From a very young age, I cut my teeth on monster movies. I call them that because I’m not sure Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and company qualify as horror. I still remember being angry in first grade (1975) because I had football practice after school, but they showed Godzilla movies every afternoon. I wanted to skip practice for Godzilla!
I also cut my teeth on “B Movies,” shown at the drive-in theater. These included movies I was supposed to be asleep during, such as The Giant Spider Invasion. But it also included classics like The Land That Time Forgot.
Like a lot of kids into scary stuff, I sought more. Something darker, scarier, more terrifying. And it was hard to find.
I was nine years old and, as usual, was sent to bed by 8 p.m., but the problem was I’d heard my parents talking. A movie was going to be on network television that night (back when we had a whopping four channels, one of which was PBS).
It was a movie called Carrie, based on a book written by (to me at the time) some guy last name King. It was supposed to be scary.
In the Central Time Zone, most movies began at 8 p.m. on the old network television.
I’m ushered to bed just before 8, which was annoying, and then off my parents go, to bed, early. Door shut. TV on. Now even at a young age, I knew that normally a shut door and TV on loud meant something else (though at nine, I wasn’t quite sure what), but tonight it meant a scary movie. More than that, it meant one I wasn’t intended to see.
But I intended to see it. So I snuck to the living room and watched it with the television volume turned down really low.
To this day, jump scares don’t do much for me. I prefer a slow build and a strong conclusion. I like books and movies that build an environment of fear, gradually building and adding on to my dread.
The Carrie movie (and the book) do just that.
But the ending scene – spoiler alert!
When Sue dreams of putting flowers on Carrie White’s grave, Carrie’s hand reaches up from the grave to grab Sue’s arm. Holy crap! Scared the piss out of me (almost literally).
I about died.
Quickly, I turned the TV off and ran back to bed, hiding under the covers and praying no hands grabbed me.
I remember that scene so vividly and with equal vibrance. I remember how it felt at that moment, even though I was 43 or 44 years older than I was then. And here’s a weird little leftover thing. To this day, if I’m at the graveside of someone, I always imagine a hand shooting up through the dirt to grab my arm.
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