So my friend (and podcast mentor) Fire Lyte from Inciting A Riot posted a critique on the latest remake of Nightmare on Elm Street. I began to compose a comment…and it got long…and little off-topic. You see, he inadvertently stumbled on a secret fandom of mine: horror films and psychological thrillers. So please stop by and read Freddy’s Coming For You…And You’ll Never Stop Him by Fire Lyte, then take a look at my thoughts on the genre below.
I don’t think there are any true attempts in Hollywood to create a truly original take on a story, other than as a convenient vehicle to ensnare stupid audiences impressed by the addition of said ‘Explosions!’ *giggle* I haven’t seen this remake, but have to admit that I’m a fan of the genre—within sane limits of course.
The original Nightmare movie was, in my opinion, an original story that didn’t glorify the villain. It was a psychological thriller that explored the dangers of repression/suppression of human darkness. Like all horror films, and their gothic predecessors, these flicks are about voicing the inescapable existence and potential of darkness within humanity. It’s very Jungian in that sense.
The message of the original Nightmare was that by NOT addressing the monster (Jungian message: suppressing the inner demons within society and ourselves) the monster can then reign without parameters. It is given life within the ether to continue unchecked. What started with a mortal human being becomes a spiritual entity that cannot be controlled. The monster doesn’t go away just by closing your eyes—in fact, that is exactly where it hides.
It was actually a surprisingly sophisticated thriller for the genre—and scary enough to frighten the crapola out of me. I’ve never watched it since. I’m not defending the depravity of horror films by any means. If this were a discussion about feminism within this context, I would be foaming at the mouth and arguing circles around myself. But I do think that there is a place in society for Jungian psychological spirituality, and (good) horror films fit the bill.
I think that we can all agree that it is good to remember that an evil human being is still a human being. By admitting this, we demystify the existence of evil and make it applicable to societal rules (not to mention the laws of physics).
We create myths and legends out of evil characters to deny their link with humanity. The less human they are, the less akin to ourselves. I think this is a misplaced instinct: to separate ourselves from threats and depravity. But this is not healthy to make a god out of a man. You can’t defeat a god, but you can sure as hell put a sicko in jail.
The monsters aren’t under the bed, they’re in your head—and no less dangerous there. That’s the message (of the original). We all need to empower ourselves, take control where we can and enact peace by addressing injustice. I believe we need to learn how our fears can help us in this way, not enslave us.
I think this is why the genre originally became popular. We root for the survivor. We want the victim to conquer the demon. We NEED them to conquer the demon. It gives us hope and empowers our imagination. Some of the voyeuristic bloodlust in some audiences may be attributed to recognition that demons are not conquered easily. It needs to be a challenge. I also have a theory that this may be the inspiration behind the infamous and obligatory “last scare” in these films. You know the one. It’s the scene that occurs immediately after the monster is supposedly killed and all seems peaceful. It always comes back for one last scare.
The further away from this purpose each gothic tale or thriller gets, the less intelligent it becomes. It essentially becomes a kind of clothes-horse for shiny effects. Even the shock value is even lost—because without a deeper purpose, the fear factor doesn’t mean anything. But this still proves my point. People are clearly drawn to experiences that will vicariously manifest the darkness within. Even bad horror movies.