As I mentioned in the post for this week’s Pick of the Week, I’m not a big fan of Halloween or horror movies. Still this time of year can’t help but get me to thinking about what scares me. I’ve laughed my way through The Exorcist, The Omen, and several entries in the Friday the 13th and Halloween movie series. Those aren’t scary to me. The Cabin in the Woods, which I recommended on Monday, is wonderful, but I wouldn’t call it scary. I’d say the same for every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
There are, however, certain moments of pop culture over the years that have had some…negative effects on my psyche. In some cases, I was scared as I watched (or at least seriously creeped out). In others, maybe I wasn’t scared at the time, but the effects lingered. So now, without further ado, a brief tour through What Scares Alan.
We’ll start with something fairly general: face huggers. I do not like them. The Alien films themselves don’t really bother me, but I find the face huggers to be deeply unsettling. I’m claustrophobic, so the idea of having something like that wrapped around my head and jamming something down my throat isn’t exactly fun. And then there’s the skittering. Go look at the scene in Aliens when Ripley and Newt are trapped in the lab with one. Yet they’ve turned these monstrosities into stuffed animals?!? That’s just wrong! They’re creepy and gross and they might be the sole reason that I haven’t seen an Alien movie since Alien3. Yes, I passed up the Joss Whedon-written Alien Resurrection. That’s how much those things bother me. Of course, Whedon also says his script was butchered, so I don’t feel like I’m missing much.
My earliest memory of being scared by something I watched goes back to the mid-1980s. At the time, Steven Spielberg executive produced an anthology series called Amazing Stories. The plots ranged from science-fiction to fantasy to horror. I remember as being kind of a lighter take on The Twilight Zone (And looking back on it now, I’m astounded at how many of the stories are credited to Spielberg and the range of other people who worked on the show).
The episode that got me was called “Go to the Head of the Class.” It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-written by Bob Gale, who were the director and writer respectively of the Back to the Future films. The episode starred fellow Back to the Future alum Christopher Lloyd as a particularly nasty English teacher. His students decide to get revenge by casting a spell on him one night that causes him to lose his head. But he’s not dead. Oh no. The image of Lloyd’s disembodied head screaming at those kids is burned into my brain. At the end, though, everything seems fine. The students go to school the next day, and Lloyd’s character is there, head, body, and all. It was just a dream. Until he takes off his scarf, revealing that he’s stapled his head back on! He laughs maniacally as the students scream and the episode ends.
Admittedly, my memory of the details is a little fuzzy now, but I do remember that I was terrified when that episode was over. Even going back to find images from it as I was preparing this post rekindled a few of those feelings. Young me still remembers.
Let’s jump ahead a few years. While I was in junior high (No, mine wasn’t a middle school), I ended up watching Psycho II one night. The movie didn’t scare me. It was edited for TV. I’m fairly positive that I hadn’t seen the original film at that point, but I definitely knew of it. I had no context about Norman Bates, Mother, or his killings. I watched the movie, I went to bed, and I dreamed.
I don’t remember the beginning of the dream. Norman Bates got involved at some point, though. He killed someone. Maybe a few someones. He was surrounded by the police, backed up against his own motel. I was there, too, of course, watching. Norman started laughing. He seemed more bemused than anything else. And then he stepped through some kind of invisible barrier into the original movie. There the cops and I were, in color and unable to do anything, as he walked into a world of black and white where he could continue killing.
I know it sounds fairly tame now, but I woke up screaming. I don’t remember many of my dreams, but I still remember that one vividly. My father possibly does do, since he had to come racing into my room to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.
Since then, I’ve done pretty well. I’m sure the fact that I generally avoid scary films and shows has helped in that regard, though. Hollywood has already done enough damage to me, thank you very much.
Oh yeah. Dredging all of this up was a great idea. I’m sure I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight at all.
- Alan Decker
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