When I was six years old, one of our babysitters brought over a nice family-friendly video for us all to watch right before I went to bed: The Amityville Horror 3D.
Just as a side note, we lived on a block with about four hundred children, and for some reason my parents thought allowing teenage boys to babysit was the best idea in the world. They had parties, jumped from the house roof to the garage roof, and at one point, put our parakeet in the microwave. They also ate all of our fruit snacks and Teddy Grahams. In general, I don't think this babysitting corps was my parents' best idea ever.
That night, as my mom tucked me into bed, I'm sure she noticed my wide-eyes as I glanced suspiciously at the windows of our room. "Hey Mom," I asked casually. "Do you think we have a pit that leads to Hell in our basement?" Oddly, she did not, but as I tried to sleep that night, the idea became more and more likely.
It was the first of many sleepless nights. The next day I woke up crying. My mom tried to comfort me, but I was convinced we were doomed. "It's just... it's just that I'm sure that this house has EYES, that's all!" Eventually, I calmed down and stopped thinking about "Amityville Horror 3D," but I still shudder a little every time I see Meg Ryan or Aunt Becky from "Full House," both who star in that movie that I'm sure will be on the AFI's list of the 100 Greatest 3D Horror Movies.
There weren't too many other scary movies that affected me that strongly. I spent my life happily watching musicals and comedies and occasional dramas, leaving the scary slashy stuff for my sister Kerry, who is insane. Then one night in 2008, I watched a little film called "Paranormal Activity."
I didn't even think it was that frightening when I watched it. I finished the movie, thought, "Well, that was an effective little horror film! Well done, independent movie makers!" Then I went to bed. I had a dream that I woke up to the loud banging sounds that the couple experienced in the movie. In my dream, I sat up in bed and said out loud, "I am so glad that I don't have any demons in this house!" Then I looked down at Cooper, who was asleep in the corner of the bed. He had blood all over his mouth. "Coop, what happened to you?" I asked. Then I saw that Cooper had eaten half of my leg during the night.
It sounds so stupid, but I didn't sleep for DAYS. Yes, I was a thirty year old woman who was afraid to sleep in her own bed because of a dream about a dog eating my leg. Eventually, I put on my big girl pants and started sleeping again, but even now, when I think about that movie and that dream, it makes me shudder a little.
Last week, I saw "Paranormal Activity 2." It was okay, frightening but not terror-inducing, and for the first four nights afterward I slept fine. Then last night, I started thinking about it and remembering the ending and thinking about the creepy basement... and the next thing I knew, I was up all night again, staring out the window and wishing it was morning.
The moral of the story is I should have learned my lesson with "Amityville Horror 3D" and avoided any movie not written for an audience of first-graders. From here on out, it's musicals and Disney movies. Except for "The Watcher in the Woods." I can't even think about that one without shuddering.