Mind over matter
With the imminent arrival of Halloween, there couldn’t be a better time to ponder what makes a scary movie scary.
IF there’s something about me that people should know, it’s that I’m easily terrified. And nothing scares me more than opening a door and seeing a zombie’s face pulled back and ready to strike at poor, unprepared me. (I’m looking at you Dead Island!) I rarely watch horror movies, because horror movies scare me.
Sure, I can be joking around and acting fine when the movie’s still playing (usually), but come nighttime, or when I’m alone in a barelylit room, my imagination starts wandering. And boy, does it wander fast. But of course, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There are many (hopefully) people who are afraid to watch horror movies.
But what makes a horror movie so scary? Well, for me, there are a few factors.
Imagination being number one. Why? Because the unknown is always scary. Horror movies that leave things to your own imagina- tion are often the scariest.
Human imagination will always trump special effects because the thought of something terrible differs from person to person. Special effects will only convey what the director thinks is something terrible, which could be something hilarious or harmless, like zombie clowns or giant rabbits. That’s why when the viewer is left to imagine their own scary character, they usually come up with their own worst nightmare!
That’s why Jeepers Creepers wasn’t as scary as say, The Blair Witch Project. Sure, it was really, really terrifying at first, but then, when the winged beast finally appeared, I easily reassured myself that it was just a film. A creature like that doesn’t exist.
The Blair Witch Project, however, didn’t even show a glimpse of whatever was terrorising the characters in the movie, hence, it was one of the scariest movies ever for me. Why? Because I imagined the most possible, logical (hopefully), scariest thing that could have done all those things which turned out to be really, really scary.
It’s kind of like lying awake in the dark on your bed and feeling like there is something in the room even though you know it isn’t possible. I once woke up from a nightmare and felt wind blowing in my face at intervals that resembled breathing.
My imagination somehow con- vinced me that the monster from my nightmare was right above me and if I opened my eyes, he would be grinning from ear-to-ear with the knife in his hand ready to strike me.
So, I kept my eyes closed and became somewhat motionless until I fell back asleep.
Another thing that makes a horror movie really scary for me, is how similar a victim is to me.
And it isn’t the four-eyes (yes, I wear glasses) trait or the wimpiness of the character that makes me feel like we’re kindred spirits but the background of the scenario.
A dark room with wooden tiles. A door with a brass knob. Walking up or down the stairs alone to grab a snack in the dead of the night. These situations make me feel extremely terrified because I’d suddenly imagine the monster right where it was in the movie, and start sprinting back to my room and under my blanket.
And then it gets worse when I suddenly recall a scene with the monster appearing under my blanket. (Why, fancy meeting you here, Ju-On!) For example, any movie adaptation of Stephen King books, generally.
A lot of them make me feel like I could’ve been in the scenario where the victim was killed. The Salem’s Lot miniseries made me worry about vampires for about a month due to the fact that, you know, I have neighbours and a church near my house. It was scary because I had a storm drain not too far away from my house, too.
The Shining was scary because I