Everyday Nightmare: the Rhetoric of Social Horror in the Nightmare on Elm Street Series

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The Nightmare on Elm Street movie series has enjoyed six successful theatrical releases since 1984, and a seventh installment was released in time for Halloween in 1994. It and other successful horror movie series, such as Friday the 13th and Halloween, are frequently analyzed from Freudian psychological perspectives and characterized as allegories of the psychological dynamic underlying the return of the repressed. Although the return of the repressed, especially repressed sexuality, is clearly the major theme in many stalker movies, this approach does not completely explain movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, in which sexual repression is not a major conflict.
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This rhetorical structure is also evident in all cultural artifacts, including horror movies. The premise that guides this analysis is that the ideological "plot" of the Nightmare movies operates on two levels: one concerns "humanity" against a "monster," while the second, more important ideological level, concerns a dominant culture against its "others."
Monoglossic and heteroglossic discourses can be translated into cinematic terms as, respectively, ideologically coherent or incoherent movies (Wood 197). Coherent horror movies are monoglossic and focus on conflicts between conventional cultural binaries: good/evil, humanity/nature, humanity/supernature, and humanity/science. In an ideologically coherent movie, the conflicts are resolved such that humanity and goodness always prevail and restore harmony and coherence to the master narrative. This dynamic requires that an external "other" be destroyed in order to resolve the conflict and achieve a satisfying closure for the audience. The original Dracula best typifies a coherent horror movie. Once Dracula is destroyed, life returns to normal, and the monoglossic master narrative is preserved.
In contrast, incoherent horror movies are heteroglossic, and offer a different ideological view of

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