On September 6, 2017

Whatever it takes

By Dom Cioffi

Years ago, I spent the summer break in between my sophomore and junior years of college living in Cape Cod with several friends. The idea was to earn a little money and partake in the party scene as much as possible.

I was used to living with a roommate in college, but this would be my first foray into living with five other people. I knew all five guys well so I wasn’t that concerned, but you never know how personalities will mesh when it comes to long-term cohabitation.

Most of the guys entered that break with a goal for the summer. Three of them joined gyms with the idea that they would pump iron to bulk up. Another guy and myself planned on running every day to get into better shape, while the last guy brought a book that he promised his mom he would read.

We all had a good laugh at the book idea, jabbing our friend about how summers were meant for relaxation and not mental stimulation. However, I had to respect this kid because he was not the greatest student and certainly not someone who would ever read during his free time.

When we inquired what book he planned to read, he pulled out Stephen King’s just-released work of horror, “It” (remember, this was 1986). I could sort of see the appeal in his choice of edgy fiction, but I was absolutely stunned by the size of the book, coming in at over 1,100 pages.

I was not a big reader at that stage of my life so the size of a book definitely played a role in whether or not I was interested. My first thought when I saw “It” was, no way, there’s not enough time in my life to get through that monstrosity.

Nevertheless, my friend plugged away, reserving time each night to do some reading. I periodically looked at his bookmark to see if it was moving and surprisingly it did. Occasionally, we would tease him, commenting that the summer was drifting away and he still had the bulk of the book to finish.

On occasion, we would hear him gasp while he was in the process of reading. Eventually he would walk into the room with a blank look on his face. He would then tell us that he’s never been so freaked out from reading a book.

I remember thinking how cool that was – to become so unsettled just by reading words. After hearing him explain some of the scenes, I even contemplated reading the book myself.

When the summer started winding down and we began our plan to leave, my buddy still had a couple hundred pages to read. We teased him about failing at his task, but he quickly countered that the rest of us didn’t spend much time getting into tip-top shape (which was absolutely true). In fact, even if he didn’t finish the book, he still made more headway than the rest of us put together.

As the last week rolled around, my friend dedicated more and more time to finishing the book. With a couple of days to spare, he walked into the living room one evening and slammed the book onto the floor. “Done!” he exclaimed, with a wide smile on his face. “All I can say is, I can’t wait for the movie. That was the scariest story I have ever experienced.”

I never forgot those words. And as much as I wanted to match his reading feat, I never tried to tackle “It.” But I vowed that I would see the movie whenever it came out.

Fast forward over 30 years and “It” has finally been made into a major motion picture. In anticipation of going, I pulled my son aside and played him the preview. He seemed mildly interested. I asked him about the creepy clown and his response was, “What’s so scary about a clown?”

So, I was fully prepared to take him to this film and confident that he was onboard even though he tends to shy away from horror movies. And then, over this past weekend, he experienced two consecutive nights of clown nightmares. They were so disturbing to him that he has now flatly refused to go see the movie. No amount of coercion has made him budge. In his mind, clowns are now officially the scariest thing on earth.

“It” will be released into theaters this Friday, so I’ve still got time to work on him, but it’s not looking good. This week, in order to lure him into a false sense of security, I took him to see the 40th anniversary re-release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

This new director’s cut is every bit as fun and compelling as the original film with the added bonus of better sound and improved visuals. My son was certain that it was going to be too scary, but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t at all (I’m hoping this coerces him into now seeing “It”).

I’m not a big fan of re-releases, but this film holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of those movies that defies the test of time, proving how brilliant Steven Spielberg is as a director.

Check this one out if you’re in the mood for some classic sci-fi or were a fan of the original (unfortunately you may have to travel because it’s in limited release).

A nostalgic “A-” for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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