The night light offered a reassuring glow, but I pulled the bedding up to my neck and held it there with both hands.
From the safety of my bed, I stared wide-eyed at the window, afraid to blink. I swear I saw a bat swoop and then heard the flutter of its wings under the eaves. I resolved to stay awake until dawn.
The cause of my terror? While the adults played Sorry! at my grandparent’s house, I treated myself to some unsupervised TV time and tuned into “Creature Feature.” The syndicated show aired scary movies every Saturday afternoon. That Saturday’s feature was “Dracula.”
I was 7 and had never heard of vampires or seen a horror film. Transfixed, I watched the entire movie (though I did cover my eyes several times). On the way home, I peppered my parents with questions about bats, which was how they figured out what I had watched. Everything was cool until bedtime when I saw those shadows flitting at the window prompting me to call out for Mom.
My unsympathetic mother marched into my room and switched off the bedside lamp.
“You’re too old to sleep with a night light and too young to watch ‘Creature Feature,’ ” she said, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Resigned to my tragic fate, I waited for the bite that would turn me into a blood-sucking member of the undead.
In the morning, I carefully checked my neck in the bathroom mirror. I showed Mom the tiny scratch I’d found. She made me go to school anyway.
Fifty years later, I’m still not a horror movie fan. This is problematic because I married a horror movie fanatic. I can’t say I didn’t know better because early in our engagement he talked me into seeing a triple feature at the North Division Theater. I sat through “Night of the Living Dead,” “Fright Night” and “The Return of the Living Dead.”
I enjoyed “Fright Night.” The other two not so much.
I’m nothing but a problem-solver, so I provided Derek with four sons, who all inherited his ghoulish gene. Not long ago, they got hooked on a TV show called “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.” The show airs one or two campy horror movies each week with footnotes and commentary provided by Briggs.
Our two sons in town come over a couple of times a month to watch the show with Derek, but when our youngest moved to Texas, he felt the loss of his weekly movie-watching buddy.
“It’s not fun to be scared by yourself,” he said.
So, when a new flick came out that featured scary happenings in an Airbnb, I agreed to watch it with him.
Sam and his brother Zach had already seen it in the theater.
“You might like it,” said Sam, who loved it.
“Nope. Not a mom movie.”
I do enjoy movies filled with menacing dread and lots of jump scares. I adored “The Sixth Sense,” “A Quiet Place,” and “Get Out.” I’m just not a fan of gore, and most horror movies are gory.
In this case, I should have listened to Zach. “Barbarian” is absolutely not a mom movie. (Though a friend on Twitter disagreed saying it’s “THE mom movie.” You’ll have to watch it to know what he meant.)
It didn’t scare me. I was too annoyed by the stupid characters populating the film. It seems you can’t make horror films without dumb protagonists. You know, the ones who enter houses with strangers in scary neighborhoods on dark and stormy nights?
Here’s an excerpt from Derek’s running “Barbarian” commentary.
“Don’t go down there! Don’t open that door! AGH! She did it! WHY isn’t she listening to me?”
Watching the film made me long for the “Creature Feature” days when monsters seemed scarier and their victims seemed less stupid. In fact, one night I watched a bit of “Dracula” on my phone before bed.
A week later, I’m still sleeping with our covers clutched firmly around my neck.
Do you like horror movies? What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? Drop me a note at email@example.com. Please include your contact information as I may include your reply in an upcoming column.