I went to go see the extended version of Avatar a few days ago. It was fun, but that's not what got me all wiggly with excitement. First of all, let it be known that I love Halloween. Actually, I adore Halloween, Easter, Christmas and any other holiday I can decorate or watch movies to.
As I was walking out of the theater, I noticed a giant poster in the lobby that had ZOMBIES written across the top of it. My local theater, for Halloween, is showing a string of great zombie flicks in the six weeks before October 31st. I will, of course, be going to most of them, but the one I'm most excited about is the original Night of the Living Dead, which I've never seen on the big screen. This film has a strangely sentimental place in my heart because of my brother Frank's description of the experience when it first hit theaters. I was very little. He was a teenager, and went with his buddies. When he returned, Frank was visibly shaken, something that fascinated my little grade school self. I sat and listened to his blow-by-blow details of the groundbreaking film, from the first stumbling old dude zombie in the graveyard to the chewy bug-on-a-tree housewife. The movie scared Frank and his tough guy friends so much, they sat on the floor and watched it through the cracks between the seats. It wasn't until ten years later that I saw it myself, butchered on a local TV channel.
Zombie movies have been in my family since before I was born. My mother loved them. She told me she couldn't sleep for a week after she first saw I Walked with a Zombie, the zombie Jane Eyre movie by the brilliant Val Lewton. She described that movie to me twenty years before I ever saw it. We watched Dark Shadows together when I was pre-school age, and my love of horror was solidified in that time. I heard Johnny Depp is going to play Barnabus Collins in an upcoming film version. I read monster comic books and watched Creature Feature movies, macabre scary stories and haunted house tales. I even re-edited versions of horror short stories to give as dramatic prose readings on the speech team in high school. I'm still pretty eclectic in my choice of reading but I love horror and romance before I go to bed, my own eccentric sleep remedy. Don't ask.
My favorite story about zombies is when my good friend, against her wishes, finally relented and agreed to read the masterpiece of all zombie novels, World War Z, by Max Brooks. It is the scariest book I've ever read. Both her teenage kids had read it and nagged her until she gave up and took the book to bed with her. In the middle of the night, under the beam of one small lamp, she sat in bed, terrified but unable to put it down, bug-eyed over the horror on the page. Her door creaked open but no one came in. After staring for a minute, she went back to the book, certain it was one of her cats which had nudged the door open. Suddenly, her daughter reared up from the foot of her bed, grabbed her feet, and yanked her down while her football-playing son leapt on her from the side of the bed and began gnawing into her belly. She screamed so loudly, the neighbors called the cops.
I love it.
On the last year that my son Leland trick-or-treated for Halloween, he told me that I had to put on the scariest makeup ever and it couldn't be like anything I'd done before. We were very serious trick-or-treaters; he'd race home from school, don his mask and gear, and I'd be waiting with a backpack of drinks and sandwiches so we could keep going right through dinner. I'd periodically dump his pumpkin head bucket into my backpack so he could carry it easily. He wanted to get a record candy haul for his last year. He was twelve, and refused to trick-or-treat as a teenager, so this had to be the big one. So, I pondered makeup and outfits and came up with something appropriate. I smeared white clown makeup all over my face and let it crack, then dusted the cracks with black powder. I rimmed my eyes with red, purple and black liquid makeup and stuck crunched up corn flakes in the blobby parts to look gross. I blacked my teeth to make them look jagged, teased my hair into a mess, painted my hands and nails to match, put on a long black gown and a hood, then took fake spider web floss and put it on top of my head, pulling it all the way down to my feet until I was enveloped. Then I stuck plastic spiders all over it. Leland and Rhianna were both pleased by my horrifying self when they got home. Rhianna went to trick-or-treat with her friends (she didn't like our insane marathons) and Leland and I went off to gather the record breaking candy haul. I think he got twenty-eight pounds that year.
So, to all you out there who like zombies or anime, pink lace or black cobwebs, never feel embarrassed or shy about your own eccentricities. There's a wonderful freedom in revelling openly in one's own quirky joys. I have a good friend who loves ceramic frogs to an alarming degree, something I can't fathom. But I applaud her loyalty to her own tastes. To thine own self be true.
Even if it's zombies.