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I love horror movies.  Halloween is the best time of year to indulge this passion.  The old boob tube is brimming with spooky fair.  Not all of it will be of the highest quality, but I’ll watch it anyway. Oh yes . . . even the cheesy stuff holds a place in my heart . . . the hokier, the better.  You never know, however, what the TV Gods are going to serve up and ‘tis the season to scare the bejesus out of myself.  To guarantee my fear quotient is met, each year I dig into the old DVD pile for some of my frightful favorites.  Don’t worry, no spoilers here, just a bit of nostalgia.  So without further ado – listed chronologically, because I’d drive myself crazy trying to rank them any other way – I plan to re-visit:

 The Haunting of Hill House

Now I’m talking about the original 1963 version.  I did, in fact, enjoy the 1999 remake.  It had a great cast and both versions can be found in my personal movie collection, but I have an intimate relationship with the earlier film that can never be usurped.  I was quite young when I first lived through Julie Harris’ descend into madness.  The banging in the hall was frightening enough, but the “breathing” door . . . that took up residence in my darkest, adolescent imaginings.  This bloodless classic has haunted me for years.  Did you get that?  Haunting of Hill House . . . haunted me . . . nevermind.

 

Halloween

The original, the mother of the teen, slasher genre, the introduction of Michael Myers and beloved scream queen, Jamie Lee, in 1978 started an epidemic – a virtual fear fest – you might say.   There are ten movies in the franchise, if you include the Rob Zombie remakes and there are plans for a new Halloween 3D.  What other movies had both the original and the first sequel remade?  The first is almost always the best and the young, innocent Jamie Lee was perfection in the role of the teenage babysitter stalked by a psycho killer.  I’ve watched this flick dozens of times and it never fails to give me the willies.

Ringu

The original 1998 Japanese release is seriously the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.  Japan agrees with me and they make the best straight up horror cinema by far.  There’s no blood spraying across the screen, but I swear the first time I saw it I had a full-on anxiety attack.  I closed my eyes.  I plugged my ears (for a subtitled flick? Oh yes).  I covered my head.  I couldn’t get away from the terror.  I was suspicious every time a phone rang for months.  I threw a blanket over the TV.  I thought about burning all the VHS tape I had in the house, just to make sure, you know.  If you want the crap scared out of you, this film will definitely do it.

Ju-on: The Grudge

Do I have to say again? The original!  I know a lot of people like Sarah Michelle, but Megumi Okina as Rika in the 2002 Japanese release beats SM’s rather wimpy portrayal in the 2004 American remake all to hell.  There are frights galore with ghosts and haunts and Toshio, the creepiest kid to every be projected onto the silver screen.  The story moves along with one spine-chilling scene after another.  It’s rather like the proverbial train wreck.  You want to look away, but you just have to see if it’s really going to be as bad as you expect and it is.  And that noise . . . what is that?  I have nightmares each time I watch this movie.

The Mist

What list would be complete without a monster movie?  How could I not include a Stephen King adaptation?  Arguably the greatest horror writer of our generation – I said arguably – King’s stories have not always made the transition from the printed word to celluloid as well as they could and at times make for weak, sappy films.  The Mist was released in 2007 without any real box office muscle in the cast. I had almost no expectation when I first saw it.  I loved it.  It was suspenseful.  It had frights.  It had excellent monster effects and I really liked the characters.  It also had a great twist at the end that differs from the novella. 

So there they are . . . my picks for scaring myself witless this year.  If you can only see one and you haven’t seen it yet . . . Ringu.  I don’t care who you are, this one will have you squirming in your seat and crying for your mommy.

Happy Halloween!

The first job I ever had was working as the “nurse” on-duty in the snack bar for the Big Sky drive-in theater.  I know what you’re thinking . . . okay I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking, but skepticism would not be unreasonable at this point.  I’ve scoured the internet and can’t find a single reference to this lauded profession.  If I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t believe it myself.  So stay with me and I’ll try to explain.

Teenagers in Ancient Times often hung out at the local drive-in theater.  It provided the perfect venue to get away with all manner of mischief . . . drinking, smoking, hooking up, brawling and general mayhem.  Theaters frequently catered to the demographic by playing horror flicks . . . always popular fair with the youth of America.  When I was about sixteen it became fashionable for these masterpieces of fright to be advertised as so terrifying that – to assure the safety of the general public – a “nurse” would be on duty in the snack bar during the showing.  Yeah I know, these days there would be a huge legal liability associated with such a claim, but remember we are talking about the Stone Age here . . . a nostalgic era prior to torts and class-action law suits.

Of course, it wasn’t a real nurse, rather some unfortunate, young girl in need of making a couple of bucks and I do mean a couple.  A friend of mine had the job before me.  She was given an opportunity to advance to a position behind the counter provided she could find someone to take over as the “nurse” on-duty.  Enter moi’.  The only requirement for the job was the ability to fit into a “uniform” consisting of a very short, plaited, white skirt and matching halter top that was closer to a bikini top than any kind of shirt I’ve ever seen.  Ownership of a pair of white boots was preferred.

My interview for this lofty occupation was donning the costume and doing a couple of twirls for the manager.  I started that same night.  I had to lie about my age, but you could do that in the Olden Days.  Nobody asked you to prove who you were or whether you were a citizen or held a valid green card.  I don’t even know if there were green cards back then.  I was issued a nurse’s cap and my life saving tools . . . a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer (Say that six times fast).  Thus equipped, I was literally thrown to the wolves.

There wasn’t normally much to do while the movie ran.  Once intermission commenced, it was a different story.  A horde of pimple-faced boys and middle-age perverts would descend on the snack bar.  These male miscreants had inevitably been so scared, they felt the need to be attended by a nurse.  This basically amounted to applying and pumping up the blood pressure cuff while protecting your womanly virtue.  Not once, in my time plying this trade, was it necessary to care for a female victim of the gruesomeness on the silver screen.  Go figure.

Needless to say, I survived the rigors of this employment experience with little more than a few bruises and blisters from the boots.  I can’t remember just how long it took to follow in my predecessor’s footsteps eventually landing the much sought after rank of ticket booth cashier, but I will always be able to say I was a teenage drive-in theater snack bar nurse.  How many people do you know that can lay claim to that?  Do you think I should add it to my resume?

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