Monday, September 29, 2008

It Happened At Lakewood Manor




The 1977 made-for-TV eco-chiller It Happened at Lakewood Manor lingers on in my memory as the only horror movie of my childhood that I was too afraid to watch. There were plenty of horror movies back then that I watched from between my fingers or from a strategic position behind my stepdad's recliner but IHALM - about a resort spot overrun by killer ants - was the only one that I avoided altogether.

Why this, of all movies? I don't know - maybe it was the fact that I had been so traumatized earlier that year by Empire of the Ants (the first horror movie I had seen in the theaters). But when I saw the ad in the TV Guide for IHALM, I knew I couldn't subject myself to it. Just from the ad (I wish I could recall the details of it now), it looked far too scary to me. Whatever happened at Lakewood Manor was something I didn't care to know about.

To recall my crippling fear of IHALM thirty-one years later makes me nostalgic for a time when even the blandest efforts of network TV were too much for me to handle. Another eight years after giving the ants of Lakewood Manor a wide berth, I'd already be familar with the most graphic films my local video stores had to offer, scouring their shelves for titles like Cannibal Ferox - and with them, all the impalings, decapitations, castrations, and disembowelments that my parent's VCR could hold.

But at one point in my horror-loving life, I was too scared to watch a TV movie where a cast of B-listers (including Bradford Dillman, Lynda Day George, Robert Foxworth, Bernie Casey, and Suzanne Somers) were attacked by ants. I have to wonder sometimes what my eight-year-old self would think of the films I've subjected myself to since. I probably wouldn't have believed it'd be possible for anyone to make such movies (in 1977, I was still ignorant of the existence of such notorious films as Blood Feast and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

A quick look at Amazon.com tells me that IHALM is available on DVD (under its alternate title of Ants) for less than six bucks so if I wanted to I could easily seek it out at any time. But it's not the movie that I feel I'm still missing out on. What I miss is being able to be scared over nothing - when my imagination did all the work for me.

4 comments:

David Lee said...

The first time my brother and I tried watching The Night Stalker TV series (I don't remember if this was during the first run or when it was rerun late at night) we only got a few minutes into it before we had to turn off the TV in fear. It was the beginning of the episode. A woman's car was having trouble and she stopped to see what the problem was. Hands started digging themselves out of the earth nearby. That was enough for us.

It was so funny to see the episode years later. The woman gets back in her car and drives away. She never realizes that she'd almost witnessed the rising of a vampire. Ha!

Amanda By Night said...

I think the movie I most avoided as a wee pup was Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. I think I must have seen it though because I carried with me the memory of the ending for years.

I agree with the bittersweetness of this post. You have a lot like these, fill with memories of discovery and the unknown. I know I can't go back to those days (and sometimes that kind of kills me), but I often go back to these movies (mostly the Made for TV ones) and I find I can still watch them with great anticipation. I say give Ants a go. I know you know it won't scare you, but Barry Van Dyke and Lynda Day George duking it out with thousands of insects is just too great to miss. I actually re-watched most of it last week, while I was trying to go to sleep. I still have my old clmashell case and treasure it dearly!

Jeff Allard said...

David, I wish I had gotten to see The Night Stalker at an earlier age. I was too young when it was in prime time and by the time it ran in CBS late night in the early '80s when I was in my teens it couldn't help but play as campy to me. I still loved it thanks to Darren McGavin's performance but it never was able to be a scary show for me, unfortunately.

Amanda, maybe I will catch up with Ants one of these days. But lately it seems like I have too many films to watch and not enough time - or the burning desire - to see them. For instance, I have the DVD of the French thriller Inside still sitting on a shelf unopened months after I bought it. As a teenager - and even into my twenties - I would've been hellbent on seeing a movie with Inside's reputation. But these days, it's a matter of "eh, I'll watch it when I'm in the mood" but months later I'm still waiting for that mood to come around!

knobgobbler said...

You remind me of when I was a kid and BEGGED my mother to let me stay up late and watch the syndicated reruns of Alfred Hitchcock Presents... I'd seen ads for it on daytime TV.
She finally relented, I got all set up with the TV in my room... and the instant the theme music started I was so scared that I ran to the TV and turned it off.

The only thing that comes close to getting me that worked up these days are certain video games... like Silent Hill.