Parental Supervision–TV Edition

The other day I was watching Puppet Master on TV. An ’80s classic to be sure. I remember watching it with my sister when it came out on cable. I was probably 10 or 11, which would have made my sister 9 or 10 at the time. You could say that we might have been a little too young to be watching a movie in which a bunch of creepy puppets murder people, but hey, it was the late ’80s/early ’90s. We were allowed to do that back then.

The question came up on Twitter once about what were you not allowed to watch as a kid. While other people are listing R-rated movies and TV shows like South Park and in some cases The Simpsons, I really had to think about it because we didn’t really have restrictions on the TV we consumed. The best I could come up with was we weren’t allowed to watch anything with excessive sex. That’s it. Excessive violence was fine. We were allowed to watch horror movies with the understanding that we were not to wake up our mother if we had nightmares. We made this choice. We got to deal with the consequences.

This is why I went through a period of sleep deprivation one summer after watching Creepshow 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. I was afraid to sleep because I was afraid to have nightmares. It turns out I don’t remember having any nightmares about the movies when I did sleep and as I’ve gotten older I realize the my nightmares act independently of anything I watch. They just are.

As a result of this lack of parental supervision, I watched A LOT of horror movies when I was more than likely too young to be watching them. I can remember sitting on the couch when I was really little watching Poltergeist and V: The Mini Series with my dad. Of the two, it turns out V was the one that scarred me for life. Fucking lizard people.

The best part was that this lack of parental supervision extended to grandparents on both sides. In the case of my paternal grandpa, you could say it was even encouraged. He might make us rent stuff like The Journey of Natty Gan and The Princess Bride from the video store, but then we’d go back to the house and he’d say, “Oh, look! There’s a Maximum Overdrive/Duel double feature!” and then we’d watch that (my sister still hates driving alongside semis).

At his place I can remember watching Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch; The Hitcher; Aliens; Poltergeist III; and Trilogy of Terror (I was convinced the Zuni doll lived in the bookcase after that viewing).

At my maternal grandmother’s house, I’d sometimes go off to watch TV in the den. There I remember watching Jaws 2, Cujo, and Motel Hell.

Most of these movies were consumed by my eyeballs before I got through junior high (some of them before I got to junior high).

And it wasn’t just horror that we were allowed to watch, either. There were some more adult action and comedy flicks we were consuming at tender ages, too. I don’t know how many kids in fourth grade watched Fatal Beauty, but for a period of time, I could quote it. Ditto for Police Academy 3, but that was one of those things where the adult jokes kind of fly over your head and you just laugh at Proctor walking into a room full of people while stark naked.

TV shows were the same way. Do you want to watch Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted? Go for it. Pro wrestling and Beverly Hills 90210? Enjoy. 21 Jump Street and Cagney and Lacey? By all means. Cartoons? Okay then. Cartoons are for kids anyway. Just no Wile E. Coyote impersonations.

Did I watch age-appropriate stuff? Sure. All the time. Did all of this unbridled media consumption warp me? I dunno. I think if it did, it’s probably way down on the list.

Did it help form my tastes in regards to the media I consume as an apparent adult? Yeah, I’m sure it did. I wouldn’t have watched all of those horror movies as a kid if I weren’t fascinated with them and wasn’t willing to face the potential nightmares to experience them.

Am I saying that parents should let their kids watch whatever? Of course not. They’re your kids. Warp them in your own unique way.

I’m just saying that for me, I’m glad I wasn’t so supervised.

Five Fun-Bad Horror Movies

Cover of "The Return of the Living Dead"

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a bad horror movie. I’ve said repeatedly that most days I’d rather watch Friday the 13th Part III or Halloween IV over most Oscar winners, but I admit some of those bad flicks are more fun than others. Well, fun for me anyway (and this list could probably be used as an indictment on what I find “fun”).

So here are five of my favorite fun-bad horror movies.

1. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)-Clu Gulager Alert! In this zombie flick, containers carrying zombies are accidentally ruptured by two medical warehouse employees. When a reanimated body is burned, the resulting smoke causes a rainstorm that re-animates the local cemetery. Naturally, this results in many people killed, like most horror flicks. But really, the whole film can be summed up by a zombie using a police radio. “Send more cops.”

2. Jason X (2001)- I could probably put a few Friday the 13th movies on this list, but if I’m going to pick one, it’ll be this one because it’s the most fun. It’s Jason in space in the fuuuuuture. He and one of his intended victims were cryogenically frozen and revived something like 400 years later by space-school kids that found them. Of course when Jason wakes up, he has to go killing folks and there’s a whole bunch of people on this ship, lucky him. It’s fun because the kids are snarky, right up until death.

