How Horror is Like Heroin.
"It knows what scares you." This is the tagline as well as a quote from the 1983 ghost film Poltergiest, and the statement is not idle. Since the dawn of my memories, I've been fascinated by ghosts, haunted houses and all things creepy and supernatural. I remember seeing previews for movies like It's Alive, Prophecy and Burnt Offerings in the 70's as a kid, but never being allowed to go. I devoured fairy tales and ghost stories in books like it was going out of style, and started writing my own ghosty tales.
The year I turned 13, Poltergeist came out, and I finally got to go. So I went. Alone. In a nearly-empty theatre with only about 5 other souls. It scared the BEJEEEEZUS outta me. From the moment Carol Ann and her mom walk back into the house and find their dining room chairs perfectly stacked on top of each other, through the creepy tree coming in the window to grab Robbie; Carol Ann getting sucked into the TV, the creepy clown doll coming to life and the hellmouth in the kids' bedroom, I was transfixed and creeped out. But it didn't end there. OH NO. Poltergeist was the gift that kept on giving. My imagination, of course, ran away with me. We actually HAD a clown doll hanging up next to our kitchen. NEVER did I EVER pass by it without first turning on the light. And my insomnia, which I'd had since birth, became worse that summer, as I lay awake and alone in my bedroom, contemplating each unidentifiable noise and each wavering shadow in the darkness with the pending dilemma: if I close my door, am I keeping the monster out of my room or closing it in with me?
The lack of sleep didn't seem to deter me: I was hooked. I wanted more, I wanted creepier. Stephen King came next, follwed by Anne Rice, which invariably triggered my vampire phase. I cut my vampire fangs on Lestat rather than Bella and Edward, and newsflash: VAMPIRES DO NOT WANT TO BE YOUR BOYFRIEND AND MARRY YOU. They want to suck you to a dry husk. Also, they don't sparkle in the sunlight, they fucking BURST INTO FLAME AND DIE. Well...most of the time. Unless they're Lestat. I wonder if a vampire phase is just a thing weird girls go through, like normal girls go through horse phases.
My fascination with horror did not diminish but only grew more rabid and sophisticated as I got older and started dabbling in things supernatural myself. There was the ill-advised ouija-board phase in college...on a campus where weird things were known to happen on a fairly regular basis...this opened a portal that I've never yet been able to close, and has afforded me with some of the most frightening real-life experiences I've ever had. Still the desire for more and creepier has persisted.
Truthfully, in all these years, I've never seen another movie, tv show or read a book that has frightened me as much as Poltergeist (not counting the real-life experineces, of course...). There are films that have their moments: The Excorcist and The Ring come to mind. And then the tons of well-crafted films that are excellent but don't really scare me all that much: I'm looking at you, Alien/s and The Cabin in the Woods. Not to mention certain episodes of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and Lost. And of course, slasher films have never really done much for me.
But THIS is why horror is like heroin: you are ALWAYS chasing after your first high, well your first SCARE. And it's just never as good or intense as the first time. You always remember your first time.
Leave a Reply.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.