About ten or eleven years ago I get a call from my friend Nick, who informed me that the Missouri Theater in downtown Columbia would be playing the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a live band scoring it. I thought it was a weird idea and wondered why when it had hit me that the film has no music. It’s something I had never really thought about because the movie is so effective that you never realize that the film’s “score” is comprised of the unsettling sounds of whatever is going on at the time. So the idea of a band scoring it was interesting in that regard; however, it was this thought that some rock band would be scoring such a wonderful classic that I still wasn’t sold on. When would I really get the chance to see one of my favorites on the big screen? So I said “Yes”, figuring I could deal with the bad rock score to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Closer to time Nick told me that our friend Paul will be joining us. I thought, ‘Awesome, just us geeks going to see this rare chance.’ Before heading down to the theater we stopped off at Gumby’s Pizza for lunch. Sitting there eating pizza we started talking about horror when Paul told us that the closest thing he’d ever seen to a horror film was Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Nick and I looked at each other. I said to him, “We’re about to start him off with one of the most gruesome and unsettling horror films?” Nick laughed, “He’ll be fine; it’s just a movie.” Both Nick and Paul are very smart guys, young intellectuals, far smarter than myself. I chuckled, “Heh, okay…”
We went down to the theater for the big showtime and the place was loaded with college students all with the same excitement I was feeling. It actually felt great to be around people like myself. We sat down in the packed house with Paul between Nick and myself. Everyone was cheering awaiting the classic carnage while the band was setting up. I was so excited to see Leatherface do his thing that I had honestly forgotten about the band. ‘Damn’, I thought. They set up to the side of the screen, out of the way. If I remember correctly, it was a three piece group. The lights dropped, the projector started, and a thick, immovable smile formed on this young horror fan’s face.
The band started playing the moment the film started and, to my surprise, it was dark and moody instrumental music that worked perfectly. It melded so well with the film that it wasn’t noticed that it was a live band scoring. That was a happy surprise. But the fun for me was just starting. It gets pretty nasty fairly early on in the film with the Hitchhiker cutting himself along with wheelchair-bound Franklin’s arm. To my right, Paul has a mini convulsion, a start to a dry heave. I turned, “You okay?” He looked bothered. He nodded, “Yeah, I’m fine.” As the craziness picked up, so did the dry heaves to my right complete with his hand to his mouth. Paul’s eyes were bugged and glued to the big screen. It had actually taken me a minute to realize that he was reacting to the movie itself when I thought with an inner laugh, ‘It’s a far cry from the Temple of Doom.’ Behind him, Nick and I shared a grin both realizing the same thing.
I asked again, “You sure you’re okay?” He replied, “Yeah, my food just didn’t digest.” Of course, I thought ‘Mofo, the three of us ate the same thing at the same time’ but I knew better. DIRECTLY after he tells me of his undigested food, yet another image of brutality hits the screen unsettling him even MORE. “Oh…” started off more dry heaves as he got up and left his seat and headed out. The theater was full of people cheering and hollering at the chaos, me included, while our friend was near vomiting. Now, I love Paul; he’s a great guy. While I certainly didn’t want to see him uncomfortable, as a horror fan, I was in heaven. I love seeing people react to things they’d never seen.
After he left, Nick and I shared that look again as we chuckled and shook our heads. He eventually came back and we had the same dialogue. “You okay?” “Yeah, food didn’t digest.” As you know, the film doesn’t let up once it gets going as it only gets more and more chaotic and crazy. Weeellllll the dry heaves didn’t let up either. Paul was having a harder time dealing with it. I was torn between seeing my friend close to nervous breakdown and seeing the greatest sight ever for a horror fan. My people and I, yes I said My People, cheered and applauded such a time but my cheers were also in what I was seeing and experiencing personally. Again, as a horror fan, it doesn’t get much better than seeing your friends dry heave and sweat over seeing what Nick called “Just a movie”.
When the movie ended and the band stopped playing, Paul let out a sigh of relief. We got up and made our way through the still-pumped crowd. On our walk back to Nick’s car we had conversation with topics including my excitement over his reaction. Paul was still stunned and couldn’t believe what he’d seen. Nick and I had a good laugh. While some of you are saying, “Chris, dude, you’re a jerk!” I’m sure my friends here at 52 Weeks of Horror would’ve reacted the same with “He’s gonna be sick! It’s like Christmas!!” For fans of this genre, it’s honestly just fun and funny to see honest reactions. I’m constantly trying to show friends and family something that will get strong responses and, while this wasn’t one I attempted or tried for, it’ll always remain in my memory as a fan seeing such a smart, refined guy being like “Dear God, what’s going on!?”
Maybe I’m sick, but these kinds of things put that thick, immovable smile across this fan’s face.