Thursday, December 22, 2011

Classic Horror Movies From My Childhood

When I was a youngster - I'm guessing I was around seven or eight, but I might have been as young as six - the local science museum decided to do a series of Saturday morning programs. The idea was that they'd show a movie, and then talk about the science in the movie, usually with some sort of arts and crafts activity. My parents were delighted by this idea, and promptly signed me up.

This turned out to be one of the formative experiences of my childhood - or, at the very least, one of the most memorable.

I really have no idea how the museum selected these movies, but I'm pretty sure cost was a factor: they were mostly older, often black-and-white films. Naturally, they involved enough science to be worth discussing. And, of course, they had been carefully selected for their ability to scare the living NFBSK out of an eight-year-old child.

I don't remember the exact sequence, but I think they might have started us with Soylent Green. This was my introduction to the concept of overpopulation, scarcity of resources, and possibly cannibalism. I don't remember exactly what sort of gloom and doom I announced to my parents when I came home from this, but I'm sure they were thrilled to have their kid explaining the eminent end of civilization to them.

Next up (I think) was Them! I had nightmares about giant ants for a week. (Admittedly, some of them were pretty cool nightmares.) Knowing about the biological limiting factors that prevent insects from getting that big? Didn't help. Not. At. All.

Obviously I wasn't permanently scarred, though. I say this because:
A) Them! remains one of my all-time favorite films to this day.
B) I went back to the museum the following Saturday and watched yet another child-traumatizing film.

After Them! we came to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This was really an excellent choice, since if there's one thing you want to show children, it's a film whose central lesson is, "Whatever you do, don't fall asleep!" I'm sure my parents really appreciated that one.

The one that really did me in, though, was The Swarm. This was the film that gave me really bad nightmares for at least two weeks, and launched my life-long aversion to bees and wasps. After the movie was over, we learned that in fact those bees really did exist, and that they were moving north towards the United States - coming closer every year. And how do you defend yourself against a swarm of bees? You can't shoot them, you can't hit them with sticks, you can't run fast enough to get away... this was by far the scariest thing I'd ever encountered in my life. I swear I spent the next month sleeping entire under the covers so the bees couldn't find me. It's a wonder I didn't suffocate; I wouldn't make any openings, because then the bees could get in.

Now, some of you are (no doubt) sitting there thinking, Well, that sure explains a lot about him. And you may be right, because clearly neither I nor my parents learned our lesson from this. Oh, no. A few short years later, I talked them into letting me stay up extra-late one Saturday night so I could watch the original Alien. And maybe a year after that, my father went to the library and checked out The Thing from Another World and let me watch that with him, after explaining that it was set up a lot like Alien.

So now you know the truth: I acquired my lifelong love of horror movies from a science museum.


  1. Have a wonderful holiday season, Michael!

  2. I would suggest that one of the worst ever horror movies is the one that is being reviewed at this reference - where the "hero" is systematically and very graphically beaten to death

    It is especially horrible because so many people thought it was more than wonderful.

  3. I haven't seen that one, so I can't comment on its merits or flaws... but I imagine it wouldn't have done my eight-year-old self any good whatsoever.

    (Assuming, of course, that I was in a position to watch it as an eight-year-old. This would probably involve a time machine, or else a singularity and a very eccentric spaceship, or else a quasi-deific entity with a particularly odd sense of humor.)


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