The Pile Of Shame: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) – Freddy’s Coming

Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.

We’re taking a little detour this week on the Pile of Shame to a sleepy suburban street called Elm Street. I heard there was some excitement there, especially from this one dude who looks like the troubled cousin of Edward Scissorhands. Halloween month (yes, it’s not just a day anymore and you know it) is in full force and I figured that I’ll take a look at a classic horror film that I missed out on. A Nightmare on Elm Street, the original version, not only spawned an entire generation of horror movie loonies, but it made such cultural waves that I thought the movie was full of tropes when it was actually the origin point for many of them.

Horror movies and I have an interesting history. I find them entertaining, but I don’t get scared. I can get freaked out and a jumpscare is unavoidable unless you’ve been raised next to a steel factory’s loading bay in Hell. But a horror movie has never made me sit up at night and cuddle my pillow because I’m afraid an imaginary ghostman is suddenly going to tear my entrails out. It’s not because I’m a sociopath, but I’ve been so desensitised to horror, gore, freaky monsters and everything that goes boo in the night that I treat horror movies like I do my porn; I watch them for the story.

It was with this same mindset that I went into A Nightmare on Elm Street and I came out the other end positively tickled. I knew Freddy because, well, there’s no escaping him within our culture. I know there is a (bad) remake and approximately three billion spin-offs, but I chose the very original because it’s the movie that made waves within the world of cinema. A slasher flick that managed to change a generation while also amplifying a genre as old as time itself.

People love to get scared and what is scarier than a child murderer that comes for you in your nightmares? We all have to sleep eventually and there’s no escaping it. The realm which the monster comes for you is an inevitability and you have no power there. It’s enough to make anyone think twice about sleeping at night, especially after you watch this movie.

The first thing to note is that this movie is very 80s. From the haircuts that I still have no idea how they pulled off to the synth pads blaring whenever they could, this is surely a movie of its time. The dialogue is also a little on the cheesy side and there are some low-budget concessions that were made that you could clearly see. The special effects were impressive, especially the blood bed geyser that made me sit up for a second. However, the most impressive part of this movie, and why I think it’s so special, is how it plays around with reality.

Dreams are mysterious, they’re often scary and if you cannot distinguish between the two, your entire sense of reality gets thrown for a loop. There are a lot of twists and turns that the narrative makes and it calls into question how you perceived the events that took place on screen. Along with the chase sequences, grizzly deaths and Freddy being a creep, you had that overarching mystique surrounding everything. Nothing was overtly explained. Nancy’s mother gave a brief history of Fred Krueger and that was all we had to work with.

You could potentially make the argument that Freddy was actually a figment of Nancy’s imagination or he is the embodiment of pure fear in her mind. There is evidence that can support that and many avenues that you can take potential theories outside of the linear story that was told. But as the legendary Tool song once said, “overthinking, overanalysing”. Maybe it is just a wonderful horror romp that managed to scare the bejesus out of 80s generation kids.

A Nightmare on Elm Street didn’t change my life and it’s possibly the lowest movie on my Pile of Shame thus far in terms of impact, but what I can appreciate is how this movie was a cultural cornerstone for the horror genre and the very idea of a boogeyman. It changed a lot and Freddy has become a common sight not only in our dreams but everywhere in our lives.

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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa's national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.
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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa’s national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.