1. Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography is sharp and modern: the quality of the film could easily date it to the last five years. Light transitions from dappled to grainy to ominous. Shadows are foetid with doom. Not an easy feat for a DP.
2. In my film/TV-watching life I’ve known “the agency” to mean one of two things: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or the CIA. Now, thanks to Mrs. Baylock, I know it’s a euphemism for a Satanic cult. Props, though, to Ms. Whitelaw: who knew a renowned interpreter of Samuel Beckett’s works could so comprehensively play an Adversary From Hell? I didn’t.
3. No TSA agent worth his/her salt would permit daggers aboard an airplane. I don’t care if you’re the ghost of Winston Churchill and brought back the daggers used to nail Jesus to the cross. Them daggers of Megiddo are staying in Megiddo.
4. What is it with horror films about demon children whose parents can only have sex on the floors of empty homes? (“Rosemary’s Baby” features a similar scene.) Wait for the box spring, or leave the child with the madwoman governess and get a hotel room.
5. It is now impossible to believe that a child on a tricycle could simply be a beacon of hope and love and innocence. (See also “Shining, The.”)
6. Man, Atticus Finch can not catch a break!
6.6. How nice, Jerry Goldsmith, for you to win an Oscar for your original score. But there is a typo in your Latin lyrical chant. “Sanguis” is the nominative singular for blood; you need the accusative singular, “sanguinem”. Tsk tsk. I liked you better when you were scoring “Perry Mason”.
When I was around 7 or 8, I was petrified of the dark. It didn’t help that I fed my own fears by watching addictive TV programmes about the supernatural with my grandmother. Thursday nights we watched a show titled, translated from the original Hindi, “Footfall”; it was a lowbrow “Twilight Zone”, telling tales of haunted homes and avenging spirits. Although delighted to watch the program, I walked around in fear of nighttime, of when the lights would be turned off and I’d have to lie still in the dark. Nightmares woke me, soaked in my sweat and tears, and one sleepy family member or another – aunt, grandmother, father, mother – would shush me back to sleep.
One evening after dinner, my mother asked me to fetch something from the bedroom my grandfather and brother shared. I trotted off, then stopped. The door was closed. (Our flat didn’t have central air, so rooms that would need the AC at bedtime were kept shut.) And I knew the lights were off. I swallowed and opened the door a bit. A black wall lunged out at me. I froze. Something awful, truly frightening lay on the other side of the door, and if I went in I’d –
“What’s the matter?” My mother appeared at my side. I told her I was afraid of the dark.
“There’s something terrible there.”
She smiled beatifically, as mothers do in such situations.
“Come with me.”
She took my hand and walked us into the dark bedroom. The dark broad rectangle of the door creaked lightly. I could see the shadows of the bed, the desk in the corner, the computer, the ledge under which my Barbies slept.
“What do you see?”
“I was afraid of the dark when I was your age,” my mother said. “And one day my grandfather brought me into a dark room and said, look – there’s no one here. There’s nothing here. It’s simply empty. There’s nothing to fear.”
I nodded. This actually did make sense: how could I fear a nonexistent entity? (I hadn’t yet heard of student loan repayment.)
In the interceding years the only times I’ve resumed fearing the dark are when I watched horror films. In middle school “The Ring” and “Signs” were to blame. For months after seeing the latter I’d turn on the lights of any room, including the bathroom, before I walked in. And the former pretty well put the kibosh on renting VHS tapes from the public library. I saw “Rosemary’s Baby” alone, in my apartment in Harlem, on a weekend when my roommate was out of town. By the time the film ended, nighttime had fallen and I was shaking. Any sound was the Devil himself, coming to claim me.
I’ve never seen “Paranormal Activity”, nor any of the “Scream” films. I’ve never seen “Blair Witch Project” or even “Cloverfield.” I have absolutely never seen any of the “Saw” films, nor the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” series. And I’m keen to see “The Exorcist” about as much as I’d like Mike Huckabee to be President. That’s right. I just compared that human landfill to a shrieking demonic Linda Blair.
When the end credits rolled, I scrambled for all the lamps in my apartment when I heard the loud plaintive cries of an infant. The Antichrist had been born and was in my vicinity. Thirty seconds boomed in my ears before I realized the family downstairs was having a rough time with their newborn. Breathe, I told myself, breathe. It’s not the Antichrist – just the terrors of raising a child.