When I was a kid, my brothers and I spent a lot of time unsupervised. It was the 70's, my mom was a single mom raising three kids, and also worked and went to school. Back then, "latch-key kids" were pretty much the norm. My older brother was a huge fan of scary movies. The gorier the better, at least to me it seemed. Because I idolized my big brother, and what girl didn't if she had one, I wanted to watch what he watched. By the time I was 13 I had seen Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, Carrie, Alien and Jaws. A couple of them in the movie theater. My little brother was six when Jaws came out, and I know we all saw that in the theater because afterwards he was too scared to take a bath for a year because he thought a shark would come out of the drain and eat him. In addition to watching scary movies, my older brother also read about them in fan magazines and books. He would show me pictures of how the special effects were done, and when we watched the movies on TV he could point out the obvious fake heads and rubber knives to me until the scary movies had little-to-no effect on me. It took a lot to scare me when I was a tweener. And I was pretty darn proud of that. When I was 16 and at an all-girls boarding school (which sounds a little like it could be the opening to a slasher flick script in and of itself) we had a Halloween night scary movie marathon. As the girls around me screamed and hid their eyes from the creepy killer chasing kids around in Halloween -- probably, I don't really remember what it was -- I sat and pointed, saying things like, "that's not even a realistic blood spurt, and look, I can see the 'dead' guy breathing. Sheesh." I probably ruined it for the others, but at the time I couldn't believe anyone could have been fooled by such schlock.
That doesn't mean I was never scared by a movie. There was one in particular. One movie gave me the heebie-jeebies more than anything ever has. It was the movie that made me lie in bed, wide-eyed with vivid images of dozens of tiny little hands coming out from under the bed to grab me and drag me under... to drag me away. I think I was around eight or nine. Definitely old enough to have had the mysteries of movie gore totally explained to me. This movie, however, had not blood, nor ginormous glinting weapons, nor masked menaces jumping from behind doors to fill the screen and startle me. This was a made-for-TV movie that was called Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. It is from 1973. It's about a couple, Sally and Alex Farnham, who inherit an old mansion from Sally's recently deceased grandmother. After moving in, she discovers a bricked-up fireplace in the basement den, and asks the estate's handyman, Mr. Harris to remove the bricks, and allow the fireplace to be used. He reluctantly does so. It turns out some bad little critters come out of that fireplace once it is opened up, and they want the "spirit" of Sally for themselves. The embedded video below is the last eight minutes of the movie, and this is the part that set off a long stint of my life where I made sure every spare item of clothing, and/or all toys that could be spared were shoved into every square inch of space under my bed. I figured, if all that stuff was under there, then the little demons couldn't possibly fit. But just to make sure, I also kept my sheets tucked into the bed so they couldn't get to my feet. I'm not kidding. I still kind of do that last one. At this point in the movie, the little demons have spiked Sally's drink with sleeping pills, cut off the electricity and locked her friend out of the house. Her husband had been over at the handyman's house when Sally called and was abruptly cut off. This clip starts off during the frantic car ride home where we learn why the fireplace was bricked up in the first place. (And yes, the handyman is Uncle Charley from My Three Sons.) Don't be surprised if you sleep smack in the middle of your bed tonight. With the lights on.
ETA: I found out while looking for the clip that Guillermo Del Toro is remaking this movie but it doesn't mention a release date.
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