I do not watch scary movies or at least not anymore. I used to be a scary movie fanatic. I would stay up all night during the weekends in my teens waiting for “The Twilight Zone” to air the reruns. There I would be half asleep and lying flat on my stomach, something else I can no longer do, in the living room with my blanket over me for protection. When “The Twilight Zone” lost its hold on me I had to move on to something more hardcore. This is about the time the Jason and Freddie movies came out and I was enthralled. I could not get enough of the ax wielding, knife fingered, scarred and tormented souls that had a passion for killing young, buoyant blondes in the movies. Maybe I did not mind the killing so much because I am not blonde and it did not seem like something that would ever happen to me. Ours was not a family of privilege. We never went on vacations to a remote wilderness camp in a cabin. We were lucky to have a stay in a Motel 8, now that was camping. As for Freddie, well, that one haunted me a bit more because we all sleep and as a teenager sleeping was my next favorite hobby after reading horror novels.
My love/hate relationship with scary movies began when I was eight years old. My parents decided to take my uncle, who lived with us at the time, to see a movie. Since we were an already large family at the time, three girls, my youngest sister had not been born yet, it was decided that we go the drive-in movie. It was $5.00 per carload and my mom packed sodas in an ice chest and popped popcorn at home and stored it in a paper grocery bag, as this was a time before Zip-loc bags. And so we were off. We had our assigned seats in the brown 1970’s LTD, my dad’s pride and joy. At times my dad would have me sit in one corner and my sister Bernadette in another corner with our bodies wedged into our respective corners. We often had to take car rides with hands in our laps and toes pointed toward each other. We were not allowed to eat or drink in the car and our shoes may not touch the seat at any time. We were careful sitters.
We pull up to the drive-in, my dad pays for admission, and then we are off the search the sea of drive-in hills with speaker stands for the perfect viewing area. We found our spot and begin to make our camp. Out comes the popcorn, the potato chips, the soda, the candy. Oh, it was a glorious evening. It was warm outside and dark. I don’t remember seeing stars, but I am sure they were there. I remember breathing in the fresh night air and thinking how I feel like such a grown up to be going to a movie with my Uncle Sam and my parents. He was in his early teens so he was such a hero to me. He was larger than life and I remember how his green eyes sparked when he laughed. His dark blonde hair and fair skin made him a celebrity among all of us ebony-haired, dark-eyed girls. He loved Superman and he was really focused on bodybuilding before it became fashionable and lucrative.
The lights dimmed at the snack bar and at the empty kids play area. Moviegoers were rushing back to their cars with hot dogs and nachos and ice slushing sodas in tow. We three settled ourselves comfortably in the spacious back seat, Bernadette, Uncle Sam, and me. My mom and dad sat in the front seat, my mom with baby Cynthia cradled in her arms.
The movie opened with the most haunting music I have ever heard. To this day when I hear snippets of this theme song, it brings me back to this night. I start to feel tenseness in my stomach and the feeling of a faint coming on. The movie started out slowly. I did not see much action nor was there much dialogue that an eight-year old would be interested in. I remember seeing a young girl in the movie. She wore a pretty blue coat in one scene, or at least that is how I seem to remember it for I have never watched the film again to confirm this memory, at any rate I wished I could have a coat just like hers. The home she lived in was far nicer than anything we had lived in and it had a second story, which to me, translated to wealth, which in turn translated to something desirable.
I remember being bored and I was about to ask my parents why we had come to see such a boring movie when my attention was brought back to the screen to see the main character transformed into someone possessed by an evil entity. Her face changed from the healthy glow of a teenager to the cadaverous and scarred pallor of the demon that possessed her body. The speaker attached to the car window blared out her screams and sarcasm to the priest who was trying to exorcise the demon from the girl who was just a few years my senior. I was paralyzed with fear. The speaker was turned up too loud. I dared not move. I was sweating in the cold car. I hid my eyes behind the headrest on my dad’s side of the car, and then I looked again and again. I had to see what horror was going to fall upon my heroine next.
Her body was no longer her own and her possessor violated her body in ways that were unimaginable to me. She was thrown across the room, her head turned completely around on her neck, she was made to stab herself with a cross, she was scarred with holy water, she vomited uncontrollably, she cried for her mother in rare moments of lucidity. And I watched. I watched this horror unfold before me and I was powerless to help. I was powerless to help myself when the demon was expelled and needed a new host. Not even a priest could help. The demon was too strong. I knew he was lying in wait for me.
The movie was over and my dad turned on the radio. It was a slow melody by Peaches and Herb that did not do much for the queasy stomach. I think I ate too much popcorn or maybe it was the Redvines that my dad picked up at the liquor store on the way to the drive-in, but something was tugging at my insides. We drove in silence all the way home. The night was darkest midnight blue that I had ever seen or have ever seen since. I sat tucked into my corner of the car with my knees tucked up against my chest. Despite the late hour, I did not dare close my eyes. I was exhausted, but I needed to stay alert.
When finally the car made its way to its familiar parking spot in the driveway, the family exited in silence, but I could not move. My dad said, “C’mon, get out of the car.” I did not answer. I know my dad saw my feet on the seat–with shoes on. Tears welled in my eyes and my heart was racing. I could not loosen the hold I had on my legs. What if I stepped out of the car and the demon grabbed my ankle? What was I going to do then? I cried, “Daddy, carry me. Please. Carry me.” I could not hold back the flood of tears that escaped then. It was apparent that I was sacred. My Uncle Sam looked over and smirked. I think he was scared too, but he came back to the car to help me get my things. My dad and I followed him as he quickly made his way out of the darkness into the lighted house.
It has been over twenty-five years since I saw that movie. I was doing fine. As I grew older I had an obsession with ghosts, and monsters, and aliens, and anything that would give me a good scare, but I swore that I would never watch anything that has a demon taking possession over someone’s body. I was doing fine on my own, until I had kids and they recommended we sit down and watch a movie on DVD.
I sat in my comfy chair and my husband sat in his matching comfy chair. The kids brought blankets to the living room and we brought a chair for my son’s friend. The first thirty minutes of the movie were boring. I was about to ask the kids why they were making me watch such a boring movie. There was too much exposition and not enough action. I was about to leave the room to get started on the dishes that were in the sink and then a few paranormal activities began to happen in this young couple’s home, so they decided to videotape the occurrences. Eventually the wife became possessed and the old “eating too many Redvines” feeling began to emerge in my stomach. I saw similarities from that movie everywhere in my life, but the most haunting similarity was the crack in the cover for the crawl space in the attic. I have thought several times about climbing up there to see if there is anything there, but I am afraid I will see a picture of me from the past and then it will all be over from there.
I do not want to discuss how long I slept with a pillow at the edge of the bed to protect me from any demon that might be looking for a host.
So, did I give evil its power? Maybe. Maybe it has its own power and it just needs to leave me alone.