In this one-man show, Chris recounts how movies have shaped his life,
I’m six years old and I’m sitting on the floor of the Church Hall at my primary school, St Judes, Scoresby, East Melbourne. Very suburb. Sort of place Kath and Kim would downgrade to.
Next to me Brad, my older brother, and on the other side Dad. Maybe another 50, 100 people.
I’m wearing my pyjamas. Long pants, long sleeves, heavy cotton variety. And as kid I was very blonde. In a word - cute.
It’s summer, night time, weekend – 1986 - and before my previously virgin eyes images are dancing on the grubby brick wall. A man and a woman – talking, moving - alive.
"Your girlfriend lives in the corner penthouse of spook central."
The man I will come to know as Bill Murray, the woman – Sigourney Weaver – and the movie - Ghostbusters.
It is the first film I’ve ever seen. Not such a great place to start I know ... but my eyes are glued. I’m transfixed, entranced, transported. It’s just me and the people on the wall.
The build up had been very exciting. A notice on the school bulletin board : “Free screening of Ghostbusters – bring your kids and pyjamas. Saturday night.”
Getting there had also been exciting. We lived quite close to the school so it was a short walk for my brother and my dad. A quite long one for me.
"Generally you don't see that kind of behavior in a major appliance."
For a six year old kid School after dark is not the same as it is during the daytime.
It’s a place of mystery, mucking around, discovery.
When we arrived there was already lots of people in the room. Sitting, lying on the floor, illuminated by sickly green fluoros. What were they doing ? Waiting … but for what ?
We took our spots on the floor, faint smell of BO. And then the lights went off. A flick of a switch on the ancient projector from Father McKay and soon Dr Peter Venkman and Dana Barrett were living large fifty feet high on the back wall of St Judes Church Hall.
"You are so odd."
The strangest thing was that although this was the first time I had ever seen a movie – and it was in an old Church Hall in Far Eastern Melbourne - it seemed like I had been here before.
Watching those fifty feet people fighting ghosts in New York was the most natural thing I could do. The film didn’t transport me anywhere. It brought me home. I understood exactly what this ritual, this communion in the dark, was all about. At the ripe old age of half a dozen years I had been introduced to the wonder of a movie and I put out my hand to welcome a long lost friend.
Kids have a very uncanny way of accepting where they belong, what they know.
Well I knew this.
It was like sometime in the past I’d been whispered dangerous secrets, curious understandings, magical incantations – breathed to me while I was half asleep – preparing me for something to come, a great event that was about to unfold. And now the moment those incantations had spoken about – had arrived - and a life long obsession, love affair – was about to begin.
But it wasn’t the movie itself that I found so wondrous. Actually that was pretty crap.
Even at six years old I was seeing through things – I was a very precocious kid.
The whole set up was a bit amateurish. The projection, the sound, all a bit shoddy really. A puny arse projector up against the back wall of a Church Hall.
It was the act of people coming together to watch the movie. That was special.
The experience of cinema - excited me more, stayed with me longer, than Ghostbusters ever would.
But I do remember certain parts of the movie and a first taste of that popcorn movie staple - self induced fear.
The most frightening part of Ghostbusters is the librarian scene – I thought twice about going back in to the school library after that.
The Ghostbusters get a report of a ghoul in the city library so they check it out.
There’s an old lady standing up reading a book and you can tell she’s a ghost straight away – she’s half transparent. They keep talking among themselves, pretending they don’t see her.
Then she “ssssshhs” them but they just keep talking.
She suddenly turns around aggravated and now she’s this very scary mother f#$king ghost – not sure if those are the precise words I used as a six year old but you get the gist.
Later I remember the Stay Puft Marshmallow man – that was fun – but the moment that stayed with me was not big cuddly white giant – it was that moment of being scared sh#tless.
It wasn’t real – it was a long strip of flickering celluloid being projected on to a dirty brick wall of a School Church – but to the eyes of this six year old it was the realest thing I had ever seen.
And another part when Rick Moranis is being chased by a demon in Central Park.
He finds this restaurant – this beacon of light – and it’s full of all these really wealthy people, dining on really expensive dinners, sipping French champagne - behind these huge glass windows.
And Rick is being hunted by this huge angry Gargoyle with razor sharp teeth - so he throws himself against the glass, desperately trying to find a way in.
And all the people in the restaurant slowly just turn and look at him, then go back to eating their roasted spatchcock and braised fennel.
So Rick starts running through the park – past trees, off paths - and he finds himself in a spot that’s quiet and dark.
Suddenly he’s far away from the lights and sound of the big city, a long way away from the camp fire.
And now I wasn’t scared for him anymore. I was scared for me.
What if I too couldn’t find the door into the safety of the restaurant ? What if the people inside wouldn’t let me in ? What if I found myself far away from the campfire ?
I cuddled in closer to dad.
More about this monologue