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The “True Story” Behind A Nightmare of Elm Street…

Halloween is coming up soon and we plan to celebrate it in style here at the m0vie blog. We’ll be looking at all manner of scary archetypes and horror conventions as that day approaches. Evidently, I’m already in the right frame of mind. I just found out that the original A Nightmare on Elm Street is based (very loosely, I must admit) on a true story. I’m not kidding, it’s actually quite freaky.

One, two... Freddy's coming for you...

One, two... Freddy's coming for you...

And before you ask, no, it isn’t the sane and rational part of the movie. There was no vigilante justice taken against a particular pedophile which inspired the creation of Krueger himself. Indeed, what inspired the movie (along with personal experiences from director Wes Craven) was a string of reports in the LA Times about the death of young, healthy immigrants from Cambodia – they died in their sleep, after being terrified of going back to rest.

In the middle of the night they heard these horrendous screams and crashings and they ran in and he’s thrashing on the bed. They ran to him and by the time they got to him he was dead. They did an autopsy on him and there was nothing physically wrong with him. And I just thought: “My God.”

-Wes Craven

Apparently there’s a medical name for the condition: sudden unexplained death syndrome. Which, in fairness, sounds pretty creepy and mysterious. It’s mainly an east Asian thing, first noticed in Hmong immigrants in the late 1970s. There’s little real knowledge of what causes the condition , though scientists suggest that irregular heart rhythm might have something to do with it. There seems to be no way to predict it. It’s apparently relatively common in Singapore, with 43 deaths per 100,000. Creepy, eh? In the Philippines apparently it goes by the name bangungot – though, in certain parts of the Far East, a peaceful death in sleep is apparently something to be sought.

As you would imagine, there is a significant amount of folklore and mythology built up around the fatal disease. Apparently it is brought about by a malignant spirit. Before you go getting even more hyped up, it isn’t a burnt janitor with terrible fashion sense and an obvious interest in metal work, it’s a vindictive and jealous woman who smothers young men in their sleep.

Back to the case at hand. Craven recalls reading about the reports in the LA Times about these children. Apparently they were terrified and afraid to go to sleep – afraid of something in their dreams. Eventually the parents of the children (convinced by doctors that the lack of REM sleep was a bad thing) told the children to go to sleep. They never woke up.

The story is given an all-too-tragic dimension by the fact that these were families fleeing the genocide of the Khumer Rouge regime, all too famous for its atrocities. Perhaps the children never completely escaped the hell which they had fled – it is possible that the stress could have triggered that irregular heart beat. Still, it is freaky to read about so many children among the immigrants dying in the same manner. We’ll never know why.

I just happened to stumble across this little story and I thought it might be interesting for any film buffs to keep in mind if they are going back to rewatch the original movie before the remake is released next year.

43 Responses

  1. Way to work a new angle on “Nightmare on Elm Street” — everyone else seems content to rail against Jackie Earle Haley and the fact that anyone would DARE attempt to remake a TIME-HONORED CLASSIC. The sudden unexplained death syndrome adds a nicely realistic (and thus really, really scary) twist to what we tend to tell ourselves is a totally fictitious film.

  2. I think this sort of underlines what made the remake fail; it just doesn’t get what made the original work on any level. (And the original isn’t even all that amazing, though certainly good.) Great legwork, here, Darren.

  3. I watched this movie on my PC and i have to say that it is really good.

  4. wow i will be doing so reseach of my own i really love things like this and i know behind every horror flick there is a true story

    • Just so you know, not every horror movie is based on a true story.

      The few movies that are ( supposed ) to be based on a true story are as follows:

      The Conjuring
      The Possession
      Camp Hell
      The Exorcist
      The Chainsaw Massacre
      The Exorcism of Emily Rose
      A Haunting in Connecticut
      The Devil Inside
      * The Amityville Horror *

      ( There are debates as to weather the Amityville Horror really did happen ).

      The murders actually did happen, but I am not too sure about the hauntings.

      Anyways, I am sure that there are more horror movies based on real events.

      But I cannot think of anymore right now.

  5. i have it and all i can say is booooooooooooooooo the movie sucked and i feel sorry for a group kids 7,8and sitting down watching it and one of them do have a monster thats comes in there room at night i think i think watching that movie would make what their really monster tell them they are going to do more real and i know it is a rated r movie but come on when it say horror kids from 5to 105 that likes them type of movies are going to do what ever to see it even if it means sneaking

    • its meant to be a fantasy film. I don’t know if you mean by the movie in 1984 or the movie in 2010, but just to tell you, the 1984 one was actually pretty scary back then. Its not scary now because the special effects are dated. Show some respect to the movie, man, because its obviously better than most other horror movies. It’s a great classic back then.

  6. is there a real man that muder everyone like that freedy is he a real preson that did all that in there dreams please get back to me

  7. – I Have Been Dreaming Of Freddy For The Last Three Days ; It May Seem Silly But I’m Not Kidding. Idk What To Do. In The Dream, It Shows Him Chasing After Me While I’m Going Home In A Car And Then He Crashes Through The Windshield , Then His Glove Knives Are 2 Centimeters From My Flesh About To Cut Me.. But Then I Wake Up.. Is He Teasing Me? Making Me Suffer? I Wake Up Screaming , Terrified. What Do I Do? I’m Too Young To Die…& No! I’m Not Fucking Kidding.

    • I think you’re just watching too much Freddy Kreuger O_O

    • Well since you said Centimeters, I assume you aren’t from America and therefore should be very scared. Didn’t you hear that these kids from India are dying? That’s close enough to you to be scared. Hopefully you don’t have an irregular heart beat……

      • Hi Kevin. I’m not sure I get your point? Is that I shouldn’t be discussing SADS because peopl die from it? In that case surely any movie about cancer, guns or drugs would be out of the question?

