'Tis the Season to be......SCARY!
Beginning a month before Halloween, TV stations proliferate with reruns of horror movies like The Shining, Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and anything with Freddy Krueger, all ready to frighten the bejeepers out of us. Bloodcurdling screams, ghosts, goblins, and creepy noises are the recurring themes.
TV sitcoms are not exempt from giving us a good supply of annual goosebumps. Classic innocuous shows like Dick Van Dyke, Roseanne, The Middle, and Saturday Night Live are all eager to scare us with ghoulish themes. Even cartoons such as The Simpsons contribute with their macabre “Treehouse of Horror."
But, it’s all harmless fun ~ like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories or becoming disoriented in an autumn corn field maze. Most often, we quickly recover from the temporary spine-chilling entertainment until Halloween recurs the following year, and the movies and TV shows once again focus on scaring us.
.…..most often, but not always…..
There are two events that made such an enormous impression on me, I have yet to recover.
I saw the movie, Darby O’Gill and the Little People (Walt Disney Productions, 1959) when I was only twelve years old. The scenes with flying Banshees continue to haunt me to the point that I still freeze in terror when the wind howls and I see dark storm clouds approaching.
The second unforgettable event is episode #22 of The Twilight Zone.
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, written by Rod Serling, originally aired on March, 4, 1960. The scene opens with an ice cream vendor peddling along a quiet street in a typical, peaceful, small suburban town.
Narrator: “Maple Street, U.S.A. Late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street...This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment - before the monsters came.”
The storyline is about aliens conquering Earth, not with weapons, but from within, allowing humans to destroy each other with their own fear, paranoia, manipulation, and bigotry.
The episode ends with a voice-over commentary by Rod Serling:
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, and prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy. And a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is…that these things cannot be confined…to The Twilight Zone.”
Life imitating art. NOW, THAT'S SCARY!