Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boo to You

In the immortal words of the legendary Count Floyd:

"Here's something really scary, kids! It'll put goosebumps on your goosebumps!"

Well, I dunno. As far as horror movies go these days, fewer and fewer things actually frighten me anymore. Am I just jaded or is nothing really scarier than real life? What passes for horror makes me wince, sometimes jump in surprise or turn away in disgust due to unnecessary excess. But nothing has gotten has given me the night terrors in years, probably since watching THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT in an empty theater on a late murky afternoon in down Portland.

Back in the day, that day being a LONG ASS TIME AGO, I was all about the horror. They became my obsession, catching them wherever and whenever I could. I actually kept a tally of what I had seen, certainly sailing into four digits easily by the time I was twelve.Whether at the cinema or sitting in front of my TV at any hour of the day or night, if a fright flick was playing, I was there, front and center. When The Bob Wilkins Show debuted back in the late 60s, I found a kindred spirit and knew I wasn't alone in the world like Vincent Price in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH.

One of my first exposures to the scary movie genre took place at a slumber party my older sister threw at our house one Saturday night. I couldn't have been more than eight or nine. I had been allowed to stay up awhile at this soiree and tried not to get in the way of all these icky girls. It was all very chaste since everyone was prepubescent, they being two years older than moi. Another year down the road and I would have been shown the curb. Two years and I would have tried to find a hiding place with night vision goggles. But at this point in time, I was still on safe ground for probably the last time in my young life.

Naturally, the TV had been on, turned to a late night showing of HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, a British effort starring Michael Gough. This broadcast version eliminated the HYPNOVISTA prologue mentioned in the trailer and advertising going headlong into the story. It opened rather benignly with two lovely crumpets named Trixie and Mavis or something relaxing in their London flat sipping tea, smoking cigarettes and eating baked beans on toast all the while discussing the practical applications of Prince Charles' jug ears. A knock on the door signals a delivery man with a package for plucky and pert little Winifred.

"Blimey! I wonder who it's from!"
"Secret admirer, Winnie?"
"Oh, get stuffed, Millie. There's no card, is there?"
"Well, open it, you ninny."
"Aow! It's some lovely looking glasses!"
                                                        "Give 'em a go, why don't you?"

So Winnie picks up the pair of binoculars from her anonymous benefactor and immediately goes to the window to give them a look-see. As soon she adjusts the focus, she screams and covers her eyes with both hands as blood runs through her fingers.

"My eyes!" Winiie cries as we cut to the binoculars on the floor with two sharp metal spikes poking through the eye pieces. Millie harmonizes with Winnie screaming in tandem.


In our living room, this horrific scene triggered an explosive hallelujah chorus of shrieks from this slumber party filled with pre-teenage schoolgirls. To top it off was my mom, covering her own mouth in abject shock, first from the movie, second from the girls and third from the anticipation of phone calls the next day from these kids' parents.

But for lil' ol' me, I had been magically transported into the seventh heaven of my boyhood. Not only was this the finest moment in cinematic history up to that point in my life, I had been at Ground Zero for this visceral reaction of the power of movies, even a cheap horror flick like this. And probably since I had been enjoying HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM and its traumatic effects on my sister's slumber party (the gleeful ear-to-ear smile was a big clue), my mom sent me off to bed. 

There in my slumber, visions of  tricked-out binoculars, poked-out eyeballs and screaming girls in their pajamas all danced through my head. The horror...the horror....