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home : columnists and contributors : columnists and contributors May 24, 2016

10/23/2013 12:01:00 AM
Harbor Springs...Now and Then
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh

Hollywood has recently released a new telling of Stephen King's Carrie. I have not yet seen it; I'm not certain that I have ever recovered from seeing it the first time. The movie itself was not that scary, but there was one specific scene that got to me, the hand coming out of the grave; I think I jumped at least five feet.

Since it is "that" season, it made me think about other things gave me nightmares and heebie-jeebies over the years. Stephen King was to blame for many of those sleepless nights for me, generally from his books, not the movies. With some notable exceptions (The Shining, for example) his books and my imagination produced much scarier results than Hollywood could. The book Pet Cemetery, for example, was very creepy; all that sticks in my memory about the movie was the Velcro sound made when they pulled a dead dog from a frosty lawn and that made me laugh, not cringe.

Another master of the macabre, Rod Serling, first produced Twilight Zone. Those shows sometimes made you think, but they were rarely frightening. Then he came out with the Night Gallery series, a different concept altogether. I still have vague memories in the corners of my mind of some of those stories, one involving an earwig, another where a man consumed something that liquefied his bones and he became essentially a worm. I've never completely been able to shake the images.

The success of Night Gallery inspired another spooky series, Tales from the Crypt that was first seen in the early seventies, but returned again in the eighties and nineties. The Crypt Keeper, Elvira and of course locally, who could forget Don Melvoin as Count Zapula? Great characters all; I almost guarantee you can still see Elviras out and about on Halloween.

To this day, I can't see a large flock of birds in a tree without some part of me wanting to run for cover, and it was a long time before it felt safe to go back in a shower. Hitchcock was the master; he didn't need slasher techniques, he understood the idea of suspense and allowing our imaginations to do the rest. It worked.

I think many people will agree that if they had not been frightened in a movie theater before, they certainly were in 1973 when The Exorcist was released. If that didn't scare you, you may have been immune. It may look dated now, but those special effects were amazing for 1973 and the plot? What's scarier than the devil? I was more frightened during the seventies at movies than I have been since; The Omen, Alien, even Jaws all scared me more than the slasher films that were to come.

Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street; I sometimes find myself cheering for Jason or Freddie or Mike because their victims have absolutely no common sense and it is hard to feel for them. There is a great scene in Scary Movie where the heroine comes to a crossroad offering safety in one direction or certain death in the other. Guess which she chooses? This was a satire, obviously, but it does seem that the characters in these movies are pretty slow on the learning curve. For example, Richard Harris did a horrible cheap Jaws knock-off called Orca. He was being pursued, stalked, actually, by a killer whale. If I'm being chased by a killer whale, I'm moving to Kansas or some other landlocked location, but did he do that? No, he kept going out on the ocean. That's just not a logical reaction in my book.

Finally, there are the movies with the huge, mutant animals and monsters. King Kong, Godzilla and now Super Gator and the like. Those movies have never been frightening, they are usually hysterically funny. If you haven't seen Megashark leap from the ocean and take a bite from the Golden Gate Bridge, you are truly missing out.

For me, there was one notable exception in this category and I think it explains my obsession with this kind of movie. As a young child I saw Jules Vernes' Mysterious Island and may have scarred me permanently; giant bees, huge crabs and a volcano, all very scary. I bought the movie and watched it again a couple years ago; those special effects were so bad, I can't believe that even at five or six I believed them. With the nasty weather outside, it may be time for a couple snuggly popcorn evenings at home, but my actual personal favorite Halloween movies are Young Frankenstein and Arsenic and Old Lace. I'd rather laugh than scream.

Sending out wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to Nancy Allerding Topham, who underwent surgery on Tuesday morning. Here's hoping you are up and about and feeling great in record time.

Very sincere condolences to the families of Reverend James Sweet and of Michael Bango. Reverend Sweet was the Pastor at the Main Street Baptist Church for twenty years, we send our regards to his wife and all his children. Mr. Bango and his big smile will be missed by not only his children, but by all who knew him.

On a happier note, this must be a romantic time of the year; we have several anniversary greetings to send out. Connie and Danny Warner are celebrating on the 24th, Mike and Lora Erxleben on the 25th, Terry and Sharla Meyer on the 27th and Frank and Rita Crapsey on the 30th. Congratulations and many more years to all of you.

We have several birthdays to remember this week, too. On Thursday, October 24th, Happy Birthday to Jared Hammond, Andy Alkema and Roy Hall. On Friday we send birthday wishes to Jim Cole and to Doug Chellis and on Saturday to Rob MacKenzie and to Tricia Kelbel. Sunday, October 27th, Happy Birthday wishes to Bryan Leavitt, Julie Kelbel Leik and to Mike Terpening and on Monday to Justin Zuidema, Diane Dakins and April Wenz Backus. On Tuesday we offer birthday greetings to Matt Bosma and Karen Thompson and last but never least, on Wednesday, October 30th, a very Happy Birthday to Elise Tippett.

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