10/02/2008

Scary Movies of My Life

Ok, these aren't really scary movies, for the most part. But these are the horror and moster movies of my life - the movie equivalent of the soundtrack of my life. Most of them aren't really scary, but they're all memorable. Of course, that doesn't mean my memory of them is accurate. I'm not looking any of these up - if the actual movie is different from my memory, I don't want to know.

The Amazing Colossal Man:
I saw this for the first time on the tiny black and white TV someone had brought to our Boy Scout troop house for our Christmas Tree sale. Late each autumn, our troop would tramp out to an alumnus' field, cut and tie a truckload of trees and sell them for a buck a foot in the yard outside our troophouse. The sale was staffed by the Scouts on weekends. We'd hold your tree, so you could look it over, carry it over to your car and tie it on top for you. In between sales, we hung out waiting for the thousand- year-old oil burning heater to warm up the 15 foot high ceiling of the troop house. While we waited, we drank hot chocolate spiked with instant coffee and watched broadcast movies on the aforementioned TV. The only one I remember from all those years was Tha Amazing Colassal Man. Since my buddy and I were older scouts (this may have been freshman year in high school?), on our joint shift, we were trusted there without adult supervision. So there was no one to object to our choice of movie. It was classic nuclear hysteria sci-fi crap: a solider is inadvertently exposed to a nuclear weapons test, whereupon he grows to incredible size, and goes stark raving (or rather, rampaging) mad. It's got all the best giant-related special effects: drinking beer from a barrel, munching cabbages by the handful, smashing puny buildings and a giant syringe filled with some cure-all that was hung from the bottom of a helicopter. I'll always love it.

Ssssss...
I must have been in middle schoolwhen I saw this movie. I recall it being one of those tedious Saturday afternoons in autumn. Everyone was busy doing something else, and I was flipping channels witing for the endless day to end. Sssssss came on. It's your classic 50's sci-fi setup - evil scientist and his beautiful innocent daughter, in conflict with the handsome young man who will either be consumed by, or defeat the evil... except it takes place in a circus side show. The evil is the fact that the father is turning people into snake-men. I distinctly remember the daughter figuring it out because she recognizes the Hero's eyes. Touching in a crappy gimmick sort of way. Looking back, I think it may be the first movie that I liked because of how much it sucked.

Magic
OK, I'll fess up. I don't recall ever having actually viewed this movie. But that doesn't mean the movie didn't affect me. After only watching the commercials, I was far too frightened to actually watch the movie. It changed me forever. Especially, in that I was no longer willing to be alone in a darkened room unless I had the covers pulled up over my head. I actually fantisized about creating a complicated pulley system so that I could turn off my ceilng fixture from the safety of my blankets. Why was the movie so terrifying? I dunno. Inanimate objects killing just freaks me out, ask Freud why (and yeah, I know that the dummy wasn't actually doing the killing. but when I saw the comercials, I didn't). For instance, to this day, I am unwilling to walk past a statue of a ferocious beast (such as a ceramic lion) in the dark, lest it attack me. Blame that one on sneaking Amityville Horror out of my Mom's book pile. Bad move. Fortunately, there aren't a lot of ventrilquist's dummies sitting around most homes.

Motel Hell
This one gave me nightmares. Our parents' friends had SelecTV, which was broadcasting a night of horror movies. We all decided to sleep over for a night of ghost stories, scary movies and junk food. The friends had older daughters, so I did my best not to seem affected by the movies, but this one in particular just shredded me. I don't know why - it was total cheeseball. Cow-cutouts in the road led people to stop their vehicles. When they had, Farmer Vincent grabbed them and planted them in his field. Eventually, they were made into sausages. "It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent Fritters!" I remember the burlap bags over the heads of the people in the fields, I remember the cow cutouts (I still expect to see them when driving back-country roads in the dark), but most of all, I remember the chain-saw fight. The scariest part was that Farmer Vincent wore a pig head over his head as they fought. Freaked the shit out of me. Nightmares all night. I remember laying in my sleeping bag in the dark, staring at the clock, wondering what time the sun would rise. Every minute was an eternity, a theme that recurred several times in my limited scary movie career. Maybe we should add this movie to the list of life events that led me to vegetarianism (along with butchering squab and working at a burger place).
It was summer, maybe early autumn, and I'd been watching the viral marketting for blair witch for a little while, and was more than ready to see the movie. But I'm too much the chicken to see it alone, my wife won't see it with me, and none of my friends live especially nearby. I'd end up never seeing it.
Then, fortune turned my way - the building air conditioning died, and we were all sent home. Instead, a group of went to see Blair Witch. Score! The movie rocked - I loved it. Scary and moody and strangely realistic. Filled with the terror of being lost in the woods with strange and menacing sounds all about you. It hit me hard. By the time we got out of the theater, I was more than a bit spooked.
Unfortunately, my wife had some after-work event of her own to attend, and I was home alone with my then 1 year old daughter. I sat in our home, trying not to look out at the blackness of the cornfield behind our home. Eventually, I crawled into bed and hid under the covers. When TheWife got home, I told her all about the movie. Being spooked must have helped my story-telling because by the time I was done, she was spooked too. The next night, TheWife got home late again. Watching TV alone while the baby slept, I kept thinking about the movie, the darkness. Even after I went to bed, it took everything in me to think about something other than the movie. I was rattled to the bone but, eventually, I slept.
In the middle of the night (long after TheWife had returned home) I woke to the sound of a baby crying. The sound was eerily similar to sounds heard outside the tent in the movie, but I steeled my nerves, left the safety of the bedroom blankets and went to my daughter. Unbeknownst to me, TheWife also got up behind me. While I comforted TheGirl and checked her diaper, TheWife prepared a bottle for her. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this kindness until, wimpering baby in my arms, I turned to the bedroom door.
Silhouetted in the door a couple of feet from me was a silent and shadowy human form reaching toward me. I screamed. The creature screamed. The baby screamed. Mine was the kind of scream you expect to accompany the loss of bowel and bladder control. But in my terror, I didn't drop the now-screaming baby, didn't smash it into the mysterious night creature which was surely about to attack me. No, I wheeled away from the beast, wrapping myself around my child and protecting it with my body. I'm thankful for that instant response, for it left me with at least a tiny shred of my dignity - a valuable commodity for someone whose evening plans include the changing of dirty diapers.

1 comment:

Middle Bro said...

To this day I do not watch or enjoy scary movies. I believe this is due in large part to my experiences the night we watched Hotel Hell. You forgot the part about the host of the party cutting off the power and walking through the house with two lit cigarettes (it was a different time)as eyes. I also did not sleep (could never let the girls know that, had to be quite about being awake). Fun Times!!

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