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My Tried and True Comfort Movies

When most kids in their early-teens arrive home from a grudgingly long day, I assume they must form small gangs, raid the streets in droves, and suck down countless whippets.

I can only imagine the sound of their parents credit cards incessantly swiping followed by maniacal laughter.

Clearly spoken like someone who does not know what it is that teens actually do. Mysterious little fools living an odd and painful existence; trapped between the two worlds of “freedom” and “responsibility.”

It was during this time that your mildly humble author relished in arriving home from prison, err ahem, high school and popping in a movie that soothed all those terrible memories of rank locker rooms and long hallways brimming with hormones by the literal metric ton.

Instead of the aforementioned, and probably wildly incorrect, whippet heavy scenario, I instead was roaming the aisles of my neighborhood video store. I submerged myself in movies that would soon become cornerstones in my film education.

However, as was for everyone, I found myself revisiting some of the same flicks more often than I did others.

Why, the birthing of my everlasting comfort movies was indeed afoot.

I must say, I ran a choice selection of tapes beyond ragged. I was blessed to finding myself coming to cinematic maturity between the twilight of VHS and the dawning of DVD. Remember the time when you could pick out a movie and rent it on whichever platform you pleased?

Aw, yeah, I miss that sweet luxury. I personally feel this was the golden age of the video store.

Distinctly, I remember asking my trusty video store clerk his sage advice on the almost daily. J.D., a shy gentleman with low to mid-level autism, was to Blockbuster as Harry Potter was to Hogwarts. Seriously, this guy was the king of horror flicks. I thank my lucky stars this man opened up to me and guided me through the trials and tribulations of finding not only watchable horror, but some real classics.

This, my friends, was the man who introduced me to the majesty that is Evil Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, Dead Alive, as well as a slew of others. Whatever this film wizard recommended I watched with gusto. The majority of this list is with due penitence to him.

So, here’s to you, J.D., thanks for tricking me out nerd style.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“Beware the moon.”

I fell in love hard the first time I saw this. Knowing how hard John Landis worked to get this flick off the ground, even if you’re not a horror fan, you have to appreciate it at the very least. When Universal Studios finally picked it up, he got a kick ass budget, stellar effects team, and an amazing cast to boot. The soundtrack alone is unforgettable. Using Creedence Clearwater to preface the immortal transformation scene is just so damn clever. My high school crush was Griffin Dunne, so there were many nights of An American Werewolf in London followed by Who’s that Girl or Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. I can confidently reveal that I know every word to AAWIL by heart and have seen this movie over a hundred times. And that’s on the conservative side. (Moment of realization)

Yikes, no wonder I’m so pale.

I’ll never forget, one of the first conventions I ever went to, John Landis came up to me and introduced himself out of nowhere. I can honestly say this is the only time I was genuinely starstruck. He goes, “You know, you look feisty. I’m gonna call you trouble!” Every time I’ve run into him since, he still calls me trouble. Gotta love a sweet, talented gent with a good memory! Gives me the warm fuzzies. Do people still say that? Well, I just did. Let’s bring it back.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

“Well, that’s tough titty, kid!”

Alright, so there was a brief time in my early years of college where this was my schedule: wake up at 3:00 PM, go to class until 9:30 PM, play Left 4 Dead until midnight, close out the evening with LSOH.

Daily.

Semesters of this.

I am amazed I have any people skills leftover. Or that I even know what people are anymore. When I’ve had a rough day or I’m stressed beyond belief, I always fall back to the effervescent Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors. It’s hard not to belt out the songs with all your little heart. And feeling unrestrained, singing to the top of my lungs in my apartment, well, to me, that is comfort indeed.

Odd little coincidence: Frank Oz has a cameo in the previously mentioned An American Werewolf in London. I guess I kind of love that dude, huh.

Jaws (1975)

“Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women.”

Alright, I’m sure you’ve noticed my comfort movies are not of the garden variety. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll pop in Clueless or She’s All That on occasion (DON’T YOU JUDGE ME), but there’s something about these flicks that just gets me. Jaws specifically so.

This is absolutely my summertime comfort movie. I remember being a little kid when we would vacation in Delaware (Insert Wayne’s World joke here), and we would stay about two blocks from the beach. I would watch Jaws, spook the holy crow out of myself and make my way towards the beach. I scoured the ocean looking for fins.

Once I saw a fin, but it was just a stupid dolphin. Jerk.

Jaws is my childhood incarnate and I can never shake the feeling of watching it for the first time. It is immortal in its nostalgia and I genuinely prize that I can still feel like I did as a little ginger-esque git.

As we grow up we often lose that feeling, but if you can find it again, hold onto it for dear life. That’s priceless.

What up, plaid swimsuit.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

“I do love a good joke and this is the best ever: a joke on the children.”

I have seen Halloween III more than I’ve seen any other Halloween. Or any other franchise film for that matter. More than any Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street even! Got dang, I love Tom Atkins (said everyone ever). He’s so awesome and smarmy in this one. Honestly, I probably fall back to this Halloween because it was the first Halloween I ever saw.

Yep, you read that right.

It was on TV late one night and I thought, “Well hey, I suppose now’s as good a time as any to dive in to Michael Myers land. I mean it is a franchise. How different can it be from the other ones?” Imagine my confusion as I waited and waited to see this famed masked man, but to no avail. I figured I must’ve been thinking of another series, but no, I started with the only. one. without. him. in. it.

It’s so absurd and I love it. As a standalone flick it’s amazing.

Now, you throw in the fact that it’s the red headed stepchild of Halloween? Even more rad.

Heathers (1988)

“Our love is god. Let’s go get a slushie.”

I have a hard time answering the loaded “What’s your favorite movie?” question.

I tend to answer with, “Well, I probably have at least ten, but Heathers has got to be in my top three!”
It’s the perfect high school angst meets serial killer flick. It may also be the only of it’s kind. Well, had Mean Girls involved copious amounts of murder then I suppose there would be two. But, c’mon, Mean Girls is no Heathers. I love Christian Slater and Winona Ryder’s chemistry. For real, there had to be some off screen hanky panky going on to have electricity like they had. I’m a big proponent of humor and the macabre, and surprise, Heathers is exactly that. I also may or may not have a lot of outfits that resemble Veronica Sawyer’s. Just sayin’.

Comfort movies can be anything. That’s the beauty of it. They’re so individualized and hold different meaning for everyone. Film can be such a personal experience, especially when you tend to watch older films. The likelihood of catching any of these in the theater is far lower than that of, say, Spider-Man 7 ½ (or whatever the heck number they’re on now).

It’s far more likely you’ll get to know these films in an in depth sense in your own home. They become staples in our video collections, as well as our lives. When you have films that you feel a lifelong attachment to?

Now, that’s a genuine comfort flick.

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