By now I'm sure you've cottoned on to my love of horror movies. (If not, go back and read Days 2, 28, 61, 62, and 88....go ahead, I'll wait). I've been asked time and again "Why?", and "What is wrong with you?". I don't really have a nice convenient answer to either of those. Part of the answer lies in the childhood empathy I felt for the classic monsters that were persecuted for being different. Another reason is the addictive rush that comes with fear. I think the most succinct and honest answer is, in the words of that sagacious seafarer, "I am what I am". I wish it was more poetic or complicated. I know a lot of people don't get it, but I don't get a lot of people. I also don't get how Adam Sandler and Tatum Channing have careers that lasted more than one movie. Or how no one else seems to notice that Penelope Cruz is a giant Praying Mantis.
I'm not that creepy kid anymore but I'm still drawn to the horror scene, if there is a thing. I think its just habit now. I watched so many creature features in my formative years that I forever have an association with them. They are an indelible part of me and my youth. Going back to that slime covered well where unnameable things slither and flop is like going back to my childhood.
Leaving childhood in the first place is not something I ever felt was mandatory. I know I have to get older, but I made a conscious decision early on that I wasn't going to grow up. The things I took delight in as a child still entertain me today. Why would I ever stop reading comics, or enjoying science-fiction, or grin ear to ear watching Harryhausen's Centaur thoroughly kick the Griffin's ass? Why would anyone actively choose to invest in work over these things after already wasting so much of their life there!
In the summer of 1983 I think the fear and anxiety of leaving behind childhood and by default longheld childhood friendships preyed heavily upon the collective psyche of my tightknit consortium of fellow outcasts. It was our last summer together before going away to separate highschools. And we knew it.
After 9 years in the trenches together it was time to break up the band, whether we wanted to or not. 2 Pauls, 2 Johns, a Ted, a Mark, and me. On the surface we made assurances to each other that we would remain eternal brothers, bonds that can’t be broken, but part of us knew that things would not be the same. We were moving forward, gonna meet new people, make new friends. Hopefully many of them girls. That was a secret sanctum I wanted access to in a big way. I’d seen enough movies to know that teenage girls gathered together in their bedrooms clad only in their undergarments to talk about boys and have spontaneous pillow fights. They had no reservations about going topless in front of each other as well. Oh, and third base, that was something else I was keen to explore. I wasn't entirely sure what it entailed but I was pretty damn sure I wanted it. I was fairly convinced that 2nd base involved boobage, and I'd already tried my hand at that, literally. I had furtively copped a 3 second feel on Julie Hubert at our grade 8 graduation dance. It felt in my hand how I'm pretty sure my cheekbone felt in hers when she clobbered me. I was the resident expert on 2nd base amongst my peers.
As the first day of our Great Secondary School Adventure loomed ever nearer one of our numbers, Mark, propounded that we gather as a group that Saturday evening in his rumpus room for a movie marathon. We'd order pizza, gorge on Nacho Doritos and Penny Candy (which was actually a nickel) like Big Foot, Bottle Caps, and Red Hots, and over stimulate on Swamp Water, an unearthly concoction of every available soda in the house. We all agreed that that sounded A-O-fuckin-K, Cool Beans.
"You guys can all stay over too!" he excitedly blurted. And then his eyes widened and his mouth clamped shut. He hadn't realized what he had said until the words had left his mouth.
Stop right there.
"Whataya mean 'stay over'? Like a sleepover?" the word veritably dripped with contempt from one of the Paul's lips.
"Whaaaat? No! No no no. All I meant was we are gonna party all night and its gonna be late so if you want, you can just like...crash...or something". Years of Dungeon Mastering had made Mark a most nimble master of improvisation.
Crashing. Crashing was something we could get behind. It was not at all like a juvenile kiddy sleepover. So we all went home and asked our moms if we could crash at Mark's on Saturday.
We arrived at Mark's at 7pm, the plan was to watch 3 movies back to back until midnight. I was responsible for providing the pirated VHS movies (obviously). I had selected releases from the previous year, with a Killer Inbred Mountain Man theme, a classic and oft overlooked sub-genre I am still fond of to this day.
