Every month, we (or YOU) ask the blogging staff here at NOTLP a survey question. Since the weather outside is frightful, we’re taking our seats in a nice air conditioned movie theater for this:
What is your favorite cinematic experience?
It’s hard to believe that I never saw an official Friday the 13th film in the theater until Jason started Shocker-ing small towners. Since my memories of Jason Goes To Hell: The (Not At All) Final Friday are hazily clouded with images of question marks regarding Mr. Voorhees’ newfound psychic powers and extended family, I’ll have to go with 2003’s opening night festivities for Freddy vs. Jason. I wasn’t drunk, but it was clear that a good 75% of the rest of the sold-out Long Island audience had most certainly enjoyed the kind of campfire festivities that would render them easy pickings at Camp Crystal Lake (this was confirmed halfway through the movie when half a bottle of Jack Daniels rolled down the angled floor and hit my foot). I’ll never argue that Ronny Yu’s mash-up is a GOOD movie per say, but unlike say, A Nightmare On Elm St. 5, Freddy vs. Jason was affectionately made to please its franchises’ fans. When you add a packed house of Friday night ticketbuyers, what you get is pure joy: screams of fear, hoots for gratuitous nudity, aww yeahs for drug use, boo yahs (seriously) for the death of Kelly Rowland. Had that same audience surrounded me for a viewing of Breaking the Waves or Hamlet, I would’ve been furious. But amid the bad pot jokes onscreen, the strained puns juicily delivered by Robert Englund, and the consistently dumb decisions made by its characters, Freddy vs. Jason got the exact crowd one needed to truly enjoy what it had to offer.
Before I started pursuing girls in earnest, my biggest thrill in life was going to see a scary movie without adult supervision. In 1993 I was 15 years old. I was working at a Wendy’s, and I was spending all of my meager pay on grunge albums and tickets to movies at the Super Saver Cinemas in Forest Fair Mall. My friend Matt (formerly of Night of the Living Podcast) was 13 and his parents had a strict rule: they followed the MPAA PG-13 guideline to the letter. When Matt turned 13, it was a big deal because now he could see PG-13 movies. My parents were more relaxed about this sort of thing. I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted my whole life, so when Matt’s mom began to cut the apron strings I was really excited to share the world of onscreen shocks and gore with him. Matt’s mom was the best. She would drive us to the now mostly dead mall, and Matt and I would have hours to ourselves. We’d play Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat in the mall’s arcade and we’d buy cheap movie tickets. We would tell Matt’s mom that we were seeing movies like The Mighty Ducks or Home Alone 2, but we were really sneaking into Reservoir Dogs, Dr. Giggles, and Candyman. It was this last one, Candyman, that really had an impact. This one was intense. We were in a mostly empty theater. As the tension would build onscreen, I could sense that Matt wasn’t moving. When I looked at him, he was staring at the screen, glassy eyed. Petrified. He was pushing himself into his seat as if he could push hard enough to push his way out of the theater entirely. I feel like I witnessed a rite of passage for Matt that day. That night we stayed up torturing each other by saying “Candyman” in the mirror. In the film, if you say his name five times, he appears and guts you. Despite being a couple of smart boys on the verge of becoming men, neither of us had the balls to make it to five. Not then, not ever.
Hands down, it was The Blair Witch Project. I realize that a lot of people hate this movie and find it completely unscary, but I thought it was brilliant. I missed the initial run of it, so when I saw it I was in one of those cheaper theaters with sticky floors and outdated, geometric patterned seats. There were only a handful of people in the theater. No one talked during the entire thing and when I walked out, I kept looking back over my shoulder. Even at dinner later on, I kept looking out the window, expecting something to scratch at the dark window beside me. I’d never experienced that before–that lingering feeling of dread and concern–and I don’t think I’ve experienced it since.
Mine is very sentimental. I’ve had a lot of good theater-going experiences with horror movies, no really REALLY bad ones, but the one that means the most to me was when my father, who was laid off at the time, took me to see Godzilla 1985, when I was 8 years old. Godzilla was a big part of my young life. One could say I was obsessed. I would watch the Godzilla movies on WXIX on Saturday afternoons with my arms around my Godzilla and my Rodan toys as if they were stuffed animals. My dad enjoyed the big atomic lizard too and when Godzilla 1985 was released, he promised to take me. My mom hated (and still hates) those kinds of movies so it was just me and him. It was a stormy day and as we watched, thunder boomed outside and I could almost imagine it was the footsteps of Godzilla himself come to stomp the theater flat. We had the place to ourselves and it was a lot of fun watching the giant sea-louse at the beginning try to kill that guy on the boat…watching Godzilla’s fury tear through Tokyo again and even the tacked on Raymond Burr subplot that mirrored the original Godzilla. My dad did this with me frequently (the last movie I ever got to watch with my dad at the theater was Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Kind of ironic and it was also a great time), taking me to see Harry and the Hendersons, The Great Mouse Detective, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, et, al, but it was Godzilla 1985 that I remember the most clearly and with the most fondness. He really knew how to make this kid’s day.
I’ve had my fair share of memorable theatrical experiences with horror films throughout my life, with each one being special for their own specific reasons, but the one theater experience that has left me with the fondest of memories was watching Wes Craven’s Scream for the first time.
I recall seeing a number of TV spots for Wes Craven’s latest foray into horror, but despite being a big fan of much of his previous work, I was not at all impressed with what these TV spots were showing me. In fact, Scream was little more than an uninteresting droplet in the sea of horror, so I think it’s fair to say that my expectations were quite low.
Regardless, due to some divine intervention, I found myself sitting in a theater seat on opening night, and the film I had no interest in seeing opened with a sequence that, for the first time in many years, had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was completely and totally engulfed by what was transpiring on screen as Casey Becker became the target of a sadistically clever murderer that the world would soon come to know as Ghostface.
The opening to Scream left me, and the rest of the audience alike, in a state of utter shock. What appeared onscreen in the opening moments could not have been expected by any audience member, and the fashion in which it all came together was nothing short of terrifying. I was left with a feeling that I hadn’t felt in many years with a horror film, and that was a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of despair, and a feeling of fear. Most importantly, however, I was left with a feeling of happiness, because all of those collective emotions are what I hope to achieve whenever I sit back to watch a horror film.
Share your own beloved cinema moments in the comments below, and don’t forget to ask us your questions for future columns over at Twitter with the hashtag #HeyNOTLP.
Just remember to kindly turn your cell phone before the previews.