It was most likely 1982. One late night I was staying at my Granny and Granddaddy’s house on James Island. Aside from scarfing down any food my grandmama set in front of me or drawing pictures of monsters and cats, I was likely flipping through the cable TV guide looking for horror movies to watch on either HBO or the late, great Movie Channel.
One particular film I was searching for was Max Kalmanowicz’s The Children, a movie about children that turn into atomic zombies that can melt their parents just by hugging them. Sounds awesome right? Heaven knows the picture of pale, smiling kids with their arms outstretched for radioactive hugs had me sold. According to the grid, The Movie Channel was going to show it around two in the morning. If I set my alarm clock, I could probably sneak out of my grandparents’ guest bedroom and watch this piece of greatness for myself.
That night I attempted to fall asleep but couldn’t do it. I was worried I would sleep through the alarm. As the minutes trudged by, before I knew it, it was 2 o’clock. The little alarm wailed for a split second before my hand muffled it. I could hear Grandaddy snoring in the next room. With that, I crept slowly toward the living room, using a night light in the dining room as my guide. I could somewhat make out the silhouette of my grandparent’s Zenith. I really wanted to flip on a light to see what I was doing, but I knew one flicker could wake up Granny and I definitely didn’t want to incur her wrath.
I could only imagine the greatness I was about to witness — little kids my age hugging their parents — to death!
I slowly sat in front of the television. I quietly turned the TV knob to the “on” position. The box let out a quick hum before the image popped onto the screen. As it came into view, I could see an ad for channel five news with future Best of Charleston winner Bill Sharpe’s smiling visage all up in my tiny grill. I looked at the cable box that rested upon the TV. I quietly pressed the correct button so it wouldn’t make the loud click sound it sometimes made. Success … kinda.
The image on the screen was showing some older kids in a truck and then some smiley girl with a backpack in a truck with an older grumpy guy yelling at her about a camp and saying, “Quit!”
I looked at the screen, confused. I realized, after a minute of sleuthing (aka re-reading the cable guide) that The Children was actually set to air the next day. The movie listed as currently showing was something called Friday the 13th. I was about as crestfallen as a nerd-in-training could get.
That feeling quickly floated away when I glanced back at the screen. The smiley girl had just leapt out of a moving Jeep. She was hobbling through the woods. The music whispering through the speakers let me know some bad stuff was about to happen. Before too long, the smiley girl was leaning against a tree. Then something too gruesome for description happened on screen before fading to a white screen. I was stunned. My little kid eyes couldn’t believe what they’d just witnessed. I didn’t know what this Friday the 13th was but I knew right then and there I needed to see more of it.
“What the hell are you watching and why are you up?” a gruff voice muttered behind me. I was already feeling fear but that voice only made the fear more intense. I’m pretty sure I peed myself a little. It was Granny. She had apparently fallen asleep on the couch. Playtime was over. I was busted.
“I don’t know,” was the only thing I could utter.
“You know you’re not supposed to be up this late and watching scary movies. Go to bed.”
I trudged away. My plan to watch a movie about radioactive children failed and was replaced by another, potentially scarier movie, this Friday the 13th.
How long would I have to wait to see it?
No cliffhangers here: I saw it a week later, thanks to a neighborhood friend with less strict parents and a sweet cable TV package.
That little-known film featuring a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon and shocking gore effects by Tom Savin will return to theaters for a limited engagement this Oct. 4, 6 and 7 as a Fathom Event at the Regal Azalea Square 16 in Summerville. Learn more at fathomevents.com.