With the recent passing of horror master Wes Craven, you don’t have to search hard to find people talking about the legacy and mark he’s left on horror, filmmakers, and stories. His original Nightmare, released in 1984, introduced us to one of the most prolific characters in modern film, Freddy Krueger, who was played as equal parts dark, demented, and hilarious by Robert Englund.
It’s disappointing that Craven never got to see the mark he left on artist and filmmaker Nathan Thomas Milliner, whose 30-minute love letter to the series is truly one of the greatest fan films ever made. Set in the 1970s, after Kruger is found and arrested for his crimes, Milliner’s Confession focuses on Freddy the man, who is still a monster, but before he became the creature of literal nightmares, as he describes the heinous acts he has committed to a police detective during interrogation.
Fanboys will surely cringe to hear it, but watching Milliner’s take on the stories and characters, it’s clear that Englund is not the only actor who could ever play Freddy properly. He may, indeed, be the man who brought to life the boiler room devil behind the makeup, but in actor Kevin Roach, Milliner may have found the perfect man to portray Freddy as a sadistic killer. Roach’s portrayal is one that should be praised, as he takes bits of what Englund did for the character, but makes it his own, bringing to life an intensity and intelligence in Kruger we don’t get to always see, all the while keeping the subtle humor intact.
Watching the film as someone who highly appreciates not only the original Nightmare series, but also of Craven’s work in general, it’s clear as day that Milliner is a die-hard fan of the legendary filmmaker. Between the research that must have gone into this short to keep it canon, to the bits of dialog ripped straight from non-Nightmare Craven films, it was one of the most enjoyable films I’ve had the pleasure of watching this year.
It’s great that with such a small budget, Milliner was able to create a film that feels very much like a full-blown studio production. Obviously his talents as an artist (especially in the horror genre; Milliner has drawn covers for over a dozen Scream! Factory releases of cult horror films) help him in visualizing the look of his film, because it’s got the polished look of a big budget masterpiece while maintaining the dark, dingy feel of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The costumes and settings really added to the perfect look of an incredible short.
Personally, I would love to see more filmmakers not just create homages to the films that inspired them, but to actually take up a bit of the story and make it their own in this way. What Milliner has done for the characters and the films with his Confession was inspired by his love of horror and of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, but what it seems he has done is make a piece worthy in itself of being inspiration.