I’m trying to think up a clever introduction for this latest addition to our ScreenAnarchy-O-Meter canon. Perhaps I need to start with a question. What do I think a close call or a near miss is? I could say it’s one of those times when you’re mom came into your room and you were lending a hand to the unemployed. But, that would be too easy, and probably too common that the only thing that would differentiate the stories would be if the title of said charity work included the words ‘teens’ or ‘grandmothers’.
Instead, let’s keep it clean and talk about the times when we just escaped having the piss scared out of us by a scary movie, you escaped persecution by a higher authority or power for watching the kind of movie and a place or institution would not approve of, or perhaps you were about to walk out on a film and could have missed a really great film. Read my five close calls and near misses and see what comes to mind, be it the screaming face of your mother, or those close calls and near misses.
ALIENS - When Aliens made its theatrical run in July of 1986 I came very, very close to making a mess in my pants, with fear. We lived just far enough outside of Vancouver that we had to drive to the next city to catch a movie at the theater in the mall. Now, I don't know it if was a lapse in parental judgment but I do not think it was a testimony to my maturity as a young child but here is what happened. My family and I were in the mall and in a stunning move my mom asked, 'Do you guys want to go see Aliens'? I was nearly 13 and my brother just turned 10. Wisely, my father suggested we not go see it. I didn't think it was so wise at the time but it turned out to be a good thing. My brother and I were simply too young to take it in; remember this is twenty-one years ago, we weren’t inundated with the level of violent imagery today’s youth are. I did see it a couple years later, very early in the morning sleeping over at a friend's house. When Newt jumped out from that hole in the wall early in movie I nearly had a fit. Damn good movie. Damn good scary moment. Damn grateful I didn't freak out in a theater a couple years earlier.
THE CHINESE CONNECTION - There has always been a conscious effort on my behalf, as I would assume the rest of the writers here would as well, to show movies to friends that they might otherwise have never heard of. A few years ago I used to invite some of the guys from the student ministry group over to the house for non-sanctioned events which I called Man Nights. I'd cook up a meal, we'd play Goldeneye on the N64 and then we'd watch a Guys movie. Past inductees into the Man Night Hall of Fame included Army of Darkness, Drunken Master 2 and Big Trouble in Little China. One year we moved from my house to the home of our Youth Deacon, by their invitation. Having a much bigger home meant more guys, all of them in the group in fact- somewhere around 30 guys. Along with the plates of nachos and Perfect Dark duels we watched The Chinese Connection, starring Bruce Lee. I really wanted the guys to get to know Bruce and witness the dojo scene where he takes on all the students. How could you go wrong? Well, you could forget about the nude dance scene in it. Suddenly remembering the scene was coming up myself and other adult leaders jumped in front of the screen and did our own dance- one we called The Happy Dance- blocking those impressionable young minds from the fertility of Japanese women.
“What? What’s going on? Why are you guys dancing in front of the TV?”
“Oh. No reason in particular.”
VITAL - During TIFF a couple years ago I went with the guys to see Shinya Tsukamoto's Vital. I had a free block of time and they had a free ticket. You would think that this was a win-win situation but I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. As good as Tsukamoto's films are the only one that I was familiar with at the time was Tetsuo The Iron Man, which freaked me out, bad, at the time that I saw it. So, with a little fear and trepidation I entered the theater, sat down, and almost immediately left. If you've seen Vital [And why haven't you yet?] you know that the movie starts with howling and screaming guitars over layered images of factory smoke stacks. Aw, crap! I was overwhelmed. It was a massive assault on the senses. I held my hand over my eyes. I wanted to bolt. But, I held fast and the tremendous introduction was over the Tsukamoto's ominous and moody piece was on track and I enjoyed the film. Had I left Todd surely would have called me something like 'Pansy' and I would not have seen on of the better films of the festival, a film about love, memories and mourning.
THE ROCK - In the summer of 1997 I hooked up with a summer camp for 4 months of camp madness. One week it was raining during a session period so we crammed all the guys into our clubhouse, The Granite Club, for a movie. The Boys Camp Director came to camp with a box loaded with VHS tapes, each tape full of movies he recorded from some movie channel. We picked what we thought would be an appropriate movie for a larger age group and let it run. Those of us on Senior Staff left to get other programs set up, leaving counselors and staff to look after the guys. I don't remember what movie we showed them but I sure remember what movie followed it. We came back before lunch and there on the screen was Michael Bay's The Rock in all its explosive glory. “Waaaaugh! Turn it off! Turn in off! Turn if off!” Now, I think that The Rock is a perfectly good action movie, one of Michael Bay's best in fact. However, I really need to put this into context so you can understand why this was so horribly wrong. This camp was a Christian camp for a fairly conservative denomination of the Church. Nuts! And who was one of our campers? He was none only than the son of the Camp Registrar. Aw crap! Her son told her his experience with the glory of Bay and she went ballistic. Then the Camp Director went ballistic followed by the Director of Operations. Pretty much anyone with a title with the word Director in it went off on the Boys Camp Director. So what did we do? Later that week during Scottish Day the kids were doing games and tasks to earn ‘money’ to buy items of Scottish heritage and cultural significance. One of those items was 'Movies starring Sean Connery'. Front and center on the item card, a card we asked the Camp Registrar to photo-copy for us, was The Rock. Cheeky buggers.
THE KILLER –During my last year at a Christian college my part time job was with the campus security. We got to walk around our campus carrying Mag-Lite flashlights and radios, telling couples who parked in our rear parking lot to cool their jets, telling the Korean youth groups their time in the gymnasium was up and they had to leave the campus, and just generally be bossy each night before we locked up the building. On weekends when there were no group bookings we knew that the TV/VCR trolleys would be available so I would wheel one up to my room in our dorm lounge and we would watch movies all night, which was a faux-pas because being the type of school it was there were rules about what we screened in public, or private. That’s just the way it was. One particular weekend, I don’t even remember if there was anyone on campus at all, I was watching John Woo’s The Killer. Great movie. And right near the end of the credits when Chow Yun-fat reaches for his harmonica the screen warbled and stopped. Nuts. I ejected the tape to find that the VCR had made a small cut on it. My VHS copy of The Killer was ruined. Determined to get compensation for damages to personal property, regardless of the fact that I was in the wrong, I went to one of the Campus Property staff to have the situation rectified. So there is Hector, my ruined tape in his hand and he reaches for his radio. He said something to the effect of, “Yeah. Andrew Mack is here. One of the VCRs ate a tape of his”. He looks at the cover, “It’s called The Killer?’ Anyone within earshot of someone from property staff could hear this on their radios, including the Campus Life Director, who would call me into his office that week and give me a grand lecture about suitable content and property usage and being a responsible Senior. But, I did get the school to pay for a new copy of it. Rock on.