The title of this post is misleading. I’ve always loved The Blob. Since I was about five, the concept of a large gelatinous mass striking terror and fear into the hearts of an entire city was nothing short of hilarity defined. When it came to other horror films, I was a devout practitioner of abstinence, lest I micturate in my trousers.
I couldn’t make it through Laurel & Hardy’s Babes in Toyland because of the scene with the “Boogey Men” or The Goonies because Sloth made me cry. I could handle the Halloweentown movies on Disney Channel but just barely. One time, I rented Ernest Scared Stupid from Blockbuster and underwent what I would still describe as severe psychological trauma.
Growing up, I wore GoodNite diapers for a length of time I would never bring up on a first date. Or any date really. I remember one night where I slept in my parents’ bedroom because I kept thinking of the bassline from Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Yes. I was afraid of a bassline. This happened when I was around, I kid you not, twelve years old. I was on the floor of their room though, so don’t get weird about this. Imagine how I held up to the DVD covers for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play.
But then I met Elizabeth, my girlfriend, when I was 20, who’s into all the things I am and horror movies. Now, I’m not one to recommend changing yourself for a significant other but, regardless, I decided dating Elizabeth was the time I’d finally conquer my fears of all the monsters which haunted my youth. At 20 and now 21, I’d finally learn how to walk into a Spencer Gifts without enduring a minor panic attack whilst near the Jason Voorhees action figures.
Before we’d taken to the Facebook officiation of our relationship, I watched The Evil Dead so we could have something horror related to talk about. And I watched it on my computer in the day time with my finger over the mute button so I wouldn’t jump out of my skin when I felt like something was about to pop out. And, shockingly, I made it through and enjoyed myself, damn it! The gore, the monsters, the occult references: it wasn’t scary anymore. It was fun.
The first time she came to really hang out my house, we watched Evil Dead 2 and Re-Animator. Evil Dead 2 has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and, by God, does it deserve it. Before I knew it, I’d become a believer in the power of campy horror. Midway through the movie, I was actively contemplating how to procure a chainsaw hand, a fake shotgun and copious amounts of fake blood for an Ash Williams Halloween costume. To top it off, I fell asleep during Re-Animator. Which is to say I did not stay up all night thinking about and fearing Re-Animator but instead fell asleep during it. Fear was conquered and I felt like a demigod. Please hold your laughter.
But what of horror films without the cheap, low-budget splatstick like the aforementioned? What about the really scary ones? I still haven’t voyaged into the world of The Exorcist or Sinister or anything like that and it’ll be some time before I feel comfortable doing so. But, hey, I have seen Hellraiser and clips from Child’s Play. And, more importantly, I made it through The Shining.
So what does it all mean? Why the sudden indulgence into horror films? For many, watching this sort of material is either still off limits or something they’ve been doing since they were tiny. As a recent convert, I’m enthralled by the breadth of a genre I’d previously written off. Like hip-hop, there are so many nooks and crannies to explore.
The horror films I’ve watched run the gamut from unsettling to comical (sometimes intentionally, mostly unintentionally) and this grab bag of material is only drawing me deeper. Do I think any of these movies are of Oscar caliber? No, but then I haven’t seen Psycho yet. Nonetheless, they’re certainly entertaining and thought-provoking in a way I never thought they’d be.
When blood splatters, when the dead rise to kill, when dads go mad and try to kill their families, it all points to how askew the universe we live in really seems to be, if only by metaphor. Things are not as they seem, things go bump in the night and we are helpless to stop it to a great degree. Watching horror movies typified living in the year after the world was supposed to end. On December 21 of last year, we didn’t all die and it might’ve been more refreshing if we had.
2013 proved we’ll be around for a while longer and sometimes even greater than the fear of death is the fear and confusion living brings around. The campy horror movies are entertaining because they show the real world to be far more frightening than the worlds we see on the screen. Waking up in the world of drone strikes and economic chaos is almost more terrifying than falling asleep to be visited by Freddy Krueger. The really scary movies are horrifying precisely because of how close they are to reality to begin with. No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh will always be a more terrifying antagonist than someone named Pinhead or the Toxic Avenger.
For the longest time, I thought life was best lived without horror movies. This year, I conquered my fear. I’m working my way through them all if I can. At least the eighties ones. Because if you tried to make me watch Sinister, I’d still spontaneously combust.