Horror Movies … I think the last one I saw was Scream 2 and we got the last two seats in the theater, which meant I was more uncomfortable about having to look directly above me at the screen than by anything in the movie. Before that, my horror movie memories are of Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist.
Someone who will remain nameless thought it would be a good idea to show Nightmare on Elm Street to me at seven years old. And because I was unable to separate what I saw on the television from reality, I spent years hating showers and taking really fast ones when absolutely necessary. I was also legitimately petrified that I was going to end up sucked into my bed with a geyser of blood being the end result. For years.
I watched The Exorcist at a friend’s birthday party and when I got home, my parents were headed out for dinner. I spent the entire night beyond terrified of demon possession and kept hearing footsteps in the house which were, in reality, my own heartbeat.
Two pretty impressive reactions to horror movies, but I was also under 15 and in one case still trying to get my parents to admit that Santa didn’t exist.
Are we supposed to have that severe of a reaction to a horror movie in our twenties and thirties? We know the mechanics behind movie making, we know the virgin lives and the whore dies, that the “blood” is dye, perhaps even the mechanics of story structure enough that we can determine the bad guy early on. So, yeah, they don’t keep me up for days in a row anymore. I don’t think that I, at 31, am the target audience for these movies.
Suspense is key in a scary movie. Cape Fear, The Shining. Those were both suspenseful and terrifying – not because the scenes were scary, but because of the blanks that the mind was able to fill. Not to sound like my mother, but viewers don’t need to see every thrust and bead of sweat in order to comprehend attraction between two characters. It’s the same with horror. We don’t need to see the blood spurting and the amputations in order to be scared. And frankly, it dates a movie because within a few months or at most, years, the audience will be laughing at the dated special effects.
I’m horribly out of date as far as appreciation for the genre in writing this. It’s akin to me writing a post about Oasis, a band I haven’t listened to since high school. And while I’m aware that it’s not the most respected of genres, I don’t think having titles like Halloween H20: 20 years later is helping. I am really hoping that there aren’t 20 Halloween movies. I don’t care how good the first one was. Anything beyond three is stretching it, and even three is stretching it.
But I will say that I am one of those people who likes being scared. And not because of some child getting killed or some woman being raped on screen (both of which I think are cheap scares), but because of the suspense, the unknown that, when successfully conveyed is fun. When you’re safely curled up on your couch. With another warm body. And a big bowl of popcorn.