>Science fiction double feature

>It’s the middle of the eighties, the middle of a winter’s afternoon and the middle of one humdinger of a storm. Andy Wicks and I are in the middle of the stalls of the huge Gaumont cinema in Bournemouth. There are maybe six other people in there with us.

We’re treating ourselves to a double bill of John Carpenter’s The Fog (which we haven’t seen before) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (which we have). We endure Rank Screen Advertising and a scattering of dismal previews. The Fog begins. The storm’s so loud we can hear it over the soundtrack. In the opening campfire scene, a hand snaps shut a dangling pocket watch and makes us jump out of our seats. Outside the storm gets louder. We’re hooked. Then, about halfway through the movie, Adrienne Barbeau’s face begins to melt. Toxic waste erupts from the middle of the screen and splashes all the way out to the edges. The film just melted in the projector.

Everything goes black.

And there we sit, in the pitch dark in a vast empty auditorium, with John Carpenter’s repetitive score still echoing in our heads despite the distant boom of the thunder. And we sit. And sit. There’s nervous laughter from a complete stranger sat a few rows behind us. We’re kind of laughing too. Kind of.

After a while a nervous manager scurries down the aisle with a torch and apologies. Some time after that Adrienne is restored and we watch the fog consume the lighthouse. By the time the Nostromo starts rumbling across the screen, we’re really in the mood to be scared.

My point in relating this anecdote? Simply this: get acquainted with the dark. Watching a zombie movie? Turn off all the lights. Reading about vampires? Do it by candlelight. Just like in The Fog, it’s all about sitting round the campfire, this business of ours. And, as everyone knows, campfires spill the best of their magic when the sun goes down.

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