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3.21.2011

Childhood Chillers

The passage of time has a way of amplifying the emotions of youth. It seems to either make everything sentimental or nostalgic or, in some cases, bizarrely hyperbolic or dramatic. I think I'd like to read John Bellairs's The House with a Clock in its Walls again just to see how it measures up.

I read that sucker in an afternoon back when I was a youngster. It scared me to death, but I also remember as I was reading it that the writing was top notch. It was a book that stuck with me for a lot of years. I read almost everything Bellairs wrote, but nothing was ever quite as resonant as that text.

I was similarly bewitched by an innocent little Disney movie called The Watcher in the Woods. I distinctly recall laying out the pillows and blankets and settling in for a movie on the living room floor with my older sister. We were both dead still and quiet while that little beauty unfolded on screen. A few times I wanted to crawl up on the couch with my folks. It's a suspenseful little booger, a film in which the tension just builds toward the third act. Then, in the story's conclusion, it's not at all what you think it is.

That scene where Bette Davis's Mrs. Aylwood is trying to free Jan from the branches in the water?

Chilling.

These were two creative works that really got under my skin when I was a kid; it will be interesting to see how they stack up all these years later, when I encounter them again with my daughter...

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