31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 2]: Nightmares for the Weekend

Yesterday kicked off my 31 days of horror film binging, and it kicked off with the film that gave Craven his first soiree with the millennials who came to adore his work. Today, I continue my journey with another Craven classic: “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

While the iconic movie poster could make you double check what’s behind your headboard, the film itself is certainly the stuff nightmares are made of. Robert Englund began his lengthy tenure as the night-stalker Freddy Krueger in this 1984 classic that also introduced adoring fans to Johnny Depp. While the film was meet to keep the slasher craze going, following a number of other horror classics that will make their appearance on my list, its journey into the dark depths of our dreams and internal fears struck a cord that is lasting still today–so much so it spawned six sequels and remake (which robbed Katie Cassidy of the spotlight she deserved).

Traditionally, when I talk about this film I usually go the deep dive of “well, it is a movie that evoked our fears of post-Nixon Watergate and our internal conflict with Reaganism.” However, that’s usually when eyes gloss over and I lose my audience. In this case, I’ll spare any readers and say that I’ll save it for another day and another post. For this post, I’ll focus on why this is a go-to for a 31 Days of Halloween viewing:

Answer: It is scary.

That is all.

Many criticize the later films for their lack of seriousness and fear, and, while I agree slightly, the others provided us with the personality that is Krueger and that personality is exactly what made him an icon and a renowned name in the homes of Americans and others around the world. This film, the OG, isn’t that revelation of comedy; this film, is the primal fear that is meant to keep you up at night.

The knife-fingered glove (in a much scarier iteration than what wouldn’t translate as well in Depp’s “Edward Scissorhands” in 1990) that Krueger wields is enough to send chills up your spine, but when it is used in conjunction with the nails-on-a-chalkboard-like screeching announcing his entrance into a teen’s bedroom dreaming, it lasts. The blood is plentiful and the chase sequences are lengthy and tense. It is a film that has stuck with me ever since I first saw it and it is one of the many films that continue to enhance my love of the genre each and every time I watch it.

Beyond the laughs, the scares and the utter fear of knives protruding from between Nancy’s legs, this film is one you can’t escape awake or asleep. Give it a chance today.

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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