Early Brushes with Cinematic Horror

When I was ten years old, I stayed up late on Halloween night and watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers with my mom. We were living in Pueblo, Colorado. Bon Jovi was popular, the Patriots were the laughingstock of football, and pretty much the scariest thing a kid had to worry about was the insertion of a sewing needle in a Bit-o-Honey or a razor blade tucked into a Charleston Chew.

I remember sorting the loot, making the appropriate trades with my sisters, and settling down to watch Don Sigel's film on the couch.

And once that title flashed on the screen with all that melodramatic music and I saw old Uncle Ira out there mowing the lawn like a robot, I was hooked. I mean, I couldn't do anything but watch. Popcorn be damned, I had to remind myself to take a breath.

When it was finished, I was scared to go to bed. I was scared to be put to bed, suddenly scared that my parents had been replaced by pod people. It cut me to the core to think about my family members losing that fundamental spark of personality that made them the people I love so much. It's one of the most powerful horror tropes we have, that horror story on the dissolution of personal identity.

I'm reading Boy's Life again. There's no finer book for the month of October, by the way. This is my third time through, and I might just adopt it as a yearly personal writing workshop. When I read McCammon's prose, I'm inspired to consider phrasing, description, pacing and plot in different ways.

Last night, I finished Cory's embedded narrative about the first time he saw Invaders from Mars at The Lyric with his buddies.

Holy cow, that was me! I thought. It's a wonderfully staged resonant memory, and one I can certainly relate to.

Thanks, Mom, for spending time like that with me and, to the best of my knowledge, for never plotting to swap me out for an alien while I slept. Even though I've discontinued the morning Tales from the Darkside sessions with my daughter (bad dreams, Daddy!), I'm so looking forward to sharing moments like these with my girl when she's a little bit older...


Aaron Polson said...

Body Snatchers is a tight little film. It scared the **** out of me as a kid.

Here's to another Halloween!

Daniel W. Powell said...

Tight is a good adjective for it, Aaron. It hits you in the gut early, keeps the tension up throughout, and that lovely fly-away shot with Kevin McCarthy bouncing from truck to truck on the PCH? Priceless!

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