3. C.H.U.D. II-Bud the CHUD (1989)- A childhood favorite. A couple of high schoolers break into a government science lab to steal a corpse for a prank and SURPRISE! It’s a CHUD named Bud. Naturally, hijinks ensue. CHUDs aren’t zombies. They’re Cannibalistic Human Underground Dwellers. And they’re a lot of fun. This film has a lot of intentional humor, including one of the CHUDs that can’t keep his head attached and at one point is kicking it down the road trying to pick it up. My dad has been quoting it since I was a kid, most often before dinner. “Eat ’em up! Eat ’em up! Yum yum yum!”

4. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)- Afraid of clowns? Well, this flick won’t help, but I still feel compelled to watch it every time it’s on. Just like it says, clowns from outer space invade a town and proceed to eat a bunch of humans, encasing them in what looks like cotton candy and then stabbing the cocoons with crazy straws and sucking out the contents. Of course, it’s up to three teenagers to stop them. The clowns are all doughy looking, their ship is like a fun house, and there’s a popcorn gun. It’s the fair from hell, fun but without the funnel cake.

5. Tremors (1990)- Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward lead a quirky little group of townspeople (basically the whole town) against giant, underground worms. It’s fun because the people are fun. The folks in Perfection act and react a lot like actual people might, from the gun nuts to the mother to the money-making grocery store owner. Val and Earl (Bacon and Ward) are big on coming up with plans, but their plans aren’t always the best.  Remember, running’s not a plan. Running is what you do when a plan fails.

Sensory Overload at the Movies

A Night at the Movies (film)

I went to see The Conjuring with my roommate. She’d been really wanting to see it, but since it’s scary, she didn’t want to see it alone. After being subject to some bribery in the form of a Salted Caramel Pretzel milkshake from Steak n Shake, I was persuaded to see it with her. After reading some reviews, I thought it might not be too terrible, high praise from someone so finicky and critical of horror films, particularly recent stuff.

And I do think it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to watching it again on TV so I can really appreciate all of the elements at work.

Why TV? Why not see it in the theater again?


Seeing movies in the theater has a tendency to be a downright painful experience for me.

I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I have a certain sensitivity to sounds. Theaters are almost always too loud for me. Now that’s not too big of a deal most of the time, unless I’m seeing a film like The Conjuring that contains a lot of jump scares. A component of the jump scare, of course, is the sudden crash of sound that accompanies the visual shock. Yeah, those crashes hurt.

My roommate noticed that I was cringing at things I was hearing long before anyone else heard anything. There’s a moment in the film when a mix of voices are heard on a recording. I had to plug my ears. It was too much noise. I’ve been known to do this during action sequences, too, with a lot of gun shots and explosions. Too loud.

I’ve also found in my old age that the visual experience of movies is hard for me to deal with. Hi-def is great, I’m sure. But for me, in the theater, everything is too big, too close, too  much and it’s hard for my brain to adjust. I’ve never been good with point of view shots, but put them up on the big screen and my eyes can’t handle it. Same with anything that has too much shaking. It makes my eyes cross. There’s no way I could have watched Open Water, Cloverfield, or The Blair Witch Project on the big screen. My brain wouldn’t have been able to take it.

As it was there were a few times during The Conjuring that I had to close my eyes, not because it was scary, but because I couldn’t take the shaking and/or point of view angles. The sudden swing of the camera made my eyes cross. There’s a whole swath of movie that took place in the cellar that I couldn’t see because it was all done from the POV of a handheld camera.

Some days are better than others when it comes to the visuals, but the noises are always brutal. My roommate suggested that the next time I go to the movies I wear ear plugs. It might help and I’m willing to try it.

Anything to tone down the overwhelming theater experience to bearable so I can at least enjoy a film based on the film and not how painful the sensory overload is.

Just another reason I’m a pain in the ass when it comes to going to the movies.

Like Mother, Like Daughter…Scary!

Whenever someone tells me (or someone else) that I’m acting just like my mother, it’s typically not meant as a compliment. What they mean is that I’m acting in such a way that they don’t approve of and attribute my behavior to something genetically inherited from my mother.

However, I am like my mother in some ways, good and bad.

For example (and for Halloween), my mom and I both love horror.

The last time I was at her house, AMC was showing all four of the Alien movies and Mom and I watched the end of Alien and most of Aliens. She loves the SyFy channel on the weekends for movies, no matter how bad they might be. The People Under the Stairs was on Saturday morning and I immediately thought of Mom. She watched that movie a couple of times a week when I was a kid.

She took me and my friend to see Se7en. She rented me Rosemary’s Baby and brought home Dracula from the library for me when I was sick.

Mom is the reason I know who Stephen King is. She read all of his books. I can specifically remember her reading Salem’s Lot. I remember the cover of the book. I remember reading the dusk jacket.

I have yet to read it, though.

When I was finally allowed to check out an adult book at the library at the tender age of 11, Mom didn’t bat an eyelash when I came back with Jaws.

