Once again, Ellen Ripley screams from the screen: “Get away from her, you —–!”
For many years I’ve heard that refrain as I’ve enjoyed watching Aliens (1986) with my family. Often at this movie moment, Granny would repeat the same responses: “Nothing like two mothers going at it, no matter what species you are!”
When the Queen captures Ripley, who dodges the alien mother’s snapping second mouth, Granny would holler out something like, “Watch out for her mouths!”
That is one of thousands of memories comforting me as I mourn Granny’s passing.
Over the past few months, I’ve found myself watching more horror films, seeking that connection my Granny and I always enjoyed in this genre. Granny wasn’t just a fan of horror films. She liked movies in general. Her generation from the 1930s through the ’40s enjoyed watching films to escape the harshness of the Great Depression. I can remember her telling us little facts about going to the theater to see three features for the price of a quarter (or something like that).
A few months before she died, I visited her at the nursing home. As always, I would talk her ear off about the minutiae of my week. When I told her about Ari Aster’s movie Hereditary (2018), I gave her a full rendition. I remember her eyes growing wide as I reached the crazy finale, and she sat back in her chair, thrilled to hear it.
Exploring more monster movies with Granny
Of course, monsters don’t exist in horror films alone. Recently we rewatched The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Oh my land! Watching that movie again as an adult makes me laugh and cry at the same time. We watched that one all the time with Granny. I almost hate losing that childhood sense of wonder and magic to advanced movie technology. Despite Sinbad’s older effects, we loved to fear the Roc, a giant bird of prey, the cyclops, and more monsters! We loved that movie.
Another oldie-but-goodie is Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Jason fights the Hydra monster. Harpies (mythical creatures, not in-laws). Skeletons with swords! Not to mention Clash of the Titans (1981) with its horned Calibos and the iconic scene of Medusa turning the massive Kraken to stone. Conan the Barbarian (1982) with James Earl Jones playing Thulsa Doom. The scene where he slowly turns into a snake always freaked me out as a kid! No matter what film the monsters infested, Granny was always there to watch the monsters with us.
Great Grandma and swashbuckler films
Why did my Granny like movie monsters? I think the reason goes back to my great grandmother. I have vague memories of Great Grandma, but I do remember Granny telling me that her own mother enjoyed action movies. Great Grandma was deaf. Once my Granny said the last thing her deaf mother wanted to watch (long before subtitles and closed captioning) was a movie with a lot of people talking!
One of those movies was Scaramouche (1952), a swashbuckler film we’ve probably watched a thousand times. Another was The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). Others include The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), The Three Musketeers (1948) and The Mark of Zorro (1940) just to name a few. If the movie had a sword and someone getting cut, Great Grandma liked it.1
So perhaps Great Grandma’s love of action movies led Granny to love horror films.
The one monster movie Granny didn’t like
Men in Black (1997) is not really a monster movie, but Granny hated this one. Sometimes she got weird notions. One of them came from watching this movie, when her left eyelid randomly got a stye on the same night she watched it.
From that moment on, she hated Men in Black. She only saw it once, too.
When she told me she hated the film, I could only stare at her. “Uh, Ma. So in John Carpenter’s The Thing with a dog splitting in half, that makes no-never-mind to you?”
Who am I to argue? I found Skyline (2010) a very romantic brain-sucking alien movie. At the end the guy gets his brain sucked out his head, and it’s placed into the alien solider, but he retains his consciousness to rescue his girl. And I teared up.
Later I asked my hubs, “Babe, would you ever let your brains get sucked out by an alien to save me?” He never answered me, but I’d like to think he would.
Then, of course, for me, there was the ultimate romantic coupling: Alien vs. Predator (2004). I bought the DVD to watch at home. At that time, Hubs and I had been married for about a year. When the Alien and Predator clashed together for their first fight, I stood before the TV, screaming in absolute joy, “Yes! Yes!”
When I came down from the high, I glanced behind me to see hubs looking at me quite oddly. “What is wrong with you?” he asked me.
“Look, this is my childhood,” I told him. “Alien and Predator were the scariest movies we watched with Granny.”
Of course, we called Granny to watch Alien vs. Predator with us.
Granny watched it a few times, but preferred the originals in their separate universes.
After all, Granny was a purist.
Granny left me with a new monster of grief
On November 5, 2021, the last day of my granny’s life, I find bittersweet comfort that I had come to the nursing home to see her. Unfortunately, as I stood at the front desk, staff told me someone had caught COVID-19, so the facility were suspending all visits.
I told the nurse lady to tell Granny I loved her and would call her soon.
I couldn’t have known I wouldn’t be able to do that again in this life.
In December 2020, I wrote my previous article tributing Granny. I talked about how Granny didn’t fear the monsters on the screen. Instead, she feared being forgotten.
As if that could ever happen.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Life is so short. Granny lived ninety years, but for me, her life wasn’t long enough. Thank the Lord for eternity so that Death will never be able to part us again. Thank the Lord for His Son, who conquered death and the grave. It would be wrong for me to wish my Granny back here with me, when right now she’s having the time of her life with Jesus.
Last month, I watched some monster movie in which someone was getting cut up or eaten or whatever. Who knows? This experience felt bland and I don’t remember much about it. The movie monster wasn’t on the screen, but in my mind.
Some days, my loss of Granny looms like a frightening creature, its fangs dripping with saliva, raspy breathing, heavy steps, and squelching skin. I miss her so much.
In my grief the Lord took pity on me and gave me a wonderful gift.
This is the honest-to-God truth. Several weeks ago, I dreamed about Granny. It felt so good to see her face. She was smiling at me, her face clear as day. In that dream she looked so happy. Granny never said a word to me, because we were strapped in our military gear, fighting and vanquishing the monsters together.
- I wasn’t as close to Great Grandma as I was with Granny. I used to talk with Great Grandma in ASL. Now my signing is abysmal, but back then, I can remember Great Grandma being pleased that I picked up on it. ↩