I’d love to love horror movies. I don’t. But I’d love to. I’m obsessed with them. I have that thing, that mental illness. A poser horroroholic.
A couple of stories – I watched (most of) Psycho at a midnight movie in college with some friends from my apartment complex. The second murder set me off (I don’t know why, in that huge theater full of screaming college students, I would suddenly have a case of nerves) and I got up and told my buddy I was walking the 15 minutes home. He told me to wait. I told him I’d had enough. So, at about 1 am, I walked home from the movie theater. Smart. About every other step I looked over my shoulder to see if Mother was about to get me. I made it home, miraculously, where I promptly popped in a video of Winnie the Poo we happened to have in our very manly college apartment and tried to get rid of the heebie-jeebies. Everyone got home about 10 minutes later and told me I should have waited. Well obviously.
Another time, when I was much more mature and married, I borrowed Jaws from a friend because, I told myself, it would be fun to watch it on DVD with surround sound, and besides, I was so much more mature now that I was married. I got through about 45 minutes and my wife spent the next two hours convincing me that Utah, where we lived at the time, was indeed landlocked.
I will learn about horror movies, read reviews, look at clips, but I will not watch the movie. I will figure out just enough of the movie to be able to talk about it, if, say, I stumble into a horror movie convention where I will be put in a Saw-like contraption if I can’t answer the origin of Rawhead Rex or how Paranormal Activity ends. Because I know those things, even though I’ve never seen any of those movies. I’ve looked them up.
I am not a gorehound, but I admire them. I wonder how they disconnect their eyes from their escape reflex. I think they are better people than I, made of tougher stuff. They let themselves live in the dark. More than that – they seek it out and sit with it. I wonder what they saw or drew as children, and if they were completely normal, why they enjoy seeing humans being destroyed in increasingly creative ways. I wonder what’s going on in Rob Zombie’s head. According to Guillermo Del Toro, who directed Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth (which I saw most of but didn’t care for and before that he made Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone, two highly regarded horror pieces I haven’t seen but know are highly regarded, the first for being a non-traditional vampire movie and the second for being a terrifying slow burn with an emotional core, but again, haven’t seen them), hardcore horror fans are some the kindest, well-spoken people he meets. I don’t know many personally. I know about these guys because they have websites chock-full of reviews and commentary on the plots of horror movies. They share their love, and I’m glad they do. The reviews cover puerile material with enough distance that I know what’s going on but I don’t have to sit through the eyeball poking. Apparently that’s what I’m looking for – horror through a sanitizing filter. Blood and guts through a colander. That’s a nice image.
Maybe it’s about having power over the movies – if I know what’s in them, if I know what is scary in them, then I take away their power over me, and in case I’m ever strapped into a chair Clockwork Orange-like and forced to watch one of the last twenty-seven Saw movies, I can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t as good as the first one. Which is critical to know.
This might be leftovers from chest-thumping contests as a teenager, which is about my emotional maturity level. Maybe it’s in the genes – my 4-year old son, as I write this, wants to add “Swamp Creature” and “Zombie” to the scene in his Scribble-Nauts game. It may just be that horror movies are fascinating – that’s what movies are about, in the end, right? Fantasy, good and bad. Anyway it doesn’t matter. I’ve analyzed the crud out of it, read essays and books on it, and whatever they’re describing, I seem to have the symptoms without the disease. I know I’m chicken, and I know I can’t seem to stay away too long from Bloody Disgusting or whatever other review site is currently tracking the ten million horror movies going straight to DVD this month. It is what it is. I can say it’s useful for sites like this one, where I can recommend movies on good authority, often that authority confirmed by 20 witnesses, they just don’t include me. Use my disease in good health.