I can’t sleep.
In my twenty years on this planet, this is a phrase I’ve grumbled at least once a week, with significant spikes occurring most frequently during the ever-stressful finals week. However, here it is, not even midterms yet, and I find myself lingering on these words in a wide-eyed stupor once again. This time, the source of my insomnia is not a paper due tomorrow, or a late-night cappuccino, or even this ungodly heat.
It’s Freddy Kreuger.
To fill anyone in, Freddy is the brutally-disfigured, knife-wielding, upper-middle class suburbia-terrorizer in Wes Craven’s classic 1984 horror movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” A movie which I finally watched for the first time last weekend in an attempt to toughen up for Halloween.
Halloween. Horror. Trick-or-Treat. Costumes. These are all concepts that repel me; my childhood consisted of annual Halloween traumas — getting sick from one candy bar too many, buying a hippie wig that ended up giving me lice, spending the whole day in an eyeball costume my mom enthusiastically made for me. Plus, there’s the fear factor. I can’t do the scary movies or the haunted houses or the creepy masks.
I remember as a kid even Harry Potter sent me into weeks of nocturnal peril, during which I stayed up till dawn watching “Three’s Company” and “The Nanny” reruns because I was afraid Voldemort would come attack me in my sleep. Horror makes me act completely irrationally, as I convince myself that any and all of it is not only real, but will also certainly happen to me.
The idea of setting up this weekly scary movie journalistic excursion is to try to get over all these anxieties, to like spookiness and maybe even Halloween. It’s supposed to be fun, and my childhood hang-ups and senselessness shouldn’t ruin the whole month of October for the rest of my life. In keeping with the themes of my previous articles, this year I’m ready for change, for self-improvement.
I figured I’d start with the godfather of horror, Wes Craven, whose recent death made me finally aware of his impact on film and Halloween culture.
So from there I thought, “A Nightmare on Elm Street, that’s like a classic horror movie, right? It must be scary.”
And then, from there, I realized Johnny Depp made his film debut as the crop top-wearing, sleepy heartthrob Glen, which ultimately sealed the deal.
Admittedly, I chickened out by choosing to watch it in the morning, with the idea being that if it was really scary, then hopefully I would have a full day to forget about it by nightfall. Somehow I ended up getting that totally wrong. In fact, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was not scary at all. 1980s horror is more of a joke than a fright, which I never personally experienced outside the farcical ludicrousness of any “Scary Movie” scene. In fact, those parodies aren’t exaggerating much at all; the girls in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” really didn’t know how to run and did actually walk down that dark alley alone at night. The gore was shock value at most, causing me to cringe and grimace instead of scream and close my eyes.
Yet, here I am, 15 hours later, still thinking that if I fall asleep… Freddy will get me. It’s a whisper in the back of my mind, rather than a banging cacophony of thought. There’s a general uneasiness to my empty apartment; my eyes shift at any slight movements, my body tenses at probably-imaginary sounds. I can’t seem to shake off this tick of fear that’s slowly-but-perniciously eating away at my rationality. More importantly, I don’t know why it’s still there in the first place.
Perhaps my personality is too obsessive; I need a thought to cling to, and since fear is one of the most eviscerating emotions, it’s the one that I focus on most. Even the most ridiculous, campy film can transform into a threat. I know that it’s just a movie — that none of it is real — but there’s something small that keeps my imagination spiraling out of control as I plunge into a series of worst-case scenarios.
No, I didn’t expect one horror movie to dispel all of my illusions, and chances are, it’s still going to take me a while to finally jump on the Halloween haunted bandwagon; but hey, at least I’m asking myself these questions in the hopes of making sense of it all eventually. For now, I think it’s time to get some sleep.