I am, in some instances, considered the Queen of Horror Movies. I was raised on those great, classic films that were shot in black and white. I remember watching Bela Lugosi re-enact the legend of Count Dracula and being amazed at the cinematography of the early 40s. I remember thinking that “Dark Shadows” was by far the most interesting television program that had ever been developed. We were so excited the year that there was a Dark Shadows board game out, and we received one at Christmas. There is video film of my little brother and I playing with the coffins and skeletons and fake fangs that came with the game. Thinking back, that video looks more like the avante garde animation “A Nightmare Before Christmas” than anything with deep spiritual meaning of the birth of Christ!
I came home from school every afternoon and my little brother and I planted ourselves just a few inches from the screen of our remoteless television set to watch “The Creature Feature”. A very old, entirely too pudgy man in macabre garb would introduce the afternoon film and would segue way into the various commercials that would interrupt our movie-watching time. Most specifically, he was all about pitching a high fructose, high glucose concoction aptly dubbed, “Creature Cooler”. This Kool-Aid rip-off came in varying flavors… John’s favorite was grape, and my more sophisticated taste selected cherry. No less than five or six times in any given hour would one or the other of my parents enter the room and chastise us for sitting too close to the television set. They warned us that we would go blind in a matter of moments if we did not get up off the floor and sit on the furniture, which was an appropriate distance from the television. We acquiesced only long enough for them to leave the room and we returned to our warm spots on the floor. My parents were never that excited a few hours later when I would awake in the middle of the night having experienced a bad dream that sent me running into their bed room and curling up between the two of them… but they allowed it to happen.
As we got older, our tastes matured to the weekly Friday night “Night Stalker” program. This show had the ability to really creep you out. The main character was a newspaper reporter that always seemed to have the worst luck in his investigative reporting. He found all the monsters that were hiding in the shadows; vampires waiting to lunge at their first victim as the sun went down… and the zombies that would never die, but only wanted to eat their horrified prey. John and I were glued to the television set in the basement of our 1960s split level house. Our bedrooms were upstairs and down a long, narrow hallway. The living room was an open area to the left of the staircase, and the hallway was to the right. The light switch for the stairway was located, of course, on the upstairs level. One night, after a particularly bone-chilling episode, my father called to us from upstairs that it was time for us to get to bed. “Make sure you turn off the television and the lights downstairs.”
I went upstairs to turn on the stairway light and came back downstairs to help John finish straightening the room. When we got to the stairway, the lights had been turned off. We knew that once the den light was shut off, it was going to be a very dark, creepy and scary journey to our respective bedrooms. We looked at each other, we braced ourselves, and we hit the lights. As we got to the midway point of the split level, my father let out a menacing growl that I can remember to this day. John and I screamed at the top of our lungs and fell over each other to get to the top of the stairs and our rooms before “IT” could get to us. I slammed my bedroom door shut and to this day can hear the sound of my father laughing from the living room at the terror he had instigated.
I hit my high school years just about the time of the incredibly classic horror movies that made the 80s great. Jason began his journey into folk lore at Camp Crystal Lake and Michael Myers had Jamie Lee Curtis running around town in her northeastern suburb screaming at the top of her lungs. Throw Freddie Kruger into the mix and you have all the makings of a great date movie… there’s nothing a guy likes more than a frightened girl hanging on to him… and even if you’re laughing more than you’re scared… you make him think you’re scared.
I was also one of those people who would talk to the television or movie screen and advise the main character that doom was awaiting them just around the corner. “What are you thinking running through the woods without an axe in your hand? Don’t you know there’s a stump you’re about to trip over? That’s all the monster will need to catch up with you!” Or, better still, “Yes, I know you just heard a noise in the attic… don’t you think you need to call the police before you traipse up there in your nightgown? Maybe you should leave the house that is possessed and speaking to you from the great beyond.”
Having explained all this… it makes you wonder why you do the very things you swear the actors should never do in the movies. For instance, what is it that drives you to investigate that “bump” you heard in the night… or the three “bumps” that woke you from a deep sleep early one Thursday morning?
My REM cycle was working overtime as I was in the throes of my production season at work. When I did finally get my brain to shut down, sleep was a welcomed friend. It was about 4:30 a.m. when I heard the three very LOUD sounds. I sat straight up in the bed with my heart pounding fiercely. My brain had already engaged and was trying to determine both the origin of the sound and its location. What I heard was something… or someONE hitting something that was wooden coming from the general direction of the living room area.
Our house is a brick house and the only wooden parts of it are the front doors. The problem, however, is that we have large glass storm doors that remain locked on the front of the house. In order for someone to be banging on the front door… they would have to get past the storm doors first. This is a disconcerting thought to a single girl at 4:30 in the morning. What is she to do? Reach for the cell phone and call the police? No… she whips off the comforter that has been warming her now chilled-to-the-bone body off the bed and heads to the living room.
Is there any type of weapon or protection that said heroin can locate? No… it’s 4:30 a.m. Is there a piece of furniture you can hide behind if Jason has indeed found his way from Camp Crystal Lake to your house? Not really. As a matter of fact… you’ve just walked your half-naked self in front of the large plate glass window of the living room as you are investigating this strange phenomenon. The mind is racing through various scenarios of misadventure as you stealthily make your way to the front door. As your hand touches the door knob you jump out of your skin when your 72 year old mother’s voice whispers from behind you “what are you doing up at this hour?”
You fight the urge to strangle her as the nervous pee-pee dance begins… she having scared that bodily function right out of you and a discussion ensues regarding the bump in the night. She heard the same noise, but it was time for her to get up anyway. She didn’t know what it was, and is not nearly as concerned as you are. Being the heroine of the story, you head for the front door anyway and slowly pull it open. You see nothing in the dark blackness of the night and you test the screen door to find it still locked. “Hmm…” you wonder. Could it have been the other front door? You stealthily make your way into the music room where thousands of beady-eyed Beanie Babies watch your every move. Both doors are locked there as well. Now you’re irritated. Now is the time for the “stupid-white-girl-in-the-scary-movie” persona to take over. You head out the front door.
The temperature is cold outside at 4:35 a.m. in the month of March. You are barely dressed and barefoot and you scurry among the trees and brush that line the front of your house. You’ve suddenly become Sherlock Holmes or a character in an Agatha Christie novel. You’re looking for footprints or tire prints in the dirt alongside your driveway. You listen for the twig to snap that will cause you to spin around and face your aggressor head on. You’re looking for a hockey mask and a black cape. You find nothing; but you curse out loud as you step on a pinecone that imbeds itself in your foot. You hop on one leg back to the front door only to be blinded by the porch light your mother turns on at the last moment. You stumble backwards into the prickly holly bush and stifle a curse under your breath. You now remember how stupid the girl was who twisted her ankle running from the serial killer through the woods. You feel pretty stupid yourself. You return to bed for about another hour of sleep before the alarm clock goes off, and you remain puzzled for the next few days as to what could have made that noise.
On Saturday the pieces of your wracked puzzle put themselves together as if they were positively and negatively charged ions in the atoms of common sense. You find a large metal frame that has slipped on the wooden shelf you put together in your bathroom just a few weeks earlier. You realize that the metal frame bounced around a few times before finding its resting place, and the bathroom is right next to your bedroom… which is why it could rouse you from a good night’s sleep.
Still… you shake your head in amazement the next night over a bag of Popcorn as you watch a teenage girl scamper through the woods while a resurrected Jason (number 13) hurries along after her with a machete in his hand.
“What a stupid girl.”