With Hallowe'en coming up this Friday, I thought it was time to finally tell you all about my most terrifying sci-fi movie experience ever - A movie that, as a kid, scared the crap out've me in ways that I didn't expect, and to this day still makes me much more nervous than it has any right to. I'm talking, of course, of that classic horror movie, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial. But before you judge, read on and you'll understand.Flash back to 1982 or thereabouts, and I'm seven years old in the west coast of Scotland and have a friend called Craig McAteer who, he tells me very secretly one day, has this bootleg Betamax of this awesome new movie from America about an alien and I should totally see it. Being the entirely impressionable youth that I was back then, I took his word for it, and convinced my family that we should watch this bootleg video one winter evening, because apparently it was awesome. Here's the problem: Not only was this a bootleg video, but it was a really, really appallingly bad bootleg video, grainy and with bad sound that kept cutting out, and missing more than half of the actual movie. To this day, I have no idea where Craig had gotten this movie from, but wherever it was, he should've asked for his money back. It was like ET: The Narcoleptic's Cut or something, the way that it just jumped from scene to scene without any sense of logic or subtlety. But the strange thing was, because of all the missing scenes, it turned into a completely different movie. Missing, for one thing, was any scene of ET being cute. Or, for the most part, any scene where you saw ET at all. Anything to do with him healing anything? Not there. Going trick-and-treating while dressed as a ghost? Gone. What this version of ET did have was a massive jump from when Elliott luring ET with his Reece's Pieces to the part of the movie where Elliott was getting sick, and the dudes in the hazmat suits appear at the door, so what was meant to be a cute family movie suddenly became this movie where a young kid who could have been me went to befriend an alien and instead became so sick that crazy-looking spaceman dudes appeared at his family's door with guns and big tubing. Needless to say, I was completely freaked out by this. When you're a kid, it's one thing to see a scary movie when you're expecting it to be scary - For some reason, I'm convinced that I had "accidentally" seen Alien by this point of my life, and been completely unfazed by it, although I may be misremembering (I had definitely read, and been bored by, the comic version of it, although I was thrilled to see real swearing in a comic) - but this entirely took me by surprise. I'd been expecting a heartwarming tale of everything being okay, but this bastardized version of the movie was blacking out between scenes and hissing and staticing that everything was dangerous, and by the way, aliens can somehow make you really sick and you'll probably die.
I didn't see the end of the movie that night. I can't remember if that's because it just wasn't on the shitty bootleg (Definitely a possibility), or because I was so freaked out that we stopped watching the movie in order to calm my nerves (Equally possible), but it took months - and the official release of the movie - for me to get the full story of what ET was actually about. I saw the real version as part of a friend's birthday party, his parents dragging a gang of over-eager kids (and me, utterly terrified because I was convinced that all of the reviews where people talked about the movie being upbeat and happy were lying, and I was going to be subjected to the same cinematic childhood torture as before, but on a larger screen) to the theater, where I spent at least half of the movie in awe, thinking variations of Wait, so this is what happened? That's much better than what I thought! to myself over and over again. The movie was, kind of, redeemed in my eyes. Kind of. Because, I admit it: Whenever people try and tell me how cute ET was, or I see those utterly hideous plush toy versions of the character, I still can't quite bring myself to believe them. Deep down, I know that he didn't mean to do it, and that his intentions were both pure and Speak-And-Spell-loving, but still, to me? ET will always be the alien that came to Earth, almost killed Elliott and brought the hazmat suit guys and large plastic tubes to the house. And somewhere inside me, the seven-year-old who got freaked out that first time still finds the movie just a little bit scary.