written. Definitely creepy. But doesn’t scratch the itch exactly.
“Le Morte De Freddy” by William Relling Jr. A rather strong entry. Freddy is in this a bit more but more to the point the mythology of the series pervades the story. This is a fascinating story that builds to the classic question of nature vs nurture and Relling doesn’t have a good answer. There’s also a fascinating point made about why Freddy has power and that I think is worth considering.
“Dead Highway, Lost Roads” by Philip Nutman. A strange, weird, dreamlike horror. Is it a great Freddy story? Yeah. Is it a classic NOES story? No. This is the atmosphere captured. It’s eerie and fantasmagoric. Really solid.
“Close My Eyes And I’ll Kiss You” by Wayne Allen Sallee. A death row inmate is haunted by visions of Freddy. This is just plain unsettling stuff. Told through multiple perspectives, it’s effective. You fling through this saga to its bleak end. Freddy haunts this in just the best way.
“Not Just a Job” by Nancy Collins. The truest story of the lot. A burnout learns via dreams that his dad’s death wasn’t what he seems and his dad definitely wasn’t. This has some great dream carnage through and through. It’s trashy, consider it like 2 or 5, but it hits the spot.
So overall, what do I think? I think this belongs in print. It’s a solidly creepy anthology. There’s misses like all anthologies but overall you get that classic Elm Street atmosphere. None of these are vital lost pieces of canon but the best ones are fun. I’ve linked to The 80s Slasher Librarian’s readings as he’s put them out. Give them a listen.