Posts Tagged ‘Child’s Play’

Part Nine: Yours Truly, Robert Bloch 

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con New York City

Browsing a book vendor while waiting for the auditorium to open, a blue cover caught George’s eye. The Frankenstein Monster lurked on the front of the book, as did Lon Chaney’s Wolfman. Flipping through its pages, George remembered reading this book as a kid; titled Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby. His sister got him that book for his birthday when they first moved out east. Back then his sister introduced him to a few scary books. He tried returning the favor, offering her some Spiderman comics, but she didn’t care for them.

Placing the old book back on the table, he noticed a few movie novelizations and spin-off books. A Halloween novel caught his eye. It wasn’t an adaptation of any of the movies though. The title read, “Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.” by Nicholas Grabowsky. This book brought back memories of film school, where he borrowed this book from Dan. George recalled those early days in the student dormitory arguing about the novel, which was an original story where both Michael Myers and Dr. Gavin survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II. In the novel, Myers awakens from a ten-year coma to wreak havoc on Haddonfield, and Dr. Gavin returns to again save Laurie Strode, who now has a daughter. George thought this would have been a much better movie than what the fourth Halloween movie turned out to be, especially with that incredible twist ending. Myers is legitimately blown up in the climax, but the novel ends with Laurie Strode getting killed by her now psychotic eight-year-old daughter, who has inherited her uncle’s madness. Dan wasn’t as sold on the book, being a fan of Carpenter’s vision for the franchise which involved moving past Michael Meyers. That disagreement didn’t matter anymore now. Looking down at the book, he realized today was the first time in a while that he’d thought about his film school days.

Then George spotted a novel he’d recognized. He’d read American Gothic as a teenager. It was about this guy named H. H. Holmes who had a literal torture chamber in his house. Even cooler to George, was it was based on real incidents. Dr. Holmes Murder Castle was a factual account of the real-life case by the same author of American Gothic, the same author he was going to meet tonight. He hadn’t read the factual account and decided to buy both books. After paying and putting both books in his bag, he went into the now open auditorium. 

The topic of tonight’s special presentation was the history of the horror film, presented by the man George sought to meet, Robert Bloch. George was growing to like this author’s work, but initially wondered why Bloch was presenting on this topic, since he had little if anything to do with horror movies. As the author was introduced, George now realized, per the MC’s introduction, that Bloch wrote television episodes for scary shows George liked, such as Monsters, Tales of the Unexpected, and Darkroom. Not only that, but he also wrote episodes of the original Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. The MC joked that Robert Bloch had the heart of a young boy, which he keeps in a jar on his desk. This elicited laughter from the audience and Robert Bloch took the stage.

After receiving a warm reception, the author graciously thanked the convention for having him, then jested “You were too cheap to ask Stephen King and you knew I needed lunch money.” The audience laughed some more. George was not expecting to find the master of psycho tales to be cracking jokes, but there he was.

Naturally, Bloch began his lecture with the golden age of horror of the 1930’s and 40’s. He pointed out how the classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were all foreigners, and/or characters from European folklore. Then in the 50’s you had the nuclear monsters in the wake of the atomic bomb. George remembered watching those movies. His dad and his sister used to like them too. George remembered the time he covered himself with a blanket trying to scare his sister while they watched The Blob. He rolled over to her in his disguise and Helen just laughed hysterically.

There wasn’t as much to cover in the 1960s, but Bloch noted that the 1970s brought a pronounced change. George cheered ferociously at the mention of 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Hearing such an exuberant response, Bloch pointed to George and said, “I bet you loved the sequel, The Tennessee Slumber Party.” to which George and everyone else howled in laughter. Bloch went on to explain how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was about a group of hillbillies in rural Texas. The lead villain, a deformed character named Saw-man, dispatched random motorists with his trusty chainsaw. George wished with all his heart that that movie could have turned into a series. In his mind it could have stood up there with the modern franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, and his beloved Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, in the real world, a sequel never came.

