Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. I would be remiss not to pay homage to the woman who, for better or worse, has largely shaped me into the person I am today.
That includes my lifelong obsession with horror.
My mom started it all. Rarely was she seen without a Stephen King or Dean Koontz novel in arm’s reach and I began raiding her bookshelves as soon as she would let me. We spent countless nights tucked onto the sofa with the enormous bowl of popcorn that would inevitably be up-heaved, peering wide eyed through buttery fingers at the terrors on screen. Vampires, demons, ghosts, serial killers, swamp creatures, aliens…
From campy flicks like Evil Dead and Killer Klowns From Outer Space to some seriously chilling paranormals like The Conjuring. (Hide and clap? Are you kidding?)
I slept with my ears plugged and face covered so I wasn’t invaded with jellyfish-like, alien tendrils. I didn’t look in mirrors after dark. And if there was a knocking or scratching on the wall, you can bet I didn’t stick around to figure out what it was!
I also liked to go bump in the night, convincing my siblings the knocking was real, their favorite blanket was possessed, Jason Voorhees lived in their closet, and there existed an otherworldly creature under the bed. Yeah…I was that sister.
Even though it led to more than a few sleepless nights and possibly a few night terrors, (Seriously, does anyone remember where the limbless, bearded fellow hung from the roof and bumping the window came from?) I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
Because Horror isn’t all bad. It has given me a different perspective on the world. There may be some unholy terrors lurking in the dark, but dawn is so much sweeter when you’ve been watching shadows. Horror can be cathartic, giving you a safe space to explore primal fears. It connects us with the people around us, creating an intimacy and bond that would not be possible without enduring and surviving together, even if only through a 2 hour jump fest. It creates a sense of being “alive” and there is something empowering about watching a tough protagonist look Evil in the face and then kick its ass.
Not least importantly, there are beautiful things in the dark too. So much of our world hinges on what is “good” that we forget, good does not exist without evil. Not everything strange and unusual is a threat. Fear can stem from misunderstanding and through horror, we can explore the intricacies of character we would otherwise dismiss. Maybe that creature under the bed just really needed a friend?
So here’s to you, Mom. And to the horror moms like you!
Thanks for always allowing me to go to school in costume and for picking me up when mine was too scary for the faculty. Thank you for the books that I may or may not have returned. Thank you for enduring the sleepless nights, the bad dreams, the pranks and the spilled popcorn.
Even if it was totally your fault.