Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

What scared you?

This morning, I saw a meme on Facebook that asked what movie scared you the most as a kid. For me, that’s an easy question. In fact,  can tell you not only the movie that scared me as a kid but also a TV show. Why they made such an impact on me is both varied and yet, at the core, the same. It is something I try to get in my writing.

The movie is simple. It’s Day of the Triffids. Based on the book by John Wyndham, that movie scared me to death. It wasn’t that the special effects were that special. They weren’t. After all, the Triffids looked like walking cacti or Joshua trees. They could be outrun, burned, killed. No, what was so terrifying was why the Triffids were so dangerous. People had done what they’ve done since the beginning of time. When a meteor shower appeared overhead, they went outside to watch. A normal and understandable action. But one with a potentially fatal consequence because those who watched were blinded. That left them vulnerable to the Triffids.

I’m not lying when I tell you the possibility of being blinded by watching a meteor shower kept me from even wanting to watch one for years. It made that big of an impression on me. Why? Because it was something those in the movie had no control over and there had been no warning that it might happen. How do you defend yourself against something like that? You can’t. So, in my child’s mind, the only thing to do was to make sure I never put myself in that position. Even now, when I know what I saw in the movie was fiction, there’s that tiny voice in the back of my head telling me not to look. Bad things happen when you look.

In some ways, that is like those people who have never taken a shower in a motel after watching Psycho. They know intellectually that Norman Bates isn’t watching through a hole in the wall. Nor is he turning into his mother. Still, that scene, probably the most recognizable in American cinema, haunts them and keeps them from pulling the shower curtain. It is a masterpiece of visuals and music and is rooted in our minds now. How many of us can hear that music and not see that scene and have a shiver of fear run down our spines? After all, it is a simple, every day act and yet it will have fatal consequences.

The TV show that scared me was from either Alfred Hitchcock or a similar style program. I don’t remember the title but the plot was simple. A married woman is having an affair. She and her lover kill her husband who, if I remember correctly, is a concert pianist. They dispose of the body and are prepared to live their lives happily ever after. Except dead hubby’s hands come back to exact revenge. The scene that is so clear in my mind is the wife driving off, doing her best to get away and finally relaxing, sure she is safe. What she doesn’t know but we, as the viewers do, is that the hand is in the car with her. The closing shots show it climbing up the back of the driver’s seat and grabbing her by the throat. You know she’s dead a moment before she realizes it. The terror on her expression before the car goes off the road tells it all.

Again, another every day activity that ended in death.

That show stayed in my mind because it wasn’t your normal zombie or other supernatural monster going after someone. Love and betrayal fed the emotions. Of course the fact my parents had told me to go to bed and didn’t know I was watching the show over the back of the sofa probably added to the impression. I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. Would I get caught and have something happen to me?

So what about you? What movies — or books — scared you when you were young and why?

***

Also, a reminder that I’ve got three books on sale right now:

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives, Book 1)

by Amanda S. Green

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Wedding Bell Blues

by Ellie Ferguson

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

Hunted 

by Ellie Ferguson

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

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13 Comments

  1. Doug

    The Day The Earth Stood Still.
    Yep. Classic SF.
    I was 8 or 9 at the time. early ’60’s. My parents allowed me to stay up to watch the 8 PM movie.
    And one line in the whole movie terrified me for weeks afterwards.
    Near the end of the movie, the spaceman is addressing a crown of scientists and the military, discussing why Earth wasn’t nearly the center of the universe, as they thought.
    And he made a comment about the rapidity of change and communication: “The world is getting smaller….”
    And so, for weeks on, every night my mind dwelled on the planet shrinking until there we barely room for one set of feet on it, then only one foot – then toes only jammed into the cracks of the planetary dregs in a vain attempt to keep from dropping into the airless vacuum of space.

    • I loved The Day the Earth Stood Still. I think it was one of the first SF movies I ever saw and it lit my love for the genre.

