The Ultimate Nightmare
I was seven years old when A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984. For some reason my babysitter decided it would be fine for me to see it. Yeah, you should probably check in with the people babysitting your kids.
Two things have been true until tonight:
1. I have been fascinated by and have actively sought out horror movies ever since; and
2. I haven’t watched the original ANOES since (I saw the remake; it wasn’t awful).
Oh, let me clarify. I haven’t watched the original since…until tonight. I’m watching it now. Why not? I thought to myself as I chose how to celebrate my favorite holiday. Why not celebrate with the movie that entirely rewired my wee brain when I was a child? It’s possible that I’ll have the answer to that soon, but the movie is only just a few minutes in.
Let’s share a little history. The effect that this movie had on me, a kid who hadn’t even made it to the first grade yet, was striking. It terrified me. I did not yet have the ridiculously macabre and dark sense of humor I do now. I did not have the ability to recognize the sick sense of humor in the horror before me. I just saw Freddy Krueger.
You know the full story by now, but Freddy was a scary-as-fuck dead guy who could kill you in your dreams, and even preschool Whiskeypants knew that was Fucked. Up. Preschool Whiskeypants knew that waking up was hard sometimes. Preschool Whiskeypants had intense nightmares on a very regular basis and was pretty damn sure that it made absolute sense that your nightmares could kill you.
I would spend the rest of my childhood trying to figure out how to sleep safely. While it wasn’t only because of ANOES (there was a host of other factors in my childhood that added to this), this movie hardwired me to believe that sleep left a person altogether too vulnerable. In fact, I think it was out of desperation for rest that my brain created its own coping mechanism: it turned Freddy Krueger into an ally. Freddy would show up in my nightmares and show me the way out. It was the only way my subconscious could work through my absolute terror of the character.
Rewatching A Nightmare on Elm Street right now is giving me a new appreciation for the movie, but the fear that 7-year-old Whiskeypants experienced is still there, 29 years later. It’s not a fear of the movie, with its nigh-hilarious special effects (Freddy has fluorescent green blood? Really?), baby Johnny Depp, and fascinating hairdos. It’s still the idea behind it that gets me. That makes me wonder how well I will sleep tonight.
I guess in some ways, 36-year-old Whiskeypants is still 7-year-old Whiskeypants.