Sunday, January 25, 2015

Horror of Horrors

Okay, I'm always struggling with my fascination/obsession/repulsion of horror movies. Specifically of slasher films of the late 70s and 80s. Halloween. Nightmare on Elm Street. Friday the 13th. And, of course, Sleepaway Camp.

The 26 anniversary of all of this starting is happening, and that combined with the fact that Betsy is now the age that I was when all of this got thrust upon me has me obsessing wondering about all of this, all over again.

That and the fact that I decided to watch a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon today.

I tell this story all the time, to the point that my kids are embarrassed by it. When I was 10 years old, I was invited to my best friend, Michelle's, birthday party. It was a sleepover, as 10 year olds tend to have. There were 3 of us who went, and we did all the things that 10 year old girls do at a sleepover. We had pizza, we tormented Michelle's little brother, we giggled and laughed and had a grand time. And we watched movies.

So, Michelle's mom asks what we want her to rent at the local video store. At this point in my life, I basically said every thought that came into my head, so I proceed to go on and on about Little Red Riding Hood. You see, I had recently had a babysitter who I thought was super cool, and she had rented this version of Riding Hood that I found suspenseful. Basically, it was the same old story, but to me, who grew up with 5 television channels, it seemed like a scary story. And at 10, I did know that at sleepovers you were supposed to watch scary stories. So they all humor me. Michelle's mom rents Red Riding Hood, along with the classic Adventures in Baby-sitting, and...Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and the original Friday the 13th.

They watched Red Riding Hood first. I came to understand quickly that they didn't like it. But oh, I had no idea what they were about to do. They put in Nightmare on Elm Street. I can still to this day tell you the entire plot from beginning to end. Granted, it was the 4th movie in the franchise, so they had to fill me in on stuff. But there I sat, as one of the truly most horrifying creatures ever put on film entered my 10 year old brain. I had no idea what to do with him. So naturally, I became fixated. (That is a pattern in my life.)

Freddy is fascinating. The original Nightmare on Elm Street is a work of art. It is a dissection of dreams, of adolescence, of the boogyman hiding inside our heads. It is the parents in the movie that did something wrong-for reasons they considered right. It is the sins of the father visited upon the son, but through a dark, demonic character that can literally destroy your dreams. The original ending made a circle, completed the story, but Wes Craven was forced to add a twist ending to set up a sequel. Which is a shame-and true of all slasher movies, from my perspective. Sequels never, ever live up to the original because the story that propelled the first story has to then be manipulated.

Take Halloween, for example. The original Halloween is the most perfect slasher movie ever made, in my opinion. Michael Myers is the classic boogyman, he has no motivation whatsoever except for that he seems to target the non-virgins of the group. He's just this mute guy going after kids one by one on Halloween night. And perfect, pure as snow Jamie Lee Curtis isn't killed because she's a good girl. That's perfection. But then, they needed to make more. And in doing so, they decided that Michael Myers needed a motive and made him Jamie Lee's brother. And that takes it all away...because now he's not just a scary guy who could, in turn, show up at anyone's door.

I don't watch slasher movies of nowadays. I'm quite sure they would scare me to death. I did watch Mama last year, which was scary until it was so sad that I cried and cried and hold my kids close. And that, of course, is the wonder of movies-the ability for them to take us out of our world and explore the depths of bits of our brains that we didn't know were there. Sleepaway Camp is without a doubt the start of a lifelong obsession that I have with transgendered individuals, which may sound very colloquial, but I grew up in the most sheltered way possible. For this slasher movie to be my introduction to the idea that there could be boys who were girls and vice versa was downright shocking.

I'm trying to decide about all of these things in relation to Betsy. I tell her constantly that she may be at a sleepover and watch something scary. I mean, she's scared of Hocus Pocus. I don't want her to be embarrassed like I was. At the same time, I can't imagine letting her watch any of this stuff...possibly ever. Maybe my parents were glad to have had me watch such things away from them, so that they didn't have to deal with watching it themselves. They certainly never have watched any of this. Ever. And I don't have the stomach to watch anything that isn't dated to my childhood, where I can enjoy the 80s hair and clothes as much as the movie.

I'm still that little girl, scared of the big bad wolf. Only obsessed with him too...