Saturday, October 27, 2012

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Monday, October 22, 2012 was a pretty special day for Monster Dad.  I went to see "Ghostbusters" (1984) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA.  What makes this such a special event?  Well, please allow me to explain...

I was fourteen years old when "Ghostbusters" was first released.  For someone very much into movies in general, and horror/sci-fi movies in particular, "Ghostbusters" was pretty close to a perfect movie for me at that age.  It had a ton of supernatural elements that were superbly balanced with some of the best comedy I had (or have) ever seen in a film.  I was already a big fan of Bill Murray and Ivan Reitman's brand of comedy from watching and enjoying "Stripes" (1981) on TV.  "Ghostbusters" was very much the same sort of movie--with a different plotline, setting and cast (besides Murray and Harold Ramis of course).  The fact that the main difference was a supernatural one was...well...perfect.

I saw "Ghostbusters" four or five times in the theaters.  That might not sound like all that much for a supposed "favorite" movie, but keep in mind that I was only fourteen and needed to get someone to take me to see it.  If I had my license at the time I'm sure that number would have been a lot higher.  I loved listening to Ray Parker Jr.'s song "Ghostbusters", regardless of how overplayed it was on the radio.  I'd tape it on my portable tape recorder over and over again, despite the fact that I also had the soundtrack on cassette tape.  I even joined the Ghostbusters Fan Club.  In the days before the internet there were only so many ways to keep up with and feel involved with interests like "Ghostbusters".  I did my best to read everything I could about the movie in the magazines like Starlog, and watch anything I could about the movie on TV (reviews on shows like "Sneak Previews" and "At the Movies", and coverage of the movie and its stars on shows like "Entertainment Tonight").

The years passed and my love for "Ghostbusters" remained with me.  While I never picked it up on VHS, I was very happy to finally get my hands on my own copy of the movie in the little DVD boxset that also included the flawed and far inferior (in my opinion) "Ghostbusters II".  A couple years ago I introduced The Little Monster to "Ghostbusters".  At about four she was obviously a lot younger than I had been when I first saw the movie, but I felt like she was ready for it.  In my attempt to share my interests with her and transform her into a Monster Kid I had shown her many of the movies I had enjoyed as a kid.  She liked most of them and "Ghostbusters" seemed like it would be a good choice as well.  Other than a couple mild PG-13 sort of "adult situations" and a few swears it is pretty tame.  As it turned out, she did indeed love the movie and wanted to watch it over and over again (as she's known to do with a current favorite).  The added bonus was that she found a few of the "scary" scenes actually scary.  It was nothing that would traumatize her or anything, but it was really fun to be able to watch it through her young and imaginative eyes.

The gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is hilarious,
but understandably a bit scary for a little kid

We recently moved to Brookline, MA and I was very excited to be able to go to the Coolidge Corner Theatre on a regular basis.  We live so close in fact that I can actually walk there!  Last month I saw a flyer at the theater announcing that they would be screening "Ghostbusters" on October 22nd.  Other than really wanting to see it and take along The Little Monster I didn't give it a whole heck of a lot of thought.  What hadn't occurred to me was the fact that, despite having seen the movie dozens of times over the past couple of decades, this would be my first time seeing it on the big screen (and on film too) since its original release!  Of course that meant it would be The Little Monster's first time seeing it on the big screen too.  Suddenly our little father/daughter pre-Halloween date night took on a greater importance.

The Coolidge's flyer for the Big Screen Classics screening of "Ghostbusters"
The Coolidge corner Theater's marquee,
with "Ghostbusters" advertised on it
Ticket to the show!

I ended up totally geeking out and picking up one of those adult Ghostbuster costumes (complete with inflatable proton pack) at Newbury Comics.  It also seemed like a good time to finally buy The Little Monster the plastic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man bank that I'd wanted to get her for a couple of years.  I'll admit that I felt a bit odd going to see the movie with a six-year-old and being the one dressed up as a Ghostbuster.  I alleviated that feeling by letting The Little Monster wear the proton pack as well as bringing along her new Stay Puft bank.

Apparently a lot of people besides us were looking forward to this night too.  While the crowd was predominantly adult, quite a few other people also brought their kids along to share the experience with them.  There were even three other people in Ghostbusters costumes that were a LOT more realistic than my store-bought version.  I believe that at least a couple of them were part of a group called Bay State Ghostbusters.  The show was sold out and the theater was packed (I should have gotten a photo of the crowd before the movie started).  We got our seats and had to wait to get popcorn until the movie was under way because of long lines and a shortage of popcorn (the machine couldn't keep up with the demand).  The Coolidge crew had a little pre-show entertainment where they brought people who claimed they had seen ghosts up to the stage to tell their stories for prizes.  This was probably the scariest part of the night for The Little Monster--as well as the most disappointing, since she was hoping to get some of the prizes.  Of course she already had a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man toy and a Hot Wheels Ectomobile, but that didn't stop her from wanting more.  The only one of the prizes she didn't already have was a Lego set of some sort.  Oh well, there's always Christmas, right?

