I went to a family get together this past weekend and was talking to a thirteen year old about books and movies. What was she reading, what did she liked to watch? As she talked I had to smile. You see, she is going through a horror phase right now. I had a horror phase of my own that I went through. As she told me about books and movies and friends and what she’d been doing with her summer, I was transported back to my own thirteen year old summer, the one between 7th and 8th grade.
My friends and I were going through an insatiable horror movie phase at that time. Though, my generation wasn’t “falling in love with shiny Vampires,” (as a good friend put it recently.) We were falling in love with the idea of hunting and killing vampires, werewolves, and other assorted monsters. If you asked, we could tell you on any given day how to kill a vampire. This information was thanks to the movie The Lost Boys that came out that summer. Thanks to Stephen King, we could tell fill in all the other lore needed to fight vampires and werewolves. Though we had no idea how to survive against the new kind of evil that was popping up on in Hollywood, such Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street or Michael Myers from Halloween or even Poltergeists. Still, that didn’t stop us from scaring the adolescents out of ourselves. That summer we added such movies as Dolls, Creepshow, Fright Night, Witchboard, and Poltergeist to our repartee.
Though, we were stuck on Stephen King. He was the scare-tastic author we adored. It all started with the movie Stand By Me staring River Phoenix. Oh god did we love River; even more so after this movie. We memorized the lines, reenacted it the best we could in back yards and near a drainage canal near a friend’s house. We yearned to set out on an adventure, but we never got that far, because growing up in Southern California there are no undiscovered pathways to head down. It is a concrete paradise. Still, we did the next best thing we could, we read and watched movies.
First thing that happened was that one of my friends found out that the movie Stand By Me was based on the short story “The Body” by Stephen King, which in turn was from a book called Different Seasons. We took turns checking this book out from the library. Then we each branched out and started reading Mr. King exclusively for a while. As we read, we were being armed with all the information we would need to fight the good fight when demons took over. I’m not sure where we were going to find silver bullets, sharpened stakes or even guns for that matter, but we knew one thing: if asked, we had the knowledge.
The books and movies became synonymous with sleepovers. Bring the current Stephen King book you are reading and a copy of Silver Bullet to watch. The list of horror movies we were addicted to had a sub-list, movies based on Stephen King books. Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Carrie, Cujo, Christine, Silver Bullet, and Pet Cemetery to name a few.
That summer I took on the thousand plus page Stephen King Novel, IT. That book scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t read the book at night and admit that I had to sleep with the hall light on that whole summer. I rejected all things clown after that as well.
We weren’t completely into just horror that summer, it might have seemed like it, but there were other activities. We swam as much as we could, I had summer soccer I was playing and with the advent of the Sweet Valley High series books, there was more than enough to read and dream about.
Summer ended and our hobbies and reading for fun was shadowed by homework and 8th grade angsts: first dances, testing into a good catholic high school and boys. Still, that was the beginning of obsession for me. The obsession with a ‘thing’. This idea that some ‘thing’ moved me and taunted me day and night. There was something in those words, movies and ideas that continued to spark my own imagination and validated this little idea I hadn’t shared with anyone yet; this idea that I could become a writer if I wanted to.
That summer might not have been the beginning of my life as a writer, I had started writing little stories in 7th grade; but that summer reinforced the idea that I could dream big dreams if I wanted to. That dreaming is a big part of it all. And scaring the crap out of yourself has to be done once in a while, just for fun.