Monday, October 16, 2006

Fright Night

Six years ago, on a beautiful autumn evening in Manhattan, my friend persuaded me to do something that would come back to haunt me:

She took me to see The Exorcist.

"It'll be fun!" she insisted, practically dragging me toward the giant doors of the AMC Theatres in Times Square. "I've heard that it's not even scary! It was made in the 70s! It's totally dated!"

Sitting in my seat with a bag of popcorn that cost approximately half my paycheck, I was already regretting my decision by the time the lights dimmed. I'm not a complete wimp when it comes to scary movies, but in order for me to have a frightfully good time, two guidelines must be followed:

1. I must have control over my surroundings. This is why I hardly ever watch scary movies in the theater. If I get too scared, I need to be able to get up, turn on a light, walk around, throw a blanket over my head, mute the sound, or, in extreme cases, run screaming from the room.

2. Gore is right out. Wait Until Dark? Love it. Hitchcock? He's a genius. The Others? Bring it on, spooky Nicole Kidman and your creepy kids. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Not in a million, trillion years.

I have learned through sad experience that if I break one of my rules, tragedy is almost certain to follow. For example:

When I was in junior high, I was at a sleepover when everyone (but me) decided it would be a great idea to watch Poltergeist at midnight. I didn't want anyone to think I was a scaredy-pants; especially my friend's super cute older brother who was inexplicably hanging out with a bunch of 13-year-olds. I managed to make it until the beginning of the clown-under-the-bed scene, and then, threatened with an impending heart attack, whispered to my friend that I had to go to the bathroom. In my haste to escape the room before that clown did what I sincerely hoped he was NOT GOING TO DO, and being slightly disoriented by the dark room, I ran straight into a heretofore unclosed sliding glass door with such force that I was knocked backwards and directly into the lap of the super cute inexplicable older brother.

(Long after the bruise on my face healed, the bruise of early adolescent mortification remained.)

And so, on that October night six years ago, I really should have known better than to let my friend talk me into seeing a film about demonic possession in a darkened theater. While everyone around me was laughing at the cheesy special effects and hokey dialogue, I was absolutely terrified. Around the time when the possessed girl spider-crawls backwards down the stairs (someone please hold me), I turned to my friend and whispered:

"I have to go to the bathroom."

Standing in the lobby, I munched on my pricey popcorn and considered my options. I didn't want to desert my friend, but I knew that if I went back into the theater I wouldn't be able to sleep that night. So I sat down on a bench, pulled my lunchbreak book out of my purse, and prepared to enjoy my autumn evening in a non-terrifying way.

As I opened my book, a super cute boy walked by, and smiled at me.
I smiled back, and you know what's spooky?

He looked a little like my junior high friend's inexplicable older brother.

9 comments:

AzĂșcar said...

I have another rule to add to yours: No movies about evil in which you sort of believe.
I'm with you on the controlling your environment thing. It's the only way I could ever watch The Shining, Silence of the Lambs or the Sixth Sense.

I am a complete and total weenie: I saw a scene from Friday the 13th when I was 5 and had nightmares for about a decade. I dislike being scared. I still can't watch Watcher in the Woods.

Emmie said...

Watcher in the Woods! That movie freaked me OUT.

Emily said...

I have this memory of watching Watcher in the Woods at a Primary Activity Day in the cultural hall as we all sat in cars we made out of giant boxes. Could that have really happened?

This is me said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This is me said...

Sad (but true) confessions: When I was little and saw Jaws (this is what happens when older brothers babysit), I was so terrified of any kind of water I wouldn't even go to the bathroom by myself. I actually thought that huge shark was going to come up through the plumbing and eat me. Nowadays, I'm still such a scaredy cat that I cannot even watch Harry Potter if I plan on sleeping for the next month. I'm a total doofus, I know.

Emmie said...

Emily,
I love that you have that memory, whether it happened or not! (And if it did happen, what in the world was the Primary Presidency thinking?)

This is me,
I think if I'd seen Jaws when I was little, I would have been terrified of water, too. (I was scared of drains - I thought I could get flushed down them, so I covered them with a washcloth when I took a bath or shower.)

metamorphose said...

I went to a primary activity once where we were wearing homemade cardboard cars. Mine was the coolest -my mom's quite handy with costumes.

After seeing Thriller for the first time when I was about 5, I was afraid of Michael Jackson, and thought he lived under my bed. I think I was onto something then.

I also thought that Medusa (after having watched Clash of the Titans) lived in the toilet. But she only came out when your flushed. I would always make a run for it.

compulsive writer said...

Oh, I can so relate. "When a Stranger Calls" (the original) and some horrible movie about a some high-school geek seeking murderous revenge on a train, "Terror Train" I think.

So not too much later I find myself babysitting overnight.

The phone rings.

"Have you checked the children?"


It happened over 25 years ago (I'm old), but I can still freak myself out over it.


p.s. Congrats on your play!

Anonymous said...

I've always said that I had enough nightmares on my own, I didn't have to pay to conciously have another one! People who like scary movies just must not have imaginations that will take it and embellish and personalize it!

Suspense is good--I really liked Signs--but creepy and gory are just not entertaining! I don't even like people to tell me the plot of a scary movie (but they get a thrill out of me squirming and telling them to stop--so it seems to happen more than I'd like).

I usually like Hitchcock, but I did watch Vertigo by myself really late at night (as a teenager) when everything was eerily silent, and the ending had me freaked out for days. I wanted to go wake everyone in the house up. You're right Em, environment really can make the difference.

Sarah