by Tony Nigro
I love a scary movie as much as the next nerd who uses the word “superhero” in a URL — maybe more. Interest in the genre began in my junior high years, the midst of the 1980s slasher franchise trend when Freddy and Jason ruled all and straight-to-video cheapies were bountiful. With that kind of training, I quickly overcame childhood fears and dove in for all the blood and guts I could. Then came Freddy’s Nightmares.
A Nightmare on Elm Street spin-off, Freddy’s Nightmares was an anthology series in the tradition of The Twilight Zone and the Tales from the Crypt comics. In place of Rod Serling or the Crypt Keeper stood Freddy Krueger, killer of children, offering witty asides and on occasion participating in the story. The show ran two seasons from 1988-1990, airing in Los Angeles in a late night slot on KHJ channel 9 (now KCAL). The stories were like TV for the blind, a show-and-tell Scooby-Doo approach that led you by the nose from shock to shock. The production value was as corny as Freddy’s one-liners. And the show scared the crap out of me.
Rewatched online now, it’s embarrassing to admit being frightened by such cheap looking TV, particularly when I watched Freddy on a big screen with glee. But a theatrical experience offers group moral support. I watched Freddy’s Nightmares alone at night, and it didn’t help that the KHJ announcer reading the show’s content disclaimer had a voice that was very soothing — like Hannibal Lecter.
Unlike the third rate gialli I’ve seen, Freddy’s Nightmares scared me because of its cheap nature. It was as if Freddy, killer pirate of dreams, pirated the airwaves and performed his own Grand Guignol (or worse, snuff) video in a dank corner of the Springwood High boiler room. Moreover, the show often bore a narrative stream of consciousness that continued the second half of an episode by following a character indirectly related to the first half. What I recognize now as a clever anthology trick seemed more like nightmare logic at age 12. Indeed, this series was just amateurish enough to be made by a psycho killer, and a lack of evidence otherwise combined with an overactive (and possibly sleep deprived) imagination only amped my dread.
Of course, now it’s just lame. Watching it online allows too many distractions — email, RSS feeds, squinting — for my inner adolescent to resurface. And that’s probably for the better. This is fear nostalgia, plain and simple.