Thursday, October 21, 2010

Falling For Freddy

Shockingly, the first time I saw Freddy Krueger, it was not love at first sight.  

It was 1986 and I was 11 years old.  I'd never seen a horror movie, unless you count the last half of  The Shining, which I'd witnessed while hiding behind the couch one night when my parents thought I was in bed.  In 1986, Jack Nicholson was the scariest thing I could think of.

My best friend's parents were out of town and we were left in the care of her much older step-brother, who provided us with a quad of Bartles & James wine coolers and a copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street, as all good baby sitters should.  Emboldened by the Fuzzy Navel I'd guzzled and the fact that my friend described the film as "about as scary as Gremlins but with a guy instead of Mogwais," I agreed to watch.

Over the next couple of hours, I sat frozen as Freddy Krueger killed the kids in their dreams one by one.  I hid behind a frilly mauve toss pillow and willed myself to look away from the crazed janitor but I couldn't!  I was in.  I was terrified.

That night, as my pal slept peacefully, I lay awake in her standard issue 80's water bed staring out the sliding glass door into her backyard. Something moved on the far side of the pool.  I knew that it was Freddy Krueger as sure as I knew I went to Rusk Elementary and that Texas was the best state in the nation.  Something scraped against the glass.  To anyone else, it would've been a pine tree, but to me it was an evil burned janitor running his knife fingers up and down the window just to toy with me.  I was absolutely positive that I'd somehow called him to me just by watching the movie.  I felt bad that my parents and my sister and my two Cocker Spaniels would never know what happened to me.  I steeled myself and waited to die.  One, two, three, Freddy was coming for me!

The next morning I had the feeling I had fought and won a war.  Surely I was the bravest kid in Midland, Texas.  Because of my new found toughness, I let versions of this night happen again and again for the rest of my childhood and adolescence.  At slumber parties, at boy's houses and in dark theaters, I watched horror flick after horror flick, each time feeling like I'd probably die of a heart attack but coming out the other side thinking I was a badass.  When someone suggested we watch a scary movie, I'd silently say Oh, Gawd Please No! while nonchalantly nodding my head.  "Sounds good to me.  Whatever you want to watch."

At some point in my twenties, I realized I'd turned a corner; a dark corner where something was likely to jump out and scare the shit out of me.  But, here's the thing:  I welcomed it.  I had a revelation.  I actually liked horror movies!  I don't know how it happened but I suspect it's like coffee or wine or any acquired taste.  I'd developed a craving for fear.  Horror movies had become as necessary as my morning latte.

I've finally fallen for Freddy.  But, at least I don't drink wine coolers anymore.

*photo by Compulsive Collector.