Monday, August 17, 2015

Cam's Labyrinth.

Me running out of shits to give in 1982.
In the Eighties, back when moms in good neighborhoods still marked their children's heights on the wall, kids measured their maturity in horror films. If they weren't chanting time-honored recess classics such as "I Know You Are But What Am I, Infinity" and discussing the latest glow-in-the-dark whatever, they were one-upping each other with stories of who saw what that weekend, and what was coming out in the next.

Now, you'd think I would've won at least one of those contests, but no; when you're a kid, the currency lies in what you saw, where. I spent most of my weekends at home, so I saw a crapload of things, but in my bedroom, on my VCR.

 Sure, I was lucky enough to see some horror films during their original run: Dawn of the Dead, Phantasm, Halloween immediately come to mind. But I was a tiny child back then, we were at the drive-in, and my parents were stoned until at least 1981, so while I get a score of 420 on the Tommy Chong scale for effort, that scale means nothing on 1984 playgrounds.

Hey you, last good film Romero made, how ya doin?
What horror films had I seen in the cinema by that point? Silent Scream and Children of the Corn. The former was the last horror film my parents ever took me to, probably because they were sobering up by that point and realized their taste in horror was better when they were high. And I saw the latter with my cousins, who were older and could drive.

By 1985, my parents had more little mouths to feed, and the days of horror at the drive-in gradually phased into Saturday afternoon matinee fantasy fare such as ET, The Neverending Story, Annie, and Ghostbusters. They would not allow me to watch A Nightmare On Elm Street, which was the big film everyone on the playground was still talking about a year after its release. What a total loser, huh?

But what my parents didn't know, however, was that I had already seen it. When you have little ones tugging at your Chic jeans, you sure as hell can't keep tabs on the older ones as much as you'd like. I cradled my ANOES and other rentals like a baby as I walked home from the mom n' pop, picking up the pace as fast as I could without dropping the stack. I couldn't wait to get home. And just as I still do today, I prepared my viewing space with the steadfastness of a man preparing a good wank after the wife's left the house. Snacks, check. Pillows scattered all over my bedroom floor, check. Locked door, check. And then, I slid the tape into the VCR and waited for the magic.

That creepy WARNING message at the start, that gorgeous Media Home Entertainment intro leading into the dark and foreboding New Line ident. These features on the VHS are as much an integral part of  watching ANOES as the film itself. I may be old, but no kid today is going to experience that kind of pleasure—the buildup—that only VHS can offer. Put in a DVD, and you might go straight to the good stuff, but chances are, you'll get a menu, and if you're like me, you go straight to the Special Features.

The Read Scare.
What made these films so palatible to me as a child? Well, for a start, they were a lot less scarier than my reality. My dad was heavy into the Worldwide Church of God cult by 1985, and we were subsequently no longer allowed to observe holidays—which meant no more Halloween, aka my Christmas. From my last blog entry, you'll also remember that I was forced to go to church two times a week. My parents did not go; my dad probably figured that his subscription to Plain Truth, a publication of the Worldwide Church of God, was enough.

Plus, Freddy Krueger was no match for the Night Stalker, who was killing people for real in Southern California that summer. Add to that me getting teased at school for everything we've suddenly decided is so cool now, and you can see that these films provided a wonderful escape for a kid who just wanted to get through the day with her soul intact.

So while the other kids around me felt "grown up" just by watching horror films, I was using horror films to shield me from a life that was getting far too grown up by the day. Just seeing that YouTube clip takes me back to the most wonderful part of my childhood. The good feelings are stirred. The healing is once again fulfilled.