Nothing to fear but…

Fear itself?

What scares the scary?

What’s the longest time you’ve ever gone between starting watching a film and finishing watching a film? My record, as of today is 34 years. In 1981, back in the days of videos, there was about 3 video recorders in the entire village. There was this thing called the Video Club. Once a month, we would all gather expectantly around a little TV screen in a cold, damp musty hut to watch the latest video release. Sometimes they were brand-new films; sometimes they were ‘classics’. Once a month, someone would bring this hallowed piece of technology to share with us cave dwellers. Teasing us with a glimpse of the future.

On the night in question, it was a classic of sorts being shown. Certainly now it is considered to be a classic of the genre. Back in those days it was just before the heyday of the Video Nasty. It had been made about eight years before, back in the early 70s.

At the time of its release, I remember one of my brothers being obsessed with an album he’d bought called “Tubular Bells” He played it constantly, every waking hour. It drove us all to distraction. It was only when I heard that music over the (slightly less) tinny television speakers that the penny dropped. If you haven’t already guessed which film I mean, you should probably twig if I say “pea soup” and “Your mother cooks socks in Hell” (okay, I was paraphrasing wildly with that last one). Got it now?

I didn’t actually get through it all in one sitting. It got to said projectile pea soup scene and my nerve broke. I ran back home. And I mean ran. Bearing in mind that home was nearly 2 miles away up a 30 degree hill, and walking it usually took a good 25-30 minutes. I did it in 10.

I did not sleep that night.

At all.

All night.

In fact, I bizarrely decided to sit up and read through my copy of the New Testament, with anything to do with demons and exorcisms being duly noted and mentally filed away for future reference…

As you do.

What made matters worse – and more ominous – was that that night there was a particularly vicious storm that whipped up out of nowhere the moment I got home. There were foul gale force winds and rain that felt like lead shot against my bedroom windows. I wondered if old Nick was personally trying to tell me off. Let’s face it – I was scared. At one point the wind blasted a dustbin lid into my window and I think I may have had a teeny accident…

So, 34 years later, I decided to watch it, intending to make it through to the end this time. I sat there with my bag of popcorn, ready to be terrified all over again. My iPad to distract me from the more horrific moments. The Remote Control within easy reach just in case it got too much for me again. The ‘off’ button is always the last resort, isn’t it?

To my surprise, I had actually watched over half of it originally. My main memories of it were nothing like what I experienced this time around. If anything, it was quite tedious, and I had to resist the temptation to hit the Fast Forward button. I was willing to hurry up to get to the pea soup, and disappointed the spider walk scene never made the cut.

After two hours, I found myself thinking “Uh, is that it??” I had been prepared to be terrified all over again. I realise that, actually, it wasn’t scary at all. There could be a number of reasons why this was the case.

  • More than 30 years on, I’m older, more experienced, and life has taught me there are things worth being scared of. This wasn’t one of them.
  • Also, being older, I am more spiritually mature and can see this for the piece of fiction it is. Perhaps the Devil just doesn’t scare me any more.
  • Thanks to Special Effects and the increasingly warped imaginations of filmmakers, films are able to be a lot scarier now and they used to be. You can show a lot more now than you used to do back in the 70s.

I was so prepared to be frightened, and what frightened me back then probably does not frighten me now. Do we get frightened, or more frightened of being frightened? That’s why we don’t like walking in dark rooms, or putting our hands into feely bags. Think about this – how often have you seen a film in the cinema that was really scary at the time, and then you saw it again on DVD at home and wondered what the fuss had been? Or missed a film that everyone overhyped the horror of, and then you watched it at home, only to be bitterly disappointed? I know I’ve been to see films where camaraderie sprang up within the audience as we jumped and shrieked together and shared the jump moments together. Everyone feeds off each other’s fear.

Now who’s the vampire? Just saying…

 


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BOO! Made ya look…

Smoke and Mirrors part 2

The mirror incident came about because of something I forgot to tell you. You know how (in modern films at least), how vampires have a low body temperature? Well, this is actually true. I mean, it’s not massively low: they always exaggerate everything in films. I suppose it’s to make us sound more impressive than we already are. Haha. It’s a matter of a few degrees (about 4 or 5 degrees), but it is enough to make a difference physiologically.

