It’s the final day of Hot As Hell month here at Nightmare on Film Street, but before we turn our thermostats down and take the long way back from hell we have one last infernal vision to explore. It’s a nightmarish realm where one of horror’s most legendary murderers plies his vile trade. I mean that literally because, dear reader, I’m going to take you on a tour of Freddy Krueger’s boiler rooms.
Freddy’s boiler room is an integral part of the A Nightmare on Elm Street mythos that has appeared in all eight original films and the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street remake. It’s where Robert England’s Krueger AKA The Springwood Slasher, preyed upon his youthful victims. It’s also where the parents of Elm Street condemned him to a fiery death. In doing so they didn’t just transform Krueger into a vengeful supernatural entity. They also caused his boiler room to reborn as a labyrinthine, run down, reality in the world of dreams that has been both a literal and metaphorical hell for the children of Elm Street. So, in this piece we’re going to examine and rank not the quality of the individual A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but the ways they utilized and brought to life Fredy’s signature kill room.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
The bulk of the action in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child revolves around the old asylum where Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger, worked and various locations around Springwood. We see those locales both in the real world and the decaying hell-scape of Freddy’s Nightmare realm, but we don’t really see the boiler room. It only appears as part of an MC Escher style mashup of scenes from various films that include the Thompson home, the church from the fourth film, and the Crave Inn, the diner that the film’s heroine, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox) works at. It’s a pretty cool set-piece, but it’s also the only glimpse you get of the boiler room. So it’s the bottom entry on our list
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
We see the boiler room two times in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master At the beginning, when Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight), Roland Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), and Joey Crusel (Rodney Eastman) visit it to check and see if Freddy is still dead. When they do, they find it cool to the touch and lacking in many nightmarish features, with the exception of some sinister chains. The other scene comes when Kristen discovers Freddy is indeed still alive and is dispatched by him shortly after Alice enters her dream. It’s a fun, creepy kill, but nothing new or interesting is really added.
7. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
The boiler room makes a couple of appearances in this sixth entry in the A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. The first time is when Freddy hunts and kills Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) in the dream world. In those scenes there’s a classic feel, but it’s also got the ominous labyrinthine atmosphere to it that was first established by the next entry in this list. It’s also lit really well with flame bright orange lights.
We see a couple of other boiler room scenes that make pretty standard use of the locale, but Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare also adds a fun feature to the realm that makes sense given it’s origin as a place where people work; a place that was either an old security office or a break room. Freddy sits in there and uses an old TV to perform a video game-inspired dream kill on Brecken Meyer’s Spencer.
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6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge we learn that Freddy’s boiler room was actually part of a large power plant style complex. At one point, Mark Patton’s Jesse Walsh and Kim Myers’ Lisa Webber visit the now-abandoned plant. So it makes sense that when they enter the dream world version of the boiler room in the film’s climax that it’s a maze-like hellscape. It’s even guarded by monstrous dog-like creatures! So, with this film we see Freddy’s boiler room take it’s first steps from metaphorical hell to literal one.
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
In the first film in the franchise writer/director Wes Craven establishes why Freddy’s boiler room is such an iconic and ominous horror locale. It’s all about being a hell metaphor in this movie from the first shot of Freddy crafting his signature bladed glove, to Nancy Thompson’s (Heather Langenkamp) first glimpse of Freddy, to her final sojourn into the boiler room at the end of the movie where she searches for Freddy and is tormented by whispers, scraping, noises, and the sight of her dead boyfriend, Glen’s (Johnny Depp) headphones in front of a raging furnace.
4. Freddy Vs Jason (2003)
There are three boiler room sequences in Freddy Vs Jason and they all look incredible thanks to the work of director Ronny Yu and Cinematographer Fred Murphy. Each of the scenes is lit with the perfect color palette. The first is a recap of Freddy’s origin.The second is where Freddy stalks Katharine Isabelle’s Gib in a red-lit, labyrinthine boiler room. She tries to escape him by hiding in another logical addition to the setting; rusted lockers. The third scene is the best one; the dreamworld slugfest between Freddy and Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger). What makes this scene so great is the red and later green lighting and Freddy’s godlike mastery over such a foreboding place. He sends Jason pinballing all around it, drops machinery on him, and even unleashes a torrent of water to exploit Jason’s fear of drowning.
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
It may surprise some of you to see director Samuel Bayer’s much-maligned A Nightmare On Elm Street remake (starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger) ranking so high on this list. It surprised me too! One thing the film does right though is the boiler room sequences are especially creepy. They’re lit with this almost sleazy yellow lighting. And the boiler room is an especially sinister place because it also serves as a trophy area and prison for the young souls Freddy has reaped. You see him hang some of his older victims on steam pipes and those pipes have been fashioned into prison cells for his younger prey.
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
We get a few iconic glimpses of the boiler room in director Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, but the film’s climax features one of the coolest boiler room sequences in the entire franchise. In that scene, Nancy Thompson, Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette), and Roland Kincaid enter the boiler room to rescue Joey Crusel from Freddy’s clutches. What makes this scene so great is it feels like the boiler room’s decaying, industrial facade is being burned away by a hell dimension underneath it. It’s perfectly lit with a red light and there are fire pits, and bits of rusted out junk scattered all around the room. There’s only one better boiler room sequence in the entire franchise.
1. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare doesn’t just have the best boiler room scene in the entire series it also has perhaps the best action set piece as well. Said set piece is the finale where the fictional version of Heather Langenkamp descends into the Freddy Entity’s hellish home dimension to rescue her son Dylan (Miko Hughes). It’s an incredible set full of cool and fun details. I notice something new about it with each viewing.
There’s the classic steam clouds and raging furnaces, but there are also bubbling pools of hot water, friezes depicting ancient monsters, and greek columns as an acknowledgment to the Entity’s ancient nature. This viewing, I noticed that the seven deadly sins are carved into the wall at various points. On top of that, the scene has an incredibly cool, crimson lighting and pays off the film’s Hansel and Gretel references in a fun and spectacular fashion.