When Dreams Betray: What We Can Learn About Evil From ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

When Dreams Betray: What We Can Learn About Evil From ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

nes_002Freddy Krueger: “The children still feared me, and their fear gave me the power to invade their dreams, and that’s when the fun really began. Until they figured out a way to forget about me…”

Wes Craven’s popular staple of the horror genre A Nightmare on Elm Street movie series really got it right in many respects. Namely, the idea that “evil only has the power that man gives to it”. In the movie series, the evil monster “Freddy Krueger” would torment people through their dreams. By feeding on their fear as an energy source he would turn wounds and terror into reality. If Freddy killed a person in the dream world then they are killed in the real world– and this is actually a great way to understand how evil works. All evil starts in the mind (or the heart) before it ever gets the chance to be embodied in the “real” world. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 5 that murder and lust are seriously committed in the heart long before they are ever (if ever) acted out.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable” -Matthew 5:21-22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”-Matthew 5:27-28

nes_003Intriguingly, creator Wes Craven was inspired by real life news stories in which nightmare-related deaths occurred. Possibly, Craven has been fascinated by the mid-slumber deaths of 18 Laotian refugees in 1981 who were dealing with extreme post traumatic horror from the genocide they had just escaped. Again the point rings true, our emotions and affections fuel our emotions and actions.

At some point in the movie, Freddy possesses the body of one of the local teenagers. This is a sort of embodied evil; a tactic Satan uses when we act as his puppet. But it was a tactic first developed by Christ. When we allow evil to dictate our actions, we are being controlled by its lies. Ironically, all that the boy needed to do was to turn his back from the start and Freddy would be powerless. In this case it was the boy’s fear that caused him to allow the foothold; and the core of his fear was a deception. He believed what he saw in his nightmare instead of realizing it was not right. He acted on that deception and allowed himself to be defeated. Similarly, man also was dealt a blow when he first believed a lie in the garden of Eden.

In the film, it turns out that the townsfolk had burned Freddy alive many years back and the killing spree was simply his return. In the same way true evil cannot be attacked psychically, we defeat sin by a heart change, not by burning buildings or people. Often, an idea is the most dangerous of all things because an idea can grow anywhere if it is nurtured. An idea can embody itself at any time.

nes_004The teenagers that Freddy was tormenting eventually discover a way to stop him. By giving his lies no credence, they effectively allow the idea to die. In this sense “Freddy Krueger” is simply a devil figure, acting as an antagonist in a movie. The real devil, however, is called “the great adversary”; he’s real. Contrary to some evangelical thought, he has no horns, he doesn’t carry a pitchfork, and he doesn’t rule hell because God rules all things. He does, however, have a lot of influence in our world. In fact, he has so much sway that the apostle Paul refers to him as “the prince of the power of the air” and “the father of lies” (Ephesians 2:2 ; John 8:44).

How does this influence work on a larger scale? Satan only rules in a “de facto” sense, which is a very thin veneer, but an effective one. Similarly, if you cannot stop eating bacon, you could state that bacon rules your belly. This is how Satan rules; by deception. Satan only has the true power that we give him, but sadly we are so often more than ready and willing to believe his lies instead of turning our back on them as the children eventually did in Elm Street. In the end, it is our own corrupt hearts that are our worst enemy. If you believe the lie that says sin is ok, before you know it, you’re waking up from your dreams with scrapes and cuts.

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