How Movies Changed My Life

It’s sometime in the 1970s and I’m on my Grandmother’s couch in the dark living room, shades drawn. I’m sick, feverish, shaking and sweating while my friends are outside playing baseball or basketball or just hanging out. On the TV the plants are coming to life, tearing themselves out of the ground and coming after people in a car that’s stuck in the mud. I’m terrified. I’m fascinated. Later that night I dream about the pine trees around the house tearing themselves out of the ground by the roots and chasing me down to the river.

movies-changed-triffid


I forgot all about that afternoon until I was writing The Monster War and it all came back, that afternoon in the dimness – watching Day of the Triffids and realizing I could be both scared and happy. That sometimes that visceral thrill was comforting. I put the pine trees in the August chapter.


It’s the 80s and I’ve saved up all my money to rent a VCR and a horror movie I’ve only heard about in Fangoria. My mom decides to watch it with us. She gets up to make popcorn when the trees attack poor Cheryl. It’s awful. I want her to come back in and tell us to turn it off. I’m afraid she’ll come back in and tell us to turn it off. She brings in the popcorn after the worst of it, but excuses herself at the first mention of “bodily dismemberment.” It’s the first movie I ever buy for myself.

movies-changed-evil-dead


I think The Evil Dead was the first time I really was aware of a director. I mean, I knew about Spielberg and Lucas and others, but watching the camera spin, the blood spurt, the canted angles and exaggerated sound effects – they made me realize that films could be works of art, products of a singular vision. Which I know is a ridiculous thing to say about a splatstick indie from 1981, but it’s true.


It’s the 90s and I’m going to the movies with the woman who will eventually become my wife. On the screen a man is talking about fava beans and a nice Chianti. I can’t stop talking about it afterwards and somehow my date is okay with it, this weird fascination I have with the dark and the monstrous.

movies-changed-silence-lambs


It turned out that she didn’t really like horror movies all that much, but she didn’t mind that I liked them. In fact, her insistence that I get a “horror movie” night where I could pick the movie without us fighting over a choice between, say, Dawn of the Dead or The Scarlett Pimpernel, led to me writing my first horror movie reviews. She’s still pretty okay with it – though she insists I keep the really gory stuff on the TV in the basement.


It’s the 00s and somehow these frightening companions are still with me, still keeping me company, still calling me. I write about them sometimes now and I still mark the passing of time by the flickering images on the screen, being comforted by the horror. On the couch. In the dark.