Four years after my mother graduated high school, she and one of her closest girlfriends caught a late-night screening of a new horror film that had just hit theaters: Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The two girls screamed in their seats, absolutely freaked out, and then had to walk home together in the dark. Hearing my mom and her friend Carla recount this story ranks pretty highly as one of my favorite tales from my mother’s younger years. Even mentioning “Freddy Krueger” will ignite a flame behind their eyes and plaster an immediate smile across their faces.
“BRITT! HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU ABOUT THE TIME YOUR MOM AND I WENT AND SAW NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET AT THE GENESEE IN WAUKEGAN? SCARIEST FUCKIN’ MOVIE OF MY LIFE!”
There’s an excitement in their voices and a sincere sense of joy thinking about how scared they once were, but how fun that fear is to have coursing through your body. Anytime one of my horror pals meets my family for the first time, I always make my mom and Carla tell the story. They’ll laugh as they talk about how high they jumped in their seats, and they’ll talk about how pissed they were when the remake fell short. Freddy Krueger may not give them restless nights anymore, but he’s a fond memory of their early twenties.
My mom is the one who raised me on horror films and fed my hunger for all things spooky, and that love stems from that late-night trip to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. I’ve written before about the questionable choices my parents made in what they exposed me to growing up, but seeing the unfiltered delight in my mother’s face anytime she recounts her first meeting with Freddy Krueger completely explains why she wanted me to experience horror at such a young age.
My horror obsession has long surpassed my mother’s now and I’ve even got my own favorite slasher icon (it’s Leatherface, in case you were wondering). Horror has become not just something I enjoy, but a major and critical part of my identity.
A few years back, I was introduced to Horror’s Hallowed Grounds. Sean Clark travels to the famous locations and landmarks from some of horror’s most iconic films. He’s covered the HALLOWEEN franchise, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE FOG, THE HOWLING, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, PHANTASM, CHRISTINE, SESSION 9, BLACK CHRISTMAS, AMERICAN PSYCHO, and plenty of others in addition to, of course, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
As a life-long Chicagoan, I grew up surrounded by the landmarks made famous by John Hughes movies. I remember showing up to a speech team meet at Maine North High School only to realize that I was walking the same halls those in THE BREAKFAST CLUB and FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Chicago’s locations are used in plenty of films and television shows, but the specificity of each horror location serves as a character on its own, and each feels a little more special than a location that’s been used time and time again. Seeing him visit Nancy Thompson/Jesse Walsh’s family home was remarkable. There it was, in all its glory, still standing and completely recognizable as compared to something like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR house.
Last summer, I finally made a trip out to Los Angeles, California to work on a film (and meet Blumhouse editors Rebekah McKendry and Rob Galluzzo in person after years of talking every day online!) and had a little bit of time to go on some tourist adventures. After walking for miles, horror journalist, Jerry Smith, informed me that we were just a few blocks away from the real address that became 1428 Elm Street – the Thompson family home in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
There was no way we weren’t going to visit. My feet were blistered, my skin was red, and I could feel a beautiful layer of sweat covering my entire body. It didn’t matter. The place that served as a tangible piece of what spawned my mother’s love of horror, that she then passed on to me, that then became my livelihood, was just within view. We marched down the neighborhood looking for the bright white pillars and red door that inspired so so many people; in particular, my mother and her best friend.
As we approached 1428, I couldn’t help but feel the air being sucked out of my lungs. This home has been helping inspire nightmares for a generation, and is a standing reminder of what made me who I am. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little misty eyed, being able to visit a place that is so precious to my mother. This wasn’t just visiting a film location, this was a pilgrimage, and a way to bring my love of horror full circle in a very concrete way. Just as my mother started her love of horror at the Genesee Theatre over twenty years previously, there I stood, at the actual location.
1428 N. Genesee Avenue.
*Photos: New Line Cinema