Do you like being scared? Is a movie full of jump scenes something that you take pleasure in. If so, you may enjoy the story I am about to tell. And what makes it all the more horrifying is the fact that every word of this account is true.
But before I begin this spine chilling story, I must give you a bit of background info.
In 1995 I had an idea for a pre-Halloween movie night for my eldest son. On an October evening that he was not expected home for a couple hours, I went to work setting it up.
This was to be more than a mere movie night. The goal was to bring the video into the room, and by doing this, draw my son deeper into the picture itself. To achieve this I had to totally transform the living room into something else completely. Something that would blur the line between where the movie ended and the room began.
First I laid black visqueen out on the living room floor and hung black material on the walls making the enclosed space seem as if it stretched out like the infiniteness of the outdoors at midnight. A full hay bail was broken up and scattered on the floor. Twisted vine maple branches lined portions of the walls. Red spot lights casted eerie shadows through the branches, and black lights fluoresced off countless spiderwebs twining throughout the room.
The film I selected was Arachnophobia. My son loved watching the movie in the creepy setting so much, that I had no choice but to do it again the following year.
For the second year, the movie was Anaconda. I had a bunch of carpet padding in storage which I used for snake skin. It looked very realistic! Large sections of the padding were folded over, roughly sewn together and made into loops of different sizes. When they were placed around the room the effect was that of the coils of a 30 foot snake constricting the space of the room, with the loops of the body tapering as they got closer to the tail. The head itself was not seen, but appeared as angry red demon eyes glowing from within a cave.
Year two was more of a hit then the first, and so the tradition continued.
At the beginning of every movie night, a couple “scary” cartoons were shown to get things started. Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a regular on Halloween movie night. Other disney favorites included Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey & Louie and Witch Hazel in Trick or Treat as well as Mickey, Donald & Goofy in Lonesome Ghosts’. These mostly comical cartoons served to put my son at ease as he adjusted to the unnerving environment that had temporarily taken over the room. But it might have also left him a little too at ease to be ready for the coming terror.
The movie featured for the third year was The Mummy with Brendan Fraser. I saved up styrofoam appliance packing for quite some time to have enough to convert the TV room into a tomb. Spray paint was used to distress the styrofoam and make it look like stone.
The beauty of the decorating for this type of thing is that it is very forgiving, since it will only be viewed in low light. Still I think it is important to spend a little time on small details which really make a big difference. For instance, clipping a bunch of english ivy from my yard and weaving it through the stones of the tomb, added a great deal to the overall effect.
Year four was upon us, and I was struggling to think of a good movie for the coming event. I finally decided on Pitch Black, with Vin Diesel. The movie is scary and there are plenty of jump scenes, but how was I going to decorate the room to go with it? I had no idea, but as they say, the show must go on, so I did what I could.
I started out with black plastic sheeting on the floor. Next, I covered the walls with black material, and built a crude structure to block off the back of the room which was open to another part of the house, and covered it in black as well. And finally a cave was built to lead into this darkened area. Black lights reflected several sets of hostile eyes peering at us as we watched the show.
I had a bunch of Halloween props, but none of it really fit the theme of the movie. So it remained, for the most part, a black room. Something was missing. Perhaps I had just picked a movie that had limited options for what I was doing. In any case I felt that I had not come up with anything very creative compared to past years.
When my son came home I was up against the black wall dressed all in black. I honestly don’t remember if I scared him or if he just though it was lame. At this point he was 14 years old. You might think that by this age, he would tire of dad’s little movie night, but he always seemed to look forward to it.
As always, things started with a couple cartoons. Then the feature movie started. There were plenty of jump scenes although the first half of the movie was in brightly lit locations. And then the characters were plunged into darkness for the remainder of the movie, and things started to happen. The living room was very dark, except for the light coming from the TV, and a small area on the shinny black plastic which caught the light from the television.
About this time, my son sunk from the sofa and found a place to lay on the floor as the tension mounted on the screen, and in our living room.
Right at a point in the movie when you could feel that something big was about to happen, it did. But it did not come from the television. As the TV became totally quiet, and the suspense crested, we waited for some creature to jump out from the blackness and terrify us. But what happened instead was quite unexpected. Something fell from the celling in our room, and landed on the black plastic directly between my son’s face and the TV. It made a surprising amount of noise in the hushed room.
It took us only a moment to realize that this was in fact a creature of some kind. It was slowly moving its spindly appendages as the reflection from the screen spotlighted its presents.
It remained quiet for a long moment, and then the silence was broken by a loud scream, as my son disappeared from the room.
I sat there, trying to figure out what in the world this was. And then it came to me. In my frantic effort to get the room set up in the allotted time, I must have inadvertently knocked the covers off the five gallon containers which held my pet walking sticks in the adjoining room.
We gathered up the ones we could easily find, let our hearts settle, and then finished the movie.
Over the next few days we round up the remaining walking sticks, and everything went back to normal.
Looking back it is funny to think, that when I needed something to give our movie night something special, a small critter came to my rescue, and made this the one we always talk about.
It has been 16 years since that first movie night. The tradition still continues, though now my eldest son has taken over most of the movie night arrangements, as he sets it up for his younger brother.