Like most kids, when I look back and think about my parents, there are things I liked and I disliked. But, a majority of the time I would say they did a pretty good job.
Especially when they took us to the movies.
And by movies, I'm not talking Escape to Witch Mountain shit. I'm talking good ol' R-Rated Horror Movies.
The type of movies that make your skin crawl and your eyeballs sweat.
During the 80's, I would try to see almost every horror movie released in the Ohio Valley. From Fright Night to Cat's Eye and everything in between, I was there. Sometimes snuck in with friends. Sometimes I went solo. Most of the time I went with my mom. It didn't matter if the horror film was good or bad. If there was blood, a naked woman screaming in agony and some sort of machete, count me in.
In addition, our family would watch horror 'classics' such as Halloween, The Amityville Horror, The Thing (one of my all-time favorite horror movies), Alien and The Exorcist at home on the weekends on one of those old-time classic VHS players. You know, the kind that was set up like a cassette player but with big-ass buttons for STOP and PLAY.
And let's not forget the drive-in theater. In fact, there was one particluar drive-in experience that still resonates in my head to this day.
The year was 1982. My parent's loaded my brother and I up into our sky-blue station wagon and we headed out to see a Friday-night double feature at the Glen Dale Drive-In near Wheeling, West Virginia.
As we drove up the gravel driveway to the entrance, I remember gazing up at the shiny marquee. Surrounded by flashing lightbulbs blinking on and off were the movies we were about to see:
CONAN THE BARBARIAN &
Now I had heard about both movies and I was pretty sure they were both R-Rated, which was great.
My brother was a Conan fan and had collected a ton of comic books and novels. I heard the former Mr. Universe took on the role of Conan and the guy who voiced Darth Vader was also in it. That's about it. I saw the trailer for Ghost Story on television and, to be honest, I was never a big fan of ghosts. So I was a little hesitant to see this one, to say the least.
After filling our faces with popcorn, candy and smuggled-in pop, Conan the Barbarian started at dusk. The following Conan images filled my empty head: Bloody battles, Conan drilling some woman and the guy that voiced Darth Vader turning into a snake. More naked people. Conan getting tortured and biting the head off a buzzard. And, finally, Darth Vader getting his head chopped off. Very bloody. Very fun. Check out the trailer here.
Then, Ghost Story came on. You know, I'm not sure what it was, but something about this movie completely freaked me out. My mom and dad had previously seen the movie at the regular theater, so they knew when the scary parts where coming up. By scary, I mean the appearance of this half-decaying green woman terrorizing these five men who are hiding a dark secret.
Imagine that? I could take heads being chopped off, buckets of blood and hot steamy reptile sex, but show me a decaying woman and I get all queasy.
So whenever a scary part, starring the decaying woman, would come up - my mom and dad would both yell out in unison "Scary part."
With my brother giggling by my side, I would pull a blanket over my head and wait for the scary part to be over. But I never waited. Taking a cue from the music, I always lifted up the cover at the exact moment and would catch a glimpse of the green, decaying woman.
Click here to see a scary decaying woman 'Ghost Story' clip.
My heart would pound, then I would throw the blanket over my head again. And again. And again.
What a fun night!
In this very PC world, I'm sure my parents would have been looked down upon for taking two youngs kids to see these kinds of films. I'm happy they did. I'm glad they didn't play it safe. Don't get me wrong we also went to see Herbie Rides Again, The Apple Dumpling Gang and the movie about the mule that kicked field goals.
But, my most fond family movie memories are of my mom, dad, brother and I gleefully screaming our heads off to a mass murderer in a hockey mask chopping a naked college girl into little, itty, bitty pieces.
You know, I can't wait to open up my kids' minds to the power of horror movies. In fact, I think the mantra at our house is going to be:
"Screw Disney. Bring on the machetes."