This October, and every October, it’s fun to play with fear, to explore those things that scare us. Gothic literature. Creepy, menacing clowns. Horror movies. I am going to focus on The Thing (I know, Alex Azar wrote about it on 10/10), which I saw as a small child despite my parents’ strictly enforced R-movie ban.That movie is seriously unsettling. And, perhaps, validates my parents’ “no-R-movie” deal. And then, it showed up in Stranger Things, and I had to explain to my wife why this tiny clip in the science teacher’s house was making me shudder.
Full disclosure: I am not a horror fan. I’m not denigrating the genre. There are plenty of things that I am not a fan of that have enthusiastic and thoughtful fanbases. But intentionally scaring myself with a movie doesn’t strike me as something I would enjoy. So then how, in the name of all that is holy, did I wind up seeing The Thing at nine years old in a stranger’s house?
My older siblings were all frequent babysitters, especially of this one little boy, Bryan. One night (and I don’t remember why), I tagged along with my older brother to Bryan’s house to help him babysit. On the way out the door, Bryan’s parents told us, “Oh, he rented a movie from video store. He can watch it after dinner.”
We all have dinner, we descend to the basement to watch the movie with this five-year-old kid in tow. And what movie was the five-year-old allowed to rent? The Thing! [note: I was nine years away from being allowed to watch this movie.] When we saw the tape, my brother shot me the, “keep your mouth shut” look. I had a history of being too honest about the rules and following them fastidiously, even when no one was watching. So, I shut my mouth and watched the movie. At the end, Bryan happily went off to bed, and I sat in the strange basement, listening to the house settle and the furnace kick on and off. Petrified.
I can’t even point to a specific scene that was so frightening. The main thing was the paranoia it engendered. NO ONE was to be trusted in this film, and that thought filled me with abject terror.
Actually, I CAN point to a specific moment! The fucking spider-head-hybrid-fucking-nightmare fuel-fucking-arachnaphobia-causing-goddamn-dead-character-alien-piece-of-shit! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE! Holy shit. Even as I write this, I’m literally watching the hair on my arms stand up, and I keep looking behind me.
And then we went home. As I recall, I said literally nothing the whole ride home. Then, I laid in the bottom bunk, listening to my brother’s sleepy slow breathing and staring at the bottom of the top bunk for what seemed like weeks.
I don’t know if anything has ever scared me as much as that movie on that night. Except, maybe, a certain orange-faced, genital-grabbing jack-off.