That Time a Movie Scared the Crap Out of Me
Now that my first novel, Still Dark is out in the wild, it’s fun to look back on some of the things that helped make me the writer I am, including some of my favorite movie moments.
Let me paint the picture for you.
It was October 2000, and yes, I had to look that date up. My wife and I, still together after all these years, were just dating at the time. I was 20 at the time, and though I would consider myself a solid fan of horror at the time, there were some woeful gaps in my knowledge. I was a child of the 80’s, and I’d seen more slasher films than I could count, but older, classic horror films had mostly dwelled in the background, looming and waiting for me to seek them out. None loomed larger than The Exorcist.
Up to that point, probably the scariest film I’d seen in theaters was The Blair Witch Project. Some of you will laugh, and I understand why. Those of you who were there, in the wild west days of the internet when you could actually trick an audience into thinking they were about to see the last days of three film students, well, it wasn’t really funny. I knew it wasn’t true by the time I went into the theater, but dammit if it didn’t feel true. By the time I made it home, parking among the dark trees without a streetlight in sight… let’s just say I walked very fast up to my front door.
A year later, my girlfriend in tow, The Exorcist rereleased in theaters, this version with never before seen footage. This was it. The big boy. The grandpappy. I think we were laughing about it when we sat down in the back row. About a half hour later, that shit wasn’t funny.
I can still remember, vividly, the moment where the movie had me. The moment where I knew it wasn’t all just hype built by a simpler time, by a movie going populace that just wasn’t as tough as I was.
The mom comes home, stops in the kitchen, and for a brief moment, a face lingers in the dark. Just for a second, so quick, I wasn’t even sure it was ever there. Then, outside her daughter’s room, another quick flash, a different face filling the entire door. She checks on little Reagan, and all seems well. Then, as she leaves… is that a shadow growing on the wall. A shape of a statue from earlier in the film. Now, she’s downstairs. Talking. Just the sound of voices is enough to put you at ease after all that unbroken silence. The scene is over, the tension is gone, and then…
A scream. The mother turns. Her daughter walks, BACKWARDS, down the stairs, straight into the camera, where she vomits up blood.
That was just the beginning. The atrocities continued, piled up, multiplied, and by the time I walked out of the theater, I was in a daze. I didn’t run up to my porch that night, but something much more disturbing happened. The second I laid down in my bed, I saw that face, that pale, white, toothy face. Every night for about a week, I saw that face.
My son’s a budding horror fan now, and even though he’s probably too young, we’ve torn through a ton of the 80’s slashers (the AMC, toned down versions). He knows what The Exorcist is, mainly because he’s always wanting to know what scares me. For the past year or two, he’s asked if he’s ready for it.
“No buddy,” I tell him. “You got a ways to go.”
When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…
Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.
Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim, and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!