As a kid, I took being a pussy to extraordinary heights. Being scared was the only thing I was good at. Well, no, that’s not true. I was good at watching TV. And when everything scares you, being a pussy was a given in my TV watching. Before the age of remotes, I would sit right in front of the screen, always at the ready to bail on the channel when something spooky popped up. Considering that everything scared me, an outsider might’ve observed that my rapid channel changing might be attributed to a case of ADD or that I was just a child of the ’90s. I wasn’t seeking thrills, I was conflicted. Every day, I would force myself to participate in my favorite and least favorite activity at the same time. Being 3 – 10 years old, it was a little confusing. Here’s a short list of the things I was afraid of…
– The Buffalo Bills Defense
– The M*A*S*H* Theme Song*
– Emergency sirens in general
– Skeletons wearing sunglasses
– Teddy Ruxpin*
– The Hamburger Helper Glove
– Floating paper bags*
– Bill Murray in Quick Change¹
– Extreme closeups of faces
– Heavy metal music
– Channels turning to static
– Satellite dishes
– Vacuum cleaners
– The HBO In Space Bumper¹†
– The scene in Overboard when Goldie Hawn accidentally chainsaws a scarecrow’s head off
– Hockey goalies
– Anybody else required to wear a mask
– The knowledge that tapes like Faces Of Death exist
– Virtual reality
– Tim Allen wearing a light bulb suit and dancing to “In a Godda Davida”
– The dark*¹
* – Attributed by nightmares I once had
¹ – Attributed by my Dad pestering me
† – Try to prank me with this and I swear I’ll do something illegal to you
Which leads up to my greatest fear of all: Video stores and the potential presence of the Child’s Play 3 box. The picture was the epitome of fear to me. It literally pits you face to face with the object that’s going to kill you. Few other box arts can compare to the terror it projects. The image was burned into my skull and led to several awkward situations when trying to rent movies with friends. Typical adolescent boys flock to the horror section to get a peek at the various box arts, while I hovered around the drama movies, pretending to be interested in some Richard Gere vehicle and wishing I was somewhere else. Some times, they would understand and let me be. Other times, they would egg me on until I had a panic attack and became inconsolable. The whole screaming, arms flailing, running away from the store as fast as I possibly can business.
It got to a point where I would try my damnedest to avoid sleepovers and if I was suckered into one, I would have at least 10 movie suggestions in mind to thwart my friends from shopping around. The real kicker of it all was that I had never even seen the movie, or any of them for that matter. Even my mom would make fun of me for being such a pussy. It wasn’t so much of the movie that I was afraid of, but more of the idea. If a human tried to kill me, I’d be able to effectively get help. If a doll tried to kill me, nobody would believe me, and that box art was the mocking reminder. As I got older, I was able to cross most of the items off the aforementioned list, but my petrification caused by the horror movie section remained.
That was, until one boring Saturday afternoon, when my cousin decided to explain [in great detail/for no reason] the plot to Halloween 6. The idea of of a killer that can’t die until his family bloodline is depleted was one that fascinated me. It sounded non-threatening and comprehensible. This was an alleged killer that I couldn’t possibly be the victim to, as I don’t know anybody that’s related to a serial killer. And from my understanding, all other killers do so at random, which was why I avoided the spectating of their careers. I was actively looking for a tame horror franchise to get into so I could have some street cred [which was ruined months before when my friends decided to watch Child’s Play 3 at a sleepover while I hid in the kitchen for 2 hours] and this sounded like a winner. I spent weeks searching through to TV Guide to see when a Halloween movie was going to air. Eventually, Cinemax aired Halloween 4 and I taped it [along with the first half hour of the softcore movie that was aired afterwards. Shut up. I was 12 years old. It was necessary].
Upon first viewing, I discovered that I was still alive. Probably more alive than ever. Not once did I have to turn it off, nor did I have any residual nightmares. Upon second viewing, I was obsessed. I was the kid riding a roller coaster for the first time, spending all day wussing out before realizing that they’re “The Best Things Ever™”. I needed to see all of these movies and it needed to be done as soon as humanly possible.
So, I started a routine: Force Mom to drive me to the video store, pause at the border of the horror section like a kid on a diving board, close my eyes and run straight to the beginning of the middle, where the “H’s” presumably were. I got better at it after time. I started to squint my eyes and used common box arts as guiding lines. If I see a Jason mask, I know I’m getting close. Leprechaun means that I went to far. And if I saw Children of the Corn, I knew that I needed to close my eyes and abort the operation swiftly. This was how I found the bulk of the series, but Halloween 6 was still nowhere to be found.
I kept trying until the one day that the system failed me. In some hole in the wall store, I spotted The Dark Half and knew I was safe to walk further. All they had was Halloween 1, 2 and 5, all of which I had watched ad nauseum. Disappointed, I looked down and there it was: Child’s Play 3. Cold sweat ran down my neck, my hands shook, and I think I pooped a little. Either somebody was playing a sick and elaborate joke on me or the stoned video store jockey restocked it with his thumb over the C. Hilds Play 3. Yeah, that’s a good title, nimrod! I thought about reporting him to the Video Store Commission. But I had bigger things to worry about. I was determined not to panic. I stared that fucker down, saw through his blue eyes and evil smile. It’s just a box. It’s just a box. It will always be there and it’s just a box. I must’ve stood there for 10 minutes, and when I was done, the world was released from my shoulders. The object remained an object. I was free to look around, explore, look around some more. I was no longer the wet blanket when it came to renting movies. I was willing to go anywhere within the confines. Damnit, I was free!
After that, I became an immediate fan of the genre. For a couple of years, they were the only movies I’d watch. After all, I had catching up to do. In retrospect, the Halloween films are extremely tame, slow paced, and boring. I can barely even watch them today. Michael Myers is a very Meat and Potatoes killer. He hardly ever gets creative and you always know when he’s coming. He’s utterly characterless, he just shows up, makes a stab or two, and then disappears. Unlike other slasher franchises, there’s very little humor, sex, or gore. Being a kid that was afraid of his own shadow, Halloween was a gateway drug. Very little of it is frightening but it preps you up to consume the harder stuff. Seeing multiple people get blandly stabbed softens the blow of seeing a dismemberment.
In the end, I did end up watching Child’s Play once. Or at least I tried to. I ended up blacking out, only to find myself hugging the toilet with blood smeared all over the floor. Judging from how I wasn’t able to talk, I think I tried to rip my throat out. Those movies aren’t really worth watching anyway, right? Right?