Bright Lights Film Journal

The Three Stigmata of Freddy Krueger


Hollywood has a Dick fixation – Philip K. Dick, that is.

Geoff Boucher, writing in the Los Angeles Times, reports no less than six PKD-inspired productions presently in the works. (Geoff writes about the upcoming Blade Runner: The Final Cut here.) But what about the countless times PKD’s concepts have been appropriated by Hollywood without payment or credit? And I’m not just talking about The Matrix.

Case in point , Freddy Krueger. In 1965, Dick published The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, a novel which concerns, among many other things, 21st Century American colonists on Mars whose life is so dreary and depressing they habitually take a drug that allows them to escape into a dream world , a dream world they share. Palmer Eldritch is an industrialist entrepeneur who, as the novel begins, is returning from a 10-year voyage to the Proxima Centauri star system, bringing back with him a new and “better” escape-drug which he plans to market under the name “Chew-Z.”

The problem with Chew-Z, however, is that once you take it, you can get stuck in the dream world it creates, and – what’s worse – that dream world is controlled by a malevolent god, Palmer Eldritch himself. Eldritch appears to Chew-Z users in many forms, but he can be recognized by his “three stigmata,” a robotic right hand, artificial eyes, and steel teeth. As Eldritch grows more powerful, the boundaries between dream and reality break down.

In 1984, Wes Craven wrote and directed Nightmare on Elm Street, the first in a series of films detailing the exploits of a supernatural serial killer by the name of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, above). Freddy’s targets are teenagers, and he kills them by invading their dreams – which he controls. Although Freddy appears in many forms, he can be recognized by three recurring characteristics – one might even call them “stigmata” – a dirty red-and-green sweater, a battered fedora hat, and a glove with razon-sharp steel claws. As Freddy grows more powerful , well, you get the idea.

Coincidence?

For more PKD news and musings on virtually a daily basis, check out David Gill’s Total Dick-Head blog.