Insomnia File #53: A Nightmare on Drug Street (dir by Traci Wald Donat)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night, you could have gone over to YouTube and you could have done what I did when I was having trouble getting to sleep two nights ago.  You could have watched the 1989 educational film, A Nightmare on Drug Street.

Clocking in at 39 minutes, A Nightmare on Drug Street opens with three people sitting in a dark room.  Though the room seems ominous and the three people often appear to only be shadows, they turn out to to be friendly enough.  (And no, Freddy Krueger is not among them.  This is Drug Street, not Elm Street.)

“Hi, I’m Jill!” the one in the middle informs us.  “I’m dead!”

Filipe, who is is sitting to left of and is a bit less perky than Jill, mentions that they’re all dead.  Eddie, the youngest of the three, speaks up and mentions that he’s been dead for two days longer than Jill.  They all have a good laugh about that.  Jill says that she’s not sure where they are but she thinks that they’re supposed to think about their mistakes and to try to prevent other people their age from making the same mistakes.

“Jill,” I nearly shouted at the screen, “you’re in Purgatory!  It’s not that complicated!”

Eddie complains as he realizes that he’s going to have to relive his story again.  Jill laughs and says that Eddie is always complaining.  Filipe does not laugh because he’s not in a particularly good mood and I don’t blame him.  His Purgatory experience is obviously not turning out the way that he was hoping.  It would appear that Filipe has gotten trapped on the boring side of Purgatory.

Anyway, we then see how each of them ended up dead.  As you can probably guess from the title it all has to do with drugs.

For instance, after winning the big game, Filipe got both stoned and drunk and then decided that it would be a good idea to steal his brother’s car.   Needless to say, it doesn’t take long until Filipe’s more intelligent friend is demanding to be let out of the car.  It also doesn’t take long to hear the sound of an off-screen crash.  Apparently, there wasn’t enough money in the budget to film a real crash.

Jill met a guy at a party and basically allowed herself to be talked into trying cocaine.  As anyone who has ever seen a film like this can probably guess, Jill goes straight from doing that one line to stealing from her friends and selling a family heirloom so she can get more money for coke.  Her family is disappointed in her.  Her friends are angry with her.  And her drug dealer keeps hitting on her.  No wonder Jill eventually end up snorting too much.

And finally, Eddie, who is still in middle school, is handed a crack pipe by a friend.  Soon, Eddie is getting high in the bathroom while his parents try to understand why his grades have gone down.

Interestingly enough, each story is narrated by a dead teen but not the teen that actually dies in the story. So, Jill tells Filipe’s story and makes fun of him for being geeky whenever he gets high.  (Yeah, Jill, like you looked really cool with your bloodshot eyes and your red nose….)  Eddie tells Jill’s story and manages to get through it without ridiculing her.  Filipe tells Eddie’s story while wearing what appears to be a hospital gown.  There’s actually a scene in Purgatory where the three of them debate who will tell each story.  Do they automatically know the stories or is it just a case that they’re memorized them because there’s literally nothing else to talk about while in Purgatory?  The film leaves that question unanswered, which is a shame.

(Speaking of unanswered questions, why are we even in Purgatory in the first place?  The three narrators look directly at the viewer when they speak so I’m guess that I’m meant to have died as well.  But if I’m already dead, what’s the point of warning me about drugs?  Seriously, there’s a lot of unanswered questions in this film.)

Anyway, as for the film itself, it’s another well-intentioned but not quite successful attempt to make an anti-drug scare film.  Like many anti-drug short films, A Nightmare on Drug Street suffers due to the fact that the characters are more interesting when they’re high than when they’re sober.  The stories themselves often veer into melodrama though, to the film’s credit, it seems to at least be a bit self-aware when it comes to this.  When Filipe jumps in his car, Jill says that she knows that we know what’s going to happen but she asks us to keep watching anyways.  After being specifically asked to watch, you kind of feel like you have to.

For the most part, this film’s main worth is as a time capsule.  It’s all about 80s fashion and 80s lingo.  Breaking Bad fans will take note that Filipe is played by Raymond Cruz, who later played a fearsome drug dealer on the classic AMC series.  I guess Filipe found his way out of Purgatory after all.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid

One response to “Insomnia File #53: A Nightmare on Drug Street (dir by Traci Wald Donat)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/21/22 — 3/27/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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