If you ever labor under the illusion that your childhood experiences have no effect on your adulthood? Forget it.

I’m not just talking about the smell of cinnamon relaxing you because your mom made homemade buns, or a phobia of creepy crawlies you acquired when you picked up and drank from an “occupied” soda can. Neither of those are personal examples, anyhow. What’s personal is that, dammit, I think 80’s era Chris Columbus brainwashed my writing.

I’m talking in particular about two movies: 1984’s Gremlins and 1985’s The Goonies. I’m old enough to have seen both in their first theatrical releases, and Goonies was probably the most insidious since I would have been right about the age of most of the kids involved. In retrospect, I remember having a Member’s Only jacket in exactly the same color as the one worn by Corey Feldman’s character Mouth, while my taste in shirts appears to have come straight out of Chunk’s closet. These, of course, are wardrobe decisions that probably weren’t part of the screenplay, but you see what I mean? Brainwashing.

I meant to talk more in-depth about the films for this installment, but my re-watch of Goonies encountered some technical difficulties. So it’ll wait. Let’s just say for now that in both cases I recognized a certain freewheeling tonal tapdance between drama, horror, and comedy, and between characters that on one hand seem as believable as the kids next door and on the other as cartoonishly archetypal as bickering lawmen or bloodthirsty old ladies. Where deadly danger can maintain its tension, even unto the occasional bit of outright gore, but the story as a whole maintains a lighthearted quality. And somehow, it works.

Oh, I didn’t say this brainwashing was a bad thing. I’m just saying.