I love Halloween. Not because of the costumes because I don’t really dress up anymore. Plus, you have to be aware of your costume all night and you can’t really chill the way you want. I need to be able to chill properly at all times.
It’s not because of the candy. One of the best parts of being an adult is that you can pretty much have candy anytime you want it. Hershey’s bar for breakfast? Why the hell not! You know something? I’ve been eating Hershey’s bars my entire life, but I don’t recall ever buying one. I can’t remember an instance of ever walking into a store and purchasing a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Crazy.
No, my MAIN reason for loving Halloween is the scary stuff. I love horror movies. As a kid, I was always on the hunt for the next big scare. I recall waiting all year for Halloween because HBO would always show good gore filled horror flicks all night! Now, they just show a couple episodes of Entourage, which could be the most useless show on television. And yes, it is even more useless than Glee, which is not only useless but seems to be laughing at you for enjoying how useless it is. Shame on you, Glee, and shame on you, people that allowed Glee to prosper.
There were a lot more horror movies when I was younger. There was always a horror movie at the cinema. These days, not so much. I don’t know what happened. This generation of kids aren’t being properly traumatized. They’re going to therapists because they have short attention spans and taking pills because they can’t concentrate and they have $600 phones and they never go outside. I weep for our future.
My generation, on the other hand, was constantly being terrified by monsters and crazy people. In a way, perhaps, it toughened us up. Mostly, though, it just gave us crap to look up on YouTube. Here are two of my greatest hits of terror.
Our first tale of terror takes us back to the year 1978. I was three years old. How many of you can remember anything from the age of three? Chances are, not many. Perhaps you have taken things that your parents have told you and folded them into what you think are memories, but you probably don’t remember much. I do, though. I remember two things very clearly. I remember that at Christmas that year I got a crap-load of Star Wars related toys. I got an awesome stuffed R2-D2! The second thing I remember? Having the holy hell scared out of me by the trailer for the film Magic.
If you aren’t familiar with the film, it stars a prepare Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins and a still quite sexy and sweater filling Ann-Margaret. It’s actually a really effective psychological thriller and it holds up really well.
But the trailer is the most terrifying thing I have probably ever experienced, and I was on eHarmony.com for three years! You see, the third main character in the film is a ventriloquist’s dummy named Fats, an overly articulated dummy with a head the size of a water melon and expressive blue eyes that peered from the television screen right into your soul. And the trailer for the film was basically a close up of this dummy reciting a poem about magic and death while rolling those dead eyes as an out-of-tune harmonica played in the background. And boom, just like that, three year old J’Mel knew that there was evil in the world. One minute, you’re watching whatever it is a three year old watches, and the next thing you know an evil wooden man is staring at you from hell and taunting you with poetry. The best part is that my Ma made fun of me for years for being scared of the dummy. Good times. Seriously, that 33 second trailer for Magic is scarier than pretty much any entire film that’s been released since. It’s on You- Tube, if you dare...
The second thing that ruined my young brain happened in 1983. I was eight, and I’d gone with my Ma and Grandma to see Twilight Zone the movie. Over all, it’s as over-directed and clichéd as you’d expect a film co-directed by Landis, Spielberg, and Joe Dante would be. There is hardly any subtlety. It’s really nothing like the series it’s trying to pay homage to at all. But the prologue is as terrifying as anything I’ve ever seen. It involves Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks—as far as I know, playing themselves—on a long drive down a dark road. They never mention exactly where they’re going. When the cassette player eats the Creedence tape they were enjoying, they begin to play a game of “name the TV theme song”. This leads to a discussion of the Twilight Zone. They talk about what the scariest episodes are, and Aykroyd asks Albert Brooks if he’d like to see something REALLY scary.
I won’t give away what happens next—you really should see it for yourself. But it IS really scary. Perhaps you probably won’t be as shocked as I was, because you’re not 8 and you’re not sitting in a dark theater. It got to me, though. It’s a simple and well executed gag that gets me every time. I’m well on my way to 40 years of age, and I still find it difficult to watch this scene without looking away. Even in the daytime. Even when I’m not alone.
There is actually another, smaller, disturbing sight gag involving what Mark Anthony does to his sister when she won’t stop talking—again, you’ll just have to see for yourself!
Those are my top two. What are some of yours? Write me back and let me know what creeps you the hell out and what ruined your childhood by scaring the crap out of you. Let’s do this horrible holiday Halloween season up right, boils and ghouls!
J’Mel Davidson is the founder of a local improv comedy troupe called The Feminist Debutante Guild. You can send him the love—or your Tales of Terror!—via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.