As a child of the ‘80’s I think it’s easy to say that I am a child of the movies. From an early age I was watching them and grew up in an era when Disney had Sunday night movies on ABC, when a regional ABC affiliate showed Abbott and Costello films every Sunday morning, and when I could watch scary movies via our regional horror host (Sir Graves Ghastly) and then later was able to watch them on one of two regional channels that’d show older horror.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got outside and played, and I played video games, and I read a ton, but movies were a huge part of my childhood and now my adulthood. They were an escape for me from a life that got progressively more stressful for me. With horror films I moved from liking the scares to understanding and appreciating the people and notions behind the scares.
I loved the directors, the writers, the actors, and especially the special effects. I had the silliest notion that I wanted to be a special effects make up person, creating the monsters and gore that filled the movies I loved.
Now, that isn’t to say I ever put any time into practicing special effects or anything, naw, it was just a swell dream.
One of many I didn’t pursue.
What’s funny though is that I did absorb all of that stuff in my own way and it informed the stuff I write and the weird things I shoot on video. I just do things my own way, with the knowledge and understanding of how the other stuff was done.
Movies have always been with me though.
As a kid I grew up about ten minutes away from a drive-in and maybe twelve minutes away from a small theater, so movies were always there. As a little kid I went to the drive-in with the family or with friends. Mom would pop popcorn and put it in a grocery bag – they were brown paper at that time – and send my sister and I off on our way to watch double features at the Silver Lake Drive-In. That was where a six-year-old Chris saw FRIDAY THE 13th and heard parts of the film PIECES.
The theater we went to was the Fenton Cinema and was where I saw BATMAN, SCREAM 2, and all sorts of good and awful movies in between. I was always going to the movies. It let me get out of the house, get out with friends, and let me live another life for a little while. I was lucky enough to have a mother that loved movies almost as much as I did and she snuck me out of school to go to see THE SECRET OF NIMH in the afternoon and she’s the one that fostered my love of horror because she loved all things scary. The last movie I took her too was actually the first part of the IT remake because I wanted her to be able to get out and see it.
She was very taken aback at the swearing kids.
As I got older, I fell in love with all things home video. The place we went was called Take One Video and the first movie we rented when the family got a VCR was SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. I watched it twice and was absolutely taken by it and still am. I loved renting movies because it was like browsing a hundred different worlds. You would walk the aisles looking at box covers (I still remember the oversized Wizard Video boxes and the awesome BAD TASTE cover with the alien flipping you off), then looking at what was coming out or was out, and then going through it all over again. You’d put your name in to reserve an upcoming movie and then you’d get that call that it was in and being held for you and the anticipation would fill you to near explosion. Birthdays were great because it meant a free birthday movie and pizza for dinner.
Even older and I’d go with friends and we’d wander the aisles and look at the dozens of horror films we’d seen, never seen, and wanted to see. Zombies. Werewolves. Vampires. Killers. We wanted them all. Older still and I’d go to one of two video stores that were across from one another and see which one had what I wanted to see. As a little kid the magic of the library, of being able to go and get free Visas to foreign lands, was intoxicating and this was the same. Sure, the cost of those rentals grew but so too did my love of movies, so much so that I started recording them so I’d have them to watch any time I wanted and that lead to buying the films eventually. Heck, I still have some of those movies stashed somewhere.
Mine was a strange education, from Disney, to B-Horror, to the likes of Scorsese and Tarantino and the crime films of the 1990’s. My friends and I loved to quote the movies we loved and we were in utter adoration of the violent thrillers that were filling the marketplace. Now we went to late shows and midnight movies and the world of cult cinema and world cinema opened up for me.
From high brow to alley trash, I loved it all
I found value in it all.
I understood how the movies were made and found the things that made them special.
The gutter trash films that people cobbled together with spit and credit debt and high hopes, movies that endear themselves because you can see the seams of the monster and can see the boom mics. I loved them because I can buy into their idea and their world. I love them despite their flaws and because of them. Because the dream was bigger than the bank account. I also love the big budget films, the films with A-list everything, love them because they can afford to create the worlds I was only able to dream about. I grew up watching STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES and loved those worlds as much as I loved the world of Jason Voorhees.
I didn’t see logic flaws, character tropes, acting inadequacies or the rest – I saw a world of make believe where monsters existed and heroes were everywhere. I didn’t want to be the hero, I didn’t want to be the monster, I just wanted to get away and to appreciate how it was all done.
These were magic tricks and I loved watching them done.
As we get older we lose the small bits of magic that we found in the world. People destroy them, we see through them, or we just leave behind the things we no longer need.
For me, movies are still magic.
I don’t care that there were arguments behind the scenes, or budget issues, or that the movie wasn’t exactly what everyone had hoped.
I don’t care if it was a bust at the box office or a smash hit.
I just care if it can wrap me up in a world different than my own and hold my attention for that running time.
I love trash and treasure alike.
I find value in those human stories of perseverance and loss just as I find value in movies about monstrous people doing monstrous things.
I can talk at length on back alley movies and golden gems alike because I love them, I love movies.
Are the better than or the same as books?
Nor are they music.
I love all of these things separately because they all take us to different worlds in different ways. They all stimulate the imagination and the mind.
I love popcorn and steak in the same and different ways.
The both nourish a part of me that demands nourishment.
I remember revising some of my Meep Sheep work because I needed things to feel bigger. I remember feeling the same way with my book A Shadow Over Ever because it has a big battle and after seeing the LORD OF THE RINGS films I realized that I needed to make things bigger to reflect how big the stakes were.
The arts are some of the last remaining fragments of magic we have and they’re all the more powerful because they come from us.
They are OUR magic, shared with one another.
The movies have changed, the way we consume them have changed, but they are still powerful.
We can still sit down with people we love and take journeys with them.
We can still cower in the darkness at creatures that could never exist.
We can still be lifted up by stories that are so different than our own that they are abstractly JUST like our own because we are both human.
We are all human.
The methods and means changed but not the magic.
I’ll never understand people that turn their nose up at certain types of films as forms of escape because sometimes we NEED to escape, we need those vacations from ourselves in order to come back to take on the things we need to in order to survive.
And sometimes life is just about survival.
Sometimes our meal is only that popcorn.
And sometimes simple escapes are the best ways to remind ourselves that magic still exists and exists in us.
I need to watch a movie.