Last week, my friend Jake rang to ask if I’d like his old DVD of The Exorcist.
“We’ve been spring cleaning during the lockdown.” He sneezed. “We’ve got boxes of crap! Anyway, I remembered Saffy liked horror movies?”
I hesitated. “That freaky Linda Blair movie? The one with the pea-soup vomit?”
“Totally classic!” Jake sighed.
Saffy’s always had a sick, twisted relationship with horror movies. The first time she watched the original The Ring, she laughed the whole way through but by the time she got home, the creepiness of that mad girl with the long hair and white dress had worked its way deep into her psyche. For the next month, she showered with the bathroom door wide open.
But eventually, she recovered and went on to happily watch The Conjuring, The Skeleton Key, The Grudge, and every other creepy crawly, scare-you-till-you-wet-your-pants horror movie that’s ever come out of Hollywood, Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
When I told her over lunch that Jake was giving us his old copy of The Exorcist, she looked doubtful. “Really?” Her bosom inflated slightly. “I’ve never watched it. It just seems so…so…dated!”
“Sharyn’s glasses fogged over. “Hannor!” she nodded with approval. “Aiyoh, for one year, I scared sleep alone! And then, hor, whenever I see priest, I oh-so scared!'”
Sharyn looked up from her plate of char kway teow. “Hah? ‘Ex. Sore. Cyst’? You neh-ber see, meh? How can? I thought you like scary movie?”
Saffy shrugged, the very picture of indifference. “It’s such an old movie. How scary can it be?”
“Uhm…” Amanda said. “I love being scared as much as you do, but this one really scarred me for life!”
Sharyn’s glasses fogged over. “Hannor!” she nodded with approval. “Aiyoh, for one year, I scared sleep alone! And then, hor, whenever I see priest, I oh-so scared!”
Saffy looked unconvinced. “Well, I’m sure it can’t be as scary as The Devil’s Backbone!”
“You watch and then you tell me!” Sharyn said with a shuddering smirk.
“You’re on your own with this one,” Amanda said firmly. “I’m not watching it again.”
Which is how a few nights ago, while Amanda and I ventured out to Orchard Road for the first time in three months since we were all locked down, Saffy settled into the sofa at home with a big bowl of popcorn. And as was her habit when she watched scary movies, she cranked up the air-con, snuggled under a blanket, and pressed play.
Amanda was bent over the diamond earrings cabinet at Tiffany’s when her phone rang. She picked up.
“Oh God,” Saffy moaned by way of greeting. “She just walked down the stairs backwards in her white nightgown like a spider! That is the single most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Amanda straightened up. “Wait, you’ve got the unedited version of The Exorcist?”
Saffy sucked in her breath. “Why, is that bad? Ohhhh…why am I watching this alone!”
“Do you want me to come home?”
Saffy paused. “No, it’s okay,” she said eventually. “If it gets too bad, I’ll just stop it and watch it during the day!”
By the time Amanda and I got home, buzzing with the novelty of being out on the streets and wandering around a mall with bright lights and noise, it was almost 9.30pm. We found Saffy sitting on the sofa with all the lights in the apartment on full blaze. Even the little lamp in the utilities room was on.
Her eyes had a tint of deranged panic about them, kind of like the one she has when she’s late for a plane and she can’t find her passport.
“Oh dear,” Amanda said, dropping her Tiffany and Chanel bags on the floor.
“Why didn’t you tell me how horrifying that movie is?” Saffy hissed.
Amanda’s jaw dropped. “We did tell you!”
“I think I had a stroke when she said ‘Your mother’s in here with us, Karras! Would you like to leave a message?’ Oh my God! Who says something so…so…sick?!”
“I’ll never get over the vomiting scenes,” Amanda said, coming to sit on the couch. With soft cooing sounds, she stroked Saffy’s back in much the same way she’d stroked the leather handbags in Bottega Veneta earlier that evening.
“Those scenes with her tied to the bed!” Saffy shut her eyes in horror. “How am I ever going to sleep in a bed ever again? With white sheets! I may have to start sleeping on the floor! Oh, you should never have let me watch that movie! And by myself! What was I thinking?! I can still see her eyes! And that voice!”
Of course, she didn’t sleep a wink and when she met Sharyn the next morning for brunch, she was a mess. “Is it possible that I’m still having a stroke?” she asked.
“Yah, I was liddat for two months,” Sharyn said. “But hor, who ask you to watch? We all tell you is damn scary, you dohn lissen!”
“Never again,” Saffy swore. That night, she watched Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins and when it was over, she curled up on the floor at the foot of her bed. Eventually, she fell asleep.