Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why I Avoid Horror Movies

As a young girl, I devoured gorey comic books. The more extreme, the better. I read them before the Code of Decency stepped in to protect our young minds from ourselves by cleaning up comics. I was indignant: even then I did not like other people telling me what I could read/think. I had a perfectly balanced system. I read one horror comic followed by one or two Donald Ducks or Classic Comics or other more child-friendly comics. I loved Gyro Gearloose and read Jane Eyre first as a comic book.

I also learned my vampire lore from films such as Dracula and lycanthropy from werewolf movies. I know it was not meant to be educational TV, but I found it very helpful and felt buoyed rather than frightened by it all. I knew about garlic flowers and wood stakes and sunlight and its potent effect on vampires.

Perhaps I could sleep soundly after indulging my imagination in comics and films because I had the faith that adults were in charge of the world and they certainly would keep watch for monsters. Now I am an adult, however, I am painfully aware of how limited my powers of prevention are. I am one of that generation for whom the first chords of the shower sequence of "Psycho" are enough to keep me from showering for weeks (I think I hear someone humming it now. Please don't. I am not exaggerating.)

When my daughter was the same age at which I had enjoyed horror movies, I was obliged to go into another room and put my fingers in my ears. The soundtrack was enough to cue the creepy terrors and leave me jumping at shadows for days.

The only thing more compelling than my terror at seeing such things is my curiosity. If I start watching a film, I must see the end. Sometimes, like Pandora's box, the ending contains the balm for all that went before it. Not always, but the second most compelling thing about me is my steadfast optimism. Well, this time it might have a happy ending. It could. It could. Yep, just like Melina Mercouri laughing at the Greek tragedies in "Never on Sunday", if the stories got too bad I would invent a better ending. This re-working of the ending is only a partial solution, but it got me through "Pan's Labyrinth."

It also got me in to see "The Orphanage," which was "presented" by the same person who had directed "Pan's Labyrinth." In addition to curious and naively optimistic, I am very fond of a good story and Pan's Labyrinth was a good story. Not a happy one, but a good one.

Likewise, "The Orphanage" was a good story. All the details hung together. The characters were fully defined, and the plot moved quickly but carefully to bring the watcher along from the undoubted true to the fantastical and then at last to the all the more real for being fantastical. I loved it with all those parts of my childhood-confident brain, but the adult part of me was jumping at shadows for some time afterward. I thought that shadow-jumping had gone until I read a recent newspaper article about the former care home on the island of Jersey where the remains of a child had been recovered from a blocked off basement. The full weight of the music and the larger than life images on the screen came back in an instant.

Currently 150 people have come forward saying either that they were victims or witnesses to abuse. A sniffer dog has found several "hot spots" in the bricked over basement, and there is a list of 14 children who were reported as runaways. It is going to be very hard for me to invent a better ending for this story.


At 8:33 PM, Anonymous nancy soule said...

Hi Scottish lady who writes on life and thoughts..
I used to watch Dark Shadows in the 1960/70's.. loved that Barnabas Collins and Angelique! Then I began to read of the blood and gore, grotesqueness...ick.. curdles my blood now!
If those movies were to become our real life we wouldn't want to be watching them!!..
and yes.. the crossover into real life.. just read the news and it's there.. One doesn't have to look too far and there's abused people we are close to.
I'm in W. Palm Beach, FL, where my daughter has an apt. .. they are having electricity outages all around us!?
but.. I'm realy from Maine, where they are having feet and more feet of snow...We are so glad to be missing it!
Maybe I'll write a real blog on MY mainlynancy.blogspot.com spot.. it was really just a place for a digital camera class I took 2 years ago.. and now it's my homepage since I dressed it up to places I usually visit..
Happy days!

At 8:37 PM, Blogger MainlyNancy said...

Oh.. also.. when my Mom and her husband from Huntly, Scotland went to visit family there.. they watched a series "she-devil"..
that was 20 years ago!! that was a very interesting series, but the movie the USA made of it was stupid. Did you get to see it?

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

I can't bear them. I don't like the way my stomach goes into knots and the tension creeps through my body. It doesn't feel good to me, and the release at the end - assuming there is one - never seems enough to erase the "distress" chemicals washing around in my system.

I wonder if there is some connection with the sense of safety and our addiction to them (for many it is an addiction, I think!) It's an interesting line of thinking, I shall ponder it more.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello nancy from Maine staying in Florida. I remember Barnabas Collins tho I never watched it. I have only been in Scotland for three years. Well a little over that now but not long enough to have seen all the cultural icons. I had to ask my husband (the real Scot) where Huntly is. A proper highland town, in the Grampians, I think he said.

Snow, like horror movies, is to be avoided by the time you are old enough to have to clean driveways instead of play in them.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Yup, Hayden, that stomach -knot making phenom gets me,too. And it does not even count as situps.


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