I hide it pretty well, but I’m REALLY bad with scary movies. Scary TV shows and books, too. I’ve always been this way. Want to hear some illuminating examples? Oh, you’re gonna!
First, and maybe mostly significantly, when I was about seven my parents rented Nightmare on Elm Street. (It’s the one where the girl has the centipede in her mouth and Johnny Depp gets sucked into the bed and his blood shoots up in geyser form toward the ceiling, remember?) I had nightmares about that movie for YEARS. Like, more than ten years. Like, if I’m really being honest, I still have them every once in awhile. Even seeing it again in high school, and noticing how NOT scary it is didn’t really help. Once you’ve developed this kind of mental problem, it’s hard to shake, I guess.
Now, you’d think this would teach me that me and the Scary Scary aren’t really meant to be bosom buddies, but no. I was such a weird kid. I’d actually hang around at the corner store looking at the VHS rental boxes for movies like Halloween and Children of the Corn and just the boxes themselves were really upsetting for me – even of the cheesiest of cheesy ‘80s movies –but I couldn’t stop reading them. I’d pick them up thinking I’d just look for a second and then I’d spend half an hour in the store, making myself crazy. Then I’d lie awake at night for HOURS, with the lights on, because of a 50 word blurb on the back of a movie box.
These are true stories, people. And they just get better.
When I was in high school I went on a cottage trip to a Muskoka island with my then-boyfriend and a bunch of kids from my class, and everybody wanted to watch Scream. I’d learned by this point that watching Scream was not going to be a good idea for me, but they insisted, convincing me that the movie was going to be “smart and funny” and “making fun of horror movies” etc. And I listened to everything my friends said when I was seventeen, so we watched. Or rather, THEY watched. I only made it through the Drew Barrymore first ten minutes before I had to leave the room. Long story short? My boyfriend had to stay awake with me ALL night reading aloud to me from an Enid Blyton novel, which was the least scary thing we could find in the cottage.
Books are probably the funniest things I’m scared of. When I was about nine, I took a Dracula book out of the library – a coffee table book featuring pictures from the Bella Lugosi movie – and the stupid, dated thing scared me so much I decided I couldn’t have it in near me. I tried hiding it under the bed, putting it in my closet (in the dirty clothes hamper), hiding it in my sister’s room… etc. Eventually, I discovered the basement freezer. Bad books, when shut up in the basement freezer, seemed somehow less menacing. I mean, I could have stopped reading them, right? That’s what you’re thinking. But NO. I went the more complicated basement freezer route.
Why? Because I’m obviously insane.
I can’t tell you what comes over me. MANY people have made fun of me about this over the years. I’ll be watching TV like a normal person, and I’ll flip past Jaws or Poltergeist or something, and I’ll KNOW it’s a bad idea to stop. But sometimes, I just do. And then I’m generally stuck watching ‘till the end, and lying awake until morning waiting for the ghost/ serial killer/Bones from Telefrancais to come and get me.
In part, it’s that seeing just a short glimpse of something, or reading just a scary little bit of something is often worse than knowing the whole story. Things working out in the end is a story-telling convention you can pretty much count on, and if you’ve seen or heard or read a bit of something upsetting, and you’re an easily-influenced lunatic (like me, apparently) it can be better to wait out the eventual happy ending than quitting at the worst possible time. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyway.
I write all this because it’s now almost FOUR O’CLOCK in the morning and I can’t sleep. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I watched to freak myself out this much because it’s way too embarrassing (and objectively not even scary) but nonetheless, here I am. And I have no basement, and therefore no basement freezer, so there’s pretty much nothing I can do but wait till morning.
I am such a dummy. You’d think natural selection would have picked me off by now.