The Little Monster's Ectomobile

The movie itself was wonderful to see again.  I always forget how much better it can be watching a film in a theater than on DVD on your own TV.  The capacity crowd was very much into it and laughed in all the right places.  No matter how many times I see it I still find myself laughing out loud many times.  The kids in the audience (and there were a pretty good number of them too) were obviously a tad nervous during a few scenes.  As much as I don't want my Little Monster to be terrified by anything I show her, it was just so rewarding turning and seeing her with her fingers stuck in her ears a few times during these scenes.  It had been a while since she'd seen the movie and I think she kind of forgot that it really wasn't all that scary.  I think my favorite moment of the night might just have been when I looked at her during one of the "scarier" moments and she nervously said "Daddy, cover my eyes...while I block my ears.  Teamwork!"  The movie is chock full of awesome quotes too numerous to list, but with that line The Little Monster managed to add yet another one to my personal favorites!  Honorable Mention: when Stay Puft explodes and everything gets covered in marshmallow she asked, in all seriousness, "Can they eat it now?"  Aah, the mind of a child and the magic of a child's imagination.  Priceless!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Halloween Wish List for 2012

It's October 2012.  Autumn is in the air and the leaves are turning red, orange, yellow and ultimately brown before falling from the trees.  The sun and heat of summer is being replaced by shorter days accompanied by a chill in the air.  In other words, Halloween is well on it's way.  Because of the nature of the fall season the entire month of October kind of feels like one big build-up to Halloween--the last day (night) of the month.

My Little Monsters are now six and three years old.  This promises to be an exciting Halloween for all of us. Over the past two Octobers I embarked on October Horror Challenges, where I attempted to watch an average of at least one horror-related movie or TV show a day throughout the month.  Both of those challenges were successful.  Click these links to see the results of the past two editions.

I was hoping to do another challenge for 2012, but a number of factors have convinced me that it's unfortunately not going to be realistic this time around.  We just moved to a new city last month and are still settling in.  The Little Monster started first grade in a brand new school.  And, possibly most important, The Tiny Creature has decided to stop taking afternoon naps.  Last year (and the one before) I was able to do a lot of not-kid-friendly movie watching while the Little Monster was in preschool or Kindergarten and The Tiny Creature was asleep.  That option has gone the way of the dinosaurs.  I could certainly use this as an additional factor in making the challenge more "challenging", but it just seems like a bit too much.  Maybe next year I'll be able to embark on a third edition of the challenge...

Meanwhile, it's still October and I still want to watch as much cool stuff as possible--whether with The Little Monsters or by myself (or with The Wife, if she happens to feel like watching something she generally wouldn't feel like watching).  In that vein, here is a "wish list" of sorts of some of the stuff I'd like to see before All Hallow's Eve.


No,  It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (from 1966) isn't really "horror", but it's been an integral part of Halloween for me as long as I can remember.  It's something I've watched since CBS used to run it once a year as a "Special Presentation" that would interrupt regular programming when I was a kid.  It seems to be on TV more often nowadays (making it a wee bit less "special"), and has also been available on home video (first on VHS and now on DVD and Blu-ray) for a long time.  While I miss the urgency of having to watch it the one time it aired each October I certainly appreciate the convenience of being able to see it whenever I (or my Monsters) want to.  The Little Monster has been into this show for the past few years and now The Tiny Creature is old enough to really start appreciating it.  We haven't seen it yet this fall, but I'm sure it won't be long before we do (I finally broke down and picked up the DVD last year).


"Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) is another long-time favorite of mine, and also a favorite of The Little Monster.  It was a great way to introduce her to the world of classic Universal movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolf Man) without it being a terribly scary experience.  While the real Universal monster movies are old (from the 1930s and 40s), they can still be a pretty intense experience for a young child with an active sense of imagination.  I always loved Abbott & Costello as a kid.  Channel 27 out of Worcester, MA would run A&C movies at 6:00 on Saturday evenings back then.  While I generally enjoyed them all, it was always a bit more special when one of their monster or sci-fi movies were on ("A&C meet Frankenstein", "A&C Meet The Mummy", "A&C Meet The Invisible Man", "A&C Go to Mars"...).  I've tried to instill an appreciation of Abbott & Costello into The Little Monster over the past few years and, not too surprisingly, "A&C Meet Frankenstein" is one of her favorites.

Here's the Little Monsters watching A&C Meet Frankenstein last year


Another classic movie to watch around Halloween that has also become a favorite of The Little Monsters' is "Young Frankenstein" (1974).  I remember going to see this with my sister (possibly during a re-release a couple years later?) and being terrified that something was going to grab me from under my theater seat.  I was young enough that I didn't quite grasp the fact that it was a comedy.  How can something in black & white with skeletons, fog, lightning, a spooky castle AND the Frankenstein Monster be funny?  Obviously I know better now, but it was a lot of fun seeing the movie through The Little Monster's eyes when she was younger and watching her be kinda-sorta scared of it.  She's now old enough and has seen the film enough times that I don't expect her to be scared of it this year.  The Tiny Creature on the other hand might be a different story...


