At the age of 32, I’ve discovered something interesting about myself; I am still unnerved by graves and graveyards at night.
This is because I moved house recently. My new street is just off the high street but rather well hidden behind a church, and to access it from the high street I have to take a short cut through the churchyard.
The church boasts a very old graveyard, and being the night owl that I am, I often find myself wandering home in the dark and through the graveyard. And I don’t mean past the graveyard, I mean through the damn thing; big century-old tombstones on all sides. Eeeek.
So why this irrational scare-fest? Afterall I am thirty-bloody-two and should be way over the age of being creeped out by a load of tombstones.
After a little bit of pondering I’ve decided that the reason for this silly irrational fear is simple; when I was five years old I watched Michael Jackson’s Thriller for the first time.
Imprinted for ever in my imagination is the dead woman still in her wedding dress. Even at such a young age I found that wonderfuly macabre; Why would you bury someone in their wedding dress?
And then there was the guy who came out from behind a slowly creaking door of a crypt and, let’s not forget, the zombie that came out of a drain. (I often used to wonder about that last one… I mean, how did the corpse get from his coffin into the sewer network. Pretty clever zombie). Throw in a killer dance routine and you’ve got magic.
After Thriller I started a general love /hate relationship with anything that was a) highly imaginative, b) shit scary and c) full of corpses. I spent the best part of the eighties devouring any kind of gruesome, scary, supernatural, oh-look-there’s-lots-of-corpses filmatic experience.
Poltergeist is a good example. Fantastic film, very imaginative and a slightly silly concept (“I’m in the TV mommy”) which Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) managed to get away with, thanks to a little help from Mr. Spielberg.
But that scene where the mother plunges into the half dug-out swimming pool where a load of coffins come popping up out of the ground freaked me out in the most marvelous way.
I remember hoping my parents would consider putting a swimming pool in the back garden to see if the same thing might happen, but they weren’t having any of it.
It took them 3 years to decide on a new bird bath fountain, so chances of a swimming pool were pretty small.
When I was about 8 or 9 I went to a friend’s birthday party. His father thought it was suitable to put an 18certificate film on to a bunch of impressionable 8 year olds. Fortunately, I agreed with him and mentally clapped like a seal when he announced it was called Hellraiser.
Hellraiser has one of the best film concepts ever. A quick synopsis; There’s this funky box thing that looks a bit like a rubixcube which opens up the gateway to hell (where a bloke with loads of pins in his head lives), and then there’s this guy who got ripped to bits by a load of hooks and lives in an attic (as a half-alive corpse) where his wife brings him random shags for her corpse-husband to kill (with an axe) and, of course, eat.
Totally inspired. And of course I didn’t sleep for days.
My parents were oblivious to my never ending quest to find more and more gory, corpse ridden films. Someone at school had told me that the last 5minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark was pretty gruesome, so when I saw it was going to be on TV, I secretly set the VHS timer to record.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is not a scary film, but it does win the award for best shock-ending ever. After a film full of guns, whips, car chases and fist fights, it all goes supernatural in the last 2mins as God decides to turn the heat up on the Nazi’s and wipes them out with a nifty death ray.
Cue melting corpses and exploding heads.
Do you have any idea how many times I watched that sequence on my nifty VHS?
A lot, people, a lot. In fact I used to pause it and try to watch it frame by frame so that I could watch the really bad nazi (above) disintegrate in slow-mo.
And finally, Ghostbusters. Again, brilliant film, but the first five minutes in the Library scared the shit out of me; Classy floating ghost suddenly turns into -yep, you guessed it- a rotting corpse, courtesy of a bit of George Lucas’s nifty Industrial Light n Magic (all the rage in the 80’s).
After this I actually joined the local library, convinced that they must be a really good place to hang around and meet ghosts. There weren’t any ghosts, but admittedly there was a striking similarity between the librarian and the ghost from the film.
It’s also worth noting that the bit where Sigourney gets possessed by a big dog thing hiding in her armchair is also quite nasty, and made me very wary of my mum’s new three-piece suite for quite a while.
I loved these films, and still do. I’m pretty sure they all had a lasting impression on me, one way or another. Ghostbusters was instrumental in my decision at the tender age of 6 or 7 that would, one day, live in a big city. Because, apparently, in big cities you could see a ghost at any given time and, if you’re lucky, get possessed by a dog called Zoul. Yay.
So perhaps all of this explains why I brace myself and skip past graveyards and tombstones at a healthy pace; one scary film too many during my formative years of the Eighties.
One day I’m pretty sure I’ll look behind me to discover MJ in a dodgy red leather jacket / white sock combo doing that shuffle dance with a load of zombies behind him.
And that, my friends, is the price you pay for being a child of the eighties.
Mentally scarred for life by MJ’s Thriller.
Worth it though. Worth it.