Halloween Post! Things that Scarred me for Life.

This post speaks for itself.  We are coming upon one of my favorite days of the entire year, the cap on probably my favorite month of the whole year.  I freaking love Halloween.  I still own a lot of my best-loved costumes that I probably couldn’t fit into if I tried, and I also try to watch at least three new scary movies every October.  This year, I watched the original Halloween (creepy as all hell and holds up great), Return of the Living Dead (punk zombies!) and the Elijah Wood remake of Maniac (so, freaking, gross). 

But what about those things that cross the spectrum of ‘normal and fun’ scary into ‘oh my god never speak of it AGAIN’ scary?  That’s what we are going to discuss today.  I will be admitting to you three things that absolutely scared (or still scare) the ever loving crap out of me to the point that I am physically changed when I view them.

The video for “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails.
The 5+ minute Mark Romanek opus is now a venerated piece of performance art.  I saw this thing when I was nine in a flagrant defiance of my mothers’ orders to not watch MTV and I’m positive God saw me flip on channel 52 and decided to punish me for my flagrant violation of house rules.  I got through the first two minutes and ran out of the room when the monkey on the crucifix started writhing around.  Watching this now as a 28 year old grown ass woman it’s easy to see how the video is brilliant with its shades of Francis Bacon and 19th century mad laboratorial mythos, and the song is insanely catchy and sexy, but I WAS NINE.  Video content aside, I didn’t even know what sex really was at this point and now someone was telling me they wanted to fuck me like an animal?

But the images in the video are what really set this into the annals of “Things that Scarred Ally For Years”.  I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from that opening visual of the human heart beating in time to the snare, and even when I look the video up on YouTube to listen to the song I turn the phone upside down so the video doesn’t get into my brain.  That being said, I’m obsessed with this song and am slowly getting more into the NIN canon; I went to their Mohegan Sun concert with the boyfriend and aside from getting a huge light show induced headache, I had a great time banging my head with the rest of the CT goth denizens.  Still can’t watch the damn video all the way through without pausing it several times.  PS – their new single “Came Back Haunted” is creepy as hell with its chord progressions, proving Trent Reznor’s still got it after 25 years.  And yes, I realize he’s done videos much grosser than “Closer” but this is the one that left me profoundly creeped.

The Blair Witch Project.

No joke it’s like they took a picture of my backyard.

 Make fun of me all you want.  This movie’s premise alone freaked me the hell out when I heard about it in the summer of 1999.  Granted, I was 13 and easily gullible but I honest to God thought it was really the story of hikers that got lost and killed by a supernatural entity.  I avoided seeing it for about five years and finally forced myself to watch it as a sophomore in college.  My roommate came home from classes and found me curled up against the wall, squirming in fright.  Now, I know there’s some honest-to-God bad acting moments that happen in this movie, and I can’t watch it with people in the house because it sounds like I’m watching someone get assaulted, but it truly does frighten me.  I think because the main thing I’m afraid of is the unknown; I don’t really mind movies with a ton of gore and gruesome deaths because the outrageousness of them takes me out of the moment.  But darkness? In which you hear scratching, a child’s laugh, screaming that’s not coming from a visible body? That’s the stuff that keeps me up for days.  And I live in a heavily wooded section of Connecticut, so the first time I saw this movie I was convinced I would be visited by the Blair Witch for nights afterward.  Did I mention I’m gullible?

Child’s Play.  
This is the big one.  This is, no doubt, the source of every single one of my childhood nightmares.  Not Freddy Kreuger, not Jason, not Michael Myers.  Child’s Play very near ruined my relationship with movies.

When I was six years old I went with my mom to the local video store to get the VHS tape of the Ramona TV show.  Remember video stores? They had posters on the walls, detailing what videos were now available or Coming Soon.  On the Coming Soon wall, close to the Horror/Sci-Fi section, was the poster for Child’s Play 3.

Remember, I was six.  So I want you to take a moment, imagine how you were when you were six (hopefully full of happiness and butterflies and optimism about the ice cream truck) and then look at this.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I HATE EVERYTHING.

Now, had it been the poster for the first Child’s Play movie or the first sequel I may not have been as scared, because those variations of the doll face aren’t AS scary to me.  I think it was the straight-on, wide eyed, devil grinned, full glare of Chucky.  Also, the red irises.  And the blood on the mouth. 

