The day was almost ruined. I had been helping my dad scrape a building in downtown Randolph during the summer holidays. As had, feverishly, been planned for weeks, I was taking my first paycheck from this paint-for-hire experience to buy new school clothes and check out Jaws 3D with my mother. My excitement over this cinematic prospect was unquantifiable – I was nearly bursting out of my (as of yet, thankfully, unblemished) skin with excitement. The fact that my mom, usually so adverse to my horror film eccentricities, seemed so down for this particular movie going adventure was merely the toothy star atop of an already glittering tree. I had a feeling that stopping off to visit my dad on site before taking off for this unprecedented adventure was a mistake, but my mother wanted to check in with him before we left.
“Brian,” my dad ventured, swinging, as sweat pealed down his frame, around from the ladder propped up against the building, “would you mind rescheduling your outing today and help me here, instead? I’ve really gotten behind.” My face, shattering like candy glass, was all the answer that he needed…he sighed, seemingly giving into the inevitable, and turned to continue scraping. Still, it didn’t feel like I was quite out of the woods yet. Tension ricocheting through me, I promised him I would help him out the next day, all day long, if necessary, if only I could keep this long-planned excursion on track as scheduled. Finally excused with a reluctant paternal nod, my mother and I gratefully took off.
But once at the theater – more trouble, doggedly, loomed. This being a month or so before I got contacts (and thus discovering a fragile, fully clung to sense of outer beauty), I was still wearing the plexiglass thick glasses that I had been outfitted with by a local, un-fashion forward thinking optometrist. Bullets seemingly could have bounced off those suckers, & for the first 15 minutes of Jaws 3D, any dual dimensional celluloid waves couldn’t penetrate through their dense fibroids either. But finally, after many moments of seeing what amounted to mimeographed variations of Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong and Louis Gossett Jr, I was able to adjust the theater provided lenses properly and finally, sweet celluloid goddess, the extra image proportions began to pop out towards me in the theater the way that they were supposed to! Perhaps then, though, the true disappointment began. Even at the impressionable age of 15 (coupled with those many weeks of pent-up anticipatory excitement), once things leveled out, I was aware I wasn’t watching a good movie or even a so-bad-it’s-good venture. Scenes seemed to be thrown together hastily —- Did Gossett have an accent in one scene and not in another? — and long stretches concentrated on the training of a pair of squeaking, personality-less dolphins.
But there was a thrilling sequence involving a group of people being trapped in an underwater structure while the shark raged only a thin aquarium wall or so away. The expected plot points were there, as well – officials more worried about $$ than people’s safety, an ineffectual expert brought into control the situation, and, as a budding gore buff, the sight of a fish-lacerated hand floating through the navy-blue brine definitely filled my sadistic heart with glee. At the time, of course, the experience was so deeply won that, much like Kelly Ann, Lea Thompson’s perky aquatic show girl in the film, I felt like I couldn’t be anything less than enthusiastic about my enjoyment – especially in front of my father, who dutifully asked about the experience upon our return home. My praise for the sequel then was most assuredly over enthusiastic. But still, nostalgia—-and those brief moments of genuine horrific tension that the show did manage to produce – make this a treasured cinematic memory to this day.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!