It's the time of year where we focus on scaring the bejeebers out of each other. In a fun, playful way, of course.
Halloween season is upon us. You can tell, just by driving through any neighborhood.
When I was a kid, decorating the house for Halloween took about 15 minutes. You taped a few cardboard skeletons and ghosts and pumpkins onto the picture window and called it a day. My favorites were the ones with the accordion legs made out of paper, dangling from the bottom of cardboard torsos.
Now, Halloween is Christmas's little brother, and growing up fast. Lighted homes, giant inflatables on the front lawn, sophisticated electric decorations all over. Color scheme: orange, of course!
Also time to talk about other scary stuff like movies.
What's the scariest movie ever made? That's easy.
I'll spot you all the "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Saw" movies you got---every one of them, if need be---and they can't touch "The Exorcist" or "Rosemary's Baby."
"The Exorcist" is the scariest movie ever made, hands down---and "Rosemary's Baby" is a close second.
I give the nod to the former because it involved the demonic possession of a little girl, and there's just something extra creepy about when kids go bad---like in "Children of the Corn" or "Damien."
The "Exorcist" kid couldn't help it, of course. But Linda Blair's character made such a horrific physical transformation and spouted such hateful, X-rated things in such an ugly voice---not to mention the whole head-turning-completely-around thing---that it was awfully difficult to watch.
Projectile vomiting green goo didn't help, either.
The actual exorcism scene itself was one of the most intense laid onto celluloid, too.
"The Exorcist" proved that you don't have to blood and gore and chainsaws and machetes to turn your underwear brown.
Part of the scare was the anticipation of something going wrong, and what that little girl might do next, or what might befall her next.
Plus, she was just so evil. The Devil personified. Doesn't get much scarier than that.
Linda Blair as the possessed girl in "The Exorcist"
I've said it often, and I'm hardly the first one to acknowledge this: any boob with a camera and a CG budget can make a bogeyman. Jason isn't real; Freddie Kruger isn't real. But a little girl possessed by the Devil? A little more real---because such possessions have been documented in real life.
As for "Rosemary's Baby," the story of a young woman whose unborn child has been declared that of Satan's, that movie was creepy on a different plane.
The Mia Farrow-John Cassavettes thriller was heart-pounding because everything seemed so normal and serene, at first. But then you realize, slowly but surely, that Farrow's inner circle, including her doctor, are part of a Satanic cult and then even her husband (Cassavettes), who had appeared to be her rock, is involved.
It's that drip-drip slowness of seeing Farrow's life turn upside down that is the crux of the scariness of "Rosemary's Baby."
Then, the culmination is when the child is actually born, and the juxtaposition of the horrified look of Rosemary compared to the doting looks of the cultists as they all see the Devil baby (complete with horns and a tail, according to the book) that is truly terrifying. You, as the viewer, don't even have to see the deformed baby to know that Rosemary has given birth to something terrible.
Even the film's tagline was creepy in its own way: "Pray for Rosemary's baby."
And, again, no blood or guts or gore in that film, either. But still scary as hell.
Run "The Exorcist" and/or "Rosemary's Baby" through your VCR or DVD player this Halloween season. I double-dog dare ya.