A Super Special Guest Post by possibly the Super Specialist Guest of all! My mom!
Now if anyone knows me and knows what a giant nerd I am about these movies, it would be my parents. They’ve been subjected to the late night movie marathons my friends and I used to have in our living room, my all night edit sessions on my one attempt at a slasher flick in college, I’ve even made my mom join me to watch movies like The Evil Dead and Dead Alive. Or there was the time my dad and I watched Jeepers Creepers 2.
And if anyone can be counted responsible for my love of all things strange and fantastic, that would be my parents as well. Not just horror although it was my mom’s copy of It that first introduced me to Stephen King but to science fiction and fantasy as well. The The Chronicles of Narnia Boxed Set, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet)… these were the stories we read at bedtime. Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, these are the names that filled our bookshelves. Possibly even more significant though was the inclusion of books like Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles) by Anne Rice or A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper. The books that not only excited with their stories but made me believe that these were realms I could explore myself. These worlds didn’t belong just to men, there were women here too. I could be a part of this.
Without further ado, I give you today’s guest post. My mother, Barbara Cohn, on what scares us as children and the 1950’s B sci fi tale Invaders From Mars. She can be found on Twitter @star624 and one of these days she’ll listen to me and start writing on a site of her own.
Invaders From Mars – USA, 1953. Dir. William Cameron Menzies. Starring Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Jimmy Hunt.
So… a month or so ago I responded to Elissa’s call for scary movies to write about for her 31 Days of Horror blogging project. I gave her some suggestions, some of which she has written about . (And which, knowing her as I do, I’m sure she would have written about without any prompting from me.) I did however, manage to come up with a movie she had never seen, despite years of screams and other assorted scary noises coming from our family room at all hours of the night as Elissa and friends held yet another scary movie marathon.
Everyone has a movie which gave them nightmares as a child and I’m no exception. When I was growing up the rule in my house was that TV shows like The Outer Limits and frightening movies were strictly off limits to us kids. They were watched by my parents in the living room, with the door to the rest of the house closed, and we were forbidden to open the door or come into the room while they were on. Of course nothing makes a child more determined to see something than being told they can’t, and I was no exception. Whenever I could get away with it I would be crouched by that door with it cracked open, watching whatever it was that I wasn’t supposed to see because it would give me nightmares. I remember mad scrambles to get back to my room undetected when one of my parents would get up to come out to the kitchen for a snack.
The Outer Limits didn’t really scare me all that much. It was freaky and creepy but I don’t remember ever being bone deep scared in that way that keeps you up at night watching the shadows for the monster that’s coming for you. No, my childhood nightmare movie was Invaders from Mars. To tell you the truth, in later years I didn’t really remember much of the movie. What I remembered was having nightmares after seeing it and getting up in the morning and not relaxing until I had determined that the backs of my parents necks were free of any strange x’s on them.
Fast forward to last week and Elissa and I sitting down to watch Invaders from Mars. First thing, as the titles roll is the music. Melodramatic much? Then we have the oh so dramatic narrator and the view of outer space and the stars. Compared to the effects in today’s movies clearly fake. Oh well. As Elissa pointed out as I rolled my eyes, the movie is not quite MST3K bad but it comes pretty close. Watching it I now I wonder how I could have been so frightened by it. But I was.
I mean the effects are cheesy. Such as the use of the same 3 or 4 shots of the supposed aliens marching through tunnels repeated over and over again. Add to that stock WWII tank battle footage in which the times of day of the various shots don’t’ match the time of day of the scenes they are interspersed into, much less with each other. The acting is almost over the top. And the music is…I don’t know quite what to say.
So why did this movie frighten me so much? The key is that the essential plot is that here is this little boy with two loving parents who overnight turn into monsters. For a seven year old that has to be the ultimate horror. Mom and Dad becoming not Mom and Dad. Becoming something threatening and scary. Even though the Outer Limits actually had some episodes that to this day hold up as frightening, Invaders From Mars connected with me on a visceral level. That’s what kept me up at night. Because If a child can’t go to his parents who can he go to?
Today’s kids would probably laugh at the original version of this movie. But I suspect that if it were remade with modern effects and acting and music, it would send more than one child to bed worrying about what might happen to her parents if there just happened to be a strange light in the sky during the night.