Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My horror complex

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 3:38 PM

  • Hostel

My love-hate relationship with horror flicks — the more ridiculous and over-the-top the better — stretches back to my earliest experiences with movies, more specifically my earliest experiences with movie rental stores. I’d wander away from the classic film and musical section from which most of my family’s rentals originated, and peek around the corner at the horror aisle. The peeking and hiding would continue for a few minutes, until I worked up the nerve to actually step within the two rows and surround myself with the worst images imaginable to my 8-year-old eye — knife-wielding prom queens, bloody masked villains, and of course the ubiquitous doomed camp counselors. I’d take my time considering which VHS case to pick up and look at both sides of, gingerly lift one off the shelf, turn it over to see the two or three additional photographic promises of the gore within the tape, and quickly shove it back on the shelf and run to find my mom. Twelve hours later, I’d inevitably wake up with nightmares.

I’d love to say that a lot has changed, but other than me using Netflix and no longer torturing myself in video store aisles, I’ve still got this attraction/repulsion complex with horror movies. As a rule, I avoid watching them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know everything about them. I’ll go online and read full synopses of ridiculous plot lines — the more movie stills included the better — and perk up when commercials for the latest gory schlock-fests come on TV. These also, 20 years later, give me nightmares. However, the main addition to my arsenal for handling this horror complex comes in the form of my 17-year-old brother Will.

Saw II
  • Saw II

For the past few years, I’ve relied on Will to tell me in extreme detail everything that happens in the movies he frequents. We’ve covered the entire Saw and Hostel series, and last summer he regaled me with tales of The Strangers. Will has a good memory for detail, and a typical teenage boy’s fascination with precisely how people die in these movies. It’s been so nice having a member of horror makers’ target demographic at my disposal. Lately though, Will’s started to become a little less helpful. Once he and his friends got drivers’ licenses and cars, they weren’t bound to the cinema any longer for their one weekend entertainment option. Now they’ve got concerts and house parties and real live dates to choose from, and these seem to be surpassing the movies as destination of choice on a Saturday night. So when I went home two weeks ago for a visit, I was supremely disappointed to hear him say he wasn’t planning to go see Orphan, which had given me nightmares for two straight nights just from the commercial (I have a thing about creepy children). I managed to cajole him into going and reporting back to me (I told him about the plot twist spoiler that had so intrigued me, and sure enough that piqued Will’s interest as well), and the next morning got a full report on how Peter Sarsgaard fared.

When my brother finally heads to college next year though, I’m going to have to find some other coping mechanism. I’ve signed up for a class on horror films for this fall, which is either going to serve as some sort of immersion therapy to cure me of my issues or make for the worst 12 weeks of my life. I know at least one thing though — if we’re watching The Ring in class, I’m going to call in sick that day. I couldn’t sleep with the closet door open for a full year after watching that movie (through my fingers).

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