When I was a child Alfred Hitchcock movies always scared me. It’s hard to believe that “The Birds” is turning 50 years old. What a great movie and I will probably make the effort to see it in the near future.
I think, as an adult, the movie that frightened me the most was the original “Halloween” with Jamie Lee Curtis. I was home alone, my wife was in the hospital and the youngins’ were spending a few days at the grandparents. I had arrived on the sofa after a long workday and a hospital visit; I turned on the cable looking for a movie and landed on this thriller.
I thought I was desensitized from horror movie panic after an incident that occurred when I was 11 years old.
My cousin Johnny told me about an event that would be taking place at a local movie theatre. This theatre was huge, the largest in our neighborhood and probably held at least 40,000 people (kid math, more like 800). On this particular Saturday afternoon there was to be a Horror Movie Marathon, 3 movies, some cartoons and a special “March of the Zombies”, real Zombies at the theatre along with Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolfman, LIVE (or dead) and in person. Since we both lived in different sections of the city we agreed to meet at the movie and after we would walk to our grandmother’s home to shoot some hoops.
I arrived a little late and could not see Johnny as he was somewhere in the already darkened theatre. I had to take a seat in the back row, right next to the aisle, usually reserved for the ushers.
All of the sudden the curtain opened, the projection engineer began showing the beginning of a movie. I can recall an old mansion with the words “FRANKENSTEIN” blazoned across the front, along with the usual audio-video effects; lightning, thunder etc. From the left side Frankenstein appeared, walking slowly across the stage followed by an assortment of the living dead. An announcement came over the speakers that the “Walk of the Zombies” would now commence. At that moment I witnessed 30,000 screaming kids (kid math 700) exiting the theatre en masse, reminiscent of the scene from “The Blob” where the audience ran from the Colonial theater to escape the pending doom.
I sat there eating my popcorn and laughing at those scared little cowards, and then it happened.
I could feel a presence behind me, breath on the back of my neck whispering to me “are you ready”? I turned and saw a real Zombie, a real ugly, honest to goodness Zombie, now with it’s bony hands on my right shoulder. Behind him there was an army of ghouls ready to march down from the back of theatre.
Popcorn flew in one direction, I in the other right out the door joining the other 30,000 pants-poopers. Since I could not find my cousin I decided to head on to my grandmother’s house and we would somehow catch up.
Johnny eventually arrived a few hours later wondering what happened to me. When I told him of my dilemma he laughed and mocked me. He stayed there along with a handful of others and watched all the cartoons and movies much to the dismay of the Zombie actors and theatre staff who were probably hoping for an early departure.
It was at that moment I vowed never to be frightened again, and it worked until the evening I watched “Halloween”.
I don’t know exactly what in my psyche caused a momentary uneasiness. I enjoyed the movie, and of course how can you go wrong with a young Jamie Lee Curtis, but as I moved from the sofa and headed for bed, for just a split second I cautiously and slowly peeked around the living room door just to see if there was a goalie mask peering in from the other side.
No food went flying, underwear OK but it was just a small tense moment. I laughed it off and told my wife about it the next day.
She mocked me!
It was at that moment I vowed never to be afraid again (or until next time).
Anyway, thank you Alfred Hitchcock and here is a little scene from the birds.
Pants-Poopers circa 1963.