It's October! Fall and leaves and sweatshirts. As an adult woman, I can switch to black nail polish for a few weeks and not feel guilty about it. More importantly - it's scary movie season. Thirty-one days of the scary stuff, whether it's perennial favorites or newbies. Here we go!
I really, really love scary movies. I am never not in the mood to watch a horror film. I recently was linked, via Wired, to a list of the best scary movies ever. Scream doesn't make thrillist's list, which is criminal. Though, honestly, I have so much nostalgia and love for Scream, I can't separate my experience of the film from the film itself. So I am a crap judge. Scream, and then it's sister film, Cabin in the Woods, introduced me to so many great horror movies, most of which are on that list. Also, updating my 'need to watch/re-watch' list after this... As for the ranking, I'm surprised The Shining isn't higher but I can't argue with much else. The Exorcist and Texas can scare me just thinking about them.
My best movie-going experience, horror or otherwise, is for the film Scream. The movie came out in 1997. I watched it when it first came out on VHS, so I was probably 10, maybe 11, with my friend Jessica. At the time, my mom worked at a daycare center with her best friend, Jennifer. Jessica was Jennifer's stepdaughter. She, Jessica, was my rebel friend, the person who first explained the ins and outs of sex to me, who gave me my first cigarette. She was a few months older and I copied everything she did. She covered her bedroom walls with posters pulled from magazines, so I did the same. She pierced her cartilage, so I did too. I slept over at her house all the time, especially over the summer. Playing in the lake her dad built with her two little half sisters. Visiting her grandma, who lived at the end of the driveway. Sleeping on the trampoline out in the country, looking up at the stars. When she slept at my house, we played flash light tag with my brother, hiding in the ditch half a mile from our house. And we would watch movies. So many movies.
Scream was the best, though. We were at daycare. It was summer. The school-age kids were all going to the park. Jessica and I managed to talk our way out of going - it was hot, we were tired from staying up late the night before. Our moms and the teacher aids agreed that we could in the school kids’ room by ourselves while everyone else went to the park. After a few rounds of video games, we got bored and started to look through the movies but it was all boring kids stuff - Disney movies, Nickelodeon TV shows. Luckily, we had a backup. Helen, one of the school kid teacher aids, had mentioned that she and her boyfriend had rented Scream and how scary it was. She had it in her purse to return it to the video rental store after work. She couldn’t leave it in her car; it was so hot; the tape would melt.
So Jessica and I got into Helen’s things and took the tape (sorry, Helen). We watched it on the television in the school kids’ room, laying out in the movie watching area. About halfway through the movie, around the part where Skeet Ulrich is released from jail and confronts Neve Campbell at school, my mom and Jennifer came in to check on us. They were pissed when they realized what we were watching and demanded we stop it immediately. It was so inappropriate for kids our age to be watching it, especially at a daycare center, etc. The video tape went into an office, under lock and key until the end of the day. Helen was scolded when she returned. Again, sorry, Helen.
That night, I stayed at their house again. Jennifer had rented some milder, tamer scary movie for us. PG-13. No Scream, that's for sure. Later that night, when we were supposed to go to sleep, Jessica in her bed and me on the floor next to her in a sleeping bag, we stayed up talking about Scream. All the possible killers. Who had done it? What was their motive? We had finished the movie at the perfect part. Everyone is a suspect! We discussed the movie for hours. Eventually we went to sleep but I woke up in the middle of the night, some time later. And was terrified. The room was totally dark. All I could think of was the movie, all those scary bits. Drew Barrymore's death and the killer's voice on the phone. I went to the master bedroom and woke up Jennifer, lying and telling her I was sick. She took me into the living room and we watched television until I fell back asleep. Later, she told my mom she was just waiting for me to go to sleep so she could go back to bed. I kept turning around, looking at her, making sure she was still there. I was so scared.
Eventually, Jessica and I ended up seeing the rest of the movie. I honestly don’t remember that part, but I’m sure we were disappointed. It’s almost twenty years later (fuck, I’m old) and I still love that movie, watch it every Halloween and own it and all three sequels. It was part of growing up and my movie education.
After watching Scream, Jessica and I went on a horror movie kick. We rented and watched every movie that was mentioned in Scream, from Carrie to Prom Night to Halloween. Then went through anything else in the Horror section at Circus Video. There are a lot of shitty horror movies out there. The Shining and Halloween are the ones that we picked up that are on my shelf today, rewatched every time the Halloween decorations come out. It started my scary movie habit that I can't seem to kick. Any time I’m with my mom or my sister, we watch a scary movie. We need to watch them when we’re together because we all kind of live alone, and you can’t watch them by yourselves. Sometimes I’ll try, watching the scary thing during the day when it’s still bright outside, hoping the scary stuff is out of my mind by the time it gets dark. And it always is, at least until the time I curl up in bed hours later and the scary stuff comes back, the horrifying images suddenly something I can’t stop imagining.
A few years after I saw the movie, I was home alone for the first time. My mom, grandmother, and brother were going somewhere. My dad was at work. It was just me. In this house out in the country, in the middle of nowhere. What do I do? Work on a puzzle and watch Scream, daring myself to get scared.
I never had another friend like Jessica, another movie going experience like Scream, when I was 11. Jesus, does anyone?