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A Nightmare on Elm Street

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Obligatory note about having made an effort to find a better place to put this. 

Following Wes Craven's death last Wednesday, I decided to review A Nightmare on Elm Street for my weekly Crux column. It was more interesting to write about than I expected. 

(On a side note, I did find it amusing to be reviewing a bloody horror film — a genre for which I have no affinity — one week after finishing my first year at Crux with a more personal piece on limiting one's exposure to movie violence! But it's a noteworthy film, and Craven died when he died, and the news cycle is what it is, so…

By 1984, the tropes of the slasher film (or “Dead Teenager Movie,” as Roger Ebert dubbed this subgenre of horror), pioneered in 1978 by John Carpenter’s Halloween, were well established. Rivers of blood had been spilled in gruesome, exploitative slasher films during those six years, though only two memorable villains made any lasting impression: Michael Myers of “Halloween” and Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th sequels…

To these, Wes Craven’s groundbreaking Nightmare on Elm Street added disfigured Fred (or Freddy) Krueger, played by Robert Englund in grotesque burn-victim prosthetics and a menacing clawed leather glove.

Like young Jason Voorhees, whose death by drowning at summer camp while camp counselors on duty were having sex forms the dark back story for the Friday the 13th films, Fred Krueger represents the hidden sins of the community, underscoring the connection between horror and suppressed guilt.

Some might expect Craven — who rebelled against his strict Baptist upbringing (in which movies were forbidden, along with dancing and even singing) while studying English and psychology at Evangelical bastion Wheaton College, and later went on to work in the pornographic film industry while trying to break into Hollywood — to share Glen’s assessment that “morality sucks.”

But A Nightmare on Elm Street, which, like Craven’s later, self-aware Scream (1996), subverts slasher tropes in various ways, deepens rather than subverts the genre’s moral leanings.

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I think Steven Greydanus has convinced me that this movie is worth checking out.

I was put off a little due to the grotesque violence in it, but I may check it out in time

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