I don’t remember how old I was, but I was pretty young. Probably ten or so years old. We went to a family gathering, and the adults stayed upstairs doing whatever adults did in the early 80s when their kids were downstairs watching things they shouldn’t have been watching. It was at my cousin’s house, and we had rented a lot of movies. I know we started the day watching a kid’s movie. I don’t know which one, but after that, one of the older cousins decided that the “kiddie movies” were done. Time for the real adult movies. And so that night, I was introduced to The Exorcist (1974), An American Werewolf in London (1981), and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).
It was eye-opening to say the least. I probably hid my head through most of The Exorcist, though Linda Blair bazooka-puking pea soup is permanently etched into my brain. It may not have been from that night, though, since it has been played and replayed a million times over since. Full confession, though, it doesn’t hit as hard as it did when I was a kid. In fact, the film is largely pretty boring to me now. Some of the magic of evil has been lost as I’ve grown up.
I watched more of Werewolf, partly because it was funny, and partly because werewolves are cooler than possessions. The thing that scared me about it was the scene where David Kessler, played wonderfully by David Naughton, was running through the forest naked. He comes upon a deer, which is unaware of his presence. At the last moment, the deer starts, but it is too late. He wrenches the head from its neck and bites into it. It’s much worse in my memory and then dreams from my childhood than it is in the movie.
David also runs around naked a lot in the film, but the first time I actually noticed seeing a penis on film was in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (1981). Now you know that about me.
The last movie of the night, as we were falling asleep, was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and that is where I was introduced to Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates. The dugout intro to Leigh and the poolside to Phoebe pretty much set my trajectory for watching movies I probably shouldn’t have been watching.
It was the start of a beautifully horrible love affair with sex comedies, trashy exploitation movies, and “high art” soft-core erotica. I already knew I liked horror films, but Fast Times really turned me on to the naughtier side of the rental rack.