One of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen was back in the ‘70s. At the time, my sis Betty and I lived next door to each other in little one-bedroom apartments in mid-town Memphis. We threatened to knock a hole in the wall that was common to our walk-in closets to simplify our back-and-forth visits, but we decided that there might be a negative impact on our security deposits.
One weekend afternoon we headed out to see the Shirley Maclaine horror flick, The Possession of Joel Delaney, which was playing at The Memphian (now Playhouse on the Square) in Overton Square. We were completely immersed in the tale of a truly evil, murderous villain whose spirit takes over another, formerly nice person. The movie offered many visual shocks to which we responded with popcorn-dropping starts and shrieks.
At movie’s end we were exhausted, but still giggly scared. All female readers know what that means. We’re frightened, but we’re adults, so when we see the fear in ourselves or each other’s eyes -- -- we giggle. It’s a girl thing.
This is a good place to point out that we were in our 20s. Supposedly sensible adults. (Photos are of Betty and me at a New Year’s Eve party we gave back in those apartments.)
But we exited the theater and the sun had gone down. Here’s what you need to know about the old Memphian. It was on Cooper St. facing east. It was not quite at the corner to the south at Union and Cooper. There was another building between the theater and the corner. The parking lot entrance was on Union. If you didn’t want to walk the long way to Union, the parking lot entrance and then to your car, you took the shortcut. There was a walkway along the entire south side of the theater. It was perhaps four feet wide and was bordered by the windowless exterior of the theater on one side and a tall, cement wall on the other. Naturally there was limited lighting. When you stood at the shortcut’s entrance, it appeared that you were staring at a long, dark, spooky tunnel. Probably not the place to be after a scary movie.
When Betty and I turned to the shortcut, we halted abruptly. We looked at each other, took deep breaths, then held hands. We walked down that paved path – frequently almost back-to-back so we could watch for approaching madmen – alternately being terrified or giggling. As we stepped into the parking lot, we broke into a near-run to the car. Safely inside, we locked our doors. And giggled.
Nearing our apartment building, it became clear that neither of us would be able to sleep alone in our separate apartments that night. We chose my apartment for the sleepover, but Betty still had to get some things from her place first. We were frightened enough to make the short run from car to apartment hallway, so we knew that neither of us was willing to enter our apartment alone.
We approached Betty’s door. We stood to each side of the door as if we were police preparing to bust into a meth lab. Betty unlocked the door. We made silent eye contact, then quickly pushed open the door and waited at the sides of the open portal to see if the boogeyman would leap out. He didn’t.
Bet flipped on the light switch next to the door; we jumped inside, slamming and locking the door behind us. Then we giggled again.
It was a small apartment, but, as we were steeped in fear, it seemed treacherous and overrun with villainous hiding places. We attacked them one-by-one with the same front-door procedure – kitchen, both closets, under the bed, behind the shower curtain. Pulling back the shower curtain was the worst.
Sigh of relief. We’re safe. We giggled. Betty gathered her necessary items, and we backed toward her front door turning off lights as we went. We peeked through the living room drapes before opening the front door. I stood with my back to Betty’s as she locked her door and we fled the few steps to my door
Facing the entrance to my apartment – well, mostly huddled together looking up and down the hall – we knew that we’d have to go through the same storm trooper apartment inspection that we’d employed at Betty’s. We took a deep breath, did not giggle, and started with the front door.
Once we had cleared my apartment, double-checked the locks on the doors and windows, we felt pretty sure that there were no possessed marauders in the place.
We got into jammies, made coffee and chatted for a couple of hours to clear away the remaining shreds of the movie madness. Finally, we thought we could sleep. We got into bed, and there was complete quiet for a couple of minutes.
“I’m so glad we’re not thinking about that movie any more,” I said to my sis.
With a half-second pause, I heard Betty sit up in bed. I turned on the light and sat up, too. “Well, NOW we are!” she said.
Out of bed again, it only took us another hour to once again calm our nerves. We settled down to sleep, and that time I kept my mouth shut.
I think I’d like to try that movie again, but I’m waiting until Bet spends the weekend with me so we can watch it together – with all the doors and windows locked.
Horror Move P.S.
I read a funny item last week on MSN that offers tips on how to spot the lone horror movie survivor – the last woman standing, Final Girl. Check it out.