Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Personal History of Horror - Part 1

Where is that horror?

Having just finished our freshmen year of college my future roommate Kevin and I decided to pay a trip to the haven of distracted boredom – Orland Square Mall. It hadn’t taken but a day to understand how use we had become to living on our own rather than under the watchful eye of our parents – back in a town filled with old beds, old friends and an atmosphere scattered with old memories. The stores were mostly the same with a few having been replaced with what only seemed to be a different name, yet containing the same crap. It seemed that everyone else home from school went through the same understanding and thus the mall became an early, unwelcoming high school reunion. There were the people who had stayed the same, people who had changed for the better, people who had changed for the worse, all asking the same questions and leaving us to give the same responses. There was the girl you always had a crush on who you hoped you’d see again, the friend of your friend who was only saying hello because it was too awkward to ignore, there was the person you hoped you’d never see again and understood why when the conversation surpassed two minutes worth of time. Suddenly the stores had become no longer places of commerce, but of refuge. The chances of seeing old friends dwindled when hiding amongst the clearance racks ranked with snow globes and old pajamas

Specifically there was a store called Suncoast that had come to be a viable source of music and movie purchases due to their going out of business sale. I had never been a fan of Suncoast, or any other mall-based media outlet. I was consistently baffled as to how these outrageously priced stores could stay in business with Best Buy and Circuit City only minutes away. Suncoast was the first to exhibit the effects of a person's common sense. Regardless, unlike a college town or living in the city, the mall was the only place to go, and Suncoast, having 50% markdowns off of their merchandise, was the only place to shop. Every week they would raise the percent off and thus what turned into a few purchases would quickly expand into spending the rest our years savings before the beginning of summer employment. At least three times a week we would go to the store under the false impression that maybe, just maybe we had overlooked a particular movie – and naturally we would purchase something we thought we didn't want the day prior. It was near the beginning of this crazed addiction that I came across a movie that had been part of an overlooked genre through my growing film interest - the horror film - and the movie was Halloween 5. It wasn't just the fact that I had avoided this area of film, but how it triggered a forgotten memory from my adolescence.

Like most young teenagers, my sister would commonly have sleepovers in which she would have my dad rent three or four horror films she picked from the local video store. I would frequently join her in this outing, but my fright over the horror films was amplified by an inability to even look at the movie cases. Occasionally I would flip over a VHS box, observing the horrific images scattered amongst the film’s synopsis – though this could only be done on a rare, non-subsiding compulsive basis. Thus, after all of the presents, birthday cake and gossip circles, long after the parents had retired into slumber (usually around 9pm regardless of rather or not a sleepover was taking place) my sister would begin the scary movies.

Being the younger brother, I adopted the persona of a spoiled brat who refused to let my sister have this sleepover and mini-film fest without my presence. There was one condition though. The way in which our family room was situated allowed for no outside light to come in. I am still baffled by this architectural overlook, but it did allow for an extra darkness that only a movie theater seemed capable of providing. The couch we had folded out into a bed and it would then be loaded with blankets and pillows, making the four or five girls on top of the it extra comfy and safe. I on the other hand could not join them on top of the bed, and was forced to sit underneath it with a few dilapidated pillows and one green blanket I received as a Christmas present a few years prior.

And so the macabre would be begin. Though I can only recall a few specific films that s– Friday the 13th pt. 3, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child's Play 2 - I now understand this was because they were the most frightening compared to others. Something about the opening scene in Friday the 13th filled me such an immense amount of exciting fright that I felt as if I had what I refer to as the "nervous poopies" during a game of hide and seek. During the movie I was never scared, it was a rarity that I would have to close my eyes or buried myself in a blanket. It was after the film ended, when my sister would tell me I had to go to bed and I was forced to take the long, dark walk up to my bedroom. The rule was simple, I could watch one movie, maybe two, but after that I needed to exit the room. Maybe it was only because I understood my solitude away from a group of thirteen-year-old girls, but I feel that my room completely exasperated the terror I was feeling. Specifically, I had a lamp that upon being touched would turn on/off. It had three levels of brightness, but even the highest one could not provide enough light to illuminate the dangers I felt were lurking outside the door, inside my closet and underneath my bed. Naturally, I could not sleep…ever. My mom would be brought into the room for the subsequent few nights for any horror film I watched – Scream; 4 days, A Nightmare on Elm Street; 3 days, A New Nightmare; 4 days, Child’s Play 2; 3 days. It was as if I could rate how good the movie was by how many nights I needed my mom.

Off the top of my head I only joined my sister for two or three years of this. I never understood how even though sleep would be lost and my imagination would develop the most horrific of images manifesting into tears that I would continue to want to see the films. Perhaps each year I thought I would be better equipped, perhaps each year I enjoyed taking my imagination to the utter brink of emotion. I’m not sure, not even to this day.

And so these memories flashed before my eyes as I stared at the Halloween 5 DVD. Somehow it was the one horror film series from which I had never seen a single movie. I saw most of the A Nightmare on Elm Streets, most of the Friday the 13ths, all of Child's Play, I even saw the dreaded Candyman – but never Halloween. I immediately had the idea of having one of our summer projects be to watch all of the classic 80s horror series. Later that day I told my friend and fellow film aficionado Tim of the idea and he was pumped, Halloween was the scary movie he remembered from youth. Thus I went to my queue on Netflix and put Halloween on the very top – it arrived in about three days.

check back for Part 2

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