I was put in a really embarrassing situation on Twitter a while back when Malcolm Khalil X/@KhalilHT3 (god, I hope that’s his real name) asked me what was the last horror film which really scared me.
Truth is, I’m not a big horror fan and there are many reasons for this. One is because I hate surprises. Ask anyone who knows me personally; I hate not knowing things before they happen. I hate birthdays/Christmas, because people hide presents from me and have a perverse need to see my reaction when I open their gifts. I hate it so much. You have no idea how many times I’ve had to exaggerate or down-right lie after I’ve opened a gift. And on the rare occasion when someone surprises me with something that moves me emotionally – I hate it more. I hate being speechless, or worse, crying in front of people. I’m not that guy.
Bringing it back to films a little bit – the hatred of surprises is also why I ruin a lot of films for myself by seeking out spoilers before I see them. Yes, I’m that guy that must watch every trailer, comb every forum for every little secret piece of information before I pay the extortionate amount of money in the cinema. And I accept that this tendency has ruined many films for me. For example, I’ve recently read a full blown description of what happens in the new Star Trek film.
And it’s this need to never be shocked, to never be left emotionally venerable that has caused me to not have the greatest relationship with horror films.
But it has never always been that way.
The first real horror film I ever saw was Michael Jackson’s Thriller – and yes, I’m counting it as an actual film. I loved it, I thought it was cool and I thought the zombies were creepy. But when the zombies started to get to me, which was about the point when the dudes hand fell off, they broke out into a line dance. So, yeh.
My reaction to Thriller was very different to many in my family. My little sister, who is five years younger than me, was so disturbed by it that she refused to watch it every again. I used to tease her by unsuspectingly putting the film on and it used to reduce her to tears (don’t judge me).
This brings me on nicely to another horror film that made an impression on me.
Once upon a time, my other little sister (only a year younger) was having a sleepover and, for some reason, I was in charge of what films she and her friends got to watch. All she specified was “something scary”. So together with my dad, we went to Blockbusters and hired The Exorcist (god bless my father).
I remember watching that film with my two sisters and their friends (like a pimp) and thinking how boring it was. In fact, a lot of their friends were also complaining about how nothing was happening. Until Linda Blair pissed herself.
After that point, I can’t remember my sister or her friends saying a mumbling word. Just jumping and screaming. After the sleepover, my youngest sister was so affected by the film that she demanded to sleep in my parent room for about a month or so (My other sister crept in for a couple of days as well). I laughed this off – but the hiding I got from my dad after watching that film suggested that it wasn’t a joke (note, he was there with me when I picked the film).
If I was honest with myself, that film messed me up as well. The imagery in The Exorcist may be tame by today’s standards but to an early teen it was pretty piss-inducing stuff. In fact, for me, the more I watch that film with adult eyes, the scarier it gets. There is an actual fathomable story and theme behind that film to support its iconic imagery – and I find that story ridiculous scary.
Perversely, the older I and my sisters got the more scary films we consumed. With that said, after The Exorcist, the only “horror” film I enjoyed was Interview with the Vampire. I found horror films of the late 2000s to be nothing more than husk vehicles with no point to them other than to surprise you, make you jump and squirm. And I hate that.
I find the Scream, Saw and Paranormal Activity franchise to be utterly pointless. I don’t get them, I don’t understand them and they don’t get under my skin like The Exorcist did.
I appreciate that maybe horror films are not my bag and that I don’t understand them. It also may very well be the case that I am a huge (censor) sissy who doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to stand his ground during such films. I accept that this maybe the case. I tried to watch Shutter Island, but as soon as I saw that scary old lady at the start, I switched the film off.
I really would love to learn more about horror films. I’d love an enthusiast to show me the soul behind what I feel is a very soulless genre of late. But I fear that horror films are just like those people that want to catch me out by surprising with a gift – but instead of making me smile, they want to see me piss myself.