So, fall is upon us and the crisp October morning air portends the coming of Halloween. My thoughts turn to ghoulies, ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties; to black, moonless skies above decrepit Victorian mansions, abandoned and forgotten cemetaries, and silent, fog-shrouded woods. (Well, my thoughts often turn to these things, but now even more so than they do the rest of the year!)
It's ironic, considering how much such things freaked the Hell out of me when I was a child, that I should now have such fond feelings for them. As I mentioned in the flashback post I'm resurrecting today, I was terrified by spooky things when I was younger. But at the same time, I was inexplicably drawn to them - I couldn't turn down a good horror movie if my sanity depended on it. Which it very nearly often did.
Take for instance the movie I watched with my fiancee this past weekend: Amicus' The Skull, starring one of my all-time favorite genre actors (and fellow war gamer) Peter Cushing. A finely written (it was adapted from a story by Robert Bloch) and filmed Gothic treasure, it's a movie I haven't seen since I was maybe 10 years old. I recently purchased the DVD, having been meaning to do so for several years, and was instantly reminded how it affected my younger self. For a long time after first viewing The Skull - maybe years! - I was terrified to turn around or look over my shoulder when I was alone in my family's old farmhouse. I just knew there was a disembodied floating skull directly behind me, and that to turn and face it would bring my instant doom and eternal torment!
I distinctly recall one night sometime after this, when I was still afflicted with the dread of the Skull Over My Shoulder - a late autumn wind storm was buffeting the old farm house, and woke me from a nightmare-ridden slumber. The wind wailed and moaned, and my bedroom windows rattled incessantly as the wind whistled through the cracks around them. I bore it as long as I could, but finally could take no more and fled to the living room. I had spent many nights there, sleeping with a light on. My bedroom was no sanctuary, as I had been tormented by creatures there on many nights, and had even been dragged into the abysmal black depths of my closet, through the evil hole in the wall therein. All in nightmares of course, but we all know how fine the line is between dream and "reality."
Unfortunately, on this night, the lighted living room would offer no reprieve: I had just settled in when the lamp above my head went dark! I rose warily and tried the light switch again and again, as the wind wailed and beat at the picture window behind me. My muscles stiffened in fear, and with each "click" my every movement and thought became equally labored as the dread spread throughout my entire body. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I moved as quickly as I could - which seemed unnaturally slow, as if moving through molasses - to the stairs, hoping to reach the safety of my parents' bedroom on the floor above before that protective barrier of glass gave way and admitted entrance to the Thing Outside That Wanted To Eat My Soul. I trudged up the stairs, forcing my frozen legs to move, step by agonizing step.
Continue reading: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...
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