Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies…and a Cold War Submarine, Oh My!

 

Horror movies?  It’s about sex…I knew sex would raise its ugly head…a pun maybe?  Not really.  It is about sex and other stuff too.

“A common piece of dating advice for young men years ago was to take their date to a scary movie. The tip was based on the idea that when their date got frightened, they would curl in for “protection”; thus, reinforcing a bond between the two (this is the G-Rated version of the rationale).” 1

Dateline early 1970.  We snuggled in the old Galaxie 500, popcorn, Pepsis, and Milk Duds at the ready.  Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers had made the rounds at walk-in movie theaters and several years later had been relegated to drive-ins.  It didn’t matter, the movie was cheap entertainment and presented an opportunity to spend some quality time with my date on the back row of the Newberry Drive-In.  Date?  We were destined to be married in the Summer of 1971 but were still tiptoeing around each other in early 1970.  It might have been better if we had stubbed our toes.  Our breakup was much more painful than a broken little toe.

The date was red-headed…as was Sharon Tate, the now-dead heroine of the movie.  She had a nice form as well put together…so had Sharon Tate.  As you can tell, at the time I was quite infatuated with both my date and Sharon Tate.  It was a shame Sharon had died in a horror much worse than any movie.  Shame the infatuation with my date died after the marriage.

The movie we watched was a horror-comedy…plenty of laughs from two inept vampire slayers, plenty of scares and blood-sucking from Count von Krolock and his vampire minions populating the snow and ice-covered Transylvanian castle.

The movie was mostly comedy and Sharon Tate’s cleavage, but for some reason, the opening credits grabbed our attention, a blood drop that trickled down and across, dropped, and bounced along as the title rolled.  The gothic music made our skin crawl.  We were hooked on something other than our libidos…the laughter was good…and the chills as we “curled in for protection.”

Much of my reading and viewing habits have revolved around horror, sci-fi along with murder and mayhem.  A perfect world is combining them all.  I like a good comedy but given a choice I’ll go with a murder mystery that twists and turns like switchbacks on a mountain road or horror that leaves one on the edge of your seats awaiting an electrical shock from fear…and I like the sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure.   Fade to black.

I’ve found vampires to be much more entertaining than werewolves or zombies…except for the werewolf transformation in some forgotten movie. As I remember, there was a very attractive female who suffered from lycanthropy and an aversion to clothes it would seem.  I think the movie was The Howling but I’m not sure.  She was quite fetching despite the body fur, but vampires are sexy.

The vampires of my younger day were well dressed in black tuxedoes with blood-red accouterments, were suave, had a foreign lisp and for some reason, women found them irresistible.   “Look into my eyes….”  Young females seemed to enjoy having fangs sucking on their necks.

When the heroine was penetrated, by the vampire’s fangs you guttersnipe, a look of sheer ecstasy came over her face and it was up to the boring but stalwart hero to save her and break the spell.  Save her by driving a stake through the heart of his rival before the count could exit his musty old coffin at sundown and plunge his glistening, long fangs into the soft neck of his victim.

A soft neck surrounded by expansive décolletage in Sharon Tate’s case.  Slowly feeding, rhythmically licking away her very lifeblood as the helpless young lady pants, “Oh, oh, oh!” Yep, it was about sex, but we faded to black during those days and let our minds and libidos create their own scenes.

I haven’t been a fan of the horror genre in film since the Eighties.  The violence became too graphic and the sexual innuendo and double entendres quite transparent…if there was any sexual insinuation at all.  It seems graphic violence and gore became the point.

Still, I loved John Carpenter even though just a few of his movies dealt with vampires or sexual overtones…well, there were plenty of scenes with young people trying to get busy only to be interrupted by a knife-wielding maniac.

The first two Halloween movies, The Thing and The Fog were my favorites… okay, I admit I liked the way Adrienne Barbeau filled out her flannel shirt and her voice as DJ Stevie Wayne reminded me of smooth bourbon, quite warming on a cool night…unless you lived in Antonio Bay and were attacked by whatever was inside of The Fog.

Said in a smooth and sultry voice, “But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog,” 

With the graphic violence of modern horror, I’ve turned more to the pages of books than the silver screen, now in bloody color.  I just don’t need to see heads exploding or bodies eviscerated, instead, I enjoy the special effects my mind creates along with the double entendres.

I’m probably not going to reread Frankenstein or Dracula; they have been read too many times.  Same with Poe’s horror stories.  I am not sure Bram Stroker even knew about the sexual innuendo he had created within his horror…whether he did or not, the sex was there…along with the horror.  Still, they got me started and sent me on to King, Koontz, Rice, and Straub.

As I think back to the scariest movie or book I ever read or saw, it was not horror per se and involved no vampires, werewolves or zombies…there was sexual innuendo in the movie, even some fade to black.  On the Beach by Neville Shute and the movie by the same title starring Gregory Peak as American submarine commander Dwight Towers and Ava Gardner as his Australian lover, Miora Davidson, scared me to death.

