When I was a little girl, a long time ago, (actually I am still little in height, or some might say vertically challenged), after pigtails but before perms, I used to love watching horror films.
Horrible, gruesome, scary, frightening, sick, horror films. It’s not that I was a horrible, gruesome, scary, frightening, sick, little girl. At least I don’t think I was? No, I am sure I wasn’t. I used to love Barbie and Sindy too, and then my pink bike and my yellow and blue roller boots. I like to think I was a well balanced, normal kid, with interests and hobbies and friends.
But I also loved horror films.
I think the first one I ever watched, through my shocked little eyes, at a friend's house when we should have been tucked up in bed, was Halloween. Michael Myers, now he was a horrible, gruesome, scary, frightening, sick, little boy who turned into a horrible, gruesome, scary, frightening, sick, man. Michal Myers, who haunted and terrorised and killed on Halloween.
After watching this film I was hooked. Nightmare on Elm Street, Night of the Living Dead, Poltergeist etc, etc. I had a kind of morbid fascination with the strange and unusual.
Video Vision was the name of the local video shop (way back before DVDs) where my best friend at the time, Tracey, and I, rented these strange and unusual and sometimes warped films. Being under the age of 18, the video owner would accept my grubby video membership card and our latest chosen horror film with gratitude and a letter from my friend's mother. The letter was authorising her permission for us to watch such films. She didn’t mind, and neither did my mother actually, as long as we weren’t hanging around street corners with the wrong crowd.
I often suspected the shop owner didn’t believe anyone's mother would write such a letter, and I'm not even sure if the letter writing qualified for making it legal, but I don’t think he really cared. As long as he received his £1.50 or however much renting films in those days was.
So we’d rush home, with our letter and sick video, and a whole load of chocolate to gorge whilst viewing. That was our ritual, lots and lots of chocolate to scoff whilst pretending we weren’t really scared, or jumping out of out skins everytime loud music or monstrous looking creatures appeared on the screen. And we’d turn out the lights and pull the curtains so we could view in the dark, it added to the atmosphere. My parents green velvet curtains were great for blocking out light.
That was how many an afternoon and evening was spent.
Until something else happened.
I began to grow up. Childhood started slipping through my fingers. I stopped thinking the world was a safe place and only bad things happened on TV. I realised bad things happened in real life too. I learnt there was good in this world but alas there was also evil. Therefore these horror films started to affect me. I wondered if the creepy man at the park could turn into the creepy man I watched the night before. I started to suffer from vivid and disturbing nightmares. I dreaded the dark and the childhood monster that lurked on the dark stairs as I retired to my bedroom every evening.
I had to stop watching horror films for my own sanity. And so I could use the bathroom in the middle of the night, without a pounding heart and the fear of being stabbed or eaten or chased along the hallway.
I am now very, very, cautious when disturbing films are shown on TV or a friend suggests their viewing. Which is why I was so surprised that I so nonchalantly agreed to watch Paramormal Activity with boyfriend (yes, I still have a lovely boyfriend!) the other evening. Cookies and cream ice-cream was chosen (watching and eating still go hand in hand), and the lights were turned off, it added to the atmosphere.
Then reality stepped in and I started to fret. The memories came flooding back to me. Was my childhood monster lurking on the stairs again, eagerly awaiting to pounce? Had I stupidly recreated him?
"I'm not sure if this is a good idea," I said to boyfriend.
"It's only a film, remember all the camera men in the room," said boyfriend, trying to reassure me, but failing miserably.
I still watched the film. Jumping and holding my breath, cowering behind my hands, and uttering, "Oh no!" quite a few times.
I was glad when it was over. I was glad when the lights were turned back on.
But then I realised I needed to visit the bathroom, and I was scared.
I was ten years old again.
"Will you come down the stairs with me?" I timidly asked boyfriend.
Next time we decide to watch a film I think I might stick to a romantic comedy. Far nicer than those horrible, gruesome, scary, frightening, sick, horror films.
No more horror!