Most Traumatizing Movie: THE DREAM MASTER (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4)
Many, even most of us have done it…snuck to watch a scary movie when we were kids. Granted, some of us didn’t have to sneak, and for some the experience was enough to make them swear off horror films for the rest of their life. But then there are others, like myself, who despite the heart-pounded terror and need to leave the closet light on for years afterward, fell in love with the thrill of being frightened by the images on the glowing screen. In my case, I did have to sneak, many times, and my love for horror blossomed in a small room at my grandparents house, one late night creature feature at a time.
My parents were of the variety that payed very close attention to ratings and content of movies, and they certainly didn’t know that I was watching any of the nightmarish films they banned my brother and I viewing. I only divulged the films that my brother and I saw much to young to my mom over the past couple of weeks, when I realized I would be writing about it and no one had ever told her that we took part in parental guidance suggested films with no parental guidance. The ultimate irony though, is where this unauthorized viewing took place; my grandmother’s house. To put this in to perspective for you, my grandmother felt that Billy Joel was vulgar because he wore leather while he played the piano. Though my grandmother would have been excited to be part of anything I’ve written, she would most likely have been mortified to learn this ultimate disobedience took place under her roof. (Sorry Grandma!)
My brother and I found a safe haven in my grandmother’s house where on adult would venture after about 9 o’clock at night…the back patio. It was the room we, as kids were banished to when the adults had enough of us. There was an old television that had been retired there to keep us entertained, it was one of those old TVs that had a column of silver rectangular buttons with a column of numbers that corresponded with each button. Some of you will remember such contraptions, there was no remote and only channels like 3, 7, 11, 13, etc. This left our viewing choices at a minimum and found us watching wildly inappropriate late night fare.
There are so many films to choose from as the film that most traumatized me as a child, all viewed in that safe little room at my grandmother’s house; Maniac Cop, Friday the 13th, but the movie that I particularly remember taking a toll on my psyche was A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. This movie turned my world upside down. I had a very overactive imagination as a kid, which followed me into adulthood. Even before I saw the film I was scared of the dark and all the things that could happen while you slept. Dreams were not one of the things I was afraid of at this point, but that quickly changed. Your dreams were supposed to be unicorns and lollipops, maybe with the occasional nightmare, but as far as anyone had ever told me, those weren’t real. There was, and still is something innately disturbing about knowing that your dreams, a place where you have little to no control anyway, could be invaded by evil and brought to reality.
After being introduced to Freddy Krueger, sleep was certainly hard to come by for a while. To this day I can’t hear the little girls chanting…1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you, without getting chills. Regardless of the clichés, cheesy humor and the overly dramatic reactions, Freddy scared the pee out of me for years. My best friend’s teenage brother had the hat and glove from the movie and loved to terrorize his elementary school aged sister with it, along with her friends. I avoided playing at her house after being introduced to his sadistic joy in terrorizing small children. I even remember having a sweater in junior high that looked a lot like Freddy’s sweater that I kept around as some sort of reverse talisman to keep him away. The hold that the movie had on me was long and went deep.
Even after being asked to write a piece on my most traumatizing movie I didn’t realize the hold The Dream Master had on me…until I rewatched the movie. Freddy brings back the little girl fear in me. To clarify, not the little tightening in the chest I might get while peeking through my fingers at the theater. I mean catching my breath, heart pounding, covering my head with my blanket as I set on the couch terrified. I think that I have always held on to a little of my childhood fantasies of things we can’t understand and don’t want to believe in becoming real and Freddy embodies that to me like no other fictional character ever has, or probably ever will.
This piece is part of a series on Screen Invasion over the month of October. Several of our writers will be sharing their most traumatizing childhood movies for your reading pleasure. CLICK HERE to see another classic entry in this archive. Don’t forget to follow @ScreenInvasion on Twitter and find us on Facebook to keep up with the latest pop culture news, reviews and interviews!
What was your most traumatizing film from childhood? Share with us!