FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 18, 2008

When you’re six no one can hear you scream

by Chris Thieke for the HISBSCFD Blog-a-Thon!

This is a long story that happened a long time ago. It’s about the movie Alien. It is one big SPOILER.

It was raining one Saturday afternoon in 1979 and my Dad asked if I wanted to go to the movies. I put down my Ranger Rick magazine and said sure. I was six years old and we were going to see whatever Disney movie was playing at the Gateway cinema at the time. That was the plan. The Gateway was a very small cinema two towns away. The theatre was full of kids. Since it was a rainy and a Saturday, the Disney movie was sold out.

My dad was a little disappointed. This place was far and he didn’t want to just turn around and go home. He said “let’s see what else is playing”. I left it up to him. The options were slim.

He figured I was ga-ga for all that Star Wars stuff. This movie called Alien was playing in a ½ hour. Alien huh? That seems like it takes place in space my dad thought. The kid will like that. Right up
his alley. We’ll try that one. “Two tickets for The Alien” my dad said to the ticket guy.

Now I’m sure you all have seen Alien. To my dad’s credit he was just going by the poster hanging in the
lobby. It was just a glowing space egg. Also this is the 1970’s. Movies had ratings, but nobody paid much
attention to them I guess. If you want to bring your six year old kid to a movie like Alien, mister be my

Going to the movies for a six year old is a big deal. You’re in a big room with people sitting in the
dark watching something like a big TV set. I had probably only been to the movies a few times in my
life before this. Two times to see Star Wars and I think I saw Dumbo . I knew the drill but my dad went
over it with me again anyway. “No talking during the movie. If you get bored, try to sleep.” I remember
saying something like “if it’s about space it should be great.” Then the credits started.

Now if you’ve seen Alien you know it’s a little slow at first. Takes about 30 minutes or so to get going.
There are no laser shootouts, no storm troopers, and no talking robots. It’s just a bunch of grownups, in a
spaceship. I must have yawned or fidgeted in my seat and my dad asked ” you want to go?” Then the
Nostromo’s alarm starts going off and there was trouble. I shook my head and said “no.”

Needless to say, the grownups in the movie land on this strange planet. Then they go into a giant scary
space ship. See some scary stuff and one of them gets this weird thing stuck to his face. Some swear words
are said (shouted) and now it’s my dad fidgeting in his chair. My dad is not a guy who swears a lot (mom
is). Should a kid be hearing this? He probably thought. Some more stuff happens then the thing falls
off the guy’s face and everything seems to be fine. Seems to be any ways.

So now the grownups are eating lunch and joking around. Then the guy with the face thing starts
choking and going into a fit. And before my dad can say “ you want to go?” the alien burst out of the guys
stomach. I had never seen anything like that before. Totally unexpected and there was blood everywhere. I
wasn’t too grossed out thought. Just shocked. The blood, the grown ups in the movie screaming, the folks
in the theatre (including my dad) hollering. Nobody could believe it. Is the guy choking? Then blam-mo! My dad tried to cover my eyes but I slapped his hand away. I remember asking very loudly “ is that man
going to be okay?” The lady behind us leaned forward and said “it’s just pretend. In real life that man is
fine. He’s just an actor.” That seemed to make a lot of sense to me after a minute or so and I calmed down
a little. My dad asked if I wanted to leave and I said “no it’s just pretend.” This seemed to satisfy him
and we watched some more. Parent of the year … the Academy is calling.

I’m glad we stuck around though. Then this movie got really good. Lots of running around dark hallways,
more swearing, and people getting caught by the alien. Every time someone got snagged by the alien (which was now as big a person) the lady behind me would say “just pretend.” The thing that was bothering me the
most though , was not seeing the alien for very long. That made me mad. What did this thing look like?

The movie continues and one of the grown ups freaks out and starts trying to kill the other grown ups. Then he gets his head knocked off (“just pretend”) and milk starts shooting out of him instead of blood? What
the hell? Do I have milk in me instead of blood ? Being six, I drank a lot of milk.

