Mind over mat­ter

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By SZETO YAN WENG en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

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

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