Also, bear in mind that I was six years old and had no idea that the early Child’s Play films are intelligent social critiques of consumerism and doll/kid culture and that the character of Chucky is actually a hysterical little smartass whose profanity-laced tirades are brilliant microcosms of voice acting by Brad Dourif (“That’s one ugly doll!” “Fuck you!”), and that later on in my life I’d come to watch and actually enjoy these films as priceless slasher comedies.  Nope. I just saw Satan. 

I couldn’t rip my eyes away.  I compulsively stared at those red irises until I thought my head would explode, and then I followed my mom out of the store claiming I had seen something horrible.

As noted critic Cathy Caruth has stated, traumatic stress comes through repetition.  I walked around for years with that damn face imprinted on my brain and suffered through tons and tons of nightmares.  “Chucky” was my stock answer at sleepovers when someone asked if anything freaked us out.  Even now if I’m staying over someone’s house and there’s a doll in the bedroom I get a bit nervous.  It’s a shock I even played with dolls as a kid.  Maybe I compartmentalized ‘normal’ dolls from Chucky?  Maybe I assumed if I got the Molly doll from American Girl she was resilient and could kick Chucky’s ass? She so could.  She’d tapdance on his grave.

It all seems funny now, and it’s definitely the subject of many family discussions of Which Kid is The Weirdest (I win nearly all the time), but that stupid bastard influenced the trajectory of most of my childhood.  I made my mom stop going to Movietime Video – if you know Manchester at all it was the video store in Blue Duck Plaza that has since turned into a Subway – and insisted we go to Eastern Video or West Coast Video, or Hollywood Video if we were desperate.

I just realized that none of those places exist anymore.  Dammit, Netflix.

Not only that, but for years, literally years, I would straight up refuse to go into video stores.  If I had to come in, I would loiter near the animated/children’s section like a goddamn pervert waiting until  my sister and brother had emerged from the cooler sections with their prizes.  I watched a lot of Disney movies in my formative years.  THEY WERE SAFE.  One time a few years later I was in my designated spot in the store studying a special edition set of Peter Pan and my brother came running up to me, holding up a VHS case.  “Hey Ally, look!” he shouted as he threw the box in my face.  It was the box for Child’s Play 2.   My response was to run out of the video store and nearly into traffic, hyperventilating until my Dad came out and got me while my brother laughed his ass off.  Still haven’t forgiven Mike for that one.

When I was about 24, I was at Best Buy shopping for some horror movies for my annual watching ritual and stumbled upon that same video cover.  My instinct was to run, but instead I stayed and instead of letting that image frighten me into tears, I  stared it down.  I also had the prior knowledge that the movies had gone from being a smart commentary on consumerism into a straight up idiot fest in which Method Man got gutted in one of the sequels.  And I could feel the grip it had held on me slowly slip away.  It still bothers me if I’m not prepared for it, though.

Sometimes we attach ourselves to things in childhood that speak to us in profound ways.  If it’s a positive, we ride that wave for years, and come back to it when we need it for comfort.  If it’s scarring, we spend our whole lives either running like hell away from it or returning to it at a later date and thoroughly confronting it.  Do the three things I’ve discussed in this post still freak me out? Not as much as when I was little.

But I hope you found some sort of connection to the things in this season – or in others – that can thoroughly scare us shitless.  And that’s something we all can relate to.

Happy Halloween!

ally

PS. You should also know that Chucky-gate was around the same time my parents took me to the movies to see A League of Their Own and I saw the trailer for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the running blood and got so freaked out I assumed all movie previews were like that…and I refused to go into movie theaters until the trailers were done.  I did this for ten years. 

PPS.  This year they’ve managed to make a straight-to-DVD Chucky film called The Curse of Chucky, and compared to the first few films in the series, they’ve really toned down the look of the doll.  This guy isn’t frightening at all.  Still wouldn’t let it in my house, though.  I’m talking about the DVD, not the doll.

Had THIS been the image I had seen when I was six, I probably would have been fine.  Ugh.  So much of my childhood ruined.

PPPS.  There’s a special Bravo runs every year about the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and the bit they do on Chucky just reaffirms my comfort in that I’m not the only one who’s gotten scared by it.  If the son of JOHN LANDIS got freaked out by the poster, then I’m in good company.

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