The slasher in the basement

Kevin Cowherd

March 20, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

AS A FURTHER indication of my declining social life, I just spent the evening watching one of those "slasher" movies on cable.

The plot, such as it was, centered on a psycho killer who's terrorizing a small town in the Midwest. (I know, I know . . . now there's a story line you don't see every day.)

What I love, though, is watching the so-called "victims" in these films, who must be the stupidest people to ever walk the face of the planet.

The movie opens with the obligatory scene of a young woman ("Bambi") watching TV moments after a news broadcast about a dangerous lunatic who's being sought by the police for carving up a half-dozen people in the area.

Suddenly Bambi hears a noise in the basement. But instead of running to the phone and dialing 911, or screaming "AAAAGHH! THE PSYCHO KILLER!" and bolting from the house like a normal human being, this silly thing goes downstairs to investigate!

Bambi, Bambi, Bambi . . . let's go over a few things, shall we?

The fact is, psycho killers hang out in basements a lot. And they're not there to use the Ping-Pong table, if you catch my drift -- not when they're carrying a chain saw and hiding behind the snow tires whenever someone hits the light switch.

Call me a worrywart, but if there's some nut stalking my neighborhood and I hear a noise in the basement, I'm getting the hell out of there pronto.

"Run for your lives!" is my motto. I say let the cops handle it.

Naturally, though, Bambi starts down the stairs to investigate the noise. And what do you figure she takes with her? A baseball bat? A butcher knife? Her dad's hunting rifle?

No. She grabs -- are you ready? -- a candle!

Say, there's an even matchup: 5-foot-1, 95-pound woman with a candle vs. 6-2, 225-pound psycho with a chain saw.

Besides, what are you going to do with a candle? Sing "Happy Birthday" to this lunatic as he carves you up?

I kept screaming: "AT LEAST TAKE A ROLLING PIN, FOR GOD'S SAKE!" But Bambi didn't listen. They never do. You could talk to these people until you're blue in the face, it won't do any good.

So now Bambi's poking around in the darkness -- apparently these basements are never wired for electricity -- and she hears another noise. Me, I'd be sprinting back up those steps so fast you'd see smoke trails. But not this dopey babe.

Instead she holds the candle up and asks in a quivering voice: "Who's there?"

Now, here's the thing about a question of that nature: These psycho killers rarely introduce themselves before attacking. ("Uh, it's me, Quentin. You know, the horribly disfigured mass murderer everyone's looking for . . . ")

And if they do introduce themselves, you're probably in even bigger trouble. Because you're going to have a heart attack right then and there. At least I would. Some guy with a face like raw hamburger starts talking to me in a pitch-black basement, I'm keeling over from fright before he finishes a sentence.

Anyway, the psycho killer in this case chooses to remain silent. Maybe he's shy, I don't know. So Bambi keeps on poking around when suddenly -- CRASH! -- a cat shoots out from behind the dryer.

Naturally, Bambi relaxes, figuring it was the stupid cat making all the noise.

Well, to make a long story short, it wasn't the cat. Sure enough, as soon as Bambi flashes a relieved smile and says "Oh, Puffy, you scared me!" here comes ol' mush-face out of the blackness, firing up the Homelite and cackling hysterically.

No wonder he's so happy -- this had to be the easiest time he's ever had luring a victim to her death. I swear, you look up the word "dumb" in the dictionary, Bambi's picture is next to it.

While we're on the subject, here's two other rules for surviving your garden-variety killer in these slasher flicks:

1 -- Don't sleep near an open window. Believe me, five minutes after you close your eyes, some nut in a hockey mask will crawl in the window with a machete. I've seen it happen a thousand times.

2 -- Don't take a shower. For some reason, these psycho killers love to creep into a steamy bathroom and slash away at the shower curtain. My advice would be to wash yourself at the sink for a while.

You might check the mirror from time to time, too.

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