Thursday, June 19, 2014

Express Yourself Scary Movies (or Books!)

While visiting author Stephanie Faris' most excellent blog, I became inspired to join in on the bloghop hosted by Dani and Jackie. Ladies, I give you the flipster salute for creativity (high praise).  It's not a bad thing; really it isn't.  Flipster salute just sounds like you might not want one.

The challenge of this bloghop was simple: Discuss the scariest movie or book you've read that made you unable to sleep. 

I'm going to take you back a bit to early Stephen King. Salem's Lot was unknown to me and hot off the presses in the late seventies when my friend, Deborah, pointed it out on the magazine rack of Allen's Drugtown.

My mother trusted Deborah with my life (and the lives of my siblings...but really, let's focus on mine) when she was our childhood babysitter. That said, she babysat us a lot - like weekly. There's a judgement question that lingers in my mind...I mean, she seemed normal, yet she was our babysitter. Hmm.

Back to the story; Deborah had read the book Salem's Lot and loved it. She encouraged me to buy it. The original cover on the copy I purchased was black with a raised impression of a women who had a drop of blood dripping from one side of her mouth. Shiver...I'm in!


Nostalgia is flooding my brain as I think back on the excitement of getting a new book and having no job to interfere with free time. The perfect mix.  

With scary novel in hand, I went home, had dinner, and started to read the book. The story opens in a small town on the California/Mexico border and gives the reader a tempting glimpse into the world of a man and a boy on the run. In no time, I found myself pulled into the chronicle of the main character, Ben Mears, as the author recounts the story of Ben's return to Jerusalem's Lot, the town of his childhood, in the state of Maine (all Stephen King novels seem to have ties to Maine) and all the resulting mayhem and horror. 

Of course, every fictional trip home starts with a re-connection with lost love (FYI: that is why they call it lost...people don't actually break up because they can't find their date...that ship has one listens). Susan Norton is the babe, in this tale.

The specter of a notorious local haunted house looms in his mind and Ben plans to write a book about it - the dreadful Marsten House is legendary in old 'Salem's Lot and scared the heebie geebies out of Ben when he was a child. Things haven't changed and they were about to get worse. Kurt Barlow (creepy Austrian) is on a mission to open a store and buy the Marsten house for his "boss" Richard Straker.  Maybe the word "master" would be more appropriate. Coincidentally, something is happening in town. A child ends up dead under mysterious circumstances... then another.

The whole town slowly becomes consumed by a bad case o' deathiness.   Deathiness is bad, man; there's no anitibiotic for it, no matter what health plan you're under. But these dead folks keep showing up after they're dead. How rude.

It's vampire time, peeps. Those jugular poppin' freakshows of the night are in 'Salem's Lot and they are multiplying like pesky wabbits. All subplots lead to the bloodsuckers.

Ben teams up with Mark Petrie;  just a kid, really, whose parents fall victim to the head vampire and his crony (not going to divulge all the details...I'm totally okay with Stephen King accumulating wealth).  

This is King at his finest; in fact, he has indicated 'Salem's Lot was his personal favorite.

But, what about young Cherdo of 1977...

I'm reading this in my basement bedroom, long into the night. The vivid imagery the author created came to life in my own personal cranium in the form of creaking, weird night bird calls, strange shadows, howling dogs and distant voices. I found myself totally afraid to sleep. If those fanged foes were going to get me I wanted to be awake for the carnage, I suppose.

It occurred to me that there was no reason in the world for Youngstown, Ohio, to be excluded from the threat of vampires. In fact, King mentioned the team of Mears and Petrie traveling through Youngstown on the very first page.  


This had to be some kind of code to warn us that those two dudes had passed through town, they had totally ticked off a slew of vampires and perhaps ya'll should wear crucifixes around your neck and make sure you also had crosses on your jammies. Vampires on the hunt have to eat and there were a whole lot of steelworkers who looked more than a little vampired. 

A little Eau de Garlic wouldn't hurt.

Holy cow, that book was scary!  I read it straight through, and only got up for the resulting fear-diarrhea (also known as feararrhea, for the non-irritable bowel crowd) that accompanied it. It occurred to me that if I were a vampire, I would be more scared by that aroma than the garlic, but what do I know?  Feararrhea may have worked because I never did have a run in with actual vampires.  How many of you readers can say that?


Why does Stephen King stay in Maine?

Don't get me started on King's other nail biter - It.  It ruined me for clowns and curbside sewers.


Here is the ultimate flattery:  I still have that book I bought in the late seventies. Granted, it is dogeared - especially in the middle, where I held it with my sweaty, white knuckled hands. 

Gosh, I love a good read. Thanks, Deborah; I love you, too. I hope something knocks on your window tonight and you think of me. There is someone in the closet, by the way, and he has a balloon for you.


  1. I just got back from the potty, dear Cherdo, dealing with a severe case of feararrhea. You drove a stake through my heart with your riveting review of Salem's Lot. I suffered another attack of feararrhea when you mentioned Stephen King's IT. I've been a twisted sister, literally foaming at the mouth, ever since an evil clown kissed me on the mouth and slipped me the tongue. (It happened last Saturday.)

    The movie that gave me the scare of my life was Night of the Living Dead (1968), part one of George A. Romero's original zombie trilogy. The black and white movie, shot in rural locations around Pittsburgh, was terrifying for several reasons. Seven humans were hunkered down at night inside a dilapidated farmhouse surrounded by hungry zombies eager to eat their brains. A nonstop television broadcast added to the realism. As the commentator relayed breaking news about the unfolding zombie apocalypse, the names of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio cities and towns were displayed at the bottom of the screen along with actual schools, hospitals and municipal buildings in those communities that were serving as emergency shelters. (I am almost certain that Youngstown, Ohio was included in the "zombie zone.") Night of the Living Dead shocked audiences by shattered taboos. The most sympathetic character was a black man paired in peril with a white woman. There were close-ups of the flesh eating ghouls chewing on human hands and arms and devouring intestines and other organs. Another breakthrough was a nude zombie - a young female - a sight that caught me and everybody else completely off guard and put us on notice that Romero was going all out to shake up our sensibilities and deliver brutal realism. Romero also violated the standard formula by killing off the entire main cast, the villains as well as the characters we cared about, the people we were rooting for, the ones who always survived in horror movies we had seen in the past.

    Night of the Living Dead was like Outback Steakhouse:
    "no rules - just right."

    Have a Shady day, dear friend Cherdo! (Eat lotsa garlic!)

    1. Oh, that one freaked me out, too. Had nightmares about it.

      From the bedroom in the basement, I could see shadows of kids cutting between the houses (ours was one of the yards that didn't have a fence at the back, so we were a natural choice). Those shadows took on the gait of the zombies, and when you add the muffled voices and my low IQ, it's nightmare magic.

      Thanks for reminding me of that one!

  2. I LOVED his books when I was younger. I remember reading IT the summer after my senior year and I couldn't put it down. I also read Misery that summer. He was on fire in those days!

    1. We must have similar tastes (and age!). I loved Misery, also. But IT - oh, gosh, that was scary! I'm with you - he was on fire! My love for King has slacked off since then and the television version of Under the Dome (a "bleh" for me...sorry, Stephen, still have some was just a mess.

  3. I haven't read either book, but when I say I've seen IT at least 11 times, I'm not joking. One of my favorite movies!

    Salem's Lot sounds very cool, and that original cover is AWESOME!

    1. IT totally rules frightdom. A real masterpiece!

  4. That's a very good review. I don't do scary very often because the real world is frightening enough.


  5. Excellent book choice! King really is the master.


Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo