Friday, May 21, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street

As of this writing, I still haven’t seen the new A Nightmare on Elm Street, but I plan to take my wife to the theater tonight if we can find someone to watch Ransom. I don’t really have any expectations for the film, so I probably won’t be disappointed, though a lot of the people I’ve talked to about it don’t seem thrilled over the reworking of their childhood hero. Even though I’d rather see new ideas, I don’t mind all the remakes, and it doesn’t bother me that Hollywood has made it its mission to upgrade all the horror icons of the last three decades. So far, I’ve enjoyed most of them with few exceptions. In fact, some have proven to be better than the originals. Besides, studios have been doing it since the beginning of cinema. Freddy, Jason, Michael, and Leatherface are all horror icons. They’re the Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, and Mummy of the 80s. I wonder if fans protested so much when Hammer Studios did their take on those Universal monsters in the late 50s through the early 70s. Any horror icon’s story that has been made into a successful franchise is eventually going to be retold as technology evolves and new generations become interested. It’s not a big deal, and I’m tired of hearing horror nerds cry about it. Get over it already.

Anyway, I’ve just finished watching the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) along with all its sequels in order to freshen up on what used to be the primary topic of conversation during school lunch and recess. I own the Freddy box set that was released several years back and have watched these films many times, but this was a special viewing. Over the last week while watching these movies I’ve been taking a stroll down memory lane and reminiscing about my initial childhood viewings of these influential celluloid nightmares. Watching Freddy movies always brings me back to my years as a dorky little nerd with glasses and a buzz cut, and I still remember how frightening it was to see those knives for the first time.

I was about seven years old when I was first subjected to the terror that is Fred Krueger. I don’t think my mother realized the content of the film when she let my grandmother record it on a VHS tape for us kids. My memory is a little hazy, but I remember that I was in the house on a sunny day waiting for my mother to return from wherever she was. My father was at work, and I have no clue where my brother and sister could’ve been. I’m also not sure if she had let me watch it as to keep me busy until she returned, or if I had decided on my own accord without her knowing. Whichever the case, the movie had only been playing for about twenty minutes when I grabbed our English bulldog and ran for the back door. After witnessing him build his infamous glove, get his face ripped off, and slice up his first victim, I knew Freddy was in my house and I wasn’t about to let him get me and my dog. So I waited outside where the sun was shining. When my mother arrived and found me sitting in the driveway with my arms around my dog, scared shitless, she made the decision to permanently ban Freddy from our household. One would think I would have acceded to her ruling, but still I found ways of letting the master of nightmares into my mind.

Though Freddy scared me shitless as a kid, it never deterred my interest in the movies and merchandise. My mother made sure I wasn’t able to watch Freddy films at the house, but I always kept up with the story line via my school buddies whose parents allowed them to make Freddy a father figure. I also found ways to see a couple of the sequels by going to sleepovers with friends. I remember getting to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: the Dream Master (1988) at my cousin’s home. I had spent the weekend with him, and he was allowed to watch things that I could only read about. When A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: the Dream Child (1989) was released in theaters my mother allowed me to buy the book adaptation. I also recall having her approval to stay up on Friday nights to watch the Freddy’s Nightmares (1988-1990) TV show, subsequently making the couch my bed. So I guess my mom loosened up a bit as I got older and Freddy became a national hero of sort. Today, watching Freddy on the screen elicits laughter rather than scares (a lot of it intentional), but I’m hoping this new remake will bring me back to a time when I was too frightened to finish a movie.

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