Monday, November 2, 2009
Memory Monday: Scary Movies
Why do most little kids enjoy being frightened? Not truly frightened, of course, but Haunted House Frightened or Scary Movie Frightened. Those were states of fear that were not inspired by anything actually existing, but rather by seeing something scary on TV or at the movies or by participating in a created scary scenario such as a haunted house or a Halloween lawn display (you know, the ones with mummies, Frankensteins, brains-in-a-box, etc.).
I was a total scary movie addict from an early age, and many of my friends were, too. We must have enjoyed that adrenalin rush. The movie did not have to have high production values to have its intended effect – heck, Frankenstein’s Daughter scared the living daylights out of me. Yet, some classic horror movies – Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and the Bela Lugosi Dracula movies – did not scare me at all. I remember that TV Guide used to describe them as “melodramas,” and this was probably a better description. Still, they were fascinating, too, especially Elsa Lanchester’s hair as the Bride of Frankenstein.
My best bet for catching a horror show was on the Early Show, since I was not allowed to stay up past 7:30. But the Early Show rarely featured anything higher on the Fright Scale than the Frankenstein/Wolfman/Dracula/Mummy classics. And the “horror” movies shown during the day on the weekends were mostly Creature from the Black Lagoon caliber – So Not Scary.
The Real Scary Stuff was either on the Late Show (or even better, the Late, Late Show) or on Chiller Theatre at 10:00 on Saturday night. When my parents were home, this was an impossible dream. Not only would they never allow me to stay up late, but they had no interest in horror movies.
The nights when my big brother Don babysat me were another matter. If these movies were on TV, Don would be watching them. And especially when his friends came over to watch TV with him, there was at least a small chance that I could sneak into the living room behind the sofa and catch a peak.
I would wait until the lights were turned off and the smell of popcorn wafted back along the hall to my bedroom. This meant that Don and his friends were absorbed in the movie and in eating. Then I would creep down from the bed and out into the hall, where I slithered, down on the floor next to the wall, until I reached the living room. The trick was never to let the textured plastic bottoms on the feet of my Dr. Denton’s touch the floor, because they would make a loud, sticky sound that would immediately give away my presence. It was therefore necessary to creep along on my hands and knees, with my toes pointed backward so that only the soft flannel came into contact with the floor.
After I finally made it to the living room, I moved extremely slowly and attempted to position myself perfectly in the corner so that I could see the TV screen without being seen.
There were many great horror films that I viewed in 5-, 10-, and maybe even 15-minute segments. Because that’s how long I usually remained undetected. At least Don’s friends usually pled the case for letting me have a handful of popcorn before I was sent back, crestfallen, to my bedroom.
There was one truly scary movie (well, it scared me) that I remember seeing on the Early Show: The Beast with Five Fingers. No other scary movie affected my behavior for such a long period of time. For months after viewing it, every night at bedtime, I was very careful to pull the covers up over my chin. Because you never know when a disembodied hand is going to crawl up on your bed and try to strangle you.