Specific movie scenes have lingered with me for going on six six decades now. They hide in the darkness, waiting for the opportunity to strike. They’ve invaded my dreams, mutating them much like a virus mutates. I’ll close my eyes to go to sleep and at any time, one of these visions might pop up in my head.
And scare the living shit out of me.
Yes, like most older horror fans, I have a host of cinematic demons living within my psyche. None of them are a result of movies like THE EXORCIST, I wasn’t allowed to watch movies of that nature. Maybe THE OMEN, but that’s cos of HBO. Back in the days before cable TV, you had few choices. Most regions had a daytime horror movie host. In my area it was Monster Movie Matinee on a Saturday or Sunday early afternoon. But these programs weren’t as influential on my frights as you might think.
Outside of Vincent Price tossing his baby into a funeral pyre in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, Monster Movie Matinee built my love affair with Kaiju, Hammer and Universal monsters. Rather, they’ve come from more mundane moments. Like… A family outing to the drive-in, for example.
Imagine this double bill at the North Syracuse Drive-In: SONG OF THE SOUTH and JAWS. Eight year old me falls asleep after Zip Da Dee Da. Imagine my surprise when I wake up midway thru JAWS to see the Kintner boy getting fucking ate and the chaos as the people run from the water, screaming. Yeah. I stayed out of water unless it was a pool that summer. Too bad I was too young to realize which of the films on that double bill was the true horror movie. My memories of B’rair Rabbit getting tarred and feathered are more frightening today than Danny Kintner as shark food.
A year later, a school field trip to the movie theater fucked me up even more. It led to a hallucination, a practical joke, and was responsible for my irrational fear of the dark for ten years. I still have it, somewhat. Smith Road Elementary often took us on field trips to Cinema North to watch G rated movies. IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK was one. Another was SASQUATCH: THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT.
Fuck this movie. Like seriously. Fuck. This. Movie.
By 1976 the Bigfoot craze was rampant in the US. Bionic Bigfoot on the Six Million Dollar Man, a Bigfoot cartoon, Bigfoot hunting specials on TV. Bigfoot was fucking every little kid’s obsession. SASQUATCH: THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT is notable for three distinct scenes, complete with an instrumental rip off of the song WILDFIRE.
The first is the film’s opening. Ominous, brooding music rolls over the opening credits as something moves through the woods and animals, predators and prey alike, run for cover. Yep. I’m already about to piss my pants. But it’s the cabin scene that has lingered the longest. The Bigfoot hunters in the movie tell a story of Mountain men trapped in a cabin. A tribe of Bigfoots attack them, throwing rocks and logs on the cabin. In one instance, one of the guys in the cabin sees a Bigfoot’s face appear in the window.
I’ve seen that Bigfoot face in the window every time I’ve looked out a window in the dark. My heart jumps each and every time. Yeah. As a result, I grew a giant phobia of the dark, especially in wooded areas.
Did I mention a year later, my parents would move from the suburbs of Syracuse to a rural, wooded area? Until I left for the Army, I would need someone to walk me home in the dark if I was with my neighbors, who lived a quarter mile away.
Later, in the summer of 1976, I was out walking in the woods with the group of kids I hung out with at a pile of rock and concrete left behind by excavators installing sewer and water lines to the outer suburbs. Somewhere down a trail we regularly took to our “hangout spot” I swear to fucking God I saw Bigfoot walk across the path in front of us.
I ran out of the woods at mach speed, terrified.
My friends caught up with me, I was in tears. I told them I saw Bigfoot and they told me I was crazy. We went back, we couldn’t find any tracks, no evidence. They laughed at me and went on. I ran home, still scared to death. The adult me is aware I saw a deer. Pre-teen me saw fucking Bigfoot.
Sometime later that week, I was playing in my backyard with my little brother when across the creek from pops up…
We ran into the house and told our Mother. She comes outside and sees Bigfoot and shits her pants, she’s hysterical. My brother and I are scared to death. We’re literally hiding in the basement- which was remarkable in and of itself (we’ll talk about why, soon!). My mother calls the cops. They show up at the house…
And come to find out the older brothers of one of my friends thought it would be fun to prank us. So they dressed up in a giant bear costume with a Planet of the Apes mask. It was a real hoot. Until the cops almost shot the “wild animal” when they arrived.
Network TV in the days before cable TV was a weird mix of family fair, sports, news, kid’s programming, sitcoms, cop dramas, and made-forTV-movies. Watching network television.
What? Watching Network TV? That’s bullshit! No blood! No gore! No titties! No swearing! How can you be scared by a made for TV movie? Some of the scariest moments in my memories come from Network TV. There’s a trio of ‘70s horror movies that linger with me. One won’t let me walk down stairs into a dark basement. One reinforces a fear that the Sasquatch movie already established. And the third?
Trilogy of Terror, a creation of Richard Matheson and staring Karen Black, scared the fuck out of seven year old me. Why I was watching it, I don’t know. All I do know is… if I see a Zuni Doll, I run. Need I say more? Karen Black buys an artifact from the store and it turns out to be the real deal. She soon finds herself in a fight to death with a spear chucking monster with needles for teeth. I think the reason I like Stephen King’s short story BATTLEGROUND so much, is the Zuni Doll segment of TRILOGY OF TERROR.
If a Zuni Doll went nuts in my house, I’d do anything except run into the basement to hide. Why? Because of another Kim Darby movie a year earlier, 1973’s DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. The little tooth fairy demons that take Kim away scared the fuck out of six year old me, and the scene of her waling down the stairs to the basement… well. I still don’t like going into dark basements. Twice in my life I’ve fled to a dark basement and was terrified the little tooth fairy demons would get me (the aforementioned Bigfoot incident and a tornado scare about twenty years ago.).
In 1979 I realized I don’t like Danny Glick. Fuck you, Danny Glick. No Danny Glick, you can’t come into my bedroom. Who is Danny Glick? He’s the kid turned into a vampire in Stephen King’s ‘SALEM’S LOT. Tobe Hooper’s TV adaptation of the novel closed it’s first part out with… vampire Danny Glick floating in Mark Petrie’s window.
This not only scared me and my brother, it scared my Mom and Dad, my Mom’s best friend and her husband, their daughter and son. My sister, who was like 3 years old at the time, thought the floating boy with fangs was funny. She’s the only one who wasn’t scarred by Danny Glick. As a result, my mother wouldn’t let us watch the second half of the two part movie. I wouldn’t see it until the repeat showing of the multiple Emmy award nominated mini-series a year later.
A great example of how Danny scared the shit out of me came roughly 12 years ago. My new neighbor, a nice guy named Jeremy, came to my door and knocked. He was looking for jumper cables for his car. This was fine… except through the fabric of the curtain on my glass paned front door, I flashed back to a floating Danny Glick. I was so weirded out by this, I had a very uncomfortable first meeting with my neighbor.
Whether it’s one of these movie moments, or something else as silly as the trailer to the movie PROPHECY, my resources for horror are part of my being. It could be a kid in a sleeping bag getting bear punched and “feathered”. It could be bushy eyebrows and Rosemary’s Baby or a hunting horn on the PLANET OF THE APES. Shit, it could be Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons. I tap into all of these memories when I write.
To share them with you.