A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Revisionist Glee

For the month of March and into April I was watching with some interest a March Madness-style bracketed tournament over at the Save Horror Twitter in which their best-reviewed movies competed for reader votes to see which one would ultimately emerge on top. A few days ago, I expressed my enthusiasm on Facebook when A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing beat The Shining and The Exorcist, respectively. Not, as I said then, because I think those movies are necessarily better than the ones they beat (though, if I’m honest, I probably do think that) but because I was happy to see them all breathing the same rarefied air.

Later, I was somewhat less enthusiastic (we’ll say) to see Nightmare beat The Thing, but, as I observed then, my revisionist glee sometimes cuts both ways. Yesterday, the contest came to a close with A Nightmare on Elm Street beating out first Psycho and then the two-time previous champ Halloween to take the top slot. It’s not the film I would have chosen for the honor, but good for it, anyway.

Do I think that Halloween is a better movie than A Nightmare on Elm Street? By most measures, yeah, absolutely. Moreover, do I think that it’s a more apt movie to represent horror as a whole–sampling, as it does, from so many of the things that make up the genre? Sure. Do I think Halloween or Nightmare (or any of the other contenders, for that matter) is the best horror movie ever made? I have no idea. Honestly, my nature makes me somewhat allergic to the whole idea of picking a “best” anything.

That said, the joy I felt at seeing Nightmare and The Thing besting their more-respected elders (if only by a couple of years in The Shining‘s case) remains. Not, again, because I have anything against The Shining or The Exorcist or any of the other more well-regarded entries into the horror canon that populated the list, but because I’m pleased to witness the slow, steady process of revisionism that is seeing movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street as every bit the classics that those films have long been acknowledged as.

So while I wouldn’t necessarily elevate A Nightmare on Elm Street above The Thing or Halloween or Psycho in my own personal pantheon, I’m thrilled to see them all sitting at the same table. That’s good enough for now.

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