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The Stories that Made Me: Dante's Peak

So, I thought we'd step away for a bit from my childhood memories of television shows and into the world of movies.

Originally I was going to talk to you all about my favourite two disney films, but then I paused for a moment and thought - no - wait - actually before I do that - let's talk first about a film that really impacted my childhood.

A film that, for the longest time gave me terrifying nightmares as a little girl - nightmares about being swallowed up by a volcano. Nightmares of watching my family die from lava. I still have no recollection how I saw this film as a little girl, since my parents were very strict on what we watched. They would never had permitted me watching this - but - yet - somehow I did.

And oh - oh did it have a lasting impact on me. For a really long time I could only remember one scene in the movie. Just one scene. The scene of the grandmother's death, in which she saves' her family by jumping out of a boat into acidic water and all her skin burns off. I actually still can't watch it. I always fast forward it. It's to traumatic. I don't like the suffering.

Some years ago I was sitting at my computer and I just thought - oh - whatever was that movie that traumatized me as a little girl. So I started googling keywords related to that one scene and sure enough - I found it.

Dante's Peak.

It came out in 1997 and starred Pierce Brosnan as volcanologist Harry Dalton and Linda Hamilton as Rachel Wando, small town mayor, single mother and coffee shop owner.

Basically it's a disaster movie about a small town impacted by the eruption of a volcano, and focuses on the survival of Linda Hamilton's character, her children and how Pierce Brosnan's character aids them in getting out.

So besides giving me nightmares as a little girl - why am I saying this is a "story" that made me? Well, I'm pretty sure this movie is one of the reasons why I love disaster movies, or disaster stories. I have also remained fascinated by volcanoes, and even wrote one into my main series as a centrepiece setting. I believe my thinking, at the time, was that if I was so scared of them, why not face that fear by forcing my characters to experience what I was afraid of. Something funny like that am sure.

When I rewatched Dante's Peak as an adult I came to appreciate it for different reasons than just a "volcano disaster movie". I actually classify it as one of my favourite romance movies. It probably helps that I do have an enormous crush on 1997 Pierce Bronsnan, and I think 1997 Linda Hamilton was one of the best female actors at the time. Their characters are both incredibly well written, really relatable and none of it feels forced. So many female characters today are horrible and forced, and I just - I can't stand them - so I stopped reading books, I stopped watching films and television shows because I hated the characters - and I went back to watching old movies, old tv shows - back to when characters seemed so much more relaxed and fluid in their behaviours.

There is a scene in which it's just the two protagonists sitting outside the coffee shop, discussing their past and it's really good dialogue. It's not rushed. It's not uncomfortable. It's just two, normal people who obviously like each other having a conversation. It's so refreshing.

I have NO idea what happened to dialogue, and relationship writing, and movie writing in general after the 2000s but something happened, and it shows when you watch older movies. They were once so much better, and so much more realistic - and this is a movie about a make-believe-town being wiped out by a volcano.

I think, to me, I like that they didn't so much as focus on the spectacle of the volcano blowing up - but around the people being impacted by the situation. The scientists, the townsfolk, and one family's plight amongst it all.

The graphics aren't 2021 graphics - but I'm someone who never really minds graphics. What I like about older movies as well, is that sometimes due to the limitations they had, they just "hinted' at things, and let the viewers imagination paint a scene. This can be a really amazing tool in both movies and in writing.

So, I was apparently not the only one who was traumatized by the "grandma boat scene" - which is why I was able to google and find the movie so easily without knowing the movies name. It's fascinating to me that a collective memory seems to have been formed just around one scene.

I tend to watch Dante's Peak a couple times a year now. When I'm not feeling well it's one of my "pick me up" movies. I don't know if its the nostalgia I appreciate, or if it's just because I enjoy the disaster movie genre as a whole. Maybe a bit of both. Thankfully I grew out of my fear of volcanoes a long, long time ago - since I live in Australia and, well, no volcanoes here to swallow me up while I'm sleeping. ^_^; Hehe. Gosh, I had such a wild imagination.

It's a good yarn, if you're looking for something to watch on a Friday night. But maybe just skip the grandma boat scene.

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