I doubt that you remember 1958, when the original movie of THE BLOB was shown at the theater. I was nine, and even though some of my friends were allowed to go and see it, you said no. I was too young, and prone to a vivid imagination and nightmares, you said, and I didn’t need to see a movie that was so scary. I was allowed to go to the other movie–I don’t even remember what it was–but not to THE BLOB.
After I got my popcorn, I slipped into a seat in the back row of THE BLOB. It was Steve McQueen’s debut leading role, but I don’t remember him. I do remember the old man on the screen who watched a blazing mass crash to the earth, and how I cringed as he went over to the crater of bubbling red and jabbed it with a stick. When he held it up to study the slimy oozing mess, it crawled down the stick…and on to his hand.
I dropped my popcorn and screamed, and then I jumped when I felt the hand on my shoulder. Your hand. You didn’t smack my shoulder or jerk me out of the seat. You nodded toward the exit. The look of disappointment on your face said it all, and I solemnly followed you out of the theater.
Even though it was for only a few minutes, I still remember the sights and sounds, the eerie music and the escalating fear of the movie. That’s what scary movies do best, and the bursts of surprise and fear are the trademarks of horror. Once I was old enough to appreciate good horror and suspense, especially psychological horror, I went to lots of horror movies. On very rare occasions you’d go to see one, too, like the time I took you to see ROSEMARY’S BABY. (I still remember you telling me after the movie that Rosemary’s hair was too short, though it was probably easier for a pregnant woman to take care of, but you’d never heard of a pregnant woman craving a raw chicken to gnaw into. You also said that, in your opinion, ROSEMARY’S BABY wasn’t near as good as THE SOUND OF MUSIC.)
I won’t be reminding you of THE BLOB or ROSEMARY’S BABY, Mom, and when we talk on the phone I won’t tell you about the sad and terrible thing that happened here in Colorado two days ago. It still has me upset, how a theater full of movie goers in Aurora went to see the opening of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, but it turned out to be a very real, horrible, dark night for them. A young man who called himself The Joker randomly killed a dozen of the people in the audience and wounded more than fifty more. All of us watching the news account–and especially the police who responded to the crises and the medical personnel who rushed to the hospitals to help those who survived the attack–will probably never understand why a person would do such a horrible thing. Those who survived the attack, and the friends and families of those who did not, will struggle with nightmares that plague them for the rest of their lives.
When I was a child, Mom, you were right to take me out of a movie I wasn’t old enough to see or understand. But no one was old enough to experience, witness or understand what happened in Aurora. It was real life horror at its worst, without mothers’ hands on viewers’ shoulders, guiding them away from the danger. Through the years I’ve seen you respond to heartbreaking, tragic events. When there was something you could do to help, you helped. When there was nothing you could do, you would fold your hands, bow you head and silently pray for everyone involved. The list of those needing prayers in this case would be very long, and I think it would include The Joker’s family, too, because you would also understand their sorrow and grief at the damage he’d done.