The Horror! The Horror! My Earliest Memories with Horror

Mind you, my childhood of horror was plentiful and abundant. If you want to hear stories, don’t hesitate to drop me a line, but these are just some I wanted to write down, before life takes hold and I forget them. These are just too precious to forget. Along with “Willy Wonka” and “The Wizard of Oz”, notice, two dark, weird and twisted children’s movies, there are also horror movies that played a large part in my childhood and development as an adult.

Sure, I saw the Disney crap, and the Saturday morning cartoons, I ate sugary teeth aching cereal, I slept with a teddy bear, loved “Peter Pan”, but horror movies were as much a part of my childhood as those cliché aspects. Horror movies don’t rot children’s minds, unless you explain to them the difference between the violence on-screen and the violence in real life, which my parents always made clear to me on many, many occasions. “Just because they did it, does not mean you have to imitate it!” I’d always ask, “Why?” And as a parent, you reply, “Because I said so”, and that’s all I needed. Parents are authority figures, you don’t have to explain to your kids, but should you feel inclined, express to them what the difference is, but I knew it anyway. When Jason dug the knife through that fat boys head in “The Final Chapter”, I knew it couldn’t possibly be real, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any fun.

When we’d go to the video store, I’d sneak away from my dad and sneak to the horror collection. I didn’t give a shit what the movie was about, if there was a creepy image that provoked my imagination, I was pleased. Back before those shit head conglomerate capitalist video chains took over the scene, the mom and pop stores didn’t have box covers that were safe. This was the age where the violence from the movie shown on the box in all its red glory, this was the video age. You received a good idea of what the movie was about, there were no floating heads, no shadows, no critic buzzwords and sound bites and there were no conveniently placed tags to cover everything up.

The box was always worn and scratched up, but the cover was always violent. Look, “Dawn of the dead”, I thought to myself: “What was it about? It’s some dead guy in his bed looking mighty fierce. How did he get there? How did he turn in to a zombie? Who was he?” Then I’d walk to the next box, “Wow, that guy has nails on his head! He must be a demon.” I’d walk to the next box, and pick it up, “Demonic toys,” This box always kept me staring it at like a deer in the headlights, it was a young boy and these scary looking toys creeping up on him in the dark. Now there’s an image that reached deep down in to the core of my childhood and stood with me. I put it back on the shelf and walked around the horror section some more, “Alien”, something is breaking out of that egg, but what? Then when I’d hear my father calling for me, I’d run off to pretend I was looking at the children’s section and he always knew, but he let me feed my imagination.

Back in my neighborhood mom and pap video store, before those fucking capitalist chain stores took over, they’d sell used posters, and I’d walk into the rental store and start scavenging hungrily. My target: horror movie posters, that’s right. The posters were ripped, torn, worn out, the edges were cut, but I didn’t give a shit. My aunt was with me and we stood there in the corner turning over the box of used movie posters for a dollar, and I searched for an hour. My find eventually led me to the “Godzilla” remake poster, and “I know what you did last summer”. Granted, at the time, “I Know what you did Last Summer” was a masterpiece to me, and the “Godzilla” remake was still only a pretty good movie. Have pity on me, folks. I was a dumb kid.

However the most entertaining memories of my time were horror movies watched on TV. Sure, the movie was always heavily edited and the curses were cut out, but who cares? This was horror! Here in New York before channel Eleven became the WB network, they’d play nothing but sporting events, the news, infomercials, and movies. Most of their movies consisted of a list of obscure really bad action films like that one with Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr, and some TV movie about plane hijacking, but on occasion they’d play “Indiana Jones”, “Superman”, “Space Balls”, and “Star Wars” (pre-tinkering era). This must have been 1989, I remember. So, whenever I’d watch channel eleven they’d show a commercial for an upcoming horror movie and I was so there. This was fun to me, this was how I wasted my Saturdays.

On “Halloween” they’d have a horror marathon that consisted of “Return of The Living Dead 2”, “The Shining”, “The Gate”, “The Invaders From Mars” remake (The scene where the teacher is swallowing the lab frog whole is still a delightfully  horrifying scene that I still remember like it was yesterday), “Creepshow”, “Jason Lives”, and “Creepshow 2”. Five on the list ended up becoming some of my favorite horror films of all time. “The Gate”, especially. I never watched “Return of the Living Dead 2” though, I was extremely horrified of zombie movies, Extremely. Just the commercial made me cry. I’m still horrified of them. But every time Halloween came around, the first sign was the commercial to Creepshow 2. Tom Savini sitting in the theater laughing at “Creepshow 2” and looking to the camera: “Welcome–to Creepshow 2!!” Ooh, it still gives me chills.

