Scare Tactics

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Though these days I write lighthearted, sexy, rom-com, as a kid, I loved me a good, scary read. This started back in the days when my parents wouldn’t let me see all the horror movies my friends with cool parents were watching every Friday night at the cineplex. There was a point in my life where the only thing I craved as much as oxygen was to see, “The Amityville Horror,” (starring an uncharacteristically creepy-looking James Brolin and a young, doe-eyed Margot Kidder), but that wasn’t going to happen, so I did the next best thing. I went to the library and checked out “The Amityville Horror, A True Story,” by Jay Anson. That book scared me right out of my pre-teen disco jeans. Which, frankly, were scarier than anything I could have read or screened, but, of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. Those things only haunt you years later. Anyway, scary book. I believe it also introduced me to the word “tits,” (as in, “that walking set of tits George calls a secretary”). The term hadn’t previously hit my lexicon. A proud milestone for my parents, I’m sure. Eventually, as an adult, I stumbled across the movie while channel surfing. I watched with the teensy sense of letdown you can only experience with something that completely fascinated you as a child. Sadly, the financial horror story terrified me more than the cheesy, low-tech special effects. When George and Kathy talk about buying the big house – a house they can’t really afford – that’s when I’m screaming at the screen, saying, “Oh for the love of God, don’t do it!”

I found the 2005 remake, starring Ryan Reynolds, much more frightening. This might have been because the special effects were better, but probably had more to do with the sight of gorgeous, yummy Ryan all scrounged out with a wild beard and ratty flannel shirts. “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, also made my parent’s blacklist, so I marched back to the library to check out the Stephen King novel of the same name. Now, I’ve read, and loved, a lot of Stephen King, yet for whatever reason, the story didn’t leave much of an impression on my malleable young mind. But the film version … holy freaking Moses! A piece of cinematic terror that destroyed my sleep for months – and I was a grown-assed woman by the time I saw the darn thing.

My parents didn’t, technically, stop me from seeing “The Exorcist.” The movie, starring the unforgettable Linda Blair as little Regan MacNeil, had its theatrical run before I reached the age where I would have pestered them non-stop to take me, but William Peter Blatty’s novel made it my poorly monitored library book basket at some point during my formative years. I remember it scared the crap out of me, so I should have known better, years later, when I watched the movie version. “The Exorcist,” chills me to the bone in either format. This Halloween season offers cinema lovers a batch of kid-friendly spooky movies to choose from, including “Hotel Transylvania,” “ParaNorman,” and “Frankenweenie,” so hopefully today’s parents aren’t constantly telling their ten-year-olds, “No, you cannot go see Paranormal Activity 4, and if you ask me one more time you’re going to see something a lot more frightening than a @#& movie!”

Ah, memories! How about you? Which book or movie from your misspent youth scarred you for life?