Hello all. I truly meant to debut this section of the blog sometime ago, however, as with everything that gets put on the back burner, life's other responsibilities kept me away from said task. So unfortunately, Monster Kid Memories, before it even got its proper cardinal presentation, is making its first appearance in the form of a "special edition". But worry not dear readers, you'll live, fun will be had, my reflective brain power will get flexed and I'll most likely embarrass myself several times over along the way.
What is Monster Kid Memories you ask? Why, it's really nothing more than me reminiscing about moments from my childhood that relate to me being a great big horror nut (apparently from inception onwards). For the purposes of excusing certain behavior (that in hindsight is more than a little bit embarrassing), my "childhood" heretofore is going to encompass ages 1 - 18. Anything that I partook in or did after the age of 18, is fair game for you to ridicule or judge me on. I'll own it.
The germ of this idea, to compose articles about such personal instances from my past, was sown during my writing of the review for Lew Lehman's The Pit (1981, the review can be found here). I found it near impossible to share my feelings about the film's plot without relating some of my own situations from my childhood beforehand, seeing as how nearly every frame of that film inspired some bizarre trip down memory lane. Chiefly being that much like the pint-sized protagonist of that film, how I was a very strange little child (to put it mildly), obsessed with death, destruction, monsters, madmen and copious amounts of the red stuff. I was Jaime Benjamin (Sammy Snyders) and he was me (save for the fact that the only Trog-like abominations in my life, were those created in my overworked imagination). The point is, I had a lot of fun writing that review and revisiting my sordid childhood in such a manner. It made me want to do it again, it made me want to remember more (in truth, a rather rare occurrence in my life as I've spent the better part of the last decade attempting to forget the majority of my early years for other less savory reasons). Admittedly, this endeavor isn't something that I imagine will be the easiest thing to do, as my hypochondriac nature leads me to believe that I am currently suffering from either unknown brain trauma, meningitis, epilepsy, an early onset of Alzheimer's or some sort of Fringe-esque rapid aging, as my once sharp-as-a-tack memory is nearly nonexistent these days (ask me what I ate 4 hours ago and a swirl of gray fog obscures the memory in my mind, truly frustrating and more than a bit unnerving). However, I will do the best I can with what I can. No James Frey recollections here. Promise. Just the cold hard truth, even if at times it seems so over the top, so unlikely that that I wasn't under constant psychiatric care, so strange that it must be fiction, I assure you dear readers, it isn't.
I Want To Play A Game
Picture the setting. It is night. The darkness is utter and complete, the kind of darkness one finds themselves in when removed from the comforting environs of a well lit city and transplanted to its rural outskirts, where only the stars and a dim moon will light your way. My mother and step-father's relatively large, two-story country home (complete with enormous barn). Miles from any town, neighboring an empty, expansive golf course and with the closest houses no more than 200 yards away (many of them, buried deep within the woods that surrounded our house to the north). In short, very reminiscent of Casey Becker's (Drew Barrymore) abode from the very first Scream (minus the beautiful vineyard, this was after all, Indiana). And the evening I was sharing with my then-fiance Mike, was likewise very similar to the one Casey was about to have with her boyfriend, dearly departed and gutted Steven Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls); scary movies on the TV, enjoying a snugly evening in the middle of nowhere, capitalizing on the fact that my parents were out of town and I had the house to myself with my beau. Except, midway through the evening, watching fear flicks and spooning on the couch didn't sound as exciting anymore. Something more...adventurous was in order. Something more lively. At first, inspiration came to me in the form of playing a game of hide-and-go-seek (an activity that me and a select group of friends still got up to from time to time, but in slightly more creepy environments like the local haunted spot Devil's Hollow or the biggest cemetery in town but more on those games some other time). However, just playing hide and seek didn't seem nearly enough...there needed to be something more. Then, like a lightning bolt, it struck me, "let's play Scream!" Yes, I actually said that, and yes we actually did "play Scream". Here is how.