Every time he was on-screen my mom would say “That’s Tom Savini”, I’d furrow my brows and ask, “Who’s Tom Savini?”  She’d explain, “He does the make up and special effects for horror movies.” I’d feed my curiosity and she spared no details, “What movies did he do?” She’d explain, “He did the make up for “Dawn of the Dead”. That’s a zombie movie, and he did the make up for “Friday the 13th” where the boy comes out of the water and grabs that girl.” I was hooked on her descriptions, but she wouldn’t let me watch them. I’d however watch for a week, the heavily edited, and trimmed for running time movies that just left me breath taken. Every Saturday I’d watch “Creepshow 2”. I’d look for it, and when it was on, it was like the holy grail, because arguably, it’s an excellent sequel. I love it, personally. Halloween was a special time back then, before the WB took over and aired only their own shows, WPIX Channel Eleven in New York showed some great films, back then and I miss them sorely. I can still hear the announcer ten minutes before the movie was about to end: Thank you for watching the Channel Eleven special presentation, we now present the conclusion of “Creepshow 2”!

Good or bad, these were my childhood favorites:

Jaws – I remember my dad used to buy take out for us when we were wee lads, and whenever it was on, we’d all watch “Jaws”. God, those were the days. I remember I always got sad when the dog died, and I always gasped and watched in horror as Brody got eaten in half by that damn shark. Dear lord, what a movie.

Night of The Living Dead – When my mom bought this, she was testing it on our VCR and she played the scene where Barbara is running to the house after being attacked. I was about four at the time and I remember seeing her running to the house and the zombie trying to get in. It was about 1987 or something, but those were images that burned their images in to my mind forever.

Silver Bullet – My uncle lived with us once for a long period of time and my brother and I were young, and he had a humongous collection of horror films. He showed my brother and I “Silver Bullet” and we watched it every day for a month. We loved it. How can you not love this?

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – When my uncle was living with us, he’d also show us The Final Chapter, one of my favorite installments of the franchise. Every day we’d sit with him and watch “Thriller”, “Silver Bullet”, “WWF Wrestling”, and this. The scene with the knife through the skull of the fat boy always made me cry. While Halloween did it first, Jason did it better, and this is one of my favorite installments of the series.

The Thing – I remember going to my grandma’s house and my cousin was in my uncle’s room and I knocked to see what they were doing. They called me over and showed me the scene where Norris’ severed head turns in to a spider and crawls away in to the darkness. That used to creep the hell out of me back then! I didn’t cry though, I just thought it was freaky and amazing. Only Carpenter could concoct such an ingenious scene that would stick in to horror lexicon.

The Gate – When I was nine, they used to play this every two weeks on channel eleven here in NY before it became the WB. I loved this movie! This is possibly one of my earliest introduction in to gore with the zombie in the wall, the doll through the head, the eye on the hand and those little creatures that were just so damn menacing. This is still a movie that holds up today and is still a lot of damn fun.

Creepshow – My brother and I watched this every Halloween, but on one occasion, we switched over to Halloween and watched, and it scared the living shit out of us, and we cried. So my mom proclaimed, “Don’t watch it if it’s going to scare you. Put it back on “Creepshow”.” My mom being a very hardcore fan, calmed us down with “Creepshow” to keep us from getting scared from “Halloween”.

I know, if the WB didn’t take over, I’d still be watching those heavily edited horror films today. As of now, I’m a young man, and I’m at the crossroads of my life as far as horror movies go. Horror is not horror anymore. Maybe magic is lost when you become older, but horror has no magic anymore. Now we have bland ghost films marketed as horror, rehashes, and a shit load of remakes, and I keep thinking about a boy who might be interested in horror and is being turned away because the horror movie he just saw in the theater is stupid, and the last four he saw were stupid, and he has better things to do than watch crappy horror films. And that saddens me.

Horror shouldn’t be geared to children, horror should be geared to adults, but if they make children want to watch the horror than that’s great, not obscene because I’ve never met a horror fan who became one at adulthood. Horror almost always starts affecting children, and they’re the ones who grow up in to the hardcore horror fans. I used to sneak in to my mom’s room and steal movies like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Friday the 13th”, and “Sleepaway Camp”, but I put up hope that boy or girl will pick up some great horror film, one that wasn’t at the box office, and that will be their introduction. A little hope goes a long way