Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

When the Boo Zombie Bites

Of course it was right at the clown scene. Our neighbor had invited us to his Halloween party and we stopped by briefly after an fun but long afternoon and early evening of trick or treating.

"We're playing scary movies and just hanging out," he said. "Thanks for stopping by. And thank you for the pumpkin ale!"

Beatrice fixated on the computer monitor -- eyes wide open. The scared little boy from Poltergeist had just covered the clown on his chair (the original movie from 1982, not the remake).

"Stop watching that, Bea," I said.

Our neighbor paused the movie. "Sorry, I'll stop it for now."

"No, don't," said Bea. "I want to see it. What happens?"

What happens is that you'll be scared to death, my dear, I thought.

But she's already been bit by the boo zombie and it's spreading to her heart and head. We should have seen it coming; Beatrice has always loved many of the Disney villain characters and she's dressed up as Ursula and Maleficent for past Halloweens. And although she wasn't a villain, Bea loved Disgust, one of the emotion characters from Inside Out, and dressed up as her this year. Plus, she likes an odd Tim Burton-esque animated series called The New Adventures of Figaro Pho (about fear of all different kinds of stuff).

Bryce on the other hand is all puppies and kitties and unicorns with a princess on top. Always. No scary things here, please. Unless she's hungry and grumpy. Then she becomes a monster of a whole other genre -- the Brycinator. Once satiated, the princess takes back the throne.

The week before Halloween this year we went to a mask making festival where the girls made their own colorful masks. While the experience was light and fun, they did have a room set up with the gross touch boxes -- food items pretending to be body parts to touch and be grossed out by. We did go in there and but only Beatrice enjoyed it. The Mama did it too, kind of, but me and Bryce stayed clear. 

In another room they had a haunted house set up, and Bea begged to go into it. We told her over and over again that she would be scared to death. That was enough to convince her (for now).

The last time the Mama and I went to a haunted house for big kids was at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was way back in 1998 -- and that was enough to last three lifetimes. The last scary movie the Mama and I watched with intention was The Blair Witch Project. It literally scared the crap out of us. Those who continuously indulge in the horror genre find this movie mild at best today, but for us it was freaking intense. After that, we were done. No harm, no more fouling up our brains with this garbage. 

Yes, we grew up with scary and were weaned on the likes of Halloween, Friday the 13th and many other bloody others. The earliest film scare for me was a little known TV show called Circle of Fear from 1972-1973. I also remember being mesmerized while horrified by the George Romero films Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and the campy trilogy end Day of the Dad. Not to mention the The Evil Dead romps. I was also a huge Stephen King fan, but his novels never translated well to film.

The boo zombie bites have always infected that primal desire to poke at millions of years of fight-or-flight evolution with pointed sticks until our pleasure centers swell full of sticky bittersweet fear.

The irony here is that I grew to despise all things zombie as I got older. Everything about them. My creep factor went through the roof and just the idea of zombies practically made me wet myself. At least figuratively. Even the comedy Shaun of the Dead freaked me out.

I never thought in a million frickin' years I'd watch another zombie show. But a year and a half ago while traveling for business, my boo zombie bite from decades earlier festered and compelled me feverishly to watch The Walking Dead pilot on Netflix.

And I was hooked. I couldn't look away. The Mama and I have always loved end-of-world stories, so it wasn't that much of a stretch; I got her hooked as well and we binged until we caught up with the real-time AMC series. It was just about getting past the zombie gore. But once past it, the writing and characters and survival plot has been blowing us away ever since.

Back to Halloween this year. While we didn't dress up like zombies or The Walking Dead characters, instead reprising our safe roles as Han Solo and Princess Leia (the new Star Wars movie is coming out soon for those not keeping score at home), we have a rediscovered respect for compelling story with splashes of horrid scare. And Bea finally got hers (age appropriate of course).

"Can we please go into the haunted house?" Bea asked. We had just finished Halloween story time at Trader Joe's. This year the store actually had a benign, family friendly haunted house set up for kids.

"Are you sure you want to go in there?" I asked her.

"I checked and they said no one pops out at you," the Mama said.

"Things pop out?" asked Bea.

"No, honey. They don't."

"You still want to do it?"


Bea's voice was tentative yet determined. So we waited in line and went. Just me and Bea. Bryce was having none of that nonsense and stayed with the Mama. Bea gripped my hand, and for a spit second she nearly pulled me back, but then we were in.

It was a little dark with stormy sound effects and creaks and groans. The scenes included a witch stirring a glowing orange brew and a banjo playing skeleton with glowing eyes and a sidekick human with a painted skeleton face who smiled ear to ear. There was also a body-part touching room too, but Bea had already satiated that desire by having her own gross boxes for her class, complete with zombie brains (spaghetti and pumpkin guts), witch eyeballs (peeled grapes), vampire ears (dried apricots in oil), and ghost poop (cotton balls).

Ghost poop. Who knew?

That's the thing -- when the boo zombie bites we're all in for the afterlife.  

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