Yes, there's a new, dramatic (!) version of The Munsters coming out this month (called Mockingbird Lane), but this entry isn't about that mess.  Quite a while back (possibly last October) I introduced The Little Monster to the old 1960s TV show The Munsters.  I figured that since she enjoys comedies like "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" and "Young Frankenstein"--and the fact that she also likes 1960s-70s sitcoms like Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch--that she might be able to appreciate The Munsters.  She did seem to like the episode or two I showed her back then, but it didn't really seem to take as a favorite.  With October starting last week I decided to give The Little Monsters another shot at watching The Munsters.  Surprisingly, while they both are enjoying it and wanted to see more episodes, The Tiny Creature seemed to be the one who was  into it the most.  One day after we dropped The Little Monster off at school she demanded to watch "The Scary Show" instead of her usual diet of PBS Kids fare.  Hopefully we'll all be able to catch a number of Munsters episodes over the rest of the month.  Here's The Tiny Creature enjoying the show:


Back in the 1990s I saw the 1962 Arch Hall Jr. movie "Eegah" for the first time.  Actually, I saw Mystery Science Theater 3000's treatment of the movie.  It became my favorite MST3K episode of all time (still is to this day).  The Little Monster watched "Eegah" regularly a few years ago after I introduced her to it.  She was a bit scared of the caveman, Eegah, but really seemed to enjoy watching the film.  We haven't seen it much lately, but I do hope to get a chance to watch it together this month.  The Tiny Creature has also shown interest in "Eegah".  Like "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" and "Young Frankenstein", it's great to see something which is so far from scary, yet able to be somewhat scary for a small child.  It's that magic of imagination and innocence that they still have that makes it possible.  Strange as it sounds, "Eegah!" has actually become one of my favorite movies (seriously) over the years.  I've grown an appreciation for stars Arch Hall Jr. and Richard (Jaws) Kiel that has seen me join their fan clubs, buy their autographs and "friend" them on Facebook.


"Ghostbusters" came out in 1984 when I was 14 years old.  It was one of those perfect-timing things for me.  The movie was such a perfect combination of comedy and ghosts that it instantly became a favorite of mine which I managed to see four of five times in the theater (which in the days before being able to drive myself was quite an accomplishment).  The Little Monster saw the movie for the first time a couple years ago and she enjoyed it a lot too.  At first I wasn't sure if she might be a little too young for it--as it does have some "bad words", adult situations and even a couple scenes that are genuinely scary for a little one.  But other than a bit of fear of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man she really enjoyed it.  We also listened to my ancient cassette tape of the movie's soundtrack until I finally replaced it with a CD version.
One of the best things about our recent move is that we now live within walking distance to the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA.  I've only been able to get there a couple of times so far, but October promises to be full of great programming at the Coolidge that I want to be able to partake in.  On October 22 they will have "Ghostbusters" on the big screen!  I'm planning on taking The Little Monster that night.  Yes, it's a Monday and a school night, but it's also October and "Ghostbusters"!  We can't miss that opportunity!


Most of my wish list material for this month will be stuff watched on TV via DVD or Netflix.  However, as mentioned above, I can now have the luxury of being able to walk to the Coolidge Corner Theater.  "Ghostbusters" isn't the only thing I want to see there this month.  The Coolidge is also having their annual Halloween Horror Marathon on Saturday October 27.  Starting at midnight they will be featuring a couple of semi-recent horror classics ("recent" in comparison to classics like "Dracula", "Frankenstein" and "The Wolf Man" anyway).  I've never seen either "The Exorcist" (1972) or John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982) on the big screen.  The marathon will feature BOTH of these genuinely scary films.  And then, as if that weren't enough, there will be FOUR more movies running into and past the wee hours of the morning.  They are keeping the identity of those films a mystery until showtime.  I hope I can make it all the way through!  My 2010 and 2011 experiences at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama shows should prove a good training ground for night/morning like this one!  Needless to say, unlike many of the previous titles, I will be attending the Halloween Horror Marathon solo, with no Little Monsters in tow.

Image borrowed from The Coolidge Corner Theater


Lastly (and firstly too for that matter) I'll be attending the Coolidge's presentation of "Lifeforce" (1985) tonight (October 12) as part of their Coolidge @fter Midite series.  This month they're featuring the movies of Tobe Hooper.  I haven't seen "Lifeforce" in years and am looking forward to experiencing it on the big screen once again!  We're already nearing the halfway mark of October, so I really need to get cracking on all this stuff.  "Lifeforce" is a nice way to start I should think!

Be afraid...Be VERY afraid!