Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Scariest Movie.....Ever

Since I grew up as the only kid in a household of adults, Rule Number One was that I shouldn't make a nuisance of myself.  I learned early on that being quiet (not so much stealth as simply avoiding notice) was much to my advantage.

Although it was unusual at the time, I had a TV in my bedroom.  This kept me nicely out of the way.  I was expected to be in bed, lights off, at 10 PM no matter what.  However, I discovered, in a rare display of naughtiness, that WYES (a local PBS station--there were only the three major networks and two other local channels back then) played classic movies late at night.  By "classic" I mean Really Old, as in Silent.  And since the movies were silent, I could turn the volume off on the TV because I didn't need the background music anyway.  WYES also played foreign movies:  subtitles!  I could watch those in complete quiet as well.

My family never noticed my minor misbehavior, and I was having a whale of a time watching the best movies!  It was so fun.....well, except once.

Halloween brings out the scary movies, doesn't it?  WYES didn't let me down.  The scary movie that long-ago October was both silent and foreign:  it was the original 1922 German film Nosferatu.

Now, that is a truly scary movie no matter where or when you see it.  Imagine me, though, watching in complete darkness and in complete silence.  I was huddled under the covers, sometimes peeking out with just one eye, and shoving the sheet in my mouth to keep myself from screaming.  I knew that I absolutely must not make any noise at all because even a peep would have alerted my family and the TV would surely have been taken away.  And I absolutely had to keep watching because I was sure that I'd never sleep peacefully again if I didn't know how the movie finished up--only the worst nightmares have no ending.

The next day, still wild-eyed and nervous, I could not share with anyone the horrifying experience I had had watching Max Shreck turn into the most terrifying monster ever.  If I told, I would be tattling on myself.  Quiet was normally my friend but in this case, it was an awful enemy.  I didn't even have the luxury of telling the other kids at school because the movie had played on a Friday, so I had to remain entirely shtum about it until Monday.  I felt guilty for my deception and for my disobedience.....and also for my determination to continue because I didn't want to give up my movies.  The horror and the terror and the worry kept welling up again and again.

When I finally did get to tell, no one understood.  None of the other kids did anything as dumb as watching silent movies.  Those were old-hat, and who would watch a movie without sound anyhow.  Some of them laughed at me.  They refused to believe that there could be anything remotely frightening about some moldy old vampire story.  And it wasn't even American.  They figured that scary stuff was blood and guts and gore.  Trust me, they were wrong:  the real scary stuff is about tension and the unknown and the fear of getting trapped.

I have never forgotten the terror of Nosferatu.  It wasn't just the movie but the experience itself.  I hate scary movies, always have and always will.  But I have no regrets for watching
Entirely alone. 
In complete darkness. 
And in deliberate silence. 
It was an amazing experience.
But, no, I do not wish to go through such a thing ever again.

Life is good.
Odd things sometimes teach the most amazing lessons.

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