I love movies. Can’t get enough of ’em. But I’m an excitable, emotional person who has always had difficulty reining myself in during a movie — if it does its job. Which is, of course, to reduce its viewers to tears, anger, angst, puddles, laughter, etc. — in essence, to help us express our excitable, emotional side for a couple of hours.
When I first met my husband, Mike, he took me to see “The Way We Were“. Now, remember, this was a first date and I wanted to look gorgeous (lotta work there), lady-like, and self-assured. So . . . I admonished myself . . . do not allow anything, ANYTHING, to cause you to mess up your make-up or look like an idiot. Famous last admonition. Well, I didn’t cry. I actually sobbed. In public. With a man I didn’t know that well. My face was a mess and my pride was in tatters. He tried to comfort me in that uncomfortable way men have when they’re trying to comfort a woman they don’t really know very well. I wouldn’t even look at him. I was hoping I would never, EVER, have to look that man in the eye again. Well, now it’s almost 38 years later and he’s STILL having to listen to me sob, laugh, berate, scream, yell, over movies. I must have made a great first impression.
We saw Jaws for the first time in Florida. At the beach, mind you. We were with my cousin Kenny, then seventeen and very much the toned, sun-bleached beach boy, and also very much into that “nerves-of-steel-you’ll-never-make-me-scream” phase of young manhood. I sat in the middle between Kenny and Mike. I did pretty good up until the time Brody chucked the chum over the end of the boat and this bigger-than-life eating machine rose up from the depths to try to pluck the juicy morsels from Brody’s hand. At that moment my body, mind, and mouth went into fight or flight.
I clamped down simultaneously on Kenny’s knee with my left hand, Mike’s knee with my right, half rose from my seat, and shrieked. Loudly. Fortunately, mine was drowned out by a theater full of other emotional, excitable people as shrieks and screams exploded in both soprano and baritone. Beside me I thought I heard the intrepid teenager yell, and I could have sworn Mike did, too, but he dares me, on pain of never seeing a movie again, to even suggest such a thing. I may never know if the dramatic scene on the larger-than-life screen caused some slippage of the awesome masculinity between which I was bracketed. But Mike says if it was possible, just possible, mind you, that I would have been the cause and not the shark. He even blames me for his having high blood-pressure. Says I’m a carrier.
One time we were sacked out on the couch watching a really scary movie on TV. For the life of me, I can’t think of the name of it. Mike had dozed off. I was lying half across his knees when, on screen, this arm came up out of a well and grabbed the dummy who had his or her face peering over the edge. Because the scene came paired with the immediate requisite, extremely loud, scary music, I screamed loud enough to wake the dead or bring the police and Mike shot up and dumped me on the floor.
But if you think I’m emotional and excitable, you should see my youngest sister, Katie. Now, before I tell this story, I must say that Katie zealously guards her public dignity and poise. She hides her emotional, excitable side better than me most of the time. Anyway, we were watching the adaptation of Stephen King’s Silver Bullet at our house one night. Okay. You gotta understand that when Katie gets into a movie, she gets INTO the movie. She is no longer on this earth. She is living the life on-screen.
Now, here’s what was happening in the movie. This werewolf (Everett McGill) has been systematically dicing and slicing people all over town, and the only people who have discovered his identity are two kids, a brother (Corey Haim), and sister (Megan Follows, the excellent narrator). Ratcheting up the drama, suspense, and character empathy is the fact that the boy, Marty Coslaw, is crippled and in a souped-up, motorized wheelchair. The siblings have been snooping around, asking really probing questions, and generally making the werewolf person pretty nervous.
Knowing the creature must come after them because they know who he is, they take their silver St. Christophers and have them melted down into one silver bullet — just one, mind you. They take their suspicions to their really cool, funny, irrepressible, irresponsible Uncle Red (Gary Busey). Of course, Uncle Red thinks it’s all a crock and scoffs. But in the end they sort of grudgingly win him over.
The kids’ parents are out of town. They talk Uncle Red into setting a trap, and then ensconce themselves, after dark, in the living room, to wait. So here’s Uncle Red, waiting impatiently with gun in hand and silver bullet in gun. Hour after quiet hour rolls by and nothing happens. Uncle Red’s impatience and disbelief are getting the better of him. Then we, the audience, hear the dramatic, suspenseful, scary music, letting us know the creature is stalking the night right outside. Sister Katie is on the edge of her seat, her eyes wide . . . and Uncle Red picks this very moment to give up and throw in the towel. He breaks the cylinder on the gun, takes out the bullet, fumbles it, drops it. Sister Katie is on her feet. Getting to the TV screen in two bounds she puts her finger in Uncle Red’s face and says in a low, menacing voice, enunciating and emphasizing each word, “Put-the-d@#n- bullet-back-in-the-gun.”
I can’t beat that for emotional and excitable. Can you?