It's no secret that I was an infamous coward during my younger years. It amazes me that I grew up to have a fascination with horror and the supernatural, considering I used to go well out of my way to avoid being scared. I had family members, slightly older friends, and babysitters, who all loved scary movies, so I was over and over put in the position in which I'd happen to be around when such a movie was playing. Sometimes, I'd flee for for the safety of my bedroom. Other times, curiosity got the better of me and I'd settle down to a series of images that were sure to reappear to me as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I think the title alone was enough to scare me with this one. I was at my aunt's house. She and my sister watched it in broad daylight. It wasn't too long before I packed it up and went to play Legos in my cousin's bedroom. I rewatched it not all that long ago and it's pretty tame. It's a decent film, but it's power to scare me has dissipated.
This one was legendary for it's scariness. It terrified every kid on the block. I saw this one in bits and pieces, because my young heart couldn't handle prolonged exposure to this parade of horrors. I didn't see it straight through until well into my adulthood. The impression it had left on the young me had kept me away from renting it for years.
I cashed in my chips pretty early one night when this was playing on HBO. My mom, sister, and stepfather were riveted. I think I even begged them to watch something else at one point. They wouldn't. I opted for an early bedtime, which was a big mistake. I could hear every bit of the movie loud and clear and the terrors that my imagination cooked up must have been far worse than anything that could have been on the screen.
Only they weren't. I did summon the courage and watch it while I was still young. It scared the crap out of me.
The Elephant Man
This was in heavy rotation on HBO when I was a kid. Christ, it scared me. The dreary black and white, that ragged mask, and John Merrick's humanity under his tragic form. It scarred me. I knew he was human in spite of his disfigurement and that just made it all the worse. I had no real reason to fear him. But at night, for weeks and weeks, maybe months and months, I was certain he was waiting at the foot of my bed to pop up and scare me. "I am not an animal," he would assure me as he waved his arms in the darkness.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
This just wasn't fair. Pulling that freaky-as-hell scare scene in the middle of a comedy. I didn't expect it. The change in tone, the subtle cues, none of it was enough to prepare me for the punch to the gut that was Large Marge. I felt my head melt and my heart pop up through its gooey remains. My friends at school all seemed to laugh it off, but I couldn't. I harbored a secret. Large Marge scared the hell out of me.
I saw it over and over in my mind when I tried to sleep. It seemed so cruel. All the while I had been petting this fluffy, friendly dog and without warning it bites off a finger. To this day I dread the smash-cut, pop-out scares in modern horror movies. And I blame Large Marge for it.