Old monsters can't scare kids like they used to

March 08, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

While walking through the video store, the 7-year-old boy stopped and gawked at a display of movie tapes.

"Wow," he said, "what are those?"

His father said: "Never mind. You don't want to watch those movies."

"Why not?"

"They are old horror movies. And they'll scare you, give you nightmares."

The boy began reading the titles of the video boxes aloud. "'The Wolf Man.' Wow. 'Frankenstein.' 'Dracula.' Wow. 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.' 'The Mummy's Tomb.' Wow, what's a mummy?"

The father explained, "A mummy is a very scary guy. They are all very scary."

"Did you ever see them?" the boy asked.

"Yes, all of them, a long time ago when I was a kid."

"Did they scare you?"

"I was so scared that I crawled under the seat in the movie theater and hid. People in the audience screamed and fainted."

"Cool, let's rent one."

"I told you. They are just too scary. You won't be able to sleep. And you might be the only kid in your class with gray hair."

"C'mon, please. Pleeeese."

They discussed it for a while, as modern families do, and finally negotiated a deal.

The boy agreed that if he became too terrified, and closing his eyes and putting his head under a sofa cushion didn't protect his psyche, the father could switch the film off.

They walked out with three tapes -- "Dracula," for Friday night; "Frankenstein," for Saturday night, and "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," for Sunday night.

"Can't we get that mummy movie, too?" the boy asked.

"Your mother will kill me as it is," the father said.

He wasn't far off.

"Are you crazy?" she said.

"Those three movies over the weekend? By the time he gets back to school Monday, he'll be afraid to go to the bathroom alone."

"Don't worry. If it's too much for him, I'll hit the zapper."

"Why are you doing this?" she asked. "It's sadistic."

"No, it was his idea. Maybe he'll learn a lesson, that you should be careful about what you ask for."

That night they watched "Dracula."

When the ship carrying the vampire's coffin arrived in England, ZTC and all the crew members were mysteriously dead, the boy asked: "What killed them?"

"Count Dracula. He got their blood."

"Why didn't we see that?"

"They didn't show stuff like that."

"Oh."

Later, a leering Dracula leaned slowly toward a sleeping woman's throat.

But the scene ended.

"What happened?" the boy asked.

"Dracula bit her on the neck and got some of her blood."

"Why didn't they show it?"

"Because they didn't show that kind of stuff."

"Huh."

When the movie ended, the boy said: "Hey, what happened to Dracula?"

"Professor Van Helsing found the coffin where he sleeps and pounded a stake through his heart and killed him."

"When?"

"Just before the end."

"I didn't see that."

"No, they didn't show it."

"Why not?"

"I guess it's too scary."

A few minutes later, he heard the boy say to his mother: "It was kind of boring."

The next evening, they watched "Frankenstein."

It reached the memorable scene when the monster has croaked the nasty hunchback, escaped from the castle, and tossed a girl into a stream.

"What happened to her?" the boy asked.

"She drowned."

"Couldn't she swim? She was only a few feet from the shore and it didn't look very deep."

"I guess not."

"Huh. Anybody can do the dog paddle."

The angry villagers were finally marching, torches aloft, to find the monster.

The man glanced at the boy.

He was sleeping soundly.

In the morning, the boy said: "What happened to the monster?"

"He died."

"Yeah, I figured that would happen."

The mini-festival ended Sunday night with "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man."

"How come there's never any color in these movies?" the boy asked.

"Because it is scarier in black and white."

"Oh."

When Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) grimaces at the full moon and slowly turns into a hairy-face, the boy said: "Hey, cool."

But a few minutes later, he said: "What happened there?"

"He kills people by biting them on the neck."

"Why didn't they show that?"

"I told you, they didn't show graphic stuff like that."

The movie abruptly ended with a dam bursting and the floodwaters sweeping both creatures to wherever wet monsters and werewolves go.

The boy yawned and said: "Too bad. That Wolf Man was really a nice guy."

Then he said: "When you were a kid, you didn't really crawl under the seat in the movie theater, did you?"

"Uh, no, not really, unless I was looking for a lost glove."

"Yeah, I knew you were kidding."

"Yeah, sure I was."

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