My first thought when I agreed to join Nancy Gideon’s Haunted Open House was that, in keeping with the season, I’d discuss horror movies. However, I HATE those movies. They freak me out and, unlike many of my friends, I in no way enjoy “getting a good scare.” Reading the daily newspaper or watching political advertisements on television is enough scare for me.
That being said, I’d love a chance to remake a few ghost/Halloween/horror/slasher films I’ve consciously avoided so I’d actually enjoy watching them. (Full Disclosure: Just before starting my teaching career, I helped my first volleyball team do a spoof of the original Halloween called Hanukkah. The main character, a troubled Jewish boy, killed people with a menorah. Just to be clear, the player who came up with the idea is in fact Jewish. I pretty much just provided some camerawork and my ꞌ65 Plymouth Satellite as the getaway car.)
So, having already remade the first of the Halloween genre, I’m going to try my hand at the original slasher-film—The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whose chainsaw fires up the very first time the cord is pulled? Or never runs out of gas? Or never jams, particularly when cutting through all that bone and gristle? Maybe a professional lumberjack’s. But a run-of-the-mill crazed killer’s? I don’t think so.
To me, it’d be far more challenging for the murderer—not to mention entertaining for both audience and intended victims—if the chainsaw was electric and the power cord only 100 feet long. Dialogue would go something like this:
Evil Killer: Time to die! [He brandishes the chainsaw.]
Hapless Victim: [cringing in fear] Oh! My! GOD!
Plucky Heroine: [from across the street] Run, you idiot! His cord won’t reach all the way over here to my house.
Evil Killer: Come back here! Come back . . . [He yanks the plug from the outlet.] @#!! I KNEW shoulda gotten a battery operated saw.
Fun, huh? And much more entertaining than pointless gore, although some would argue that pointless gore perpetrated on ridiculously stupid victims is justified. However, as this is my blog and I disagree with that last sentiment, it will receive no more attention.
Moving on from slasher films, let’s turn to monster movies. OOOOOO, scary. Frankenstein terrified me, and even watching the original Psycho on my parents’ 15-inch black-and-white TV for WNEM’s Saturday Matinee — I was scared spitless. As a high school senior, saw the silent Phantom of the Opera—accompanied by a live piano player, no less, just like back in the day—and got a serious case of the creeps.
But what if the hideous nature of these films was due to a particular fabric rather than some other factor? And what if the fabric itself refused to die, instead of the psycho killer, monster, or giant rodent? Wouldn’t this reduce the spookiness? And if that material was polyester, wouldn’t that make all the horror elements ridiculous? Well, since as my title says, you just can’t kill that stuff, we’re going with polyester.
Picture it now: The Frankenstein monster is terrorizing the local peasantry who, despite stabbing at him with pitchforks and various other death-dealing hand-held farm implements, can’t wound him through his clothing. (Incidentally, polyester is the only bargain material Dr. Frankenstein could get in large enough quantities to cover the monster’s bulk.)
As is their wont, the townspeople hold a town meeting. A tailor who is in fact a refugee from Fiddler on the Roof comes up with a plan . . .
Tailor: I’ve heard of this cloth. An entire generation of Americans was forced to wear it in the 60s, thus setting off years of turmoil, civil unrest, and body-odor problems.
Mayor: This cloth must be magic! We’re helpless against it.
Constable: Indeed. We can’t so much as penetrate the monster’s clothes. We’re doomed.
[Grumblings of agreement and despair are heard in the background among the assembled townspeople. There is an aura of fear among them.]
Tailor: Perhaps we’re going about this all wrong. Perhaps we need to look for a different way to circumvent the polyester.
Curmudgeonly Old Townswoman: [sitting by the fire, smoking a corncob pipe] Why don’t we just set its damn pants on fire? That monster guy will go up like a Roman candle.
Tailor: Or better yet, a group of our bravest, strongest men could corner it somewhere and burn its clothes with torches.
Curmudgeonly Old Townswoman: Great idea, Genius.
. . . And so it goes. Although I’m sure many other scary movies could be improved by using polyester, a lack of space here forces me to leave it to my readers’ imaginations to develop more suggestions.
I must say a sincere thanks to Deb Dixon for not only giving me the title for this piece, but tangentially the idea as well. I’d sent her a book about quilts, and in the ensuing emails discussing it, I said my mother had cut thousands of polyester squares and used them to make quilts for every family member. Mom backed each colorful top with an appropriately sized bed sheet, resulting in comforters that have lasted for years virtually without noticeable wear. Debbie’s response was, “Polyester. You just can’t kill that stuff.”
And from that sage observation came this riff on making scary movies the way they should be made. As the song says, “I Get by With a Little Help from my Friends.”
I’ll be handing out a copy of 100 Ghastly Little Ghost Stories, so the giveaway is for U.S. only – Good luck!
Let’s see what everyone else is giving out!