In my continuing fascination with the grotesque and macabre, that I endlessly prattle on about to the delight of anyone in my vicinity and if my neighbor tries to tell me anything different, that’s because they have yet to recognize my genius, I had an interesting discussion the other day that I’d like to ruminate on. And this is most definitely not because I have fourteen other projects that I’m working on and I need something to ease the tension and unwind. *see number of days since last post*
Scary movies and mi amor for them.
So, this morning and this discussion with a friend, not a real discussion, mind you, because who the hell actually talks in person these days? That would entail me leaving the house and my creamy goodness being exposed to sunlight and all the other people within a mile radius of me becoming pregnant at the sight of my raw, animalistic sexuality. *see attached photo* Which would be particularly inconvenient for the males as they’d have to grow various, possibly internally harmful, uteri and have to go through the pain of child birth through a hole not meant for anything larger than a rather stately sausage.
*attached photo* Warning: highly sensual content. Do not send to Playgirl/Boy. I’m tired of fielding their calls.
So, this discussion, like many I tend to have, invariably wound up on movies, because I, like many nameless blogging guttersnipes, have no actual emotive characteristics and express myself only through idle likes and dislikes of other creative personalities. I’ve never seen the ocean before *see previous blog on travel* and I remarked something along the lines of ‘Oh, I’ve never seen the ocean before. I’d love to touch it. *sad face emoji*’
And she, Cali native, says, and I’m viciously paraphrasing here, ‘Yea, I don’t really go into the ocean. Irrational fear of sharks. My dad showed me Jaws when I was a bit too young.’
Me twelve nanoseconds after my brain processed reading that text.
After troweling what brain matter I could off the wall and back into my skull to learn how to breathe again, I ended up inquiring as to whether she liked horror movies in general based on her initial terror during the viewing of the legendary Spielberg blockbuster. No, she says.
Because she doesn’t like being scared.
That got me thinking, which I do sometimes when I don’t feel like letting the existential dread of being alive in an infinitely vast, chaotic universe on this primitive dirtball inhabited by ants and sperm whales seep into my brain, about why I like horror movies myself. And it isn’t because I like being scared, really, though I do sometimes.
See, horror as a ‘thing’ *air quotes* is painfully subjective. What scares one person may not scare another. There’s a line to be drawn here, of course, between the idle jump scare a la that time a squirrel jumped out at me from a bush and I screamed like a two year old or Jason popping into the camera to shove a razor-tipped dildo through some poor lethario’s jugular, and a very real sense of atmosphere, menace, and dread. The latter of the two typically has some deeper meaning behind it. The constructive discourse tends toward the ‘why’ of it. Why does this situation onscreen make me feel this oppressive unease? And this inherently varies from person to person and culture to culture.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the more guilty pleasures of the horror genre. Hell, who doesn’t enjoy watching some twenty-something teen get sinkholed into their bed and shot out as a blood geyser in slo-mo by an off-screen Freddy Krueger?
That’s what we call spectacle, kiddieeeeeees!!!! *clinks knife fingers*
Because, as I love to bring up in the discussion of the subject when misinformed parents start to wag their fingers in condescending disapproval, movies aren’t real. The red corn syrup onscreen isn’t actual blood. The geyser didn’t work for seven hours that day and obscene amounts of special effects work actually went into the stupid thing, all to suspend your disbelief for twenty measly seconds. The least I can do is pretend I have brain damage for a bit and that the flickering lights in a sequence onscreen are entertaining. Hell, I’ll watch any movie on that platform of belief.
As much as I enjoy the more groundling delights of horror, that stuff that makes you say “Golly-gee willickers, that sure was swelleroo”, I’m far more interested in the works that make you say, “Yea, I think I need to go watch something happy now,” with an exhalation, and that blank look on your face like all the reality of dying cold and alone in an uncaring universe that won’t remember you in a generation just hit you like a facial of liquid asphalt.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? The best parts of horror are those indefinable things you don’t see. The fear of what could be behind the closed door, not necessarily what is actually there. Yes, the true beauty of horror is in its exploitation of the fear of the unknown that we all intrinsically deal with as descendants of hunter-gatherers, when any number of milk chocolate, acid-breathing dragons could’ve been dwelling in that tenebrous cave. The dark isn’t what is scary. It’s what could be in it. This is mirrored in the paranoia of some of these works, the whodunits and the enemy-among-us subplots, just one of many reasons that I consider John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, a masterwork of the genre.
That and some pretty fuckin’ legendary special effects, mirroring the degenerating sense of human decency among the crew of an isolated Antarctic outpost. Go watch this, if you’re one of the twelve people that haven’t seen it.
Horror movies take this unknown element and they imply, through the magic of film making, that it is something threatening and malevolent. It tickles away at those primitive fear-soaked endorphins just waiting to make you jump into some cutie’s arms with the pinprick of neurochemical response. And it shows you that those fears are justified with its giant snake or its deteriorating undead or its murderous next door neighbor.
Human psychology is a malleable thing, easily manipulable under the right circumstances. Horror cinema is a prime environment to dissect this manipulation, as there is much that can be said with a vivid mise en scene, with some suggestive lighting and a music sting. I revel in computing these possibilities as I watch, the odd angles and lightings playing in reflection on my face. There’s always a way to intellectually analyze such works. Intellectual engagement is key with me, as it is with any work of art.
Remember: it’s not real.
But your brain can so easily be fooled. And that, my friends, is something to be enjoyed.
Pleasant eves to yeh, laddies and lasses.