A Nightmare on My Street
By Patrick Dunn
In the 1980s, long before Blockbuster Video cast its vicious shadow on suburbia, I used to frequent a local video rental joint aptly titled Video Gallery. It was a small independent store ran by some old coot who used to yell and curse a lot. It was also the home of the best horror movie collection in the greater Boston region.
On many occasions, I recall running straight to the horror section and spent what seemed like hours looking at the artwork on all of the VHS cases. One of my personal favorites was the artwork for the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those movies where if I happen to stumble upon it on cable, I will drop whatever I am doing and see it through to the end. It stirs up memories of my brother and I setting up traps in our room before bedtime in the same manner Nancy Thompson did to wake her from the final showdown with Freddy Krueger that was to lure him into reality. Thanks to these movies, I also bear a scar on my chin that will always serve as a reminder of how great the early films of the franchise were.
The year was 1987, it was late spring, and my mother had taken our dog Finnegan to the veterinarian. She had asked us to wait outside and to play in the parking lot, because that’s what parents did back in those days.
The vet’s office was adjacent to an old residential building that looked like Nancy’s house on Elm Street; so naturally my brother and I decided to reenact various moments from the film. We ended up in an overgrown grassy area behind the building that was riddled with safety hazards; with one being a cement staircase dug into the ground that led to a disheveled looking basement door.
There was one point where the ground opened up to a six foot drop that led to the bottom of the stairwell. It looked as if at one point some type of guard rail surrounded the stairwell, but it had been long since removed. Foolishly, that was where I decided to stand. I pretended to be a helpless teenage victim teetering on the edge of a cliff in some bizarre dreamworld and my brother, who pretended to be Krueger, was slowly walking and clawing his way toward me. When he finally approached me several Freddy-like zingers later, he pretended to slash my chest open with his knife fingers. The force of the slash caused me to lose my balance and I fell six feet down onto the bottom of stairwell smashing my face open on the hard cement.
As I lay there, I could hear my brother still unaware of what had just happened, laughing maniacally in the vein of Freddy Krueger after a fresh kill. When I gathered enough strength to pull myself up, I noticed a pool of blood on the ground. I touched my face to assess the damage and felt chunks of rock, cement, and dirt stuck on my face. I let out a shrieking cry and then began muttering gibberish sounds as I ran into the vet’s office leaving behind a trail of blood… and a clueless brother.
I had no idea where my mother was, but I was immediately greeted by a receptionist whose face lit up with shock as I ran up to her screaming with blood pouring down my neck. The horrified receptionist tried to calm me down and ask what had happened, but I just kept inaudibly screaming for my mother.
The commotion had caused the vet to leave his examining room and my mother quickly followed behind him. Without even asking what happened, the vet immediately started to clean my wound and applied some white gauze on it, which was quickly turning red. He was certain that I needed stitches and I can slightly recall a brief moment where he discussed with my mother about doing it himself.
Instead we drove to the hospital, which was a good fifteen minutes down the road, and I sat in the far back of my parent’s station wagon surrounded by bloody rags. After I was stitched up, I could not wait to go home and tell everyone I knew about my exciting trip to the hospital. I’m sure my mother felt otherwise.
On following trips back to the same veterinarian’s office, I used to look around for remnants of blood and chunks of my skin thinking it would still all be there serving as a memento of my bout with Fred Krueger. I always felt bad for the person who had to clean it all up because I am sure it looked like a murder scene. In a macabre way it was a murder scene though, at least for two brothers. It was an epic battle between good and evil that did not bode so well for the side of good.
The visual I always have about this moment is reminiscent to the gory death of Johnny Depp’s character. Instead of gallons of fake blood pouring out of the recently slayed man’s bed, it was (exaggerated) gallons of real blood pouring out of my face.
Approximately one year later, I was also convinced that my school bus driver was Freddy Krueger himself when he drove past our bus stop forgetting to let us off (à la A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), but that is a story for another time.