he musta dreamt himself up

It’s been a while since I’ve watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. And, I’m pretty sure I don’t like this movie. And so, I turn it on and the logo is different and it starts with some attempt at artistic extreme close-ups of a sex scene... lit in the generic movie orange and blue.

From nude to nun, the Alice Johnson story... or at least her dream. Six minutes of nudity without showing anything, she might as well be a nun that’s about to be raped by a bunch of mental patients.

Wow, how offensive was that?

Seriously, though, it’s a strange juxtaposition starting off with so much of Alice not only naked but having sex, when the usual slasher film lead is virginal and innocent, maybe even tomboyish. Alice not only had sex but had sex on screen, and she’s going to be a mother. Sure, she was already the Final Girl in a previous film, but she’s still the Final Girl here, too. She just doesn’t fit the stereotype.

Anyway, I am not as tired as when I watched a couple of the previous Nightmare movies, but once again, I am tired. I think I’ve mentioned my long Mondays this quarter, basically from 8am to 10pm I’ve got no break longer than 10 minutes. Freddy Krueger has conspired to catch me when I am tired. Except I don’t get the benefit of having my own nightmares about him. While I like the idea of the character (and love the New Nightmare take on him, I don’t find him particularly scary, plus I’m too old to have bad dreams over a movie. Vivid dreams, maybe. But no nightmares.

Which is too bad, really.

As for this movie, baby Freddy is kinda cute, and not at all scary. This dream is more of an explanatory setpiece than a nightmare. In terms of the story, it makes sense, though; Freddy is trying to get himself dreamed back into “existence” so of course, he’s channeling the story of his birth through Alice’s unborn child. It’s part of what makes Freddy Krueger so resilient, and makes the New Nightmare version work so well—Freddy is not a character, per se, but the story of a character. Not a specific danger but the idea of danger...

Something I haven’t dealt with yet in this blog is Freddy’s self-injury and self-mutilation. Way back in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, he cut himself open when Nancy was dreaming about him at school. In this film, he just removed his own arm (oddly, after pouring champagne on his shoulder to burn it off. I’m not as familiar with the films in this series as the Halloween or Friday the 13th films, so I couldn’t list every instance, but I am pretty sure Freddy has injured himself in all five films so far. Briefel (2005) suggests, “Masochism is central to the construction of male monsters, who initiate their sadistic rampages with acts of self-mutilation” (p. 16). It’s vital that the monster’s masochism be “profoundly disturbing” rather than eliciting sympathy (p. 18). The masochistic self-injury,

...the shock value of which emanates both from the unexpectedness of the monster hurting himself when his apparent role in the film is to harm others, and from its challenge to conventional notions of monstrosity. Is the monster a show-off, bragging to his prospective victims (and, by extension, to his audience) that eh can withstand what they cannot? It he using his own body to preview what he will ultimately do to them, thereby disrupting the boundary between victims and monsters? And, perhaps most importantly, is he capable of feeling pain? In the flashback to Freddy Krueger’s adolescence in Freddy’s Dead, the young monster tells his abusive stepfather, from whom he has just demanded more punishment, “You wanna know the secret of pain? If you can stop feeling it, you can start using it.” ...once he has delivered his declamation on pain, Freddy directs his razorblade toward his father. His transition from inflicting violence on himself to turning the violence outwards suggests that monstrosity originates when the ability to resist pain turns into a desire to harm others.

This trajectory dictates the spectator’s own process of identification in watching the masochistic monster. Freddy’s suggestion that the monster does not feel pain when he wounds himself inhibits audience identification in this cinematic moment. (p. 18)

I’m reminded of the monsters from the Hellraiser series, with their constant wounds. Of course, for the Cenobites, it is not that they don’t feel pain but that they specifically do feel pain and pain and pleasure have become twisted together, just like our titillation and our horror get twisted together in watching them, or in watching a slasher film. Give us the hedonistic teens, let them do drugs and have sex, but then kill him while we watch, while we cheer.

Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees don’t hurt themselves. Perhaps, Freddy’s masochism comes from a different place than just being more monstrous. Maybe there’s some self-loathing on his part. I mean, he was an abused kid, probably blamed himself. He grew up to molest and murder children. He probably doesn’t think very positively of himself. Maybe those moments in which Freddy hurts himself are the moments when Freddy is more Freddy than the moments he hurts everyone else.

Works Cited

Briefel, A. (2005). Monster Pains: Masochism, Menstruation, and Identification in the Horror Film. Film Quarterly 58:3. pp. 16-27.


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