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One Last Scare

By: onipar

By Anthony J. Rapino

October 1992 was my last Halloween in Brooklyn. Had I known I’d be moving to Pennsylvania in the Spring, perhaps I would have rethought the peculiar decision to forego trick or treating for the first time in my young life.

I couldn’t tell you what caused my twelve-year-old brain to suddenly go on the fritz and decide to skip the very best part of Halloween. It could be that I felt like I was too old to trick or treat (though once in Pennsylvania, I resumed the tradition until I was fifteen). I remember being bullied in junior high, so it’s possible some of the kids made fun of me, causing me to skip trick or treating. Or maybe I saw something on television that give me the idea.

Unfortunately, my memory of the events isn’t clear enough to recall the why, but I do remember the how.

At that younf age, I didn’t yet self-identify as a horror fan. I liked horror movies, sure. Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and Jason Voorhees were pervasive in the media. Halloween was basically every kid’s favorite holiday until Christmas rolled around. And I always gravitated to the dark and spooky.

Still, if someone had asked me, “Are you a horror fan,” my response would have probably sounded something like, “I guess?”

So when I gathered my friends and brother together a week before the big day and explained my plan, they were shocked.

Mike, my brother, said, “So no trick or treating?”

“Right. No trick or treating.”

“And instead of getting free candy,” my friend Yury interrupted, “we’re going to rent horror movies and stay in all night?”

“Exactly.”

My brother, looking less than convinced, rephrased his first question, “So no candy?”

I thought this point over because it had also been on my mind. “Well, we can ask mom and dad to buy some.”

“Not the same,” Jimmy said, pulling at the sleeves of his shirt, obviously uncomfortable with the whole idea.

And he was right. It wasn’t the same. But that was the whole point. Even at twelve, I’d started to realize all of the previous Halloweens had blended together into a single ball of melted candy. There were identifiable bits here and there. A piece of Snicker’s bar that represented the elementary school Halloween party from a few years back. The smooshed Three Musketeers that was our dreary rained-out Halloween two years prior. But even those memorable moments, I’d realized, were created because they were different. They stood out.

I rallied. “You’re right. It’s not the same, and that’s the whole point. We’ve never had a horror movie marathon before. We can get candy, and maybe mom will make a pie, and we’ll watch scary movies and play video games. We can do an intermission with that spooky sounds tape you got at the drugstore, Yury. And we can tell scary stories while we listen to it!”

With every word, with every new detail, my friends’ eyes grew wider. They began to smile. They were becoming convinced.

Mike looked around and saw which way the tide was turning. He was the youngest of us by three years and missing out on tricks or treats was most keenly felt by him. Finally, he said, “As long as we can still have candy, I’m in.”

#

As it turned out, my parents had no problem buying a few bags of our favorites: Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Payday, and Baby Ruth. My friends promised to round out the sugary smorgasbord with some essential variety packs. We had candy corn, Nerds, Milk Duds, and more. My mom even made good on the pumpkin pie, and pizza was set to be delivered. That only left the movies.

We headed out before dusk to walk up to Bath Avenue, but even then, little kids were out with their parents going door to door. Children dressed as pumpkins, Sesame Street characters, and superheroes cavorted across gum-speckled cement. Orange lights began to snap on in nearby windows. Jack-o’-lanterns were placed on stoops to greet the children. A chill of regret ran through me, but I chose to pretend it was the autumn air cutting through my light jacket.  

Mike, only nine years old, stuck close to my side. Yury and Jimmy walked ahead, setting a brisk pace, maybe hungry for the pizza and candy waiting back at my apartment. Just as we were walking past the Genovese drug store, a kid popped out from an alleyway. He wore a sinister grin and horror show makeup. Before I knew what was happening, the kid laughed manically and threw an egg at me.

I didn’t have a chance to move. The white bomb flew in what seemed slow motion. I braced for an explosion of goo, but the egg only skimmed my arm and landed in a useless crumble on the pavement.

The kid’s eyes showed all white. Our foursome stared back. In the quietude of that single moment of shock, a child’s scream of faux-terror from down the road set us back in motion. The attacker ran off so fast I could swear I saw a twin skid marks where his feet kicked off.

We did not give chase. It was Halloween after all, and close encounters of the ovum kind were expected. Besides, we had a date with Quality 1 Video.

#

Walking into a video store was always an awe-inspiring experience. In those days, getting to rent a single movie a week was a lot. So the chance to rent not one, but two movies for a single night was unheard of in my household. The fear was we wouldn’t have time to watch both before the rental was due back, and we didn’t exactly have money to throw away.

I was momentarily waylaid by the Nintendo rentals. They had a few of the horror-themed games out to tempt us (Monster Party, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street) but we only had enough money for the movies that night. Besides, I had Fester’s Quest at home.

I was of course intimately familiar with nearly every horror VHS tape on the shelf. A pastime of mine on those long days when no one could come out to play was to peruse the video store shelves. I’d have no money, but the VHS art called out to me, and the horror tapes were always the best. Movies like Creepers and Chopping Mall would grab hold of my young mind until grey matter oozed between the figurative fingers.

After some debate, we decided on perhaps two of the worst choices in history. The Lawnmower Man and Troll 2.

Yes, that Troll 2.

I had seen Troll before, and I loved the movie. It was creepy, and weird, and gross. So of course I assumed Troll 2 was the sequel, not some awful, low budget affair that had nothing to do with the original movie. But of course, that’s exactly what it was: a terrible movie so dumb, twelve-year-old me could have written and directed it.

Our little gang of tradition-breakers headed home with the movies just as the sun was setting and older kids were coming out to pillage the community. Again, I felt that familiar pang of regret. This year there would be no plastic treat bag filled with candy and coin. But it didn’t matter because our night was just getting started.

Back at the apartment, we settled in for our marathon. I had planned a number of activities, but as it turned out, the movies, candy, food, and good company would sustain us. Besides a short intermission to carve jack-o’-lanterns, we mostly stuck to the movies, making fun of the silly town of Nilbog, laughing at every new scene of absurdity. Still, we loved every moment of it, because by then we were well-versed in camp. The Toxic Avenger, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Ghoulies had prepared us well.

#

That Halloween was atypical, but I don’t regret my decision. It was the first of many horror movie marathons, but it’s also one of the most memorable. Had I gone trick or treating that night, I’m not so sure I’d have such vivid memories of the experience. It would have blended in with all those other nights, just another hunk of melted chocolate in the amorphous pile.

I missed one night of trick or treating and replaced it with a lifelong memory.

My last scare in Brooklyn.  

www.anthonyjrapino.com

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onipar Posted on Nov 11, 2021 at 11:41 PM

Thanks, Ben! I still have a soft spot for The Lawnmower Man. Not sure I ever saw the director's cut, and I *definitely* didn't know there was a video game! Gotta check that out.

Benjanime Posted on Nov 11, 2021 at 06:39 PM

speaking of the lawnmower man, i had only ever known about the SNES video game adaptation through my childhood and only got to see the movie years later in my adulthood finding out what it was about. apparently some scenes were cut out to give a better run time for the film, and i'm glad i finally got to see the director's cut, but i'd be darned if i couldn't agree with all the other critics with how slow the pacing of the movie was, even with version we got on vhs and laserdisc. so interesting to see such an early transition from trick or treating to immediately watching movie marathons, i wish i was that lucky lol. great and fun read!

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