The primer was the little seen Canadian gem Humongous, a personal favourite, but the weakest of the offerings. This acted mostly as background noise as we tore into the pizza like starved vultures feeding on carrion, pepperoni and pizza sauce dangling from our maws like dripping viscera.
Our bellies distended, clothes smeared with grease, we communicated through belches and monosyllabic grunts, life imitating art as the credits rolled on Mutant Hillbilly movie # 1. We were not boys, we were all that is man.
As I slammed the 2nd mutant masterpiece into the top loader, another unheralded tour de force, Just Before Dawn, Mark's older brother Gerry kicked open the door and made us all jump, our collective prepubescent screams sounding very much like girls. Gerry was a lot like Chet from Weird Science, except with man-boob bitch-tits; if you haven't seen John Hughes' magnum opus I'm not sure why we're even talking. Gerry was universally disliked, even by his parents, and he knew it, and used his considerable weight to facilitate the venting of his resentment. He wanted desperately to be accepted, even by us kids, but was incapable of being a human being, and all attempts at coolness manifested as extreme douchiness. He had also been caught masturbating in the boys room and had to change highschools mid-semester.
By way of greeting he flicked Mark's ears and said "Hey gaylords, you been playing spin the bottle with each other all night?". No one made eye contact. Direct eye contact is seen as a sign of aggression in the animal world, inviting challenge.
"Leave us alone Gerry" mumbled Mark, his face taking on a crimson blush, embarrassment for sharing this DNA quickly turning to rage.
"Or what, Dickweed?" Gerry sneered, looking for an audience that had found interest in the frayed edges of blankets and the address on the empty grease spotted pizza box.
Mark's eyes flashed. As a younger brother myself I knew that reckless look. "Or I'll make damn sure your new school finds out you transferred there for playing a little 5-on-1...JERK OFF!".
We wanted to laugh but knew it wasn't safe. Prudence, boys, prudence.
Gerry's eyes narrowed to two fiery slits, his mouth a tight white line. He wasn't breathing. The carotid artery visibly throbbing. His eventual exhalation carried a warning that sounded more like the hiss of an agitated cobra than human speech, "When you least expect it, expect it". And he left, deflated. A silent cheer went up around the world from all younger siblings.
We broke the heavy silence with whooping guffaws, John # 2 braying like a wounded donkey, and each took turns high-fiving Mark, He Who Had Won The Day. This small victory had really lifted our joviality and camaraderie to a new level. We watched Just Before Dawn with gusto, laughing at the decapitations and cheering on the deformed hillbilly psychopaths as they hacked through the disposable 30 year old teenagers.
On to the main event, the coup de grace, the one we'd all been waiting for: Friday the 13th Part 3!!! In 3-D, except it wasn't, but Ted insisted on wearing 3-D glasses anyway because that's just who Ted was. We were excited and a little bit nervous because we had all watched Part 2 the year before and it had scared the living bejeezus outta us, including me. I still get a little creeped out whenever a dude approaches me wearing a pillowcase over his head, carrying a pitchfork.
Corded remote in hand, I reached up from my throne of privilege in the recliner to turn the lights off.
And that's when Mark's sister Robin bounced into the room, "Hi guys" she beamed. We all knew Robin from when she went to our school; she was a couple of years older than us and was already in highschool. She was alright, never gave us the gears like Gerry did, but none of us except Mark had seen her since she left our school 2 years ago. It was apparently a very productive 2 years because now she was alright!
As she stood under the plastic shield of the panel lighting, her blonde feathered hair full of luster and bounce, her Jordache jeans snuggly hugging an ass that wouldn't quit and legs that went all the way up, and breasts actual breasts as god as my witness that forced Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to opposite ends of her three-quarter KISS concert tee, I fell in love.
"What are you guys watching" she cooed.
"Scary stuff" was Mark's curt attempt at dissuasion.
"Ooooh, I love getting spooked. Mind if I watch?". She loved getting spooked. My heart skipped a beat.
"Seriously, its really gory stuff", Mark rebuked.
