Because I yearn to give back to the community, I recently volunteered to dress up and scare people walking through a local haunted house. But make no mistake: although this was part of a bigger festival that catered to younger children, this was no family-friendly haunted house.
Instead, this was a veritable path of horrors, a twisted, dark, scream-filled 15 minute walk full of mad doctors, violent lunatics, and monsters. There were parts of the house that were completely dark, so much so that people were getting lost and turned around, backtracking to previous sections of the haunted house because they couldn’t find the correct path. My job was to stand inside this pitch black section and scare people, while simultaneously guiding them through it into to the next section.
And at this point, I find it important to mention that the sign outside clearly and unambiguously stated that the attraction was not recommended for children under 8. Still, we’d see parents going through wheeling kids in strollers, or even holding babies to their chests, oblivious to the severe psychological harm that would be inflicted upon them.
Sadly, I am partially to blame for many of the nightmares these children will have for the remainder of their terror-filled lives. As I mentioned, I was stationed in a pitch black hallway. I could barely see 3 feet in front of me while I crouched in the darkness, listening and waiting until a group was almost upon me. I then would rear up in front of them and shine a light directly onto my face.
More often than not, I would find myself face-to-face with the screaming visage of a too-young child whose parents had forced her into this house of horrors. And I found it extremely difficult to back-pedal after that type of introduction. Usually, the baby would just continue to scream into my face as their parents shuffled around in the darkness trying to find the exit, and we would all be trying to quite the hysterical child. It was pretty awkward for everyone involved.
Apparently it must be a common failure of parents that they expose their children to scary things earlier than they should. Perhaps it is just a rite of passage for the child –a way to teach them that life is dangerous, and that seemingly benign things can murder you while you sleep.
It is nothing new. I myself experienced this harsh life-lesson, meted out by the icy hand of questionable parental judgment when I was 12 years old. At that age, my parents decided it was alright for me to go to an afternoon matinee of “The Exorcist III” with my friend John. Perhaps they figured the amount of psychological damage the film could do was minimized because we’d be viewing it in the stark light of day.
They were way wrong.
There is one scene in that movie that will stay with me long after senility has robbed me of both my memories and the ability to control my bowels. It comes to me whenever I watch a scary scene in a movie; it unreels itself on the insides of my closed eyelids on nights that I cannot sleep.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’re likely aware of what I’m referring to: It’s nighttime at a hospital, and the viewer looks down a long camera shot of an empty hospital corridor. In the distance, a nurse on duty crosses the corridor. There is a beat, and the nurse crosses back. And even though you KNOW something is about to happen, it comes out of nowhere when a ghostly image with a pair of surgical amputating sheers stealthily crosses after the nurse, overtaking her just as she passes out of sight.
Now, to this day I am unsure what kind of effect the movie had on John (although he did end up dropping out of high-school, a fact I attribute solely to this scene). As for myself, I spent the next few nights sleeping on the floor of my parents bedroom, and the next 22 years suffering pants-crapping fear every time the film is referenced.
It is, quite simply, the scariest thing I have ever seen. Even scarier than those two little girls in “The Shining.”
Man, I hate those little girls. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating axe-murder as a means of conflict resolution. However, I can sort of see why, after being stuck in a hotel with them for a winter, Jack felt the need to take them out.
(If that is what happened. To be honest, I’m still a little unsure of the plot of the movie. Had Jack been there in a previous life? And do you guys remember that scene with the dude in a bear costume?)
At any rate, I’m sure that many of you would argue that the two little girls in matching dresses imploring Danny to play with them in monotone unison was the easily the scariest thing ever put onto celluloid. But you would be wrong.