  2. My family and I had watched on television, “X The Unknown” and there is a scene where a small child is near a stone wall as the radioactive mass passes through a small town in England. At the last possible second the child is saved and the wall crumbles. One of my childhood duties was to take the garbage out and put it into the can near the alley. On the other side of the alleyway there was a stone wall. The movie finished and I had to do the garbage chore, I was doing OK until I put the lid on the garbage can and then I turned my back on the wall. My imagination kicked in I accelerated so much that if the screen door had been closed I would have left a small boy shaped hole in it.

    The other film was “Phantasm” and I watched that as an adult. I found it nightmare inducing.

    • I know I’ve seen “X — The Unknown.” I just don’t remember it. So that’s a movie to go look up when I have time. As for Phantasm, yeah. It really could be nightmare inducing.

  3. Kingdom of the Spiders. I was only eight or nine when I saw it. The scenario was sufficiently plausible to me as a kid — it’s just normal spiders, and they’re just hungry, and they just learned to go after larger prey — that I never got into that pleasant “suspension of disbelief” state that occurs when I watch a typical monster movie. In other words, I didn’t have that re-assuring little voice whispering “this can never happen” in my head.

    • Those movies where you can see the plausibility of the scenario are the ones that really get to me. An example from books is Ringo’s Black Tide Rising universe. I don’t usually like zombie books – or movies. But i loved those books and the premise of them scared the crap out of me because it is something I can see happening. Of course, that doesn’t keep me from re-reading them. 😉

  4. As a kid, well teen, the movie that scared me the most, and still makes me jump, was Alien. Man, that movie freaked me out with the suspense.

    The TV show that gave me nightmares was on Showtime. I have no idea what the show or episode title was.but it involved a man who needed cold temperatures to survive otherwise he would melt. It took place around the turn of the 20th century I think. He was having ice blocks delivered to his apartment, and when it wasn’t keeping him cool enough his face melted off (in front of his girlfriend I think). It grossed me out.

    The book that scared me the most was Jaws. I was about 12 when I read it…at the lake. I didn’t go swimming that summer. Another one which got me was Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I was in my late 20’s when I read that the first time. In order to get to the light switch for my garage I had to go all the way through to the other end in the pitch dark. Every time I did I kept thinking it smelled like goat in there. I kept waiting to get eaten.

    • Ah, Alien. That is one of the best — and scariest — SF movies ever. The first time I saw the alien burst out of John Hurt’s chest, I think I jumped three feet straight up and at least that far to the rear. Even now, knowing what is going to happen, I still jump. I love that movie.

  5. I was easily scare-able due to excess imagination, which later served me well but mostly served up nightmares when I was a kid in the late 50s and early-mid 60s. The movies I remember as frightening were lousy, for the most part: The Crawling Eye, The Flesh Eaters, X the Unknown, and Caltiki the Immortal Monster. The common element: They were blobby things that ate people. I saw them at different ages so it’s hard to say which was the scariest. X the Unknown was perhaps the most skillfully made, but also the least scary of the four. The Flesh Eaters was cheap crap, and gave me nightmares for weeks.

    One insight I had just now is that I was very afraid of small things that attacked you in masses, like the little hungries in The Flesh Eaters. Big kaiju were never very frightening. “Leiningen vs the Ants,” however, (and the film version, The Naked Jungle) were deeply disturbing. I figured I could run at right angles to Godzilla and just get out of his way. There was, after all, only one Godzilla. Leiningen had to deal with endless millions of ants.

    • The Naked Jungle I found rather horrifying, but it thankfully didn’t keep me up at night. It did, and still does, make me not want to visit the jungle all that much though.

      • I’d forgotten about that movie. In fact, I had to look it up because I was confusing it with The Naked Prey. Yep, good movie.

    • Yep. Same here, now that I think about it. Consider what those movies would be like today, with all our special effects? VBEG

  6. carlton mckenney

    What scared me as a 10 yr old was “Forbidden Planet”. The monster from the ID just terrified me for years.

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