Monday, June 13, 2011

Freddy's Coming For You...And You'll Never Stop Him

Please, allow me a moment and this small post to get a little 80-year-old, ultraconservative Grandma on you.

This past weekend Partner and I watched the latest remake of the movie A Nightmare on Elm St. Yes, the new one with the hunky 20-something guys (meaning Kellan Lutz). Now, I've known the basic premise of the Freddy Krueger mythos for years: he's a creepy pervert that preyed on one too many of the neighborhood kids, and then all of the parents banded together, trapped him in a warehouse, and burned him alive. Now he haunts the dreams of his would-be victims.

Something, this time around, clicked for me. In this most recent incarnation of the Nightmare, they go back to the very beginning of the franchise and reintroduce it to today's audience. In this latest storyline, the basic plot remains the same, but they spend a lot of extra time enhancing the psychological torture theme. Freddy was a gardener at the local preschool, and he took the children down to a secret room under the school and did horrible things to them, photographing some of the more heinous sexual crimes.

Of course, the storyline follows a similar course: the parents, as a group, realize what's going on and chase him down to a warehouse, then burn him alive. Today, Freddy is seeking out his former victims so that he can continue to instill fear in their dreams and kill them for turning him in.

The thing that clicked this time around is that the basis of the story is wildly sickening. Take it out of the context of a Wes Craven, fantasy-tinged horror film and break it down to its basic parts. The local preschool's gardener was a pedophile that traumatized an entire class of small children. Once the parents found out, they chased him down (instead of calling the police) and burned him alive. They then hid this information from their young children, who forgot all about it until it turns out the pedophile who terrorized them isn't as dead as their parent's had hoped and now continues to haunt these children's dreams. Only this time, there can be no justice, as he's already dead. He can haunt them and taunt them and sexually molest them and do all manner of torture to them in their dreams, up to and including killing them, and he will never have to answer for it.

Without the science fiction of the man-turned-dream walker, this is something I saw quite often while working in the juvenile court system. Children haunted and psychologically tortured indefinitely over what some sick man or woman did to them when they were small. However, unlike Wes Craven's idea of a good franchise 80's-era serial killer storyline, the real world tends to frown on pedophilia. It is not rewarded with immortality and the ability to enact your twisted fantasies on innumerable victims. There is, usually, a sense of justice and finality - at least when it comes to sentencing.

People go to prison; they are kept away from their victims and any and all potential victims. The message here seems to be that you can try and separate yourself by time and distance, even the boundaries of life and death, from your tormentor, and they will still haunt you, still victimize you, and still be able to come after you...even from the grave.

What a horrible story. There is no finality, because he just comes back and kills your parents instead. But, I put this to you, the Rioters. What do YOU think about characters such as Freddy? What is their purpose in the greater culture, and why are they so popular and celebrated when their stories are so horrendous? These films seem to me to celebrate the killer, and to enjoy the manner in which he kills without mercy and cannot be stopped. And I suppose there is a place for such indulgence, but to celebrate a pedophile...?

I just never really thought Hollywood, in the modern era, would go that far. But, this is the same institution that continues putting out the Explosions! series. I mean...the Michael Bay Transformers franchise.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

14 comments:

  1. I think perhaps Freddy and his kin (the Firefly family from Rob Zombie's House of a 1000 Corpses; Saw; Hostel; Turistas; the Human Centipede; etc.) are rather like torture-porn, a guilty, depraved, and vicarious (yet still legal) experience that some people seem to long for. Carolyn Myss commented in Anatomy of the Spirit how there are people in the world who live in a culture of pain and who - instead of healing their wounds or growing from them - promote their wounds and find pleasure in declaring how badly they were hurt. I think these movies play to two crowds: the first, who harbor these desires to terrorize and hurt others; and second, those who relish the pain and torment because it awakens them in a way which they welcome or with which they're familiar. Do these sorts of movies have a degrading effect on society? It's hard to say; I would guess that these thoughts and feelings have always been present but only found a vehicle for wide dissemination in the past 40 years. If these movies attract a certain crowd, perhaps it's because they provide an outlet or a safe(r) way for them to experience these feelings and desires. Perhaps somebody at the CATO Institute can say whether or not there's any broad correlation to violent media and violent crime? I don't think we need to censor this media - people will choose for themselves what they want to bring into their lives - but I wouldn't show it to my children, either.

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  2. In fairness, I have not seen the remake, only most of the original franchise. For one thing, I think people like to be frightened and disturbed now and then. It sickens and thrills at the same time, it makes us fully realize that right at this moment we ARE alive. Now instead of stories around the hearth at night, we have the silver screen.

    "The message here seems to be that you can try and separate yourself by time and distance, even the boundaries of life and death, from your tormentor, and they will still haunt you, still victimize you, and still be able to come after you...even from the grave."

    Isn't that how it feels to victims, though? I thankfully was never sexually molested as a child, but my father did spend years psychologically torturing me and mother and sisters, playing mind-games to make us desire his love and fear his anger so much we did anything to please him. I haven't spoken to him in years and he's still in my head, I still sometimes behave as if he's watching me and will punish me for whatever contrived deviations I commit. I know its not the same, but if such relatively mild trauma leaves such a mark on someone, I can only imagine what being molested would do.

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  3. I'm kind of loosing faith in humanity because it seems to be at their core to destroy and find pleasure in victimizing others. I generally don't relate to other people who have lost their faith in humanity, because those people seem to think it's ok to be as cruel as everyone else. That they're justified in their actions of hurting others because they were hurt.
    People like hurting others. They like to cause pain, especially to those they feel are somehow untouched or perfect. The people that are killed in horror movies are young and beautiful. They are optimistic and have the world before them opening up. Since people can't have that themselves, they want it destroyed.

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  4. I've always thought the Elm St series was the most truly horrific of the 80s slasher explosion. Particularly compared against it's (quite literal) rival, Friday 13th - in which Jason in some respects is justified in his actions, at least in the early years, and the death of a teen is often justified (albiet in conservative ways: drugs/sex/etc): this is entirely absent in Elm St. Of course, horror films help to explore cultural boundaries - and a director will most likely tell you that the killer is meant to be disposable - and so Freddy is a part of this urge to and will to be shocked.
    He is celebrated the same way Jason his - iconic horror figure - perhaps what happened was, in the profitable boom of 80s slasher, numerous directors ignored/diluted his origin in sequels that established this iconic status.

    One wonders how the remake will be viewed in 20 years time - considering many movies that were banned in the 80s are now available uncut and seem peculiarly tame.

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  5. *despicable, even - not disposable. Although that too raises more questions: are they generic signifiers? Can they even by disposed of? Disposed of physical in the narrative, or sanitised for iconisation in the 'real world'.

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  6. Bllaccchhhh I have always hated that movie but it never fully made sense to me why until your examination and the previous comments. Even in the 80s it was a ridiculous film from an FX perspective and easily obvious to predict. But, it was scary on a deeper level to me and I think you and other people have just touched on that. It isn't only that slashers of the 80s and Saw episodes of the current over the top horror genre just never stop, it is that Nightmare reminds us of what we might be capable of from a parental perspective. And it reminds us of the feeling of helplessness that goes on even when justice is rendered in whatever form is available.

    Wow. That is deep for a bad bad movie. Oh, it did have Johnny Depp in it, which is the only reason I went to see it in the 80s anyway. LOL.

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  7. I agree with you! But I have my own take on it, and the genre in general. My response became epicly long. I posted it on my blog instead (really, really long). You stumbled on a secret fandom of mine. Sorry I can never shut up! ;) http://www.paganbynature.com/2011/06/jungian-nightmare.html

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  8. I am not sure what the purpose of these movies are, although I suppose some would say they provide some sort of outlet for agressive feelings. Maybe it's just an easier way to shock people instead of investing in good FX and writing a suspensful, thrilling storyline??


    Some of the newer horror that is more like torture porn makes me sick to my stomach. I refuse to watch any of that crap, and while I can watch a serial killer flick occasionally, for the most part I think they are mostly predictable and not scary at all.

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  9. I have never seen any of these...they are too awful for my brain...There is enough pain and horror in the world...don't want to see it as entertainment...it's not entertainment in my opinion and I have never been able to see what the attraction is...

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  10. What Sophia said.

    Deep psychological damage can hover in your dreams, creating instances where you feel (re)victimized. I refuse to watch horror movies since I was traumatized by Poltergeist as a child, but the draw seems to be the adrenaline rush for many. I know that there are things in life you can't escape and Freddy is a characterization of that.

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  12. I agree wholeheartedly with Sophia. Many people like to be horrified or terrified by fiction (or even remote realities, like rotten.com) because it underscores their immediate and fragile vitality. I would hazard to guess that the truly gore-hungry are few in number.

    I also think that characters like Freddy are conscious acts of iconoclasm, and as such serve to further the development of narrative as a whole because they force us to examine what and how we write.
    At any rate, people should stop hating on the horror flicks. Just because you can't stomach them doesn't make them worthless. They have a purpose, even if it is the least of purposes, just like your own favourite films.

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  13. The only response I can think of right now is actually another blog, but I feel like it really relates: http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/a-woman-walks-into-a-rape-uh-bar/

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  14. Horror is about meeting and dealing with the dark side of being human. Monsters, like Freddy and Dracula, are icons or symbols that we use to explain and come to grips with hard concepts (Freddy the child molester and Dracula the Rapist for example. You Decoded Freddy's symbol perfectly Fire Lyte, he is the disgusting that one can't escape. I have had several friends go through sexual abuse as a chile. Now 25 years later it still wakes them up in the middle of the night. Slasher films (Jason, Freddy, Halloween) are about the fear that our very normal world has something rotten in it that will not go away. Torture porn (Saw, Touristas Go Home...etc....) are about the fear that we are the last ones with any sanity left, and the chaos will destroy us too. Why do we watch? Part of it is the human curiosity--why do we as a people rubber neck at an accident? Part of it is catharsis---this is just a movie and it can't happen to me. Part of it is the need to feel pursued--a thrill ride. We are more primitive and aggressive then we like to believe.
    And finally, we are easily overstimulated. That same thrill ride for each generation must be more graphic. Horror films must compete with News, video games etc...there is a lot of violence to around. Compare PG-13 films of the 1980s to R films today. My two cents from the film department.

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