The room is dark. The only sound comes from the movie playing on the screen in front of me. I sit forward with my hand inches from my face, holding a popcorn kernel – frozen. My eyes are wide as I wait for what will happen…next…
I’m not actually certain when I went from being terrified of horror films, unable to sleep for nights after watching one, to a fan who looks forward to new horror movie releases every October. Between the ages of 8-12 I spent many a night with friends watching films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Pet Sematary, The Gate, and Children of the Corn. At home, I would often watch movies like Hitchcock’s The Birds, Planet of the Apes, and King Kong with my father. Back then, it wasn’t that I even wanted to watch these movies – I just didn’t want to be the one to admit she was too afraid. I was the one among my childhood friends who was easily the most gullible. Knowing this, my one friend would often pretend she was having a nightmare and that Freddy Krueger was attacking her – I fell for it every time (even when I tried not to)!
However, while watching horror movies at first was a contest with my inner scaredy-cat self, I have always loved watching fantasy movies like the Dark Crystal, Beetlejuice, Labyrinth, and Edward Scissorhands as well as dark comedies like Heathers. Perhaps it was their eerie, dark qualities, often with a touch of humor, which helped to change my perception of the horror genre from being scared to being mesmerized by their mysteries. At some point, as I grew into my teens and early twenties, I stopped watching scary movies because other people wanted to and began watching them because I wanted to see them.
In my late teens and early twenties I watched movies like The Craft and Evil Dead over and over and over. While once I was scared of Freddy Krueger, I set up movie marathons featuring films like Halloween or Friday the 13th. Scary movies morphed from being only about the scare caused by serial hacking and slashing to the anticipation caused by their psychological and supernatural aspects.
Then, in the late nineties came the TV series which challenged the very premise of so many of the horror films I grew up on – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not only were monsters and demons in the Buffyverse given complex personalities who could straddle the line between “good” and “evil” – they became something that could be beaten not with flailing arms and poorly aimed knife jabs, but through team work, research, and, well (sure) super human strength. Characters other-than-human weren’t separate from the show’s reality; they, also, weren’t something to be automatically distrusted and feared, they were simply a part of it. The things that go bump in the night came in demon as well as human form. The same was true of the heroes. Through watching and thinking about Buffy I began to better understand my own stance on the horror genre as a whole.
These days, I am entertained by watching many types of horror-themed movie or TV shows. I tend to prefer my horror with either a psychological or comical aspect to it, but I also am more than happy to put on a good gory flick as well. If a horror film challenges me to think about the reality created within the show – if there is a genuine twist, if I am entertained and not just made to feel bile in my throat, then that is the horror film for me.
…as I write this article, I swear I hear a tapping coming from inside the wicker chest beside me…I’ve watched enough horror movies to know that I shouldn’t open it…but….
A partial list of my favorite /must see horror flicks (in no particular order):
- Pans Labyrinth
- Let the Right One In
- Evil Dead
- Repo! The Genetic Opera
- Ginger Snaps
- The Babadook
- The Ring
- Nightmare on Elm Street
- The Lost Boys
- Night of the Living Dead
- Near Dark
- Shaun of the Dead
- Cabin in the Woods
- A Tale of Two Sisters