This Thanksgiving, the US will experience a remake of one of the most harrowing movies of the 1980s. It’s a movie that leaves me cowering in terror, plotting escape routes, and leave me with flashbacks of all the nightmares I had as a child. In other words, it’s my ‘Nam.
So what is this terrifying piece of film? Red Dawn.
Seriously, stop laughing.
If there’s one thing about me that’s both a blessing and a curse, it would be the fact that I have a very overactive imagination. I couldn’t shut my brain off even if I tried. I have actually had the following thoughts: machines will rise up, led by a demonic semi featuring the Green Goblin, and they will destroy everyone I love; a demonic midget clown named Chuckles is watching and waiting to pounce upon me and steal my soul; and the troll from Troll lives in the woods and will attack me whenever I walk outside at night.
I couldn’t even babysit as a teen without plotting escape routes in the event that murderous robbers broke into the house and started murdering everyone. Never mind the fact that I was babysitting for two cops, who could probably handle themselves in such a situation.
But the worst, most terrible nightmares I had as a child stemmed from the Cold War, especially the Star Wars program. It’s funny, I wasn’t even a glimmer in my father’s eye when schoolchildren in the US were forced to endure air raid drills in the event of nuclear attack. (By the way, what good would hiding under your desk do if you’re vaporized?? Schools should have been teaching yoga so kids would be flexible enough to kiss their butts goodbye.)
If you asked me now what Star Wars was all about, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I just knew it was something to do with satellites and was not to be confused with the George Lucas films. But hearing about it night after night as my parents watched World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, I knew that it was not going to be good if shit got real.
I never said a word to anyone about my terror. At that point, I was just worried that the world was a seriously dangerous place and kept thinking that I may have been better off had I been born a street urchin in Edwardian England. Especially if I could have worked for Sherlock Holmes, but I’m a geek like that.
So, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, I was only slightly crazy at that point. What moved me over the boundaries from Kookyland into Bat Crap Crazy Town was my family’s Friday night movie night movie ritual.
It’s funny, I can tell you exactly what my dad rented that night, besides Red Dawn. I remember, because the night started off great with the classic Disney film The Gnome Mobile (and if you were cool enough to have seen that at any point in your life, you are now singing the theme song).
The movie was a great way to unwind from a stressful week in second grade, so I had no qualms when I my dad put in the next film. Of course, that peace only lasted for a few minutes, as the intro of the film left me more chilled than even the most horrific of horror movies has ever managed to do. Honestly.
After the initial outbreak of Russian terrorism, I burrowed myself into the couch, hiding my head under a pillow, then cocooning myself inside a blanket. I didn’t see another shot from the film. But I heard every shot, death, order in Russian, and shout of “Wolverines!”
I’m getting goosebumps just writing this.
The film left an indelible scar upon my brain, which continued to haunt me each time I fell asleep. My first nightmare is the most vivid.
My brother and I were at my great-grandmother’s home, where we spent most of our childhood. We were hanging out in the backyard, goofing around per usual.
And then the planes started flying low overhead. We watched as parachutes fell, depositing raging Russians hellbent on American destruction in the neighborhood around us.
Fortunately, my brother and I acted quickly. It was well known that my granny slept with a machete under her mattress and kept an arsenal of rusty hatchets and axes in her shed (seriously, she did). So, we armed ourselves and hid in the backyard, killing any Commie who tried to climb the 6-foot wooden privacy fence.
Around that point, I woke up in a panic. Instead of realizing that it was just a dream, I would look around my darkened bedroom plotting how to survive if the Russians were currently lurking in the dark outside my home waiting to blow a hole in me. My favorite plan was to hide in a footlocker that sat at the foot of my bunk bed and served as a toy box. I’d cower in there among the Legos and Barbies, trying my darndest not to breathe too loudly and give my location away.
For the next few years, until the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR disintegrated, I would panic every time an airplane flew low overhead. Doubly so if it actually was a military airplane.
And funny enough, I don’t think that’s weird. Well, too weird.
About 25 years have passed since that first nightmare, so I thought that enough time had passed for me to realize how ridiculous the whole situation was. When the trailer for the remake popped up last week, I thought I could give it a watch and laugh at the absurdity of the plot – I mean seriously, North Koreans with a super weapon that shuts off our electronics? Actually, wait. That would really suck. I bet they wouldn’t like me too much, what with my love of South Korea, especially Lee Byung Hun. Crap, I’m doomed.
But I digress.
I pulled up the trailer, expecting that I would have no issues with the film. I mean, seriously, it stars Thor, Peeta and Josh from “Drake & Josh.” It’s gotta be a great big ball o’ cheese, right?
I couldn’t even watch the whole trailer.
Once it got to the shot of parachutes falling from the sky, my flashbacks ramped right up, and I had to shut off the video and leave my office.
In other words, I’m still Queen of the Megaweenies.
When they start running the trailer on TV this fall, I’m going to be so screwed. Nightmares every night, I tell you. And what can I do about it? Nothing short of moving to my own island and starting Mindayland.
Maybe Captain America will come save me.