Sunday, September 6, 2015

Never Sleep Again

Recently the world found out that we'd lost a horror legend. Wes Craven had had a hand in an absolutely ridiculous number of iconic films, helping to shape the industry. Like a lot of people, especially in my age group, his most memorable films were the Elm Street franchise. While I know for sure that I'd seen Last House On The Left first, A Nightmare On Elm Street form a solid chunk of my earliest memories. So, in honor of Wes Craven, I'm going to tell a really horrific story. It's a true one, and now seems as good a time as any to traumatize anyone stupid enough to read this.

I'd mentioned before that my stepfather had worked for the junk yard that had been used in one of the Elm Street films, and had met both Wes and Robert Englund on separate occasions . I've mentioned that he was fond of smacking my mom around as well. What I hadn't gotten into is what a fucking monster he was. In addition to being a drunk and generally a piece of shit, he was a pedophile and rapist as well. When my mom married him she was young and kind of stupid, and never imagined that he wasn't just marrying her to have a young attractive wife. He'd seen in a young unwed mother, strapped for cash, access to his favorite kind of sex "partner" - the kind that was too small and too weak to fight. I was two years old.

While A Nightmare On Elm Street wasn't the first horror film I'd ever seen, it's the one that has stayed in sharp detail, fresh in my mind nearly 30 years later. It was certainly a terrifying movie, especially for such a young child, but it was especially horrifying for a kid that was living in a household that was horrifying in itself. The fact that Freddy Krueger was a child molester was glossed over, but a fact that I quickly picked up on. His method of killing has been likened to rape, and the parallel was obvious to me right away. The fact that the parents in his community took vengeance into their own hands, only to inadvertently create an even greater monster, confirmed in my mind that no one would ever help me. No one could save us.

In a child's way, I drew comparisons between the Freddy Krueger character and my very real stepfather. I'm not sure if I imagined the resemblance, but I saw a physical one to match the emotional one.

To this day I still have nightmares about Freddy Krueger. They're almost always intertwined with nightmares about my stepfather. Wes Craven created one of the most iconic fiction characters, not just in horror, but ever. He didn't mean to make a film about my worst nightmares, not mine specifically, but he did and not in a way that causes me to hate the films or him. I love Elm Street. I often wonder if other childhood abuse survivors have watched them with the same mindset as me. I've never seen anything, an article or an interview, from that perspective. I've wondered if I'd ever have the chance to meet Wes Craven, if I'd tell him about my stepfather. Would he have been polite about it, would he have been struck by how close to home he'd hit with some of his fans? I'll never know. I wonder what he'd say or think to know he'd met a real-life Freddy Krueger, someone's flesh-and-blood nightmare.

This was pretty short, but it was also pretty straight forward. I wanted to put this out there, in case anyone ever wondered if someone else had watched A Nightmare On Elm Street through the same filter.