not in our stars, but in ourselves
It’s Halloween time, readers, and you know what that means: horror, horror, everywhere. Little local theatres, like the Coolidge and the Somerville here in my neck of the woods, are playing horror classics (Dracula and The Masque of the Red Death, respectively). Big studios release their slasher flicks and demonic possession flicks and their plain old torture porn around this time, every year. Cable channels, whether basic or premium, fill their schedules with either would-be or genuinely frightening movies from all through time and space. Comedy shows reliably put out a Halloween episode – all in the vein of The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” segments, with all the tropes of the horror genre and (they hope) all the laughs of their usual episodes.
You get the idea. Lots of creepy stuff. I personally tend to be a big ‘fraidy cat when it comes to horror films, as I think I’ve mentioned numerous times. Ghost stories don’t have much of an effect on me, nor do demonic possessions or extraterrestrials or anything else in the realm of the supernatural or the paranormal. Serial killers, home invasions, brutal rapes – those are the things that don’t sit well with me. They could happen. They do happen.
However, both by virtue of its being the time of year that it is, and by virtue of being involved in filmy stuff, I haven’t been able to avoid some contact with the horror genre. I work within a film studies department at a university, and because these crazy times are what they are, I keep our department’s social media as up-to-date and full of interesting content as I can. Rather than just post a bunch of reminders about registration deadlines (borrrring), I poke around for articles, reviews, thinkpieces – anything I can find, really – about various goings-on in the film world. This month, it’s been all horror, all the time.
Here’s the thing that’s always made me wonder: as difficult as it is for me to watch these things, I do find them interesting to read about. For instance, here’s a selection of posts I’ve put on my work Facebook over the past few weeks:
There was also a rather interesting post on Rolling Stone‘s website, a listicle of the 20 Scariest Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen; but (a) I figure one person can stand only so many listicles, and (b) I have heard enough about those 20 movies that I know I can’t handle seeing any of them, and so I won’t tempt anyone else to seek them out. Except you, you bitter old spambots and basement dwellers.
What’s my point here? I don’t know. Even if I weren’t seeking these things out for quasi-work purposes, I would probably be reading these anyway. I really am a wuss about horror movies. I was notorious (though anonymously so, thank heaven) for fainting during a screening of In My Skin. The very concept of the Saw franchise gives me the willies. The one time I accidentally watched most of The Descent, I swore there and then never to set foot in a cave ever, for any reason, and you can’t make me, so leave me alone. But I can’t stop reading about them. I can’t stop thinking about them. I can’t stop feeling myself tempted to go to The Babadook and watch it from behind my fingers. And, I mean, I absolutely love a select few horror movies, though they’re mild by aficionado standards (you know: Psycho, Nosferatu, The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, maybe some others but that will do for now). Are these movies just better at exploring the sides of human nature that other genres don’t dare to touch? Are they a way for us to understand each other, even if it’s only to understand how terrible we all are? Do we want to scare ourselves artificially so we can be prepared to be brave in reality?
Oh, reader, what would Freud say?