The place where I hide from Jehovah’s Witnesses was built in 1890. Most parts of the house, you can’t see the 19th century, but were you to slip down into the basement (which is actually pretty easy to do considering it’s just a gaping hole in my kitchen floor), you would see a dirt floor, aged wooden beams, and walls made of absolutely massive slabs of granite that, like most of our ancient stone structures, must have taken alien technology to build. I just need Vincent Price and an iron maiden down there to complete the dungeon effect. All in all, it’s a pretty spooky place and, I realized recently, the perfect venue for watching a horror movie.
So late one night this past week, my wife and I made some popcorn, grabbed the baby monitor and a pumpkin spice candle, and trudged down into the depths. It’s the kind of scene where one’s supposed to say, “I’ll be right back.”
I had been agonizing (actually not too strong a word, believe it or not) over which horror movie we should watch at the grand opening of our basement theater. Certainly a classic would have been fun, but, honestly, the whole purpose of watching a movie down there was to creep me out and terrify my wife. To accomplish the latter is pretty easy and takes little more than me coming up with ideas like watching a movie in our basement. The former takes a bit, and my only chance at it was to see something new. After all, as great as the horror classics are, at this point in my fandom they’re like the old friends I went to college with more than the menaces to my psyche they should be.
|A place to bury the bodies is an important |
consideration when buying a house.
That night, though, it seemed we had a sign from above. Literally. It started raining like crazy earlier in the evening, and you and I both know that rainy nights were made for horror movies (see Genesis 1:4). Since our basement has those small windows that are level with the ground outside (a disconcerting little arrangement that has me constantly looking for a pair of feet walking past that, for some reason, always wear wingtips in my imagination), we were able to open those up and add some "dark and stormy night" atmosphere to an event that was already clogged with it.
Anyway, to take advantage of the rain, we chose the only Netflix movie we had on hand, which was a horror movie. I would say “fortunately happened to be,” but we’ve already rearranged our queue for Halloween, so the chances were pretty good. It turned out to be Dark Mirror, an IFC film from 2007 about a woman who is haunted by a dark presence in the new house her family just bought. I was hoping the house had a basement.
First, it was filmed in Los Angeles...and not in the way that John Carpenter's Halloween or Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street was filmed in L.A. and then dressed up to appear to be somewhere actually capable of supernatural creepiness. It was unabashedly filmed in L.A. Palm trees, bright sunlight, brand new and extremely bland houses, a character who is an actress. In fact, most of this movie takes place in the brightest light, even a lot of the parts meant to be the most tense. I mean, L.A. has its place in movies (like 80s comedies), but, with rare exception, it’s not that great a city to set a horror film.
Still, there were certainly times when the perverse imp of my imagination ignored the movie and went to find its own entertainment. The half the basement not illuminated by the projector was in absolute primordial blackness, and it was easy to imagine some fiend emerging from it (not Vince Price, though, for some reason…someone more slobbery, bloody, and gibbering). However, the practical part of my head knew from experience that anybody who tried to navigate that area of the basement in the dark would bust their head on a duct, slam their gut on the weight bench, or run afoul of any number of pipe protrusions. Heck, I do that regularly with the lights on. Of course, none of that would stop a ghost, but for some reason, I’ve always felt I could kick a ghost’s ass.
It’s been a few days, and all that stuff is still down there. Part of me wants to leave it set up and try again with a better movie, but I’m not sure I can convince my wife to give it another try. I don’t blame her. Wait. Yes, I do. This post would have been 7,000 times better had it ended with one or both of us screaming up the stairs, rushing for the remote, and turning on the Disney Channel to banish all scary thoughts. Yeah, though I walk through the basement of the shadow of death, your Phineas and Ferb, they comfort me. I’m in the Band, too.
|From the trailers, the movie we should have watched, I guess.|