When Culch.ie said they wanted “fresh blood” for the site, I knew immediately that I wanted to write something for them about horror films. In an email to Darren I whimsically proposed, among other things, a piece about refrigerator-based horror. Not cal-horrific psychological snack-horror à la Bridget Jones, but full-on cinematic horror, featuring refrigerators. As inanimate props go, they don’t compare with helicopters and mobile phones for unsung importance, but they have played their part. And I could be their champion.
I admit that this is not the most fertile territory for a full thesis. Initially the suggestion lay – on the seriousness scale – somewhere between mostly-joking and ha!-ha!-you-freakazoid, but a moment’s consideration convinced me to make it the subject of my inaugural post on Culch.ie. Here’s why:
1. It seemed like a good challenge. Could I assemble enough words about refrigerator horror without boring Culch.ie readers into weeping submission or having them think I was taking the piss?
2. It would allow me to start as I mean to go on, in that it is about films, and it veers wildly from mainstream classics (well, one) to obscure and trashy direct-to-video fodder (ditto), with another film lying somewhere in between. In other words, anything goes (and not an Aonghus McAnally to be seen).
3. Procrastination is a global menace and I did not want to add to it by wondering at length what I might write about. If I started that carry-on I would end up putting off even wondering about it, and that would leave me lost in a ridiculous spiral of unproductiveness. Better to close my eyes and jump, like I learned to do in nightclubs as a student four hundred years.
4. I have an occasional tendency to take things too seriously. Lord knows I fight the impulse, but like a B-movie monster it inevitably gets the upper hand sometimes before the innate silliness wins the day. Writing about refrigerator-based horror would help me keep things in perspective, I insisted to myself.
So I decided to run with the first dodgy idea that had occurred to me, and already I’m a few hundred words in and I have yet to mention a film. So. I’ll introduce them in decreasing order of refrigerator screen time. This also conveniently places them in order of increasing quality, and allows me to end on a high note. But I have to start low, not quite so-bad-it’s-god-awfully-bad-someone-make-it-stop low, but low.
Its name is The Refrigerator, and I own it on videotape. One of its protagonists is a yuppie by the name of Bateman – which made me think it would have been better named Psycho Fridge and double-billed with Psycho Cop or Maximum Overdrive – but Bateman fails to command the screen, and the real star is the killer kitchen cooler. Although the acting is amateurish and the plot is hackneyed and pedestrian, the filmmakers deserve marks for their ambitious levels of preposterousness.
With the tagline “No survivors. Only leftovers.” you know it’s going to be a cheap sub-slasher comedy horror, so if that’s likely to appeal (and there was a time when it did) then all that remains is to see how entertaining it is. It isn’t, very, but it lurches amiably enough from dull to corny to occasional slapstick and cheap gross-out horror. The film’s current IMDB rating of 3.8 is fair. I cannot really recommend it, but I wouldn’t try to stop anyone who has already decided they must see it. For all I know it’s a cult favourite and you’ve all seen it.
Next up is a better known and better realised effort to foist a scary fridge on unsuspecting filmgoers: Requiem for a Dream. Darren Aronofsky’s frantic adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s devastating novel was an assault on the senses that featured multiple assaults by a refrigerator on Sara Goldfarb, played to pill-ridden perfection by Ellen Burstyn. The appalling appliance in her kitchen was not content to stand around and chill, but instead took to leaping out at poor Sara in exactly the way that fridges usually don’t. At least, that’s what she perceived, and viewers got to share her fidgety fright:
Now for the third, last and best in the set. Has anyone not seen and loved Ghostbusters several times by now? This spooky comedy great came out when I was just a small lad, nervous of werewolves, selkies, Portuguese men-of-war and other imaginary beasts. Dogs could smell me on the bike before I even saw them. Vicious afternoons of pedalling, chasing, drooling, kicking and yelping, I tell you.
Anyway. Before things really kick off in Ghostbusters, the wonderful Sigourney Weaver is unpacking groceries in her apartment, and the eggs start exploding, frothing and cooking themselves on the countertop. That was unsettling enough, but then she hears a deep rumbling growl from, yes, the refrigerator, the last thing a growing child wants to associate involuntarily with bestial dread. Sigourney faces the fridge, opens the door, and is bathed in an eerie golden light through which she sees a weird distant structure amidst swirling clouds from a bad dimension, this structure inhabited by a big dirty evil devil dog thing that growls “ZUUL!!” from a gaping sharp-toothed maw, and Sigourney screams and slams the fridge door shut on Zuul the Gatekeeper of Gozer, to my unspeakable relief.
Looking at the clip 25 years later, of course it seems utterly tame, but I can tell you that it scared the idiomatic bejesus out of this impressionable kid with an overactive imagination and a Catholic child’s bewildered sense of the demonic. I saw things in that fridge that weren’t there at all. I saw things that would have given the Ghostbusters FX crew weeks of sleepless nights. Things that would have made Zuul whimper. I saw pure evil in that fridge.
Not only that, but the fridge at home used to start humming when I entered the room, or stop humming if it was already humming, so I wondered what kind of invisible forces controlled the world around and inside me. Quite possibly malevolent ones. I got over all this, but before I did I used to replay the Ghostbusters fridge scene in my mind, compulsively revisiting the trauma like I had done two years before with E.T., trying to rearrange the images and events into some kind of manageable material. The visions visited upon me by my triumphant subconscious had to remain secret: if I spilled the beans, that would be the end of my trips to the cinema, and nothing was worth inviting that possibility.