My son Josh has been on a "search-and-view" mission. Objective: horror movies.
For about a month, he's asked people to nominate their favorites. Last weekend, he had an all night horror-a-thon with a pile of videos and three buddies.
I hate horror movies. I lasted five minutes into "Silence of the Lambs" (was that a horror movie?), didn't see "The Exorcist" or "Night of the Living Dead" until I was 44, thought "Carrie" was terrifying, and still remember "Christine" because it frightened me.
The favorite scary movie of my youth starred Don Knotts, a k a Barney Fife, in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." I got it for my kids about 10 years ago, and they thought I was out of my mind.
Films at lunch: In junior high school, because the cafeteria couldn't accommodate all of the pupils in two lunch periods, lunches were split into eating time and study or movie time.
Our school had a pretty good approximation of a movie theater and for 20 minutes a day, for one thin nickel, we could watch a piece of a movie from a cushy red theater seat. It's where I first saw John Wayne in "Sons of Katie Elder" and Jimmy Stewart in "Shenandoah."
It's also where I got to see, piece by piece, all the old Vincent Price movies. As a result, like many pupils at Garfield Heights Junior High School, I had an unnatural fear of being cut in half by a pendulum and buried alive. I also had a distorted view of Edgar Allan Poe's stories.
I got to see all the predecessors of the "Tales From the Crypt" movies as well. Six strangers would inexplicably meet in a strange room and each would tell a horror story, ultimately leading to the revelation that they were all in ... HELL!! Good stuff.
That's where I saw "House on the Haunted Hill" -- the original version with Vincent Price. Not bad, as I recall.
Son's picks: Certainly a far cry from Josh's night of horror picks, however, which included "Two Thousand Maniacs," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Faces of Death." More on that piece of ... uh ... cinema in a bit.
To join in the fun, I have been on the lookout for good horror videos for Josh at the libraries. In Poland, I found a DVD called "Dawn of the Dead." I read the package notes: "Zombies take over the earth [walking more slowly than slugs on a cold day] and a few humans [one a woman whose breast will be exposed before the film is over] escape to a shopping mall until looters blow their cover and most of them get eaten." Well, that sure sounded good.
The viewing: We watched it in two parts -- much like the junior high kids in Garfield 30 years ago. It was ... well, it was bad. Really bad. We had fun.
Which brings me to "Dead Alive," the movie my son disliked so much he bought a copy of it for his best friend. He also entertained us with a scene-by-scene replay of it at TGI Fridays, much to the horror of the couple trying to eat their dinner behind us.
"Then pus comes out from this guy's arm and squirts into the soup bowl of the lady at the table!! And she keeps on eating!!! & quot;
Enough of this. I promised I would address "Faces of Death," the movie which ostensibly put an end to my son's diet of horror flicks. Its video box promised actual footage of everything from a man parachuting into a pit of crocodiles to an electrocution, warning that people with weak hearts better not watch.
Well, that sounded creepy, so when my son's horror film sleepover was over, and everyone was gone, I stuck "Faces of Death" into the VCR. Within 30 seconds, I saw a man electrocuted, a person's face peeled off, and a monkey's head beaten in with hammers.
"Oh, Jo-osh ..."
Like the old computer acronym, GIGO -- garbage in, garbage out. At least when he's home, there's a moratorium on horror.