We had Friday the 13th in January and we get another one this week. (And — if you’re reading this in the actual, printed-on-paper Deseret News, which some of us still do — that would be today.)
Having Friday the 13th in October seems particularly appropriate, an excuse to begin Halloween celebrations early and keep them going all month long. Not that anyone really needs an excuse to do that.
People certainly go out of their way to get ready early for those little ghosts and goblins that will be a’ trickin’ and/or a’ treatin’ at the end of the month.
I often complain that Christmas decorations appear in stores before Halloween rolls around, but nowadays Halloween decorations show up before summer is through. (Sorry, that’s just wrong.)
Local grocery stores have whole cobwebbed aisles dedicated to Halloween candy and toys and decorations and tableware.
My wife Joyce and I were in a neighbor’s home last week and, among other things that darkened the living room, was a Halloween tree. Yep, a pine tree dressed up with spooky decorations and black crepe paper.
And my daughter Stephanie, whose birthday is this month — and who has always thought of Halloween as her own personal holiday — has, as usual, gone all out this year with all kinds of creepy stuff on the walls, the shelves, the tables and the piano.
Among the new items she has in the living room are three small framed movie posters from vintage Universal horror movies: “Frankenstein” (1931), “Dracula” (1931) and “The Wolf Man” (1941).
That’s my girl.
Not that she’ll be watching any of those, but the sentiment is in the right place.
Steph saw those three films — and many more vintage horror flicks — as a kid. Growing up in my house meant watching lots of black-and-white movies. But these days she leans more toward “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) and “Little Shop of Horrors” (the 1986 musical, not the 1960 original).
Still, for my wife and me, when it comes to horror, the oldies are the goodies. (Yikes, it just hit me that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Little Shop of Horrors” are oldies, too!)
Anyway, last week Joyce and I took in a horror movie at a local theater. We don’t go to many horror movies these days, mainly because the R-rated excesses tend to detract from the experience.
Typically, filmmakers up the ante for gore and foul language in the fright-flick genre to such a degree that it just becomes less pleasant than moviegoing should ever be.
But in this case — and you probably saw this coming — the horror movie in question wasn’t new. It was nearly 60 years old.
As part of its latest classic-movies cycle — the word “classic” being taken here with a grain of salt — local Cinemark Theaters were showing “The Tingler” (1959), a campy black-and-white chiller from William Castle, the filmmaker more famous for his marketing gimmicks than for the quality of his films.
Castle made all kinds of pictures, but in the late 1950s, he began to concentrate on B-movie horror, beginning with “Macabre” (1958), “House on Haunted Hill” (1959) and “The Tingler” (1959).
The gimmick for “The Tingler” was “Percepto,” which referred to vibrating motors that were attached to some theater seats and were fired up during a scene in the film when the titular monster gets loose in a movie theater. Obviously, that wasn’t the case last week. Too bad. It might have helped.
I had fond memories of seeing the film as a child, but I had very low expectations this time around. It was for nostalgia more than satisfying entertainment. Joyce says my expectations weren’t low enough. Hard to argue with that after watching the rubber monster on the screen get jerked around by a very visible wire.
But that won’t stop us from indulging in some of our favorite horror films at home — titles that are, I’m guessing, as foreign to young moviegoers as anything in another language.
We’ll be choosing from a wide range of real classics. Many of them with Vincent Price — but not “The Tingler.” There’s “House of Wax” (1953), “The Fly” (1958), “House of Usher” (1960) and “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961) for starters.
And the Universal monster oeuvre also includes “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933) and the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), along with a variety of sequels.
Then there’s “Nosferatu” (1922), “The Thing from Another World” (1951), “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957), “Psycho” (1960), “Carnival of Souls” (1962), “The Birds” (1963), “The Haunting” (1963), “Children of the Damned” (1964) — and way too many more to name.
Lots of terrific choices for a windy evening with the lights out.
So what’s the point?
That there are some scary choices out there that won’t gross you out but can still bring chills to your spine.