Song Lyric of the Day:
And then silence! It was a whole new day / I thought, “Huh, I wasn’t scared of him anyway.” / Until I noticed those rips in my sheets / And that was proof that there had been a nightmare, on my street
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince / “A Nightmare on My Street“
It’s November now, time for my annual horror-movie detox. Not that I only watch them in October — I just watch more horror movies in October than during the other months. Really, watching horror movies is a year-round hobby. It’s just that October is our favorite month for me and my sisters to indulge in our love of all things horror. Why? Because we grew up watching it.
For us, horror movies were family time. Whenever the latest Friday the 13th would premiere on HBO (or whatever channel we watched them on), Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I would all be huddled together on the couch to watch. I have fond memories of my dad sweetly consoling my sister when she cried about the dog dying in Cujo, even though, let’s face it, Doggy had to go. I still laugh when I think about how my sisters and I were home during a storm watching Aliens when the power went out; I laugh because I left them yelling in the dark while I hauled ass downstairs (my bad). It was right when the Xenomorph rises up in the water behind Newt. Great timing, power outage! And I know — Aliens is technically a sci-fi movie, but only because it’s a horror movie in disguise.
I reveled in instilling what turned out to be a lifelong fear of clowns in my sisters thanks to a local TV guide cover that featured Pennywise, complete with sharp teeth, on it. Every night at bedtime I’d show them the cover and tell them that he was going to get them. The fun lasted for me until my mom caught me, rolled up the TV guide, and smacked the crap out of me with it.
Of all the serial killers we watched slash their way through countless movies — and victims — Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise is our favorite boogeyman. My sister and I went and saw Halloween on opening weekend. Our verdict: good scares, great homages to all the sequels its timeline erased, and a fitting direct sequel to the 1978 original. Our other sister begged to differ.
I’d say Jason Voorhees is probably my second-favorite slasher-movie serial killer. There’s just something intrinsically terrifying about a seemingly unkillable killer running after you in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Which is why when I’d go on Girl Scout camping trips, I’d always position myself in the middle of my troop on hikes. Why? Because if said campground boogeyman were to grab anyone, it’d be the ones on the outside, giving me a chance to run. (Issues, I got ’em.) I wish I had a photo to share with you of my mom’s expression when I told her that several years ago. That’s the only time I can recall her saying that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t have let me watch such scary movies at a young, impressionable age.
I don’t just enjoy slasher movies. Those can be pretty predictable and follow a typical horror-movie formula, and excessive gore does not equate fear for me. It’s just gross. There are some great ghost stories out there that don’t rely on gore or violence to scare the pants off a viewer. I watched The Woman in Black in the daytime and almost peed myself; don’t bother with the sequel, though, as it was pointless, not scary, and literally too dark to see for most of it. The Others was a beautiful haunted-house movie. The Changeling is terrifying with its mostly implied scares. And Spanish gothic-horror movies El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) and The Orphanage (El Orfanato) manage to scare while also ultimately breaking your heart.
I’m glad my parents exposed me to horror movies at an early age, though. Even though most of those movies scared the crap out of me and my sisters, we always knew those things weren’t real. Those movies taught us the rules for how to stay safe — or at least how to survive in a horror movie. We learned to run out of the house, not back upstairs. Never be dismissive of weird, unexplained noises. Always keep the doors and windows locked. Work on your cardio so you can outrun even the fastest walker. Watch where you’re running so you don’t trip. Make sure your flashlight has fresh batteries. Keep your car properly maintained so it will always start. Don’t go investigate anything by yourself. Always, always go for the zombies’ heads (characters in zombie movies almost never figure this out in time). And NEVER, EVER leave the weapon behind.
Coraline — who I have not yet allowed to watch horror movies — once asked me why I love horror movies so much. I explained that for me, they’re like roller coasters and other thrill rides. It’s fun to know I can scare myself silly. And unlike a ride I can’t get off once it’s started, I can always hit pause on a movie and walk away if I need to.