For the vast majority of my life, I’ve been scared of horror movies. I can’t even remember the first one I ever saw, but it must to have been bad enough to turn me off of them forever (maybe Grease 2? That was a horror movie, right?). For years, I had avoided every Friday the 13th, every Nightmare on Elm Street, every Saw, and every music video by Marylyn Manson. That was until my friends forced me to watch Saw II. I did not want to. I pleaded and pleaded. I would rather have eaten off-brand Boo Berries in a bowl of spoiled milk. But they had me outmatched. So, in protest, I watched the entire movie through a little slit in my fingers with morbid curiosity like an 8-year-old girl.
Oh, also, I was a freshman in college.
The movie was pretty scary and disturbing, but it sparked something in me. I mean, I got through it didn’t I? It wasn’t that bad, was it? I sort of…liked it.
So I wanted more. I watched the original Saw and was blown away. If you’ve been avoiding these movies, you’d probably be surprised to learn that there is virtually no gore in the first one. It was more of a thriller. After that, the series took a turn toward packing as much blood and gore as possible into 90 minutes, and as a consequence, sacrificed much of what made the first one interesting.
The next series I attempted to conquer was Paranormal Activity. I devoured it. For years after, it became a Halloween tradition to watch the new one every year and crap our pants.
Now, the movie buffs among you are probably laughing your monocles off, but you have to appreciate the simplicity of it. Think of it this way: some of the most successful recent horror movies have had one thing in common. They were uncomplicated. Saw was filmed in two weeks. Paranormal was shot in the director’s house with a budget of $15,000. Hell, The Blair Witch Project didn’t even have scripted dialogue. And all of them made millions and millions and spawned profitable franchises.
The horror was psychological, not shocking. And that was a perfect way to ease me into the genre. I didn’t want buckets of intestines all over the place. I wanted to be spooked by my own shadow.
Eventually, I made the transition to videogames and continued my love affair with being scared shitless. I remember when Dead Space came out, the clerk at Gamestop told me that the game was so freaky that adults were returning it. Pffft. Babies. I ate it and it’s sequel like candy. I bought both the FEAR games and conquered them so bad, Alma was scared of me by the end.
Since the day I saw…uh…Saw, Halloween has moved past Christmas and Labor Day to become my favorite holiday. I love theme park haunted houses, and costumes, and pumpkins, and skeletons, and bats. But my very favorite activity is scaring people. You see, every year my neighbor goes a little bit crazy with decorations.
And part of my Halloween is dressing up like one of her dummies, standing in her driveway, and scaring the bejesus out of the neighborhood children. There is something primally satisfying about fear. Right after you yell “boo!” the kid’s brain goes into auto-pilot, and for a split second you have bypassed their logical circuits and tapped into the absolute deepest recess of their subconscious. You have taken over their brain, and yes I realize how unbelievably creepy that sounds. Even better is when you do the same to the adults. The tougher the father looks from the outside, the more he will melt like putty from a jump scare. Like the indie horror movies mentioned before, the best examples are usually the simplest.
Of course, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up. Kids these days are getting harder and harder to scare. Everyone has seen every shock video on the internet by the time they are 13. Every movie and TV show has to up the gore factor to compete. Traditional haunted houses have had to resort to extreme new tactics, like the one in Pennsylvania that wants to have patrons walk through completely naked. That’s what they have to do to get a reaction out of people. Where do you even go from there?
For those of you that are interested in getting into the festivities but are afraid to do so, a good way to start is by watching old-school horror movies, like Poltergeist or Nightmare on Elm Street. The cheese factor is so high that usually the scares are met with laughs. But go forth slowly. Because you might not come out alive. MUAHAH-OK I’m done with that.
Happy All Hallow’s Evening...