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I guess I just like liking things

A blade on the thumb would've just been overkill

A blade on the thumb would’ve just been too much

I was a sophomore in high school when I saw my first slasher movie: Nightmare on Elm Street 2. I was at an all-nighter at a friend’s house with a bunch of other guys and someone suggested we watch it. I remember being the main “yeah!” voice, but I couldn’t say exactly why I was. Curiosity, most likely. One of my friends warned me that if I watched one, I’d want to see the whole series. It’s a warning that has stuck out to me, enough that 25 years later I still can hear him saying it. I didn’t really understand the warning, because what was the big deal? If you saw one Star War you’d want to see all of the Star Wars, right? We ended up watching it and it struck a chord with me, even though I came to find out that 2 is the worst one in the series.

That’s a weird thing to say, right? “That slasher movie really struck a chord with me!” Usually people use the phrase “struck a chord with me” to talk about something that inspired them or changed their life. You don’t want to be around someone who is inspired by a knife-gloved psycho.

But it didn’t inspire me in the sense of “made me want to be a serial killer.” I promise! It was more of a door, this whole new thing for me. I mean, I had no business watching the movie in the first place, and I can readily admit that. But I don’t think anyone else liked the movie, at least not well enough to want to watch more of them. For me it was a whole new world of movies, and I hadn’t even really seen that many movies up to that point. All of a sudden, I’m the only one (for the most part) in my peer group that liked slasher films which, in my particular private Christian school peer group made me a bit of an outsider. I wasn’t ostracized or anything, but I’m sure there were more than a few who “worried” about me.

I caught up on any available and then saw every sequel in the theater as they were released, up to and including Freddy vs. Jason, so I guess my friend was right. I became a huge Freddy fan and it’s taken me a while but I think I’ve finally come around to the conclusion that that is just plain weird. I mean, look at the guy  (and I’m not talking appearances here)! He was killing kids before the neighborhood parents took the law into their own hands and burned him to death. Then he comes back in their kids’ dreams to revenge kill them in sick, twisted ways… what sort of character is this to enjoy? 

Sure, most of that can be attributed to Robert Englund’s portrayal (I’d most likely watch Robert Englund’s Freddy Vs. just about anything you’d want to finish that sentence with). It wasn’t really until Nightmare 3 that Freddy started wisecrackin’. In the first one, he was just a straight-up mostly-silent creepy killer who could appear in dreams and do things like extend his arms way long and have his face torn off without ill effects. He started to emerge as a bit more of a character in the second one (and “emerge” there is kind of a pun because in 2 he cuts himself out of one of the teen boys… and, see, I’m trying to explain that these movies are messed up here, folks), but really started to get into the one-liners and ironic deaths in the third one.  New Nightmare (#7 in the series) remade him back into more of a standard killer, but for a while there Freddy was pretty much doing a comedy act that occasionally featured people’s innards. Charismatic Freddy stood out from the Micheal Myers and the Jasons and the whatever elses, and put you in this weird place where you’re rooting for him to off these jerk teens rather than rooting for them to get away. I’m looking back on that  and trying to figure that out, and I really can’t, and I can’t come up with a better descriptor for the phenomenon than “weird.”

Nightmare on Elm Street led me Halloween and Friday the 13th and a bunch of other random horror movies here and there, but I’m mostly out of that game these days. Horror movies are different from slasher movies are different from torture movies, and I don’t have the stomach for it. It’s not necessarily the gore, either. I’ve always been fascinated by the movie tricks they used to pull that off, which is why it never bothered me much, I think. (Oddly enough, medical shows and movies use the exact same tricks but I can’t handle that stuff at all.) I think, honestly, it’s my age that’s doing me in, and I mean that in two senses. When I was in my teens and twenties, it was easy to see death as entertainment. In my forties, my perspective has changed. Not from a “I’m closer to death so fake death isn’t as amusing as it once was” kind of way, but more from an empathy angle. “Those poor parents of those kids,” I think. That doesn’t lend itself much to being entertained.  But I also think “that teen was a complete jerk to that girl, so he deserved to have his liver removed via his nasal passage,” and that’s not a place I like to be, either.

If they release more Nightmares I’ll probably go see them, but it’s more out of a sense of nostalgia these days. The remake in 2010 was pretty terrible and unnecessary, and I knew it would be before I even went, but I gotta watch the whole series. I wonder if I’d feel the same way about watching the whole series if my friend hadn’t said I would want to, but any time I start thinking about that I feel like I’m in a causality loop and we know how those end up.


For some of you the title to this entry immediately put a song into your head, so it’d be mean not to include a link to it, with this further note about it: I know almost every word to the song and once performed it publicly when I was a on a trip visiting a college in Florida, and by “publicly” I mean in a dorm room for about ten guys.  I’m sure they thought I was the most ridiculous thing they’d ever seen, but they didn’t let on. Thanks, guys.


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