Bloch’s point about Chainsaw was, while it was not a big hit, it marked a new trend of homegrown American horror, scary stories not of a foreign or alien menace, but of your neighbor, the guy next door. Other movies mentioned included Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, which Bloch joked was followed by the sequel the Woods have Noses. Bloch theorized that in the wake of the Manson murders and the social unrest of the 1960s, audiences were developing a taste for real life and brutality in their horror. George was never academic about his fandom, but he was unsure of Bloch’s theory. After all, as the author himself had said, the aforementioned films were not big hits.

Halloween was mentioned, which brought about a big cheer. “If you remember, the first two Halloween movies were not about ghosts and werewolves,” Bloch reminded the audience. “It was about a boy, Michael Myers, who was a psychotic killer. Michael Myers wasn’t from another country or from outer space, he was from any-town USA. Now, hearing the cheers in this crowd, assuming you’re not cheering for me,” to which the audience laughed again, “these movies obviously found an audience.” Another cheer erupted as Bloch continued, “but the truth was these weren’t very successful movies when you look at the box office. Now if you look in the last decade, we seemed to have taken the idea of the home-grown threat and brought it back to the monster. If you look at Halloween, it did inspire a sub-genre known as the slasher, with movies like the Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but they weren’t huge hits like 1980’s Friday the 13th with its Jersey Devil, or films like CHUD, Critters, or the Thing remake. You did have Nightmare on Elm Street, with Freddy Kreuger being slasher-esque, but he’s also like a ghost, more supernatural. Halloween itself got away from the slasher genre it helped create in its later installments, bringing in witches and ghosts and werewolves. Reportedly the next entry of that series is going to involve vampires. I have an idea for the following one though.” He then suggested, pointing his finger up in the air, “It should be about Jack the Ripper!” Again, the audience laughed, especially from those familiar with Bloch’s frequent works involving the infamous London serial killer.

“What will the 90s bring to horror cinema,” Bloch asked as he reached the end of his speech, “who knows? Sequels for all the big franchises are still in the works, but undoubtedly a new generation will come along with new characters that will make us Scream.“

After dinner Dan and Victoria sat in on a presentation on entertainment law. The presenter was a lawyer who specialized in the entertainment business. Dan wouldn’t say it out loud, but she looked like she could be a movie star herself. She was quite attractive, with a special poise and intelligence about her, similar to what Dan saw in Victoria.

When the presentation ended the woman stayed to take questions from the audience. As Dan and Victoria approached, the woman greeted Dan with a smile, saying, “Nice shirt.”

Dan looked down at his Halloween shirt that he totally forgot he was wearing. “Thanks.” he said. Then looking back up at her he asked. “Are you a Halloween fan?”

“Yeah, I got a soft spot for the original.” The lawyer revealed. “Actually, I auditioned for a role in it.”

“Wait what!?!” Dan and Victoria were both surprised as Dan asked. “You were an actress?”

“Well, my mother was.” The woman said. “You probably never heard of her. Janet Leigh?” 

Dan drew a blank, but Victoria recognized that name. “Oh, I know her, she was in the Manchurian Candidate and Angels in the Outfield!”

“That’s right!” The woman said, pleasantly surprised.

“And she was in Touch of Fear!” Victoria added enthusiastically.

“The Orson Wells classic.” The woman said, then pointing at Victoria, she said to Dan. “That’s a smart girl you have there.” 

“Thanks,” Dan said, “she’s the best.” 

“Aww that’s so sweet.” The woman said, admiring the young couple’s affection for each other.

“So, you tried to be an actress?” Victoria asked.

“Well, when I was young the acting bug got me, so I dropped out of law school to give it a shot. My big break never came through.” she explained, revealing no remorse over her path in life. “Eventually I went back to school, became an entertainment lawyer, and here I am!”

“That’s really cool.” Victoria said. “Do you ever regret it, not getting to act?”

“Sometimes I think about it, but I like what I’m doing.” she answered.  “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take another stab at it!” she said laughing while thrusting her hand in a stabbing motion. “In the meantime, if you ever need representation here is my card.”

Both Dan and Victoria took her business card. Dan looked down to read it aloud. “Jamie Curtis.” Looking up he said, “Well it was nice to meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too!” Jamie Curtis said. She smiled as the young couple walked away. The lawyer then turned to chat with the last few people remaining in the room.

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