When the Grim Reaper Comes a-Calling

(On The Silver Screen)

 

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As I grew up, a mountain hamlet had the advantage of being somewhat isolated, especially on a cold, snowy night. On the farm owned by our maternal grandmother and her husband, we would gather around the old black and white television to watch the horror films broadcasting over the airwaves from a far distant place over the snowy mountains.

There we saw the golden era of Universal Pictures monsters. These 1930s and 40s flicks were the right ticket to scare the wits out of us children.

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Dracula was a bit too creepy. The Wolfman was a bit too hairy. The Mummy was a bit too dusty. The Invisible Man was a bit too insane.

It was Frankenstein 1931 which caused us boys to avoid the old fishing holes for a great number of weeks. Who wanted to meet a monster at the river bank as Maria encountered in the film?

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It would be Hammer Films which would add color and a heavy dose of sex appeal in the 1960s. In 1960 our mother took us to see The Brides of Dracula. It was a bloody spectacle.

However, it was the lovely Andree Melly as Gina which gave us children the greatest fright. Gina could have passed for our mother’s twin sister.

I tend to remember that Gina and our mother had the same blue dress which added to our consternation. We were convinced that our mother would become the victim of the vampire and become one of the undead.

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Professor van Helsing was no hero to us children since his sole purpose was to kill vampires. If our mother became one, we did not want the good professor lurking around with wooden stake and mallet.

We asked our maternal grandmother about vampires and our mother’s fate. We felt she would be the voice of reason, but instead she began to relate tales of her childhood and the strange things which had occurred. Another time we will delve into our grandmother’s treasure chest of the strange and supernatural.

As time passed our mother did not become the vampire like Gina, and eventually that blue dress faded from existence. We grew older and wiser about the lure of the film noir to the deep recesses of our subconscious, where the dark shadows of a thousand generations hover like bog mists on a moonless night over the heather.

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Over the decades horror films have become more gruesome and graphic. I tend to remember that for my bachelor’s party Andy and Curtis took me to see John Carpenter’s The Fog. This movie is what every groom should see before their wedding day.

Over the years I have watched some films which would have given us nightmares back in the 1960s; from them we might not have awakened or would have covered our heads under the old patchwork quilts and hoped the monsters were too afraid of the cold to venture out. Back then we did not know that movie monsters were tame in comparison to the human monsters that we would see on the news and unfortunately encounter in the jungles or streets as we entered the adult world.

This Halloween a whole slew of films is coming. Watching the previews I find none of them appealing.

As we all know, when the Grim Reaper comes a–calling on the silver screen, no one is safe in that digital presentation. There will be screams and blood and other graphic images to frighten as you sit there, munching on the over-priced unhealthy popcorn and then drinking the watered-down soda to quench the overly salty taste of the bucket of buttery corn.

Perhaps growing up on the Universal Monster Mash and the Hammer film, to me the new ones just seem like too many Dum Dum lollipops and cavities. Who wants to pig out on sugar and then visit the dentist for a filling or two?

Perhaps, life was simpler back in the 60s when childhood was still innocent. The only things to go bump in the night were logs in the fireplace.

It is of note that many times in winter we were found in front of the fireplace instead of our beds. There was just something about a fire in the hearth which kept the chills away as well as the monsters.

We all knew that monsters did not like fire. Fire was stronger than any monster.

Next time we will visit that treasure chest of our grandmother and share some of her tales about Halloween. Who knows what a pot of coffee might bring to life during a wake or what the slender feline traveling an old country hollow might reveal?

G. D. Williams © 2015

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