The object of the game was very simple; There would be the victim (Mike, and later changed to accommodate victims, as our friend Jasmine joined in on the fun) and the maniac (me, decked out Ghostface mask and a huge black coat reminiscent of Candyman's wardrobe). All the victim was required to do, was find away into the locked up house from outside (there was only ever one way inside, known only to me), find the hidden set of car keys, escape the house, enter my locked car and drive it off the property to "safety". There were catches that made accomplishing this, very difficult. Many of them. First off, in keeping with the hide-and-go-seek nature of the game, the victim could only be "tagged" three times and they would lose, and by "tagged" I mean "stabbed" with a fake plastic knife or hand scythe (my favorite, shades of Children of the Corn here) that I would wield, and by lose I mean "die". The game was played within the pitch black house and the equally dark, unlit property. No lights were allowed to be turned on by the victims (nor I) and they had to rely on their eyes adjusting either to the dark as they crept about trying to remain undetected, or they had to use what little light I provided them to navigate through the rooms (usually a single television set playing a horror movie). There senses were further fucked by the fact that I would have playing in the house, a horror film score so loud, that it was near impossible to communicate with another party or hear me sneaking up behind them. A horror film score so loud that I imagine in the quite countryside, it could be heard a mile away in the still of the night. A horror score so loud that you couldn't help but feel like you were smack dab in the middle of some nightmarish scenario straight out of a scary movie, or unwittingly having found yourself stumbling into one (my film score collection wasn't the gargantuan beast that it is today, so I usually employed Don Davis' House on Haunted Hill remake soundtrack, to hair-raising effect, the sheer volume that I played it at being enough to put anyone on edge, the track Epiphanic Evelyn being a standout example ). Additionally, like any victim in a good scary movie, they were allowed to fight back against my "attacks", utilizing anything within arms reach that would neither break, nor seriously harm someone (pillows, couch cushions and the like). They were not allowed to lock doors behind them in an effort to evade me. They could barricade the doors with their bodies or other objects, but that was all. In most cases the only option was find some dark corner to make themselves very small in, or tuck themselves away in the back of some dark as pitch closet and be very very still and very very quite. To make things even more intense, if one found themselves injured in the duration of the game (me or them), they were to pick themselves up and keep going, limping or crawling their way to temporary safety somewhere. The game would only stop if they or I seriously hurt ourselves (and considering how genuinely freaked out one could get in the middle of playing, it's a wonder one of us didn't break our neck as there were instances of falling down the stairs and tripping over objects in the yard only to go flying face first into the dirt). Lastly, acquiring hidden car keys in a lightless house is hard in the best of circumstances, finding them using only select, odd clues placed about to point you in the right direction is quite another thing entirely, deciphering the aforementioned clues while being stalked by a masked "killer" was difficult to the extreme. I would set up these clues while the other players would drive around the countryside, waiting to pass by the house and see that the outside porch light had been turned off (the indication that the game had begun and they were to park the car and make their way inside). Sometimes they won and escaped with their lives, other times they weren't so lucky and the game ended with their "lifeless, bloody corpses strewn about on the ground." Or something to that effect.
The Highlights Reel
One reason I was constantly the killer while playing Scream (with the exception of one game where I spent 3 hours nearly peeing my pants, hiding underneath beds and inside closets), was because plain and simply, I am a control freak. I wasn't entirely sure either Mike or Jasmine had the enthusiasm to set up intricate clues or maintain the momentum of coming on hard and strong for an "attack" but then know when to retreat a bit to maximize tension and prolong the chase thereby enhancing the overall terror. Possibly either one of them would have done just fine, but like I said, control freak.
Below you will find a roster of some of the games' highlights, in no particular order or context.
- Check The Backseat
There was one instance when we were playing Scream where I held off stalking Mike and Jasmine in the beginning while they were still trying to find a way inside the house. Instead, I waited inside the backseat of my parents' SUV that was parked in the dark garage. The reason being that I had left the door that adjoined the garage to the house the only one unlocked and their only way inside. To reach this door, one of them would have to shimmy on their stomach beneath the garage door that I had left open only a foot off of the ground. When they passed (it turned out to be Mike) I threw the SUV door open behind them and sprung my attack (missing him). But the chase had begun and this instance led to this...
- Open The Door!
Mike had fled into the house through the garage, leaving me standing there for a moment deciding what my next plan of action was. Hearing Jasmine's calls of "Mike? Mike?" from the other side of the enormous garage door, I quickly decided. Stealthily moving to a small gap between door and floor, I took a swipe at her unsuspecting form, I missed but managed to send her screaming to the front door where she proceeded to bang and holler and beg Mike to open the door "quickly, now, NOW". I think I stood there for a moment, dumfounded over the fact that I had just recreated within the game, and unintentionally at that, the famous scene from the climax of John Carpenter's Halloween. Specifically, the one where Jaime Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode finds herself locked out of her house with an ever encroaching Michael Myers. Yes really. However, due to the fact that I approached with his same slow and deliberate pace (I couldn't really run like Ghostface mind you, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day), Mike caught to the front door in the nick of time and let Jasmine inside, just as I was upon her.
There are other crazy moments to be sure. Like the time I hid the car keys on the roof during a rainstorm (how we didn't simultaneously break our necks or destroy my parent's floors by tracking mud everywhere is a miracle, but the kind of miracle that one at that age only recognizes in hindsight). Or the time Jasmine and I (when I was playing as a victim for a change) was hiding in the darkness of my parent's walk in closet (which itself led into another walk in closet, with two entrances to boot, one almost a cleverly hidden mirror), clinging to one another and trying to not pee our pants until one of those closet doors were ripped open and standing there in the hazy shadows was Ghostface (Mike), knife raised and at the ready and I did just that, pee my pants. A little. I could go on certainly and if I concentrated hard enough I'm sure I could scare up more noteworthy memories from our games. But I think you get the general idea dear readers.
As I promised earlier, what I just shared with you probably makes many of you wonder how I wasn't under constant scrutiny from trained psychiatric professionals. Beats me. Maybe I should have been. However, I am more inclined to view those Scream games for what I believe they really were; just a couple of extremely bored, crazy kids utilizing their imaginations and taking a game of hide-and-go-seek to the next, scare-the-hell-out-of-themselves level. And we did scare the ever living hell out of ourselves. It was as if for a time, we created for ourselves for the cost of nothing more than a dime store Halloween mask, our very own Haunted House. Only there was no admission, it was open year round (or rather, whenever my parents were out of town) and it operated by our rules. The only rule that was really important though being the one where we gave each other the fright of our lives and I can't stress how much we did just that. Ever since those days, it's relatively easy to watch some slasher film and think to oneself "I kinda know what that feels like; the pursuit, the hiding, the screaming, the fear...I lived it." Sorta.