I can’t say that my mom is the reason why I like horror (as I said in my post about why I write horror, I’m not sure exactly WHY I like it or write it), but my mom was definitely a horror enabler. She liked it, realized I liked it, and encouraged me to explore it.

Of course, we don’t always agree on our horror likes. Mom liked Scream enough to make me watch it (during Thanksgiving dinner, naturally). I hated it. I enjoy Vincent Price more than Mom does.

It doesn’t matter, though. The point is that it’s a bonding point for us. Our relationship hasn’t always been the greatest, as happens sometimes with mothers and daughters. Sometimes it’s easier for me to focus on the differences and disagreements. They’re easier to see. It’s easy to forget when we get along or agree. The lack of conflict seems to diminish the recall on the memory.

But even as I picked my brain for more memories of the Mom-horror connection, I was shocked at the warmth that bubbled up behind them. It’s kind of odd that I’d get sentimental and gooey watching a guy run around in a gimp suit while he shoots through the walls because one of his cellar children escaped into them because it reminds me of my mom, but there you go.

My mother and I have an interesting, if not unique, relationship.

You can tell by the ways I take after her.

Five Favorite Horror Movies

Tis the season of spooky! As a horror film lover, you had to have seen this list coming. Keep in mind that these aren’t the best made horror films or the greatest horror films of all time. They’re my five favorites, ones that I’ll watch again and again and again (and again).

Also note that of the five listed here, three have remakes. I’m talking about the originals, guys. Also, none of the movies were made recently. I’m talking the “newest” one on  the list came out the year I was born. Not that I don’t like some recent horror flicks. It’s just that I’m old school like that.

My five favorite horror movies (in no particular order):

1. Halloween (1978). It’s simple, low-budget, and effective. The killer wears a white-painted William Shatner mask. The idea of that being scary is ridiculous, but the reality of it is terrifying. The slow reveal of that mask after Laurie finds her friends dead is always chilling. To this day, if I see someone wearing the now classic Michael Myers mask, it gives me pause. And the urge to run.

2. House on Haunted Hill (1959). Vincent Price is an angel in my world and I love his work. This movie was a William Castle special and when it was released, featured a skeleton on wires to appear during a key part of the movie.  But, even without the live skeleton, the low key creeps the movie provides are effective, particularly when you realize exactly what’s going on. The “ghosts” in this house have nothing on the humans.

3. Friday the 13th (1980). A young Kevin Bacon getting an arrow shoved through his throat? Who doesn’t like that? To me, this is the movie that really solidified the teen slasher flick, with the isolated location, the gorier deaths, the GOTCHA ending. The killer’s point of view was also a fun touch that kept the real killer’s identity a secret until the end.

4. Alien (1979). The isolation of space. The claustrophobia of the ship. The threat of sabotage from within. A monster that you only saw in glimpses. The classic chestbursting scene that’s scarred more than one kid for life. The tension build over the course of the movie is enough to have your palms sweating so that when the alien is finally revealed in full, screaming isn’t hard to do.

5. Jaws (1975). “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Indeed. This is one of those movies that I’ve seen so much that if don’t feel like sitting through the whole thing, I’ve got it timed so I can tune in to my favorite scenes. From the opening attack to the shark blowing up, the mechanical shark not working is the best thing that happened to this movie. Keeping the shark in the shadows just heightened the threat and the fear. Sure, there are several shark inaccuracies in the movie, but by the time the shark eats Quinn, you’ve pretty much forgiven them all.

Happy Vincent Price Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s a day filled with hearts and flowers and pink and bitter single people. The one time I had a boyfriend during Valentine’s Day, he thought it was stupid to give me anything and so he didn’t. After being told for years about how great the holiday is when you have a signficant other, I have to say that I wasn’t too impressed.

I fully admit to being one of the bitter single people for a while until I decided to give the finger to making myself miserable and make this holiday my own.

For everyone else, it’s Valentine’s Day. For me, it’s Vincent Price Day.

I wear my Vincent Price shirt (yes, I have one; made it myself), get comfy in bed with some treats, and watch House on Haunted Hill. It’s one of my favorite Vincent Price flicks.

This holiday was a work in progress for several years. I’m not much of a romantic comedies girl. I like horror films. Back in high school, we had a sleep over for the girls who weren’t going to the Sweethearts Dance at school and we watched horror movies to counter the squishy love theme going on at the high school. That ritual kind of stuck. I liked to watch horror films on Valentine’s Day.

A few years ago my horror film of choice to celebrate Valentine’s Day was House on Haunted Hill. It was that viewing that made me realize that Vincent Price was my perfect valentine.

Suave, sophisticated, classy, cruel, and murderous. What more could a girl like me ask for?

Happy Vincent Price Day! I hope yours is a scream.