Saturday, April 04, 2020

you've always been the caretaker

When I was a kid, we went to the drive-in a lot.  It was the one entertainment platform my dad was willing to pay for, being much cheaper per family than a standard theater.  We would load into the car with snacks--a giant paper bag my mom had popped on the stove, sodas, maybe some candy--and head off to the double feature. I've oft talked about my dad and his hereditary love of horror, which my mother endured, sometimes laying down in the seat to avoid the screen while he watched or leaving the room when something scary was on TV.  It would be a few years until we had a VCR, but the first movies we rented were Flashdance (for my mom) and Friday the 13th (for my dad).

I don't remember what the first movie in the double feature was the night we saw The Shining.  Looking at the release schedule that summer of 1980, it may have well been Urban Cowboy, which would have satisfied my mother's tastes. It also could have been Airplane! or Blue Lagoon, both of which I remember seeing at the drive-in that summer.  Either way, I rarely made it through the second movie and was usually, along with my sister, who would have been two, long asleep by the middle of it.  But The Shining somehow etched itself in my young mind, and even though I'm pretty sure I missed middle parts I would not see til years later.  I must have been awake for the snowy maze at the end.   When you're a kid, you always look for kids in movies to relate to, so Danny Torrance would have, of course,  captured my attention. I think when you're young, the true horror of things woudn't be apparent--the blood flowing from the elevators, the twins, the woman in 237.  I don't remember being scared at what I saw, not exactly, and yet something imprinted itself on me.  This was true of many horror movies I watched at that age.  Maybe you are too young at that point, and yet somehow the movie began to form my conception of horror. My conception of the world, even though I don't think I understood even what ghosts or hauntings were at that point..the difference between the living and ghost worlds wouldn't have existed in my six year old mind.  They would have been one in the same.

At the time, I wouldn't have been able to tell you what scared me. And yet sometimes I was still scared. There was that Ghost Story movie that spooked the crap out of me when I sat down to watch it with my dad, not knowing I should brace myself for horror and corpse ladies (as an adult, that movie is scary for entirely different reasons).  There were bits that I was creeped out about that I picked up from the movies we watched--the tree & clown attack from Poltergeist.  The scene at the end of Friday the 13th where Jason lunges out of the water.  There was a planter on the dresser when my sister was a baby that was a little boot, but when the light from the hallway hit it just right, it looked like the creepy buddha statue in my aunts house, and one night, I dreamed it spoke to me and for years was convinced I ran into the bathroom and awoke sleepwalking. But looking back, I remembered it wrong.  For awhile I would sleep with my head under the covers and a small breathing hole, that is until my grandmother died and it made me feel safer that she was somehow watching over me when I was 8. My fears of nuclear bombs after watching The Day After. The worse was the dream I often talked about of my other abandoning us in the backyard.  Going over the wooden fence behind the garage and into a field of daisies. A dream I prayed every night for months to not have again.

But while I wouldn't have been able to tell you exactly what scared me about The Shining at that age, it left enough of an impression that when I watched it years later, felt like I knew what behind every corner.  In each new scene.  I rewatch it often as an adult, and over time, I have learned to appreciate so much about it's sets and structure.  Add a little weed, and I start to notice things I would have breezed past before--angles and set design elements. About the ways humans are horrifying even without the supernatural.  The domestic abuse angle wouldn't have resonated as a child, but it's the loudest thing about the movie when I watch it now.   I am no longer scared of spooky twins and elevators full of blood. Stephen King sometimes fails, but one place he excels is human's and their propensity for violence. Also, as an adult, I've gained an endless appreciation of the building tension and cinematography  of the film, it's narrative tightness and tone.

The place of it has fascinated me, and I have done a lot of reading over time on Kubrick's impossible hotel--the palimpsest of King's original Stanley hotel, with the Timberline Lodge and another California hotel to create what we know as The Overlook. The sets make me uncomfortable, and I've often found spaces that remind me of the Overlook when it comes to carpet or furniture or layout.  It's also interesting to watch as people have tried to map the hotel and found Kubrick's spaces impossible to map.  This month, as I trod through NAPOWRIMO and the seclusion of our own isolation, I thought it would be wholly appropriate to visit my impulses to turn my love of the film into some poems, which so far, are progressing well. They are very much inspired by the film, maybe a little by King's novel, but also my own imaginative wanderings in those spaces. Also the temporality, or non-temporality of hauntings.

No comments: