Criticwire Survey: My First ‘Inappropriate’ Movie
Each week at Indiewire the Criticwire Survey gets film and television critics to answer a specific question and this week’s focus was on the first ‘inappropriate’ movie you saw.
Over the weekend, RogerEbert.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz showed “Aliens” to his 11-year-old son, and seven other 5th grade boys at a slumber party. The comments to his post promptly filled up with readers second-guessing his decision, as well as people fondly remembering the theoretically inappropriate movies they’d been shown at a similarly tender age.
Criticwire asked: What’s the first “inappropriate” movie you remember watching, and what effect did it have on you?
I submitted the below response which was first published at Indiewire.
Remember that one kid whose parents were never home? That was a childhood friend of mine, Tim. Not only were Tim’s parents never home, but he also had an uncle who worked as a handyman at several hotels. Tim’s uncle would shut down rooms for painting and fixing holes in the walls, and he would record the films showing on the in-house movie channel onto VHS tapes.
It was the late ’90s, so the hotel in-house movie channel was the place where films went in the no-man’s land between a theatrical release and home video. The tapes looked exactly like how you’d expect a bootleg VHS to come packaged; the generic box covering boasted the number of recording hours, and a plain white tag on the spine displayed the title of the film written in black marker featuring Tim’s Uncle’s best handwriting. The day that tag said “Speed” was a memorable one, but there were other times when movies from years gone by appeared as if Tim’s uncle was subtly schooling us in cinema. Most of the time, the older films were horror (he was also messing with us), and nothing recharged your cool ranking in the primary school playground quite like bragging about the latest spooky film you’d seen. The peer pressure to watch was unbearable.
I was scarred by most of the films I saw while Tim’s parents were never home, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1-7, “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween,” and more. I was around 10 years-old and not as tough as my buddy Tim who seemed to froth at the mouth of any kind of gore. I was a little more sensitive and prone to intense nightmares, still am. Upon reflection, I was more vulnerable at this age due to a very aggressive father who would go into fits of rage over the smallest things in our household. I was already on edge and living in a state of adolescent fear. The film that pushed me to breaking point and felt the most ‘inappropriate’ was “Child’s Play.”
As a kid, the satire, black humor and bonkers concept of Tom Holland and Don Mancini’s film flew straight over my head. During a screening at Tim’s house I projected straight onto Andy and felt the raw terror of a killer doll. I was caught between a being a kid and those awkward pre-teen years so my imagination was still running wild and that transitioned into my nightmares. They got so bad after seeing “Child’s Play” that I refused to sleep in any bedroom alone. I spent months, which became close to a year, sleeping on the couch in the living room of our house so I could be as close to my parents’ room (my mum) as possible in case Chucky came to kill.
The dread peaked at Christmas time when my younger sister was gifted a talking doll from Santa (I was still a believer). The gimmick was that the doll giggled or spoke as you rotated it in different directions. The doll had to go. On Christmas night, when I thought the doll would come to life to start its killing spree, I crept into my sister’s room and took it. As protector of the family unit, I took on the reasonability to give the doll a shallow grave in the backyard. My mother was always one step ahead of me, and when the doll was missing in the morning she conducted a discreet interrogation, found the doll, cleaned it up, and returned it to my sister before a tear hit the ground. Following the incident at Christmas my parents (my mum) tolerated more couch sleeping and we reached an agreement to put the talking doll at the bottom of the toy bin each night before couch-time.
I eventually grew out of this phase once the hairs started sprouting on my face, I was an early bloomer, or a “pubic freak” as a hairless bully in my classed once said; having facial hair wasn’t cool in school yet. Slowly, I became more terrified of talking to girls, or worse, if the girls found out I slept on the couch at home because I was afraid of a killer doll movie. We all grow up so fast.
Visit Indiewire to check out the other responses from critics.
The Popcorn Junkie