The plot is a simple one, nuclear war breaks out and we annihilate ourselves.  No one knows who started the war only that it, and the world is finished.  Radiation covers most of the earth except for Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America and Africa.  Unfortunately, the last remaining pockets of humanity will slowly die of radiation poisoning as a death cloud creeps southward.  The United States is gone except for one lone submarine and her crew, now docked in Melbourne.

The end is near.  The book and movie cover the last few months left for humanity, only the cockroaches will remain.

The closing line from the book states, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”  In the movie’s closing, Waltzing Matilda plays against the backdrop of a submarine going home for the last time, deserted streets, homes, and arenas as a wind-blown banner is seen, its words hoping against reality, “There is still time, Brother.”

For someone growing up during the Cold War, it was scary.  For someone who, today, believes in Global Climate Change, the plea, “There is still time, Brother,” seems quite timely.  I doubt we will go whimpering, instead, we will continue to point our fingers blaming everyone else or our own demise.

The final scene begins at the 2:57 mark.

1Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., “5 Reasons We Enjoy Being Scared”, Psychology Today, October 19,2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thoughts-thinking/201810/5-reasons-we-enjoy-being-scared

All movie trailers were pilfered from YouTube.

The featured image is from https://www.surveycrest.com/blog/10-scariest-halloween-monsters/

Don Miller’s author page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Thanks!

Haunted Houses

 

“It was a mistake to think of houses, old houses, as being empty. They were filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears, drops of blood, the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that had ebbed and flowed between the walls, into the walls, over the years.”  -Nora Roberts, “Key of Knowledge”

An old farmhouse sitting on top of a hill.  Tall hemlock and walnut trees surround it.  The original front porch shone with a silvery gray color in the moonlight…from the silver paint applied by a wandering group of shysters who convinced the previous owners to let them paint the roof.  The silver paint had washed off by the first winter rain, staining the original lapboard that clad the old farmhouse.  The shysters were long gone.  Moss covered chimneys in disrepair rose above the rust-stained, metal shingles.  If you need a site for a horror film, I have one for you.

This was the house we purchased thirty-one years ago…a house we fell in love with as soon as we saw it.  A house we renovated and brought into the twenty-first century.  I wish we had left it the way it was when we first saw it but sometimes my memories are softer than the here and now.

Spirits reside here.  Renovations have not chased them away.

Mike Franks, a character from the television program NCIS made the follow observation, “With the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there, the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”

I always laugh when I hear him say that.  I think too, our spaces become haunted not only with the memories of naked people but any person who has been lost…people we don’t even know…people who lived their lives and died within these walls.

Four families have contributed memories I believe haunt this old farmhouse.  Except for a period in the Fifties, it has been occupied continuously since 1892…a lot of spirits I would guess.

Despite our renovations, this old farmhouse still creaks and moans.  If the wind is just right and the TV is low, late at night you can hear the spirits…whispers in the dark, a light footfall, a woman’s giggle…or maybe just a scurrying mouse or a puppy moving in her sleep at the foot of the bed.  I choose the former.

Sometimes when I’m reading, as the witching hour approaches, I catch movement just outside the periphery of my vision…beyond the light cast by my reading lamp.  A shadow that doesn’t quite belong, a flash of light despite the darkness that surrounds me.  I don’t fear them, I welcome them.

We’ve spent thirty Halloweens inside of these walls…we’ve never had a trick or treater.  No little ghouls or goblins.  The house looks haunted in the darkness of night with little light filtering through the hemlocks.  It is their loss.  A not so wicked witch lives here.

I’m comfortable with my spirits.  The spirits residing here…and the ones I brought with me from a time gone by, from places that no longer exist anywhere other than my mind.  No vampires or werewolves, just spirits that lovingly caress a cheek or place a steadying hand lightly upon my shoulder.  Comfortable and loving spirits from a time long past who visit me every day, not just Halloween.

For more of Don Miller’s ramblings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.narcity.com/ca/on/ottawa/things-to-do-in-ott/a-giant-mansion-in-ottawa-is-being-transformed-into-a-creepy-haunted-house-this-october

