Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy All Hollows Eve

When a kid, like probably most children, I was somewhat partial to horror movies.  For the most part they didn't really bother me too much.  Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, and of course the immortal Bella Lugosi were all regulars on the late night Chiller Theater every Saturday night on WPIX channel 11 out of New York City.  I can still remember the corny opening for the program showing a hand coming out of the ground and one by one pulling each of the letters in CHILLER into the ground.  Remember this was the 1970's.

So anyways it wasn't until the summer of 1979 that I was cured of my thing for horror flicks.  That was the summer that Stephen King did something really really bad.  You see up until then I could care less about werewolves vampires and such, because they all existed in some never clearly defined world, called Transylvania or such more than a hundred years ago.  What Mr. King did was to eliminate that psychological safety zone.  In short, Stephen King took his vampires, and moved them in next door to me.

I remember watching Salem's Lot (based on the novel of the same name) with my best friend David who lived two houses down a typical suburban street from me.  A two minute walk, three if I was taking my time.  Right off we could tell there was a problem.  The story was set in a small normal middle class town IN THE HERE AND NOW.  It went down hill from there.  And it really didn't help that some of the main characters (and victims) were normal kids... just like me and my buddy.  To this day, more than thirty years later I can still hear the sound of one of the vampire kids scratching on the window whispering "it's me Danny... let me in" as he floats outside the 2nd floor bedroom window of one of the main characters, another kid.

Of course the program ended in due course.  And then I had to walk home.  Alone.  At night.  Did I mention alone?  I am not sure exactly how long it took me to get home.  But had I been timed I feel confident I would have qualified for the US Olympic track team. Today I suspect that the 1979 version of Salem's Lot would be considered fairly tame, if not actually lame, by aficionados of the horror genre.  But it scared the $^#& out of at least one 12-13 year old back then.  I have heard that a few years back Rob Lowe starred in a remake of the film.

Maybe one day... (emphasis on 'day'), but I don't think this is it.


Steve Hayes said...

I found Stephen King's vampires pretty tame. Nobody's vampires come anywhere near Bram Stoker's. Kings Pet Sematary, on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

When I was a little boy growing up in St Paul in the 50s, Holy Week was observed at both of the downtown movie theaters with a different double feature horror movie every day. Don't think I ever got to see all twenty-four. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

Bill, tGf

M. Jordan Lichens said...

I have no shame in saying that I (someone a bit younger than John) was scared quite a bit by Salem's Lot. This only grew when I moved to New Hampshire for school where every New England town reminded of vampires or IT. Great, now I have Tim Curry's clown character stuck in my head.

Odysseus said...

I didn't like the movie much, but when I was fourteen, in 1987, I read Salem's Lot in a single night. I began the night as a nominally secular, lapsed Catholic boy who had not been to mass in years, and by 4 AM I had a stand-alone crucifix placed on the desk next to my bed and a Catholic bible open to psalm 23. Thus began my return to Catholicism. LOL Good times.