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Horror film piece excerpt

Thursday 5/9/24



In a place where no actual blood was spilled—at least to my knowledge—my grandmother’s house proved strangely—even sagely—sanguinary as it pertained to a couple key developments in my life.

I had existed for some time in this world before I met my parents. One day they drove to my eventual grandmother’s house to debrief her on their plans to adopt a child. The notion proved sufficiently displeasing that my father’s mother prophesied that blood will tell, after which she stormed from the room minus only an offstage thunderclap for further emphasis from the sound effects guy.

You might say that we got off to a frosty start, this grandmother and myself, and for a number of years I took a dim view of our visits to her. A child, though, who seeks to avoid one thing will search for another, which can have its benefits. I believe that we enter this life as vessels containing undiscovered loves. A tragedy of humanity is that many of us limit our looking, which precludes those discoveries. We don’t know what will lead us to something inside of ourselves that becomes a passion, a purpose, an interest that we subsequently believe we couldn’t have been without. The girl puts on a pair of ballet shoes and tries to make herself spring across the room and there’s that click of, “Oh yes, this is for me, it’s who I am.” Lovers of art can speak to external stimuli awakening that which is within. The first time they heard an Elvis Presley song wafting from out of a car, for instance. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot, but it can be everything.

At my grandmother’s house, I’d go off on my own whenever I could, which meant small trips of exploration, like into the family room when everyone else was seated at the kitchen table. In Boston there used to be a Saturday afternoon show called Creature Double Feature, which, as you’d surmise, played two horror films back-to-back. You couldn’t just order up the horror film of your choice as you can now. You had to get lucky.

There’s this thinking that vintage horror movies were the stuff of the night, and the deep night at that, after all of the normal and civilized programming had been completed, but you might be surprised what came on after the sylvan gambolings of the Smurfs had run their course. This was great for kids, because obviously you were awake then. You also weren’t so sharply supervised. That which you might not be allowed to watch in the evening was wide open to you in the early afternoon, especially if you were canny.  

Out of the kitchen I came and into a room where the TV had been left on. The picture on the screen was black and white. There were these men in a medical theater all staring at the body of a dead woman on a table. A grandstand—like at Fenway Park—full of these medicos, faces etched in grim expressions of portentous, at-a-loss fear. I think this may have been the first cadaver I’d seen. The setting was so formal, bloodless, ironically, like a viewer almost would have felt better if there were spurting wounds. The clinical efficiency of death was writ large across the composition, but with a further component of prospective blight. You knew this was a chilling moment in the story regardless of not knowing what had come before. Then one of the men—who was obviously the most learned amongst them—made a grave remark about there being two punctures upon the woman’s neck, and this movie had me, body and soul.

I was freaked out, mind blown, hooked, fanged. My living room discovery had led to a discovery of one of those loves inside of me. I was frightened, but the fright was palliated—organically augmented—by the feeling of something making perfect sense. Thus was my initial introduction to Tod Browning’s 1931 film, Dracula, a movie whose blood has been a part of my own ever since, almost as if it were there all along, only I just had to realize it.


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