I don’t feel the cold that much, but I am very sensitive to heat. And yet, for some reason, I’m like a little human radiator. I never need to wear gloves – even in the snow. In fact, in snowman building season, I’m always the one people come to when they want to get their (gloved) hands warmed up! They just grab hold of my little furnace-like mitts and thaw them out.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It was a real nuisance when I was a child, because of course when I was feeling ill, I could have a roaring temperature and the thermometer would say…. Normal. Steam would be practically coming off my eyeballs and Mother would take my temperature and say, “No, you’re fine. Absolutely normal. You can go to school.”

Er, excuse me… I’m standing here with eyes like poached eggs, and you’re telling me that’s normal?

So, as you can imagine, I quickly gained a rather warped view of what constitutes ‘normal’. In the end I had to learn how to fake various illnesses if I really wanted to be treated as ill. That’s another story for another day.

And now, back to the mirrors. Because of the area and time I lived in as a child, we had to be checked for lead poisoning, due to how the water pipes were made in our area (I told you I was old!). Their interesting way of checking us for lead poisoning was to x-ray us. This will make sense in a minute. The temperature thing… This was the problem: if my temperature got too high, I was in trouble. As you can imagine, (high temperature) plus (sensitivity to heat) plus (V12 engine brain) equals… convulsions. Bad ones. I would just have a major neural freakout. This happened every time my temperature went too high. But of course, according to the thermometer, I was perfectly normal. So nobody could quite work out was going on with me. Hence the suspicion of lead poisoning.

This resulted in endless rounds of tests, on top of the lead thing. Everything had to be checked: liver, kidneys, blood, brain… It also led to me having these most horrific eye drops put in which made my eyeballs feel like they were being scrubbed with wire wool (I’m not exactly sure why this was done). They also made my pupils expand so much that my irises would appear to vanish. I have quite large eyes. Not Disney Princess large, but still big enough to give folks a start when I take my glasses off. I guess this is one of the reasons I have light sensitivity.

So where does this tie in with mirrors? One day, on the way back from one such eye-drop test, my father had been asked to go into the butchers and buy some sausages (Mother was always very good at killing as many birds as possible with as few stones as necessary). In this butchers shop hung the most incredibly beautiful mirror I had ever seen. It was full-length (well, full-length to a short 5-year-old) and had the most exquisite frame. It had mermaids and dolphins and seaweed all around it. At the top was that chap with the trident… Poseidon. That’s him. And there were little fish and crabs and waves and all manner of other encrustations. You’d have thought this sort of mirror would be more appropriate in a fishmonger’s, but I never really questioned it…

Anyway, I used to love this mirror and would spend ages staring at each little detail on it. However, on that fateful, post-eye-drop test day, I happened to catch sight of my reflection (yes, I do have one). More importantly, I caught sight of my eyes. Or lack of them, should I say. As I stared into the mirror, a pair of pitch-black animal eyes stared back at me. This caused me to have something of a meltdown, right there in the shop.

I don’t actually remember what happened after that, but apparently it took four men to carry me out of the shop. Even at that young age, I was immensely strong. I have been known to take doors off the hinges. In fact, the other day when I went for a run and stopped by a local bridge to stretch my calf muscles, I almost snapped the handrail of the steps leading up to it. It can be embarrassing.

So, ever since then, I’ve had a phobia of mirrors. Now, I guess that incident alone doesn’t seem enough to cause such an adverse reaction, but there is a little more to it. My big brothers used to make me sit down on a Friday night and watch films with them. Nice? No, not really. One of the TV channels (one of only 3 at the time!) would host a late night Friday creature feature, under the umbrella title of “Appointment With Fear”. Well, when I say ‘late night’, I of course mean it was on after the 10 o’clock news, but that’s really, really late for a little kid to be staying up!

It was the opening sequence that scared the living daylights out of me. There would be this strange and horrible noise in the background and a normal face would appear (turns out it was actually Bride of Frankenstein, but hey, what’s normal anyway?). The seemingly human face would then morph into a monster, and another, and another. It was – to me – far worse than anything in any of the films. (You can check this sequence out for yourself at http://youtu.be/24NiHts3fvU -it’s only the first 15 seconds or so). And then of course, I’d get the standard comment of “That’s you, that is!”

For years afterwards I had a recurring nightmare where I was at a party and when the clock struck midnight, the other guests would force me to sit down in front of a dressing table mirror, and make me watch as I slowly turned into a monster. Very Freudian. No, not Freudian like that! I mean Freudian inasmuch as since then I have tried to lay low, in case people found out what I am. Perhaps this is what made me the Everyday Vampire.

You can probably guess how I got my phobia of spiders…!

 

 


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