TAP, TAP, TAP

“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” but vampires terrify me! DON’T LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW! I told myself I was just being ridiculous. “Yes I am but I ain’t taking no chances. I’m staying right here with the covers pulled over my head.”  It wasn’t Halloween but it might as well have been.
It was a spring evening, a Saturday night in the mid to late Seventies…the year, not the temperature. I don’t know why I remember certain things like it was “a Saturday night in the mid to late Seventies.”  I had just discovered Stephen King and was reading “Salem’s Lot.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with “Salem’s Lot,” it is a vampire yarn featuring bloodsuckers taking over an entire town. Besides being scary as hell, there is an instructional section devoted to…vampire protocols I guess? The section went farther than I must sleep in a casket on a bed of home soil, I risk a really bad sunburn if I appear before dark and in order to maintain my immortality I must feed on virginal blood and stay away from sharp, pointed stakes.
I had just read a vampire couldn’t come into your home unless you invited them in when I heard it. TAP, TAP, TAP. Alone, with no one to run to or call, I’m hearing a TAP, TAP, TAP on the window of my apartment. My second-floor apartment…moments after reading how “little vampire Johnny” had hypnotized his little brother or sister to open a second story window and invite them in. You just can’t trust a vampire. “Whatever you do… DON’T LOOK THEM IN THEIR LITTLE VAMPIRE EYES!” That’s how they hypnotize you…and I heard it again…TAP, TAP, TAP. I could imagine his little vampire fingers…those tiny, gray, blood drained fingers. I imagined his big vampire smile…mouthing…      ”Come on man! Just invite me in, it won’t sting.”  TAP, TAP, TAP.
There was a breeze churned up by a distant thunderstorm…”, it was a dark and stormy night” …and the window was open to take advantage of the spring coolness…the breeze was moving the curtains… ”DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!” Thunder rumbled…” DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!” I didn’t look…I slept with the lights on and the covers over my head. A grown man sleeping with the lights on with covers over his head…actually it was a grown man NOT sleeping with the lights on and the covers over his head.
The next morning, as soon as the sun was FULLY above the horizon, I went out, all bleary-eyed, to see what had caused the TAP, TAP, TAP. I was met by the Doberman Pincher from the apartment below. Placing her paws on my shoulders while looking me in the eyes, she pinned me to the wall assuring me it wasn’t her. Her master explained, “She’s in heat and a bit jumpy.” I would agree. I’m jumpy but not in heat.
It was the tree…a water oak. A little branch just close enough to tap, tap, tap in the wind…or was it? No, I ain’t fallin’ for it. Why take the chance?  Where is my crucifix?  Do I have a clove of garlic?

For more of Don Miller’s whacky rantings, please go to his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SEASON

“Cause this is thriller, thriller night. And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike….” I had to turn on the TV and hear this on this Halloween season. Now it’s going to be in my head all freaking dayyyyyyyy! Happy Halloween to me…not!

As much as I have heard and seen “Thriller” way toooooooooooo much, I dearly love an old horror movie. Specifically old movies where most of the horror takes place off camera and the special effects are created in your own head. Not the newer more blood and swimming pools full of gore movies. Bela Lugosi nibbling at necks, Colin Clive hovering over Boris Karloff manically yelling “It’s Alive,” or Vincent Price grabbing you by the throat from the “Oblong Box.” I even loved the humor of Marty Feldman as Igor extorting Gene Wilder to “Walk This Way!” or Christopher Lee licking his lips as he watched a bathing Sharon Tate…a few less bubbles please. I loved them even though they really didn’t scare me. There WAS that disturbing scene with The Monster and the little girl. My fear was reserved for another generation of films that probably began with Michael terrorizing Jamie Lee in “Halloween” and “Carrie” burning down the town. Yes, I did scream during the final scene.

The one movie that absolutely terrified me beyond any reason was a 1972 low budget film called “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” Snappy title. I found out later that it had been filmed in fourteen days and believe me it looked it. A theater group of attractive young people find themselves on an island filming a horror film. Using Satan’s own “book of the dead” they accidentally raise an island full of dead former criminals and the attractive theater group ends up dead, torn apart by living dead zombies who end the movie by getting on a boat headed toward a nearby city to continue eating. “More Brains Please!”

It shouldn’t have been that scary and probably wasn’t but I haven’t had guts enough to rent it. After Friday night football games I always found it hard to sleep and usually tried to put myself to sleep by watching TBS on cable. This particular TBS was the old version that was still owned by Ted Turner, featuring Saturday afternoon wrestling after an all-night horror fest of reasonably new films, sandwiched around cartoons and such. Being in the early Eighties, “Children Shouldn’t Play…” was reasonably new, only a decade old or so. I was alone, my roommate brother out for the night participating in an evening of “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” I am sure. My significant other…there was no significant other at the time as I was still waiting around for the love of my life to ask me out. You really should not watch a horror film at two in the morning without someone to snuggle with or at least call in case you need to be talked down from your fear.

It wasn’t the movie…the plot was too easy to follow. You just knew that as soon as they finished their “raise the dead chant” bad things were going to happen and that the black guy would be the first victim. He was and was soon followed by the two amorous youngsters who had snuck off for a little quality time alone. I actually laughed…until that damn music started. It really wasn’t music, it was more like a million fingernails being drug over a chalk board or a million out of tune violins being played with a cross cut saw. With the hair standing up on the back of my neck, the bodies started popping out of their graves like daisies in the spring sun. That should have been laughable…except for that damn music!

“Who you gonna call?” Not “Ghostbusters” because it had not been released yet. Well at least another theme is running through my head now instead of “Thriller.” Happy Halloween!

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try http://goo.gl/lomuQf