Last year, I took the occasion of Halloween (or at least the run-up to Halloween) to confess to the perhaps odd things that scared me when I was a kid. It only takes a second post to turn it into a tradition.
The Exorcist was a smash-hit movie when I was three-years-old. Three! So I doubt that that’s when I saw the newspaper ad for William Friedkin’s horror classic. But I do have a vivid memory of being upstairs in my grandfather’s house, looking through the movie ads and getting stuck on the image of a silhouetted figure outside of a house, the presence of something horrible somehow promised by the wash of light crushing out on him. It’s easily one of the most striking visuals of nineteen-seventies cinema, and it was even starker in the ashy black-and-white of the newspaper. It was mesmerizing and terrifying. Nowadays, I can find my way to far more adorable renderings of the film’s terrors.
Speaking of the added impact of ashy black-and-white. I’m not sure what the first Stephen King novel I read was, but the first one I owned was a paperback copy of King’s 1977 novel The Shining. Handed down to me by an aunt when I was probably way too young to get it, it took me years to muster the courage to read it, largely because I was stopped by the simple image on the front cover, mixing the innocence of a dark haired boy with something demonic and, therefore, deeply menacing. It didn’t help that the kid in the book and I shared a first name.
This isn’t something from when I was a kid. Far from it, in fact. Instead, it’s a song from the French band M83, off of their 2005 album Before the Dawn Heals Us. Over angular, shrieking electronic distortion, the song tells the story of a woman traveling with her child is first rattled and then pursued by a strange man she encounters at a gas station. Rather than lyrics, the story is conveyed with dialogue, delivered with great emotional intensity by actress Kate Moran. It’s probably one of those love-it-or-hate-it tracks, but I’ll admit that I find it scary as can be.