    • okay… i had a dream about him once all i have to say is this.. now im not saying he is real or not but, just tell yourself that you are the one in control and make the dream the way you want to be and he will go away just like the movies.

    • don’t worry about it don’t let a bad dreams take atvanve of you becuse the way it is iyes you can die in your dreams but only getting realy realy realy scared but just confot it cuz somtime dreams are not always what they apeared to be and maby you shoudl stay away from scary movies for a wile if your haveing bad dreams or nightmares or try this advies try to get a dreams cheshor they shang it over head it well get rid of the bad dreans for you

    • don’t worry about your dreams I know I am way late but I just found this and thought it helpful to tell you that its just a dream freddy is not real when I was little I had same dreams of being at school , home, or a playground and him coming aftr me he would cut me in my dream when I woke I would have a cut when I discussed this with my grandmother who raised me she observed my sleeping habits and noticed I fought in my sleep and I scratch myself an think it was true that he did it…..also known fact if you get overworked in a dream it can happen in life if you die in a real intense dream you can die in real life….I got over the dream with manipulation when I was 13 I learned I could control my dreams its my world my imagination as is yours when he got close enough I just imagined coloring or whatever hobby I had and imagined him joining in and soon he disappeared from my dreams cuz I seen he was a wimp and not real and I controlled his actions all you have to do is disconnect yourself no matter how real it looks and make your imaginary world whatever you want it too be its not hard at all.

  8. i swear i once had a dream with him in it :O he killed ma family then he came to chase me but i woke up nd also ma friend did to

  9. This scares me, because I’ve had awful nightmares ever since I was little and I’m terrified to go to sleep O_O

  10. It is a very real human fear. To go to sleep and never wake up.

  11. Wow! Such an impressive blog article on this horror film! I enjoyed the creepiness of the true story. If anyone is interested in Asian (esp Korean) horror, come visit my film blog. Your comprehensive, easy-to-read, completely honest and to-the-core guide on broad genres of EA films and TV shows.


    Great post.

  12. Freddy is real…and he’s coming for you… mwhhahaha >:)

  13. That movie was not even that good you guys can make a better one that’s more scary a movie that market the criticd scream

  14. wait can someone explain, the teens say that freddy is after him because they told the truth…what exactly was it?? the cave??

    • Freddy tried to kill them in their sleep because he was a pedophile/serial killer and the victims told their parents about him.
      So, Freddy is mad bro.

  15. is he true or not?

  16. to say that one person in a group or family dies from this “syndrome” is satisfactory.. but a group of kids are all complaining of terrible dreams, so bad that they dont want to sleep, and they all end up dieing in their SLEEP? thats beyond any syndrome or coincidence that I can think of.
    science cant explain it so they sprinkle magical “go away and dont bother me” dust on it and it DOESNT go away, but they do.
    We are livng in a dark age and dont know it anymore than the people that lived through the other dark age knew it. think for yourself and stop putting your faith in the new/old religion of orthodox MAINSTREAM science. DEATH TO VIDEODROME! LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!! LOL!

  17. even thought his just a ficcion character the movie is great

  18. Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to see your article.

    Thank you a lot and I’m looking ahead to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  19. As the only Radio Show Horror host in New England I apporive of this message.

  20. Duude……..u said children died in India too….?…I am an indian….will u tell.me more about it….I am getting scared….and also……I am more scared because every night before I sleep…….I see a sudden flash on my curtain…….I see a face in itt and really I get scared ……I live qlone so I am scared a lott

  21. Is it true that freddy is real

  22. I’m not an Asian, but anyway I managed many years ago to overcome the “sleep paralysis” that many people seem to experience at least once in their life. I can, and have, many many times got out of bed and walked around in the “other world”…I bet you’re wondering what I saw, and more importantly, was it real, well if I said I will only be made fun of because that’s the pathetic human way, so you will just have to try it yourself if you want to find out. lol

  23. I just say fuck it, because in my dream I said out loud when are they gonna make a real demon movie that is realistic an as soon as I said it I saw 2 bats flying towards me an a demonic voice said “you want a demon movie I’ll show you one” an the bats flew through my chest an I freaked out grabbed my chest an the bats were gone an when I woke up I felt a heavy feeling in my chest like it felt really evil an I knew it was gonna bother, an I just said fuck it an I fell asleep again, because I convinced myself that we are all gonna die soon, an every time I walk through my hall or I’m in the dark an I start freaking out like something is watching me I just say fuck it an I feel better haha it works try it, fuck it

  24. Well this is a pretty common occurrence in some asian communities. I know for me when it happened I was at my cousins house sleeping on the couch. After everyone had went to work and school I decided to stzy to get a little more slerp before going to class. That morning my alarm clock on my phone woke me up around 830 but I wanted to be lazy and pressed the snooze. Since I was mostly awake, right after I laid my head down I began planning on what I was going ti do when I got up. At the same moment I heard/felt something coming from the kitchen. By the time it got to me I gelt I constant gust of wind blowing against my face. It sounded and felt lime when you stick your head out of a moving car. Then whatever it was decided to pressed down on my chest. The more I prayed to god the harder it pressed down. After I said fine I give up it stopped and I literally jump off the sofa and landed on my feet. I was too much of a chicken to open my eyes during the ordeal. As much as I’ve studied heart attacks, angina, respiratory conditions, sleep paralysis, or stress it all doesn’t add up.

  25. I don’t know you guys but most of you are so pathetic seriously.
    Calming a stranger down online because he had a scary dream about Freddy like you actually care. And if you really do care please try not to sound like a total creep.
    This is online get a life.

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