Had a Great Time, Wish I’d Survived!
Posted on June 14th, 2012
My introduction to the idea of a zombie apocalypse came early, as I was not yet four years old when my parents loaded my older sis (who was six) and me into the back seat of the family car and headed off to the local drive-in to see Night of the Living Dead. We watched the terror unfold as most children do, with our eyes peeping through our fingers, and frightened squeals spluttering from behind our palms. At random moments, my mother would take exception to some grotesquery and slap at our heads, ordering us to “get down, don’t look!” which would prompt my sister to assert herself as the elder sibling by shoving a pillow over my face – ostensibly to protect me from dying of fear.
I would struggle against this indignity, both because I did not want to miss anything, and because I enjoyed breathing. In our comparitively relaxed moments between screeching and pillow fights, we gorged ourselves with salty buttered popcorn and slurped Coca-Cola.
Even though it arguably can’t compete with today’s special effects extravaganzas, that movie is still horrifying to me. I don’t judge my parents for their decision at the time, since my sister and I had begged to go along, and since this was well before child safety was invented as a cultural theory and practice. It simply did not occur to them that we might be traumatised by the experience, and they turned out to be right about that. (Though, just in case you were planning an evening on the couch, watching DVDs with the children, I still don’t recommend it for the littlies. It’s hard enough for us adults to keep a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, without expecting toddlers and kinder-aged kids to grasp that the ghouls ripping out and eating the protagonists’ internal organs are nothing to be alarmed about.)
Unfortunately, the happy excitement and cheap thrills of horror fantasies in films and books that I enjoyed in my youth never has translated well for me into real-world simulations of the human-versus-monster theme. A couple of years after the drive-in, our Baptist church threw a big party for Halloween. I should explain that this was a time before so many American religious folks lost their sense of humour and fun, and well before they decided that Halloween was a holiday reserved for pagans and Satanists. So, there were none of the fetishistic, evangelical Hell Houses that exist now, which pop up each October in hopes of bypassing the love-and-grace route to faith, and instead send young people screaming into the arms of Jesus by way of abject terror. I’ve no doubt these places and the people that run them really do traumatise some of the kids who attend. But I digress …
Our church, as it turned out, threw a GREAT Halloween party. The church gym was decorated with flair, the candy flowed abundantly, the baked treats were yummy, and all the children turned out resplendent in their cheap Walgreens costumes. If memory serves, I was Casper the Friendly ghost that year. (You can see a photo of that costume here. That is not me, but someone else who clearly loved Casper).