Two clips to get you started right for the night of fright ahead.
First, you are aware, of course, that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies of all time, because it harnesses that bone-shaking fright of The Unknown, and worse yet, the Intimate Unknown, the thought that something real and horrible and pure evil has cracked your safety shell and is living its chaotic path right under your roof, its next move always unpredictable but you stuck there, powerless to evacuate the situation. But have you ever seen the original trailer for the 1973 movie, the one that was never released because it was deemed too scary for audiences?
If you can, turn the lights down and watch this and you will feel the hot breath of unwelcome demons breathing in your ear. This is not one of those cheap scares where some shit jumps out at you from a darkened corner. It’s just the right discomfiting combination of sound and images that makes your skin move on its own accord:
They don’t make em like that any more, the subliminal eeriness that invades your subconscious and sets your mind into unease in ways the eewy gory Saw movies don’t even comprehend.
Second, something lighter, but still — in the mind of my 6-year-old self, at least — almost as goddamned terrifying.
I will pass this off maybe as some sort of odd byproduct of growing up in Jersey, but for whatever reason one of my favorite parts of holidays was the cartoon specials on TV, specifically the works of Garfield, who, pre-Keroauc, pre-Thompson, pre-Chandrasekaran, pre-Ted Leo, was, I have to admit, a pretty heavy guiding force in my life.
The Halloween special I remember as being terrifying, and upon watching it again now, I still hold by the creeping-up-the-neck feeling it invokes, as it plays on childhood fears that are always on simmer during trick-or-treating — the sense of being out on your own in the blackness of the suburban night, pushing on for just one more house on the edge of town for just that little bit more of candy because you know this year you just have to get the biggest haul ever, until suddenly you’ve wandered to an unknown and unfriendly neighborhood where no other kids are around, the only people on the streets are strange big people with no candy bags and devilish looks in their eyes, and none of the porch lights seem to be on any more and you realize you don’t know what time it is or how long you’ve been out. You long to get back to your block to find your school friends but realize it’s a very, very long walk and you’re not even sure which direction to go in.
The basic set-up for this clip: the terminally diabetic Garfield works himself into a candy grabbing stupor throughout the day at the thought of the free bounty of sweets awaiting him the in the neighborhood. He even threatens a homeowner with violence at one point when they only offer up a measly few bits. Never sated with his bag of gluttony, Garfield eyes a presumably private island (Daufuskie?) off the coast and reasons that if he can get out there, all the candy reserves are his and his alone to claim (no consideration is really given for Odie). Why a private island with no children on it would even have candy ready for distribution is something Garfield does not seem to consider. That’s when they stumble upon this guy:
Yeah, you just try to stay still when the lightning flashes and all of a sudden the old man has disappeared to steal Garfield’s boat. Then at the very end, a twist!
Also worth noting is that the voice of Garfield is Lorenzo Music, one of the all-stars of voice acting of the 80s and 90s, responsible for not just the fat cat but also Peter Venkman, Tummi Gummi of the Gummy Bears, one of the Crash Test Dummies, and many others. And he’s from Brooklyn!
Both these clips remind highlight similar themes: the inherent comfort we feel in the safety of the known and the jarring disquietude that can creep in when that bubble is invaded. Watch your step out there this weekend.
BONUS: one of my fav Halloween playlist entries of all time