Then there is a lot more running around, screaming, swears, and killing of grown ups. There was also a cat. I remember thinking “I don’t care about what happens to these people. Nothing bad better happen to that cat.” Then the last grown up and the cat escape. The big ship does a Death Star and blows up and everything seems fine.

Then Ripley looks all relieved. Pets the cat then starts taking her clothes off (another movie first for me). Dad’s hand tries to cover my eyes again. The poor guy. He innocently takes his kid to a R rated sci-fi
movie that’s at first sort of dull, full of bad words, people getting ripped apart by a monster, and now he’s
going to have to explain boobies too? Needless to say it’s just a lady in her underwear. No big deal and dad
is relieved.

Until … it turns out the monster is in there with her. In this little room. Everyone in the theatre is
going ape shit. Yelling at the screen “ run lady! “ or “ holy shit!” This was the scariest moment yet for me. Needless to say she kills the alien (which you finally get to see) and she goes to sleep. The movie ends and
my dad gets our coats. We walk to the parking lot and get in the car. As soon as the door closes my dad
asked “ did you like it?” I went “yeah it was scary. Is that cat okay?” he told me “ the cat’s fine. He asked if I had any other questions about the movie? “Am I made of milk?” My dad started the car and said no. He also made me promise to tell mom we saw the Disney movie. Permission to lie. Another first, on this great day of firsts.

Seeing Alien when I did left some weird after effects. Some bad but most were good. As far as the bad went milk was off table for a week or so. Yuck. That’s robot blood. My dad was afraid I’d have nightmares but I didn’t. I slept with a flashlight in my hand for a few days but no nightmares. We also had a cat that constantly hid in the basement. My sister used to go down in the dark basement to get the cat
all the time. I was convinced I was going to be an only child soon. Or worse, she’d walk upstairs with a
parasite on her face.

I used to try to draw the alien constantly. My mom thought there was something wrong with me. “Where
do you get this stuff? That thing looks crazy. Draw something nice like a house or a dog.” I’d then draw
the alien sitting on a house or chasing a dog. I also remember having a poster of the alien on my wall. I
got the Alien action figure (a major score). Too bad I lost it at the beach on a trip out to Cape Cod to my
never-ending chagrin. I borrowed the movie adaptation book for Alien from the library (never gave it back).
I had the graphic novel (the movie in comic book form) and the Behind the Scenes book on how they made the movie. Even the whole set of trading cards. Everything, and anything that had to do with the movie
Alien I had to get. Still have most of that stuff on my bookshelf. Star Wars was great but I was obsessed
with Alien. It made me the nerd I am today.

Since then anytime I see a scary movie I want that jolt that Alien gave me. Sometimes I get the jolt and
sometimes not so much. Seeing Alien when I did was one of the great movie going moments of my life. The above description is bare bones at best. Those were just the details I remembered best from seeing it the first
time. After seeing Alien a bunch times since I still notice something new every time. But I’d have to say
seeing it the first time at that tender age was the best.


Anonymous said...

Wow great story. Thanks! Reminds me of when I saw a Space 1999 episode where they dock with a ghost ship and all these tentacles come out of it. Except that I had nightmares for weeks!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Great story... well told! I also remember being confused as a child when I first saw Ash get his head knocked off.

Anonymous said...

Great piece! And you reminded me of the Alien action figure. Too cool. One of my favorite toys back then.

Natazzz said...

the hell? Do I have milk in me instead of blood ? Being six, I drank a lot of milk.

*Snigger* Thanks for that.

Great story, it made me think of all the stuff my parents let me watch years before I should have.

adrien said...

When I was six it was '81 and I recall three movies I saw around that time that scared the bejeezus out of me:

Hell Night, both on cable.
Let's Scare Jessica to Death, on Elvira's Movie Macabre.

Just 2 years prior my gramndma took me to see The Buck Rogers movie and I had to leave the theater because I got too scared.

Chris Cooke said...

A round of applause - the best review I have read in many moons.

And thanks for reminding me of the excellent Alien Graphic novel that came out at the time - I too had that, it had loads of differences that were no doubt in the original script.

Elsa said...

That perfectly captured the sense of watching these things as a child.

And I'm a tiny bit in love with That Lady In The Next Row. "Just pretend."