"Just let her watch man" I interjected. Robin smiled the most beautiful smile, and then I swear she kind of gave me an appraising look. Mark just gave me a funny look. "Come on man, its Jason!" I said by way of non-explanation of my actions. I could see Mark's internal struggle, he was teetering. I resorted to an old standby "Seriously man, no ticky no washy", this always made Mark laugh, and none of us new why, including Mark. He grinned "Hit play gwai lo! Ja-son! Ja-son! Ja-son!".
I turned off the lights and Robin rested her world class derriere on the arm of my chair. She was practically sitting on top of me!
At the opening Ch-ch-ch-kill-kill-kills Robin squeezed my shoulder. My pants became suddenly two sizes too small. With each appearance of Jason, trading in his linens for the now iconic hockey mask for the 1st time, her arms wrapped tighter around mine, and she slid farther down the arm of the chair until she was actually sitting in the recliner with me. None of the guys noticed because they were glued to the screen and freaking right the fuck out. Her nails were digging into me and it hurt like hell, and I was extremely twisted and uncomfortable, squeezed into the arm of the chair. This. Was. Awesome.
I never wanted this movie or night to end. If only Jason could cut a swath of nubile young flesh forever and ever. But alas, the movie had climaxed and I wasn't far off. The lights came on and Robin disentangled herself from me and stood up with a demur "Sorry" as I rubbed my numb arm. I just grinned goofily up at her, at a loss of words, for the first time in my life. "Thanks guys, goodnight", and just like that she was gone. It was over.
As we settled in for the night we discussed our favourite parts, the consensus being a tie between one of the victims having their head crushed and his eye flying at us in startling 2-D, and the dude getting sliced in half with a machete while walking on his hands . Even though we had just finished watching the movie minutes ago, most of the discussion started with the phrase "Remember the part when...?". Then we got to talking about what WE would do if confronted with a horribly disfigured backwoods maniac, but my mind kept drifting back to Robin. Had she checked me out, or had I imagined that?
It was after midnight and we were all pretty tired, but with the lights out, in the basement of an unfamiliar house, we were all pretty freaked out. I'm sure we all wanted to suggest turning a light on at some point, but there was no way any of us would be the 1st to speak up; we were heading to highschool in a few weeks, we were gonna be TEENAGERS, not scared little kids leaving the safety and comfort of childhood behind for chrissakes!
The only reason I know that we fell asleep is because we were unceremoniously awoken when the door was kicked open. There, framed by wood-paneling, artistically lit from the hallway light behind, stood a hulking figure in a hockey mask. John # 1 screamed "JASON!" in a piercing castrato. John # 2 pissed his pants but denies it to this day, insisting he fumbled in the dark and spilled Swamp Water in his crotch. Ted put on his 3-D glasses.
While everyone else froze, or urinated, or experienced the world in red and green, I heard a serpentine voice in the back of my head repeat a threat from only a few hours ago "When you least expect it, expect it"....Gerry the Masturbator!
Mark had already earned his hero status for the day, it was my turn. My plan was simple: I was going to throw something at Gerry that he'd have to duck, then charge him and tackle him, ripping off the hockey mask in a Scooby Doo reveal. When Mark and the other fellas realized it was Gerry they'd all pile on and kick his fat ass.
I sprang into action.
I launched a half full 2 litre bottle of RC Cola and began to run at our would be tormentor. And then things went sideways. He didn't duck, the plastic bottle had gained considerable momentum and hit him square between the eyes of the goalie mask. As he started to fall backwards my socked feet hit the polished wood of the hallway and I lost all control, spastically colliding with my target mid descent. My flailing hands pressed into his chest as he hit the ground and the wind rushed out of him with a resounding "Oooof!". My hands still pressed into his fleshy chest and I squeezed and twisted his man boobs with all my might. The Mega Purple Nurple. He screamed like a girl. A banshee-like wail. It was...upsetting.
He slapped my hands away, bucked me off, and ripped off the hockey mask in one fluid angry motion. Beneath the mask was not the disfigured undead son of Pamela Vorhees. Nor was it Gerry of the five knuckle shuffle. I only had a second to register it was Robin before she slammed the hard plastic mask into my face and called me a fucking asshole.
And so ended my first love before it really began. At least I was still the resident expert on 2nd base, and then some.