Sep 19, 2005

Step Right Up, This Way, One Thin Dime

See the Bearded Woman, The Tattooed Man, and the Snake Boy; he walks, he talks, he crawls on his belly like a reptile!

I was thinking this morning about being scared. Genuinely, deeply terrified. There's something about being scared, especially your first Real Scare that stays with you, marks you just as certainly as losing your virginity or your first true brush with death.

I remember my first real scare from the movies, it was actually on tv, a detective series, I believe, called McMillian. A cowboy cop sort of thing, for some reason it got into horror or perhaps it was just the episode, but at one point McMillian walked into a funeral home's presentation room and a disembodied hand came crawling down between the pews toward him. I had nightmares of body parts killing me for years afterwards, and was terrified of the narrow dark space under the couch, and under my bed, because I knew that hand was down there, ready to drag me under.

I remember being terrified of the Triffids, living plants in the movie by the same name. The idea of people being trapped inside their house while vines outside tried desperately to break in to strangle them and, I believe, drink their blood marked me very, very deeply. I never got so afraid that I couldn't walk outside, but I always gave vines a wide berth. I think it was the idea of losing control, of being utterly helpless in the hands (vines?) of an implaccable force that most terrified me.

The one that most got me, though, was from an abysmal B-movie called Sssssss. I believe it was a made for tv movie, wherein a guy gets accidentally injected by some sort of mad-scientist stuff which turns him into a king cobra. Highest quality film-making, gripping writing, and a storyline that will live in the annals of film classics forerver, I'm sure.

The thing that got me was one of the effects--our hero has been injected, wakes up one morning, stares into the bathroom mirror and notices a little flake of skin hanging off his face. He picks at it and ends up slowly and incredulously pulling off most of his face, or so I recall. He was shedding, you see. Like a snake. A thin, pasty, poor actor snake.

Now, the same effect can be had by covering any part of yourself in a very thin layer of kid's white glue. I know this NOW. Rub it on your fingertip very thin, let dry, then peel one edge up. If you're careful you'll get one piece of tissue-paper thin translucent 'skin.' I'm sure the sfx guys at "Sssssss" knew this and probably covered Dirk Bennedict's face in Elmer's, but the idea of pulling one's skin off freaked out the child that was me.

The other thing was when he was half-way through his transformation, and someone bursts in on him, likely his lady-love, the daughter of the Mad Scientist. His arms have grown to his body (trapped no doubt in his pale green king cobra bodysuit) and he's sort of lost his hair and got fangs, I think. Anyway, she bursts in, and he sort of rears up a little bit off this table, so she and all the viewing audience can see him, and he...wait for it...*gasp choke*...hisses. I recall freaking out again. I'm not sure what got me going so bad on that point, perhaps the idea that one's arms could simply grow into your body if you weren't careful to keep them away from your sides when you slept, but it sure scared the pee out of me.

Now, dozens of years later, horror movies rarely hold anything but a mild discomfort for me, and that discomfort is over how very horrible the movie is. I'm either overloaded or jaded or film-making is simply terrible these days, but horror seems to have lost almost all it's sting. The last thing that really creeped me out was watching the little girl in the uncut version of The Exorcist come down the stairs like some kind of crab. That gave me the willies, but even then it was no scream-out-loud moment. I haven't had one in a very long time now.

I wonder, however, what movie is going to sneak by my daughter, or already has, and marked her deep down. I've tried to keep her from anything very bad, but I know that's just going to make The Moment worse, since she won't be ready for it. Or has she already seen Her Moment, with friends or with her uncle and his kids? And how genuinely horrible a film moment was it, exactly?

Tell me about your first Real Scare. Like Vincent Price I'm sure once said, "I'm dying to know."

And just as a brief aside: if you've never been there, pay a visit to Post Secret. The idea is not completely original in the day and age of the internet, but it's still well worth seeing, and I can guarantee it will move you in some way shape or form. People are a never-ending wealth of surprises. Hell, it may even scare you.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I think the first time I was TRULY scared from a movie, I never even saw the movie. Just seeing the ads for Chucky scared the hell outta me. I think becuase I had so many dolls, the thought that one might be evil and kill me was frightening.