I’ve never been a big horror/scary movie fan. When I was growing up, the Nightmare/Friday/Halloween movies never really scared me so I never had much interest in anything else. Now, I love ghost stories, and I think my problem with those movies was that you saw everything, and what has always scared me was the idea of what you can’t see.
The one movie I remember being scared from as a kid was The Lost Boys. Not because of all the vampires, but just one scene: the guys are at their house after they’ve gone to attack the vamps in their cave, and they have prepared the house knowing the vamps will be coming for them. Corey Haim realizes that his dog is still tied up outside and runs to go get him. It’s very windy out, and as he’s untying the dog, he looks up in the sky and starts freaking out because he sees the vamps coming. He and the dog make it back to the house just in time. The audience never gets a shot of the sky, just Corey’s scared face. Later that night, after seeing the movie, we went to bed with the windows open. I woke up at some point that night to a lot of wind and all I could think of was what Corey saw in the sky. I freaked out, but not wanting to let my mom know the movie scared me (I was 11 or 12 at the time), I went and climbed into bed with my sister. My sister who is 5 years younger than me. Like she would protect me.
Scary things for me have always been about the possibility of things unseen, not knowing what might be lurking out there. (Is it a surprise that I am a control freak?) Two movies have scared me in my adult life: The Blair Witch Project and The Ring (spoilers ahead for these movies). The Ring is certainly not about what is unseen, but I think the movie scared me because of the creepy video, the even creepier little girl who comes out of the tv and scares people to death (the audience never sees what happens when she scares you to death, so I guess it is a little bit about what is unseen), and my experience after seeing it. I saw it with friends late at night and had to drive home alone. I was freaked out and tried to call my husband at home to ask him to be waiting for me at the door so I wouldn’t have to run across the yard alone. He didn’t answer the phone and all I could think of is the scene when Naomi Watts is driving to her ex’s house, hoping to save him before he dies, and he doesn’t answer the phone. When I got home, I ran into the house, and the TV was on in the den. I walked in and my husband was asleep on the couch and his face was covered. Again, all I could think of was Naomi walking into the guy’s apartment and seeing him sitting in the chair with his back to her, and she had to walk up and turn the chair around to be greeted by his dead face. It took me half a minute to walk over to the couch and uncover my husband’s face to confirm that he was just asleep.
The Blair Witch Project scared me because it is the epitome of not knowing what is out there. I waited in line for hours to see it when it opened at the Angelika in NYC. I had followed the internet hype for a long time and was so excited to see it (knowing all along that it was a movie, not a documentary). When I went home that night, walking from the subway to my apartment in Astoria, Queens, I was scared witless, terrified of the possibility of a Blair Witch in Queens. The ending really freaked me out because you don’t know what happened to Josh, you see the brief shot of Mike, and then Heather drops the camera and you don’t know what happened to her. Frea-key. Just thinking about it now, 10 years later, gives me the willies.
And 10 years later, I go to see Paranormal Activity.
(Editing in my final paragraph here because it is non-spoilerly and can be read by someone trying to decide whether to go, but jump past it if you plan to click beyond the cut and read the whole post: I think that if you plan to see this, doing it in the theater is your best bet. Despite the higher price, you can’t beat being surrounded by an equally jumpy crowd. Tension was briefly relieved tonight when, after one moment, a guy yelled out, “Aw, hell no!” I can’t imagine the atmosphere of the movie will be the same if watched at home. But it certainly isn’t the scariest movie ever made, and despite the fact that my bedroom door is making weird noises due to the wind tonight, I am not afraid to leave my bedroom alone in the dark house, and I’m not afraid to fall asleep, which are my biggest signs of ghost/scary movie/things that go bump in the night fear.)
Spoilers to follow, so I don’t advise reading unless you have seen the film or don’t plan to.